by William Shenstone
While blooming Spring descends from genial skies,
By whose mild influence instant wonders rise;
From whose soft breath Elysian beauties flow;
The sweets of Hagley, or the pride of Stowe;
Will Lyttleton the rural landscape range,
Leave noisy fame, and not regret the change?
Pleased will he tread the garden's early scenes,
And learn a moral from the rising greens?
There, warm'd alike by Sol's enlivening power,
The weed, aspiring, emulates the flower;
The drooping flower, its fairer charms display'd,
Invites, from grateful hands, their generous aid:
Soon, if none check'd the invasive foe's designs,
The lively lustre of these scenes declines!
'Tis thus the spring of youth, the morn of life,
Rears in our minds the rival seeds of strife:
Then passion riots, reason then contends,
And on the conquest every bliss depends:
Life from the nice decision takes its hue,
And blest those judges who decide like you!
On worth like theirs shall every bliss attend,
The world their favourite, and the world their friend.
There are, who, blind to Thought's fatiguing ray,
As Fortune gives examples, urge their way;
Not Virtue's foes, though they her paths decline,
And scarce her friends, though with her friends they join;
In hers or Vice's casual road advance,
Thoughtless, the sinners or the saints of Chance!
Yet some more nobly scorn the vulgar voice,
With judgment fix, with zeal pursue their choice,
When ripen'd thought, when Reason, born to reign,
Checks the wild tumults of the youthful vein;
While passion's lawless tides, at their command,
Glide through more useful tracks, and bless the land.
Happiest of these is he whose matchless mind,
By learning strengthen'd, and by taste refined,
In Virtue's cause essay'd its earliest powers,
Chose Virtue's paths, and strew'd her paths with flowers.
The first alarm'd, if Freedom waves her wings,
The fittest to adorn each art she brings;
Loved by that prince whom every virtue fires,
Praised by that bard whom every Muse inspires;
Blest in the tuneful art, the social flame;
In all that wins, in all that merits, fame!
'Twas youth's perplexing stage his doubts inspired,
When great Alcides to a grove retired:
Through the lone windings of a devious glade,
Resign'd to thought, with lingering steps he stray'd;
Blest with a mind to taste sincerer joys,
Arm'd with a heart each false one to despise.
Dubious he stray'd, with wavering thoughts possest,
Alternate passions struggling shared his breast;
The various arts which human cares divide,
In deep attention all his mind employ'd;
Anxious, if Fame an equal bliss secured;
Or silent Ease with softer charms allured.
The sylvan choir, whose numbers sweetly flow'd,
The fount that murmur'd, and the flowers that blow'd;
The silver flood that in meanders led
His glittering streams along the enliven'd mead;
The soothing breeze, and all those beauties join'd,
Which, whilst they please, effeminate the mind;
In vain! while distant, on a summit raised,
The imperial towers of Fame attractive blazed.
While thus he traced through Fancy's puzzling maze
The separate sweets of pleasure and of praise,
Sudden the wind a fragrant gale convey'd,
And a new lustre gain'd upon the shade:
At once, before his wondering eyes were seen
Two female forms, of more than mortal mien:
Various their charms, and in their dress and face,
Each seem'd to vie with some peculiar grace.
This, whose attire less clogg'd with art appear'd,
The simple sweets of innocence endear'd;
Her sprightly bloom, her quick sagacious eye,
Show'd native merit mix'd with modesty:
Her air diffused a mild, yet awful ray,
Severely sweet, and innocently gay;
Such the chaste image of the martial maid,
In artless folds of virgin white array'd;
She let no borrow'd rose her cheeks adorn,
Her blushing cheeks, that shamed the purple morn:
Her charms nor had nor wanted artful foils,
Or studied gestures, or well-practised smiles:
She scorn'd the toys which render beauty less;
She proved the engaging chastity of dress;
And while she chose in native charms to shine,
Even thus she seem'd, nay, more than seem'd divine.
One modest emerald clasp'd the robe she wore,
And in her hand the imperial sword she bore.
Sublime her height, majestic was her pace,
And match'd the awful honours of her face.
The shrubs, the flowers, that deck'd the verdant ground,
Seem'd, where she trod, with rising lustre crown'd.
Still her approach with stronger influence warm'd;
She pleased while distant, but when near she charm'd.
So strikes the gazer's eye the silver gleam
That, glittering, quivers o'er a distant stream;
But from its banks we see new beauties rise,
And, in its crystal bosom, trace the skies.
With other charms the rival vision glow'd,
And from her dress her tinsel beauties flow'd.
A fluttering robe her pamper'd shape conceal'd,
And seem'd to shade the charms it best reveal'd:
Its form contrived her faulty size to grace,
Its hue, to give fresh lustre to her face.
Her plaited hair, disguised, with brilliants glared;
Her cheeks the ruby's neighbouring lustre shared;
The gaudy topaz lent its gay supplies,
And every gem that strikes less curious eyes;
Exposed her breast, with foreign sweets perfumed,
And round her brow a roseate garland bloom'd.
Soft smiling, blushing lips conceal'd her wiles;
Yet, ah! the blushes artful as the smiles.
Oft, gazing on her shade, the enraptured fair
Decreed the substance well deserved her care;
Her thoughts, to others' charms malignly blind,
Center'd in that, and were to that confined;
And if on others' eyes a glance were thrown,
'Twas but to watch the influence of her own:
Much like her guardian, fair Cythera's queen,
When for her warrior she refines her mien;
Or when, to bless her Delian favourite's arms,
The radiant fair invigorates her charms:
Much like her pupil, Egypt's sportive dame,
Her dress expressive, and her air the same,
When her gay bark o'er silver Cydnus roll'd,
And all the emblazon'd streamers waved in gold.
Such shone the vision, nor forbore to move
The fond contagious airs of lawless love;
Each wanton eye deluding glances fired,
And amorous dimples on each cheek conspired.
Lifeless her gait, and slow; with seeming pain
She dragg'd her loitering limbs along the plain,
Yet made some faint efforts, and first approach'd the swain.
So glaring draughts, with tawdry lustre bright,
Spring to the view, and rush upon the sight;
More slowly charms a Raphael's chaster air,
Waits the calm search, and pays the searcher's care.
Wrapp'd in a pleased suspense, the youth survey'd
The various charms of each attractive maid:
Alternate each he view'd, and each admired,
And found, alternate, varying flames inspired:
Quick o'er their forms his eyes with pleasure ran,
When she, who first approach'd him, first began:--
"Hither, dear boy, direct thy wandering eyes;
'Tis here the lovely Vale of Pleasure lies:
Debate no more, to me thy life resign;
Each sweet which Nature can diffuse is mine:
For me the nymph diversifies her power,
Springs in a tree, or blossoms in a flower;
To please my ear, she tunes the linnet's strains;
To please my eye, with lilies paints the plains;
To form my couch, in mossy beds she grows;
To gratify my smell, perfumes the rose;
Reveals the fair, the fertile scene you see,
And swells the vegetable world for me.
"Let the gull'd fool the toils of war pursue,
Where bleed the many to enrich the few
Where Chance from Courage claims the boasted prize;
Where, though she give, your country oft denies.
Industrious thou shalt Cupid's wars maintain,
And ever gently fight his soft campaign;
His darts alone shalt wield, his wounds endure,
Yet only suffer, to enjoy the cure.
Yield but to me--a choir of nymphs shall rise,
And fire thy breast, and bless thy ravish'd eyes:
Their beauteous cheeks a fairer rose shall wear,
A brighter lily on their necks appear;
Where fondly thou thy favour'd head shalt rest,
Soft as the down that swells the cygnet's nest;
While Philomel in each soft voice complains,
And gently lulls thee with mellifluous strains;
Whilst with each accent sweetest odours flow,
And spicy gums round every bosom glow.
Not the famed bird Arabian climes admire
Shall in such luxury of sweets expire.
At Sloth let War's victorious sons exclaim,
In vain! for Pleasure is my real name:
Nor envy thou the heads with bays o'ergrown;
No, seek thou roses to adorn thy own;
For well each opening scene that claims my care
Suits and deserves the beauteous crown I wear.
"Let others prune the vine; the genial bowl
Shall crown thy table, and enlarge thy soul.
Let vulgar hands explore the brilliant mine,
So the gay produce glitter still on thine.
Indulgent Bacchus loads his labouring tree,
And, guarding, gives its clustering sweets to me.
For my loved train, Apollo's piercing beam
Darts through the passive globe, and frames the gem.
See in my cause consenting gods employ'd,
Nor slight these gods, their blessings unenjoy'd.
For thee the poplar shall its amber drain;
For thee, in clouded beauty, spring the cane;
Some costly tribute every clime shall pay,
Some charming treasure every wind convey;
Each object round some pleasing scene shall yield,
Art built thy dome, while Nature decks thy field:
Of Corinth's Order shall the structure rise,
The spiring turrets glitter through the skies;
Thy costly robe shall glow with Tyrian rays,
Thy vase shall sparkle, and thy car shall blaze;
Yet thou, whatever pomp the sun display,
Shalt own the amorous night exceeds the day.
"When melting flutes and sweetly sounding lyres
Wake the gay Loves, and cite the young Desires;
Or in the Ionian dance some favourite maid
Improves the flame her sparkling eyes convey'd;
Think, canst thou quit a glowing Delia's arms
To feed on Virtue's visionary charms?
Or slight the joys which wit and youth engage
For the faint honour of a frozen sage?
To find dull envy even that hope deface,
And, where you toiled for glory, reap disgrace?
"Oh! think that beauty waits on thy decree,
And thy loved loveliest charmer pleads with me;
She whose soft smile, or gentler glance, to move,
You vow'd the wild extremities of love;
In whose endearments years, like moments, flew;
For whose endearments millions seem'd too few;
She, she implores; she bids thee seize the prime,
And tread with her the flowery tracts of time,
Nor thus her lovely bloom of life bestow
On some cold lover, or insulting foe.
Think, if against that tongue thou canst rebel,
Where Love yet dwelt, and Reason seem'd to dwell,
What strong persuasion arms her softer sighs!
What full conviction sparkles in her eyes!
"See, Nature smiles, and birds salute the shade,
Where breathing jasmine screens the sleeping maid;
And such her charms, as to the vain may prove
Ambition seeks more humble joys than Love!
There busy toil shall ne'er invade thy reign,
Nor sciences perplex thy labouring brain;
Or none, but what with equal sweets invite,
Nor other arts, but to prolong delight.
Sometimes thy fancy prune her tender wing,
To praise a pendant, or to grace a ring;
To fix the dress that suits each varying mien;
To show where best the clustering gems are seen;
To sigh soft strains along the vocal grove,
And tell the charms, the sweet effects, of love!
Nor fear to find a coy disdainful Muse,
Nor think the Sisters will their aid refuse:
Cool grots, and tinkling rills, or silent shades,
Soft scenes of leisure, suit the harmonious maids;
And all the wise, and all the grave decree
Some of that sacred train allied to me.
"But if more specious ease thy wishes claim,
And thy breast glow with faint desire of fame,
Some softer science shall thy thoughts amuse,
And learning's name a solemn sound diffuse.
To thee all Nature's curious stores I'll bring,
Explain the beauties of an insect's wing;
The plant which Nature, less diffusely kind,
Has to few climes with partial care confined;
The shell she scatters with more careless air,
And in her frolics seems supremely fair;
The worth that dazzles in the tulip's stains,
Or lurks beneath a pebble's various veins.
"Sleep's downy god, averse to war's alarms,
Shall o'er thy head diffuse his softest charms,
Ere anxious thought thy dear repose assail,
Or care, my most destructive foe, prevail.
The watery nymphs shall tune the vocal vales,
And gentle zephyrs harmonize their gales;
For thy repose, inform, with rival joy,
Their streams to murmur, and their winds to sigh.
Thus shalt thou spend the sweetly-flowing day,
Till, lost in bliss, thou breathe thy soul away;
Till she the Elysian bowers of joy repair,
Nor find my charming scenes exceeded there."
She ceased; and on a lilied bank reclined,
Her flowing robe waved wanton with the wind;
One tender hand her drooping head sustains,
One points, expressive, to the flowery plains.
Soon the fond youth perceived her influence roll
Deep in his breast, to melt his manly soul;
As when Favonius joins the solar blaze,
And each fair fabric of the frost decays,
Soon, to his breast, the soft harangue convey'd
Resolves too partial to the specious maid.
He sigh'd, he gazed, so sweetly smiled the dame,
Yet sighing, gazing, seem'd to scorn his flame;
And oft as Virtue caught his wandering eye,
A crimson blush condemn'd the rising sigh.
'Twas such the lingering Trojan's shame betray'd
When Maia's son the frown of Jove display'd;
When wealth, fame, empire, could no balance prove
For the soft reign of Dido, and of love.
Thus ill with arduous glory love conspires,
Soft tender flames with bold impetuous fires!
Some hovering doubts his anxious bosom moved,
And Virtue, zealous fair! those doubts improved.-
"Fly, fly, fond youth! the too indulgent maid,
Nor err, by such fantastic scenes betray'd.
Though in my path the rugged thorn be seen,
And the dry turf disclose a fainter green;
Though no gay rose or flowery product shine,
The barren surface still conceals the mine.
Each thorn that threatens, even the weed that grows
In Virtue's path, superior sweets bestows--
Yet should those boasted specious toys allure,
Whence could fond Sloth the flattering gifts procure?
The various wealth that tempts thy fond desire,
'Tis I alone, her greatest foe, acquire.
I from old Ocean rob the treasured store;
I through each region latent gems explore:
'Twas I the rugged brilliant first reveal'd,
By numerous strata deep in earth conceal'd;
'Tis I the surface yet refine, and show
The modest gem's intrinsic charms to glow;
Nor swells the grape, nor spires its feeble tree,
Without the firm supports of industry.
"But grant we Sloth the scene herself has drawn,
The mossy grotto, and the flowery lawn;
Let Philomela tune the harmonious gale,
And with each breeze eternal sweets exhale;
Let gay Pomona slight the plains around,
And choose, for fairest fruits, the favour'd ground;
To bless the fertile vale should Virtue cease,
Nor mossy grots, nor flowery lawns could please;
Nor gay Pomona's luscious gifts avail,
The sound harmonious, or the spicy gale.
