Part 2 out of 9
Thence, on maturer judgment's anvil wrought,
The polish'd falsehood's into public brought.
Quick-circulating slanders mirth afford;
And reputation bleeds in every word.
A critic was of old a glorious name,
Whose sanction handed merit up to fame; 50
Beauties as well as faults he brought to view;
His judgment great, and great his candour too;
No servile rules drew sickly taste aside;
Secure he walk'd, for Nature was his guide.
But now--oh! strange reverse!--our critics bawl
In praise of candour with a heart of gall;
Conscious of guilt, and fearful of the light,
They lurk enshrouded in the vale of night;
Safe from detection, seize the unwary prey,
And stab, like bravoes, all who come that way. 60
When first my Muse, perhaps more bold than wise,
Bade the rude trifle into light arise,
Little she thought such tempests would ensue;
Less, that those tempests would be raised by you.
The thunder's fury rends the towering oak,
Rosciads, like shrubs, might 'scape the fatal stroke.
Vain thought! a critic's fury knows no bound;
Drawcansir-like, he deals destruction round;
Nor can we hope he will a stranger spare,
Who gives no quarter to his friend Voltaire. 70
Unhappy Genius! placed by partial Fate
With a free spirit in a slavish state;
Where the reluctant Muse, oppress'd by kings,
Or droops in silence, or in fetters sings!
In vain thy dauntless fortitude hath borne
The bigot's furious zeal, and tyrant's scorn.
Why didst thou safe from home-bred dangers steer,
Reserved to perish more ignobly here?
Thus, when, the Julian tyrant's pride to swell,
Rome with her Pompey at Pharsalia fell, 80
The vanquish'd chief escaped from Caesar's hand,
To die by ruffians in a foreign land.
How could these self-elected monarchs raise
So large an empire on so small a base?
In what retreat, inglorious and unknown,
Did Genius sleep when Dulness seized the throne?
Whence, absolute now grown, and free from awe,
She to the subject world dispenses law.
Without her licence not a letter stirs,
And all the captive criss-cross-row is hers. 90
The Stagyrite, who rules from Nature drew,
Opinions gave, but gave his reasons too.
Our great Dictators take a shorter way--
Who shall dispute what the Reviewers say?
Their word's sufficient; and to ask a reason,
In such a state as theirs, is downright treason.
True judgment now with them alone can dwell;
Like Church of Rome, they're grown infallible.
Dull superstitious readers they deceive,
Who pin their easy faith on critic's sleeve, 100
And knowing nothing, everything believe!
But why repine we that these puny elves
Shoot into giants?--we may thank ourselves:
Fools that we are, like Israel's fools of yore,
The calf ourselves have fashion'd we adore.
But let true Reason once resume her reign,
This god shall dwindle to a calf again.
Founded on arts which shun the face of day,
By the same arts they still maintain their sway.
Wrapp'd in mysterious secrecy they rise, 110
And, as they are unknown, are safe and wise.
At whomsoever aim'd, howe'er severe,
The envenom'd slander flies, no names appear:
Prudence forbids that step;--then all might know,
And on more equal terms engage the foe.
But now, what Quixote of the age would care
To wage a war with dirt, and fight with air?
By interest join'd, the expert confederates stand,
And play the game into each other's hand:
The vile abuse, in turn by all denied, 120
Is bandied up and down, from side to side:
It flies--hey!--presto!--like a juggler's ball,
Till it belongs to nobody at all.
All men and things they know, themselves unknown,
And publish every name--except their own.
Nor think this strange,--secure from vulgar eyes,
The nameless author passes in disguise;
But veteran critics are not so deceived,
If veteran critics are to be believed.
Once seen, they know an author evermore, 130
Nay, swear to hands they never saw before.
Thus in 'The Rosciad,' beyond chance or doubt,
They by the writing found the writers out:
That's Lloyd's--his manner there you plainly trace,
And all the Actor stares you in the face.
By Colman that was written--on my life,
The strongest symptoms of the 'Jealous Wife.'
That little disingenuous piece of spite,
Churchill--a wretch unknown!--perhaps might write.
How doth it make judicious readers smile, 140
When authors are detected by their style;
Though every one who knows this author, knows
He shifts his style much oftener than his clothes!
Whence could arise this mighty critic spleen,
The Muse a trifler, and her theme so mean?
What had I done, that angry Heaven should send
The bitterest foe where most I wish'd a friend?
Oft hath my tongue been wanton at thy name,
And hail'd the honours of thy matchless fame.
For me let hoary Fielding bite the ground, 150
So nobler Pickle stands superbly bound;
From Livy's temples tear the historic crown,
Which with more justice blooms upon thine own.
Compared with thee, be all life-writers dumb,
But he who wrote the Life of Tommy Thumb.
Who ever read 'The Regicide,' but swore
The author wrote as man ne'er wrote before?
Others for plots and under-plots may call,
Here's the right method--have no plot at all.
Who can so often in his cause engage 160
The tiny pathos of the Grecian stage,
Whilst horrors rise, and tears spontaneous flow
At tragic Ha! and no less tragic Oh!
To praise his nervous weakness all agree;
And then for sweetness, who so sweet as he!
Too big for utterance when sorrows swell,
The too big sorrows flowing tears must tell;
But when those flowing tears shall cease to flow,
Why--then the voice must speak again, you know.
Rude and unskilful in the poet's trade, 170
I kept no Naiads by me ready made;
Ne'er did I colours high in air advance,
Torn from the bleeding fopperies of France;
No flimsy linsey-woolsey scenes I wrote,
With patches here and there, like Joseph's coat.
Me humbler themes befit: secure, for me,
Let play-wrights smuggle nonsense duty free;
Secure, for me, ye lambs, ye lambkins! bound,
And frisk and frolic o'er the fairy ground.
Secure, for me, thou pretty little fawn! 180
Lick Sylvia's hand, and crop the flowery lawn;
Uncensured let the gentle breezes rove
Through the green umbrage of the enchanted grove:
Secure, for me, let foppish Nature smile,
And play the coxcomb in the 'Desert Isle.'
The stage I chose--a subject fair and free--
'Tis yours--'tis mine--'tis public property.
All common exhibitions open lie,
For praise or censure, to the common eye.
Hence are a thousand hackney writers fed; 190
Hence Monthly Critics earn their daily bread.
This is a general tax which all must pay,
From those who scribble, down to those who play.
Actors, a venal crew, receive support
From public bounty for the public sport.
To clap or hiss all have an equal claim,
The cobbler's and his lordship's right's the same.
All join for their subsistence; all expect
Free leave to praise their worth, their faults correct.
When active Pickle Smithfield stage ascends, 200
The three days' wonder of his laughing friends,
Each, or as judgment or as fancy guides,
The lively witling praises or derides.
And where's the mighty difference, tell me where,
Betwixt a Merry Andrew and a player?
The strolling tribe--a despicable race!--
Like wandering Arabs, shift from place to place.
Vagrants by law, to justice open laid,
They tremble, of the beadle's lash afraid,
And, fawning, cringe for wretched means of life 210
To Madam Mayoress, or his Worship's wife.
The mighty monarch, in theatric sack,
Carries his whole regalia at his back;
His royal consort heads the female band,
And leads the heir apparent in her hand;
The pannier'd ass creeps on with conscious pride,
Bearing a future prince on either side.
No choice musicians in this troop are found,
To varnish nonsense with the charms of sound;
No swords, no daggers, not one poison'd bowl; 220
No lightning flashes here, no thunders roll;
No guards to swell the monarch's train are shown;
The monarch here must be a host alone:
No solemn pomp, no slow processions here;
No Ammon's entry, and no Juliet's bier.
By need compell'd to prostitute his art,
The varied actor flies from part to part;
And--strange disgrace to all theatric pride!--
His character is shifted with his side.
Question and answer he by turns must be, 230
Like that small wit in modern tragedy,
Who, to patch up his fame--or fill his purse--
Still pilfers wretched plans, and makes them worse;
Like gypsies, lest the stolen brat be known,
Defacing first, then claiming for his own.
In shabby state they strut, and tatter'd robe,
The scene a blanket, and a barn the globe:
No high conceits their moderate wishes raise,
Content with humble profit, humble praise.
Let dowdies simper, and let bumpkins stare, 240
The strolling pageant hero treads in air:
Pleased, for his hour he to mankind gives law,
And snores the next out on a truss of straw.
But if kind Fortune, who sometimes, we know,
Can take a hero from a puppet-show,
In mood propitious should her favourite call,
On royal stage in royal pomp to bawl,
Forgetful of himself, he rears the head,
And scorns the dunghill where he first was bred;
Conversing now with well dress'd kings and queens, 250
With gods and goddesses behind the scenes,
He sweats beneath the terror-nodding plume,
Taught by mock honours real pride to assume.
On this great stage, the world, no monarch e'er
Was half so haughty as a monarch player.
Doth it more move our anger or our mirth
To see these things, the lowest sons of earth,
Presume, with self-sufficient knowledge graced,
To rule in letters, and preside in taste?
The town's decisions they no more admit, 260
Themselves alone the arbiters of wit;
And scorn the jurisdiction of that court
To which they owe their being and support.
Actors, like monks of old, now sacred grown,
Must be attack'd by no fools but their own.
Let the vain tyrant sit amidst his guards,
His puny green-room wits and venal bards,
Who meanly tremble at the puppet's frown,
And for a playhouse-freedom lose their own;
In spite of new-made laws, and new-made kings, 270
The free-born Muse with liberal spirit sings.
Bow down, ye slaves! before these idols fall;
Let Genius stoop to them who've none at all:
Ne'er will I flatter, cringe, or bend the knee
To those who, slaves to all, are slaves to me.
Actors, as actors, are a lawful game,
The poet's right, and who shall bar his claim?
And if, o'erweening of their little skill,
When they have left the stage, they're actors still;
If to the subject world they still give laws, 280
With paper crowns, and sceptres made of straws;
If they in cellar or in garret roar,
And, kings one night, are kings for evermore;
Shall not bold Truth, e'en there, pursue her theme,
And wake the coxcomb from his golden dream?
