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And how did, pray, the florid youth offend, Whose speech you took, and gave it to a friend?
P. But hear me further. Japhet, 'tis agreed, Writ not, and Chartres scarce could write or read, In all the courts of Pindus guiltless quite; But pens can forge, my friend, that cannot write ; And must no egg in Japhet's face be thrown, Because the deed he forged was not my own? Must never patriot then declaim at gin, Unless, good man! he has been fairly in; No zealous pastor blame a failing spouse, Without a staring reason on his brows? And each blasphemer quite escape the rod, Because the insult's not on man, but God?
Ask you what provocation I have had ?
The strong antipathy of good to bad.
When truth or virtue an affront endures,
Th' affront is mine, my friend, and should be yours.
Mine, as a foe profess'd to false pretence,
Who think a coxcomb's honour like his sense ;
Mine, as a friend to every worthy mind;
And mine as man, who feels for all mankind.
F. You're strangely proud.
So proud, I am no slave;
So impudent, I own myself no knave:
So odd, my country's ruin makes me grave.
Yes, I am proud ; I must be proud to see
Men not afraid of God, afraid of me:
Safe from the bar, the pulpit, and the throne,
Yet touch'd and shamed by ridicule alone.
Oh sacred weapon! left for truth's defence, Sole dread of folly, vice, and insolence! To all but heaven-directed hands denied, The Muse may give thee, but the gods must guide: Reverent I touch thee! but with honest zeal; To rouse the watchmen of the public weal,
To virtue's word provoke the tardy hall,
And goad the prelate slumbering in his stall.
Ye tinsel insects! whom a court maintains,
That counts your beauties only by your stains,
Spin all your cobwebs o'er the eye of day!
The Muse's wing shall brush you all away :
All his grace preaches, all his lordship sings,
All that make saints of queens and gods of kings
All, all but truth, drops dead-born from the press
Like the last gazette or the last address.
When black ambition stains a public cause,
A monarch's sword when mad vainglory draws,
Not Waller's wreath can hide the nation's scar,
Not Boileau turn the feather to a star.
Not so, when, diadem'd with rays divine, Touch'd with the flame that breaks from virtue'.
shrine, Her priestess Muse forbids the good to die, And opes the temple of eternity. There other trophies deck the truly brave, Than such as Anstis casts into the grave; Far other stars than * and ** wear, And may descend to Mordington from Stair (Such as on Hough's unsullied mitre shine, Or beam, good Digby, from a heart like thine). Let envy howl, while Heaven's whole chorus sings, And bark at honour not conferr'd by kings, Let flattery sickening see the incense rise, Sweet to the world, and grateful to the skies: Truth guards the poet, sanctifies the line, And makes immortal, verse as mean as mine.
Yes, the last pen for freedom let me draw, When truth stands trembling on the edge of law; Here, last of Britons ! let your names be read; Are none, none living ? let me praise the dead, And for that cause which made your fathers shine, Fall by the votes of their degenerate line.
F. Alas, alas! pray end what you begun, And write next winter more Essays on Man.
EPISTLE TO ROBERT EARL OF OXFORD, AND EARL OF MORTIMER.
Such were the notes thy once-loved poet sung, Till death untimely stopp'd his tuneful tongue. Oh, just beheld and lost! admired and mourn'd! With softest manners, gentlest arts adorn'd! Bless'd in each science, bless'd in every strain! Dear to the Muse! to Harley dear-in vain!
For him thou oft hast bid the world attend, Fond to forget the statesman in the friend; For Swift and him despised the farce of state, The sober follies of the wise and great ; Dex'trous, the craving, fawning crowd to quit, And pleased to 'scape from flattery to wit.
Absent or dead, still let a friend be dear
(A sigh the absent claims, the dead a tear),
Recall those nights that closed thy toilsome days,
Still hear thy Parnell in his living lays,
Who, careless now of interest, fame, or fate,
Perhaps forgets that Oxford e'er was great ;
Or deeming meanest what we greatest call,
Beholds thee glorious only in thy fall.
And sure, if aught below the seats divine
Can touch immortals, 'tis a soul like thine:
A soul supreme, in each hard instance tried,
Above all pain, all passion, and all pride,
The rage of power, the blast of public breath,
The lust of lucre, and the dread of death.
In vain to deserts thy retreat is made,
The Muse attends thee to thy silent shade :
"Tis hers, the brave man's latest steps to trace,
Rejudge his acts, and dignify disgrace.
When interest calls off all her sneaking train,
And all th’ obliged desert, and all the vain;
She waits, or to the scaffold or the cell,
When the last lingering friend has bid farewell.
Ev'n now she shades thy evening walk with bays
(No hireling she, no prostitute to praise);
Ev'n now, observant of the parting ray,
Eyes the calm sunset of thy various day,
Through fortune's cloud one truly great can see,
Nor fears to tell that Mortimer is he.
ALL human race would fain be wits,
And millions miss for one that hits.
Young's universal passion, pride,
Was never known to spread so wide.
Say, Britain, could you ever boast
Three poets in an age at most?
Our chilling climate hardly bears
sprig of bay in fifty years ;
While every fool his claim alleges,
As if it grew in common hedges.
What reason can there be assign'd
For this perverseness in the mind ?
Brutes find out where their talents lie :
A bear will not attempt to fly;
A founder'd horse will oft debate
Before he tries a five-barr'd gate;
A dog by instinct turns aside,
Who sees the ditch too deep and wide.
But man we find the only creature,
Who, led by folly, combats Nature;
Who, when she loudly cries Forbear,
With obstinacy fixes there;
And, where his genius least inclines,
Absurdly bends his whole designs.
Not empire to the rising sun
By valour, conduct, fortune won;
Not highest wisdom in debates
For framing laws to govern states;
Not skill in sciences profound,
So large to grasp the circle round;
Such heavenly influence require,
As how to strike the Muse's lyre.
Consult yourself; and if you find
A powerful impulse urge your mind,
Impartial judge within your breast
What subject you can manage best;
Whether your genius most inclines
To satire, praise, or humorous lines;
To elegies in mournful tone,
Or prologues sent from hands unknown.
Then, rising with Aurora's light,
The Muse invoked, sit down to write ;
Blot out, correct, insert, refine,
Enlarge, diminish, interline;
Be mindful, when invention fails,
To scratch your head and bite your nails.
Your poem finish'd, next your care
Is needful to transcribe it fair.
In modern wit all printed trash is
Set off with numerous breaks and dashes.
To statesmen would you give a wipe,
You print it in Italic type.
When letters are in vulgar shapes,
"Tis ten to one the wit escapes ;
But, when in capitals express'd,
The dullest reader smokes the jest:
Or else, perhaps, he may invent
A better than the poet meant ;
As learned commentators view
In Homer, more that Homer knew.
Your poem in its modish dress,
Correctly fitted for the press,
Convey by penny-post to Lintot,
But let no friend alive look into 't.
If Lintot thinks 'twill quit the cost,
You need not fear your labour lost: