Stop here, my fancy: (all away, ye horrid Doleful ideas!) come, arise to Jesus, How He sits God-like! and the saints around Him Throned, yet adoring!
O may I sit there when He comes triumphant, Dooming the nations! then arise to glory, While our hosannas all along the passage Shout the Redeemer.
O GOD, OUR HELP IN AGES PAST
O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years for to come, Our shelter from the stormy blast, And our eternal home:
Under the shadow of Thy throne, Thy saints have dwelt secure; Sufficient is Thine arm alone, And our defense is sure.
Before the hills in order stood, Or earth received her frame, From everlasting Thou art God, To endless years the same.
A thousand ages in Thy sight Are like an evening gone; Short as the watch that ends the night Before the rising sun.
Time, like an ever-rolling stream, Bears all its sons away; They fly forgotten, as a dream Dies at the opening day.
O God, our help in ages past; Our hope for years to come; Be thou our guard while troubles last, And our eternal home!
A CRADLE HYMN
Hush! my dear, lie still and slumber, Holy angels guard thy bed! Heavenly blessings without number Gently falling on thy head.
Sleep, my babe; thy food and raiment, House and home, thy friends provide; All without thy care or payment: All thy wants are well supplied.
How much better thou'rt attended Than the Son of God could be, When from Heaven He descended And became a child like thee!
Soft and easy is thy cradle: Coarse and hard thy Saviour lay, When His birthplace was a stable And His softest bed was hay.
Blessed babe! what glorious features— Spotless fair, divinely bright! Must He dwell with brutal creatures? How could angels bear the sight?
Was there nothing but a manger Cursed sinners could afford To receive the heavenly stranger? Did they thus affront their Lord?
Soft, my child: I did not chide thee, Though my song might sound too hard; 'Tis thy mother sits beside thee, And her arms shall be thy guard.
Yet to read the shameful story How the Jews abused their King, How they served the Lord of Glory, Makes me angry while I sing.
See the kinder shepherds round Him, Telling wonders from the sky! Where they sought Him, there they found Him, With His virgin mother by.
See the lovely babe a-dressing; Lovely infant, how He smiled! When He wept, the mother's blessing Soothed and hushed the holy child.
Lo, He slumbers in His manger, Where the horned oxen fed; Peace, my darling: here's no danger, Here's no ox a-near thy bed.
'Twas to save thee, child, from dying. Save my dear from burning flame, Bitter groans and endless crying, That thy blest Redeemer came.
May'st thou live to know and fear him, Trust and love Him all thy days; Then go dwell forever near Him, See His face, and sing His praise!
FROM AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM
'Tis hard to say, if greater want of skill Appear in writing or in judging ill; But, of the two, less dangerous is th' offense To tire our patience, than mislead our sense. Some few in that, but numbers err in this, Ten censure wrong for one who writes amiss; A fool might once himself alone expose, Now one in verse makes many more in prose.
'Tis with our judgments as our watches, none Go just alike, yet each believes his own. In poets as true genius is but rare, True taste as seldom is the critic's share; Both must alike from heaven derive their light, These born to judge, as well as those to write. Let such teach others who themselves excel, And censure freely who have written well. Authors are partial to their wit, 'tis true, But are not critics to their judgment too?
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But you who seek to give and merit fame And justly bear a critic's noble name, Be sure yourself and your own reach to know, How far your genius, taste, and learning go; Launch not beyond your depth, but be discreet, And mark that point where sense and dulness meet.
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First follow Nature, and your judgment frame By her just standard, which is still the same: Unerring Nature, still divinely bright, One clear, unchanged, and universal light, Life, force, and beauty, must to all impart, At once the source, and end, and test of art. Art from that fund each just supply provides, Works without show, and without pomp presides: In some fair body thus th' informing soul With spirit feeds, with vigour fills the whole. Each motion guides, and every nerve sustains; Itself unseen, but in th' effects, remains. Some, to whom Heaven in wit has been profuse, Want as much more, to turn it to its use; For wit and judgment often are at strife, Though meant each other's aid, like man and wife. 'Tis more to guide than spur the Muse's steed; Restrain his fury, than provoke his speed; The winged courser, like a generous horse, Shows most true mettle when you check his course.
Those rules of old discovered, not devised, Are Nature still, but Nature methodized; Nature, like liberty, is but restrained By the same laws which first herself ordained.
You, then, whose judgment the right course would steer, Know well each ancient's proper character; His fable, subject, scope in every page; Religion, country, genius of his age: Without all these at once before your eyes, Cavil you may, but never criticise, Be Homer's works your study and delight, Read them by day, and meditate by night; Thence form your judgment, thence your maxims bring, And trace the Muses upward to their spring. Still with itself compared, his text peruse; And let your comment be the Mantuan Muse.
When first young Maro in his boundless mind A work t' outlast immortal Rome designed, Perhaps he seemed above the critic's law, And but from nature's fountains scorned to draw: But when t' examine every part he came, Nature and Homer were, he found, the same. Convinced, amazed, he checks the bold design; And rules as strict his laboured work confine As if the Stagirite o'erlooked each line. Learn hence for ancient rules a just esteem; To copy nature is to copy them.
Some beauties yet no precepts can declare, For there's a happiness as well as care. Music resembles poetry, in each Are nameless graces which no methods teach, And which a master-hand alone can reach. If, where the rules not far enough extend, (Since rules were made but to promote their end) Some lucky license answer to the full Th' intent proposed, that license is a rule. Thus Pegasus, a nearer way to take, May boldly deviate from the common track; From vulgar bounds with brave disorder part, And snatch a grace beyond the reach of art, Which without passing through the judgment, gains The heart, and all its end at once attains. In prospects thus, some objects please our eyes, Which out of nature's common order rise, The shapeless rock, or hanging precipice. Great wits sometimes may gloriously offend, And rise to faults true critics dare not mend. But tho' the ancients thus their rules invade, (As kings dispense with laws themselves have made) Moderns, beware! or if you must offend Against the precept, ne'er transgress its end; Let it be seldom and compelled by need; And have, at least, their precedent to plead. The critic else proceeds without remorse, Seizes your fame, and puts his laws in force.
I know there are, to whose presumptuous thoughts Those freer beauties, e'en in them, seem faults. Some figures monstrous and misshaped appear, Considered singly, or beheld too near, Which, but proportioned to their light or place, Due distance reconciles to form and grace. A prudent chief not always must display His powers in equal ranks, and fair array, But with th' occasion and the place comply, Conceal his force, nay, seem sometimes to fly. Those oft are stratagems which errors seem, Nor is it Homer nods, but we that dream.
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A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, And drinking largely sobers us again. Fired at first sight with what the Muse imparts, In fearless youth we tempt the heights of arts, While from the bounded level of our mind, Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind; But more advanced, behold with strange surprise New distant scenes of endless science rise! So pleased at first the towering Alps we try, Mount o'er the vales, and seem to tread the sky, Th' eternal snows appear already past, And the first clouds and mountains seem the last; But, those attained, we tremble to survey The growing labours of the lengthened way, Th' increasing prospects tire our wandering eyes, Hills peep o'er hills, and Alps on Alps arise!
A perfect judge will read each work of wit With the same spirit that its author writ: Survey the whole, nor seek slight faults to find Where nature moves, and rapture warms the mind; Nor lose, for that malignant dull delight, The gen'rous pleasure to be charmed with wit. But in such lays as neither ebb, nor flow, Correctly cold, and regularly low, That shunning faults, one quiet tenor keep; We cannot blame indeed—but we may sleep. In wit, as nature, what affects our hearts Is not th' exactness of peculiar parts: 'Tis not a lip, or eye, we beauty call, But the joint force and full result of all. Thus when we view some well-proportioned dome, (The world's just wonder, and e'en thine, O Rome!) So single parts unequally surprise, All comes united to th' admiring eyes; No monstrous height, or breadth, or length appear; The whole at once is bold, and regular.
Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see, Thinks what ne'er was, nor is, nor e'er shall be. In every work regard the writer's end, Since none can compass more than they intend; And if the means be just, the conduct true, Applause, in spite of trivial faults, is due; As men of breeding, sometimes men of wit, T' avoid great errors, must the less commit: Neglect the rules each verbal critic lays, For not to know some trifles, is a praise. Most critics, fond of some subservient art, Still make the whole depend upon a part: They talk of principles, but notions prize, And all to one loved folly sacrifice.
Once on a time, La Mancha's knight, they say, A certain bard encountering on the way, Discoursed in terms as just, with looks as sage, As e'er could Dennis of the Grecian stage; Concluding all were desperate sots and fools, Who durst depart from Aristotle's rules. Our author, happy in a judge so nice, Produced his play, and begged the knight's advice; Made him observe the subject, and the plot, The manners, passions, unities, what not? All which, exact to rule, were brought about, Were but a combat in the lists left out. 'What! leave the combat out?' exclaims the knight; Yes, or we must renounce the Stagirite. 'Not so, by Heaven' (he answers in a rage), 'Knights, squires, and steeds, must enter on the stage.' So vast a throng the stage can ne'er contain. 'Then build a new, or act it in a plain.'
Thus critics, of less judgment than caprice, Curious not knowing, not exact but nice, Form short ideas; and offend in arts (As most in manners) by a love to parts.