Or if, well worthy of a better fate,
They rise superior to their present state;
If, with each social virtue graced, they blend
The gay companion and the faithful friend;
If they, like Pritchard, join in private life 290
The tender parent and the virtuous wife;
Shall not our verse their praise with pleasure speak,
Though Mimics bark, and Envy split her cheek?
No honest worth's beneath the Muse's praise;
No greatness can above her censure raise;
Station and wealth to her are trifling things;
She stoops to actors, and she soars to kings.
Is there a man, in vice and folly bred,
To sense of honour as to virtue dead,
Whom ties, nor human, nor divine can bind, 300
Alien from God, and foe to all mankind;
Who spares no character; whose every word,
Bitter as gall, and sharper than the sword,
Cuts to the quick; whose thoughts with rancour swell;
Whose tongue, on earth, performs the work of hell?
If there be such a monster, the Reviews
Shall find him holding forth against abuse:
Attack profession!--'tis a deadly breach!
The Christian laws another lesson teach:--
Unto the end shall Charity endure, 310
And Candour hide those faults it cannot cure.
Thus Candour's maxims flow from Rancour's throat,
As devils, to serve their purpose, Scripture quote.
The Muse's office was by Heaven design'd
To please, improve, instruct, reform mankind;
To make dejected Virtue nobly rise
Above the towering pitch of splendid Vice;
To make pale Vice, abash'd, her head hang down,
And, trembling, crouch at Virtue's awful frown.
Now arm'd with wrath, she bids eternal shame, 320
With strictest justice, brand the villain's name;
Now in the milder garb of ridicule
She sports, and pleases while she wounds the fool.
Her shape is often varied; but her aim,
To prop the cause of Virtue, still the same.
In praise of Mercy let the guilty bawl;
When Vice and Folly for correction call,
Silence the mark of weakness justly bears,
And is partaker of the crimes it spares.
But if the Muse, too cruel in her mirth, 330
With harsh reflections wounds the man of worth;
If wantonly she deviates from her plan,
And quits the actor to expose the man;
Ashamed, she marks that passage with a blot,
And hates the line where candour was forgot.
But what is candour, what is humour's vein,
Though judgment join to consecrate the strain,
If curious numbers will not aid afford,
Nor choicest music play in every word?
Verses must run, to charm a modern ear, 340
From all harsh, rugged interruptions clear.
Soft let them breathe, as Zephyr's balmy breeze,
Smooth let their current flow, as summer seas;
Perfect then only deem'd when they dispense
A happy tuneful vacancy of sense.
Italian fathers thus, with barbarous rage,
Fit helpless infants for the squeaking stage;
Deaf to the calls of pity, Nature wound,
And mangle vigour for the sake of sound.
Henceforth farewell, then, feverish thirst of fame; 350
Farewell the longings for a poet's name;
Perish my Muse--a wish 'bove all severe
To him who ever held the Muses dear--
If e'er her labours weaken to refine
The generous roughness of a nervous line.
Others affect the stiff and swelling phrase;
Their Muse must walk in stilts, and strut in stays;
The sense they murder, and the words transpose,
Lest poetry approach too near to prose.
See tortured Reason how they pare and trim, 360
And, like Procrustes, stretch, or lop the limb.
Waller! whose praise succeeding bards rehearse,
Parent of harmony in English verse,
Whose tuneful Muse in sweetest accents flows,
In couplets first taught straggling sense to close.
In polish'd numbers and majestic sound,
Where shall thy rival, Pope! be ever found?
But whilst each line with equal beauty flows.
E'en excellence, unvaried, tedious grows.
Nature, through all her works, in great degree, 370
Borrows a blessing from variety.
Music itself her needful aid requires
To rouse the soul, and wake our dying fires.
Still in one key, the nightingale would tease;
Still in one key, not Brent would always please.
Here let me bend, great Dryden! at thy shrine,
Thou dearest name to all the Tuneful Nine!
What if some dull lines in cold order creep,
And with his theme the poet seems to sleep?
Still, when his subject rises proud to view, 380
With equal strength the poet rises too:
With strong invention, noblest vigour fraught,
Thought still springs up and rises out of thought;
Numbers ennobling numbers in their course,
In varied sweetness flow, in varied force;
The powers of genius and of judgment join,
And the whole Art of Poetry is thine.
But what are numbers, what are bards to me,
Forbid to tread the paths of poesy?
A sacred Muse should consecrate her pen-- 390
Priests must not hear nor see like other men--
Far higher themes should her ambition claim:
Behold where Sternhold points the way to fame!
Whilst with mistaken zeal dull bigots burn,
Let Reason for a moment take her turn.
When coffee-sages hold discourse with kings,
And blindly walk in paper leading-strings,
What if a man delight to pass his time
In spinning reason into harmless rhyme,
Or sometimes boldly venture to the play? 400
Say, where's the crime, great man of prudence, say?
No two on earth in all things can agree;
All have some darling singularity:
Women and men, as well as girls and boys,
In gew-gaws take delight, and sigh for toys.
Your sceptres and your crowns, and such like things,
Are but a better kind of toys for kings.
In things indifferent Reason bids us choose,
Whether the whim's a monkey or a Muse.
What the grave triflers on this busy scene, 410
When they make use of this word Reason, mean,
I know not; but according to my plan,
'Tis Lord Chief-Justice in the court of man;
Equally form'd to rule in age or youth,
The friend of virtue and the guide to truth;
To her I bow, whose sacred power I feel;
To her decision make my last appeal;
Condemn'd by her, applauding worlds in vain
Should tempt me to take up the pen again;
By her absolved, my course I'll still pursue: 420
If Reason's for me, God is for me too.
* * * * *
 For occasion, &c. of this, see Life.
 'Hamilton:' Archibald Hamilton, printer of the 'Critical Review.'
 'Voltaire:' Smollett had changed his opinion of Voltaire, and from
praising, had begun to abuse him.
 'Thy name:' Dr Tobias Smollett, the well-known author of 'Roderick
Random, 'The Regicide,' an unfortunate tragedy, and one of the editors
of the 'Critical Review,'is here satirised.
 'Fopperies of France,' &c.: in these lines the poet refers to
Murphy's practice of vamping up French plays, and to his 'Desert
Island,' a ridiculous pastoral drama.
 'Modern tragedy:' Mr Murphy again.
 'Vain tyrant,' &c.: Garrick is here meant; he had displeased
Churchill by pretending that he had written 'The Rosciad' to gain the
freedom of the playhouse. He apologised very humbly to Churchill, and
a reconciliation took place.
 'A man:' Dr Smollett again.
 'Expose the man:' referring to some personal lines on one Mr John
Palmer, which occurred in the first edition, but which he expunged.
AN EPISTLE TO ROBERT LLOYD.
Contrarius evehor orbi.--OVID, Met. lib. ii.
When foes insult, and prudent friends dispense,
In pity's strains, the worst of insolence,
Oft with thee, Lloyd, I steal an hour from grief,
And in thy social converse find relief.
The mind, of solitude impatient grown,
Loves any sorrows rather than her own.
Let slaves to business, bodies without soul,
Important blanks in Nature's mighty roll,
Solemnise nonsense in the day's broad glare,
We Night prefer, which heals or hides our care. 10
Rogues justified, and by success made bold,
Dull fools and coxcombs sanctified by gold,
Freely may bask in fortune's partial ray,
And spread their feathers opening to the day;
But threadbare Merit dares not show the head
Till vain Prosperity retires to bed.
Misfortunes, like the owl, avoid the light;
The sons of Care are always sons of Night.
The wretch, bred up in Method's drowsy school,
Whose only merit is to err by rule, 20
Who ne'er through heat of blood was tripping caught,
Nor guilty deem'd of one eccentric thought;
Whose soul directed to no use is seen,
Unless to move the body's dull machine,
Which, clock-work like, with the same equal pace
Still travels on through life's insipid space,
Turns up his eyes to think that there should be,
Among God's creatures, two such things as we;
Then for his nightcap calls, and thanks the powers
Which kindly gave him grace to keep good hours. 30
Good hours!--fine words--but was it ever seen
That all men could agree in what they mean?
Florio, who many years a course hath run
In downright opposition to the sun,
Expatiates on good hours, their cause defends
With as much vigour as our prudent friends.
The uncertain term no settled notion brings,
But still in different mouths means different things;
Each takes the phrase in his own private view;
With Prudence it is ten, with Florio two. 40
Go on, ye fools! who talk for talking sake,
Without distinguishing, distinctions make;
Shine forth in native folly, native pride,
Make yourselves rules to all the world beside;
Reason, collected in herself, disdains
The slavish yoke of arbitrary chains;
Steady and true, each circumstance she weighs,
Nor to bare words inglorious tribute pays.
Men of sense live exempt from vulgar awe,
And Reason to herself alone is law: 50
That freedom she enjoys with liberal mind,
Which she as freely grants to all mankind.
No idol-titled name her reverence stirs,
No hour she blindly to the rest prefers;
All are alike, if they're alike employ'd,
And all are good if virtuously enjoy'd.
Let the sage Doctor (think him one we know)
With scraps of ancient learning overflow,
In all the dignity of wig declare
The fatal consequence of midnight air, 60
How damps and vapours, as it were by stealth,
Undermine life, and sap the walls of health:
For me let Galen moulder on the shelf,
I'll live, and be physician to myself.
Whilst soul is join'd to body, whether fate
Allot a longer or a shorter date,
I'll make them live, as brother should with brother,
And keep them in good humour with each other.
The surest road to health, say what they will,
Is never to suppose we shall be ill. 70
Most of those evils we poor mortals know,
From doctors and imagination flow.
Hence to old women with your boasted rules,
Stale traps, and only sacred now to fools;
As well may sons of physic hope to find
One medicine, as one hour, for all mankind!
If Rupert after ten is out of bed,
The fool next morning can't hold up his head;
What reason this which me to bed must call,
Whose head, thank Heaven, never aches at all? 80
In different courses different tempers run;
He hates the moon, I sicken at the sun.
Wound up at twelve at noon, his clock goes right;
Mine better goes, wound up at twelve at night.
Then in oblivion's grateful cup I drown
The galling sneer, the supercilious frown,
The strange reserve, the proud, affected state
Of upstart knaves grown rich, and fools grown great.
