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My highest wishes never mounted higher,
Than the attainments of an aged sire ;
Proverbial wisdom, competence of wealth,
Earn'd with hard labour, and enjoy'd with healthi;
Blest, had I still these blessings known to prize!
More rich I sure had been; perhaps more wise.
One luckless day, returning from the field,
Two swains, the wisest that the village held,
Talking of books and learning, I o'erheard,
Of learned men and learned men's reward:
How some rich wives, and some rich livings, got,
Sprung from the tenants of a turf-built cot: .
Then both concluded though it ruin'd health,
Increase of learning was increase of wealth. .
Fired with the prospect, I embraced the hint,
A grammar borrowed, and to work I went;
The scope and tenor of each rule I kept:
No accent miss'd me, and no gender scap'd ;
I read whate'er commenting Dutchmen wrote,
Turn'd o'er Stobæus, and could Suidas quote ;
In letter'd Gellius traced the bearded sage
Through all the windings of a wise adage : .'
Was the spectator of each honest scar,
Each sophist carry'd from each wordy war; .
Undaunted was my heart, nor could appal
The mustiest volume of the mustiest stall ;
Where'er I turn'd, the giant-spiders fled,
And trembling moths retreated as I read;
Through Greece and Rome, I then observant
Their manners noted, and their states survey'd ;
Attended heroes to the bloody fields,
Their helmets polish'd, and emboss'd their shields;
With duteous hand the decent matron drest,
And wrapp'd the stripling in his manly vest ;
Nor stop'd I there, but mingled with the boys,
Their rattles rattled, and improved their toys;
Lash'd conick turbos as in gyres they flew,
Bestrode their hobbies, and their whistles blew :
But still when this, and more than this, was done,
My coat was ragged and my hat was brown.
Then thus I commun'd with myself: “ shall I . “ Let all this learning in oblivion die, “ Live in the haunts of ignorance, content “ With vest unbutton'd, and with breeches rent? « None knows my merit here; if any knew, “ A scholar's worth would meet a scholar's due. - What then the college! ay, 'tis there I'll shine, " I'll study morals, or I'll turn divine ;
« Struck with my letter'd fame, without a doubt, “ Some modern Lælius will find me out: “ Superior parts can never long be hid, “ And he who wants, deserves not to be fed." .. Transported with the thoughts of this and that, I stitch'd my garments, and I dyed my hat ; To college went, and found with much ado, That roses were not red, nor violets blue ; That all I've learn'd, or all I yet may learn, Can't help me truth from falsehood to discern.
* * * * * * *
All mere confusion, altogether hurl'd,
One dreary waste, one vast ideal world !
Where uproar rules, and do you what you will,
Uproar has ruled it, and will rule it still.
Victorious ergo, daring consequence,
Will even be a match for common sense!
To lordly reason every thing must bow,
The hero liberty, and conscience too;
The first is fetter'd in a fatal chain,
The latter gagg’d attempts to speak in vain.
Locke! Malebranche! Hume! abstractions thrice
In reason give me what in sense I lack;
I feel my poverty, and in my eye,
My hat, though dyed has but a dusky dye,
" Mistrust your feelings, Reason bids you do,"-
But, gentlemen, indeed I cannot now;
For after all your ergo's, look you there
My hat is greasy, and my coat is bare.
Hail MORAL TRUTH ! I'm here at least secure,
You'll give me comfort, though you keep me poor.
But say you so ? in truth 'tis something hard,
Virtue does surely merit a reward. .
* Reward ! O, servile, selfish; ask a hire !"
Raiment and food this body does require:
A prince for nothing may philosophize,
A student can't afford to be so wise.
Sometimes the-Stoick’s gloomy walks I try'd,
Wrinkled my forehead, and enlarged my stride,
Despised even hunger, poverty, and pain,
Searching my pockets for a crust in vain.
Sometimes in Academus' verdant shade,
With step more graceful I exulting stray'd,
Saw health and fortune join’d with happiness,
And virtues smiling in her social dress;
On me she did not smile, but rather lour ;
I still was wretched, for I still was poor.
Sworn to no master, sometimes I would dwell
With Shaftesbury, sometimes with Mandeville;
Would call at every system on my way,
And now with Leibnitz, now with Manes stay ;
But after all my shiftings here and there,
My hat was greasy, and my coat was bare.
Then I beheld ny labours past, and lo! It was not vanity, and all was woe; I look'd on learning, and her garb was mean, Her eyes were hollow, and her cheeks were lean ; Disease and Famine threaten'd in her train, And Want, who strives to hide her rags in vain ; Her lurid brow a sprig of laurel traced, On which was mark’d, “Unpension'd and Unplac'd.' I turn'd to ignorance; and lo she sate Enthroned beneath a canopy of state; Before her riches all his bags unty'd, And ever and anon her wants supply'd, While on a smiling plenitude of face, Was clearly read, “ a Pension and a Place."
To Lady D- n, on her learning.
In beauty or wit,
No mortal as yet,
To question your empire has dared :