"Seest thou yon rocks in dreadful pomp arise,
Whose rugged cliffs deform the encircling skies?
Those fields, whence Phœbus all the moisture drains,
And, too profusely fond, disrobes the plains?
When I vouchsafe to tread the barren soil,
Those rocks seem lovely, and those deserts smile:
The form thou view'st to every scene with ease
Transfers its charms, and every scene can please.
When I have on those pathless wilds appear'd,
And the lone wanderer with my presence cheer'd,
Those cliffs the exile has with pleasure view'd,
And call'd that desert, blissful solitude!
"Nor I alone to such extend my care,
Fair blooming Health surveys her altars there
Brown Exercise will lead thee where she reigns,
And with reflected lustre gild the plains:
With her in flower of youth and beauty's pride,
Her offspring, calm Content and Peace, reside;
One ready offering suits each neighbouring shrine,
And all obey their laws, who practise mine.
"But Health averse, from Sloth's smooth region flies,
And, in her absence, Pleasure droops and dies;
Her bright companions, Mirth, Delight, Repose,
Smile where she smiles, and sicken when she goes:
A galaxy of powers! whose forms appear
For ever beauteous, and for ever near.
"Nor will soft Sleep to Sloth's request incline,
He from her couches flies unbid to mine.
"Vain is the sparkling bowl, the warbling strain,
The incentive song, the labour'd viand vain!
Where she, relentless, reigns without control,
And checks each gay excursion of the soul;
Unmoved though Beauty, deck'd in all its charms,
Grace the rich couch, and spread the softest arms;
Till joyless Indolence suggests desires,
Or drugs are sought to furnish languid fires;
Such languid fires as on the vitals prey,
Barren of bliss, but fertile of decay:
As artful heats, applied to thirsty lands,
Produce no flowers, and but debase the sands.
"But let fair Health her cheering smiles impart!
How sweet is Nature, how superfluous Art!
'Tis she the fountain's ready draught commends,
And smooths the flinty couch which Fortune lends;
And when my hero from his toils retires,
Fills his gay bosom with unusual fires;
And while no checks the unbounded joy reprove,
Aids and refines the genuine sweets of love.
His fairest prospect rising trophies frame;
His sweetest music is the voice of Fame:
Pleasures to Sloth unknown! she never found
How fair the prospect, or how sweet the sound.
"See Fame's gay structure from yon summit charms,
And fires the manly breast to arts or arms;
Nor dread the steep ascent, by which you rise
From grovelling vales to towers which reach the skies.
"Love, fame, esteem, 'tis labour must acquire,
The smiling offspring of a rigid fire!
To fix the friend, your service must be shown;
All, ere they loved your merit, loved their own;
That wondering Greece your portrait may admire,
That tuneful bards may string for you their lyre,
That books may praise, or coins record your name,--
Such, such rewards 'tis toil alone can claim!
And the same column which displays to view
The conqueror's name, displays the conquest too.
"'Twas slow Experience, tedious mistress! taught
All that e'er nobly spoke or bravely fought:
'Twas she the patriot, she the bard, refined
In arts that serve, protect, or please mankind.
Not the vain visions of inactive schools,
Not Fancy's maxims, nor Opinion's rules,
E'er form'd the man whose generous warmth extends
To enrich his country, or to serve his friends.
On active worth the laurel War bestows;
Peace rears her olive for industrious brows;
Nor earth, uncultured, yields its kind supplies;
Nor heaven its showers, without a sacrifice.
"See, far below such grovelling scenes of shame,
As lull to rest Ignavia's slumbering dame;
Her friends, from all the toils of Fame secure,
Alas! inglorious, greater toils endure;
Doom'd all to mourn who in her cause engage;
A youth enervate, and a painful age;
A sickly sapless mass, if Reason flies,
And, if she linger, impotently wise!
A thoughtless train, who, pamper'd, sleek, and gay,
Invite old age, and revel youth away;
From life's fresh vigour move the load of care,
And idly place it where they least can bear;
When to the mind, diseased, for aid they fly,
What kind reflection shall the mind supply?
When with lost health, what should the loss allay?
Peace, peace is lost; a comfortless decay!
But to my friends, when youth, when pleasure, flies,
And earth's dim beauties fade before their eyes,
Through death's dark vista flowery tracts are seen,
Elysian plains, and groves for ever green.
If o'er their lives a refluent glance they cast,
Theirs is the present who can praise the past;
Life has its bliss for these, when past its bloom,
As wither'd roses yield a late perfume.
"Serene, and safe from passion's stormy rage,
How calm they glide into the port of Age!
Of the rude voyage less deprived than eased;
More tired than pain'd, and weaken'd than diseased;
For health on age 'tis temperance must bestow,
And peace from piety alone can flow;
And all the incense bounteous Jove requires,
Has sweets for him who feeds the sacred fires.
"Sloth views the towers of Fame with envious eyes,
Desirous still, still impotent to rise.
Oft, when resolved to gain those blissful towers,
The pensive queen the dire ascent explores,
Comes onward, wafted by the balmy trees,
Some sylvan music, or some scented breeze;
She turns her head, her own gay realm she spies,
And all the short-lived resolution dies.
Thus some fond insect's faltering pinions wave,
Clasp'd in its favourite sweets, a lasting slave;
And thus in vain these charming visions please
The wretch of glory, and the slave of ease,
Doom'd ever in ignoble state to pine,
Boast her own scenes, and languish after mine.
But shun her snares; nor let the world exclaim,
Thy birth, which was thy glory, proved thy shame.
With early hope thine infant actions fired,
Let manhood crown what infancy inspired;
Let generous toils with health reward thy days,
Prolong thy prime, and eternize thy praise.
The bold exploit that charms the attesting age,
To latest times shall generous hearts engage;
And with that myrtle shall thy shrine be crown'd,
With which, alive, thy graceful brows were bound,
Till Time shall bid thy virtues freely bloom,
And raise a temple where it found a tomb.
"Then in their feasts thy name shall Grecians join,
Shall pour the sparkling juice to Jove's and thine:
Thine, used in war, shall raise their native fire;
Thine, used in peace, their mutual faith inspire.
Dulness, perhaps, through want of sight, may blame,
And Spleen, with odious industry, defame;
And that, the honours given, with wonder view,
And this, in secret sadness, own them due.
Contempt and Envy were by fate design'd
The rival tyrants which divide mankind;
Contempt, which none but who deserve can bear,
While Envy's wounds the smiles of Fame repair:
For know, the generous thine exploits shall fire,
Thine every friend it suits thee to require;
Loved by the gods, and, till their seats I show,
Loved by the good, their images below."
"Cease, lovely maid! fair daughter of the Skies;
My guide! my queen!" the ecstatic youth replies:
"In thee I trace a form design'd for sway,
Which chiefs may court, and kings with pride obey;
And by thy bright immortal friends I swear,
Thy fair idea shall no toils impair.
Lead me, O lead me! where whole hosts of foes
Thy form depreciate, and thy friends oppose.
Welcome all toils the unequal Fates decree,
While toils endear thy faithful charge to thee.
Such be my cares to bind the oppressive hand,
And crush the fetters of an injured land;
To see the monster's noxious life resign'd,
And tyrants quell'd, the monsters of mankind!
Nature shall smile to view the vanquish'd brood,
And none, but Envy, riot unsubdued.
In cloister'd state let selfish sages dwell,
Proud that their heart is narrow as their cell!
And boast their mazy labyrinth of rules,
Far less the friends of Virtue, than the fools;
Yet such in vain thy favouring smiles pretend,
For he is thine, who proves his country's friend.
Thus when my life, well spent, the good enjoy,
And the mean envious labour to destroy;
When strongly lured by Fame's contiguous shrine,
I yet devote my choicer vows to thine;
If all my toils thy promised favour claim,
O lead thy favourite through the gates of Fame!"
He ceased his vows, and, with disdainful air,
He turn'd to blast the late exulting fair:
But vanish'd, fled to some more friendly shore,
The conscious phantom's beauty pleased no more;
Convinced her spurious charms of dress and face,
Claim'd a quick conquest, or a sure disgrace.
Fantastic power! whose transient charms allured,
While Error's mist the reasoning mind obscured;
Not such the victress, Virtue's constant queen,
Endured the test of truth, and dared be seen;
Her brightening form and features seem'd to own,
'Twas all her wish, her interest to be known;
And when his longing view the fair declined,
Left a full image of her charms behind.
Thus reigns the moon, with furtive splendour crown'd,
While glooms oppress us, and thick shades surround;
But let the source of light its beams display,
Languid and faint the mimic flames decay,
And all the sickening splendour fades away.
A POEM ON THE TEMPER AND STUDIES OF THE AUTHOR; AND HOW GREAT A MISFORTUNE IT IS FOR A MAN OF SMALL ESTATE TO HAVE MUCH TASTE.
Perhaps some cloud eclipsed the day,
When thus I tuned my pensive lay:
The ship is launch'd--we catch the gale--
On life's extended ocean sail:
For happiness our course we bend,
Our ardent cry, our general end!
Yet, ah! the scenes which tempt our care
Are, like the forms dispersed in air,
Still dancing near disorder'd eyes,
And weakest his who best descries!"
Yet let me not my birthright barter,
(For wishing is the poet's charter;
All bards have leave to wish what's wanted,
Though few e'er found their wishes granted;
Extensive field! where poets pride them
In singing all that is denied them).
For humble ease, ye Powers! I pray;
That plain warm suit for every day,
And pleasure and brocade, bestow,
To flaunt it--once a month, or so.
The first for constant wear we want;
The first, ye Powers! for ever grant;
But constant wear the last bespatters,
And turns the tissue into tatters.
Where'er my vagrant course I bend,
Let me secure one faithful friend.
Let me, in public scenes, request
A friend of wit and taste, well drest;
And, if I must not hope such favour,
A friend of wit and taste, however.
Alas! that Wisdom ever shuns
To congregate her scatter'd Sons,
Whose nervous forces, well combined,
Would win the field, and sway mankind.
The fool will squeeze, from morn to night,
To fix his follies full in sight;
The note he strikes, the plume he shows,
Attract whole flights of fops and beaus,
And kindred fools, who ne'er had known him,
Flock at the sight, caress and own him;
But ill-starr'd Sense, not gay nor loud,
Steals soft on tiptoe through the crowd;
Conveys his meagre form between,
And slides, like pervious air, unseen;
Contracts his known tenuity,
As though 'twere even a crime to be;
Nor even permits his eyes to stray,
And win acquaintance in their way.
In company, so mean his air,
You scarce are conscious he is there;
Till from some nook, like sharpen'd steel,
Occurs his face's thin profile,
Still seeming, from the gazer's eye,
Like Venus newly bathed, to fly:
Yet while reluctant he displays
His real gems before the blaze,
The fool hath, in its centre, placed
His tawdry stock of painted paste.
Disused to speak, he tries his skill,
Speaks coldly, and succeeds but ill;
His pensive manner dulness deem'd,
His modesty reserve esteem'd;
His wit unknown, his learning vain,
He wins not one of all the train:
And those who, mutually known,
In friendship's fairest list had shone,
Less prone than pebbles to unite,
Retire to shades from public sight,
Grow savage, quit their social nature,
And starve, to study mutual satire.
But friends and favourites, to chagrin them,
Find counties, countries, seas, between them;
Meet once a year, then part, and then
Retiring, wish to meet again.
Sick of the thought, let me provide
Some human form to grace my side:
At hand, where'er I shape my course,
An useful, pliant, stalking-horse!
No gesture free from some grimace,
No seam, without its share of lace,
But, mark'd with gold or silver either,
Hint where his coat was pieced together.
His legs be lengthen'd, I advise,
And stockings roll'd abridge his thighs.
What though Vandyke had other rules?
What had Vandyke to do with fools?
Be nothing wanting, but his mind;
Before a solitaire, behind
A twisted ribband, like the track
Which Nature gives an ass's back.
Silent as midnight! pity 'twere,
His wisdom's slender wealth to share!
And, whilst in flocks our fancies stray,
To wish the poor man's lamb away.
This form attracting every eye,
I stroll all unregarded by:
This wards the jokes of every kind,
As an umbrella sun or wind;
Or, like a sponge, absorbs the sallies
And pestilential fumes of malice;
Or, like a splendid shield, is fit
To screen the Templar's random wit;
Or, what some gentler cit lets fall,
As woolpacks quash the leaden ball.
Allusions these of weaker force,
And apter still the stalking-horse!
O let me wander all unseen
Beneath the sanction of his mien!
As lilies soft, as roses fair!
Empty as airpumps drain'd of air!
With steady eye and pace remark
The speckled flock that haunts the Park;
Level my pen with wondrous heed
At follies, flocking there to feed;
And as my satire burns amain,
See feather'd foppery strew the plain.
But when I seek my rural grove,
And share the peaceful haunts I love,
Let none of this unhallow'd train
My sweet sequester'd paths profane.
Oft may some polish'd virtuous friend
To these soft-winding vales descend,
And love with me inglorious things,
And scorn with me the pomp of kings;
And check me when my bosom burns
For statues, paintings, coins, and urns;
For I in Damon's prayer could join,
And Damon's wish might now be mine--
But all dispersed! the wish, the prayer,
Are driven to mix with common air.
How happy once was Damon's lot,
While yet romantic schemes were not,
Ere yet he sent his weakly eyes,
To plan frail castles in the skies!
Forsaking pleasures cheap and common,
To court a blaze, still flitting from one.
Ah! happy Damon! thrice and more,
Had Taste ne'er touch'd thy tranquil shore.
Oh days! when to a girdle tied
The couples jingled at his side,
And Damon swore he would not barter
The sportsman's girdle for a garter.
Whoever came to kill an hour,
Found easy Damon in their power,
Pure social Nature all his guide;
"Damon had not a grain of pride."
He wish'd not to elude the snares
Which Knavery plans, and Craft prepares,
But rather wealth to crown their wiles,
And win their universal smiles:
For who are cheerful, who at ease,
But they who cheat us as they please?
He wink'd at many a gross design
The new-fallen calf might countermine:
Thus every fool allow'd his merit;
"Yes; Damon had a generous spirit."