Some to conceit alone their taste confine, And glitt'ring thoughts struck out at every line; Pleased with a work where nothing's just or fit; One glaring chaos and wild heap of wit. Poets like painters, thus unskilled to trace The naked nature and the living grace, With gold and jewels cover every part, And hide with ornaments their want of art. True wit is nature to advantage dressed, What oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed; Something, whose truth convinced at sight we find, That gives us back the image of our mind. As shades more sweetly recommend the light, So modest plainness sets off sprightly wit. For works may have more wit than does 'em good, As bodies perish through excess of blood.
Others for language all their care express, And value books, as women, men, for dress: Their praise is still,—the style is excellent; The sense, they humbly take upon content. Words are like leaves; and where they most abound, Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found. False eloquence, like the prismatic glass, Its gaudy colours spreads on every place; The face of nature we no more survey, All glares alike, without distinction gay: But true expression, like th' unchanging sun, Clears and improves whate'er it shines upon, It gilds all objects, but it alters none. Expression is the dress of thought, and still Appears more decent, as more suitable; A vile conceit in pompous words expressed, Is like a clown in regal purple dressed: For different styles with different subjects sort, As several garbs with country, town, and court. Some by old words to fame have made pretence, Ancients in phrase, mere moderns in their sense; Such laboured nothings, in so strange a style, Amaze th' unlearn'd, and make the learned smile. Unlucky, as Fungoso in the play, These sparks with awkward vanity display What the fine gentleman wore yesterday; And but so mimic ancient wits at best, As apes our grandsires, in their doublets dressed. In words, as fashions, the same rule will hold; Alike fantastic, if too new, or old: Be not the first by whom the new are tried, Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.
But most by numbers judge a poet's song; And smooth or rough, with them, is right or wrong: In the bright Muse though thousand charms conspire, Her voice is all these tuneful fools admire; Who haunt Parnassus but to please their ear, Not mend their minds; as some to church repair, Not for the doctrine, but the music there. These equal syllables alone require, Though oft the ear the open vowels tire; While expletives their feeble aid do join, And ten low words oft creep in one dull line: While they ring round the same unvaried chimes, With sure returns of still expected rhymes; Where'er you find 'the cooling western breeze,' In the next line, it 'whispers through the trees;' If crystal streams 'with pleasing murmurs creep,' The reader's threatened (not in vain) with 'sleep': Then, at the last and only couplet fraught With some unmeaning thing they call a thought, A needless Alexandrine ends the song, That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along. Leave such to tune their own dull rhymes, and know What's roundly smooth or languishingly slow; And praise the easy vigour of a line, Where Denham's strength, and Waller's sweetness join. True ease in writing comes from art, not chance. As those move easiest who have learned to dance. 'Tis not enough no harshness gives offence, The sound must seem an echo to the sense. Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows, And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows; But when loud surges lash the sounding shore, The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent roar. When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw, The line too labours, and the words move slow; Not so, when swift Camilla scours the plain, Flies o'er th' unbending corn, and skims along the main. Hear how Timotheus' varied lays surprise, And bid alternate passions fall and rise! While, at each change, the son of Libyan Jove Now burns with glory, and then melts with love; Now his fierce eyes with sparkling fury glow, Now sighs steal out, and tears begin to flow: Persians and Greeks like turns of nature found, And the world's victor stood subdued by sound! The power of music all our hearts allow, And what Timotheus was, is Dryden now.
Avoid extremes; and shun the fault of such, Who still are pleased too little or too much. At every trifle scorn to take offence, That always shows great pride, or little sense; Those heads, as stomachs, are not sure the best, Which nauseate all, and nothing can digest. Yet let not each gay turn thy rapture move; For fools admire, but men of sense approve: As things seem large which we through mists descry, Dulness is ever apt to magnify.
Some foreign writers, some our own despise; The ancients only, or the moderns prize. Thus wit, like faith, by each man is applied To one small sect, and all are damned beside. Meanly they seek the blessing to confine, And force that sun but on a part to shine, Which not alone the southern wit sublimes, But ripens spirits in cold northern climes; Which from the first has shone on ages past, Enlights the present, and shall warm the last; Though each may feel increases and decays, And see now clearer and now darker days. Regard not, then, if wit be old or new, But blame the false, and value still the true.
Some ne'er advance a judgment of their own, But catch the spreading notion of the town; They reason and conclude by precedent, And own stale nonsense which they ne'er invent. Some judge of author's names, not works, and then Nor praise nor blame the writings, but the men. Of all this servile herd, the worst is he That in proud dulness joins with Quality. A constant critic at the great man's board, To fetch and carry nonsense for my Lord. What woful stuff this madrigal would be, In some starved hackney sonneteer, or me? But let a Lord once own the happy lines, How the wit brightens! how the style refines! Before his sacred name flies every fault, And each exalted stanza teems with thought!
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Learn then what morals critics ought to show, For 'tis but half a judge's task, to know, 'Tis not enough, taste, judgment, learning join; In all you speak, let truth and candour shine: That not alone what to your sense is due All may allow; but seek your friendship too.
Be silent always when you doubt your sense; And speak, though sure, with seeming diffidence: Some positive, persisting fops we know, Who, if once wrong, will needs be always so; But you, with pleasure own your errors past, And make each day a critic on the last.
'Tis not enough, your counsel still be true; Blunt truths more mischief than nice falsehoods do; Men must be taught as if you taught them not, And things unknown proposed as things forgot. Without good breeding, truth is disapproved; That only makes superior sense beloved.
* * * * *
The bookful blockhead, ignorantly read, With loads of learned lumber in his head, With his own tongue still edifies his ears, And always listening to himself appears. All books he reads, and all he reads assails, From Dryden's Fables down to Durfey's Tales. With him, most authors steal their works, or buy; Garth did not write his own Dispensary. Name a new play, and he's the poet's friend, Nay, showed his faults—but when would poets mend? No place so sacred from such fops is barred, Nor is Paul's church more safe than Paul's churchyard: Nay, fly to altars; there they'll talk you dead: For fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Distrustful sense with modest caution speaks, It still looks home, and short excursions makes; But rattling nonsense in full volleys breaks, And never shocked, and never turned aside, Bursts out, resistless, with a thundering tide.
But where's the man, who counsel can bestow, Still pleased to teach, and yet not proud to know? Unbiassed, or by favour, or by spite; Not dully prepossessed, nor blindly right; Though learn'd, well-bred; and though well-bred, sincere, Modestly bold, and humanly severe: Who to a friend his faults can freely show, And gladly praise the merit of a foe? Blest with a taste exact, yet unconfined; A knowledge both of books and human kind: Gen'rous converse; a soul exempt from pride; And love to praise, with reason on his side?
THE RAPE OF THE LOCK
AN HEROI-COMICAL POEM
Not with more glories, in th' ethereal plain, The sun first rises o'er the purpled main, Than, issuing forth, the rival of his beams Launched on the bosom of the silver Thames. Fair nymphs, and well-dressed youths around her shone, But every eye was fixed on her alone. On her white breast a sparkling cross she wore, Which Jews might kiss, and infidels adore. Her lively looks a sprightly mind disclose, Quick as her eyes, and as unfixed as those; Favours to none, to all she smiles extends; Oft she rejects, but never once offends. Bright as the sun, her eyes the gazers strike, And, like the sun, they shine on all alike. Yet graceful ease, and sweetness void of pride, Might hide her faults, if belles had faults to hide; If to her share some female errors fall, Look on her face, and you'll forget 'em all.
This nymph, to the destruction of mankind, Nourished two locks, which graceful hung behind In equal curls, and well conspired to deck With shining ringlets the smooth ivory neck. Love in these labyrinths his slaves detains, And mighty hearts are held in slender chains. With hairy springes, we the birds betray, Slight lines of hair surprise the finny prey, Fair tresses man's imperial race ensnare, And beauty draws us with a single hair.
Th' adventurous baron the bright locks admired; He saw, he wished, and to the prize aspired. Resolved to win, he meditates the way, By force to ravish, or by fraud betray; For when success a lover's toil attends, Few ask if fraud or force attained his ends.
For this, ere Phoebus rose, he had implored Propitious Heaven, and every power adored, But chiefly Love; to Love an altar built, Of twelve vast French romances, neatly gilt. There lay three garters, half a pair of gloves, And all the trophies of his former loves; With tender billets-doux he lights the pyre, And breathes three amorous sighs to raise the fire. Then prostrate falls, and begs with ardent eyes Soon to obtain, and long possess the prize. The powers gave ear, and granted half his prayer; The rest the winds dispersed in empty air.
But now secure the painted vessel glides, The sunbeams trembling on the floating tides; While melting music steals upon the sky, And softened sounds along the waters die; Smooth flow the waves, the zephyrs gently play, Belinda smiled, and all the world was gay. All but the sylph—with careful thoughts oppressed, Th' impending woe sat heavy on his breast. He summons straight his denizens of air; The lucid squadrons around the sails repair; Soft o'er the shrouds aerial whispers breathe, That seemed but zephyrs to the train beneath. Some to the sun their insect wings unfold, Waft on the breeze, or sink in clouds of gold; Transparent forms, too fine for mortal sight, Their fluid bodies half dissolved in light. Loose to the wind their airy garments flew, Thin glittering textures of the filmy dew, Dipped in the richest tincture of the skies, Where light disports in ever-mingling dyes, While every beam new transient colours flings, Colours that change whene'er they wave their wings. Amid the circle, on the gilded mast, Superior by the head, was Ariel placed; His purple pinions opening to the sun, He raised his azure wand, and thus begun:
'Ye sylphs and sylphids, to your chief give ear! Fays, fairies, genii, elves, and demons, hear! Ye know the spheres, and various tasks assigned By laws eternal to th' aerial kind. Some in the fields of purest aether play, And bask and whiten in the blaze of day. Some guide the course of wandering orbs on high, Or roll the planets through the boundless sky. Some less refined, beneath the moon's pale light Pursue the stars that shoot athwart the night, Or suck the mists in grosser air below, Or dip their pinions in the painted bow, Or brew fierce tempests on the wintry main, Or o'er the glebe distil the kindly rain; Others on earth o'er human race preside, Watch all their ways, and all their actions guide: Of these the chief the care of nations own, And guard with arms divine the British throne.