No more that abject wretch disturbs my rest,
Who meanly overlooks a friend distress'd. 90
Purblind to poverty, the worldling goes,
And scarce sees rags an inch beyond his nose;
But from a crowd can single out his Grace,
And cringe and creep to fools who strut in lace.
Whether those classic regions are survey'd
Where we in earliest youth together stray'd,
Where hand in hand we trod the flowery shore,
Though now thy happier genius runs before;
When we conspired a thankless wretch to raise,
And taught a stump to shoot with pilfer'd praise, 100
Who once, for reverend merit famous grown,
Gratefully strove to kick his maker down;
Or if more general arguments engage,--
The court or camp, the pulpit, bar, or stage;
If half-bred surgeons, whom men doctors call,
And lawyers, who were never bred at all,
Those mighty letter'd monsters of the earth,
Our pity move, or exercise our mirth;
Or if in tittle-tattle, toothpick way,
Our rambling thoughts with easy freedom stray,-- 110
A gainer still thy friend himself must find,
His grief suspended, and improved his mind.
Whilst peaceful slumbers bless the homely bed
Where virtue, self-approved, reclines her head;
Whilst vice beneath imagined horrors mourns,
And conscience plants the villain's couch with thorns;
Impatient of restraint, the active mind,
No more by servile prejudice confined,
Leaps from her seat, as waken'd from a trance
And darts through Nature at a single glance 120
Then we our friends, our foes, ourselves, survey,
And see by Night what fools we are by day.
Stripp'd of her gaudy plumes, and vain disguise,
See where ambition, mean and loathsome, lies;
Reflection with relentless hand pulls down
The tyrant's bloody wreath and ravish'd crown.
In vain he tells of battles bravely won,
Of nations conquer'd, and of worlds undone;
Triumphs like these but ill with manhood suit,
And sink the conqueror beneath the brute. 130
But if, in searching round the world, we find
Some generous youth, the friend of all mankind,
Whose anger, like the bolt of Jove, is sped
In terrors only at the guilty head,
Whose mercies, like heaven's dew, refreshing fall
In general love and charity to all,
Pleased we behold such worth on any throne,
And doubly pleased we find it on our own.
Through a false medium things are shown by day;
Pomp, wealth, and titles, judgment lead astray. 140
How many from appearance borrow state,
Whom Night disdains to number with the great!
Must not we laugh to see yon lordling proud
Snuff up vile incense from a fawning crowd?
Whilst in his beam surrounding clients play,
Like insects in the sun's enlivening ray,
Whilst, Jehu-like, he drives at furious rate,
And seems the only charioteer of state,
Talking himself into a little god,
And ruling empires with a single nod; 150
Who would not think, to hear him law dispense,
That he had interest, and that they had sense?
Injurious thought! beneath Night's honest shade,
When pomp is buried, and false colours fade,
Plainly we see at that impartial hour,
Them dupes to pride, and him the tool of power.
God help the man, condemn'd by cruel fate
To court the seeming, or the real great!
Much sorrow shall he feel, and suffer more
Than any slave who labours at the oar! 160
By slavish methods must he learn to please,
By smooth-tongued flattery, that cursed court-disease;
Supple, to every wayward mood strike sail,
And shift with shifting humour's peevish gale.
To nature dead, he must adopt vile art,
And wear a smile, with anguish in his heart.
A sense of honour would destroy his schemes,
And conscience ne'er must speak unless in dreams.
When he hath tamely borne, for many years,
Cold looks, forbidding frowns, contemptuous sneers, 170
When he at last expects, good easy man!
To reap the profits of his labour'd plan,
Some cringing lackey, or rapacious whore,
To favours of the great the surest door,
Some catamite, or pimp, in credit grown,
Who tempts another's wife, or sells his own,
Steps 'cross his hopes, the promised boon denies,
And for some minion's minion claims the prize.
Foe to restraint, unpractised in deceit,
Too resolute, from nature's active heat, 180
To brook affronts, and tamely pass them by,
Too proud to flatter, too sincere to lie,
Too plain to please, too honest to be great,
Give me, kind Heaven, an humbler, happier state:
Far from the place where men with pride deceive,
Where rascals promise, and where fools believe;
Far from the walk of folly, vice, and strife,
Calm, independent, let me steal through life;
Nor one vain wish my steady thoughts beguile
To fear his Lordship's frown, or court his smile. 190
Unfit for greatness, I her snares defy,
And look on riches with untainted eye:
To others let the glittering baubles fall,
Content shall place us far above them all.
Spectators only on this bustling stage,
We see what vain designs mankind engage:
Vice after vice with ardour they pursue,
And one old folly brings forth twenty new.
Perplex'd with trifles through the vale of life,
Man strives 'gainst man, without a cause for strife: 200
Armies embattled meet, and thousands bleed
For some vile spot, where fifty cannot feed.
Squirrels for nuts contend, and, wrong or right,
For the world's empire kings, ambitious, fight.
What odds?--to us 'tis all the self-same thing,
A nut, a world, a squirrel, and a king.
Britons, like Roman spirits famed of old,
Are cast by nature in a patriot mould;
No private joy, no private grief, they know,
Their souls engross'd by public weal or woe; 210
Inglorious ease, like ours, they greatly scorn;
Let care with nobler wreaths their brows adorn:
Gladly they toil beneath the statesman's pains,
Give them but credit for a statesman's brains.
All would be deem'd, e'en from the cradle, fit
To rule in politics as well as wit.
The grave, the gay, the fopling, and the dunce,
Start up (God bless us!) statesman all at once.
His mighty charge of souls the priest forgets,
The court-bred lord his promises and debts; 220
Soldiers their fame, misers forget their pelf,
The rake his mistress, and the fop himself;
Whilst thoughts of higher moment claim their care,
And their wise heads the weight of kingdoms bear.
Females themselves the glorious ardour feel,
And boast an equal or a greater zeal;
From nymph to nymph the state-infection flies,
Swells in her breast, and sparkles in her eyes.
O'erwhelm'd by politics lie malice, pride,
Envy, and twenty other faults beside. 230
No more their little fluttering hearts confess
A passion for applause, or rage for dress;
No more they pant for public raree-shows,
Or lose one thought on monkeys or on beaux:
Coquettes no more pursue the jilting plan,
And lustful prudes forget to rail at man:
The darling theme Cecilia's self will choose,
Nor thinks of scandal whilst she talks of news.
The cit, a common-councilman by place,
Ten thousand mighty nothings in his face, 240
By situation as by nature great,
With nice precision parcels out the state;
Proves and disproves, affirms and then denies,
Objects himself, and to himself replies;
Wielding aloft the politician rod,
Makes Pitt by turns a devil and a god;
Maintains, e'en to the very teeth of Power,
The same thing right and wrong in half an hour:
Now all is well, now he suspects a plot,
And plainly proves, whatever is, is not: 250
Fearfully wise, he shakes his empty head,
And deals out empires as he deals out thread;
His useless scales are in a corner flung,
And Europe's balance hangs upon his tongue.
Peace to such triflers! be our happier plan
To pass through life as easy as we can.
Who's in or out, who moves this grand machine,
Nor stirs my curiosity, nor spleen.
Secrets of state no more I wish to know
Than secret movements of a puppet-show: 260
Let but the puppets move, I've my desire,
Unseen the hand which guides the master-wire.
What is't to us if taxes rise or fall?
Thanks to our fortune, we pay none at all.
Let muckworms, who in dirty acres deal,
Lament those hardships which we cannot feel.
His Grace, who smarts, may bellow if he please,
But must I bellow too, who sit at ease?
By custom safe, the poet's numbers flow
Free as the light and air some years ago. 270
No statesman e'er will find it worth his pains
To tax our labours, and excise our brains.
Burthens like these, vile earthly buildings bear;
No tribute's laid on castles in the air.
Let, then, the flames of war destructive reign,
And England's terrors awe imperious Spain;
Let every venal clan and neutral tribe
Learn to receive conditions, not prescribe;
Let each new year call loud for new supplies,
And tax on tax with double burthen rise; 280
Exempt we sit, by no rude cares oppress'd,
And, having little, are with little bless'd.
All real ills in dark oblivion lie,
And joys, by fancy form'd, their place supply;
Night's laughing hours unheeded slip away,
Nor one dull thought foretells approach of day.
Thus have we lived, and whilst the Fates afford
Plain plenty to supply the frugal board;
Whilst Mirth with Decency, his lovely bride,
And wine's gay god, with Temperance by his side, 290
Their welcome visit pay; whilst Health attends
The narrow circle of our chosen friends;
Whilst frank Good-humour consecrates the treat,
And woman makes society complete,
Thus will we live, though in our teeth are hurl'd
Those hackney strumpets, Prudence and the World.
Prudence, of old a sacred term, implied
Virtue, with godlike wisdom for her guide;
But now in general use is known to mean
The stalking-horse of vice, and folly's screen. 300
The sense perverted, we retain the name;
Hypocrisy and Prudence are the same.
A tutor once, more read in men than books,
A kind of crafty knowledge in his looks,
Demurely sly, with high preferment bless'd,
His favourite pupil in these words address'd:--
Wouldst thou, my son, be wise and virtuous deem'd;
By all mankind a prodigy esteem'd?
Be this thy rule; be what men prudent call;
Prudence, almighty Prudence, gives thee all. 310
Keep up appearances; there lies the test;
The world will give thee credit for the rest.
Outward be fair, however foul within;
Sin if thou wilt, but then in secret sin.
This maxim's into common favour grown,
Vice is no longer vice, unless 'tis known.
Virtue, indeed, may barefaced take the field;
But vice is virtue when 'tis well conceal'd.
Should raging passion drive thee to a whore,
Let Prudence lead thee to a postern door; 320
Stay out all night, but take especial care
That Prudence bring thee back to early prayer.
As one with watching and with study faint,
Reel in a drunkard, and reel out a saint.
With joy the youth this useful lesson heard,
And in his memory stored each precious word;
Successfully pursued the plan, and now,
Room for my Lord--Virtue, stand by and bow.
And is this all--is this the worldling's art,
To mask, but not amend a vicious heart 330
Shall lukewarm caution, and demeanour grave,
For wise and good stamp every supple knave
Shall wretches, whom no real virtue warms,
Gild fair their names and states with empty forms;
While Virtue seeks in vain the wish'd-for prize,
Because, disdaining ill, she hates disguise;
Because she frankly pours fourth all her store,
Seems what she is, and scorns to pass for more
Well--be it so--let vile dissemblers hold
Unenvied power, and boast their dear-bought gold; 340
Me neither power shall tempt, nor thirst of pelf,
To flatter others, or deny myself;
Might the whole world be placed within my span,
I would not be that thing, that prudent man.
What! cries Sir Pliant, would you then oppose
Yourself, alone, against a host of foes?
Let not conceit, and peevish lust to rail,
Above all sense of interest prevail.
Throw off, for shame! this petulance of wit;
Be wise, be modest, and for once submit: 350
Too hard the task 'gainst multitudes to fight;
You must be wrong; the World is in the right.
What is this World?--A term which men have got
To signify, not one in ten knows what;
A term, which with no more precision passes
To point out herds of men than herds of asses;
In common use no more it means, we find,
Than many fools in same opinions join'd.
Can numbers, then, change Nature's stated laws?
Can numbers make the worse the better cause? 360
Vice must be vice, virtue be virtue still,
Though thousands rail at good, and practise ill.
Wouldst thou defend the Gaul's destructive rage,
Because vast nations on his part engage?
Though, to support the rebel Caesar's cause,
Tumultuous legions arm against the laws;
Though scandal would our patriot's name impeach,
And rails at virtues which she cannot reach,
What honest man but would with joy submit
To bleed with Cato, and retire with Pitt? 370
Steadfast and true to virtue's sacred laws,
Unmoved by vulgar censure, or applause,
Let the World talk, my friend; that World, we know,
Which calls us guilty, cannot make us so.
Unawed by numbers, follow Nature's plan;
Assert the rights, or quit the name of man.
Consider well, weigh strictly right and wrong;
Resolve not quick, but once resolved, be strong.
In spite of Dulness, and in spite of Wit,
If to thyself thou canst thyself acquit, 380
Rather stand up, assured with conscious pride,
Alone, than err with millions on thy side.
* * * * *
 'Night:' this poem was written to defend the irregularities
imputed to the poet.
 'Abject wretch:' Thornton, who abandoned Lloyd in his distress.
 'Thankless wretch:' one Sellon, a popular clergyman, aided at
first by Churchill and his set, but who betrayed and blackened them
afterwards. We meet with him again in 'The Ghost' as Plausible.
 'Venal Clan:' alluding to Mr Pitt's employing the Highland clans
in the American war.
 'Pitt:' who retired in 1761, because the cabinet would not go to
war with Spain.
THE PROPHECY OF FAMINE.
A SCOTS PASTORAL INSCRIBED TO JOHN WILKES, ESQ.
Nos patriam fugimus.--VIRGIL.
When Cupid first instructs his darts to fly
From the sly corner of some cook-maid's eye,
The stripling raw, just enter'd in his teens,
Receives the wound, and wonders what it means;
His heart, like dripping, melts, and new desire
Within him stirs, each time she stirs the fire;
Trembling and blushing, he the fair one views,
And fain would speak, but can't--without a Muse.
So to the sacred mount he takes his way,
Prunes his young wings, and tunes his infant lay, 10
His oaten reed to rural ditties frames,
To flocks and rocks, to hills and rills, proclaims,
In simplest notes, and all unpolish'd strains,
The loves of nymphs, and eke the loves of swains.
Clad, as your nymphs were always clad of yore,
In rustic weeds--a cook-maid now no more--
Beneath an aged oak Lardella lies--
Green moss her couch, her canopy the skies.
From aromatic shrubs the roguish gale
Steals young perfumes and wafts them through the vale. 20
The youth, turn'd swain, and skill'd in rustic lays,
Fast by her side his amorous descant plays.
Herds low, flocks bleat, pies chatter, ravens scream,
And the full chorus dies a-down the stream:
The streams, with music freighted, as they pass
Present the fair Lardella with a glass;
And Zephyr, to complete the love-sick plan,
Waves his light wings, and serves her for a fan.
But when maturer Judgment takes the lead,
These childish toys on Reason's altar bleed; 30
Form'd after some great man, whose name breeds awe,
Whose every sentence Fashion makes a law;
Who on mere credit his vain trophies rears,
And founds his merit on our servile fears;
Then we discard the workings of the heart,
And nature's banish'd by mechanic art;
Then, deeply read, our reading must be shown;
Vain is that knowledge which remains unknown:
Then Ostentation marches to our aid,
And letter'd Pride stalks forth in full parade; 40
Beneath their care behold the work refine,
Pointed each sentence, polish'd every line;
Trifles are dignified, and taught to wear
The robes of ancients with a modern air;
Nonsense with classic ornaments is graced,
And passes current with the stamp of taste.
Then the rude Theocrite is ransack'd o'er,
And courtly Maro call'd from Mincio's shore;
Sicilian Muses on our mountains roam,
Easy and free as if they were at home; 50
Nymphs, naiads, nereids, dryads, satyrs, fauns,
Sport in our floods, and trip it o'er our lawns;
Flowers which once flourish'd fair in Greece and Rome,
More fair revive in England's meads to bloom;
Skies without cloud, exotic suns adorn,
And roses blush, but blush without a thorn;
Landscapes, unknown to dowdy Nature, rise,
And new creations strike our wondering eyes.
For bards like these, who neither sing nor say,
Grave without thought, and without feeling gay, 60
Whose numbers in one even tenor flow,
Attuned to pleasure, and attuned to woe;
Who, if plain Common-Sense her visit pays,
And mars one couplet in their happy lays,
As at some ghost affrighted, start and stare,
And ask the meaning of her coming there:
For bards like these a wreath shall Mason bring,
Lined with the softest down of Folly's wing;
In Love's pagoda shall they ever doze,
And Gisbal kindly rock them to repose; 70
My Lord ----, to letters as to faith most true--
At once their patron and example too--
Shall quaintly fashion his love-labour'd dreams,
Sigh with sad winds, and weep with weeping streams;
Curious in grief (for real grief, we know,
Is curious to dress up the tale of woe),
From the green umbrage of some Druid's seat
Shall his own works, in his own way, repeat.
Me, whom no Muse of heavenly birth inspires,
No judgment tempers when rash genius fires; 80
Who boast no merit but mere knack of rhyme,
Short gleams of sense, and satire out of time;
Who cannot follow where trim fancy leads,
By prattling streams, o'er flower-empurpled meads;
Who often, but without success, have pray'd
For apt Alliteration's artful aid;
Who would, but cannot, with a master's skill,
Coin fine new epithets, which mean no ill:
Me, thus uncouth, thus every way unfit
For pacing poesy, and ambling wit, 90
Taste with contempt beholds, nor deigns to place
Amongst the lowest of her favour'd race.
Thou, Nature, art my goddess--to thy law
Myself I dedicate! Hence, slavish awe!
Which bends to fashion, and obeys the rules
Imposed at first, and since observed by fools;
Hence those vile tricks which mar fair Nature's hue,
And bring the sober matron forth to view,
With all that artificial tawdry glare
Which virtue scorns, and none but strumpets wear! 100
Sick of those pomps, those vanities, that waste
Of toil, which critics now mistake for taste;
Of false refinements sick, and labour'd ease,
Which art, too thinly veil'd, forbids to please;
By Nature's charms (inglorious truth!) subdued,
However plain her dress, and 'haviour rude,
To northern climes my happier course I steer,
Climes where the goddess reigns throughout the year;
Where, undisturb'd by Art's rebellious plan,
She rules the loyal laird, and faithful clan. 110
To that rare soil, where virtues clustering grow,
What mighty blessings doth not England owe!
What waggon-loads of courage, wealth, and sense,
Doth each revolving day import from thence?
To us she gives, disinterested friend!
Faith without fraud, and Stuarts without end.
When we prosperity's rich trappings wear,
Come not her generous sons and take a share?
And if, by some disastrous turn of fate,
Change should ensue, and ruin seize the state, 120
Shall we not find, safe in that hallow'd ground,
Such refuge as the holy martyr found?
Nor less our debt in science, though denied
By the weak slaves of prejudice and pride.
Thence came the Ramsays, names of worthy note,
Of whom one paints, as well as t'other wrote;
Thence, Home, disbanded from the sons of prayer
For loving plays, though no dull Dean was there;
Thence issued forth, at great Macpherson's call,
That old, new, epic pastoral, Fingal; 130
Thence Malloch, friend alike to Church and State,
Of Christ and Liberty, by grateful Fate
Raised to rewards, which, in a pious reign,
All daring infidels should seek in vain;
Thence simple bards, by simple prudence taught,
To this wise town by simple patrons brought,
In simple manner utter simple lays,
And take, with simple pensions, simple praise.
Waft me, some Muse, to Tweed's inspiring stream,
Where all the little Loves and Graces dream; 140
Where, slowly winding, the dull waters creep,
And seem themselves to own the power of sleep;
Where on the surface lead, like feathers, swims;
There let me bathe my yet unhallow'd limbs,
As once a Syrian bathed in Jordan's flood--
Wash off my native stains, correct that blood
Which mutinies at call of English pride,
And, deaf to prudence, rolls a patriot tide.
From solemn thought which overhangs the brow
Of patriot care, when things are--God knows how; 150
From nice trim points, where Honour, slave to Rule,
In compliment to Folly, plays the fool;
From those gay scenes, where Mirth exalts his power,
And easy Humour wings the laughing hour;
From those soft better moments, when desire
Beats high, and all the world of man's on fire;
When mutual ardours of the melting fair
More than repay us for whole years of care,
At Friendship's summons will my Wilkes retreat,
And see, once seen before, that ancient seat, 160
That ancient seat, where majesty display'd
Her ensigns, long before the world was made!
Mean narrow maxims, which enslave mankind,
Ne'er from its bias warp thy settled mind:
Not duped by party, nor opinion's slave,
Those faculties which bounteous nature gave,
Thy honest spirit into practice brings,
Nor courts the smile, nor dreads the frown of kings.
Let rude licentious Englishmen comply
With tumult's voice, and curse--they know not why; 170
Unwilling to condemn, thy soul disdains
To wear vile faction's arbitrary chains,
And strictly weighs, in apprehension clear,
Things as they are, and not as they appear.
With thee good humour tempers lively wit;
Enthroned with Judgment, Candour loves to sit;
And nature gave thee, open to distress,
A heart to pity, and a hand to bless.
Oft have I heard thee mourn the wretched lot
Of the poor, mean, despised, insulted Scot, 180
Who, might calm reason credit idle tales,
By rancour forged where prejudice prevails,
Or starves at home, or practises, through fear
Of starving, arts which damn all conscience here.
When scribblers, to the charge by interest led,
The fierce North Briton foaming at their head,
Pour forth invectives, deaf to Candour's call,
And, injured by one alien, rail at all;
On northern Pisgah when they take their stand,
To mark the weakness of that Holy Land, 190
With needless truths their libels to adorn,
And hang a nation up to public scorn,
Thy generous soul condemns the frantic rage,
And hates the faithful, but ill-natured page.
The Scots are poor, cries surly English pride;
True is the charge, nor by themselves denied.
Are they not, then, in strictest reason clear,
Who wisely come to mend their fortunes here?
If, by low supple arts successful grown,
They sapp'd our vigour to increase their own; 200
If, mean in want, and insolent in power,
They only fawn'd more surely to devour,
Roused by such wrongs, should Reason take alarm,
And e'en the Muse for public safety arm?
But if they own ingenuous virtue's sway,
And follow where true honour points the way,
If they revere the hand by which they're fed,
And bless the donors for their daily bread,
Or, by vast debts of higher import bound,
Are always humble, always grateful found: 210
If they, directed by Paul's holy pen,
Become discreetly all things to all men,
That all men may become all things to them,
Envy may hate, but Justice can't condemn.
Into our places, states, and beds they creep;
They've sense to get, what we want sense to keep.
Once--be the hour accursed, accursed the place!--
I ventured to blaspheme the chosen race.
Into those traps, which men call'd patriots laid,
By specious arts unwarily betray'd, 220
Madly I leagued against that sacred earth,
Vile parricide! which gave a parent birth:
But shall I meanly error's path pursue,
When heavenly truth presents her friendly clue?
Once plunged in ill, shall I go farther in?
To make the oath, was rash: to keep it, sin.
Backward I tread the paths I trod before,
And calm reflection hates what passion swore.
Converted, (blessed are the souls which know
Those pleasures which from true conversion flow, 230
Whether to reason, who now rules my breast,
Or to pure faith, like Lyttelton and West),
Past crimes to expiate, be my present aim
To raise new trophies to the Scottish name;
To make (what can the proudest Muse do more?)
E'en faction's sons her brighter worth adore;
To make her glories, stamp'd with honest rhymes,
In fullest tide roll down to latest times.
Presumptuous wretch! and shall a Muse like thine,
An English Muse, the meanest of the Nine, 240
Attempt a theme like this? Can her weak strain
Expect indulgence from the mighty Thane?
Should he from toils of government retire,
And for a moment fan the poet's fire;
Should he, of sciences the moral friend,
Each curious, each important search suspend,
Leave unassisted Hill of herbs to tell,
And all the wonders of a cockleshell;
Having the Lord's good grace before his eyes,
Would not the Home step forth and gain the prize? 250
Or if this wreath of honour might adorn
The humble brows of one in England born,
Presumptuous still thy daring must appear;
Vain all thy towering hopes whilst I am here.
Thus spake a form, by silken smile and tone,
Dull and unvaried, for the Laureate known,
Folly's chief friend, Decorum's eldest son,
In every party found, and yet of none.
This airy substance, this substantial shade,
Abash'd I heard, and with respect obey'd. 260
From themes too lofty for a bard so mean,
Discretion beckons to an humbler scene;
The restless fever of ambition laid,
Calm I retire, and seek the sylvan shade.
Now be the Muse disrobed of all her pride,
Be all the glare of verse by truth supplied.
And if plain nature pours a simple strain,
Which Bute may praise, and Ossian not disdain,--
Ossian, sublimest, simplest bard of all,
Whom English infidels Macpherson call,-- 270
Then round my head shall Honour's ensigns wave,
And pensions mark me for a willing slave.
Two boys, whose birth, beyond all question, springs
From great and glorious, though forgotten, kings--
Shepherds, of Scottish lineage, born and bred
On the same bleak and barren mountain's head;
By niggard nature doom'd on the same rocks
To spin out life, and starve themselves and flocks;
Fresh as the morning, which, enrobed in mist,
The mountain's top with usual dulness kiss'd, 280
Jockey and Sawney to their labours rose;
Soon clad, I ween, where nature needs no clothes;
Where, from their youth inured to winter-skies,
Dress and her vain refinements they despise.
Jockey, whose manly high-boned cheeks to crown,
With freckles spotted, flamed the golden down,
With meikle art could on the bagpipes play,
E'en from the rising to the setting day;
Sawney as long without remorse could bawl
Home's madrigals, and ditties from Fingal: 290
Oft at his strains, all natural though rude,
The Highland lass forgot her want of food;
And, whilst she scratch'd her lover into rest,
Sunk pleased, though hungry, on her Sawney's breast.
Far as the eye could reach, no tree was seen;
Earth, clad in russet, scorn'd the lively green:
The plague of locusts they secure defy,
For in three hours a grasshopper must die:
No living thing, whate'er its food, feasts there,
But the cameleon, who can feast on air. 300
No birds, except as birds of passage, flew;
No bee was known to hum, no dove to coo:
No streams, as amber smooth, as amber clear,
Were seen to glide, or heard to warble here:
Rebellion's spring, which through the country ran,
Furnish'd, with bitter draughts, the steady clan:
No flowers embalm'd the air, but one white rose,
Which on the tenth of June by instinct blows;
By instinct blows at morn, and when the shades
Of drizzly eve prevail, by instinct fades. 310
One, and but one poor solitary cave,
Too sparing of her favours, nature gave;
That one alone (hard tax on Scottish pride!)
Shelter at once for man and beast supplied.
There snares without, entangling briars spread,
And thistles, arm'd against the invader's head,
Stood in close ranks, all entrance to oppose;
Thistles now held more precious than the rose.
All creatures which, on nature's earliest plan,
Were formed to loathe and to be loathed by man, 320
Which owed their birth to nastiness and spite,
Deadly to touch, and hateful to the sight;
Creatures which, when admitted in the ark,
Their saviour shunn'd, and rankled in the dark,
Found place within: marking her noisome road
With poison's trail, here crawl'd the bloated toad;
There webs were spread of more than common size,
And half-starved spiders prey'd on half-starved flies;
In quest of food, efts strove in vain to crawl;
Slugs, pinch'd with hunger, smear'd the slimy wall: 330
The cave around with hissing serpents rung;
On the damp roof unhealthy vapour hung;
And Famine, by her children always known,
As proud as poor, here fix'd her native throne.
Here, for the sullen sky was overcast,
And summer shrunk beneath a wintry blast--
A native blast, which, arm'd with hail and rain,
Beat unrelenting on the naked swain,
The boys for shelter made; behind, the sheep,
Of which those shepherds every day _take keep_, 340
Sickly crept on, and, with complainings rude,
On nature seem'd to call, and bleat for food.
_Sith_ to this cave by tempest we're confined,
And within _ken_ our flocks, under the wind,
Safe from the pelting of this perilous storm,
Are laid _emong_ yon thistles, dry and warm,
What, Sawney, if by shepherds' art we try
To mock the rigour of this cruel sky?
What if we tune some merry roundelay?
Well dost thou sing, nor ill doth Jockey play. 350
Ah! Jockey, ill advisest thou, _I wis_,
To think of songs at such a time as this:
Sooner shall herbage crown these barren rocks,
Sooner shall fleeces clothe these ragged flocks,
Sooner shall want seize shepherds of the south,
And we forget to live from hand to mouth,
Than Sawney, out of season, shall impart
The songs of gladness with an aching heart.
Still have I known thee for a silly swain;
Of things past help, what boots it to complain? 360
Nothing but mirth can conquer fortune's spite;
No sky is heavy, if the heart be light:
Patience is sorrow's salve: what can't be cured,
So Donald right areads, must be endured.
Full silly swain, _I wot_, is Jockey now.
How didst thou bear thy Maggy's falsehood? How,
When with a foreign loon she stole away,
Didst thou forswear thy pipe and shepherd's lay?
Where was thy boasted wisdom then, when I
Applied those proverbs which you now apply? 370
Oh, she was _bonny_! All the Highlands round
Was there a rival to my Maggy found?
More precious (though that precious is to all)
Than the rare medicine which we Brimstone call,
Or that choice plant, so grateful to the nose,
Which, in I know not what far country, grows,
Was Maggy unto me: dear do I rue
A lass so fair should ever prove untrue.
Whether with pipe or song to charm the ear,
Through all the land did Jamie find a peer? 380
Cursed be that year by every honest Scot,
And in the shepherd's calendar forgot,
That fatal year when Jamie, hapless swain!
In evil hour forsook the peaceful plain:
Jamie, when our young laird discreetly fled,
Was seized, and hang'd till he was dead, dead, dead.
Full sorely may we all lament that day,
For all were losers in the deadly fray.
Five brothers had I on the Scottish plains,
Well dost thou know were none more hopeful swains; 390
Five brothers there I lost, in manhood's pride;
Two in the field, and three on gibbets died.
Ah, silly swains! to follow war's alarms;
Ah! what hath shepherds' life to do with arms?
Mention it not--there saw I strangers clad
In all the honours of our ravish'd plaid;
Saw the Ferrara, too, our nation's pride,
Unwilling grace the awkward victor's side.
There fell our choicest youth, and from that day
_Mote_ never Sawney tune the merry lay; 400
Bless'd those which fell! cursed those which still survive,
To mourn Fifteen renew'd in Forty-five!
Thus plain'd the boys, when, from her throne of turf,
With boils emboss'd, and overgrown with scurf,
Vile humours which, in life's corrupted well
Mix'd at the birth, not abstinence could quell,
Pale Famine rear'd the head; her eager eyes,
Where hunger e'en to madness seem'd to rise,
Speaking aloud her throes and pangs of heart,
Strain'd to get loose, and from their orbs to start: 410
Her hollow cheeks were each a deep-sunk cell,
Where wretchedness and horror loved to dwell;
With double rows of useless teeth supplied,
Her mouth, from ear to ear, extended wide,
Which, when for want of food her entrails pined,
She oped, and, cursing, swallow'd nought but wind:
All shrivell'd was her skin; and here and there,
Making their way by force, her bones lay bare:
Such filthy sight to hide from human view,
O'er her foul limbs a tatter'd plaid she threw. 420
Cease, cried the goddess, cease, despairing swains!
And from a parent hear what Jove ordains.
Pent in this barren corner of the isle,
Where partial fortune never deign'd to smile;
Like nature's bastards, reaping for our share
What was rejected by the lawful heir;
Unknown amongst the nations of the earth,
Or only known to raise contempt and mirth;
Long free, because the race of Roman braves
Thought it not worth their while to make us slaves; 430
Then into bondage by that nation brought,
Whose ruin we for ages vainly sought;
Whom still with unslaked hate we view, and still,
The power of mischief lost, retain the will;
Consider'd as the refuse of mankind,
A mass till the last moment left behind,
Which frugal nature doubted, as it lay,
Whether to stamp with life or throw away;
Which, form'd in haste, was planted in this nook,
But never enter'd in Creation's book; 440
Branded as traitors who, for love of gold,
Would sell their God, as once their king they sold,--
Long have we borne this mighty weight of ill,
These vile injurious taunts, and bear them still.
But times of happier note are now at hand,
And the full promise of a better land:
There, like the sons of Israel, having trod,
For the fix'd term of years ordain'd by God,
A barren desert, we shall seize rich plains,
Where milk with honey flows, and plenty reigns: 450
With some few natives join'd, some pliant few,
Who worship Interest and our track pursue;
There shall we, though the wretched people grieve,
Ravage at large, nor ask the owners' leave.
For us, the earth shall bring forth her increase;
For us, the flocks shall wear a golden fleece;
Fat beeves shall yield us dainties not our own,
And the grape bleed a nectar yet unknown:
For our advantage shall their harvests grow,
And Scotsmen reap what they disdain'd to sow: 460
For us, the sun shall climb the eastern hill;
For us, the rain shall fall, the dew distil.
When to our wishes Nature cannot rise,
Art shall be task'd to grant us fresh supplies;
His brawny arm shall drudging Labour strain,
And for our pleasure suffer daily pain:
Trade shall for us exert her utmost powers,
Hers all the toil, and all the profit ours:
For us, the oak shall from his native steep
Descend, and fearless travel through the deep: 470
The sail of commerce, for our use unfurl'd,
Shall waft the treasures of each distant world:
For us, sublimer heights shall science reach;
For us, their statesman plot, their churchmen preach:
Their noblest limbs of council we'll disjoint,
And, mocking, new ones of our own appoint.
Devouring War, imprison'd in the North,
Shall, at our call, in horrid pomp break forth,
And when, his chariot-wheels with thunder hung,
Fell Discord braying with her brazen tongue, 480
Death in the van, with Anger, Hate, and Fear,
And Desolation stalking in the rear,
Revenge, by Justice guided, in his train,
He drives impetuous o'er the trembling plain,
Shall, at our bidding, quit his lawful prey,
And to meek, gentle, generous Peace give way.
Think not, my sons, that this so bless'd estate
Stands at a distance on the roll of fate;
Already big with hopes of future sway,
E'en from this cave I scent my destined prey. 490
Think not that this dominion o'er a race,
Whose former deeds shall time's last annals grace,
In the rough face of peril must be sought,
And with the lives of thousands dearly bought:
No--fool'd by cunning, by that happy art
Which laughs to scorn the blundering hero's heart,
Into the snare shall our kind neighbours fall
With open eyes, and fondly give us all.
When Rome, to prop her sinking empire, bore
Their choicest levies to a foreign shore, 500
What if we seized, like a destroying flood,
Their widow'd plains, and fill'd the realm with blood;
Gave an unbounded loose to manly rage,
And, scorning mercy, spared nor sex, nor age?
When, for our interest too mighty grown,
Monarchs of warlike bent possessed the throne,
What if we strove divisions to foment,
And spread the flames of civil discontent,
Assisted those who 'gainst their king made head,
And gave the traitors refuge when they fled? 510
When restless Glory bade her sons advance,
And pitch'd her standard in the fields of France,
What if, disdaining oaths,--an empty sound,
By which our nation never shall be bound,--
Bravely we taught unmuzzled War to roam,
Through the weak land, and brought cheap laurels home?
When the bold traitors, leagued for the defence
Of law, religion, liberty, and sense,
When they against their lawful monarch rose,
And dared the Lord's anointed to oppose, 520
What if we still revered the banish'd race,
And strove the royal vagrants to replace;
With fierce rebellions shook the unsettled state,
And greatly dared, though cross'd by partial fate?
These facts, which might, where wisdom held the sway,
Awake the very stones to bar our way,
There shall be nothing, nor one trace remain
In the dull region of an English brain;
Bless'd with that faith which mountains can remove,
First they shall dupes, next saints, last martyrs, prove. 530
Already is this game of Fate begun
Under the sanction of my darling son;
That son, of nature royal as his name,
Is destined to redeem our race from shame:
His boundless power, beyond example great,
Shall make the rough way smooth, the crooked straight;
Shall for our ease the raging floods restrain,
And sink the mountain level to the plain.
Discord, whom in a cavern under ground
With massy fetters their late patriot bound; 540
Where her own flesh the furious hag might tear,
And vent her curses to the vacant air;
Where, that she never might be heard of more,
He planted Loyalty to guard the door,
For better purpose shall our chief release,
Disguise her for a time, and call her Peace.
Lured by that name--fine engine of deceit!--
Shall the weak English help themselves to cheat;
To gain our love, with honours shall they grace
The old adherents of the Stuart race, 550
Who, pointed out no matter by what name,
Tories or Jacobites, are still the same;
To soothe our rage the temporising brood
Shall break the ties of truth and gratitude,
Against their saviour venom'd falsehoods frame,
And brand with calumny their William's name:
To win our grace, (rare argument of wit!)
To our untainted faith shall they commit
(Our faith, which, in extremest perils tried,
Disdain'd, and still disdains, to change her side) 560
That sacred Majesty they all approve,
Who most enjoys, and best deserves their love.
* * * * *
 'Mason:' William Mason, author of 'Elfrida,' 'Caractacus,' and an
'Elegy on the Death of the Countess of Coventry,' the intimate friend,
executor, and biographer of Gray.
 'Gisbal:' a stupid and scurrilous attack on Scotland.
 'Weeping streams:' referring to Lord Lyttelton's Monody on his
wife's death, and his Essay on the conversion of Paul.
 'Stuarts:' the family name of Lord Bute.
 'Holy martyr:' Charles I.
 'Ramsays:' Allan Ramsay, author of the 'Gentle Shepherd,' and his
son (Allan), a fine painter, intimate with Reynolds and Johnson.
 'Home:' John Home, the well known author of 'Douglas.' See
 'Dull Dean:' Dr Zachary Pearce, Bishop of Rochester and Dean of
Westminster, who rebuked Churchill for writing on players and dressing
like a layman.
 'Great Macpherson:' James Macpherson, translator or author of
 'Malloch:' David Mallett, son of an innkeeper in Crieff, friend
of Thomson's, author of a poor life of Bacon, and of one good ballad,
'William and Margaret,' editor of Bolingbroke's posthumous infidel
works, under-secretary to the Prince of Wales, and a pensioner.
 'North Briton:' the famous paper conducted by Wilkes.
 'Lyttelton and West:' George Lord Lyttelton, author of the
history of Henry II. and Gilbert West, the translator of Pindar, both
originally sceptical, but both converted,--the one, the author of a
Dissertation on Paul's conversion; the other, of a book on the
resurrection of Christ.
 'Hill,' a protege of Lord Bute's. See a note upon 'The Rescind.'
 'Home:' John Home, another of Lord Bute's proteges.
 'Laureate:' William Whitehead, Laureate after C. Cibber, who had
somehow provoked Churchill.
 'White rose:' The emblem of the Jacobites, a white rose, was worn
by them, in honour of the young Pretender's birthday, on the 10th of
 'Choice plant:' Tobacco.
 'That year:' the year 1745.
 'Darling son:' Bute.
 'Peace:' that of 1763, abused by all the Opposition.
AN EPISTLE TO WILLIAM HOGARTH.
Amongst the sons of men how few are known
Who dare be just to merit not their own!
Superior virtue and superior sense,
To knaves and fools, will always give offence;
Nay, men of real worth can scarcely bear,
So nice is jealousy, a rival there.
Be wicked as thou wilt; do all that's base;
Proclaim thyself the monster of thy race:
Let vice and folly thy black soul divide;
Be proud with meanness, and be mean with pride. 10
Deaf to the voice of Faith and Honour, fall
From side to side, yet be of none at all:
Spurn all those charities, those sacred ties,
Which Nature, in her bounty, good as wise,
To work our safety, and ensure her plan,
Contrived to bind and rivet man to man:
Lift against Virtue, Power's oppressive rod;
Betray thy country, and deny thy God;
And, in one general comprehensive line,
To group, which volumes scarcely could define, 20
Whate'er of sin and dulness can be said,
Join to a Fox's heart a Dashwood's head;
Yet may'st thou pass unnoticed in the throng,
And, free from envy, safely sneak along:
The rigid saint, by whom no mercy's shown
To saints whose lives are better than his own,
Shall spare thy crimes; and Wit, who never once
Forgave a brother, shall forgive a dunce.
But should thy soul, form'd in some luckless hour,
Vile interest scorn, nor madly grasp at power; 30
Should love of fame, in every noble mind
A brave disease, with love of virtue join'd,
Spur thee to deeds of pith, where courage, tried
In Reason's court, is amply justified:
Or, fond of knowledge, and averse to strife,
Shouldst thou prefer the calmer walk of life;
Shouldst thou, by pale and sickly study led,
Pursue coy Science to the fountain-head;
Virtue thy guide, and public good thy end,
Should every thought to our improvement tend, 40
To curb the passions, to enlarge the mind,
Purge the sick Weal, and humanise mankind;
Rage in her eye, and malice in her breast,
Redoubled Horror grining on her crest,
Fiercer each snake, and sharper every dart,
Quick from her cell shall maddening Envy start.
Then shalt thou find, but find, alas! too late,
How vain is worth! how short is glory's date!
Then shalt thou find, whilst friends with foes conspire,
To give more proof than virtue would desire, 50
Thy danger chiefly lies in acting well;
No crime's so great as daring to excel.
Whilst Satire thus, disdaining mean control,
Urged the free dictates of an honest soul,
Candour, who, with the charity of Paul,
Still thinks the best, whene'er she thinks at all,
With the sweet milk of human kindness bless'd,
The furious ardour of my zeal repress'd.
Canst thou, with more than usual warmth she cried,
Thy malice to indulge, and feed thy pride; 60
Canst thou, severe by nature as thou art,
With all that wondrous rancour in thy heart,
Delight to torture truth ten thousand ways,
To spin detraction forth from themes of praise,
To make Vice sit, for purposes of strife,
And draw the hag much larger than the life,
To make the good seem bad, the bad seem worse,
And represent our nature as our curse?
Doth not humanity condemn that zeal
Which tends to aggravate and not to heal? 70
Doth not discretion warn thee of disgrace,
And danger, grinning, stare thee in the face,
Loud as the drum, which, spreading terror round,
From emptiness acquires the power of sound?
Doth not the voice of Norton strike thy ear,
And the pale Mansfield chill thy soul with fear?
Dost thou, fond man, believe thyself secure
Because thou'rt honest, and because thou'rt poor?
Dost thou on law and liberty depend?
Turn, turn thy eyes, and view thy injured friend. 80
Art thou beyond the ruffian gripe of Power,
When Wilkes, prejudged, is sentenced to the Tower?
Dost thou by privilege exemption claim,
When privilege is little more than name?
Or to prerogative (that glorious ground
On which state scoundrels oft have safety found)
Dost thou pretend, and there a sanction find,
Unpunish'd, thus to libel human-kind
When poverty, the poet's constant crime,
Compell'd thee, all unfit, to trade in rhyme, 90
Had not romantic notions turn'd thy head,
Hadst thou not valued honour more than bread;
Had Interest, pliant Interest, been thy guide,
And had not Prudence been debauch'd by Pride,
In Flattery's stream thou wouldst have dipp'd thy pen,
Applied to great and not to honest men;
Nor should conviction have seduced thy heart
To take the weaker, though the better part.
What but rank folly, for thy curse decreed,
Could into Satire's barren path mislead, 100
When, open to thy view, before thee lay
Soul-soothing Panegyric's flowery way?
There might the Muse have saunter'd at her ease,
And, pleasing others, learn'd herself to please;
Lords should have listen'd to the sugar'd treat,
And ladies, simpering, own'd it vastly sweet;
Rogues, in thy prudent verse with virtue graced,
Fools mark'd by thee as prodigies of taste,
Must have forbid, pouring preferments down,
Such wit, such truth as thine to quit the gown. 110
Thy sacred brethren, too, (for they, no less
Than laymen, bring their offerings to success)
Had hail'd thee good if great, and paid the vow
Sincere as that they pay to God, whilst thou
In lawn hadst whisper'd to a sleeping crowd,
As dull as Rochester, and half as proud.
Peace, Candour--wisely hadst thou said, and well,
Could Interest in this breast one moment dwell;
Could she, with prospect of success, oppose
The firm resolves which from conviction rose. 120
I cannot truckle to a fool of state,
Nor take a favour from the man I hate:
Free leave have others by such means to shine;
I scorn their practice; they may laugh at mine.
But in this charge, forgetful of thyself,
Thou hast assumed the maxims of that elf,
Whom God in wrath, for man's dishonour framed,
Cunning in heaven, amongst us Prudence named,
That servile prudence, which I leave to those
Who dare not be my friends, can't be my foes. 130
Had I, with cruel and oppressive rhymes,
Pursued and turn'd misfortunes into crimes;
Had I, when Virtue gasping lay and low,
Join'd tyrant Vice, and added woe to woe;
Had I made Modesty in blushes speak,
And drawn the tear down Beauty's sacred cheek;
Had I (damn'd then) in thought debased my lays,
To wound that sex which honour bids me praise;
Had I, from vengeance, by base views betray'd.
In endless night sunk injured Ayliffe's shade; 140
Had I (which satirists of mighty name,
Renown'd in rhyme, revered for moral fame,
Have done before, whom Justice shall pursue
In future verse) brought forth to public view
A noble friend, and made his foibles known,
Because his worth was greater than my own;
Had I spared those (so Prudence had decreed)
Whom, God so help me at my greatest need!
I ne'er will spare, those vipers to their king
Who smooth their looks, and flatter whilst they sting; 150
Or had I not taught patriot zeal to boast
Of those who flatter least, but love him most;
Had I thus sinn'd, my stubborn soul should bend
At Candour's voice, and take, as from a friend,
The deep rebuke; myself should be the first
To hate myself, and stamp my Muse accursed.
But shall my arm--forbid it, manly pride!
Forbid it, reason! warring on my side--
For vengeance lifted high, the stroke forbear,
And hang suspended in the desert air, 160
Or to my trembling side unnerved sink down,
Palsied, forsooth, by Candour's half-made frown?
When Justice bids me on, shall I delay
Because insipid Candour bars my way?
When she, of all alike the puling friend,
Would disappoint my satire's noblest end;
When she to villains would a sanction give,
And shelter those who are not fit to live;
When she would screen the guilty from a blush,
And bids me spare whom Reason bids me crush, 170
All leagues with Candour proudly I resign;
She cannot be for Honour's turn, nor mine.
Yet come, cold Monitor! half foe, half friend,
Whom Vice can't fear, whom Virtue can't commend;
Come, Candour, by thy dull indifference known,
Thou equal-blooded judge, thou lukewarm drone,
Who, fashion'd without feelings, dost expect
We call that virtue--which we know defect;
Come, and observe the nature of our crimes,
The gross and rank complexion of the times; 180
Observe it well, and then review my plan,
Praise if you will, or censure if you can.
Whilst Vice presumptuous lords it as in sport,
And Piety is only known at court;
Whilst wretched Liberty expiring lies,
Beneath the fatal burthen of Excise;
Whilst nobles act, without one touch of shame,
What men of humble rank would blush to name;
Whilst Honour's placed in highest point of view,
Worshipp'd by those who Justice never knew; 190
Whilst bubbles of distinction waste in play
The hours of rest, and blunder through the day;
With dice and cards opprobrious vigils keep,
Then turn to ruin empires in their sleep;
Whilst fathers, by relentless passion led,
Doom worthy injured sons to beg their bread,
Merely with ill-got, ill-saved, wealth to grace,
An alien, abject, poor, proud, upstart race!
Whilst Martin flatters only to betray,
And Webb gives up his dirty soul for pay, 200
Whilst titles serve to hush a villain's fears;
Whilst peers are agents made, and agents peers;
Whilst base betrayers are themselves betray'd,
And makers ruin'd by the thing they made;
Whilst C----, false to God and man, for gold,
Like the old traitor who a Saviour sold,
To shame his master, friend, and father gives;
Whilst Bute remains in power, whilst Holland lives;--
Can Satire want a subject, where Disdain,
By Virtue fired, may point her sharpest strain, 210
Where, clothed with thunder, Truth may roll along,
And Candour justify the rage of song?
Such things! such men before thee! such an age!
Where Rancour, great as thine, may glut her rage,
And sicken e'en to surfeit; where the pride
Of Satire, pouring down in fullest tide,
May spread wide vengeance round, yet all the while
Justice behold the ruin with a smile;
Whilst I, thy foe misdeem'd, cannot condemn,
Nor disapprove that rage I wish to stem, 220
Wilt thou, degenerate and corrupted, choose
To soil the credit of thy haughty Muse?
With fallacy, most infamous, to stain
Her truth, and render all her anger vain?
When I beheld thee, incorrect, but bold,
A various comment on the stage unfold;
When players on players before thy satire fell,
And poor Reviews conspired thy wrath to swell;
When states and statesmen next became thy care,
And only kings were safe if thou wast there, 230
Thy every word I weigh'd in judgment's scale,
And in thy every word found truth prevail;
Why dost thou now to falsehood meanly fly?
Not even Candour can forgive a lie.
Bad as men are, why should thy frantic rhymes
Traffic in slander, and invent new crimes?--
Crimes which, existing only in thy mind,
Weak spleen brings forth to blacken all mankind.
By pleasing hopes we lure the human heart
To practise virtue and improve in art; 240
To thwart these ends (which, proud of honest fame,
A noble Muse would cherish and inflame)
Thy drudge contrives, and in our full career
Sicklies our hopes with the pale hue of fear;
Tells us that all our labours are in vain;
That what we seek, we never can obtain;
That, dead to virtue, lost to Nature's plan,
Envy possesses the whole race of man;
That worth is criminal, and danger lies,
Danger extreme, in being good and wise. 250
'Tis a rank falsehood; search the world around,
There cannot be so vile a monster found,
Not one so vile, on whom suspicions fall
Of that gross guilt which you impute to all.
Approved by those who disobey her laws,
Virtue from Vice itself extorts applause:
Her very foes bear witness to her state;
They will not love her, but they cannot hate.
Hate Virtue for herself! with spite pursue
Merit for Merit's sake! might this be true, 260
I would renounce my nature with disdain,
And with the beasts that perish graze the plain;
Might this be true,--had we so far fill'd up
The measure of our crimes, and from the cup
Of guilt so deeply drank, as not to find,
Thirsting for sin, one drop, one dreg behind;
Quick ruin must involve this flaming ball,
And Providence in justice crush us all.
