Part 6 out of 7
My life's amusements have been just the same,
Before and after standing armies came.
My lands are sold, my father's house is gone;
I'll hire another's; is not that my own,
And yours, my friends? through whose free-opening gate
None comes too early, none departs too late;
(For I, who hold sage Homer's rule the best, 160
Welcome the coming, speed the going guest).
'Pray Heaven it last!' (cries Swift) 'as you go on;
I wish to God this house had been your own:
Pity to build, without a son or wife:
Why, you'll enjoy it only all your life.'
Well, if the use be mine, can it concern one,
Whether the name belong to Pope or Vernon?
What's property, dear Swift? You see it alter
From you to me, from me to Peter Walter;
Or, in a mortgage, prove a lawyer's share; 170
Or, in a jointure, vanish from the heir;
Or in pure equity (the case not clear)
The Chancery takes your rents for twenty year:
At best, it falls to some ungracious son,
Who cries, 'My father's damn'd, and all's my own.'
Shades, that to Bacon could retreat afford,
Become the portion of a booby lord;
And Helmsley, once proud Buckingham's delight,
Slides to a scrivener or a city knight.
Let lands and houses have what lords they will, 180
Let us be fix'd, and our own masters still.
* * * * *
THE FIRST EPISTLE OF THE FIRST BOOK OF HORACE.
TO LORD BOLINGBROKE.
St John, whose love indulged my labours past,
Matures my present, and shall bound my last!
Why will you break the Sabbath of my days?
Now sick alike of envy and of praise.
Public too long, ah, let me hide my age!
See, modest Cibber now has left the stage:
Our generals now, retired to their estates,
Hang their old trophies o'er the garden gates,
In life's cool evening satiate of applause,
Nor fond of bleeding, even in Brunswick's cause. 10
A voice there is, that whispers in my ear,
('Tis reason's voice, which sometimes one can hear)
'Friend Pope! be prudent, let your Muse take breath,
And never gallop Pegasus to death;
Lest, still and stately, void of fire or force,
You limp, like Blackmore on a Lord Mayor's horse.'
Farewell, then, verse, and love, and every toy,
The rhymes and rattles of the man or boy;
What right, what true, what fit we justly call,
Let this be all my care--for this is all: 20
To lay this harvest up, and hoard with haste
What every day will want, and most, the last.
But ask not, to what doctors I apply;
Sworn to no master, of no sect am I:
As drives the storm, at any door I knock:
And house with Montaigne now, or now with Locke.
Sometimes a patriot, active in debate,
Mix with the world, and battle for the state,
Free as young Lyttelton, her cause pursue,
Still true to virtue, and as warm as true: 30
Sometimes with Aristippus, or St Paul,
Indulge my candour, and grow all to all;
Back to my native moderation slide,
And win my way by yielding to the tide.
Long, as to him who works for debt, the day,
Long as the night to her whose love's away,
Long as the year's dull circle seems to run,
When the brisk minor pants for twenty-one:
So slow the unprofitable moments roll,
That lock up all the functions of my soul; 40
That keep me from myself; and still delay
Life's instant business to a future day:
That task, which, as we follow, or despise,
The eldest is a fool, the youngest wise.
Which done, the poorest can no wants endure;
And which, not done, the richest must be poor.
Late as it is, I put myself to school,
And feel some comfort not to be a fool.
Weak though I am of limb, and short of sight,
Far from a lynx, and not a giant quite; 50
I'll do what Mead and Cheselden advise,
To keep these limbs, and to preserve these eyes.
Not to go back, is somewhat to advance,
And men must walk at least before they dance.
Say, does thy blood rebel, thy bosom move
With wretched avarice, or as wretched love?
Know, there are words and spells which can control
Between the fits this fever of the soul:
Know, there are rhymes, which, fresh and fresh applied,
Will cure the arrant'st puppy of his pride. 60
Be furious, envious, slothful, mad, or drunk,
Slave to a wife, or vassal to a punk,
A Switz, a High-Dutch, or a Low-Dutch bear;
All that we ask is but a patient ear.
'Tis the first virtue, vices to abhor:
And the first wisdom, to be fool no more.
But to the world no bugbear is so great,
As want of figure, and a small estate.
To either India see the merchant fly,
Scared at the spectre of pale poverty! 70
See him, with pains of body, pangs of soul,
Burn through the tropic, freeze beneath the pole!
Wilt thou do nothing for a nobler end,
Nothing, to make philosophy thy friend?
To stop thy foolish views, thy long desires,
And ease thy heart of all that it admires?
Here, Wisdom calls: 'Seek Virtue first, be bold!
As gold to silver, Virtue is to gold.'
There, London's voice: 'Get money, money still!
And then let virtue follow, if she will.' 80
This, this the saving doctrine, preach'd to all,
From low St James's up to high St Paul;
From him whose quill stands quiver'd at his ear,
To him who notches sticks at Westminster.
Barnard in spirit, sense, and truth abounds;
'Pray then, what wants he?' Fourscore thousand pounds;
A pension, or such harness for a slave
As Bug now has, and Dorimant would have.
Barnard, thou art a cit, with all thy worth;
But Bug and D----l, their Honours, and so forth. 90
Yet every child another song will sing,
'Virtue, brave boys! 'tis virtue makes a king.'
True, conscious honour is to feel no sin,
He's arm'd without that's innocent within;
Be this thy screen, and this thy wall of brass;
Compared to this, a minister's an ass.
And say, to which shall our applause belong,
This new court-jargon, or the good old song?
The modern language of corrupted peers,
Or what was spoke at Cressy and Poictiers? 100
Who counsels best? who whispers, 'Be but great,
With praise or infamy leave that to fate;
Get place and wealth, if possible, with grace;
If not, by any means get wealth and place.'
For what? to have a box where eunuchs sing,
And foremost in the circle eye a king.
Or he, who bids thee face with steady view
Proud fortune, and look shallow greatness through:
And, while he bids thee, sets th' example too?
If such a doctrine, in St James's air, 110
Should chance to make the well-dress'd rabble stare;
If honest S----z take scandal at a spark,
That less admires the palace than the park:
Faith, I shall give the answer Reynard gave:
'I cannot like, dread sir, your royal cave:
Because I see, by all the tracks about,
Full many a beast goes in, but none comes out.'
Adieu to virtue, if you're once a slave:
Send her to court, you send her to her grave.
Well, if a king's a lion, at the least 120
The people are a many-headed beast:
Can they direct what measures to pursue,
Who know themselves so little what to do?
Alike in nothing but one lust of gold,
Just half the land would buy, and half be sold:
Their country's wealth our mightier misers drain,
Or cross, to plunder provinces, the main;
The rest, some farm the poor-box, some the pews;
Some keep assemblies, and would keep the stews;
Some with fat bucks on childless dotards fawn; 130
Some win rich widows by their chine and brawn;
While with the silent growth of ten per cent,
In dirt and darkness, hundreds stink content.
Of all these ways, if each pursues his own,
Satire, be kind, and let the wretch alone:
But show me one who has it in his power
To act consistent with himself an hour.
Sir Job sail'd forth, the evening bright and still,
'No place on earth' (he cried) 'like Greenwich hill!'
Up starts a palace, lo, the obedient base 140
Slopes at its foot, the woods its sides embrace,
The silver Thames reflects its marble face.
Now let some whimsy, or that devil within,
Which guides all those who know not what they mean,
But give the knight (or give his lady) spleen;
'Away, away! take all your scaffolds down,
For, snug's the word: my dear! we'll live in town.'
At amorous Flavio is the stocking thrown?
That very night he longs to lie alone.
The fool, whose wife elopes some thrice a quarter, 150
For matrimonial solace dies a martyr.
Did ever Proteus, Merlin, any witch,
Transform themselves so strangely as the rich?
Well, but the poor--the poor have the same itch;
They change their weekly barber, weekly news,
Prefer a new japanner to their shoes,
Discharge their garrets, move their beds, and run
(They know not whither) in a chaise and one;
They hire their sculler, and when once aboard,
Grow sick, and damn the climate--like a lord. 160
You laugh, half-beau, half-sloven if I stand;
My wig all powder, and all snuff my band;
You laugh, if coat and breeches strangely vary,
White gloves, and linen worthy Lady Mary!