'Our humbler province is to tend the fair, Not a less pleasing, though less glorious care; To save the powder from too rude a gale, Nor let th' imprisoned essences exhale; To draw fresh colours from the vernal flowers; To steal from rainbows, ere they drop in showers, A brighter wash; to curl their waving hairs, Assist their blushes, and inspire their airs; Nay, oft in dreams, invention we bestow, To change a flounce, or add a furbelow.
'This day, black omens threat the brightest fair That e'er deserved a watchful spirit's care; Some dire disaster, or by force, or sleight; But what, or where, the fates have wrapped in night. Whether the nymph shall break Diana's law, Or some frail china jar receive a flaw; Or stain her honour, or her new brocade; Forget her prayers, or miss a masquerade; Or lose her heart, or necklace, at a ball; Or whether Heaven has doomed that Shock must fall. Haste, then, ye spirits! to your charge repair; The fluttering fan be Zephyretta's care; The drops to thee, Brillante, we consign; And, Momentilla, let the watch be thine; Do thou, Crispissa, tend her favourite lock; Ariel himself shall be the guard of Shock. To fifty chosen sylphs, of special note, We trust th' important charge, the petticoat: Oft have we known that sevenfold fence to fail, Though stiff with hoops, and armed with ribs of whale; Form a strong line about the silver bound, And guard the wide circumference around.
'Whatever spirit, careless of his charge, His post neglects, or leaves the fair at large, Shall feel sharp vengeance soon o'ertake his sins, Be stopped in vials, or transfixed with pins; Or plunged in lakes of bitter washes lie, Or wedged whole ages in a bodkin's eye; Gums and pomatums shall his flight restrain, While clogged he beats his silken wings in vain; Or alum styptics with contracting power Shrink his thin essence like a rivelled flower; Or, as Ixion fixed, the wretch shall feel The giddy motion of the whirling mill, In fumes of burning chocolate shall glow, And tremble at the sea that froths below!'
He spoke; the spirits from the sails descend; Some, orb in orb, around the nymph extend; Some thrid the mazy ringlets of her hair; Some hang upon the pendants of her ear; With beating hearts the dire event they wait, Anxious, and trembling for the birth of fate.
Close by those meads, forever crowned with flowers, Where Thames with pride surveys his rising towers, There stands a structure of majestic frame, Which from the neighbouring Hampton takes its name. Here Britain's statesmen oft the fall foredoom Of foreign tyrants and of nymphs at home; Here thou, great Anna! whom three realms obey, Dost sometimes counsel take—and sometimes tea.
Hither the heroes and the nymphs resort, To taste awhile the pleasures of a court; In various talk th' instructive hours they passed, Who gave the ball, or paid the visit last; One speaks the glory of the British Queen, And one describes a charming Indian screen; A third interprets motions, looks, and eyes; At every word a reputation dies. Snuff, or the fan, supply each pause of chat, With singing, laughing, ogling, and all that. Meanwhile, declining from the noon of day, The sun obliquely shoots his burning ray; The hungry judges soon the sentence sign, And wretches hang that jurymen may dine; The merchant from th' Exchange returns in peace, And the long labours of the toilet cease. Belinda now, whom thirst of fame invites, Burns to encounter two adventurous knights, At ombre singly to decide their doom; And swells her breast with conquests yet to come. Straight the three bands prepare in arms to join, Each band the number of the sacred nine. Soon as she spreads her hand, th' aerial guard Descend, and sit on each important card: First, Ariel perched upon a Matadore, Then each, according to the rank they bore; For sylphs, yet mindful of their ancient race, Are, as when women, wondrous fond of place.
Behold, four kings in majesty revered, With hoary whiskers and a forky beard; And four fair queens whose hands sustain a flower, Th' expressive emblem of their softer power; Four knaves in garbs succinct, a trusty band, Caps on their heads, and halberts in their hand; And parti-coloured troops, a shining train, Draw forth to combat on the velvet plain.
The skilful nymph reviews her force with care: Let spades be trumps! she said, and trumps they were.
Now moved to war her sable Matadores, In show like leaders of the swarthy Moors. Spadillio first, unconquerable lord! Led off two captive trumps, and swept the board. As many more Manillio forced to yield And marched a victor from the verdant field. Him Basto followed, but his fate more hard Gained but one trump and one plebeian card. With his broad sabre next, a chief in years, The hoary Majesty of Spades appears, Puts forth one manly leg, to sight revealed, The rest, his many-coloured robe concealed. The rebel knave, who dares his prince engage, Proves the just victim of his royal rage. Even mighty Pam, that kings and queens o'erthrew, And mowed down armies in the fights of Loo, Sad chance of war! now destitute of aid, Falls undistinguished by the victor spade!
Thus far both armies to Belinda yield; Now to the baron fate inclines the field. His warlike Amazon her host invades, The imperial consort of the crown of spades; The club's black tyrant first her victim died, Spite of his haughty mien, and barbarous pride. What boots the regal circle on his head, His giant limbs, in state unwieldy spread; That long behind he trails his pompous robe, And, of all monarchs, only grasps the globe?
The baron now his diamonds pours apace; Th' embroidered king who shows but half his face, And his refulgent queen, with powers combined, Of broken troops an easy conquest find. Clubs, diamonds, hearts, in wild disorder seen, With throngs promiscuous strew the level green. Thus when dispersed a routed army runs, Of Asia's troops, and Afric's sable sons, With like confusion different nations fly, Of various habit, and of various dye, The pierced battalions disunited fall, In heaps on heaps; one fate o'erwhelms them all.
The knave of diamonds tries his wily arts, And wins (oh shameful chance!) the queen of hearts. At this the blood the virgin's cheek forsook, A livid paleness spreads o'er all her look; She sees, and trembles at th' approaching ill, Just in the jaws of ruin, and codille. And now (as oft in some distempered state) On one nice trick depends the general fate. An ace of hearts steps forth; the king unseen Lurked in her hand, and mourned his captive queen: He springs to vengeance with an eager pace, And falls like thunder on the prostrate ace. The nymph exulting fills with shouts the sky; The walls, the woods, and long canals reply.
Oh thoughtless mortals! ever blind to fate, Too soon dejected, and too soon elate. Sudden, these honours shall be snatched away, And cursed forever this victorious day.
For lo! the board with cups and spoons is crowned, The berries crackle, and the mill turns round; On shining altars of Japan they raise The silver lamp; the fiery spirits blaze; From silver spouts the grateful liquors glide, While China's earth receives the smoking tide: At once they gratify their scent and taste, And frequent cups, prolong the rich repast. Straight hover round the fair her airy band; Some, as she sipped, the fuming liquor fanned, Some o'er her lap their careful plumes displayed, Trembling, and conscious of the rich brocade. Coffee (which makes the politician wise, And see through all things with his half-shut eyes) Sent up in vapours to the baron's brain New stratagems the radiant lock to gain. Ah, cease, rash youth! desist ere 'tis too late, Fear the just gods, and think of Scylla's fate! Changed to a bird, and sent to flit in air, She dearly pays for Nisus' injured hair!
But when to mischief mortals bend their will, How soon they find fit instruments of ill! Just then Clarissa drew with tempting grace A two-edged weapon from her shining case: So ladies in romance assist their knight, Present the spear, and arm him for the fight. He takes the gift with reverence, and extends The little engine on his fingers' ends; This just behind Belinda's neck he spread, As o'er the fragrant steams she bends her head. Swift to the lock a thousand sprites repair, A thousand wings, by turns, blow back the hair; And thrice they twitched the diamond in her ear; Thrice she looked back, and thrice the foe drew near. Just in that instant, anxious Ariel sought The close recesses of the virgin's thought; As on the nosegay in her breast reclined, He watched th' ideas rising in her mind, Sudden he viewed, in spite of all her art, An earthly lover lurking at her heart. Amazed, confused, he found his power expired, Resigned to fate, and with a sigh retired.
The peer now spreads the glittering forfex wide, T' inclose the lock; now joins it, to divide. E'en then, before the fatal engine closed, A wretched sylph too fondly interposed; Fate urged the shears, and cut the sylph in twain (But airy substance soon unites again). The meeting points the sacred hair dissever From the fair head, forever, and forever!
Then flashed the living lightning from her eyes, And screams of horror rend th' affrighted skies. Not louder shrieks to pitying Heaven are cast, When husbands, or when lap-dogs breathe their last; Or when rich China vessels, fallen from high, In glittering dust and painted fragments lie!
