"Requiring breast of steel, and front of brass, / To make plebeian pow'rs, uninjur'd, pass."

— Woodhouse, James (bap. 1735, d. 1820)

1814, 1816, 1896
"Requiring breast of steel, and front of brass, / To make plebeian pow'rs, uninjur'd, pass."
Metaphor in Context
What direful conflicts did poor Crispin feel,
With such associates mixt, each mimic meal!
In pensive lounge--peregination long--
From piquant temper, and from prating tongue!
Penurious Riches, and Politeness rude!
Coquette and Coxcomb--Profligate and Prude!
A gazing gauntlet's feverish race to run
Thro' flattery--falshood--insolence--and fun!
Proud persecution, of continued length,
Too much for patience, fortitude, and strength!
Requiring breast of steel, and front of brass,
To make plebeian pow'rs, uninjur'd, pass.

Journeys of labour, jeopardy, and pain--
Made his heart sigh for guiltless scenes again--
For social Friendship, and for simple Fare,
With customary toil, and quiet care--
But sad necessity condemn'd to stay
With whipping skinn'd in many a friendly fray:
Ordeals, dread! by Water, and by Fire,
That more of Art, than Innocence, require.
Hot ploughshares--whirlpools--promontory steep!
The blindfold burning--plunge--or launching leap!
Feign'd smile, intense! or frown, of cutting cold!
As Shame was backward, or Presumption bold--
While Modesty, with Resolution, slack,
By Impudence was always elbow'd back;
And, frequent, brazen Vice, with blushless face,
To Virtue dar'd impute her vile disgrace!
He hop'd such trials never more to meet,
Such agueish coldness, and such scorching heat!
His Body ne'er at rest, or Heart at ease,
Thro' Quacks, unskilful, and false recipes,
Relaxing potions, or astringent pills,
By counteraction aggravating ills.
He found 'twas better to remain obscure
Than risk fresh wounds for such uncertain cure--
When finding pleasure far o'erweigh'd with pain,
He groan'd to tread his native heights again!
Searching "breast" and "brass" in HDIS (Poetry); found again "steel"
Poem first published in its entirety in 1896. The 1814 first edition receives notice in The New Monthly Magazine (March 1815); the poem was written "in the last century" (w. 1795-1820?).

Text from The Life and Poetical Works of James Woodhouse, ed. R. I. Woodhouse, 2 vols. (London: The Leadenhall Press, 1896). <Link to Hathi Trust> <Link to LION>
Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.