A coxcomb's jest, however vile,
Was sure, at least, of Damon's smile;
That coxcomb ne'er denied him sense;
For why? it proved his own pretence.
All own'd, were modesty away,
Damon could shine as much as they.
When wine and folly came in season,
Damon ne'er strove to save his reason;
Obnoxious to the mad uproar,
A spy upon a hostile shore!
'Twas this his company endear'd;
Mirth never came till he appear'd.
His lodgings--every drawer could show them;
The slave was kick'd who did not know them.
Thus Damon, studious of his ease,
And pleasing all whom mirth could please,
Defied the world, like idle Colley,
To show a softer word than folly.
Since Wisdom's gorgon-shield was known
To stare the gazer into stone,
He chose to trust in Folly's charm,
To keep his breast alive and warm.
At length grave Learning's sober train
Remark'd the trifler with disdain;
The sons of Taste contemn'd his ways,
And rank'd him with the brutes that graze;
While they to nobler heights aspired,
And grew beloved, esteem'd, admired.
Hence with our youth, not void of spirit,
His old companions lost their merit,
And every kind well-natured sot
Seem'd a dull play, without a plot,
Where every yawning guest agrees,
The willing creature strives to please:
But temper never could amuse;
It barely led us to excuse;
'Twas true, conversing they averr'd
All they had seen, or felt, or heard;
Talents of weight! for wights like these
The law might choose for witnesses;
But sure th' attesting dry narration
Ill suits a judge of conversation.
What were their freedoms? mere excuses
To vent ill-manners, blows, and bruises.
Yet freedom, gallant freedom! hailing,
At form, at form, incessant railing,
Would they examine each offence,
Its latent cause, its known pretence.
Punctilio ne'er was known to breed them,
So sure as fond prolific freedom.
Their courage! but a loaded gun,
Machine the wise would wish to shun;
Its guard unsafe, its lock an ill one,
Where accident might fire and kill one
In short, disgusted out of measure,
Through much contempt, and slender pleasure,
His sense of dignity returns;
With native pride his bosom burns;
He seeks respect--but how to gain it?
Wit, social mirth, could ne'er obtain it;
And laughter, where it reigns uncheck'd,
Discards and dissipates respect:
The man who gravely bows, enjoys it,
But shaking hands, at once destroys it;
Precarious plant! which, fresh and gay,
Shrinks at the touch, and fades away!
Come then, Reserve! yet from thy train
Banish Contempt and cursed Disdain.
Teach me, he cried, thy magic art,
To act the decent distant part;
To husband well my complaisance;
Nor let even Wit too far advance;
But choose calm Reason for my theme,
In these her royal realms supreme,
And o'er her charms, with caution shown,
Be still a graceful umbrage thrown,
And each abrupter period crown'd
With nods, and winks, and smiles profound;
Till, rescued from the crowd beneath,
No more with pain to move or breathe,
I rise with head elate, to share
Salubrious draughts of purer air.
Respect is won by grave pretence,
And silence, surer even than sense.
'Tis hence the sacred grandeur springs
Of Eastern, and of other kings;
Or whence this awe to Virtue due,
While Virtue's distant as Peru?
The sheathless sword the guard displays,
Which round emits its dazzling rays;
The stately fort, the turrets tall,
Portculliss'd gate, and battled wall,
Less screens the body than controls,
And wards contempt from royal souls.
The crowns they wear but check the eye
Before it fondly pierce too nigh;
That dazzled crowds may be employ'd
Around the surface of--the void.
Oh, 'tis the stateman's craft profound
To scatter his amusements round,
To tempt us from their conscious breast,
Where full-fledged crimes enjoy their nest;
Nor awes us every worth reveal'd,
So deeply as each vice conceal'd.
The lordly log, despatch'd of yore,
That the frog people might adore,
With guards to keep them at a distance,
Had reign'd, nor wanted Wit's assistance;
Nay--had addresses from his nation,
In praise of log-administration.
Why droops my Damon, whilst he roves
Through ornamented meads and groves,
Near columns, obelisks, and spires,
Which every critic eye admires?
'Tis Poverty, detested maid!
Sole tenant of their ample shade;
'Tis she that robs him of his ease,
And bids their very charms displease.
But now, by Fancy long controll'd,
And with the sons of Taste enroll'd,
He deem'd it shameful to commence
First minister to Common-sense;
Far more elated, to pursue
The lowest talk of dear virtu.
And now, behold his lofty soul,
That whilom flew from pole to pole,
Settle on some elaborate flower,
And, like a bee, the sweets devour!
Now, of a rose enamour'd, prove
The wild solicitudes of love!
Now, in a lily's cup enshrined,
Forego the commerce of mankind!
As in these toils he wore away
The calm remainder of his day;
Conducting sun, and shade, and shower,
As most might glad the new-born flower,
So fate ordain'd--before his eye
Starts up the long-sought butterfly,
While fluttering round, her plumes unfold
Celestial crimson, dropt with gold.
Adieu, ye bands of flowerets fair!
The living beauty claims his care:
For this he strips--nor bolt nor chain
Could Damon's warm pursuit restrain.
See him o'er hill, morass, or mound,
Where'er the speckled game is found,
Though bent with age, with zeal pursue,
And totter towards the prey in view.
Nor rock nor stream his steps retard
Intent upon the blest reward!
One vassal fly repays the chase!
A wing, a film, rewards the race!
Rewards him, though disease attend,
And in a fatal surfeit end.
So fierce Camilla skimm'd the plain,
Smit with the purple's pleasing stain;
She eyed intent the glittering stranger,
And knew, alas! nor fear nor danger;
Till deep within her panting heart
Malicious Fate impell'd the dart.
How studious he what favourite food
Regales Dame Nature's tiny brood;
What junkets fat the filmy people,
And what liqueurs they choose to tipple!
Behold him, at some crise, prescribe,
And raise with drugs the sickening tribe!
Or haply, when their spirits falter,
Sprinkling my Lord of Cloyne's tar-water!
When Nature's brood of insects dies,
See how he pimps for amorous flies!
See him the timely succour lend her,
And help the wantons to engender!
Or see him guard their pregnant hour,
Exert his soft obstetric power,
And lending each his lenient hand,
With new-born grubs enrich the land!
O Wilks! what poet's loftiest lays
Can match thy labours, and thy praise?
Immortal Sage! by Fate decreed
To guard the moth's illustrious breed!
Till fluttering swarms on swarms arise,
And all our wardrobes teem with flies!
And must we praise this taste for toys?
Admire it then in girls and boys.
Ye youths of fifteen years, or more!
Resign your moths--the season's o'er;
'Tis time more social joys to prove;
'Twere now your nobler task to love.
Let --'s eyes more deeply warm;
Nor, slighting Nature's fairest form,
The bias of your souls determine
Towards the mean love of Nature's vermin.
But, ah! how wondrous few have known,
To give each stage of life its own!
'Tis the pretexta's utmost bound,
With radiant purple edged around,
To please the child; whose glowing dyes
Too long delight maturer eyes:
And few, but with regret, assume
The plain-wrought labours of the loom.
Ah! let not me by fancy steer,
When life's autumnal clouds appear;
Nor even in learning's long delays
Consume my fairest, fruitless days;
Like him, who should in armour spend
The sums that armour should defend.
Awhile in Pleasure's myrtle bower
We share her smiles, and bless her power;
But find at last, we vainly strive
To fix the worst coquette alive.
O you! that with assiduous flame
Have long pursued the faithless dame;
Forsake her soft abodes awhile,
And dare her frown, and slight her smile;
Nor scorn, whatever wits may say,
The footpath road, the king's highway;
No more the scrupulous charmer tease,
But seek the roofs of honest Ease;
The rival fair, no more pursued,
Shall there with forward pace intrude;
Shall there her every art essay
To win you to her slighted sway,
And grant your scorn a glance more fair
Than e'er she gave your fondest prayer.
But would you happiness pursue?
Partake both ease and pleasure too?
Would you, through all your days, dispense
The joys of reason and of sense?
Or give to life the most you can?
Let social virtue shape the plan.
For does not to the virtuous deed
A train of pleasing sweets succeed?
Or, like the sweets of wild desire,
Did social pleasures ever tire?
Yet midst the group be some preferr'd,
Be some abhorr'd--for Damon err'd:
And such there are--of fair address--
As 'twere unsocial to caress.
O learn by Reason's equal rule
To shun the praise of knave or fool;
Then, though you deem it better still
To gain some rustic squire's good-will;
And souls, however mean or vile,
Like features, brighten by a smile;
Yet Reason holds it for a crime,
The trivial breast should share thy time:
And Virtue, with reluctant eyes,
Beholds this human sacrifice!
Through deep reserve and air erect,
Mistaken Damon won respect;
But could the specious homage pass
With any creature, but an ass?
If conscious, they who fear'd the skin
Would scorn the sluggish brute within.
What awe-struck slaves the towers enclose,
Where Persian monarchs eat and doze!
What prostrate reverence all agree
To pay a prince they never see!
Mere vassals of a royal throne;
The Sophi's virtues must be shown,
To make the reverence his own.
As for Thalia--wouldst thou make her
Thy bride without a portion?--take her:
She will with duteous care attend,
And all thy pensive hours befriend;
Will swell thy joys, will share thy pain,
With thee rejoice, with thee complain;
Will smooth thy pillow, plait thy bowers,
And bind thy aching head with flowers.
But be this previous maxim known--
If thou canst feed on love alone;
If, bless'd with her, thou canst sustain
Contempt, and poverty, and pain;
If so--then rifle all her graces--
And fruitful be your fond embraces!
Too soon, by caitiff Spleen inspired,
Sage Damon to his groves retired,
The path disclaimed by sober Reason;
Retirement claims a later season,
Ere active youth and warm desires,
Have quite withdrawn their lingering fires.
With the warm bosom, ill agree
Or limpid stream or shady tree
Love lurks within the rosy bower,
And claims the speculative hour;
Ambition finds his calm retreat,
And bids his pulse too fiercely beat;
Even social Friendship duns his ear,
And cites him to the public sphere.
Does he resist their genuine force?
His temper takes some froward course,
Till passion, misdirected, sighs
For weeds, or shells, or grubs, or flies!
Far happiest he whose early days,
Spent in the social paths of praise,
Leave, fairly printed on his mind,
A train of virtuous deeds behind:
From this rich fund the memory draws
The lasting meed of self-applause.
Such fair ideas lend their aid
To people the sequester'd shade:
Such are the Naiads, Nymphs, and Fawns,
That haunt his floods or cheer his lawns.
If, where his devious ramble strays,
He Virtue's radiant form surveys,
She seems no longer now to wear
The rigid mien, the frown severe;
To show him her remote abode,
To point the rocky arduous road;
But from each flower his fields allow,
She twines a garland for his brow.
A RHAPSODY, ADDRESSED TO YOUNG POETS.
Insanis; omnes gelidis quaecunqne lacernis
Sunt tibi, Nasones Virgiliosque vides. Mart.
To you, ye Bards! whose lavish breast requires
This monitory lay, the strains belong;
Nor think some miser vents his sapient saw,
Or some dull cit, unfeeling of the charms
That tempt profusion, sings; while friendly Zeal,
To guard from fatal ills the tribe he loves,
Inspires the meanest of the Muse's train!
Like you I loathe the grovelling progeny,
Whose wily arts, by creeping time matured,
Advance them high on Power's tyrannic throne,
To lord it there in gorgeous uselessness,
And spurn successless Worth that pines below!
See the rich churl, amid the social sons
Of wine and wit, regaling! hark, he joins
In the free jest delighted! seems to show
A meliorated heart! he laughs, he sings!
Songs of gay import, madrigals of glee,
And drunken anthems, set agape the board,
Like Demea, in the play, benign and mild,
And pouring forth benevolence of soul,
Till Micio wonder; or, in Shakspeare's line,
Obstreperous Silence, drowning Shallow's voice,
And startling Falstaff, and his mad compeers.
He owns 'tis prudence, ever and anon
To smooth his careful brow, to let his purse
Ope to a sixpence's diameter!
He likes our ways; he owns the ways of wit
Are ways of pleasance, and deserve regard.
True, we are dainty good society,
But what art thou? Alas! consider well,
Thou bane of social pleasure, know thyself:
Thy fell approach, like some invasive damp
Breathed through the pores of earth from Stygian caves
Destroys the lamp of mirth; the lamp which we,
Its flamens, boast to guard: we know not how,
But at thy sight the fading flame assumes
A ghastly blue, and in a stench expires.
True, thou seem'st changed; all sainted, all enskied:
The trembling tears that charge thy melting eyes
Say thou art honest and of gentle kind:
But all is false! an intermitting sigh
Condemns each hour, each moment given to smiles,
And deems those only lost thou dost not lose.
Even for a demi-groat this open'd soul,
This boon companion, this elastic breast,
Revibrates quick; and sends the tuneful tongue
To lavish music on the rugged walls
Of some dark dungeon. Hence, thou Caitiff! fly;
Touch not my glass, nor drain my sacred bowl,
Monster, ingrate! beneath one common sky
Why shouldst thou breathe? beneath one common roof
Thou ne'er shalt harbour, nor my little boat
Receive a soul with crimes to press it down.
Go to thy bags, thou Recreant! hourly go,
And, gazing there, bid them be wit, be mirth,
Be conversation. Not a face that smiles
Admits thy presence! not a soul that glows
With social purport, bid, or even or morn,
Invest thee happy! but when life declines,
May thy sure heirs stand tittering round thy bed,
And, ushering in their favourites, burst thy locks,
And fill their laps with gold, till Want and Care
With joy depart, and cry, "We ask no more."
Ah! never, never may the harmonious mind
Endure the worldly! Poets, ever void
Of guile, distrustless, scorn the treasured gold,
And spurn the miser, spurn his deity.
Balanced with friendship, in the poet's eye
The rival scale of interest kicks the beam,
Than lightning swifter. From his cavern'd store
The sordid soul, with self-applause, remarks
The kind propensity; remarks and smiles,
And hies with impious haste to spread the snare.
Him we deride, and in our comic scenes
Contemn the niggard form Moliere has drawn:
We loathe with justice; but, alas! the pain
To bow the knee before this calf of gold;
Implore his envious aid, and meet his frown!