'Let wreaths of triumph now my temples twine,' The victor cried; 'the glorious prize is mine! While fish in streams, or birds delight in air, Or in a coach and six the British fair, As long as Atalantis shall be read, Or the small pillow grace a lady's bed, While visits shall be paid on solemn days, When numerous wax-lights in bright order blaze, While nymphs take treats, or assignations give, So long my honour, name, and praise shall live! What Time would spare, from steel receives its date, And monuments, like men, submit to fate! Steel could the labour of the gods destroy, And strike to dust th' imperial towers of Troy; Steel could the works of mortal pride confound, And hew triumphal arches to the ground. What wonder then, fair nymph! thy hairs should feel, The conquering force of unresisted steel?'
FROM TRANSLATION OF THE ILIAD
[THE PARTING OF HECTOR AND ANDROMACHE]
'How would the sons of Troy, in arms renowned, And Troy's proud dames, whose garments sweep the ground, Attaint the lustre of my former name, Should Hector basely quit the field of fame? My early youth was bred to martial pains, My soul impels me to th' embattled plains: Let me be foremost to defend the throne, And guard my father's glories and my own. Yet come it will, the day decreed by fates, (How my heart trembles while my tongue relates!) The day when thou, imperial Troy! must bend, And see thy warriors fall, thy glories end. And yet no dire presage so wounds my mind, My mother's death, the ruin of my kind, Not Priam's hoary hairs defil'd with gore, Not all my brothers gasping on the shore, As thine, Andromache! Thy griefs I dread: I see thee trembling, weeping, captive led, In Argive looms our battles to design, And woes of which so large a part was thine! To bear the victor's hard commands, or bring The weight of waters from Hyperia's spring! There, while you groan beneath the load of life, They cry, "Behold the mighty Hector's wife!" Some haughty Greek, who lives thy tears to see, Embitters all thy woes by naming me. The thoughts of glory past and present shame, A thousand griefs, shall waken at the name! May I lie cold before that dreadful day, Pressed with a load of monumental clay! Thy Hector, wrapped, in everlasting sleep, Shall neither hear thee sigh, nor see thee weep.'
Thus having spoke, th' illustrious chief of Troy Stretched his fond arms to clasp the lovely boy. The babe clung crying to his nurse's breast, Scared at the dazzling helm and nodding crest. With secret pleasure each fond parent smiled, And Hector hasted to relieve his child; The glittering terrors from his brows unbound, And placed the beaming helmet on the ground. Then kissed the child, and, lifting high in air, Thus to the gods preferred a father's prayer:
'O thou! whose glory fills th' ethereal throne, And all ye deathless powers! protect my son! Grant him, like me, to purchase just renown, To guard the Trojans, to defend the crown, Against his country's foes the war to wage, And rise the Hector of the future age! So when, triumphant from successful toils, Of heroes slain he bears the reeking spoils, Whole hosts may hail him with deserved acclaim, And say, "This chief transcends his father's fame": While pleased, amidst the general shouts of Troy, His mother's conscious heart o'erflows with joy.'
He spoke, and fondly gazing on her charms, Restored the pleasing burthen to her arms; Soft on her fragrant breast the babe she laid, Hushed to repose, and with a smile surveyed. The troubled pleasure soon chastised by fear, She mingled with the smile a tender tear. The softened chief with kind compassion viewed, And dried the falling drops, and thus pursued:
'Andromache! my soul's far better part, Why with untimely sorrows heaves thy heart? No hostile hand can antedate my doom, Till fate condemns me to the silent tomb. Fixed is the term to all the race of earth, And such the hard condition of our birth. No force can then resist, no flight can save: All sink alike, the fearful and the brave. No more—but hasten to thy tasks at home, There guide the spindle, and direct the loom; Me glory summons to the martial scene, The field of combat is the sphere for men. Where heroes war, the foremost place I claim, The first in danger as the first in fame.'
From AN ESSAY ON MAN
OF THE NATURE AND STATE OF MAN, WITH RESPECT TO THE UNIVERSE
Awake, my St. John! leave all meaner things To low ambition, and the pride of kings. Let us (since life can little more supply Than just to look about us, and to die) Expatiate free o'er all this scene of man; A mighty maze! but not without a plan; A wild, where weeds and flowers promiscuous shoot; Or garden, tempting with forbidden fruit. Together let us beat this ample field, Try what the open, what the covert yield; The latent tracts, the giddy heights, explore Of all who blindly creep, or sightless soar; Eye Nature's walks, shoot folly as it flies, And catch the manners living as they rise; Laugh where we must, be candid where we can, But vindicate the ways of God to man.
Say first, of God above, or man below, What can we reason, but from what we know? Of man, what see we but his station here From which to reason or to which refer? Through worlds unnumbered though the God be known, 'Tis ours to trace him only in our own. He, who through vast immensity can pierce, See worlds on worlds compose one universe, Observe how system into system runs. What other planets circle other suns, What varied being peoples every star, May tell why Heaven has made us as we are. But of this frame the bearings, and the ties, The strong connections, nice dependencies, Gradations just, has thy pervading soul Looked through? or can a part contain the whole?
Is the great chain, that draws all to agree, And drawn supports, upheld by God, or thee?
Presumptuous man! the reason wouldst thou find, Why formed so weak, so little, and so blind? First, if thou canst, the harder reason guess, Why formed no weaker, blinder, and no less? Ask of thy mother earth, why oaks are made Taller or stronger than the weeds they shade? Or ask of yonder argent fields above, Why Jove's satellites are less than Jove.
Of systems possible, if 'tis confessed That wisdom infinite must form the best, Where all must full or not coherent be, And all that rises, rise in due degree; Then, in the scale of reasoning life, 'tis plain, There must be, somewhere, such a rank as man: And all the question (wrangle e'er so long) Is only this, if God has placed him wrong?
Respecting man, whatever wrong we call, May, must be right, as relative to all. In human works, though laboured on with pain, A thousand movements scarce one purpose gain; In God's, one single can its end produce; Yet serves to second too some other use. So man, who here seems principal alone, Perhaps acts second to some sphere unknown, Touches some wheel, or verges to some goal; 'Tis but a part we see, and not a whole.
When the proud steed shall know why man restrains His fiery course, or drives him o'er the plains; When the dull ox, why now he breaks the clod, Is now a victim, and now Egypt's god: Then shall man's pride and dulness comprehend His actions', passions', being's, use and end; Why doing, suffering, checked, impelled; and why This hour a slave, the next a deity.
Then say not man's imperfect, Heaven in fault; Say rather, man's as perfect as he ought: His knowledge measured to his state and place, His time a moment, and a point his space. If to be perfect In a certain sphere, What matter, soon or late, or here or there? The blest to-day is as completely so, As who began a thousand years ago.
Heaven from all creatures hides the book of fate, All but the page prescribed, their present state: From brutes what men, from men what spirits know Or who could suffer being here below? The lamb thy riot dooms to bleed to-day, Had he thy reason, would he skip and play? Pleased to the last, he crops the flowery food, And licks the hand just raised to shed his blood. Oh, blindness to the future! kindly given, That each may fill the circle marked by Heaven: Who sees with equal eye, as God of all, A hero perish, or a sparrow fall, Atoms or systems into ruin hurled, And now a bubble burst, and now a world.
Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions soar; Wait the great teacher Death; and God adore. What future bliss, he gives not thee to know, But gives that hope to be thy blessing now. Hope springs eternal in the human breast: Man never is, but always to be blessed. The soul, uneasy and confined from home, Bests and expatiates in a life to come.
Lo, the poor Indian! whose untutored mind Sees God in clouds, or hears him in the wind; His soul, proud science never taught to stray Far as the solar walk, or milky way; Yet simple nature to his hope has given, Behind the cloud-topped hill, an humbler Heaven; Some safer world in depths of woods embraced, Some happier island in the watery waste, Where slaves once more their native land behold, No fiends torment, no Christians thirst for gold. To be, contents his natural desire, He asks no angel's wing, no seraph's fire; But thinks, admitted to that equal sky, His faithful dog shall bear him company.
Go, wiser thou! and, in thy scale of sense Weigh thy opinion against Providence; Call imperfection what thou fanciest such, Say, 'Here he gives too little, there too much;' Destroy all creatures for thy sport or gust, Yet cry, 'If man's unhappy, God's unjust;' If man alone engross not Heaven's high care, Alone made perfect here, immortal there, Snatch from his hand the balance and the rod, Bejudge his justice, be the god of God. In pride, in reasoning pride, our error lies; All quit their sphere, and rush into the skies. Pride still is aiming at the blest abodes, Men would be angels, angels would be gods. Aspiring to be gods, if angels fell, Aspiring to be angels, men rebel: And who but wishes to invert the laws Of order, sins against the Eternal Cause.
V. Ask for what end the heavenly bodies shine, Earth for whose use? Pride answers, ''Tis for mine: For me kind nature wakes her genial power, Suckles each herb, and spreads out every flower; Annual for me, the grape, the rose renew The juice nectareous, and the balmy dew; For me, the mine a thousand treasures brings; For me, health gushes from a thousand springs; Seas roll to waft me, suns to light me rise; My footstool earth, my canopy the skies.' But errs not Nature from this gracious end, From burning suns when livid deaths descend, When earthquakes swallow, or when tempests sweep Towns to one grave, whole nations to the deep? 'No ('tis replied), the first Almighty Cause Acts not by partial, but by general laws; Th' exceptions few; some change, since all began: And what created perfect?' Why then man? If the great end be human happiness, Then nature deviates; and can man do less? As much that end a constant course requires Of showers and sunshine, as of man's desires; As much eternal springs and cloudless skies, As men forever temperate, calm, and wise. If plagues or earthquakes break not Heaven's design, Why then a Borgia, or a Catiline? Who knows but He, whose hand the lightning forms, Who heaves old ocean, and who wings the storms; Pours fierce ambition in a Caesar's mind, Or turns young Ammon loose to scourge mankind? From pride, from pride, our very reasoning springs. Account for moral, as for natural things: Why charge we Heaven in those, in these acquit? In both, to reason right is to submit. Better for us, perhaps, it might appear, Were there all harmony, all virtue here; That never air or ocean felt the wind; That never passion discomposed the mind. But all subsists by elemental strife; And passions are the elements of life. The general order, since the whole began, Is kept in nature, and is kept in man.
VI. What would this man? Now upward will he soar, And little less than angel, would he more; Now looking downwards, just as grieved appears To want the strength of bulls, the fur of bears. Made for his use all creatures if he call, Say what their use, had he the powers of all? Nature to these, without profusion, kind, The proper organs, proper powers assigned; Each seeming want compensated of course, Here with degrees of swiftness, there of force; All in exact proportion to the state; Nothing to add, and nothing to abate. Each beast, each insect, happy in its own: Is Heaven unkind to man, and man alone? Shall he alone, whom rational we call, Be pleased with nothing, if not blessed with all? The bliss of man (could pride that blessing find) Is not to act or think beyond mankind; No powers of body or of soul to share, But what his nature and his state can bear. Why has not man a microscopic eye? For this plain reason, man is not a fly. Say what the use, were finer optics given, T' inspect a mite, not comprehend the heaven? Or touch, if tremblingly alive all o'er, To smart and agonize at every pore? Or quick effluvia darting through the brain, Die of a rose in aromatic pain? If nature thundered in his opening ears, And stunned him with the music of the spheres, How would he wish that Heaven had left him still The whispering zephyr, and the purling rill? Who finds not Providence all good and wise, Alike in what it gives and what denies?
VII. Far as creation's ample range extends, The scale of sensual, mental power ascends. Mark how it mounts, to man's imperial race, From the green myriads in the peopled grass: What modes of sight betwixt each wide extreme, The mole's dim curtain, and the lynx's beam: Of smell, the headlong lioness between And hound sagacious on the tainted green: Of hearing, from the life that fills the flood, To that which warbles through the vernal wood: The spider's touch, how exquisitely fine! Feels at each thread, and lives along the line: In the nice bee, what sense so subtly true From poisonous herbs extracts the healing dew? How instinct varies in the grovelling swine, Compared, half-reasoning elephant, with thine! 'Twixt that and reason, what a nice barrier, Forever separate, yet forever near! Remembrance and reflection how allied; What thin partitions sense from thought divide: And middle natures, how they long to join, Yet never pass th' insuperable line! Without this just gradation, could they be Subjected, these to those, or all to thee? The powers of all subdued by thee alone, Is not thy reason all these powers in one?
VIII. See, through this air, this ocean, and this earth All matter quick, and bursting into birth. Above, how high, progressive life may go! Around, how wide! how deep extend below! Vast chain of being! which from God began, Natures ethereal, human, angel, man, Beast, bird, fish, insect, what no eye can see, No glass can reach; from infinite to thee, From thee to nothing.—On superior powers Were we to pass, Inferior might on ours; Or in the full creation leave a void, Where, one step broken, the great scale's destroyed: From nature's chain whatever link you strike, Tenth, or ten thousandth, breaks the chain alike. And, if each system in gradation roll Alike essential to th' amazing whole, The least confusion but in one, not all That system only, but the whole must fall. Let earth unbalanced from her orbit fly, Planets and suns run lawless through the sky; Let ruling angels from their spheres be hurled, Being on being wrecked, and world on world; Heaven's whole foundations to their centre nod, And nature tremble to the throne of God. All this dread order break—for whom? for thee? Vile worm!—Oh, madness! pride! impiety!
IX. What if the foot, ordained the dust to tread, Or hand, to toil, aspired to be the head? What if the head, the eye, or ear repined To serve mere engines to the ruling mind? Just as absurd for any part to claim To be another, in this general frame; Just as absurd, to mourn the tasks or pains, The great directing Mind of all ordains. All are but parts of one stupendous whole, Whose body nature is, and God the soul; That, changed through all, and yet in all the same; Great in the earth, as in th' ethereal frame; Warms in the sun, refreshes in the breeze, Glows in the stars, and blossoms in the trees, Lives through all life, extends through all extent, Spreads undivided, operates unspent; Breathes in our soul, informs our mortal part, As full, as perfect, in a hair as heart; As full, as perfect, in vile man that mourns, As the rapt seraph that adores and burns: To him no high, no low, no great, no small; He fills, he bounds, connects, and equals all.
X. Cease then, nor order imperfection name: Our proper bliss depends on what we blame. Know thy own point: this kind, this due degree Of blindness, weakness, Heaven bestows on thee. Submit.—In this, or any other sphere, Secure to be as blest as thou canst bear: Safe in the hand of one disposing Power, Or in the natal, or the mortal hour. All nature is but art, unknown to thee; All chance, direction, which thou canst not see; All discord, harmony not understood; All partial evil, universal good: And, spite of pride, in erring reason's spite, One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right.
[MAN'S POWERS AND FRAILTIES]
Know then thyself, presume not God to scan; The proper study of mankind is Man. Placed on this isthmus of a middle state, A being darkly wise, and rudely great: With too much knowledge for the sceptic side, With too much weakness for the stoic's pride, He hangs between; in doubt to act or rest, In doubt to deem himself a god or beast; In doubt his mind or body to prefer, Born but to die, and reasoning but to err; Alike in ignorance, his reason such Whether he thinks too little or too much: Chaos of thought and passion, all confused; Still by himself abused, or disabused; Created half to rise, and half to fall; Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all; Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled: The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!
[VIRTUE AND HAPPINESS]
Oh blind to truth, and God's whole scheme below, Who fancy bliss to vice, to virtue woe! Who sees and follows that great scheme the best, Best knows the blessing, and will most be blessed. But fools, the good alone unhappy call, For ills or accidents that chance to all. See Falkland dies, the virtuous and the just! See godlike Turenne prostrate on the dust! See Sidney bleeds amid the martial strife! Was this their virtue, or contempt of life? Say, was it virtue, more though Heaven ne'er gave, Lamented Digby! sunk thee to the grave? Tell me, if virtue made the son expire, Why, full of days and honour, lives the sire? Why drew Marseilles' good bishop purer breath, When nature sickened, and each gale was death? Or why so long (in life if long can be) Lent Heaven a parent to the poor and me? What makes all physical or moral ill? There deviates nature, and here wanders will. God sends not ill; if rightly understood, Or partial ill is universal good. Or change admits, or nature lets it fall, Short, and but rare, till man improved it all. We just as wisely might of Heaven complain That righteous Abel was destroyed by Cain, As that the virtuous son is ill at ease, When his lewd father gave the dire disease. Think we, like some weak prince, th' Eternal Cause Prone for his favourites to reverse his laws? Shall burning Etna, if a sage requires, Forget to thunder, and recall her fires? On air or sea new motions be impressed, Oh blameless Bethel! to relieve thy breast? When the loose mountain trembles from on high, Shall gravitation cease, if you go by? Or some old temple, nodding to its fall, For Chartres' head reserve the hanging wall? But still this world (so fitted for the knave) Contents us not. A better shall we have? A kingdom of the just then let it be: But first consider how those just agree. The good must merit God's peculiar care; But who, but God, can tell us who they are? One thinks on Calvin Heaven's own spirit fell; Another deems him instrument of hell; If Calvin feel Heaven's blessing, or its rod. This cries, there is, and that, there is no God. What shocks one part will edify the rest, Nor with one system can they all he blessed. The very best will variously incline, And what rewards your virtue, punish mine. Whatever is, is right.—This world 'tis true Was made for Caesar—but for Titus too. And which more blessed? who chained his country, say, Or he whose virtue sighed to lose a day? 'But sometimes virtue starves, while vice is fed,' What then? Is the reward of virtue bread? That, vice may merit, 'tis the price of toil; The knave deserves it, when he tills the soil, The knave deserves it when he tempts the main, Where folly fights for kings, or dives for gain. The good man may be weak, be indolent: Nor is his claim to plenty, but content. But grant him riches, your demand is o'er; 'No—shall the good want health, the good want power?' Add health, and power, and every earthly thing. 'Why bounded power? why private? why no king?' Nay, why external for internal given? Why is not man a god, and earth a Heaven? Who ask and reason thus, will scarce conceive God gives enough, while he has more to give: Immense the power, immense were the demand; Say, at what part of nature will they stand? What nothing earthly gives, or can destroy, The soul's calm sunshine, and the heart-felt joy, Is virtue's prize: A better would you fix? Then give humility a coach and six, Justice a conqueror's sword, or truth a gown, Or public spirit its great cure, a crown. Weak, foolish man! will Heaven reward us there With the same trash mad mortals wish for here? The boy and man an individual makes, Yet sigh'st thou now for apples and for cakes? Go, like the Indian, in another life Expect thy dog, thy bottle, and thy wife, As well as dream such trifles are assigned, As toys and empires, for a god-like mind. Rewards, that either would to virtue bring No joy, or be destructive of the thing: How oft by these at sixty are undone The virtues of a saint at twenty-one! To whom can riches give repute, or trust, Content, or pleasure, but the good and just? Judges and senates have been bought for gold, Esteem and love were never to be sold. Oh fool! to think God hates the worthy mind, The lover and the love of human-kind, Whose life is healthful, and whose conscience clear, Because he wants a thousand pounds a year. Honour and shame from no condition rise; Act well your part, there all the honour lies. Fortune in men has some small difference made, One flaunts in rags, one flutters in brocade; The cobbler aproned, and the parson gowned, The friar hooded, and the monarch crowned. 'What differ more (you cry) than crown and cowl?' I'll tell you, friend! a wise man and a fool. You'll find, if once the monarch acts the monk, Or, cobbler-like, the parson will be drunk, Worth makes the man, and want of it the fellow, The rest is all but leather or prunella.