But, when no prelate's lawn with hair-shirt lined
Is half so incoherent as my mind,
When (each opinion with the next at strife,
One ebb and flow of follies all my life)
I plant, root up; I build, and then confound;
Turn round to square, and square again to round; 170
You never change one muscle of your face,
You think this madness but a common case,
Nor once to Chancery, nor to Hale apply;
Yet hang your lip, to see a seam awry!
Careless how ill I with myself agree,
Kind to my dress, my figure, not to me.
Is this my guide, philosopher, and friend?
This, he who loves me, and who ought to mend?
Who ought to make me (what he can, or none),
That man divine whom Wisdom calls her own; 180
Great without title, without fortune bless'd;
Rich even when plunder'd, honour'd while oppress'd;
Loved without youth, and follow'd without power;
At home, though exiled; free, though in the Tower;
In short, that reasoning, high, immortal thing,
Just less than Jove, and much above a king,
Nay, half in heaven--except (what's mighty odd)
A fit of vapours clouds this demi-god.
* * * * *
THE SIXTH EPISTLE OF THE FIRST BOOK OF HORACE.
TO MR MURRAY.
'Not to admire, is all the art I know,
To make men happy, and to keep them so.'
(Plain truth, dear Murray, needs no flowers of speech,
So take it in the very words of Creech.)
This vault of air, this congregated ball,
Self-centred sun, and stars that rise and fall,
There are, my friend! whose philosophic eyes
Look through and trust the Ruler with his skies,
To Him commit the hour, the day, the year,
And view this dreadful All without a fear. 10
Admire we then what earth's low entrails hold,
Arabian shores, or Indian seas infold;
All the mad trade of fools and slaves for gold?
Or popularity? or stars and strings?
The mob's applauses, or the gifts of kings?
Say with what eyes we ought at courts to gaze,
And pay the great our homage of amaze?
If weak the pleasure that from these can spring,
The fear to want them is as weak a thing:
Whether we dread, or whether we desire, 20
In either case, believe me, we admire;
Whether we joy or grieve, the same the curse,
Surprised at better, or surprised at worse.
Thus good or bad, to one extreme betray
The unbalanced mind, and snatch the man away:
For virtue's self may too much zeal be had;
The worst of madmen is a saint run mad.
Go then, and, if you can, admire the state
Of beaming diamonds, and reflected plate;
Procure a taste to double the surprise, 30
And gaze on Parian charms with learned eyes:
Be struck with bright brocade, or Tyrian dye,
Our birthday nobles' splendid livery.
If not so pleased, at council-board rejoice,
To see their judgments hang upon thy voice;
From morn to night, at Senate, Rolls, and Hall,
Plead much, read more, dine late, or not at all.
But wherefore all this labour, all this strife?
For fame, for riches, for a noble wife?
Shall one whom nature, learning, birth, conspired 40
To form, not to admire, but be admired,
Sigh, while his Chloe, blind to wit and worth,
Weds the rich dulness of some son of earth?
Yet time ennobles, or degrades each line;
It brighten'd Craggs's, and may darken thine:
And what is fame? the meanest have their day,
The greatest can but blaze, and pass away.
Graced as thou art, with all the power of words,
So known, so honour'd, at the House of Lords:
Conspicuous scene! another yet is nigh 50
(More silent far) where kings and poets lie;
Where Murray (long enough his country's pride)
Shall be no more than Tully, or than Hyde!
Rack'd with sciatics, martyr'd with the stone,
Will any mortal let himself alone?
See Ward by batter'd beaux invited over,
And desperate misery lays hold on Dover.
The case is easier in the mind's disease;
There all men may be cured, whene'er they please.
Would ye be blest? despise low joys, low gains; 60
Disdain whatever Cornbury disdains;
Be virtuous, and be happy for your pains.
But art thou one, whom new opinions sway,
One who believes as Tindal leads the way,
Who virtue and a church alike disowns,
Thinks that but words, and this but brick and stones?
Fly then, on all the wings of wild desire,
Admire whate'er the maddest can admire:
Is wealth thy passion? Hence! from pole to pole,
Where winds can carry, or where waves can roll, 70
For Indian spices, for Peruvian gold,
Prevent the greedy, and outbid the bold:
Advance thy golden mountain to the skies;
On the broad base of fifty thousand rise,
Add one round hundred, and (if that's not fair)
Add fifty more, and bring it to a square.
For, mark the advantage; just so many score
Will gain a wife with half as many more,
Procure her beauty, make that beauty chaste,
And then such friends--as cannot fail to last. 80
A man of wealth is dubb'd a man of worth,
Venus shall give him form, and Anstis birth.
(Believe me, many a German prince is worse,
Who, proud of pedigree, is poor of purse).
His wealth brave Timon gloriously confounds;
Ask'd for a groat, he gives a hundred pounds;
Or if three ladies like a luckless play,
Takes the whole house upon the poet's day.
Now, in such exigencies not to need,
Upon my word, you must be rich indeed; 90
A noble superfluity it craves,
Not for yourself, but for your fools and knaves;
Something, which for your honour they may cheat,
And which it much becomes you to forget.
If wealth alone then make and keep us bless'd,
Still, still be getting, never, never rest.
But if to power and place your passion lie,
If in the pomp of life consist the joy;
Then hire a slave, or (if you will) a lord 100
To do the honours, and to give the word;
Tell at your levee, as the crowds approach,
To whom to nod, whom take into your coach,
Whom honour with your hand: to make remarks,
Who rules in Cornwall, or who rules in Berks:
'This may be troublesome, is near the chair:
That makes three members, this can choose a mayor.'
Instructed thus, you bow, embrace, protest,
Adopt him son, or cousin at the least,
Then turn about, and laugh at your own jest. 110
Or if your life be one continued treat,
If to live well means nothing but to eat;
Up, up! cries Gluttony, 'tis break of day,
Go drive the deer, and drag the finny prey;
With hounds and horns go hunt an appetite--
So Russel did, but could not eat at night,
Call'd, happy dog! the beggar at his door,
And envied thirst and hunger to the poor.
Or shall we every decency confound,
Through taverns, stews, and bagnios take our round, 120
Go dine with Chartres, in each vice outdo
K--l's lewd cargo, or Ty--y's crew;
From Latian syrens, French Circaean feasts,
Return well travell'd, and transform'd to beasts,
Or for a titled punk, or foreign flame,
Renounce our country, and degrade our name?
If, after all, we must with Wilmot own,
The cordial drop of life is love alone,
And Swift cry wisely, '_Vive la bagatelle!_'
The man that loves and laughs, must sure do well. 130
Adieu--if this advice appear the worst,
E'en take the counsel which I gave you first:
Or better precepts if you can impart,
Why do, I'll follow them with all my heart.
* * * * *
THE FIRST EPISTLE OF THE SECOND BOOK OF HORACE.
The reflections of Horace, and the judgments past in his Epistle to
Augustus, seemed so seasonable to the present times, that I could not
help applying them to the use of my own country. The author thought them
considerable enough to address them to his prince; whom he paints with
all the great and good qualities of a monarch, upon whom the Romans
depended for the increase of an absolute empire. But to make the poem
entirely English, I was willing to add one or two of those which
contribute to the happiness of a free people, and are more consistent
with the welfare of our neighbours.
This epistle will show the learned world to have fallen into two
mistakes: One, that Augustus was a patron of poets in general; whereas
he not only prohibited all but the best writers to name him, but
recommended that care even to the civil magistrate: _Admonebat
praetores, ne paterentur nomen suum obsolefieri_, &c. The other, that
this piece was only a general discourse of poetry; whereas it was an
apology for the poets, in order to render Augustus more their patron.
Horace here pleads the cause of his contemporaries, first against the
taste of the town, whose humour it was to magnify the authors of the
preceding age; secondly against the court and nobility, who encouraged
only the writers for the theatre; and lastly against the emperor
himself, who had conceived them of little use to the government. He
shows (by a view of the progress of learning, and the change of taste
among the Romans) that the introduction of the polite arts of Greece had
given the writers of his time great advantages over their predecessors;
that their morals were much improved, and the license of those ancient
poets restrained; that satire and comedy were become more just and
useful; that whatever extravagances were left on the stage, were owing
to the ill taste of the nobility; that poets, under due regulations,
were in many respects useful to the state; and concludes, that it was
upon them the emperor himself must depend for his fame with posterity.
