« PreviousContinue »
The diadem, with mighty projects lind,
To catch renown by ruining mankind,
Is worth, with all its gold and glittring store,
Just what the toy will sell for, and no more.
Oh! bright occasions of dispensing good,
How seldom us'd, how little understood!
To pour in Virtue's lap her just reward;
Keep Vice restrain’d behind a double guard;
To quell the faction that affronts the throne,
By silent magnanimity alone;
To nurse with tender care the thriving arts,
Watch ev'ry beam Philosophy imparts;
To give Religion her unbridled scope,
Nor judge by statute a believer's hope;
With close fidelity and love unfeignd,
To keep the matrimonial bond unstain'd;
Covetous only of a virtuous praise ;
His life a lesson to the land he sways;
To touch the sword with conscientious awe,
Nor draw it but when duty bids him draw;
To sheath it in the peace-restoring close,
With joy beyond what victory bestows ;-,
Blest country, where these kingly glories shine!
Blest England, if this happiness be thine!
A. Guard what you say; the patriotic tribe
Will sneer and charge you with a bribe.---B. A bribe?
The worth of his three kingdoms I defy,
To lure me to the baseness of a lie:
And, of all lies. (be that one poet's boast),
The lie that flatters I abhor the most.
Those arts be theirs, who hate his gentle reign;
But he that loves him has no need to feign.
A. Your smooth eulogium to one crown address'd, Seems to imply a censure on the rest.
B. Quevedo, as he tells his sober tale, Ask'd, when in hell, to see the royal jail; Approv'd their method in all other things ; “But where, good sir, do you confine your kings ?""
“There” said his guide "the group is full in view.” “ Indeed!” replied the don" there are but few." His black interpreter the charge disdain'd“Few, fellow ?-there are all that ever reign'd.” Wit, undistinguishing, is apt to strike The guilty and not guilty both alike. I grant the sarcasm is too severe, And we can readily refute it here; While Alfred's name, the father of his age, And the Sixth Edward's, grace th' historic page.
A. Kings, then, at last, have but the lot of all: By their own conduct they must stand or fall.
B. True. While they live, the courtly laureat pays His quit-rent ode, his pepper-corn of praise ; And many a dunce, whose fingers itch to write, Adds, as he can, his tributary mite. A subject's faults a subject may proclaim, A monarch's errors are forbidden game! Thus, free from censure, overaw'd by fear, And prais'd for virtues that they scorn to wear, The fleeting forms of majesty engage Respect, while stalking o'er life's narrow stage; Then leave their crimes for history to scan, And ask, with busy scorn, Was this the man?
I pity kings, whom Worship waits upon Obsequious from the cradle to the throne; Before whose infant eyes the flattrer bows, And binds a wreath about their baby brows; Whom Education stiffens into state, And Death awakens from that dream too late. Oh! if Servility, with supple knees, Whose trade it is to smile, to crouch, to please; If smooth Dissimulation, skill'd to grace A devil's purpose with an angel's face; If smiling peeresses, and simp’ring peers, Encompassing his throne a few short years ; If the gilt carriage, and the pamper'd steed, That wants no driving, and disdains the lead;
If guards, mechanically form'd in ranks,
Playing, at beat of drum, their martial pranks,
Should’ring, and standing as if struck to stone,
While condescending majesty looks on!
If monarchy consist in such base things,
Sighing, I say again, “I pity kings !"
To be suspected, thwarted, and withstood,
E'en when he labours for his country's good;
To see a band, call'd patriot for no cause,
But that they catch at popular applause,
Careless of all th' anxiety he feels,
Hook disappointment on the public wheels;
With all their flippant fluency of tongue,
Most confident, when palpably most wrong ;- .
If this be kingly, then farewell for me
All kingship; and may I be poor and free!