* * * * *
God loves from whole to parts; but human soul Must rise from individual to whole. Self-love but serves the virtuous mind to wake, As the small pebble stirs the peaceful lake; The centre moved, a circle straight succeeds, Another still, and still another spreads; Friend, parent, neighbour, first it will embrace; His country next; and next all human race; Wide and more wide, th' o'erflowings of the mind Take every creature in, of every kind; Earth smiles around, with boundless bounty blessed, And Heaven beholds its image in his breast. Come then, my friend! my Genius! come along; Oh master of the poet, and the song! And while the Muse now stoops, or now ascends, To man's low passions, or their glorious ends, Teach me, like thee, in various nature wise, To fall with dignity, with temper rise; Formed by thy converse, happily to steer From grave to gay, from lively to severe; Correct with spirit, eloquent with ease, Intent to reason, or polite to please. Oh! while along the stream of time thy name Expanded flies, and gathers all its fame, Say, shall my little bark attendant sail, Pursue the triumph, and partake the gale? When statesmen, heroes, kings, in dust repose, Whose sons shall blush their fathers were thy foes, Shall then this verse to future age pretend Thou wert my guide, philosopher, and friend? That urged by thee, I turned the tuneful art From sounds to things, from fancy to the heart; For wit's false mirror held up Nature's light; Shewed erring pride, Whatever is, is right; That reason, passion, answer one great aim; That true self-love and social are the same; That virtue only, makes our bliss below; And all our knowledge is, ourselves to know.
FROM MORAL ESSAYS
OF THE CHARACTERS OF WOMEN
Nothing so true as what you once let fall, 'Most women have no characters at all.' Matter too soft a lasting mark to bear, And best distinguished by black, brown, or fair. How many pictures of one nymph we view, All how unlike each other, all how true! Arcadia's countess, here in ermined pride, Is there Pastora by a fountain side; Here Fannia, leering on her own good man, And there, a naked Leda with a swan. Let then the fair one beautifully cry, In Magdalen's loose hair and lifted eye, Or dressed in smiles of sweet Cecilia shine, With simpering angels, palms, and harps divine; Whether the charmer sinner it, or saint it, If folly grow romantic, I must paint it.
* * * * *
Flavia's a wit, has too much sense to pray; To toast our wants and wishes, is her way; Nor asks of God, but of her stars, to give The mighty blessing, 'while we live, to live.' Then for all death, that opiate of the soul! Lucretia's dagger, Rosamonda's bowl. Say, what can cause such impotence of mind? A spark too fickle, or a spouse too kind. Wise wretch! with pleasures too refined to please; With too much spirit to be e'er at ease; With too much quickness ever to be taught; With too much thinking to have common thought: You purchase pain with all that joy can give, And die of nothing but a rage to live. Turn then from wits; and look on Simo's mate, No ass so meek, no ass so obstinate; Or her, that owns her faults, but never mends, Because she's honest, and the best of friends; Or her, whose life the Church and scandal share, Forever in a passion, or a prayer; Or her, who laughs at hell, but (like her Grace) Cries, 'Ah! how charming, if there's no such place!' Or who in sweet vicissitude appears Of mirth and opium, ratafie and tears, The daily anodyne, and nightly draught, To kill those foes to fair ones, time and thought. Woman and fool are two hard things to hit; For true no-meaning puzzles more than wit. But what are these to great Atossa's mind? Scarce once herself, by turns all womankind! Who, with herself, or others, from her birth Finds all her life one warfare upon earth; Shines, in exposing knaves, and painting fools, Yet is, whate'er she hates and ridicules. No thought advances, but her eddy brain Whisks it about, and down it goes again. Full sixty years the world has been her trade, The wisest fool much time has ever made. From loveless youth to unrespected age, No passion gratified except her rage. So much the fury still outran the wit, The pleasure missed her, and the scandal hit. Who breaks with her, provokes revenge from hell, But he's a bolder man who dares be well. Her every turn with violence pursued, Nor more a storm her hate than gratitude: To that each passion turns, or soon or late; Love, if it makes her yield, must make her hate: Superiors? death! and equals? what a curse! But an inferior not dependent? worse. Offend her, and she knows not to forgive; Oblige her, and she'll hate you while you live; But die, and she'll adore you—then the bust And temple rise—then fall again to dust. Last night, her lord was all that's good and great; A knave this morning, and his will a cheat. Strange! by the means defeated of the ends, By spirit robbed of power, by warmth of friends, By wealth of followers! without one distress, Sick of herself through very selfishness! Atossa, cursed with every granted prayer, Childless with all her children, wants an heir. To heirs unknown descends th' unguarded store, Or wanders, Heaven-directed, to the poor. Pictures like these, dear Madam, to design, Asks no firm hand, and no unerring line; Some wandering touches, some reflected light, Some flying stroke alone can hit them right: For how should equal colours do the knack? Chameleons who can paint in white and black? 'Yet Chloe sure was formed without a spot'— Nature in her then erred not, but forgot. 'With every pleasing, every prudent part, Say, what can Chloe want?'—She wants a heart. She speaks, behaves, and acts just as she ought; But never, never, reached one generous thought. Virtue she finds too painful an endeavour, Content to dwell in decencies forever. So very reasonable, so unmoved, As never yet to love, or to be loved. She, while her lover pants upon her breast, Can mark the figures on an Indian chest; And when she sees her friend in deep despair, Observes how much a chintz exceeds mohair. Forbid it Heaven, a favour or a debt She e'er should cancel—but she may forget. Safe is your secret still in Chloe's ear; But none of Chloe's shall you ever hear. Of all her dears she never slandered one, But cares not if a thousand are undone. Would Chloe know if you're alive or dead? She bids her footman put it in her head. Chloe is prudent—would you too be wise? Then never break your heart when Chloe dies.
* * * * *
But grant in public men sometimes are shown, A woman's seen in private life alone: Our bolder talents in full light displayed; Your virtues open fairest in the shade, Bred to disguise, in public 'tis you hide; There none distinguish 'twixt your shame or pride, Weakness or delicacy, all so nice, That each may seem a virtue or a vice. In men, we various ruling passions find; In women two almost divide the kind; Those, only fixed, they first or last obey, The love of pleasure, and the love of sway.
* * * * *
Pleasures the sex, as children birds, pursue, Still out of reach, yet never out of view; Sure, if they catch, to spoil the toy at most, To covet flying, and regret when lost: At last, to follies youth could scarce defend, It grows their age's prudence to pretend; Ashamed to own they gave delight before, Reduced to feign it, when they give no more: As hags hold Sabbaths, less for joy than spite, So these their merry, miserable night; Still round and round the ghosts of beauty glide, And haunt the places where their honour died. See how the world its veterans rewards! A youth of frolics, an old age of cards; Fair to no purpose, artful to no end, Young without lovers, old without a friend; A fop their passion, but their prize a sot; Alive, ridiculous, and dead, forgot! Ah! Friend! to dazzle let the vain design; To raise the thought and touch the heart be thine! That charm shall grow, while what fatigues the Ring Flaunts and goes down, an unregarded thing: So when the sun's broad beam has tired the sight, All mild ascends the moon's more sober light, Serene in virgin modesty she shines, And unobserved the glaring orb declines. Oh! blest with temper whose unclouded ray Can make to-morrow cheerful as to-day; She, who can love a sister's charms, or hear Sighs for a daughter with unwounded ear; She, who ne'er answers till a husband cools, Or, if she rules him, never shows she rules; Charms by accepting, by submitting, sways, Yet has her humour most, when she obeys; Let fops or fortune fly which way they will; Disdains all loss of tickets, or codille; Spleen, vapours, or small-pox, above them all, And mistress of herself, though china fall. And yet, believe me, good as well as ill, Woman's at best a contradiction still. Heaven, when it strives to polish all it can Its last best work, but forms a softer man; Picks from each sex, to make the favourite blest, Your love of pleasure, our desire of rest: Blends, in exception to all general rules, Your taste of follies, with our scorn of fools: Reserve with frankness, art with truth allied, Courage with softness, modesty with pride; Fixed principles, with fancy ever new; Shakes all together, and produces—You.