But 'tis not Gomez, 'tis not he whose heart
Is crusted o'er with dross, whose callous mind
Is senseless as his gold, the slighted Muse
Intensely loathes. 'Tis sure no equal task
To pardon him who lavishes his wealth
On racer, foxhound, hawk, or spaniel, all
But human merit; who with gold essays
All, but the noblest pleasure, to remove
The wants of Genius, and its smiles enjoy.
But you, ye titled youths! whose nobler zeal
Would burnish o'er your coronets with fame;
Who listen pleased when poet tunes his lay;
Permit him not, in distant solitudes,
To pine, to languish out the fleeting hours
Of active youth; then Virtue pants for praise.
That season unadorn'd, the careless bard
Quits your worn threshold, and, like honest Gay,
Contemns the niggard boon ye time so ill.
Your favours then, like trophies given the tomb,
The enfranchised spirit soaring, not perceives,
Or scorns perceived, and execrates the smile
Which bade his vigorous bloom, to treacherous hopes
And servile cares a prey, expire in vain!
Two lawless powers, engaged by mutual hate
In endless war, beneath their flags enrol
The vassal world: this, Avarice is named;
That, Luxury: 'tis true their partial friends
Assign them softer names; usurpers both!
That share by dint of arms the legal throne
Of just Economy; yet both betray'd
By fraudful ministers. The niggard chief,
Listening to want, all faithless, and prepared
To join each moment in his rival's train,
His conduct models by the needless fears
The slave inspires, while Luxury, a chief
Of amplest faith, to Plenty's rule resigns
His whole campaign. 'Tis Plenty's flattering sounds
Engross his ear; 'tis Plenty's smiling form
Moves still before his eye. Discretion strives,
But strives in vain, to banish from the throne
The perjured minion: he, secure of trust,
With latent malice to the hostile camp;
Day, night, and hour, his monarch's wealth conveys.
Ye towering minds! ye sublimated souls!
Who, careless of your fortunes, seal and sign,
Set, let, contract, acquit, with easier mien
Than fops take snuff! whose economic care
Your green silk purse engrosses! easy, pleased,
To see gold sparkle through the subtle folds;
Lovely, as when the Hesperian fruitage smiled
Amid the verdurous grove! who fondly hope
Spontaneous harvests! harvests all the year!
Who scatter wealth, as though the radiant crop
Glitter'd on every bough; and every bough,
Like that the Trojan gather'd, once avulsed,
Were by a splendid successor supplied
Instant, spontaneous listen to my lays;
For 'tis not fools, whate'er proverbial phrase
Have long decreed, that quit with greatest ease
The treasured gold. Of words indeed profuse,
Of gold tenacious, their torpescent soul
Clenches their coin; and what electral fire
Shall solve the frosty gripe, and bid it flow?
'Tis Genius, Fancy, that to wild expense
Of health, of treasure, stimulates the soul;
These, with officious care, and fatal art,
Improve the vinous flavour; these the smile
Of Cloe soften: these the glare of dress
Illume; the glittering chariot gild anew,
And add strange wisdom to the furs of Power.
Alas! that he, amid the race of men,
That he who thinks of purest gold with scorn,
Should with unsated appetite demand,
And vainly court the pleasure it procures!
When Fancy's vivid spark impels the soul
To scorn quotidian scenes, to spurn the bliss
Of vulgar minds, what nostrum shall compose
Its fatal tension? in what lonely vale
Of balmy Medicine's various field, aspires
The blest refrigerant? Vain, ah! vain the hope
Of future peace, this orgasm uncontroll'd!
Impatient, hence, of all the frugal mind
Requires; to eat, to drink, to sleep, to fill
A chest with gold, the sprightly breast demands
Incessant rapture; life, a tedious load
Denied its continuity of joy.
But whence obtain? philosophy requires
No lavish cost; to crown its utmost prayer
Suffice the root-built cell, the simple fleece,
The juicy viand, and the crystal stream.
Even mild Stupidity rewards her train
With cheap contentment. Taste alone requires
Entire profusion! Days, and nights, and hours,
Thy voice, hydropic Fancy! calls aloud
For costly draughts, inundant bowls of joy,
Rivers of rich regalement, seas of bliss--
Seas without shore, infinity of sweets!
And yet, unless sage Reason join her hand
In Pleasure's purchase, Pleasure is unsure!
And yet, unless Economy's consent
Legitimate expense, some graceless mark,
Some symptom ill conceal'd, shall, soon or late,
Burst like a pimple from the vicious tide
Of acid blood, proclaiming Want's disease,
Amidst the bloom of show. The scanty stream,
Slow-loitering in its channel, seems to vie
With Vaga's depth; but should the sedgy power,
Vain-glorious, empty his penurious urn
O'er the rough rock, how must his fellow streams
Deride the tinklings of the boastive rill!
I not aspire to mark the dubious path
That leads to wealth, to poets mark'd in vain!
But, ere self-flattery soothe the vivid breast
With dreams of fortune near allied to fame,
Reflect how few, who charm'd the listening ear
Of satrap or of king, her smiles enjoyed!
Consider well, what meagre alms repaid
The great Maeonian! fire of tuneful song,
And prototype of all that soar'd sublime,
And left dull cares below; what griefs impell'd
The modest bard of learn'd Eliza's reign
To swell with tears his Mulla's parent stream,
And mourn aloud the pang, "to ride, to run,
To spend, to give, to want, to be undone."
Why should I tell of Cowley's pensive Muse,
Beloved in vain? too copious is my theme!
Which of your boasted race might hope reward
Like loyal Butler, when the liberal Charles,
The judge of wit, perused the sprightly page,
Triumphant o'er his foes? Believe not Hope,
The poet's parasite; but learn alone
To spare the scanty boon the Fates decree.
Poet and rich! 'tis solecism extreme!
'Tis heighten'd contradiction! in his frame,
In every nerve and fibre of his soul,
The latent seeds and principles of want
Has Nature wove, and Fate confirm'd the clue.
Nor yet despair to shun the ruder gripe
Of Penury: with nice precision learn
A dollar's value. Foremost in the page
That marks the expense of each revolving year,
Place inattention. When the lust of praise,
Or honour's false idea, tempts thy soul
To slight frugality, assure thine heart
That danger's near. This perishable coin
Is no vain ore. It is thy liberty;
It fetters misers, but it must alone
Enfranchise thee. The world, the cit-like world,
Bids thee beware; thy little craft essay;
Nor, piddling with a tea-spoon's slender form,
See with soup-ladles devils gormandize.
Economy! thou good old aunt, whose mien,
Furrow'd with age and care, the wise adore,
The wits contemn! reserving still thy stores
To cheer thy friends at last! why with the cit
Or bookless churl, with each ignoble name,
Each earthly nature, deign'st thou to reside?
And shunning all, who by thy favours crown'd
Might glad the world, to seek some vulgar mind,
Inspiring pride, and selfish shapes of ill?
Why with the old, infirm, and impotent,
And childless, love to dwell; yet leave the breast
Of youth unwarn'd, unguided, uninform'd?
Of youth, to whom thy monitory voice
Were doubly kind? for, sure, to youthful eyes,
(How short soe'er it prove), the road of life
Appears protracted; fair on either side
The Loves, the Graces play, on Fortune's child
Profusely smiling: well might youth essay
The frugal plan, the lucrative employ,
Source of their favour all the livelong day;
But Fate assents not. Age alone contracts
His meagre palm, to clench the tempting bane
Of all his peace, the glittering seeds of care!
O that the Muse's voice might pierce the ear
Of generous youth! for youth deserves her song.
Youth is fair virtue's season, virtue then
Requires the pruner's hand; the sequent stage,
It barely vegetates; nor long the space
Ere, robb'd of warmth, its arid trunk displays
Fell Winter's total reign. O lovely source
Of generous foibles, youth! when opening minds
Are honest as the light, lucid as air,
As fostering breezes kind, as linnets gay,
Tender as buds, and lavish as the spring!
Yet, hapless state of man! his earliest youth
Cozens itself; his age defrauds mankind.
Nor deem it strange that rolling years abrade
The social bias. Life's extensive page,
What does it but unfold repeated proofs
Of gold's omnipotence? With patriots, friends,
Sickening beneath its ray, enervate some,
And others dead, whose putrid name exhales
A noisome scent, the bulky volume teems:
With kinsmen, brothers, sons, moistening the shroud,
Or honouring the grave, with specious grief
Of short duration; soon in fortune's beams
Alert, and wondering at the tears they shed.
But who shall save, by tame prosaic strain,
That glowing breast where wit with youth conspires
To sweeten luxury? The fearful Muse
Shall yet proceed, though by the faintest gleam
Of hope inspired, to warn the train she loves.
In some dark season, when the misty shower
Obscures the sun, and saddens all the sky,
When linnets drop the wing, nor grove nor stream
Invites thee forth, to sport thy drooping muse;
Seize the dull hour, nor with regret assign
To worldly Prudence. She, nor nice nor coy,
Accepts the tribute of a joyless day;
She smiles well pleased when wit and mirth recede,
And not a Grace, and not a Muse will hear.
Then, from majestic Maro's awful strain,
Or towering Homer, let thine eye descend
To trace, with patient industry, the page
Of income and expense: and, oh! beware
Thy breast, self-flattering; place no courtly smile,
No golden promise of your faithless Muse,
Nor latent mine which Fortune's hand may show,
Amid thy solid store: the Siren's song
Wrecks not the listening sailor, half so sure.
See by what avenues, what devious paths,
The foot of Want, detested, steals along,
And bars each fatal pass! Some few short hours
Of punctual care, the refuse of thy year,
On frugal schemes employ'd, shall give the Muse
To sing intrepid many a cheerful day.
But if too soon before the tepid gales
Thy resolution melt; and ardent vows,
In wary hours preferr'd, or die forgot,
Or seem the forced effect of hazy skies;
Then, ere surprise, by whose impetuous rage
The massy fort, with which thy gentler breast
I not compare, is won, the song proceeds.
Know, too, by Nature's undiminish'd law,
Throughout her realms obey'd, the various parts
Of deep creation, atoms, systems, all,
Attract, and are attracted; nor prevails the law
Alone in matter; soul alike with soul
Aspires to join; nor yet in souls alone;
In each idea it imbibes, is found
The kind propensity; and when they meet
And grow familiar, various though their tribe,
Their tempers various, vow perpetual faith;
That, should the world's disjointed frame once more
To chaos yield the sway, amid the wreck
Their union should survive; with Roman warmth,
By sacred hospitable laws endear'd,
Should each idea recollect its friend.
Here then we fix; on this perennial base
Erect thy safety, and defy the storm.
Let soft Profusion's fair idea join
Her hand with Poverty; nor here desist,
Till o'er the group that forms their various train
Thou sing loud hymeneals. Let the pride
Of outward show in lasting leagues combine
With shame threadbare; the gay vermilion face
Of rash Intemperance be discreetly pair'd
With sallow Hunger: the licentious joy
With mean dependence; even the dear delight
Of sculpture, paint, intaglios, books, and coins,
Thy breast, sagacious Prudence! shall connect
With filth and beggary; nor disdain to link
With black Insolvency. Thy soul, alarm'd,
Shall shun the Siren's voice; nor boldly dare
To bid the soft enchantress share thy breast,
With such a train of horrid fiends conjoin'd.
Nor think, ye sordid race! ye grovelling minds!
I frame the song for you; for you the Muse
Could other rules impart. The friendly strain,
For gentler bosoms plann'd, to yours would prove
The juice of lurid aconite, exceed
Whatever Colchos bore; and in your breast
Compassion, love, and friendship, all destroy!
It greatly shall avail, if e'er thy stores.
Increase apace, by periodic days
Of annual payment, or thy patron's boon,
The lean reward of gross unbounded praise!
It much avails, to seize the present hour,
And, undeliberating, call around
Thy hungry creditors; their horrid rage,
When once appeased, the small remaining store
Shall rise in weight tenfold, in lustre rise,
As gold improved by many a fierce assay.
'Tis thus the frugal husbandman directs
His narrow stream, if o'er its wonted banks,
By sudden rains impell'd, it proudly swell;
His timely hand through better tracts conveys
The quick decreasing tide: ere borne along,
Or through the wild morass, or cultured fields,
Or bladed grass mature, or barren sands,
It flow destructive, or it flow in vain.
But happiest he who sanctifies expense
By present pay; who subjects not his fame
To tradesmen's varlets, nor bequeaths his name,
His honour'd name, to deck the vulgar page
Of base mechanic, sordid, unsincere!
There haply, while thy Muse sublimely soars
Beyond this earthly sphere, in heaven's abodes,
And dreams of nectar and ambrosial sweets,
Thy growing debt steals unregarded o'er
The punctual record; till nor Phoebus self,
Nor sage Minerva's art, can aught avail
To soothe the ruthless dun's detested rage:
Frantic and fell, with many a curse profane
He loads the gentle Muse, then hurls thee down
To want, remorse, captivity, and shame.
Each public place, the glittering haunts of men,
With horror fly. Why loiter near thy bane?--
Why fondly linger on a hostile shore,
Disarm'd, defenceless? why require to tread
The precipice? or why, alas! to breathe
A moment's space, where every breeze is death,
Death to thy future peace? Away, collect
Thy dissipated mind; contract thy train
Of wild ideas, o'er the flowery fields
Of show diffused, and speed to safer climes.
Economy presents her glass, accept
The faithful mirror, powerful to disclose
A thousand forms, unseen by careless eyes,
That plot thy fate. Temptation in a robe
Of Tyrian dye, with every sweet perfumed,
Besets thy sense; Extortion follows close
Her wanton step, and Ruin brings the rear.
These and the rest shall her mysterious glass
Embody to thy view; like Venus kind,
When to her labouring son, the vengeful powers
That urged the fall of Ilium, she displayed:
He, not imprudent, at the sight declined
The unequal conflict, and decreed to raise
The Trojan welfare on some happier shore.
For here to drain thy swelling purse await
A thousand arts, a thousand frauds attend:
"The cloud-wrought canes, the gorgeous snuff-boxes,
The twinkling jewels, and the gold etui,
With all its bright inhabitants, shall waste
Its melting stores, and in the dreary void
Leave not a doit behind." Ere yet, exhaust,
Its flimsy folds offend thy pensive eye,
Away! embosom'd deep in distant shades,
Nor seen nor seeing, thou mayst vent thy scorn
Of lace, embroidery, purple, gems, and gold!