We may further learn from this epistle, that Horace made his court to
this great prince by writing with a decent freedom toward him, with a
just contempt of his low flatterers, and with a manly regard to his own
While you, great patron of mankind! sustain
The balanced world, and open all the main;
Your country, chief, in arms abroad defend,
At home, with morals, arts, and laws amend;
How shall the Muse, from such a monarch, steal
An hour, and not defraud the public weal?
Edward and Henry, now the boast of fame,
And virtuous Alfred, a more sacred name,
After a life of generous toils endured,
The Gaul subdued, or property secured, 10
Ambition humbled, mighty cities storm'd,
Or laws establish'd, and the world reform'd;
Closed their long glories with a sigh, to find
The unwilling gratitude of base mankind!
All human virtue, to its latest breath,
Finds envy never conquer'd, but by death.
The great Alcides, every labour past,
Had still this monster to subdue at last.
Sure fate of all, beneath whose rising ray
Each star of meaner merit fades away! 20
Oppress'd we feel the beam directly beat,
Those suns of glory please not till they set.
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. 30
Just in one instance, be it yet confess'd,
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 learn'd 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'; 40
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 improve our wit as well as wine,
Say at what age a poet grows divine? 50
Shall we, or shall we not, account him so,
Who died, perhaps, an hundred years ago?
End all dispute; and fix the year precise
When British bards begin t' immortalise?
'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? 60
'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.
Shakspeare (whom you and every play-house bill
Style the divine, the matchless, what you will), 70
For gain, not glory, wing'd his roving flight,
And grew immortal in his own despite.
Ben, old and poor, as little seem'd 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? 80
In all debates where critics bear a part,
Not one but nods and talks of Johnson's art,
Of Shakspeare's nature, and of Cowley's wit;
How Beaumont's judgment check'd 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. 90
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 Sydney'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, 100
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 Shakspeare, like the 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) 110
One simile, that solitary shines
In the dry desert of a thousand lines,
Or lengthen'd thought that gleams through many a page,
Has sanctified whole poems for an age.
I lose my patience, and I own 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? 120
One tragic sentence if I dare deride
Which Betterton's grave action dignified,
Or well-mouth'd 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. 130
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 remain'd so worthy to be read
By learned critics of the mighty dead?
In days of ease, when now the weary sword
Was sheathed, and luxury with Charles restored; 140
In every taste of foreign courts improved,
'All, by the king's example, lived and loved.'
Then peers grew proud in horsemanship t' excel,
Newmarket's glory rose, as Britain's fell;
The soldier breathed the gallantries of France,
And every flowery courtier writ romance.
Then marble, soften'd into life, grew warm,
And yielding metal flow'd to human form:
Lely on animated canvas stole
The sleepy eye, that spoke the melting soul. 150
No wonder then, when all was love and sport,
The willing Muses were debauch'd at court:
On each enervate string they taught the note
To pant, or tremble through an eunuch's throat.
But Britain, changeful as a child at play,
Now calls in princes, and now turns away.
Now Whig, now Tory, what we loved we hate;
Now all for pleasure, now for Church and State;
Now for prerogative, and now for laws;
Effects unhappy! from a noble cause. 160
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: 170
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. 180
He served a 'prenticeship, who sets up shop;
Ward tried on puppies, and the poor, his drop;
E'en Radcliffe's doctors travel first to France,
Nor dare to practise till they've learn'd 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: 190
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. 200
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; 210
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, 220
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 attack'd, a poet saved.'
Behold the hand that wrought a nation's cure,
Stretch'd 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: 230
The boys and girls whom charity maintains,
Implore your help in these pathetic strains:
How could devotion touch the country pews,
Unless the gods bestow'd 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. 240
Our rural ancestors, with little blest,
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,
Smooth'd every brow, and open'd every soul:
With growing years the pleasing license grew,
And taunts alternate innocently flew. 250
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 fear'd it, took the alarm,
Appeal'd to law, and justice lent her arm.
At length, by wholesome dread of statutes bound,
The poets learn'd to please, and not to wound:
Most warp'd to flattery's side; but some, more nice,
Preserved the freedom, and forbore the vice. 260
Hence satire rose, that just the medium hit,
And heals with morals what it hurts with wit.
We conquer'd France, but felt our captive's charms;
Her arts victorious triumph'd o'er our arms;
Britain to soft refinements less a foe,
Wit grew polite, and numbers learn'd 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 270
And splayfoot verse remain'd, 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,
Show'd us that France had something to admire.
Not but the tragic spirit was our own,
And full in Shakspeare, fair in Otway shone:
But Otway fail'd to polish or refine,
And fluent Shakspeare scarce effaced a line.
Even copious Dryden wanted, or forgot, 280
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 the 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, 290
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 poets' work is done,
Alike to them, by pathos or by pun.
O you! whom Vanity's light bark conveys
On Fame's mad voyage by the wind of praise,
With what a shifting gale your course you ply,
For ever sunk too low, or borne too high!
Who pants for glory finds but short repose, 300
A breath revives him, or a breath o'erthrows.
Farewell the stage! if just as thrives the play,
The silly bard grows fat, or falls away.
There still remains, to mortify a wit,
The many-headed monster of the pit:
A senseless, worthless, and unhonour'd crowd;
Who, to disturb their betters mighty proud,
Clattering their sticks before ten lines are spoke.
Call for the farce, the bear, or the black-joke.
What dear delight to Britons farce affords! 310
Ever the taste of mobs, but now of lords;
(Taste, that eternal wanderer, which flies
From heads to ears, and now from ears to eyes).
The play stands still; damn action and discourse,
Back fly the scenes, and enter foot and horse;
Pageants on pageants, in long order drawn,
Peers, heralds, bishops, ermine, gold, and lawn;
The champion too; and, to complete the jest,
Old Edward's armour beams on Cibber's breast
With laughter, sure, Democritus had died, 320
Had he beheld an audience gape so wide.
Let bear or elephant be e'er so white,
The people, sure, the people are the sight!
Ah, luckless poet! stretch thy lungs and roar,
That bear or elephant shall heed thee more;
While all its throats the gallery extends,
And all the thunder of the pit ascends!
Loud as the wolves, on Orcas' stormy steep,
Howl to the roarings of the Northern deep.
Such is the shout, the long-applauding note, 330
At Quin's high plume, or Oldfield's petticoat;
Or when from court a birthday suit bestow'd,
Sinks the lost actor in the tawdry load.
Booth enters--hark! the universal peal!
'But has he spoken?' Not a syllable.
What shook the stage, and made the people stare?
Cato's long wig, flower'd gown, and lacquer'd chair.
Yet lest you think I rally more than teach,
Or praise malignly arts I cannot reach,
Let me for once presume to instruct the times, 340
To know the poet from the man of rhymes:
'Tis he, who gives my breast a thousand pains,
Can make me feel each passion that he feigns;
Enrage, compose, with more than magic art,
With pity, and with terror, tear my heart:
And snatch me, o'er the earth, or through the air,
To Thebes, to Athens, when he will, and where.
But not this part of the poetic state
Alone, deserves the favour of the great:
Think of those authors, sir, who would rely 350
More on a reader's sense, than gazer's eye.
Or who shall wander where the Muses sing?
Who climb their mountain, or who taste their spring?
How shall we fill a library with wit,
When Merlin's cave is half unfurnish'd yet?
My liege! why writers little claim your thought,
I guess; and, with their leave, will tell the fault:
We poets are (upon a poet's word)
Of all mankind, the creatures most absurd:
The season, when to come, and when to go, 360
To sing, or cease to sing, we never know;
And if we will recite nine hours in ten,
You lose your patience, just like other men.
Then, too, we hurt ourselves, when to defend
A single verse, we quarrel with a friend;
Repeat unask'd; lament, the wit's too fine
For vulgar eyes, and point out every line.
But most, when straining with too weak a wing,
We needs will write epistles to the king;
And from the moment we oblige the town, 370
Expect a place, or pension from the crown;
Or dubb'd historians by express command,
To enrol your triumphs o'er the seas and land,
Be call'd to court to plan some work divine,
As once for Louis, Boileau and Racine.
Yet think, great sir! (so many virtues shown)
Ah think, what poet best may make them known?
Or choose, at least, some minister of grace,
Fit to bestow the Laureate's weighty place.
Charles, to late times to be transmitted fair, 380
Assign'd his figure to Bernini's care;
And great Nassau to Kneller's hand decreed
To fix him graceful on the bounding steed;
So well in paint and stone they judged of merit:
But kings in wit may want discerning spirit.