FROM EPISTLE TO DR. ARBUTHNOT
P. Shut, shut the door, good John! fatigued, I said; Tie up the knocker, say I'm sick, I'm dead. The Dog-star rages! nay, 'tis past a doubt, All Bedlam, or Parnassus, is let out: Fire in each eye, and papers in each hand, They rave, recite, and madden round the land. What walls can guard me, or what shades can hide? They pierce my thickets, through my grot they glide; By land, by water, they renew the charge; They stop the chariot, and they board the barge. No place is sacred, not the church is free; E'en Sunday shines no Sabbath day to me: Then from the Mint walks forth the man of rhyme, Happy to catch me just at dinner-time. Is there a parson, much demused in beer, A maudlin poetess, a rhyming peer, A clerk, foredoomed his father's soul to cross, Who pens a stanza, when he should engross? Is there, who, locked from ink and paper, scrawls With desperate charcoal round his darkened walls? All fly to Twit'nam, and in humble strain Apply to me, to keep them mad or vain. Arthur, whose giddy son neglects the laws, Imputes to me and my damned works the cause; Poor Comus sees his frantic wife elope, And curses wit, and poetry, and Pope. Friend to my life! (which did not you prolong, The world had wanted many an idle song) What drop or nostrum can this plague remove? Or which must-end me, a fool's wrath or love? A dire dilemma! either way I'm sped: If foes, they write, if friends, they read me dead. Seized and tied down to judge, how wretched I! Who can't be silent, and who will not lie. To laugh, were want of goodness and of grace, And to be grave, exceeds all power of face. I sit with sad civility, I read With honest anguish, and an aching head; And drop at last, but in unwilling ears, This saving counsel, 'Keep your piece nine years.' 'Nine years!' cries he, who high in Drury Lane, Lulled by soft zephyrs through the broken pane, Rhymes ere he wakes, and prints before term ends, Obliged by hunger, and request of friends: 'The piece, you think, it incorrect? why, take it, I'm all submission, what you'd have it, make it.' Three things another's modest wishes bound, My friendship, and a prologue, and ten pound. Pitholeon sends to me: 'You know his Grace, I want a patron; ask him for a place.' 'Pitholeon libelled me'—'But here's a letter Informs you, sir, 'twas when he knew no better. Dare you refuse him? Curll invites to dine, He'll write a journal, or he'll turn divine.' Bless me! a packet.—''Tis a stranger sues, A virgin tragedy, an orphan Muse.' If I dislike it, 'Furies, death, and rage!' If I approve, 'Commend it to the stage.' There (thank my stars) my whole commission ends, The players and I are, luckily, no friends. Fired that the house reject him, ''Sdeath I'll print it, And shame the fools—Your interest, sir, with Lintot!' 'Lintot, dull rogue! will think your price too much:' 'Not, sir, if you revise it, and retouch.' All my demurs but double his attacks; At last he whispers, 'Do; and we go snacks.' Glad of a quarrel, straight I clap the door; 'Sir, let me see your works and you no more.'
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There are, who to my person pay their court: I cough like Horace, and, though lean, am short, Ammon's great son one shoulder had too high, Such Ovid's nose, and 'Sir! you have an eye'— Go on, obliging creatures, make me see All that disgraced my betters, met in me. Say for my comfort, languishing in bed, 'Just so immortal Maro held his head:' And when I die, be sure you let me know Great Homer died three thousand years ago. Why did I write? what sin to me unknown Dipped me in ink, my parents', or my own? As yet a child, nor yet a fool to fame, I lisped in numbers, for the numbers came. I left no calling for this idle trade, No duty broke, no father disobeyed. The Muse but served to ease some friend, not wife, To help me through this long disease, my life, To second, Arbuthnot! thy art and care, And teach the being you preserved, to bear. But why then publish? Granville the polite, And knowing Walsh, would tell me I could write; Well-natured Garth inflamed with early praise, And Congreve loved, and Swift endured my lays; The courtly Talbot, Somers, Sheffield, read; Even mitred Rochester would nod the head, And St. John's self (great Dryden's friends before) With open arms received one poet more. Happy my studies, when by these approved! Happier their author, when by these beloved! From these the world will judge of men and books, Not from the Burnets, Oldmixons, and Cookes. Soft were my numbers; who could take offence While pure description held the place of sense? Like gentle Fanny's was my flowery theme, A painted mistress, or a purling stream. Yet then did Gildon draw his venal quill;— I wished the man a dinner, and sat still. Yet then did Dennis rave in furious fret; I never answered—I was not in debt. If want provoked, or madness made them print, I waged no war with Bedlam or the Mint. Did some more sober critic come aboard; If wrong, I smiled; if right, I kissed the rod. Pains, reading, study, are their just pretence, And all they want is spirit, taste, and sense. Commas and points they set exactly right, And 'twere a sin to rob them of their mite; Yet ne'er one sprig of laurel graced these ribalds, From slashing Bentley down to piddling Tibbalds. Each wight, who reads not, and but scans and spells, Each word-catcher, that lives on syllables, Even such small critics some regard may claim, Preserved in Milton's or in Shakespeare's name. Pretty! in amber to observe the forms Of hairs, or straws, or dirt, or grubs, or worms! The things, we know, are neither rich nor rare, But wonder how the devil they got there. Were others angry: I excused them too; Well might they rage, I gave them but their due. A man's true merit 'tis not hard to find; But each man's secret standard in his mind,— That casting-weight pride adds to emptiness,— This, who can gratify? for who can guess? The bard whom pilfered Pastorals renown, Who turns a Persian tale for half a crown, Just writes to make his barrenness appear, And strains, from hard-bound brains, eight lines a year; He, who still wanting, though he lives on theft, Steals much, spends little, yet has nothing left; And he, who now to sense, now nonsense leaning, Means not, but blunders round about a meaning; And he, whose fustian's so sublimely bad, It is not poetry, but prose run mad: All these, my modest satire bade translate, And owned that nine such poets made a Tate. How did they fume, and stamp, and roar, and chafe! And swear, not Addison himself was safe. Peace to all such! but were there one whose fires True genius kindles, and fair fame inspires; Blessed with each talent and each art to please, And born to write, converse, and live with ease: Should such a man, too fond to rule alone, Bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne, View him with scornful, yet with jealous eyes, And hate for arts that caused himself to rise; Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer, And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer; Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike, Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike; Alike reserved to blame, or to commend, A timorous foe, and a suspicious friend; Dreading e'en fools, by flatterers besieged, And so obliging, that he ne'er obliged; Like Cato, give his little senate laws, And sit attentive to his own applause; While wits and Templars every sentence raise, And wonder with a foolish face of praise— Who but must laugh, if such a man there be? Who would not weep, if Atticus were he!
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Oh, let me live my own, and die so too! (To live and die is all I have to do:) Maintain a poet's dignity and ease, And see what friends, and read what books I please; Above a patron, though I condescend Sometimes to call a minister my friend. I was not born for courts or great affairs; I pay my debts, believe, and say my prayers; Can sleep without a poem in my head, Nor know, if Dennis be alive or dead. Why am I asked what next shall see the light? Heavens! was I born for nothing but to write? Has life no joys for me? or (to be grave) Have I no friend to serve, no soul to save? 'I found him close with Swift.'—'Indeed? no doubt,' Cries prating Balbus, 'something will come out.' 'Tis all in vain, deny it as I will. 'No, such a genius never can lie still;' And then for mine obligingly mistakes The first lampoon Sir Will or Bubo makes. Poor guiltless I! and can I choose but smile, When every coxcomb knows me by my style? Cursed be the verse, how well soe'er it flow, That tends to make one worthy man my foe, Give virtue scandal, innocence a fear, Or from the soft-eyed virgin steal a tear! But he who hurts a harmless neighbour's peace, Insults fallen worth, or beauty in distress; Who loves a lie, lame slander helps about; Who writes a libel, or who copies out; That fop, whose pride affects a patron's name, Yet absent, wounds an author's honest fame; Who can your merit selfishly approve, And show the sense of it without the love; Who has the vanity to call you friend, Yet wants the honour, injured, to defend; Who tells whate'er you think, whate'er you say, And, if he lie not, must at least betray; Who to the Dean and silver bell can swear, And sees at Canons what was never there; Who reads, but with a lust to misapply, Make satire a lampoon, and fiction, lie: A lash like mine no honest man shall dread, But all such babbling blockheads in his stead.
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Of gentle blood (part shed in honour's cause, While yet in Britain honour had applause) Each parent sprung—-A. What fortune, pray?— P. Their own, And better got, than Bestia's from the throne. Born to no pride, inheriting no strife, Nor marrying discord in a noble wife, Stranger to civil and religious rage, The good man walked innoxious through his age. No courts he saw, no suits would ever try, Nor dared an oath, nor hazarded a lie. Unlearn'd, he knew no schoolman's subtle art, No language, but the language of the heart. By nature honest, by experience wise, Healthy by temperance, and by exercise; His life, though long, to sickness passed unknown, His death was instant, and without a groan. O grant me thus to live, and thus to die! Who sprung from kings shall know less joy than I. O friend! may each domestic bliss be thine! Be no unpleasing melancholy mine: Me, let the tender office long engage, To rock the cradle of reposing age, With lenient arts extend a mother's breath, Make languor smile, and smooth the bed of death, Explore the thought, explain the asking eye, And keep awhile one parent from the sky! On cares like these if length of days attend, May Heaven, to bless those days, preserve my friend, Preserve him social, cheerful, and serene, And just as rich as when he served a queen. A. Whether that blessing be denied or given, Thus far was right, the rest belongs to Heaven.
FROM THE FIRST EPISTLE OF THE SECOND BOOK OF HORACE IMITATED
[To GEORGE II: ON THE STATE OF LITERATURE]
To thee, the world its present homage pays The harvest early, but mature the praise: Great friend of liberty! in kings a name Above all Greek, above all Roman fame: Whose word is truth, as sacred and revered, As Heaven's own oracles from altars heard. Wonder of kings! like whom, to mortal eyes None e'er has risen, and none e'er shall rise.