There of the faded fop and essenced beau,
Ferocious, with a Stoic's frown disclose
Thy manly scorn, averse to tinsel pomp;
And fluent thine harangue. But can thy soul
Deny thy limbs the radiant grace of dress,
Where dress is merit? where thy graver friend
Shall wish thee burnish'd? where the sprightly fair
Demand embellishment? even Delia's eye,
As in a garden, roves, of hues alone
Inquirent, curious? Fly the cursed domain;
These are the realms of luxury and show,
No classic soil; away! the bloomy spring
Attracts thee hence; the warning autumn warns;
Fly to thy native shades, and dread, even there,
Lest busy fancy tempt thy narrow state
Beyond its bounds. Observe Florelio's mien:
Why treads my friend with melancholy step
That beauteous lawn? why, pensive, strays his eye
O'er statues, grottos, urns, by critic art
Proportion'd fair? or from his lofty dome,
Bright glittering through the grove, returns his eye
Unpleased, disconsolate? And is it love,
Disastrous love, that robs the finish'd scenes
Of all their beauty, centering all in her
His soul adores? or from a blacker cause
Springs this remorseful gloom? Is conscious guilt
The latent source of more than love's despair?
It cannot be within that polish'd breast,
Where science dwells, that guilt should harbour there.
No; 'tis the sad survey of present want
And past profusion! lost to him the sweets
Of yon pavilion, fraught with every charm
For other eyes; or if remaining, proofs
Of criminal expense! Sweet interchange
Of river, valley, mountain, woods, and plains!
How gladsome once he ranged your native turf,
Your simple scenes, how raptured! ere Expense
Had lavish'd thousand ornaments, and taught
Convenience to perplex him, Art to pall,
Pomp to deject, and Beauty to displease!
Oh! for a soul to all the glare of wealth,
To Fortune's wide exhaustless treasury,
Nobly superior! but let Caution guide
The coy disposal of the wealth we scorn,
And Prudence be our Almoner. Alas!
The pilgrim wandering o'er some distant clime,
Sworn foe of avarice! nor disdains to learn
Its coin's imputed worth, the destined means
To smooth his passage to the favour'd shrine.
Ah! let not us, who tread this stranger world,
Let none who sojourn on the realms of life,
Forget the land is mercenary, nor waste
His fare, ere landed on no venal shore.
Let never bard consult Palladio's rules;
Let never bard, O Burlington! survey
Thy learned art, in Chiswick's dome display'd;
Dangerous incentive! nor with lingering eye
Survey the window Venice calls her own.
Better for him, with no ingrateful Muse,
To sing a requiem to that gentle soul
Who plann'd the skylight, which to lavish bards
Conveys alone the pure ethereal ray;
For garrets him, and squalid walls, await,
Unless, presageful, from this friendly strain
He glean advice, and shun the scribbler's doom.
Yet once again, and to thy doubtful fate
The trembling Muse consigns thee. Ere contempt,
Or Want's empoison'd arrow, ridicule,
Transfix thy weak unguarded breast, behold!
The poet's roofs, the careless poet's, his
Who scorns advice, shall close my serious lay.
When Gulliver, now great, now little deem'd,
The plaything of Comparison, arrived
Where learned bosoms their aerial schemes
Projected, studious of the public weal;
'Mid these, one subtler artist he descried,
Who cherish'd in his dusty tenement
The spider's web, injurious, to supplant
Fair Albion's fleeces! Never, never may
Our monarchs on such fatal purpose smile,
And irritate Minerva's beggar'd sons,
The Melksham weavers! Here in every nook
Their wefts they spun; here revell'd uncontroll'd,
And, like the flags from Westminster's high roof
Dependent, here their fluttering textures waved.
Such, so adorn'd the cell I mean to sing!
Cell ever squalid! where the sneerful maid
Will not fatigue her hand! broom never comes,
That comes to all! o'er whose quiescent walls
Arachne's unmolested care has drawn
Curtains subsusk, and save the expense of art.
Survey those walls, in fady texture clad,
Where wandering snails in many a slimy path,
Free, unrestrain'd, their various journeys crawl;
Peregrinations strange, and labyrinths
Confused, inextricable! such the clue
Of Cretan Ariadne ne'er explain'd!
Hooks! angles! crooks! and involutions wild!
Meantime, thus silver'd with meanders gay,
In mimic pride the snail-wrought tissue shines,
Perchance of tabby, or of aretine,
Not ill expressive; such the power of snails!
Behold his chair, whose fractured seat infirm
An aged cushion hides! replete with dust
The foliaged velvet; pleasing to the eye
Of great Eliza's reign, but now the snare
Of weary guest that on the specious bed
Sits down confiding. Ah! disastrous wight!
In evil hour and rashly dost thou trust
The fraudful couch! for though in velvet cased,
Thy fated thigh shall kiss the dusty floor.
The traveller thus, that o'er Hibernian plains
Hath shaped his way, on beds profuse of flowers,
Cowslip, or primrose, or the circular eye
Of daisy fair, decrees to bask supine.
And see! delighted, down he drops, secure
Of sweet refreshment, ease without annoy,
Or luscious noonday nap. Ah! much deceived,
Much suffering pilgrim! thou nor noonday nap
Nor sweet repose shalt find; the false morass
In quivering undulations yields beneath
Thy burden, in the miry gulf enclosed!
And who would trust appearance? cast thine eye
Where 'mid machines of heterogeneous form
His coat depends; alas! his only coat,
Eldest of things! and napless as an heath
Of small extent by fleecy myriads grazed.
Not different have I seen in dreary vault
Display'd a coffin; on each sable side
The texture unmolested seems entire;
Fraudful, when touch'd it glides to dust away,
And leaves the wondering swain to gape, to stare,
And with expressive shrug and piteous sigh,
Declare the fatal force of rolling years,
Or dire extent of frail mortality.
This aged vesture, scorn of gazing beaus,
And formal cits (themselves too haply scorn'd),
Both on its sleeve, and on its skirt, retains
Full many a pin wide-sparkling: for, if e'er
Their well-known crest met his delighted eye,
Though wrapt in thought, commercing with the sky,
He, gently stooping, scorn'd not to upraise,
And on each sleeve, as conscious of their use,
Indenting fix them; nor, when arm'd with these,
The cure of rents and separations dire,
And chasms enormous, did he view, dismay'd,
Hedge, bramble, thicket, bush, portending fate
To breeches, coat, and hose! had any wight
Of vulgar skill the tender texture own'd;
But gave his mind to form a sonnet quaint
Of Silvia's shoe-string, or of Chloe's fan,
Or sweetly-fashion'd tip of Celia's ear.
Alas! by frequent use decays the force
Of mortal art! the refractory robe
Eludes the tailor's art, eludes his own;
How potent once, in union quaint conjoin'd!
See, near his bed (his bed, too falsely call'd
The place of rest, while it a bard sustains;
Pale, meagre, muse-rid wight! who reads in vain
Narcotic volumes o'er) his candlestick,
Radiant machine! when from the plastic hand
Of Mulciber, the Mayor of Birmingham,
The engine issued; now, alas! disguised
By many an unctuous tide, that wandering down
Its sides congeal; what he, perhaps, essays,
With humour forced, and ill-dissembled smile,
Idly to liken to the poplar's trunk,
When o'er its bark the lucid amber, wound
In many a pleasing fold, incrusts the tree;
Or suits him more the winter's candied thorn,
When from each branch, annealed, the works of frost
Pervasive, radiant icicles depend?
How shall I sing the various ills that wait
The careful sonneteer? or who can paint
The shifts enormous, that in vain he forms
To patch his paneless window; to cement
His batter'd tea-pot, ill-retentive vase,
To war with ruin? anxious to conceal
Want's fell appearance, of the real ill
Nor foe, nor fearful. Ruin unforeseen
Invades his chattels; Ruin will invade,
Will claim his whole invention to repair,
Nor of the gift, for tuneful ends design'd,
Allow one part to decorate his song;
While Ridicule, with ever-pointing hand,
Conscious of every shift, of every shift
Indicative, his inmost plot betrays,
Points to the nook, which he his Study calls,
Pompous and vain! for thus he might esteem
His chest a wardrobe; purse, a treasury;
And shows, to crown her full display, himself;
One whom the powers above, in place of health
And wonted vigour, of paternal cot,
Or little farm; of bag, or scrip, or staff,
Cup, dish, spoon, plate, or worldly utensil,
A poet framed, yet framed not to repine,
And wish the cobbler's loftiest site his own;
Nor, partial as they seem, upbraid the Fates,
Who to the humbler mechanism join'd
Goods so superior, such exalted bliss!
See with what seeming ease, what labour'd peace,
He, hapless hypocrite! refines his nail,
His chief amusement! then how feign'd, how forced,
That care-defying sonnet, which implies
His debts discharged, and he of half-a-crown
In full possession, uncontested right
And property! Yet, ah! whoe'er this wight
Admiring view, if such there be, distrust
The vain pretence, the smiles that harbour grief,
As lurks the serpent deep in flowers enwreath'd.
Forewarn'd, be frugal, or with prudent rage
Thy pen demolish; choose the trustier flail,
And bless those labours which the choice inspired.
But if thou view'st a vulgar mind, a wight
Of common sense, who seeks no brighter name,
Him envy, him admire; him, from thy breast,
Prescient of future dignities, salute
Sheriff, or mayor, in comfortable furs
Enwrapt, secure; nor yet the laureat's crown
In thought exclude him! he perchance shall rise
To nobler heights than foresight can decree.
When fired with wrath for his intrigues display'd
In many an idle song, Saturnian Jove
Vow'd sure destruction to the tuneful race;
Appeased by suppliant Phoebus; "Bards," he said,
"Henceforth of plenty, wealth and pomp debarr'd,
But fed by frugal cares, might wear the bay
Secure of thunder."--Low the Delian bow'd,
Nor at the invidious favour dared repine.
OR, THE EFFECTS OF SUPERSTITION
At length fair Peace, with olive crown'd, regains
Her lawful throne, and to the sacred haunts
Of wood or fount the frighted Muse returns.
Happy the bard who, from his native hills,
Soft musing on a summer's eve, surveys
His azure stream, with pensile woods enclosed;
Or o'er the glassy surface with his friend,
Or faithful fair, through bordering willows green,
Wafts his small frigate. Fearless he of shouts,
Or taunts, the rhetoric of the watery crew
That ape confusion from the realms they rule;
Fearless of these; who shares the gentler voice
Of peace and music; birds of sweetest song
Attune from native boughs their various lay,
And cheer the forest; birds of brighter plume
With busy pinion skim the glittering wave,
And tempt the sun; ambitious to display
Their several merit, while the vocal flute
Or number'd verse, by female voice endear'd,
Crowns his delight, and mollifies the scene.
If solitude his wandering steps invite
To some more deep recess (for hours there are
When gay, when social minds to Friendship's voice,
Or Beauty's charm, her wild abodes prefer),
How pleased he treads her venerable shades,
Her solemn courts! the centre of the grove!
The root-built cave, by far extended rocks
Around embosom'd, how it soothes the soul!
If scoop'd at first by superstitious hands,
The rugged cell received alone the shoals
Of bigot minds, Religion dwells not here,
Yet Virtue, pleased at intervals retires:
Yet here may Wisdom, as she walks the maze,
Some serious truths collect, the rules of life,
And serious truths of mightier weight than gold!
I ask not wealth; but let me hoard with care,
With frugal cunning, with a niggard's art,
A few fix'd principles, in early life,
Ere indolence impede the search, explored;
Then, like old Latimer, when age impairs
My judgment's eye, when quibbling schools attack
My grounded hope, or subtler wits deride,
Will I not blush to shun the vain debate,
And this mine answer: "Thus, 'twas thus I thought,
My mind yet vigorous, and my soul entire;
Thus will I think, averse to listen more
To intricate discussion, prone to stray.
Perhaps my reason may but ill defend
My settled faith; my mind, with age impair'd,
Too sure its own infirmities declare.
But I am arm'd by caution, studious youth,
And early foresight: now the winds may rise,
The tempest whistle, and the billows roar;
My pinnace rides in port, despoil'd and worn,
Shatter'd by time and storms, but while it shuns
The unequal conflict, and declines the deep,
Sees the strong vessel fluctuate, less secure."
Thus while he strays, a thousand rural scenes
Suggest instruction, and instructing please.
And see betwixt the grove's extended arms
An Abbey's rude remains attract thy view,
Gilt by the mid-day sun: with lingering step
Produce thine axe (for, aiming to destroy
Tree, branch, or shade, for never shall thy breast
Too long deliberate), with timorous hand
Remove the obstructive bough; nor yet refuse,
Though sighing, to destroy that favourite pine,
Raised by thine hand, in its luxuriant prime
Of beauty fair, that screens the vast remains.
Aggrieved, but constant as the Roman sire,
The rigid Manlius, when his conquering son
Bled by a parent's voice, the cruel meed
Of virtuous ardour, timelessly display'd;
Nor cease till; through the gloomy road, the pile
Gleam unobstructed: thither oft thine eye
Shall sweetly wander; thence returning, soothe
With pensive scenes thy philosophic mind.
These were thy haunts, thy opulent abodes,
O Superstition! hence the dire disease
(Balanced with which the famed Athenian pest
Were a short headache, were the trivial pain
Of transient indigestion) seized mankind.
Long time she raged, and scarce a southern gale
Warm'd our chill air, unloaded with the threats
Of tyrant Rome; but futile all, till she,
Rome's abler legate, magnified their power,
And in a thousand horrid forms attired.
Where then was truth to sanctify the page
Of British annals? if a foe expired,
The perjured monk suborn'd infernal shrieks,
And fiends to snatch at the departing soul
With hellish emulation: if a friend,
High o'er his roof exultant angels tune
Their golden lyres, and waft him to the skies.
What then were vows, were oaths, were plighted faith?
The sovereign's just, the subject's loyal pact,
To cherish mutual good, annull'd and vain
By Roman magic, grew an idle scroll
Ere the frail sanction of the wax was cold.
With thee, Plantagenet! from civil broils
The land awhile respired, and all was peace.