The hero William, and the martyr Charles,
One knighted Blackmore, and one pension'd Quarles;
Which made old Ben and surly Dennis swear,
'No Lord's anointed, but a Russian bear.'
Not with such majesty, such bold relief, 390
The forms august of king, or conquering chief.
E'er swell'd on marble, as in verse have shined
(In polish'd verse) the manners and the mind.
Oh! could I mount on the Maeonian wing,
Your arms, your actions, your repose to sing!
What seas you traversed, and what fields you fought!
Your country's peace, how oft, how dearly bought!
How barbarous rage subsided at your word,
And nations wonder'd while they dropp'd the sword!
How, when you nodded, o'er the land and deep, 400
Peace stole her wing, and wrapp'd the world in sleep;
Till earth's extremes your mediation own,
And Asia's tyrants tremble at your throne--
But verse, alas! your Majesty disdains;
And I'm not used to panegyric strains:
The zeal of fools offends at any time,
But most of all, the zeal of fools in rhyme.
Besides, a fate attends on all I write,
That when I aim at praise, they say I bite.
A vile encomium doubly ridicules: 410
There's nothing blackens like the ink of fools.
If true, a woful likeness; and if lies,
'Praise undeserved is scandal in disguise:'
Well may he blush who gives it, or receives;
And when I flatter, let my dirty leaves
(Like journals, odes, and such forgotten things
As Eusden, Philips, Settle, writ of kings)
Clothe spice, line trunks, or fluttering in a row,
Befringe the rails of Bedlam and Soho.
* * * * *
THE SECOND EPISTLE OF THE SECOND BOOK OF HORACE.
'Ludentis speciem dabit, et torquebitur.'
Dear Colonel, Cobham's and your country's friend!
You love a verse, take such as I can send.
A Frenchman comes, presents you with his boy,
Bows and begins--'The lad, sir, is of Blois:
Observe his shape how clean! his locks how curl'd!
My only son;--I'd have him see the world:
His French is pure: his voice, too, you shall hear.
Sir, he's your slave, for twenty pound a-year.
Mere wax as yet, you fashion him with ease,
Your barber, cook, upholsterer, what you please: 10
A perfect genius at an opera song--
To say too much, might do my honour wrong.
Take him with all his virtues, on my word;
His whole ambition was to serve a lord;
But, sir, to you, with what would I not part?
Though, faith! I fear, 'twill break his mother's heart.
Once (and but once) I caught him in a lie,
And then, unwhipp'd, he had the grace to cry;
The fault he has I fairly shall reveal,
(Could you o'erlook but that) it is to steal.' 20
If, after this, you took the graceless lad,
Could you complain, my friend, he proved so bad?
Faith, in such case, if you should prosecute,
I think Sir Godfrey should decide the suit;
Who sent the thief that stole the cash away,
And punish'd him that put it in his way.
Consider then, and judge me in this light;
I told you when I went, I could not write;
You said the same; and are you discontent
With laws, to which you gave your own assent? 30
Nay worse, to ask for verse at such a time!
D' ye think me good for nothing but to rhyme?
In Anna's wars, a soldier, poor and old,
Had dearly earn'd a little purse of gold:
Tired with a tedious march, one luckless night,
He slept, poor dog! and lost it to a doit.
This put the man in such a desperate mind,
Between revenge, and grief, and hunger join'd,
Against the foe, himself, and all mankind,
He leap'd the trenches, scaled a castle-wall, 40
Tore down a standard, took the fort and all.
'Prodigious well!' his great commander cried,
Gave him much praise, and some reward beside.
Next, pleased his excellence a town to batter;
(Its name I know not, and it's no great matter)
'Go on, my friend,' (he cried) 'see yonder walls!
Advance and conquer! go where glory calls!
More honours, more rewards attend the brave.'
Don't you remember what reply he gave?
'D' ye think me, noble general, such a sot? 50
Let him take castles who has ne'er a groat.'
Bred up at home, full early I begun
To read in Greek the wrath of Peleus' son.
Besides, my father taught me from a lad,
The better art to know the good from bad:
(And little sure imported to remove,
To hunt for truth in Maudlin's learned grove.)
But knottier points we knew not half so well,
Deprived us soon of our paternal cell;
And certain laws, by sufferers thought unjust. 60
Denied all posts of profit or of trust:
Hopes after hopes of pious Papists fail'd,
While mighty William's thundering arm prevail'd.
For right hereditary tax'd and fined,
He stuck to poverty with peace of mind;
And me, the Muses help'd to undergo it:
Convict a Papist he, and I a poet.
But (thanks to Homer) since I live and thrive.
Indebted to no prince or peer alive,
Sure I should want the care of ten Monroes, 70
If I would scribble, rather than repose.
Years following years, steal something every day,
At last they steal us from ourselves away;
In one our frolics, one amusements end,
In one a mistress drops, in one a friend:
This subtle thief of life, this paltry time,
What will it leave me, if it snatch my rhyme?
If every wheel of that unwearied mill
That turn'd ten thousand verses, now stands still?
But, after all, what would you have me do? 80
When out of twenty I can please not two;
When this heroics only deigns to praise,
Sharp satire that, and that Pindaric lays?
One likes the pheasant's wing, and one the leg;
The vulgar boil, the learned roast an egg;
Hard task! to hit the palate of such guests,
When Oldfield loves, what Dartineuf detests.
But grant I may relapse, for want of grace,
Again to rhyme; can London be the place?
Who there his Muse, or self, or soul attends, 90
In crowds, and courts, law, business, feasts, and friends?
My counsel sends to execute a deed:
A poet begs me I will hear him read:
In Palace-yard at nine you'll find me there--
At ten for certain, sir, in Bloomsbury Square--
Before the Lords at twelve my cause comes on--
There's a rehearsal, sir, exact at one.--
'Oh, but a wit can study in the streets,
And raise his mind above the mob he meets.'
Not quite so well, however, as one ought; 100
A hackney-coach may chance to spoil a thought:
And then a nodding beam, or pig of lead,
God knows, may hurt the very ablest head.
Have you not seen, at Guildhall's narrow pass,
Two aldermen dispute it with an ass?
And peers give way, exalted as they are,
Even to their own s-r-v--nce in a car?
Go, lofty poet! and in such a crowd,
Sing thy sonorous verse--but not aloud.
Alas! to grottos and to groves we run, 110
To ease and silence, every Muse's son:
Blackmore himself, for any grand effort,
Would drink and doze at Tooting or Earl's Court.
How shall I rhyme in this eternal roar?
How match the bards whom none e'er match'd before?
The man, who, stretch'd in Isis' calm retreat,
To books and study gives seven years complete,
See! strew'd with learned dust, his nightcap on,
He walks, an object new beneath the sun!
The boys flock round him, and the people stare: 120
So stiff, so mute! some statue, you would swear,
Stepp'd from its pedestal to take the air!
And here, while town, and court, and city roars,
With mobs, and duns, and soldiers, at their doors:
Shall I, in London, act this idle part?
Composing songs, for fools to get by heart?
The Temple late two brother sergeants saw,
Who deem'd each other oracles of law;
With equal talents, these congenial souls,
One lull'd th' Exchequer, and one stunn'd the Rolls; 130
Each had a gravity would make you split,
And shook his head at Murray, as a wit.
''Twas, sir, your law'--and 'Sir, your eloquence,'
'Yours, Cowper's manner--and yours, Talbot's sense.'
Thus we dispose of all poetic merit,
Yours Milton's genius, and mine Homer's spirit.
Call Tibbald Shakspeare, and he'll swear the Nine,
Dear Cibber! never match'd one ode of thine.
Lord! how we strut through Merlin's cave, to see
No poets there, but, Stephen, you, and me. 140
Walk with respect behind, while we at ease
Weave laurel crowns, and take what names we please.
'My dear Tibullus!' if that will not do,
'Let me be Horace, and be Ovid you:'
Or 'I'm content, allow me Dryden's strains,
And you shall rise up Otway for your pains.'
Much do I suffer, much, to keep in peace
This jealous, waspish, wrong-head, rhyming race;
And much must flatter, if the whim should bite
To court applause by printing what I write: 150
But let the fit pass o'er, I'm wise enough
To stop my ears to their confounded stuff.