Just in one instance, be it yet confessed, Your people, Sir, are partial in the rest: Foes to all living worth except your own, And advocates for folly dead and gone. Authors, like coins, grow dear as they grow old; It is the rust we value, not the gold. Chaucer's worst ribaldry is learned by rote, And beastly Skelton heads of houses quote: One likes no language but the Faery Queen; A Scot will fight for Christ's Kirk o' the Green; And each true Briton is to Ben so civil, He swears the muses met him at the Devil. Though justly Greece her eldest sons admires, Why should not we be wiser than our sires? In every public virtue we excel, We build, we paint, we sing, we dance as well. And learned Athens to our art must stoop, Could she behold us tumbling through a hoop. If time improves our wit as well as wine, Say at what age a poet grows divine? Shall we, or shall we not, account him so, Who died, perhaps, a hundred years ago? End all dispute; and fix the year precise When British bards begin t' immortalize? 'Who lasts a century can have no flaw, I hold that wit a classic, good in law.' Suppose he wants a year, will you compound? And shall we deem him ancient, right and sound, Or damn to all eternity at once, At ninety-nine, a modern and a dunce? 'We shall not quarrel for a year or two; By courtesy of England, he may do.' Then, by the rule that made the horse-tail bare, I pluck out year by year, as hair by hair, And melt down ancients like a heap of snow: While you, to measure merits, look in Stowe, And estimating authors by the year, Bestow a garland only on a bier. Shakespeare, (whom you and every play-house bill Style the divine, the matchless, what you will,) For gain, not glory, winged his roving flight, And grew immortal in his own despite. Ben, old and poor, as little seemed to heed The life to come, in every poet's creed. Who now reads Cowley? if he pleases yet, His moral pleases, not his pointed wit; Forgot his epic, nay Pindaric art, But still I love the language of his heart. 'Yet surely, surely, these were famous men! What boy but hears the sayings of old Ben? In all debates where critics bear a part, Not one but nods, and talks of Jonson's art, Of Shakespeare's nature, and of Cowley's wit; How Beaumont's judgment checked what Fletcher writ; How Shadwell hasty, Wycherley was slow; But, for the passions, Southern sure and Rowe. These, only these, support the crowded stage, From eldest Heywood down to Cibber's age.' All this may be; the people's voice is odd, It is, and it is not, the voice of God. To Gammer Gurton if it give the bays, And yet deny the Careless Husband praise, Or say our fathers never broke a rule; Why then, I say, the public is a fool. But let them own, that greater faults than we They had, and greater virtues, I'll agree. Spenser himself affects the obsolete, And Sidney's verse halts ill on Roman feet: Milton's strong pinion now not heaven can bound, Now serpent-like, in prose he sweeps the ground, In quibbles angel and archangel join, And God the Father turns a school-divine. Not that I'd lop the beauties from his book, Like slashing Bentley with his desperate hook, Or damn all Shakespeare, like th' affected fool At court, who hates whate'er he read at school. But for the wits of either Charles's days, The mob of gentlemen who wrote with ease; Sprat, Carew, Sedley, and a hundred more, (Like twinkling stars the Miscellanies o'er,) One simile, that solitary shines In the dry desert of a thousand lines, Or lengthened thought that gleams through many a page, Has sanctified whole poems for an age. I lose my patience, and I owe it too, When works are censured, not as bad but new; While if our elders break all reason's laws, These fools demand not pardon, but applause. On Avon's bank, where flowers eternal blow, If I but ask, if any weed can grow; One tragic sentence if I dare deride Which Betterton's grave action dignified, Or well-mouthed Booth with emphasis proclaims, (Though but, perhaps, a muster-roll of names,) How will our fathers rise up in a rage, And swear all shame is lost in George's age! You'd think no fools disgraced the former reign, Did not some grave examples yet remain, Who scorn a lad should teach his father skill, And, having once been wrong, will be so still. He, who to seem more deep than you or I, Extols old bards, or Merlin's prophecy, Mistake him not; he envies, not admires, And to debase the sons, exalts the sires. Had ancient times conspired to disallow What then was new, what had been ancient now? Or what remained, so worthy to be read By learned critics, of the mighty dead?
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Time was, a sober Englishman would knock His servants up, and rise by five o'clock, Instruct his family in every rule, And send his wife to church, his son to school. To worship like his fathers, was his care; To teach their frugal virtues to his heir; To prove that luxury could never hold; And place, on good security, his gold. Now times are changed, and one poetic itch Has seized the court and city, poor and rich: Sons, sires, and grandsires, all will wear the bays, Our wives read Milton, and our daughters plays, To theatres, and to rehearsals throng, And all our grace at table is a song. I, who so oft renounce the muses, lie, Not ——'s self e'er tells more fibs than I; When sick of Muse, our follies we deplore, And promise our best friends to rhyme no more; We wake next morning in a raging fit, And call for pen and ink to show our wit. He served a prenticeship, who sets up shop; Ward tried on puppies, and the poor, his drop; Even Radcliffe's doctors travel first to France, Nor dare to practise till they've learned to dance. Who builds a bridge that never drove a pile? (Should Ripley venture, all the world would smile;) But those who cannot write, and those who can, All rhyme, and scrawl, and scribble, to a man. Yet, Sir, reflect, the mischief is not great; These madmen never hurt the church or state: Sometimes the folly benefits mankind; And rarely avarice taints the tuneful mind. Allow him but his plaything of a pen, He ne'er rebels, or plots, like other men: Flight of cashiers, or mobs, he'll never mind; And knows no losses while the Muse is kind. To cheat a friend, or ward, he leaves to Peter, The good man heaps up nothing but mere metre, Enjoys his garden and his book in quiet; And then—a perfect hermit in his diet. Of little use the man you may suppose Who says in verse what others say in prose; Yet let me show, a poet's of some weight, And (though no soldier) useful to the state. What will a child learn sooner than a song? What better teach a foreigner the tongue? What's long or short, each accent where to place, And speak in public with some sort of grace? I scarce can think him such a worthless thing, Unless he praise some monster of a king; Or virtue, or religion turn to sport, To please a lewd, or unbelieving Court. Unhappy Dryden!—In all Charles's days, Roscommon only boasts unspotted bays; And in our own (excuse some courtly stains) No whiter page than Addison remains. He, from the taste obscene reclaims our youth, And sets the passions on the side of truth, Forms the soft bosom with the gentlest art, And pours each human virtue in the heart. Let Ireland tell, how wit upheld her cause, Her trade supported, and supplied her laws; And leave on Swift this grateful verse engraved, 'The rights a court attacked, a poet saved.' Behold the hand that wrought a nation's cure, Stretched to relieve the idiot and the poor, Proud vice to brand, or injured worth adorn, And stretch the ray to ages yet unborn. Not but there are, who merit other palms; Hopkins and Sternhold glad the heart with psalms: The boys and girls whom charity maintains, Implore your help in these pathetic strains: How could devotion touch the country pews, Unless the Gods bestowed a proper Muse? Verse cheers their leisure, verse assists their work, Verse prays for peace, or sings down Pope and Turk, The silenced preacher yields to potent strain, And feels that grace his prayer besought in vain; The blessing thrills through all the labouring throng, And Heaven is won by violence of song. Our rural ancestors, with little blessed, Patient of labour when the end was rest, Indulged the day that housed their annual grain, With feasts, and offerings, and a thankful strain: The joy their wives, their sons, and servants share, Ease of their toil, and partners of their care: The laugh, the jest, attendants on the bowl, Smoothed every brow, and opened every soul: With growing years the pleasing licence grew, And taunts alternate innocently flew. But times corrupt, and nature, ill-inclined, Produced the point that left a sting behind; Till friend with friend, and families at strife, Triumphant malice raged through private life. Who felt the wrong, or feared it, took th' alarm, Appealed to law, and justice lent her arm. At length, by wholesome dread of statutes bound, The poets learned to please, and not to wound: Most warped to flattery's side; but some, more nice, Preserved the freedom, and forbore the vice. Hence satire rose, that just the medium hit, And heals with morals what it hurts with wit. We conquered France, but felt our captive's charms; Her arts victorious triumphed o'er our arms; Britain to soft refinements less a foe, Wit grew polite, and numbers learned to flow. Waller was smooth; but Dryden taught to join The varying verse, the full-resounding line, The long majestic march, and energy divine. Though still some traces of our rustic vein, And splay-foot verse, remained, and will remain. Late, very late, correctness grew our care, When the tired nation breathed from civil war. Exact Racine, and Corneille's noble fire, Showed us that France had something to admire. Not but the tragic spirit was our own, And full in Shakespeare, fair in Otway shone: But Otway failed to polish or refine, And fluent Shakespeare scarce effaced a line. Even copious Dryden wanted, or forgot, The last and greatest art, the art to blot. Some doubt, if equal pains, or equal fire The humbler muse of comedy require. But in known images of life, I guess The labour greater, as th' indulgence less. Observe how seldom even the best succeed: Tell me if Congreve's fools are fools indeed? What pert, low dialogue has Farquhar writ! How Van wants grace, who never wanted wit! The stage how loosely does Astraea tread, Who fairly puts all characters to bed! And idle Cibber, how he breaks the laws, To make poor Pinky eat with vast applause! But fill their purse, our poet's work is done, Alike to them, by pathos or by pun.