Then Becket rose, and, impotent of mind,
From regal courts with lawless fury march'd
The Church's blood-stain'd convicts, and forgave;
Bid murderous priests the sovereign frown contemn,
And with unhallow'd crosier bruised the crown.
Yet yielded not supinely tame a prince
Of Henry's virtues; learn'd, courageous, wise,
Of fair ambition. Long his regal soul,
Firm and erect, the peevish priest exiled,
And braved the fury of revengeful Rome.
In vain! let one faint malady diffuse
The pensive gloom which Superstition loves,
And see him, dwindled to a recreant groom,
Rein the proud palfrey while the priest ascends!
Was Coeur-de-Lion blest with whiter days?
Here the cowl'd zealots with united cries
Urged the crusade; and see! of half his stores
Despoil'd the wretch, whose wiser bosom chose
To bless his friends, his race, his native land.
Of ten fair suns that rode their annual race,
Not one beheld him on his vacant throne;
While haughty Longchamp, 'mid his liveried files
Of wanton vassals, spoil'd his faithful realm,
Battling in foreign fields; collecting wide
A laurel harvest for a pillaged land.
Oh! dear-bought trophies! when a prince deserts
His drooping realm, to pluck the barren sprays!
When faithless John usurp'd the sullied crown,
What ample tyranny! the groaning land
Deem'd earth, deem'd heaven, its foe! Six tedious years
Our helpless fathers in despair obey'd
The papal interdict; and who obey'd
The sovereign plunder'd. O inglorious days!
When the French tyrant, by the futile grant
Of papal rescript, claim'd Britannia's throne,
And durst invade! be such inglorious days
Or hence forgot, or not recall'd in vain!
Scarce had the tortured ear, dejected heard
Rome's loud anathema, but heartless, dead
To every purpose, men nor wish'd to live
Nor dared to die. The poor laborious hind
Heard the dire curse, and from his trembling hand
Fell the neglected crook that ruled the plain:
Thence journeying home, in every cloud he sees
A vengeful angel, in whose waving scroll
He reads damnation; sees its sable train
Of grim attendants, pencill'd by despair!
The weary pilgrim from remoter climes
By painful steps arrived; his home, his friends,
His offspring left, to lavish on the shrine
Of some far-honour'd saint his costly stores,
Inverts his foot-step; sickens at the sight
Of the barr'd fane, and silent sheds his tear.
The wretch, whose hope by stern Oppression chased
From every earthly bliss, still as it saw
Triumphant wrong, took wing, and flew to heaven,
And rested there, now mourn'd his refuge lost,
And wonted peace. The sacred fane was barr'd;
And the lone altar, where the mourners throng'd
To supplicate remission, smoked no more:
While the green weed luxuriant round uprose,
Some from their deathbed, whose delirious faith
Through every stage of life to Rome's decrees
Obsequious, humbly hoped to die in peace,
Now saw the ghastly king approach, begirt
In tenfold terrors; now expiring heard
The last loud clarion sound, and Heaven's decree
With unremitting vengeance bar the skies.
Nor light the grief, by Superstition weigh'd,
That their dishonour'd corse, shut from the verge
Of hallow'd earth, or tutelary fane,
Must sleep with brutes, their vassals, on the field,
Unneath some path, in marl unexercised!
No solemn bell extort a neighbour's tear!
No tongue of priest pronounce their soul secure,
Nor fondest friend assure their peace obtain'd!
The priest, alas! so boundless was the ill,
He, like the flock he pillaged, pined forlorn;
The vivid vermeil fled his fady cheek;
And his big paunch, distended with the spoils
Of half his flock, emaciate, groan'd beneath
Superior pride, and mightier lust of power!
'Twas now Rome's fondest friend, whose meagre hand
Told to the midnight lamp his holy beads
With nice precision, felt the deeper wound,
As his gull'd soul revered the conclave more.
Whom did the ruin spare? for wealth, for power,
Birth, honour, virtue, enemy, and friend,
Sunk helpless, in the dreary gulf involved,
And one capricious curse enveloped all!
Were kings secure? in towering stations born,
In flattery nursed, inured to scorn mankind,
Or view diminish'd from their site sublime
As when a shepherd, from the lofty brow
Of some proud cliff surveys his lessening flock
In snowy groups diffusive stud the vale.
Awhile the furious menace John return'd,
And breathed defiance loud. Alas! too soon
Allegiance sickening, saw its sovereign yield,
An angry prey to scruples not his own.
The loyal soldier, girt around with strength,
Who stole from mirth and wine his blooming years,
And seized the falchion, resolute to guard
His sovereign's right, impalsied at the news,
Finds the firm bias of his soul reversed
For foul desertion; drops the lifted steel,
And quits Fame's noble harvest, to expire
The death of monks, of surfeit and of sloth!
At length, fatigued with wrongs, the servile king
Drain'd from his land its small remaining stores
To buy remission. But could these obtain?
No! resolute in wrongs the priest obdured,
Till crawling base, to Rome's deputed slave,
His fame, his people, and his crown, he gave.
Mean monarch! slighted, braved, abhorr'd, before!
And now, appeased by delegated sway,
The wily pontiff scorns not to recall
His interdictions. Now the sacred doors
Admit repentant multitudes, prepared
To buy deceit; admit obsequious tribes
Of satraps: princes crawling to the shrine
Of sainted villany! the pompous tomb
Dazzling with gems and gold, or in a cloud
Of incense wreath'd amidst a drooping land
That sigh'd for bread! 'Tis thus the Indian clove
Displays its verdant leaf, its crimson flower,
And sheds its odours; while the flocks around,
Hungry and faint, the barren sands explore
In vain! nor plant nor herb endears the soil,
Drain'd and exhaust to swell its thirsty pores,
And furnish luxury.--Yet, yet in vain
Britannia strove; and whether artful Rome
Caress'd or cursed her, Superstition raged,
And blinded, fetter'd, and despoil'd the land.
At length some murderous monk, with poisonous art,
Expell'd the life his brethren robb'd of peace.
Nor yet surceased with John's disastrous fate
Pontific fury: English wealth exhaust,
The sequent reign beheld the beggar'd shore
Grim with Italian usurers; prepared
To lend, for griping unexampled hire,
To lend--what Rome might pillage uncontroll'd.
For now with more extensive havoc raged
Relentless Gregory, with a thousand arts,
And each rapacious, born to drain the world!
Nor shall the Muse repeat how oft he blew
The croise's trumpet; then for sums of gold
Annull'd the vow, and bade the false alarm
Swell the gross hoards of Henry, or his own:
Nor shall she tell how pontiffs dared repeal
The best of charters! dared absolve the tie
Of British kings, by legal oath restrain'd:
Nor can she dwell on argosies of gold
From Albion's realm to servile shores convey'd,
Wrung from her sons, and speeded by her kings!
Oh, irksome days! when wicked thrones combine
With papal craft to gull their native land!
Such was our fate, while Rome's director taught
Of subjects, born to be their monarch's prey,
To toil for monks, for gluttony to toil,
For vacant gluttony; extortion, fraud,
For avarice, envy, pride, revenge, and shame!
O doctrine breathed from Stygian caves! exhaled
From inmost Erebus!--Such Henry's reign!
Urging his royal realm's reluctant hand
To wield the peaceful sword, by John erewhile
Forced from its scabbard, and with burnish'd lance,
Essay the savage cure, domestic war!
And now some nobler spirits chased the mist
Of general darkness. Grosted now adorn'd
The mitred wreath he wore, with Reason's sword
Staggering delusion's frauds; at length beneath
Rome's interdict expiring calm, resign'd
No vulgar soul, that dared to Heav'n appeal!
But, ah! this fertile glebe, this fair domain,
Had well-nigh ceded to the slothful hands
Of monks libidinous; ere Edward's care
The lavish hand of deathbed Fear restrain'd.
Yet was he clear of Superstition's taint?
He, too, misdeemful of his wholesome law,
Even he, expiring, gave his treasured gold
To fatten monks on Salem's distant soil!
Yes, the Third Edward's breast, to papal sway
So little prone, and fierce in honour's cause,
Could Superstition quell! before the towers
Of haggard Paris, at the thunder's voice
He drops the sword, and signs ignoble peace!
But still the Night, by Romish art diffused,
Collects her clouds, and with slow pace recedes;
When, by soft Bourdeau's braver queen approved,
Bold Wickliff rose; and while the bigot power
Amidst her native darkness skulk'd secure,
The demon vanish'd as he spread the day.
So from his bosom Cacus breathed of old
The pitchy cloud, and in a night of smoke
Secure, awhile his recreant life sustain'd;
Till famed Alcides, o'er his subtlest wiles
Victorious, cheer'd the ravaged nations round.
Hail, honour'd Wickliff! enterprising sage!
An Epicurus in the cause of truth!
For 'tis not radiant suns, the jovial hours
Of youthful Spring, an ether all serene,
Nor all the verdure of Campania's vales,
Can chase religious gloom! 'Tis reason, thought,
The light, the radiance, that pervades the soul,
And sheds its beams on heaven's mysterious way!
As yet this light but glimmer'd, and again
Error prevail'd; while kings by force upraised,
Let loose the rage of bigots on their foes,
And seek affection by the dreadful boon
Of licensed murder. Even the kindest prince,
The most extended breast, the royal Hal,
All unrelenting heard the Lollards' cry
Burst from the centre of remorseless flames;
Their shrieks endured! O stain to martial praise!
When Cobham, generous as the noble peer
That wears his honours, paid the fatal price
Of virtue blooming ere the storms were laid!
'Twas thus, alternate, truth's precarious flame
Decay'd or fiourish'd. With malignant eye
The pontiff saw Britannia's golden fleece,
Once all his own, invest her worthier sons!
Her verdant valleys, and her fertile plains,
Yellow with grain, abjure his hateful sway!
Essay'd his utmost art, and inly own'd
No labours bore proportion to the prize.
So when the tempter view'd, with envious eye,
The first fair pattern of the female frame,
All Nature's beauties in one form display'd,
And centering there, in wild amaze he stood;
Then only envying Heaven's creative hand;
Wish'd to his gloomy reign his envious arts
Might win this prize, and doubled every snare.
And vain were reason, courage, learning, all,
Till power accede; till Tudor's wild caprice
Smile on their cause; Tudor! whose tyrant reign,
With mental freedom crown'd, the best of kings
Might envious view, and ill prefer their own!
Then Wolsey rose, by Nature form'd to seek
Ambition's trophies, by address to win,
By temper to enjoy--whose humbler birth
Taught the gay scenes of pomp to dazzle more.
Then from its towering height with horrid sound
Rush'd the proud abbey: then the vaulted roofs,
Torn from their walls, disclosed the wanton scene
Of monkish chastity! Each angry friar
Crawl'd from his bedded strumpet, muttering low
An ineffectual curse. The pervious nooks,
That, ages past, convey'd the guileful priest
To play some image on the gaping crowd,
Imbibe the novel daylight, and expose,
Obvious, the fraudful enginery of Rome.
As though this opening earth to nether realms
Should flash meridian day, the hooded race
Shudder, abash'd to find their cheats display'd,
And, conscious of their guilt, and pleased to waive
Its fearful meed, resign'd their fair domain.
Nor yet supine, nor void of rage, retired
The pest gigantic; whose revengeful stroke
Tinged the red annals of Maria's reign,
When from the tenderest breast each wayward priest
Could banish mercy and implant a fiend!
When cruelty the funeral pyre uprear'd,
And bound Religion there, and fired the base!
When the same blaze, which on each tortured limb
Fed with luxuriant rage, in every face
Triumphant faith appear'd, and smiling hope.
O blest Eliza! from thy piercing beam
Forth flew this hated fiend, the child of Rome;
Driven to the verge of Albion, linger'd there,
Then with her James receding, cast behind
One angry frown, and sought more servile climes.
Henceforth they plied the long-continued task
Of righteous havoc, covering distant fields
With the wrought remnants of the shatter'd pile;
While through the land the musing pilgrim sees
A tract of brighter green, and in the midst
Appears a mouldering wall, with ivy crown'd,
Or Gothic turret, pride of ancient days!
Now but of use to grace a rural scene,
To bound our vistas, and to glad the sons
Of George's reign, reserved for fairer times!
Sed neque Medorum silvae, ditissima terra
Nec pulcher Ganges, atque auro turbidus Haemus,
Laudibus Angligenum certent; non Bactra, nec Indi,
Totaque thuriferis Panchaia pinguis arenis.
Let the green olive glad Hesperian shores;
Her tawny citron, and her orange groves,
These let Iberia boast; but if in vain,
To win the stranger plant's diffusive smile,
The Briton labours, yet our native minds,
Our constant bosoms, these the dazzled world
May view with envy; these Iberian dames
Survey with fix'd esteem and fond desire.
Hapless Elvira! thy disastrous fate
May well this truth explain, nor ill adorn
The British lyre; then chiefly, if the Muse,
Nor vain, nor partial, from the simple guise
Of ancient record catch the pensive lay,
And in less grovelling accents give to Fame.
Elvira! loveliest maid! the Iberian realm
Could boast no purer breast, no sprightlier mind,
No race more splendent, and no form so fair.
Such was the chance of war, this peerless maid,
In life's luxuriant bloom, enrich'd the spoil
Of British victors, victory's noblest pride!
She, she alone, amid the wailful train
Of captive maids, assign'd to Henry's care,
Lord of her life, her fortune, and her fame!
He, generous youth! with no penurious hand,
The tedious moments, that unjoyous roll
Where Freedom's cheerful radiance shines no more,
Essay'd to soften; conscious of the pang
That Beauty feels, to waste its fleeting hours
In some dim fort, by foreign rule restrain'd,
Far from the haunts of men, or eye of day!
Sometimes, to cheat her bosom of its cares,
Her kind protector number'd o'er the toils
Himself had worn; the frowns of angry seas,
Or hostile rage, or faithless friend, more fell
Than storm or foe; if haply she might find
Her cares diminish'd; fruitless, fond essay!
Now to her lovely hand, with modest awe
The tender lute he gave; she, not averse,
Nor destitute of skill, with willing hand
Call'd forth angelic strains; the sacred debt
Of gratitude, she said, whose just commands
Still might her hand with equal pride obey!
