Balance a straw (James Oswald)

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  • (Posted 2022-05-15)  CPDL #69251:  Network.png
Editor: Christopher Shaw (submitted 2022-05-15).   Score information: A4, 2 pages, 75 kB   Copyright: CC BY SA
Edition notes: Please click on the link for preview/playback/PDF download.

General Information

Title: Balance a straw
Composer: James Oswald
Lyricist: Tobias Smollett
Number of voices: 1v   Voicing: Solo high
Genre: SecularFolksong

Language: English
Instruments: Basso continuo

First published: c.1750
Description: A song arranged by James Oswald, and used by him in the theatre, possibly employing a pre-existing tune. It was quickly absorbed into popular culture (as a country dance tune and with sets of variations, etc.).

External websites:

Original text and translations

English.png English text

rom the man whom I love, though my heart I disguise,
I will freely describe the wretch I despise;
And if he has sense but to balance a straw
He will sure take the hint from the picture I draw.

A wit without sense, without fancy a beau,
Like a parrot he chatters, and struts like a crow;
A peacock in pride, in grimace a baboon,
In courage a hind, in conceit a gascoon.

As a vulture rapacious, in falsehood a fox,
Inconstant as waves, and unfeeling as rocks:
As a tiger ferocious, perverse as a hog,
In mischief an ape, and in fawning a dog.

In a word, to sum up all his talents together,
His heart is of lead, and his brain is of feather:
Yet, if he has sense but to balance a straw,
He will sure take a hint from the picture I draw.