In vain bad rhymers all mankind reject,
They treat themselves with most profound respect;
'Tis to small purpose that you hold your tongue,
Each, praised within, is happy all day long,
But how severely with themselves proceed
The men, who write such verse as we can read?
Their own strict judges, not a word they spare
That wants, or force, or light, or weight, or care, 160
Howe'er unwillingly it quits its place,
Nay though at court (perhaps) it may find grace:
Such they'll degrade; and sometimes, in its stead,
In downright charity revive the dead;
Mark where a bold expressive phrase appears,
Bright through the rubbish of some hundred years;
Command old words, that long have slept, to wake,
Words that wise Bacon or brave Raleigh spake;
Or bid the new be English, ages hence,
(For use will father what's begot by sense) 170
Pour the full tide of eloquence along,
Serenely pure, and yet divinely strong,
Rich with the treasures of each foreign tongue;
Prune the luxuriant, the uncouth refine,
But show no mercy to an empty line:
Then polish all, with so much life and ease,
You think 'tis nature, and a knack to please:
But ease in writing flows from art, not chance;
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.
If such the plague and pains to write by rule, 180
Better (say I) be pleased, and play the fool;
Call, if you will, bad rhyming a disease,
It gives men happiness, or leaves them ease.
There lived _in primo Georgii_ (they record)
A worthy member, no small fool, a lord;
Who, though the House was up, delighted sat,
Heard, noted, answer'd, as in full debate:
In all but this, a man of sober life,
Fond of his friend, and civil to his wife;
Not quite a madman, though a pasty fell, 190
And much too wise to walk into a well.
Him, the damn'd doctors and his friends immured,
They bled, they cupp'd, they purged; in short, they cured:
Whereat the gentleman began to stare--
'My friends!' he cried, 'pox take you for your care!
That from a patriot of distinguish'd note,
Have bled and purged me to a simple vote.'
Well, on the whole, plain prose must be my fate:
Wisdom (curse on it!) will come soon or late.
There is a time when poets will grow dull: 200
I'll e'en leave verses to the boys at school:
To rules of poetry no more confined,
I learn to smooth and harmonise my mind,
Teach every thought within its bounds to roll,
And keep the equal measure of the soul.
Soon as I enter at my country door,
My mind resumes the thread it dropped before;
Thoughts, which at Hyde-park-corner I forgot,
Meet, and rejoin me, in the pensive grot,
There all alone, and compliments apart, 210
I ask these sober questions of my heart:
If, when the more you drink, the more you crave,
You tell the doctor; when the more you have,
The more you want, why not with equal ease
Confess as well your folly, as disease?
The heart resolves this matter in a trice,
'Men only feel the smart, but not the vice.'
When golden angels cease to cure the evil,
You give all royal witchcraft to the devil:
When servile chaplains cry, that birth and place 220
Indue a peer with honour, truth, and grace,
Look in that breast, most dirty D----! be fair,
Say, can you find out one such lodger there?
Yet still, not heeding what your heart can teach,
You go to church to hear these flatterers preach.
Indeed, could wealth bestow or wit or merit,
A grain of courage, or a spark of spirit,
The wisest man might blush, I must agree,
If D---- loved sixpence more than he.
If there be truth in law, and use can give 230
A property, that's yours on which you live.
Delightful Abbs Court, if its fields afford
Their fruits to you, confesses you its lord:
All Worldly's hens, nay, partridge, sold to town,
His ven'son, too, a guinea makes your own:
He bought at thousands, what with better wit
You purchase as you want, and bit by bit;
Now, or long since, what difference will be found?
You pay a penny, and he paid a pound.
Heathcote himself, and such large-acred men, 240
Lords of fat Ev'sham, or of Lincoln fen,
Buy every stick of wood that lends them heat,
Buy every pullet they afford to eat.
Yet these are wights who fondly call their own
Half that the devil o'erlooks from Lincoln town.
The laws of God, as well as of the land,
Abhor a perpetuity should stand:
Estates have wings, and hang in fortune's power
Loose on the point of every wavering hour,
Ready, by force, or of your own accord, 250
By sale, at least by death, to change their lord.
Man? and for ever? wretch! what wouldst thou have?
Heir urges heir, like wave impelling wave.
All vast possessions (just the same the case
Whether you call them villa, park, or chase)
Alas, my Bathurst! what will they avail!
Join Cotswood hills to Saperton's fair dale,
Let rising granaries and temples here,
There mingled farms and pyramids appear,
Link towns to towns with avenues of oak, 260
Enclose whole downs in walls,--'tis all a joke!
Inexorable death shall level all,
And trees, and stones, and farms, and farmer fall.
Gold, silver, ivory, vases sculptured high,
Paint, marble, gems, and robes of Persian dye,
There are who have not--and, thank Heaven, there are,
Who, if they have not, think not worth their care.
Talk what you will of taste, my friend, you'll find,
Two of a face, as soon as of a mind.
Why, of two brothers, rich and restless one 270
Ploughs, burns, manures, and toils from sun to sun;
The other slights, for women, sports, and wines,
All Townshend's turnips, and all Grosvenor's mines:
Why one like Bu----, with pay and scorn content,
Bows and votes on, in court and parliament;
One, driven by strong benevolence of soul,
Shall fly, like Oglethorpe, from pole to pole:
Is known alone to that Directing Power,
Who forms the genius in the natal hour;
That God of Nature, who, within us still, 280
Inclines our action, not constrains our will;
Various of temper, as of face or frame,
Each individual: His great end the same.
Yes, sir, how small soever be my heap,
A part I will enjoy, as well as keep.
My heir may sigh, and think it want of grace
A man so poor would live without a place:
But sure no statute in his favour says,
How free, or frugal, I shall pass my days:
I, who at some times spend, at others spare, 290
Divided between carelessness and care.
'Tis one thing madly to disperse my store:
Another, not to heed to treasure more;
Glad, like a boy, to snatch the first good day,
And pleased, if sordid want be far away.
What is't to me (a passenger, God wot!)
Whether my vessel be first-rate or not?
The ship itself may make a better figure,
But I that sail am neither less nor bigger.
I neither strut with every favouring breath, 300
Nor strive with all the tempest in my teeth.
In power, wit, figure, virtue, fortune, placed
Behind the foremost, and before the last.
'But why all this of avarice? I have none.'
I wish you joy, sir, of a tyrant gone;
But does no other lord it at this hour,
As wild and mad--the avarice of power?
Does neither rage inflame, nor fear appal?
Not the black fear of death, that saddens all?
With terrors round, can reason hold her throne, 310
Despise the known, nor tremble at the unknown?
Survey both worlds, intrepid and entire,
In spite of witches, devils, dreams, and fire?
Pleased to look forward, pleased to look behind,
And count each birthday with a grateful mind?
Has life no sourness, drawn so near its end?
Canst thou endure a foe, forgive a friend?
Has age but melted the rough parts away,
As winter-fruits grow mild ere they decay?
Or will you think, my friend, your business done, 320
When, of a hundred thorns, you pull out one?
Learn to live well, or fairly make your will;
You've play'd, and loved, and eat, and drank your fill:
Walk sober off, before a sprightlier age
Comes tittering on, and shoves you from the stage:
Leave such to trifle with more grace and ease,
Whom folly pleases, and whose follies please.
* * * * *
BOOK I. EPISTLE VII.
IMITATED IN THE MANNER OF DR SWIFT.
'Tis true, my lord, I gave my word,
I would be with you, June the third;
Changed it to August, and (in short)
Have kept it--as you do at court.
You humour me when I am sick,
Why not when I am splenetic?
In town, what objects could I meet?
The shops shut up in every street,
And funerals blackening all the doors,
And yet more melancholy whores: 10
And what a dust in every place!
And a thin court that wants your face,
And fevers raging up and down,
And W---- and H---- both in town!
'The dog-days are no more the case.'
'Tis true, but winter comes apace:
Then southward let your bard retire,
Hold out some months 'twixt sun and fire,
And you shall see, the first warm weather,
Me and the butterflies together. 20
My lord, your favours well I know;
'Tis with distinction you bestow;
And not to every one that comes,
Just as a Scotchman does his plums.
'Pray, take them, sir,--enough's a feast:
Eat some, and pocket up the rest.'
What! rob your boys? those pretty rogues
'No, sir, you'll leave them to the hogs.'
Thus fools with compliments besiege ye,
Contriving never to oblige ye. 30
Scatter your favours on a fop,
Ingratitude's the certain crop;
And 'tis but just, I'll tell ye wherefore,
You give the things you never care for.
A wise man always is, or should,
Be mighty ready to do good;
But makes a difference in his thought
Betwixt a guinea and a groat.
Now this I'll say, you'll find in me
A safe companion, and a free; 40
But if you'd have me always near--
A word, pray, in your honour's ear.
I hope it is your resolution
To give me back my constitution!
The sprightly wit, the lively eye,
Th' engaging smile, the gaiety,
That laugh'd down many a summer sun,
And kept you up so oft till one:
And all that voluntary vein,
As when Belinda raised my strain. 50
A weasel once made shift to slink
In at a corn-loft through a chink;
But having amply stuff'd his skin,
Could not get out as he got in:
Which one belonging to the house
('Twas not a man, it was a mouse)
Observing, cried, 'You 'scape not so;
Lean as you came, sir, you must go.'
Sir, you may spare your application,
I'm no such beast, nor his relation; 60
Nor one that temperance advance,
Cramm'd to the throat with ortolans:
Extremely ready to resign
All that may make me none of mine.
South-Sea subscriptions take who please,
Leave me but liberty and ease.
'Twas what I said to Craggs and Child,
Who praised my modesty, and smiled.
Give me, I cried, (enough for me)
My bread, and independency! 70
So bought an annual rent or two,
And lived--just as you see I do;
Near fifty, and without a wife,
I trust that sinking fund, my life.
Can I retrench? Yes, mighty well,
Shrink back to my paternal cell,
A little house, with trees a-row,
And, like its master, very low.
There died my father, no man's debtor,
And there I'll die, nor worse, nor better. 80
To set this matter full before ye,
Our old friend Swift will tell his story.
'Harley, the nation's great support'--
But you may read it,--I stop short.
* * * * *
BOOK II. SATIRE VI. THE FIRST PART IMITATED IN THE YEAR 1714, BY DR
SWIFT; THE LATTER PART ADDED AFTERWARDS.
I've often wish'd that I had clear,
For life, six hundred pounds a-year,
A handsome house to lodge a friend,
A river at my garden's end,
A terrace-walk, and half a rood
Of land, set out to plant a wood.
Well, now I have all this and more,
I ask not to increase my store;
But here a grievance seems to lie,
All this is mine but till I die; 10
I can't but think 'twould sound more clever,
To me and to my heirs for ever.
If I ne'er got or lost a groat,
By any trick, or any fault;
And if I pray by reason's rules,
And not like forty other fools:
As thus, 'Vouchsafe, O gracious Maker!
To grant me this and t' other acre:
Or, if it be thy will and pleasure,
Direct my plough to find a treasure:' 20
But only what my station fits,
And to be kept in my right wits.
Preserve, Almighty Providence!
Just what you gave me, competence:
And let me in these shades compose
Something in verse as true as prose;
Removed from all the ambitious scene,
Nor puff'd by pride, nor sunk by spleen.
In short, I'm perfectly content,
Let me but live on this side Trent; 30
Nor cross the Channel twice a-year,
To spend six months with statesmen here.
I must by all means come to town,
'Tis for the service of the crown.
'Lewis, the Dean will be of use,
Send for him up, take no excuse.'
The toil, the danger of the seas;
Great ministers ne'er think of these;
Or let it cost five hundred pound,
No matter where the money's found, 40
It is but so much more in debt,
And that they ne'er consider'd yet.
'Good Mr Dean, go change your gown,
Let my lord know you're come to town.'
I hurry me in haste away,
Not thinking it is levee-day;
And find his honour in a pound,
Hemm'd by a triple circle round,
Checquer'd with ribbons blue and green:
How should I thrust myself between? 50
Same wag observes me thus perplex'd,
And smiling, whispers to the next,
'I thought the Dean had been too proud,
To jostle here among a crowd.'
Another in a surly fit,
Tells me I have more zeal than wit,
'So eager to express your love,
You ne'er consider whom you shove,
But rudely press before a duke.'
I own, I'm pleased with this rebuke, 60
And take it kindly meant to show
What I desire the world should know.
I get a whisper, and withdraw;
When twenty fools I never saw
Come with petitions fairly penn'd,
Desiring I would stand their friend.
This, humbly offers me his case--
That, begs my interest for a place--
A hundred other men's affairs,
Like bees, are humming in my ears. 70
'To-morrow my appeal comes on,
Without your help the cause is gone'--
The duke expects my lord and you,
About some great affair, at two--
'Put my Lord Bolingbroke in mind,
To get my warrant quickly sign'd:
Consider, 'tis my first request.'--
Be satisfied, I'll do my best:
Then presently he falls to tease,
'You may for certain, if you please; 80
I doubt not, if his lordship knew--
And, Mr Dean, one word from you'--
'Tis (let me see) three years and more,
(October next it will be four)
Since Harley bid me first attend,
And chose me for an humble friend;
Would take me in his coach to chat,
And question me of this and that;
As, 'What's o'clock?' and, 'How's the wind?'
'Who's chariot's that we left behind?' 90
Or gravely try to read the lines
Writ underneath the country signs;
Or, 'Have you nothing new to-day
From Pope, from Parnell, or from Gay?'
Such tattle often entertains
My lord and me as far as Staines,
As once a week we travel down
To Windsor, and again to town,
Where all that passes, _inter nos_,
Might be proclaim'd at Charing Cross. 100
Yet some I know with envy swell,
Because they see me used so well:
'How think you of our friend the dean?
I wonder what some people mean;
My lord and he are grown so great,
Always together, tete-a-tete:
What, they admire him for his jokes--
See but the fortune of some folks!'
There flies about a strange report
Of some express arrived at court; 110
I'm stopp'd by all the fools I meet,
And catechised in every street.
'You, Mr Dean, frequent the great;
Inform us, will the Emperor treat?
Or do the prints and papers lie?'
Faith, sir, you know as much as I.
'Ah, Doctor, how you love to jest!
Tis now no secret'--I protest
'Tis one to me--'Then tell us, pray,
When are the troops to have their pay?' 120
And, though I solemnly declare
I know no more than my Lord Mayor,
They stand amazed, and think me grown
The closest mortal ever known.
Thus in a sea of folly toss'd,
My choicest hours of life are lost;
Yet always wishing to retreat,
Oh, could I see my country-seat!
There, leaning near a gentle brook,
Sleep, or peruse some ancient book, 130
And there in sweet oblivion drown
Those cares that haunt the court and town.
O charming noons! and nights divine!
Or when I sup, or when I dine,
My friends above, my folks below,
Chatting and laughing all a-row;
The beans and bacon set before 'em,
The grace-cup served with all decorum:
Each willing to be pleased, and please,
And even the very dogs at ease! 140
Here no man prates of idle things,
How this or that Italian sings,
A neighbour's madness, or his spouse's,
Or what's in either of the Houses:
But something much more our concern,
And quite a scandal not to learn:
Which is the happier or the wiser,
A man of merit, or a miser?
Whether we ought to choose our friends,
For their own worth, or our own ends? 150
What good, or better, we may call,
And what, the very best of all?
Our friend Dan Prior told (you know)
A tale extremely _a propos_:
Name a town life, and in a trice,
He had a story of two mice.
Once on a time (so runs the fable)
A country mouse, right hospitable,
Received a town mouse at his board,
Just as a farmer might a lord. 160
A frugal mouse upon the whole.
Yet loved his friend, and had a soul,
Knew what was handsome, and would do 't,
On just occasion, coute qui coute,
He brought him bacon (nothing lean);
Pudding, that might have pleased a dean;
Cheese, such as men in Suffolk make,
But wish'd it Stilton, for his sake;
Yet, to his guest though no way sparing,
He eat himself the rind and paring, 170
Our courtier scarce could touch a bit,
But show'd his breeding and his wit;
He did his best to seem to eat,
And cried, 'I vow you're mighty neat.
But, lord! my friend, this savage scene!
For God's sake, come, and live with men:
Consider, mice, like men, must die,
Both small and great, both you and I:
Then spend your life in joy and sport,
(This doctrine, friend, I learn'd at court).' 180
The veriest hermit in the nation
May yield, God knows, to strong temptation.
Away they come, through thick and thin,
To a tall house near Lincoln's Inn;
('Twas on the night of a debate,
When all their lordships had sat late.)
