Pindar, Peter

British, (1738–1819)

The Lyric Bard commendeth Mr. Gainsborough’s
Pig — Recommendeth Landscape to the Artist.

  1. AND now, O Muse, with song so big,
  2. Turn round to Gainsb’rough’s Girl and Pig,
  3. Or Pig and Girl I rather should have said:
  4. The Pig in white, I must allow,
  5. Is really a well painted Sow:
  6. I wish to say the same thing of the Maid.
  8. As for poor St. Leger and Prince;
  9. Had I their places I should wince,
  10. Thus to be gibbeted for weeks on high:
  11. Just like your felons after death,
  12. On Bagshot, or on Hounslow Heath,
  13. That force from travellers the pitying sigh.
  15. Yet Gainsb’rough has merit too,
  16. Would he his charming fort pursue—
  17. To mind his Landscape have the modest grace—
  18. Yet there, sometimes, are Nature’s tints despis’d:
  19. I wish them more attended to, and priz’d,
  20. Instead of Trump’ry that usurps their place.

Editor’s Note:

Pindar in refering here to Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) and his painting ‘Girl and Pigs’ (1782).

© Peter Pindar. The works of Peter Pindar, Esq.,Vol I. London: Wood, Vernon, Walker and Bell (1801).

[The following stanza, on the death of Lady Mount E—’s favorite pig Cupid, is verily exceeded by nothing in the annals of impertinence. – P.P.]

On the Death of her Pig Cupid.

  1. O dry that tear, so round and big;
  2. Nor waste in sighs your precious wind!
  3. Death only takes a single pig —
  4. Your lord and son are still behind.

Editor’s Note:

The Countess of Mount-Edgcombe, the Lady Mount-E— above, and her husband the Earl had a pet pig they named Cupid. The couple were very fond of their companion pig, and when it died, they had it buried in a gold adorned casket on their estate in Cornwall. A 30 ft. high obelisk stood above the grave, erected to Cupid’s memory.

“It is said, that his Majesty [George III] when at Mount Edgecumbe, happening to be gravely pondering near [Cupid’s] grave, the Queen, who was at some distance, asked him, what he was looking at so seriously. His Majesty, with a great deal of humour, immediately replied, “The family vault, Charly; family vault, family vault.”

from: The works of Peter Pindar, Esq in three volumes. London: John Walker (1794).

© James Parton. The humorous poetry of the English language, from Chaucer to Saxe. New York : Mason Brothers (1857).


  1. JUST one word more, my Lords, before we part:
  2. Do not vow vengeance on the tunesul art;
  3. ‘Tis very dang’rous to attack a poet —
  4. Also ridiculous — the end would show it.
  5. Though not to write — to read I hear you’re able:
  6. Read, then, and learn instruction from a fable.
  8. — ~ —

the pig and magpie.
a fable.

  1. COCKING his tail, a saucy prig,
  2. A Magpie hopp’d upon a Pig,
  3. To pull some hair, forsooth, to line his nest;
  4. And with such ease began the hair-attack,
  5. As thinking the fee-simple of the back
  6. Was by himself, and not the Pig possest.
  8. The Boar look’d up, as thunder black to Mag,
  9. Who, squinting down on him like an arch wag,
  10. Inform’d Mynheer some bristles must be torn;
  11. Then busy went to work, not nicely culling;
  12. Got a good handsome beakful by good pulling,
  13. And flew, without a ‘Thank ye,’ to his thorn.
  15. The Pig set up a dismal yelling;
  16. Follow’d the robber to his dwelling,
  17. Who, like a fool, had built it ‘midst a bramble:
  18. In, manfully, he sallied, full of might,
  19. Determin’d to obtain his right,
  20. And ‘midst the bushes now began to scramble.
  22. He drove the Magpie, tore his nest to rags,
  23. And, happy on the downfall, pour’d his brags:
  24. But ere he from the brambles came, alack!
  25. His ears and eyes were miserably torn,
  26. His bleeding hide in such a plight forlorn,
  27. He could not count ten hairs upon his back.

© Peter Pindar. The works of Peter Pindar in three volumes. London: John Walker (1794).


  1. If at a distance you would paint a pig,
  2. Make out each single bristle of his back;
  3. Or if your meaner subject be a wig,
  4. Let not the caxon a distinctness lack;
  5. Else all the lady critics will so stare,
  6. And angry vow, ” ‘Tis not a bit like hair!”
  8. Claude’s distances are too confused —
  9. One floating scene — nothing made out —
  10. For which he ought to be abused,
  11. Whose works have been so cried about.
  12. Give me the pencil whose amazing style
  13. Makes birds appear at twenty mile;
  14. And to my view, eyes, legs, and claws will bring,
  15. With every feather of each tail and wing.