None but the damn'd, and amongst them the worst,
Those who for double guilt are doubly cursed, 270
Can be so lost; nor can the worst of all
At once into such deep damnation fall;
By painful slow degrees they reach this crime,
Which e'en in hell must be a work of time.
Cease, then, thy guilty rage, thou wayward son,
With the foul gall of Discontent o'errun;
List to my voice,--be honest, if you can,
Nor slander Nature in her favourite, man.
But if thy spirit, resolute in ill,
Once having err'd, persists in error still, 280
Go on at large, no longer worth my care,
And freely vent those blasphemies in air,
Which I would stamp as false, though on the tongue
Of angels the injurious slander hung.
Duped by thy vanity (that cunning elf
Who snares the coxcomb to deceive himself),
Or blinded by thy rage, didst thou believe
That we too, coolly, would ourselves deceive?
That we, as sterling, falsehood would admit,
Because 'twas season'd with some little wit? 290
When fiction rises pleasing to the eye,
Men will believe, because they love the lie;
But Truth herself, if clouded with a frown,
Must have some solemn proof to pass her down.
Hast thou, maintaining that which must disgrace
And bring into contempt the human race,
Hast thou, or canst thou, in Truth's sacred court,
To save thy credit, and thy cause support,
Produce one proof, make out one real ground,
On which so great, so gross a charge to found? 300
Nay, dost thou know one man (let that appear,
From wilful falsehood I'll proclaim thee clear),
One man so lost, to nature so untrue,
From whom this general charge thy rashness drew?
On this foundation shalt thou stand or fall--
Prove that in one which you have charged on all.
Reason determines, and it must be done;
'Mongst men, or past, or present, name me one.
Hogarth,--I take thee, Candour, at thy word,
Accept thy proffer'd terms, and will be heard; 310
Thee have I heard with virulence declaim,
Nothing retain'd of Candour but the name;
By thee have I been charged in angry strains
With that mean falsehood which my soul disdains--
Hogarth, stand forth;--Nay, hang not thus aloof--
Now, Candour, now thou shalt receive such proof,
Such damning proof, that henceforth thou shalt fear
To tax my wrath, and own my conduct clear;--
Hogarth, stand forth--I dare thee to be tried
In that great court where Conscience must preside; 320
At that most solemn bar hold up thy hand;
Think before whom, on what account, you stand;
Speak, but consider well;--from first to last
Review thy life, weigh every action past;
Nay, you shall have no reason to complain--
Take longer time, and view them o'er again.
Canst thou remember from thy earliest youth,
And as thy God must judge thee, speak the truth,
A single instance where, self laid aside,
And Justice taking place of Fear and Pride, 330
Thou with an equal eye didst Genius view,
And give to Merit what was Merit's due?
Genius and Merit are a sure offence,
And thy soul sickens at the name of sense.
Is any one so foolish to succeed?
On Envy's altar he is doom'd to bleed.
Hogarth, a guilty pleasure in his eyes,
The place of executioner supplies:
See how he gloats, enjoys the sacred feast,
And proves himself by cruelty a priest! 340
Whilst the weak artist, to thy whims a slave,
Would bury all those powers which Nature gave;
Would suffer blank concealment to obscure
Those rays thy jealousy could not endure;
To feed thy vanity would rust unknown,
And to secure thy credit, blast his own,
In Hogarth he was sure to find a friend;
He could not fear, and therefore might commend.
But when his spirit, roused by honest shame,
Shook off that lethargy, and soar'd to fame; 350
When, with the pride of man, resolved and strong,
He scorn'd those fears which did his honour wrong,
And, on himself determined to rely,
Brought forth his labours to the public eye,
No friend in thee could such a rebel know;
He had desert, and Hogarth was his foe.
Souls of a timorous cast, of petty name
In Envy's court, not yet quite dead to shame,
May some remorse, some qualms of conscience feel,
And suffer honour to abate their zeal; 360
But the man truly and completely great,
Allows no rule of action but his hate;
Through every bar he bravely breaks his way,
Passion his principle, and parts his prey.
Mediums in vice and virtue speak a mind
Within the pale of temperance confined;
The daring spirit scorns her narrow schemes,
And, good or bad, is always in extremes.
Man's practice duly weigh'd, through every age
On the same plan hath Envy form'd her rage, 370
'Gainst those whom fortune hath our rivals made,
In way of science, and in way of trade:
Stung with mean jealousy she arms her spite,
First works, then views their ruin with delight.
Our Hogarth here a grand improver shines,
And nobly on the general plan refines;
He like himself o'erleaps the servile bound;
Worth is his mark, wherever worth is found.
Should painters only his vast wrath suffice?
Genius in every walk is lawful prize: 380
'Tis a gross insult to his o'ergrown state;
His love to merit is to feel his hate.
When Wilkes, our countryman, our common friend,
Arose, his king, his country to defend;
When tools of power he bared to public view,
And from their holes the sneaking cowards drew;
When Rancour found it far beyond her reach
To soil his honour, and his truth impeach;
What could induce thee, at a time and place
Where manly foes had blush'd to show their face, 390
To make that effort which must damn thy name,
And sink thee deep, deep in thy grave with shame?
Did virtue move thee? No; 'twas pride, rank pride,
And if thou hadst not done it, thou hadst died.
Malice (who, disappointed of her end,
Whether to work the bane of foe or friend,
Preys on herself, and, driven to the stake,
Gives Virtue that revenge she scorns to take)
Had kill'd thee, tottering on life's utmost verge,
Had Wilkes and Liberty escaped thy scourge. 400
When that Great Charter, which our fathers bought
With their best blood, was into question brought;
When, big with ruin, o'er each English head
Vile Slavery hung suspended by a thread;
When Liberty, all trembling and aghast,
Fear'd for the future, knowing what was past;
When every breast was chill'd with deep despair,
Till Reason pointed out that Pratt was there;--
Lurking, most ruffian-like, behind the screen,
So placed all things to see, himself unseen, 410
Virtue, with due contempt, saw Hogarth stand,
The murderous pencil in his palsied hand.
What was the cause of Liberty to him,
Or what was Honour? let them sink or swim,
So he may gratify, without control,
The mean resentments of his selfish soul;
Let Freedom perish, if, to Freedom true,
In the same ruin Wilkes may perish too.
With all the symptoms of assured decay,
With age and sickness pinch'd and worn away, 420
Pale quivering lips, lank cheeks, and faltering tongue,
The spirits out of tune, the nerves unstrung,
Thy body shrivell'd up, thy dim eyes sunk
Within their sockets deep, thy weak hams shrunk,
The body's weight unable to sustain,
The stream of life scarce trembling through the vein,
More than half kill'd by honest truths which fell,
Through thy own fault, from men who wish'd thee well--
Canst thou, e'en thus, thy thoughts to vengeance give,
And, dead to all things else, to malice live? 430
Hence, dotard, to thy closet; shut thee in;
By deep repentance wash away thy sin;
From haunts of men to shame and sorrow fly,
And, on the verge of death, learn how to die!
Vain exhortation! wash the Ethiop white,
Discharge the leopard's spots, turn day to night,
Control the course of Nature, bid the deep
Hush at thy pigmy voice her waves to sleep--
Perform things passing strange, yet own thy art
Too weak to work a change in such a heart; 440
That Envy, which was woven in the frame
At first, will to the last remain the same.
Reason may droop, may die; but Envy's rage
Improves by time, and gathers strength from age.
Some, and not few, vain triflers with the pen,
Unread, unpractised in the ways of men,
Tell us that Envy, who, with giant stride,
Stalks through the vale of life by Virtue's side,
Retreats when she hath drawn her latest breath,
And calmly hears her praises after death. 450
To such observers Hogarth gives the lie;
Worth may be hearsed, but Envy cannot die;
Within the mansion of his gloomy breast,
A mansion suited well to such a guest,
Immortal, unimpair'd, she rears her head,
And damns alike the living and the dead.
Oft have I known thee, Hogarth, weak and vain,
Thyself the idol of thy awkward strain,
Through the dull measure of a summer's day,
In phrase most vile, prate long, long hours away, 460
Whilst friends with friends, all gaping sit, and gaze,
To hear a Hogarth babble Hogarth's praise.
But if athwart thee Interruption came,
And mention'd with respect some ancient's name,
Some ancient's name who, in the days of yore,
The crown of Art with greatest honour wore,
How have I seen thy coward cheek turn pale,
And blank confusion seize thy mangled tale!
How hath thy jealousy to madness grown,
And deem'd his praise injurious to thy own! 470
Then without mercy did thy wrath make way,
And arts and artists all became thy prey;
Then didst thou trample on establish'd rules,
And proudly levell'd all the ancient schools;
Condemn'd those works, with praise through ages graced,
Which you had never seen, or could not taste;
But would mankind have true perfection shown,
It must be found in labours of my own:
I dare to challenge, in one single piece,
The united force of Italy and Greece. 480
Thy eager hand the curtain then undrew,
And brought the boasted masterpiece to view.
Spare thy remarks--say not a single word--
The picture seen, why is the painter heard?
Call not up shame and anger in our cheeks;
Without a comment Sigismunda speaks.
Poor Sigismunda! what a fate is thine!
Dryden, the great high-priest of all the Nine,
Revived thy name, gave what a Muse could give,
And in his numbers bade thy memory live; 490
Gave thee those soft sensations which might move
And warm the coldest anchorite to love;
Gave thee that virtue, which could curb desire,
Refine and consecrate love's headstrong fire;
Gave thee those griefs, which made the Stoic feel,
And call'd compassion forth from hearts of steel;
Gave thee that firmness, which our sex may shame,
And make man bow to woman's juster claim;
So that our tears, which from compassion flow,
Seem to debase thy dignity of woe. 500
But, oh, how much unlike! how fallen! how changed!
How much from Nature and herself estranged!
How totally deprived of all the powers
To show her feelings, and awaken ours,
Doth Sigismunda now devoted stand,
The helpless victim of a dauber's hand!
But why, my Hogarth, such a progress made,
So rare a pattern for the sign-post trade,
In the full force and whirlwind of thy pride,
Why was heroic painting laid aside? 510
Why is it not resumed? thy friends at court,
Men all in place and power, crave thy support;
Be grateful then for once, and through the field
Of politics thy epic pencil wield;