Behold the place where, if a poet
Shined in description, he might show it;
Tell how the moonbeam trembling falls,
And tips with silver all the walls; 190
Palladian walls, Venetian doors,
Grotesco roofs, and stucco floors:
But let it (in a word) be said,
The moon was up, and men a-bed,
The napkins white, the carpet red:
The guests withdrawn had left the treat,
And down the mice sat, _tete-a-tete_.
Our courtier walks from dish to dish,
Tastes for his friend of fowl and fish;
Tells all their names, lays down the law, 200
'_Que ca est bon! Ah goutez ca!_
That jelly's rich, this malmsey healing,
Pray, dip your whiskers and your tail in.'
Was ever such a happy swain?
He stuffs and swills, and stuffs again.
'I'm quite ashamed--'tis mighty rude
To eat so much--but all's so good.
I have a thousand thanks to give--
My lord alone knows how to live.'
No sooner said, but from the hall 210
Rush chaplain, butler, dogs, and all:
'A rat! a rat! clap to the door'--
The cat comes bouncing on the floor.
O for the heart of Homer's mice,
Or gods to save them in a trice!
(It was by Providence they think,
For your damn'd stucco has no chink.)
'An't please your honour, quoth the peasant,
This same dessert is not so pleasant:
Give me again my hollow tree, 220
A crust of bread, and liberty!'
* * * * *
BOOK IV. ODE I. TO VENUS.
Again? new tumults in my breast?
Ah, spare me, Venus! let me, let me rest!
I am not now, alas! the man
As in the gentle reign of my Queen Anne.
Ah, sound no more thy soft alarms,
Nor circle sober fifty with thy charms.
Mother too fierce of dear desires!
Turn, turn to willing hearts your wanton fires,
To Number Five direct your doves,
There spread round Murray all your blooming loves 10
Noble and young, who strikes the heart
With every sprightly, every decent part;
Equal, the injured to defend,
To charm the mistress, or to fix the friend.
He, with a hundred arts refined,
Shall stretch thy conquests over half the kind;
To him each rival shall submit,
Make but his riches equal to his wit.
Then shall thy form the marble grace,
(Thy Grecian form) and Chloe lend the face: 20
His house, embosom'd in the grove,
Sacred to social life and social love,
Shall glitter o'er the pendant green,
Where Thames reflects the visionary scene:
Thither, the silver-sounding lyres
Shall call the smiling Loves, and young Desires;
There, every Grace and Muse shall throng,
Exalt the dance, or animate the song;
There, youths and nymphs, in consort gay,
Shall hail the rising, close the parting day. 30
With me, alas! those joys are o'er;
For me, the vernal garlands bloom no more.
Adieu! fond hope of mutual fire,
The still believing, still-renew'd desire;
Adieu! the heart-expanding bowl,
And all the kind deceivers of the soul!
But why? ah, tell me, ah, too dear!
Steals down my cheek th' involuntary tear?
Why words so flowing, thoughts so free,
Stop, or turn nonsense, at one glance of thee? 40
Thee, dress'd in fancy's airy beam,
Absent I follow through th' extended dream;
Now, now I seize, I clasp thy charms,
And now you burst (ah, cruel!) from my arms;
And swiftly shoot along the Mall,
Or softly glide by the canal,
Now shown by Cynthia's silver ray,
And now on rolling waters snatch'd away.
* * * * *
PART OF THE NINTH ODE OF THE FOURTH BOOK.
1 Lest you should think that verse shall die,
Which sounds the silver Thames along,
Taught, on the wings of truth to fly
Above the reach of vulgar song;
2 Though daring Milton sits sublime,
In Spenser, native Muses play;
Nor yet shall Waller yield to time,
Nor pensive Cowley's moral lay.
3 Sages and chiefs long since had birth
Ere Caesar was, or Newton named;
These raised new empires o'er the earth,
And those, new heavens and systems framed.
4 Vain was the chief's, the sage's pride!
They had no poet, and they died.
In vain they schemed, in vain they bled!
They had no poet, and are dead.
THE SATIRES OF DR JOHN DONNE, DEAN OF ST PAUL'S, VERSIFIED.
'Quid vetat et nosmet Lucili scripta legentes Quaerere, num illius, num
rerum dura negarit Versiculos natura magis factos, et euntes Mollius?'
Yes; thank my stars! as early as I knew
This town, I had the sense to hate it too:
Yet here, as ev'n in Hell, there must be still
One giant-vice, so excellently ill,
That all beside, one pities, not abhors;
As who knows Sappho, smiles at other whores.
I grant that poetry's a crying sin;
It brought (no doubt) the Excise and Army in:
Catch'd like the plague, or love, the Lord knows how,
But that the cure is starving, all allow. 10
Yet like the papist's is the poet's state,
Poor and disarm'd, and hardly worth your hate!
Here a lean bard, whose wit could never give
Himself a dinner, makes an actor live;
The thief condemn'd, in law already dead,
So prompts, and saves a rogue who cannot read.
Thus as the pipes of some carved organ move,
The gilded puppets dance and mount above.
Heaved by the breath the inspiring bellows blow:
The inspiring bellows lie and pant below. 20
One sings the fair; but songs no longer move;
No rat is rhymed to death, nor maid to love:
In love's, in nature's spite, the siege they hold,
And scorn the flesh, the devil, and all--but gold.
These write to lords, some mean reward to get,
As needy beggars sing at doors for meat.
Those write because all write, and so have still
Excuse for writing, and for writing ill.
Wretched indeed! but far more wretched yet
Is he who makes his meal on others' wit: 30
'Tis changed, no doubt, from what it was before,
His rank digestion makes it wit no more:
Sense, pass'd through him, no longer is the same;
For food digested takes another name.
I pass o'er all those confessors and martyrs,
Who live like Sutton, or who die like Chartres,
Out-cant old Esdras, or out-drink his heir,
Out-usure Jews, or Irishmen out-swear;
Wicked as pages, who in early years
Act sins which Prisca's confessor scarce hears. 40
Ev'n those I pardon, for whose sinful sake
Schoolmen new tenements in hell must make;
Of whose strange crimes no canonist can tell
In what commandment's large contents they dwell.
One, one man only breeds my just offence;
Whom crimes gave wealth, and wealth gave impudence:
Time, that at last matures a clap to pox,
Whose gentle progress makes a calf an ox,
And brings all natural events to pass,
Hath made him an attorney of an ass. 50
No young divine, new-beneficed, can be
More pert, more proud, more positive than he.
What further could I wish the fop to do,
But turn a wit, and scribble verses too;
Pierce the soft labyrinth of a lady's ear
With rhymes of this per cent, and that per year?
Or court a wife, spread out his wily parts,
Like nets or lime-twigs, for rich widows' hearts:
Call himself barrister to every wench,
And woo in language of the Pleas and Bench? 60
Language, which Boreas might to Auster hold
More rough than forty Germans when they scold.
Cursed be the wretch, so venal and so vain:
Paltry and proud, as drabs in Drury-lane.
'Tis such a bounty as was never known,
If Peter deigns to help you to your own:
What thanks, what praise, if Peter but supplies,
And what a solemn face, if he denies!
Grave, as when prisoners shake the head and swear
'Twas only suretiship that brought 'em there. 70
His office keeps your parchment fates entire,
He starves with cold to save them from the fire;
For you he walks the streets through rain or dust,
For not in chariots Peter puts his trust;
For you he sweats and labours at the laws,
Takes God to witness he affects your cause,
And lies to every lord in every thing,
Like a king's favourite, or like a king.
These are the talents that adorn them all,
From wicked Waters ev'n to godly Paul.
Not more of simony beneath black gowns, 80
Not more of bastardy in heirs to crowns.
In shillings and in pence at first they deal;
And steal so little, few perceive they steal;
Till, like the sea, they compass all the land,
From Scots to Wight, from Mount to Dover strand:
And when rank widows purchase luscious nights,
Or when a duke to Jansen punts at White's,
Or city-heir in mortgage melts away;
Satan himself feels far less joy than they.
Piecemeal they win this acre first, then that, 90
Glean on, and gather up the whole estate.
Then strongly fencing ill-got wealth by law,
Indentures, covenants, articles they draw,
Large as the fields themselves, and larger far
Than civil codes, with all their glosses, are;
So vast, our new divines, we must confess,
Are fathers of the Church for writing less.