Editor’s Note:

This is actually an excerpt from a longer poem of Pindar’s, “Art above Nature.” This portion above appears in several topical anthologies and other print sources credited to Pinder and titled “Pre-Raphaelism.” The excerpt, in this abbreviated form, is usually classified as an ode or epigram.

© Isaac Jack Reeve, editor. The Wild Garland; or, Curiosities of Poetry, Vol. II. London: Frederick Pitman (1866).


  1. BEDCHAMBER utensils, ye seem distress’d,
  2. And swear with horror that my rhymes molest
  3. Of certain folks so great the sweet repose;
  4. Running about with horrors, groans, and sighs,
  5. And floods, produc’d by onions in your eyes,
  6. So strong your friendship, and so vast your woes!
  8. Dear humming Lords, on friendship bray no more,
  9. Nor thus the Bard’s depravity deplore:
  10. Lo! like yourselves, each man his trumpet bears,
  11. In tame Credulity’s wide-gaping ears,
  12. Of friendship the sublimity to sound;
  13. Friendship ! in dictionaries only found!
  15. Perchaunce, my Lords, in foreign parts you’ve been;
  16. Perchaunce your optics fair Versailles have seen;
  17. Likewise the Vatican, with all its state;
  18. And eke th’ Escurial, pride of Spain confessed:
  19. But, ‘midst those scences, did e’er your eyeballs blest:
  20. See a pig hanging in a gate?
  22. If e’er you did this last great sight behold,
  23. You need not, Lords so sapient, to be told
  24. What most untuneful notes the pris’ner makes:
  25. Indeed the hog his mouth and lungs employs
  26. In raising such ear-crucifying noise,
  27. As if he really was transfix’d with stakes.
  29. Now near him should- there: happen to be hogs
  30. Passing their happy hours amidst the bogs,
  31. Grunting soft things to their own flesh and blood;
  32. That is, unto their sweethearts and their brides,
  33. Lying like ancient Romans on their sides,
  34. And dining on the dainties of the mud;
  36. Forgetting love, and dainty mud so fatt’ning,
  37. In which they had been batt’ning,
  38. Up leaps the herd of swine for his protection;
  39. Just like the herd that had the devil,
  40. Away they scamper, all so civil,
  41. Resolving or to free him or to die:
  42. Such is of swine the friendly quality,
  43. Although proverbial for brutality!
  45. But when, at Newgate to be hung,
  46. A Christian pours a dying song,
  47. I grant that numbers hasten to the wretch,
  48. Most pig-like — but, alas ! lift not a hand
  49. To keep him longer in the land,
  50. And snatch him from the talons of Jack Ketch.
  52. No; on the contrary, so fond their eyes
  53. Of seeing how a brother dies,
  54. I, from the bottom of my soul, believe
  55. They would not wish him a reprieve.
  57. Thus, were your good friend Pitt condemn’d to swing;
  58. Nay,, ev’n were greater people I could name,
  59. For whom with goodly zeal ye seem to flame;
  60. I don’t believe you’d wish to cut the string,
  61. Were ye but tolerably sure
  62. The next in pow’r would give you sixpence more.
  64. Learn then, my Lords, (though with contempt ye treat ’em)
  65. Friendship from hogs, as well as eat ’em.
  67. AT length my subjects end; and now
  68. To Folly let me make my best Court bow.
  69. O Goddess! still monopolize the Great:
  70. Then oft, to please the palate of the times,
  71. The Muse shall ride to market with her rhymes,
  72. And thrive upon her Helicon estate.

© Peter Pindar. The Works of Peter Pindar in three volumes. London: John Walker (1794).

[a paraphrase of Lucan…]

  1. “…Exeat aula.
  2. Qui volt esse pius. Virtus et summa potestas
  3. Non coeunt ; semper metuet, quem saeva pudebunt.”
  5. If a man would be righteous,
  6. let him depart from a court. Virtue is incompatible
  7. with absolute power. He who is ashamed to commit
  8. cruelty must always fear it.

Editor’s Note:

The Latin above is from of Marcus Annaeus Lucanus (39AD-65AD), better known as Lucan, from his Pharsalia, VIII, viii. 486. The translation is by J. D. Duff, M.A., from Lucan: the civil war books I-X (Pharsalia) (1928).

Pindar’s paraphrase or ‘translation’ is below, as it appears in the opening of the Odes to Ins and Outs section of Vol. IV of The works of Peter Pindar, Esq..

  2. He who would gain Fame’s good report,
  3. Must have no dealings with a Court,
  4. Virtue and Power, fair and foul weather.
  5. Were never known to pig together.

© Peter Pindar. The works of Peter Pindar, Esq.. London: John Walker, (1806).

Thunder, and the widow’s pigs: a tale.