Nor to the melting sounds the nymph refused
Her vocal art; harmonious as the strain
Of some imprison'd lark, who, daily cheer'd
By guardian cares, repays them with a song;
Nor droops, nor deems sweet liberty resign'd.
The song, not artless had she framed to paint
Disastrous passion; how, by tyrant laws
Of idiot custom sway'd, some soft-eyed fair
Loved only one, nor dared that love reveal!
How the soft anguish banish'd from her cheek
The damask rose full-blown; a fever came,
And from her bosom forced the plaintive tale;
Then, swift as light, he sought the love-lorn maid,
But vainly sought her; torn by swifter fate
To join the tenants of the myrtle shade,
Love's mournful victims on the plains below.
Sometimes, as Fancy spoke the pleasing task,
She taught her artful needle to display
The various pride of spring; then swift upsprung
Thickets of myrtle, eglantine, and rose:
There might you see, on gentle toils intent,
A train of busy Loves; some pluck the flower,
Some twine the garland, some with grave grimace
Around a vacant warrior cast the wreath.
'Twas paint, 'twas life! and sure to piercing eyes
The warrior's face depictured Henry's mien.
Now had the generous chief with joy perused
The royal scroll, which to their native home,
Their ancient rights, uninjured, unredeem'd,
Restored the captives. Forth with rapid haste
To glad his fair Elvira's ear, he sprung,
Fired by the bliss he panted to convey;
But fired in vain! Ah! what was his amaze,
His fond distress, when o'er her pallid face
Dejection reign'd, and from her lifeless hand
Down dropt the myrtle's fair unfinish'd flower!
Speechless she stood; at length, with accents faint,
"Well may my native shore," she said, "resound
Thy monarch's praise; and here Elvira prove
Of thine forgetful; flowers shall cease to feel
The fostering breeze, and Nature change her laws!"
And now the grateful edict wide alarm'd
The British host. Around the smiling youths,
Call'd to their native scenes, with willing haste
Their fleet unmoor; impatient of the love
That weds each bosom to its native soil.
The patriot passion! strong in every clime,
How justly theirs who find no foreign sweets
To dissipate their loves, or match their own.
Not so Elvira! she, disastrous maid!
Was doubly captive; power nor chance could loose
The subtle bands; she loved her generous foe;
She, where her Henry dwelt, her Henry smiled,
Could term her native shore; her native shore,
By him deserted, some unfriendly strand,
Strange, bleak, forlorn! a desert waste and wild.
The fleet careen'd, the wind propitious fill'd
The swelling sails, the glittering transports waved
Their pennants gay, and halcyons' azure wing,
With flight auspicious, skimm'd the placid main.
On her lone couch in tears Elvira lay,
And chid the officious wind, the tempting sea,
And wish'd a storm as merciless as tore
Her labouring bosom. Fondly now she strove
To banish passion; now the vassal days,
The captive moments, that so smoothly past,
By many an art recall'd; now from her lute
With trembling fingers call'd the favourite sounds
Which Henry deign'd to praise; and now essay'd,
With mimic chains of silken fillets wove,
To paint her captive state; if any fraud
Might to her love the pleasing scenes prolong,
And with the dear idea feast the soul.
But now the chief return'd, prepared to launch
On Ocean's willing breast, and bid adieu
To his fair prisoner. She, soon as she heard
His hated errand, now no more conceal'd
The raging flame; but with a spreading blush
And rising sigh, the latent pang disclosed.
"Yes, generous youth! I see thy bosom glow
With virtuous transport, that the task is thine
To solve my chains, and to my weeping friends,
And every longing relative, restore
A soft-eyed maid, a mild offenceless prey!
But know, my Soldier! never youthful mind,
Torn from the lavish joys of wild expense
By him he loathed, and in a dungeon bound
To languish out his bloom, could match the pains
This ill-starr'd freedom gives my tortured mind.
"What call I freedom? is it that these limbs,
From rigid bolts secure, may wander far
From him I love? Alas! ere I may boast
That sacred blessing, some superior power
To mortal kings, to sublunary thrones,
Must loose my passion, must unchain my soul:
Even that I loathe: all liberty I loathe!
But most the joyless privilege to gaze
With cold indifference, where desert is love.
"True, I was born an alien to those eyes
I ask alone to please; my fortune's crime!
And ah! this flatter'd form, by dress endear'd
To Spanish eyes, by dress may thine offend,
Whilst I, ill-fated maid! ordain'd to strive
With custom's load, beneath its weight expire.
"Yet Henry's beauties knew in foreign garb
To vanquish me; his form, howe'er disguised,
To me were fatal! no fantastic robe
That e'er Caprice invented, Custom wore,
Or Folly smiled on, could eclipse thy charms.
"Perhaps by birth decreed, by Fortune placed
Thy country's foe, Elvira's warmest plea
Seems but the subtler accent fraud inspires;
My tenderest glances but the specious flowers,
That shade the viper while she plots her wound.
And can the trembling candidate of love
Awake thy fears? and can a female breast,
By ties of grateful duty bound, ensnare?
Is there no brighter mien, no softer smile
For love to wear, to dark Deceit unknown?
Heaven search my soul! and if through all its cells
Lurk the pernicious drop of poisonous guile,
Full on my fenceless head its viall'd wrath
May Fate exhaust, and for my happiest hour
Exalt the vengeance I prepare for thee!
"Ah me! nor Henry's nor his country's foe,
On thee I gazed, and Reason soon dispell'd
Dim Error's gloom, and to thy favour'd isle
Assign'd its total merit, unrestrain'd.
Oh! lovely region to the candid eye!
'Twas there my fancy saw the Virtues dwell,
The Loves, the Graces, play, and bless'd the soil
That nurtured thee! for sure the Virtues form'd
Thy generous breast; the Loves, the Graces plann'd
Thy shapely limbs. Relation, birth, essay'd
Their partial power in vain; again I gazed,
And Albion's isle appear'd, amidst a tract
Of savage wastes, the darling of the skies!
And thou, by Nature form'd, by Fate assign'd,
To paint the genius of thy native shore.
"'Tis true, with flowers, with many a dazzling scene
Of burnish'd plants, to lure a female eye,
Iberia glows; but, ah! the genial sun,
That gilds the lemon's fruit, or scents the flower,
On Spanish minds, a nation's nobler boast,
Beams forth ungentle influences. There
Sits Jealousy enthroned, and at each ray
Exultant lights his slow consuming fires.
Not such thy charming region; long before
My sweet experience taught me to decide
Of English worth, the sound had pleased mine ear.
Is there that savage coast, that rude sojourn,
Stranger to British worth? the worth which forms
The kindest friends, the most tremendous foes;
First, best supports of liberty and love!
No, let subjected India, while she throws
O'er Spanish deeds the veil, your praise resound.
Long as I heard, or ere in story read
Of English fame, my biass'd partial breast
Wish'd them success: and happiest she, I cried,
Of women happiest she, who shares the love,
The fame, the virtues, of an English lord.
And now, what shall I say? Blest be the hour
Your fair-built vessels touch'd the Iberian shores:
Blest, did I say, the time? if I may bless
That loved event, let Henry's smiles declare.
Our hearts and cities won, will Henry's youth
Forego its nobler conquest? will he slight
The soft endearments of the lovelier spoil?
And yet Iberia's sons, with every vow
Of lasting faith, have sworn these humble charms
Were not excell'd; the source of all their pains,
And love her just desert, who sues for love,
But sues to thee, while natives sigh in vain.
"Perhaps in Henry's eye (for vulgar minds
Dissent from his) it spreads a hateful stain
On honest Fame, amid his train to bear
A female friend. Then learn, my gentle youth!
Not Love himself, with all the pointed pains
That store his quiver, shall seduce my soul
From honour's laws. Elvira once denied
A consort's name, more swift than lightning flies
When elements discordant vex the sky,
Shall, blushing, from the form she loves retire.
Yet if the specious wish the vulgar voice
Has titled Prudence, sways a soul like thine,
In gems or gold what proud Iberian dame
Eclipses me? Nor paint the dreary storms
Or hair-breadth 'scapes that haunt the boundless deep,
And force from tender eyes the silent tear;
When Memory to the pensive maid suggests,
In full contrast, the safe domestic scene
For these resign'd. Beyond the frantic rage
Of conquering heroes brave, the female mind,
When steel'd by love, in Love's most horrid way
Beholds not danger, or, beholding, scorns.
Heaven take my life, but let it crown my love!"
She ceased; and ere his words her fate decreed,
Impatient, watch'd the language of his eye:
There Pity dwelt, and from its tender sphere
Sent looks of love, and faithless hopes inspired.
"Forgive me, generous maid!" the youth return'd,
"If by thy accents charm'd, thus long I bore
To let such sweetness plead, alas! in vain.
Thy virtue merits more than crowns can yield
Of solid bliss, or happiest love bestow
But ere from native shores I plough'd the main,
To one dear maid, by virtue, and by charms
Alone endear'd, my plighted vows I gave;
To guard my faith, whatever chance should wait
My warring sword: if conquest, fame, and spoil,
Graced my return, before her feet to pour
The glittering treasure, and the laurel wreath,
Enjoying conquest then, and fame and spoil:
If Fortune frown'd adverse, and Death forbade
The blissful union, with my latest breath
To dwell on Medway's and Maria's name.
This ardent vow deep-rooted, from my soul
No dangers tore; this vow my bosom fired
To conquer danger, and the spoil enjoy.
Her shall I leave, with fair events elate,
Who crown'd mine humblest fortune with her love?
Her shall I leave, who now, perchance, alone
Climbs the proud cliff, and chides my slow return?
And shall that vessel, whose approaching sails
Shall swell her breast with extasies, convey
Death to her hopes, and anguish to her soul?
No! may the deep my villain corse devour,
If all the wealth Iberian mines conceal,
If all the charms Iberian maids disclose,
If thine, Elvira, thine, uniting all,
Thus far prevail--nor can thy virtuous breast
Demand what honour, faith, and love, denies."
"Oh! happy she," rejoin'd the pensive maid,
"Who shares thy fame, thy virtue, and thy love!
And be she happy! thy distinguish'd choice
Declares her worth, and vindicates her claim.
Farewell my luckless hopes! my flattering dreams
Of rapturous days! my guilty suit, farewell!
Yet fond howe'er my plea, or deep the wound
That waits my fame, let not the random shaft
Of Censure pierce with me the Iberian dames;
They love with caution, and with happier stars.
And, oh! by pity moved, restrain the taunts
Of levity, nor brand Elvira's flame;
By merit raised, by gratitude approved,
By hope confirm'd, with artless truth reveal'd,
Let, let me say, but for one matchless maid
Of happier birth, with mutual ardour crown'd.
"These radiant gems, which burnish Happiness,
But mock Misfortune, to thy favourite's hand
With care convey; and well may such adorn
Her cheerful front, who finds in thee alone
The source of every transport, but disgrace
My pensive breast, which, doom'd to lasting woe,
In thee the source of every bliss resign.
"And now, farewell, thou darling youth! the gem
Of English merit! Peace, content, and joy,
And tender hopes, and young desires, farewell!
Attend, ye smiling Train! this gallant mind
Back to his native shores; there sweetly smooth
His evening pillow, dance around his groves,
And, where he treads, with violets paint his way:
But leave Elvira! leave her, now no more
Your frail companion! in the sacred cells
Of some lone cloister let me shroud my shame
There to the matin bell, obsequious, pour
My constant orisons. The wanton Loves
And gay Desires, shall spy the glimmering towers,
And wing their flight aloof: but rest confirm'd,
That never shall Elvira's tongue conclude
Her shortest prayer, ere Henry's dear success
The warmest accent of her zeal employ."
Thus spoke the weeping fair, whose artless mind
Impartial scorn'd to model her esteem
By native customs; dress, and face, and air,
And manners, less; nor yet resolved in vain.
He, bound by prior love, the solemn vow
Given and received, to soft compassion gave
A tender tear; then with that kind adieu
Esteem could warrant, wearied Heaven with prayers
To shield that tender breast he left forlorn.
He ceased; and to the cloister's pensive scene
Elvira shaped her solitary way.
IN IMITATION OF SPENSER 
Ah me! full sorely is my heart forlorn,
To think how modest worth neglected lies,
While partial Fame doth with her blasts adorn
Such deeds alone, as pride and pomp disguise;
Deeds of ill sort, and mischievous emprize:
Lend me thy clarion, Goddess! let me try
To sound the praise of Merit, ere it dies;
Such as I oft have chaunced to espy
Lost in the dreary shades of dull obscurity.
In every village mark'd with little spire,
Embower'd in trees, and hardly known to fame,
There dwells, in lowly shed and mean attire,
A matron old, whom we schoolmistress name,
Who boasts unruly brats with birch to tame;
They grieven sore, in piteous durance pent,
Awed by the power of this relentless dame,
And ofttimes, on vagaries idly bent,
For unkempt hair, or task uuconn'd, are sorely shent.
And all in sight doth rise a birchen tree,
Which Learning near her little dome did stow,
Whilom a twig of small regard to see,
Though now so wide its waving branches flow,
And work the simple vassals mickle woe;
For not a wind might curl the leaves that blew,
But their limbs shudder'd, and their pulse beat low,
And as they look'd they found their horror grew,
And shaped it into rods, and tingled at the view.
So have I seen (who has not, may conceive),
A lifeless phantom near a garden placed,
So doth it wanton birds of peace bereave,
Of sport, of song, of pleasure, of repast;
They start, they stare, they wheel, they look aghast;
Sad servitude! such comfortless annoy
May no bold Briton's riper age e'er taste!
Ne superstition clog his dance of joy,
Ne vision empty, vain, his native bliss destroy.
Near to this dome is found a patch so green,
On which the tribe their gambols do display.
And at the door imprisoning board is seen,
Lest weakly wights of smaller size should stray,
Eager, perdie, to bask in sunny day!
The noises intermix'd, which thence resound,
Do Learning's little tenement betray;
Where sits the dame, disguised in look profound,
And eyes her fairy throng, and turns her wheel around.
Her cap, far whiter than the driven snow,
Emblem right meet of decency does yield;
Her apron, dyed in grain, as blue, I trow,
As in the harebell that adorns the field;
And in her hand, for scepter, she does wield
Tway birchen sprays; with anxious fear entwined,
With dark distrust, and sad repentance fill'd,
And stedfast hate, and sharp affliction join'd,
And fury uncontroll'd, and chastisement unkind.