To be the Table Talk of clubs up-stairs,
To which th' unwash'd artificer repairs,
T' indulge his genius after long fatigue,
By diving into cabinet intrigue
(For what kings deem a toil, as well they may,
To him is relaxation and mere play);
To win no praise when well-wrought plans prevail,
But to be rudely censur'd when they fail;
To doubt the love his fav’rites may pretend,
And in reality to find no friend;
If he indulge a cultivated taste,
His galleries with the works of art well grac'd,
To hear it call'd extravagance and waste;
If these attendants, and if such as these,
Must follow royalty, then welcome ease;
However humble and confin'd the sphere,
Happy the state that has not these to fear.
A. Thus men, whose thoughts contemplative have
On situations that they never felt,
Start up sagacious, covered with the dust
Of dreaming, study, and pedantic rust,
And prate and preach about what others prove,
As if the world and they were hand and glove.
Leave kingly backs to cope with kingly cares ;
They have their weight to carry, subjects theirs ;
Poets, of all men, ever least regret
Increasing taxes and the nation's debt.
Could you contrive the payment, and rehearse
The mighty plan, oracular, in verse,
No bard, howe'er majestic, old or new,
Should claim my fix'd attention more than you.
B. Not Brindley nor Bridgewater would essay To turn the course of Helicon that
Nor would the Nine consent the sacred tide
Should purl amidst the traffic of Cheapside,
Or tinkle in 'Change Alley, to amuse
The leathern ears of stock-jobbers and Jews.
A. Vouchsafe, at least, to pitch the key of rhyme
To themes more pertinent, if less sublime.
When ministers and ministerial arts;
Patriots, who love good places at their hearts ;
When admirals, extollid for standing still,
Or doing nothing with a deal of skill;
Gen’rals, who will not conquer when they may,
Firm friends to peace, to pleasure, and good pay;
When Freedom, wounded almost to despair,
Though Discontent alone can find out where;
When themes like these employ the poet's tongue,
I hear as mute as if a syren sung.
Or tell me, if you can, what pow'r maintains
A Briton's scorn of arbitrary chains :
That were a theme might animate the dead,
And move the lips of poets cast in lead.
B. The cause, tho' worth the search, may yet elude Conjecture and remark, however shrewd. They take, perhaps, a well-directed aim, Who seek it in his climate and his frame. Lib'ral in all things else, yet Nature here With stern severity deals out the year,
Winter invades the spring, and often pours
A chilling flood on summer's drooping flow'rs;
Unwelcome vapours quench autumnal beams,
Ungenial blasts attending curl the streams :
The peasants urge their harvest, ply the fork
With double toil, and shiver at their work;
Thus with a rigour, for his good design'd,
She rears her fav’rite man of all mankind.
His form robust and of elastic tone,
Proportion'd well, half muscle and half bone,
Supplies with warm activity and force
A mind well-lodg’d and masculine of course.
Hence Liberty, sweet Liberty, inspires
And keeps alive his fierce but noble fires.
Patient of constitutional control,
He bears it with meek manliness of soul :
But, if Authority grows wanton, woe
To him that treads upon his free-born toe;
One step beyond the bound'ry of the laws
Fires him at once in Freedom's glorious cause.
Thus proud Prerogative, not much rever'd,
Is seldom felt, though sometimes seen and heard;
And in his cage, like parrot fine and gay,
Is kept to strut, look big, and talk
Born in a climate softer far than ours,
Not form’d, like us, with such Herculean pow'rs,
The Frenchman, easy, debunair, and brisk,
Give him his lass, his fiddle, and his frisk,
Is always happy, reign whoever may,
And laughs the sense of mis’ry far away.
He drinks his simple bev'rage with a gust;
And, feasting on an onion and a crust,
We never feel th’ alacrity and joy,
With which he shouts and carols Vive le Roy!
Fill'd with as much true merriment and glee,
As if he heard his king say—“Slave, be free.”
Thus happiness depends, as Nature shows, Less on exterior things than most suppose.