The Dame’s whole fortune lodged in the Sow. — Her joy on the Sow’s lying-in. — The Duke’s dog Thunder much like Courtiers. — Thunder killeth the young Pigs, yet surpasseth Courtiers in modesty. — The Sow cryeth out — the Widow joineth the Sow in her exclamations. — The old Steward cometh forth at the cry of the Sow and Widow, and uttereth a most pathetic exclamation. — A sensible dissertation on the different species of compassion. — The Dame’s piteous address to his Grace. — His GRACE ‘s humane and generous answer to the widow.

  1. A DAME near Goodwood, own’d a Sow, her all,
  2. Which nat’rally did into travail fall,
  3. And brought forth many a comely son and daughter;
  4. On which the Widow wond’rously was glad,
  5. Caper’d and sung, as really she were mad —
  6. But Tears oft hang upon the heels of Laughter.
  8. At Goodwood dwelt the Duke’s great dog, call’d Thunder,
  9. A dog, like courtiers, much inclin’d to plunder;
  10. This dog, with courtier-jealousy so bitter,
  11. Beheld the sweetly-snuffling sportive litter.
  13. Bounce! without “by your leave,” or least harangue,
  14. Upon this harmless litter, Thunder sprang,
  15. And murder’d brothers, sisters, quick as thought;
  16. Then sneak’d away, his tail between his rear,
  17. Seeming asham’d — unlike great courtiers here,
  18. Who (Fame reporteth) are asham’d of nought.
  20. The childless Sow set up a shriek so loud!
  21. All her sweet babies ready for the shroud;
  22. Now chac’d the rogue that such sad mischief work’d:
  23. Out ran the Dame — join’d Mistress Sow’s shrill cries;
  24. Burst was at once the bag that held her sighs,
  25. And all the bottles of her tears uncork’d.
  27. “Oh! the Duke’s dog has ruin’d me outright;
  28. “Oh! he hath murder’d all my pretty pigs.”
  29. Forth march’d the Steward grey, with lifted sight,
  30. And lifted hands, good man, and cry’d “Odsnigs!”
  32. Word of surprise! which, with a plaintive tone,
  33. And rueful countenance, and hollow groan,
  34. Did seem like pity also, for her case:
  35. Yet what’s Odsnigs, or moan, or groan, or sighs,
  36. Unhelp’d, by Famine if the object dies?
  37. Or what a yard of methodistic face?
  39. Compassions differ very much, we find;
  40. One deals in sighs — now sighs are merely wind;
  41. Another only good advice affords,
  42. Instead of alms — now this is only words;
  43. Another cannot bear to see the poor,
  44. So orders the pale beggar from the door.
  46. Now that compassion is the best, I think,
  47. (But, ah! the human soul it rarely graces)
  48. Instead of groans, which giveth meat and drink;
  49. Off’ring long purses too, instead of faces.
  51. But, Muse, we drop Dog, Duke, and Sow, and Dame,
  52. To follow an old pitiful remark;
  53. Like wanton spaniels that desert the game,
  54. To yelp and course a butterfly or lark.
  56. Now to his Grace the howling Widow goes,
  57. Wiping her eyes so red, and flowing nose.
  59. “Oh! please your Grace, your Grace’s dev’lish dog,
  60. Thunder’s confounded wicked chops,
  61. “Have murder’d all my beauteous hopes —
  62. “I beg your Grace will pay for ev’ry hog.”
  64. What answer gave his Grace? — With placid brow,
  65. “Don’t cry,” quoth he, “and make so much foul weather —
  66. “Go home, Dame, and when Thunder eats the sow,
  67. “I’ll pay for all the family together.”

The Edinburgh Magazine, or Literary Miscellany. Vol. III, pgs. 143-4, February (1794). And also in: Peter Pindar. The Works of Peter Pindar, Esq., Vol. 3. London: John Walker, (1797).

About the Poet:

Peter Pindar was the pen-name of Dr. John Wolcot (1738-1819), also ‘Wolcott,’ an English physician and satirist. Wolcot served in the colony of Jamaica as Physician General from 1767 to 1772 under then Governor, Sir William Trelawny. While in Jamaica, we was also ordained as deacon of the Church of England and served at a church on the island.

Wolcot returned to England in 1773, abandon the Church, and opened a medical practice at Truro, Cornwall. Here he discovered the talents of the painter John Opie, and became his avid patron. It was at this time he also began writing satirical poetry under the name of Peter Pindar.

In 1780, Wolcot went to London and commenced writing satires as a full time source of income. Wolcot/Pindar became a robust social critic who hovered on the risqué fringes of society and Bohemia. His broad, farcical humor as ‘Peter Pindar’ was unrivaled among contemporaries.

Wolcot, as Pindar, achieved some fame in the 1780s through his gift for comic verse, in particular, verse that poked fun at the foibles of the court and royal family. Much that he wrote has now lost its interest and relevance as the circumstances referred to have mostly been forgotten. Yet enough of his work still retains its peculiar relish to account for his contemporary reputation, and a lasting legacy beyond his observation that George III said ‘what what’ a lot. [DES-11/11]

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