But let them write for you, each rogue impairs
The deeds, and dext'rously omits, _ses heires_:
No commentator can more slily pass 100
O'er a learn'd, unintelligible place;
Or, in quotation, shrewd divines leave out
Those words, that would against them clear the doubt.
So Luther thought the Pater-noster long,
When doom'd to say his beads and even-song;
But having cast his cowl, and left those laws,
Adds to Christ's prayer, the Power and Glory clause.
The lands are bought; but where are to be found
Those ancient woods, that shaded all the ground?
We see no new-built palaces aspire, 110
No kitchens emulate the vestal fire.
Where are those troops of poor, that throng'd of yore
The good old landlord's hospitable door?
Well, I could wish, that still in lordly domes
Some beasts were kill'd, though not whole hecatombs;
That both extremes were banish'd from their walls,
Carthusian fasts, and fulsome Bacchanals;
And all mankind might that just mean observe,
In which none e'er could surfeit, none could starve.
These as good works, 'tis true, we all allow; 120
But oh! these works are not in fashion now:
Like rich old wardrobes, things extremely rare,
Extremely fine, but what no man will wear.
Thus much I've said, I trust, without offence;
Let no court sycophant pervert my sense,
Nor sly informer watch these words to draw
Within the reach of treason, or the law.
* * * * *
Well, if it be my time to quit the stage,
Adieu to all the follies of the age!
I die in charity with fool and knave,
Secure of peace at least beyond the grave.
I've had my purgatory here betimes,
And paid for all my satires, all my rhymes.
The poet's hell, its tortures, fiends, and flames.
To this were trifles, toys, and empty names.
With foolish pride my heart was never fired,
Nor the vain itch t' admire, or be admired; 10
I hoped for no commission from his Grace;
I bought no benefice, I begg'd no place;
Had no new verses, nor new suit to show;
Yet went to court!--the devil would have it so.
But, as the fool that, in reforming days,
Would go to mass in jest (as story says)
Could not but think, to pay his fine was odd,
Since 'twas no form'd design of serving God;
So was I punish'd, as if full as proud,
As prone to ill, as negligent of good. 20
As deep in debt, without a thought to pay,
As vain, as idle, and as false as they
Who live at court, for going once that way!
Scarce was I enter'd, when, behold! there came
A thing which Adam had been posed to name;
Noah had refused it lodging in his ark,
Where all the race of reptiles might embark:
A verier monster than on Afric's shore
The sun e'er got, or slimy Nilus bore,
Or Sloane or Woodward's wondrous shelves contain, 30
Nay, all that lying travellers can feign.
The watch would hardly let him pass at noon,
At night, would swear him dropp'd out of the moon.
One whom the mob, when next we find or make
A Popish plot, shall for a Jesuit take,
And the wise justice, starting from his chair,
Cry, By your priesthood, tell me what you are?
Such was the wight; the apparel on his back,
Though coarse, was reverend, and though bare, was black:
The suit, if by the fashion one might guess, 40
Was velvet in the youth of good Queen Bess,
But mere tuff-taffety what now remain'd;
So time, that changes all things, had ordain'd!
Our sons shall see it leisurely decay,
First turn plain rash, then vanish quite away.
This thing has travell'd, speaks each language too,
And knows what's fit for every State to do;
Of whose best phrase and courtly accent join'd,
He forms one tongue, exotic and refined
Talkers I've learn'd to bear; Motteux I knew, 50
Henley himself I've heard, and Budgell too.
The Doctor's wormwood style, the hash of tongues
A pedant makes, the storm of Gonson's lungs,
The whole artillery of the terms of war,
And (all those plagues in one) the bawling Bar:
These I could bear; but not a rogue so civil,
Whose tongue will compliment you to the devil;
A tongue, that can cheat widows, cancel scores,
Make Scots speak treason, cozen subtlest whores,
With royal favourites in flattery vie, 60
And Oldmixon and Burnet both outlie.
He spies me out; I whisper, Gracious God!
What sin of mine could merit such a rod?
That all the shot of dulness now must be
From this thy blunderbuss discharged on me!
Permit (he cries) no stranger to your fame
To crave your sentiment, if ----'s your name.
What speech esteem you most? 'The King's,' said I.
But the best words?--'Oh, sir, the Dictionary.'
You miss my aim; I mean the most acute 70
And perfect speaker?--'Onslow, past dispute.'
But, sir, of writers? 'Swift, for closer style;
But Hoadley, for a period of a mile.'
Why, yes, 'tis granted, these indeed may pass:
Good common linguists, and so Panurge was;
Nay, troth, the Apostles (though perhaps too rough)
Had once a pretty gift of tongues enough:
Yet these were all poor gentlemen! I dare
Affirm, 'twas travel made them what they were.
Thus others' talents having nicely shown, 80
He came by sure transition to his own:
Till I cried out, You prove yourself so able,
Pity you was not druggerman at Babel;
For had they found a linguist half so good,
I make no question but the tower had stood.
'Obliging sir! for courts you sure were made:
Why then for ever buried in the shade?
Spirits like you should see, and should be seen,
The king would smile on you--at least the queen.'
Ah, gentle sir! you courtiers so cajole us-- 90
But Tully has it, _Nunquam minus solus_:
And as for courts, forgive me, if I say
No lessons now are taught the Spartan way:
Though in his pictures lust be full display'd,
Few are the converts Aretine has made;
And though the court show vice exceeding clear,
None should, by my advice, learn virtue there.
At this, entranced, he lifts his hands and eyes,
Squeaks like a high-stretch'd lutestring, and replies:
'Oh, 'tis the sweetest of all earthly things 100
To gaze on princes, and to talk of kings!'
Then, happy man who shows the tombs! said I,
He dwells amidst the royal family;
He every day, from king to king can walk,
Of all our Harries, all our Edwards talk,
And get by speaking truth of monarchs dead,
What few can of the living-ease and bread.
'Lord, sir, a mere mechanic! strangely low,
And coarse of phrase,--your English all are so.
How elegant your Frenchmen!' Mine, d'ye mean? 110
I have but one, I hope the fellow's clean.
'Oh! sir, politely so! nay, let me die:
Your only wearing is your paduasoy.'
Not, sir, my only, I have better still,
And this, you see, is but my dishabille.
Wild to get loose, his patience I provoke,
Mistake, confound, object at all he spoke.
But as coarse iron, sharpen'd, mangles more,
And itch most hurts when anger'd to a sore;
So when you plague a fool, 'tis still the curse, 120
You only make the matter worse and worse.
He pass'd it o'er; affects an easy smile
At all my peevishness, and turns his style.
He asks, 'What news?' I tell him of new plays,
New eunuchs, harlequins, and operas.
He hears, and as a still with simples in it
Between each drop it gives, stays half a minute,
Loth to enrich me with too quick replies,
By little, and by little, drops his lies.
Mere household trash! of birthnights, balls, and shows, 130
More than ten Hollinsheds, or Halls, or Stowes.
When the queen frown'd, or smiled, he knows; and what
A subtle minister may make of that:
Who sins with whom: who got his pension rug,
Or quicken'd a reversion by a drug:
Whose place is quarter'd out, three parts in four,
And whether to a bishop, or a whore:
Who, having lost his credit, pawn'd his rent,
Is therefore fit to have a government:
Who, in the secret, deals in stocks secure, 140
And cheats the unknowing widow and the poor:
Who makes a trust or charity a job,
And gets an act of parliament to rob:
Why turnpikes rise, and now no cit nor clown
Can gratis see the country, or the town:
Shortly no lad shall chuck, or lady vole,
But some excising courtier will have toll.
He tells what strumpet places sells for life,
What 'squire his lands, what citizen his wife:
And last (which proves him wiser still than all) 150
What lady's face is not a whited wall.
As one of Woodward's patients, sick, and sore,
I puke, I nauseate,--yet he thrusts in more:
Trim's Europe's balance, tops the statesman's part.
And talks Gazettes and Postboys o'er by heart.
Like a big wife at sight of loathsome meat
Ready to cast, I yawn, I sigh, and sweat.
Then as a licensed spy, whom nothing can
Silence or hurt, he libels the great man;
Swears every place entail'd for years to come, 160
In sure succession to the day of doom:
He names the price for every office paid,
And says our wars thrive ill, because delay'd:
Nay, hints 'tis by connivance of the court
That Spain robs on, and Dunkirk's still a port.