Few but have kenn'd, in semblance meet portray'd,
The childish faces, of old Aeol's train,
Libs, Notus, Auster: these in frowns array'd,
How then would fare on earth, or sky, or main,
Were the stern god to give his slaves the rein?
And were not she rebellious breasts to quell,
And were not she her statutes to maintain,
The cot no more, I ween, were deem'd the cell
Where comely Peace of Mind, and decent Order dwell.
A russet stole was o'er her shoulders thrown,
A russet kirtle fenced the nipping air;
'Twas simple russet, but it was her own;
'Twas her own country bred the flock so fair;
'Twas her own labour did the fleece prepare;
And, sooth to say, her pupils, ranged around,
Through pious awe, did term it passing rare;
For they in gaping wonderment abound,
And think, no doubt, she been the greatest wight on ground.
Albeit ne flattery did corrupt her truth,
Ne pompous title did debauch her ear;
Goody, good-woman, gossip, n'aunt, forsooth,
Or dame, the sole additions she did hear;
Yet these she challenged, these she held right dear;
Ne would esteem him act as mought behove,
Who should not honour'd eld with these revere;
For never title yet so mean could prove,
But there was eke a mind which did that title love.
One ancient hen she took delight to feed,
The plodding pattern of the busy dame,
Which ever and anon, impell'd by need,
Into her school, begirt with chickens, came,
Such favour did her past deportment claim;
And, if neglect had lavish'd on the ground
Fragment of bread, she would collect the same;
For well she knew, and quaintly could expound,
What sin it were to waste the smallest crumb she found.
Herbs too, she knew, and well of each could speak,
That in her garden sipp'd the silvery dew,
Where no vain flower disclosed a gaudy streak,
But herbs for use and physick, not a few,
Of grey renown, within those borders grew;
The tufted basil, pun-provoking thyme,
Fresh baum, and marygold of chearful hue,
The lowly gill, that never dares to climb,
And more I fain would sing, disdaining here to rhyme.
Yet euphrasy may not be left unsung,
That gives dim eyes to wander leagues around;
And pungent radish, biting infant's tongue;
And plantain ribb'd, that heals the reaper's wound;
And marjoram sweet, in shepherd's posie found;
And lavender, whose pikes of azure bloom
Shall be, erewhile, in arid bundles bound,
To lurk amidst the labours of her loom,
And crown her kerchiefs clean with mickle rare perfume.
And here trim rosemarine, that whilom crown'd
The daintiest garden of the proudest peer;
Ere, driven from its envied site, it found
A sacred shelter for its branches here;
Where edged with gold its glittering skirts appear.
O wassel days! O customs meet and well!
Ere this was banish'd from its lofty sphere;
Simplicity then sought this humble cell,
Nor ever would she more with thane and lordling dwell.
Here oft the dame, on Sabbath's decent eve,
Hymned such psalms as Sternhold forth did mete;
If winter 'twere, she to her hearth did cleave,
But in her garden found a summer-seat:
Sweet melody! to hear her then repeat
How Israel's sons, beneath a foreign king,
While taunting foemen did a song entreat,
All for the nonce untuning every string,
Uphung their useless lyres--small heart had they to sing.
For she was just, and friend to virtuous lore,
And pass'd much time in truly virtuous deed;
And, in those elfins' ears, would oft deplore,
The times when Truth by Popish rage did bleed,
And tortious death was true Devotion's meed;
And simple Faith in iron chains did mourn,
That nould on wooden image place her creed;
And lawny saints in smouldering flames did burn:
Ah! dearest Lord! forfend thilk days should e'er return.
In elbow-chair, like that of Scottish stem
By the sharp tooth of cankering Eld defaced,
In which, when he receives his diadem,
Our sovereign prince and liefest liege is placed,
The matron sate; and some with rank she graced,
(The source of children's and of courtiers' pride!)
Redress'd affronts, for vile affronts there pass'd,
And warn'd them not the fretful to deride,
But love each other dear, whatever them betide.
Right well she knew each temper to descry,
To thwart the proud, and the submiss to raise;
Some with vile copper prize exalt on high,
And some entice with pittance small of praise;
And other some with baleful sprig she 'frays:
Even absent, she the reins of power doth hold,
While with quaint arts the giddy crowd she sways;
Forewarn'd, if little bird their pranks behold,
'Twill whisper in her ear, and all the scene unfold.
Lo! now with state she utters the command;
Eftsoons the urchins to their tasks repair;
Their books, of stature small, they take in hand,
Which with pellucid horn secured are,
To save from finger wet the letters fair;
The work so gay, that on their back is seen,
St George's high achievements does declare,
On which thilk wight that has y-gazing been
Kens the forthcoming rod, unpleasing sight, I ween!
Ah! luckless he, and born beneath the beam
Of evil star! it irks me whilst I write!
As erst the bard by Mulla's silver stream,
Oft as he told of deadly dolorous plight,
Sigh'd as he sung, and did in tears indite;
For brandishing the rod, she doth begin
To loose the brogues, the stripling's late delight!
And down they drop, appears his dainty skin,
Fair as the furry coat of whitest ermilin.
O ruthful scene! when from a nook obscure
His little sister doth his peril see;
All playful as she sate she grows demure,
She finds full soon her wonted spirits flee;
She meditates a prayer to set him free;
Nor gentle pardon could this dame deny,
(If gentle pardon could with dames agree)
To her sad grief that swells in either eye,
And wrings her so that all for pity she could die.
No longer can she now her shrieks command,
And hardly she forbears, through awful fear,
To rushen forth, and, with presumptuous hand,
To stay harsh justice in its mid career.
On thee she calls, on thee, her parent dear!
(Ah! too remote to ward the shameful blow!)
She sees no kind domestic visage near,
And soon a flood of tears begins to flow,
And gives a loose at last to unavailing woe.
But, ah! what pen his piteous plight may trace?
Or what device his loud laments explain?
The form uncouth of his disguised face?
The pallid hue that dyes his looks amain?
The plenteous shower that does his cheek distain?
When he, in abject wise, implores the dame,
Ne hopeth aught of sweet reprieve to gain;
Or when from high she levels well her aim,
And, through the thatch, his cries each falling stroke proclaim
The other tribe, aghast, with sore dismay,
Attend, and conn their tasks with mickle care;
By turns, astony'd, every twig survey,
And from their fellows' hateful wounds beware,
Knowing, I wist, how each the same may share;
Till fear has taught them a performance meet,
And to the well-known chest the dame repair,
Whence oft with sugar cates she doth them greet,
And gingerbread y-rare; now, certes, doubly sweet!
See to their seats they hye with merry glee,
And in beseemly order sitten there;
All but the wight of bum y-galled, he
Abhorreth bench, and stool, and fourm, and chair,
(This hand in mouth y-fix'd, that rends his hair;)
And eke with snubs profound, and heaving breast,
Convulsions intermitting! does declare
His grievous wrong, his dame's unjust behest,
And scorns her offer'd love, and shuns to be caress'd.
His face besprent with liquid crystal shines,
His blooming face, that seems a purple flower,
Which low to earth its drooping head declines,
All smear'd and sully'd by a vernal shower.
O the hard bosoms of despotic Power!
All, all, but she, the author of his shame,
All, all, but she, regret this mournful hour;
Yet hence the youth, and hence the flower shall claim,
If so I deem aright, transcending worth and fame.
Behind some door in melancholy thought,
Mindless of food, he, dreary caitiff! pines;
Ne for his fellows' joyaunce careth aught,
But to the wind all merriment resigns,
And deems it shame if he to peace inclines;
And many a sullen look askaunce is sent,
Which for his dame's annoyance he designs;
And still the more to pleasure him she's bent,
The more doth he, perverse, her 'haviour past resent.
Ah me! how much I fear lest pride it be!
But if that pride it be, which thus inspires,
Beware, ye dames! with nice discernment see
Ye quench not, too, the sparks of nobler fires:
Ah! better far than all the Muses' lyres,
All coward arts, is valour's generous heat;
The firm fixt breast which fit and right requires,
Like Vernon's patriot soul! more justly great
Than craft that pimps for ill, or flowery false deceit.
Yet nursed with skill, what dazzling fruits appear!
Even now sagacious foresight points to show
A little bench of heedless bishops here,
And there a chancellour in embryo,
Or bard sublime, if bard may e'er be so,
As Milton, Shakspeare, names that ne'er shall die!
Though now he crawl along the ground so low,
Nor weeting how the Muse should soar on high,
Wisheth, poor starveling elf! his paper kite may fly.
And this, perhaps, who, censuring the design,
Low lays the house which that of cards doth build,
Shall Dennis be! if rigid Fate incline,
And many an epic to his rage shall yield,
And many a poet quit the Aonian field;
And, sour'd by age, profound he shall appear,
As he who now with 'sdainful fury thrill'd
Surveys mine work, and levels many a sneer,
And furls his wrinkly front, and cries, "What stuff is here!"
But now Dan Phoebus gains the middle sky,
And Liberty unbars her prison door,
And like a rushing torrent out they fly,
And now the grassy cirque han cover'd o'er
With boisterous revel rout and wild uproar;
A thousand ways in wanton rings they run,
Heaven shield their shortlived pastimes, I implore!
For well may Freedom, erst so dearly won,
Appear to British elf more gladsome than the sun.
Enjoy, poor imps! enjoy your sportive trade,
And chase gay flies, and cull the fairest flowers,
For when my bones in grass-green sods are laid,
For never may ye taste more careless hours
In knightly castles or in ladies' bowers.
O vain to seek delight in earthly thing!
But most in courts, where proud Ambition towers;
Deluded wight! who weens fair peace can spring
Beneath the pompous dome of kesar or of king.
See in each sprite some various bent appear!
These rudely carol most incondite lay:
Those sauntering on the green, with jocund leer
Salute the stranger passing on his way;
Some builden fragile tenements of clay;
Some to the standing lake their courses bend,
With pebbles smooth at duck and drake to play;
Thilk to the huxter's savoury cottage tend,
In pastry kings and queens the allotted mite to spend.
Here, as each season yields a different store,
Each season's stores in order ranged been;
Apples with cabbage-net y-cover'd o'er,
Galling full sore the unmoneyed wight, are seen,
And gooseb'rie, clad in livery red or green;
And here of lovely dye the Catharine pear,
Fine pear! as lovely for thy juice I ween;
O may no wight e'er pennyless come there,
Lest smit with ardent love he pine with hopeless care!
See! cherries here, ere cherries yet abound,
With thread so white in tempting posies ty'd,
Scattering like blooming maid their glances round,
With pamper'd look draw little eyes aside,
And must be bought, though penury betide;
The plum all azure, and the nut all brown;
And here each season do those cakes abide,
Whose honour'd names the inventive city own,
Rendering through Britain's isle Salopia's praises known.
Admired Salopia! that with venial pride
Eyes her bright form in Severn's ambient wave,
Famed for her loyal cares in perils try'd,
Her daughters lovely, and her striplings brave;
Ah! midst the rest, may flowers adorn his grave
Whose art did first these dulcet cates display!
A motive fair to Learning's imps he gave,
Who cheerless o'er her darkling region stray,
Till Reason's morn arise, and light them on their way.
A ludicrous index [Return to text]
A "ludicrous index", was first published with the original edition of Shenstone's poem, The Schoolmistress, and removed from later editions by his editor and publisher, Dodsley. Shenstone, according to Isaac D'Israeli, (who came into possession of the original edition of the poem) classed the poem himself as a piece of "ludicrous poetry" and added a ludicrous index, "purely to show fools that I am in jest." The index below was then re-supplied by D'Israeli.
Source: Curiosities of Literature (London, George Routledge and Sons, 2nd ed, 1867). With acknowledgement to John Proctor (Director of Studies, City Schools, Lahore, Pakistan) for above information.
Introduction (Stanza 1)
The subject proposed (Stanza 2)
A circumstance in the situation of the mansion of early discipline,discovering the surprising influence of the connexion of ideas (Stanza 3)
A simile; introducing a deprecation of the joyless effects of bigotry and superstition (Stanza 4)
Some peculiarities indicative of a country school, with a short sketch of the sovereign presiding over it (Stanza 5)
Some account of her night cap, apron, and a tremendous description of her birchen sceptre(Stanza 6)
A parallel instance of the advantage of legal government with regard to children and the wind (Stanza 7)
Her gown (Stanza 8)
Her titles, and punctilious nicety in the ceremonious assertion of them (Stanza 9)
A digression concerning her hen's presumptuous behaviour, with a circumstance tending to give the cautious reader a more accurate idea of the officious diligence and economy of an old woman (Stanza 10)
A view of this rural potentate as seated in her chair of state, conferring honours, distributing bounties, and dispersing proclamations (Stanza 16)
Her policies (Stanza 17)
The action of the poem commences with a general summons; follows a particular description of the artful structure, decoration, and fortifications of a horn-bible (Stanza 18)
A surprising picture of sisterly affection by way of episode (Stanzas 20,21)
A short list of the methods now in use to avoid a whipping which nevertheless follows (Stanza 22)
The force of example (Stanza 23)
A sketch of the particular symptoms of obstinacy as they discover themselves in a child, with a simile illustrating a blubbered face (Stanzas 24,25,26)
A hint of great importance (Stanza 27)
The piety of the poet, in relation to that school-dame's memory, who had the first formation of a cetain patriot.[This stanza has been left out in the later editions; it refers to the Duke of Argyle.]
The secret connexion between whipping and rising in the world with a view, as it were, through a perspective, of the same little folk
In the highest posts and reputation (Stanza 28)
An account of the nature of an embryo fox hunter.[Another stanza often omitted.]
A deviation to an huckster's shop (Stanza 32)
Which being continued for the space of three stanzas, gives the author an opportunity of paying his compliments to a particular county, which he gladly seizes; concluding his piece with respectful mention of the ancient and loyal city of Shrewsbury.
For further information: The Letters of William Shenstone, by Marjorie Williams, Blackwell, 1939. In particular, Letter 25 to the Rev. Richard Graves, on the publication of The Schoolmistress, May 1742.
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