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Who fasten without mercy on the fair,
And suck, and leave a craving maggot there!
Howe'er disguis'd th' inflammatory tale,
And cover'd with a fine-spun specious veil ;
Such writers, and such readers, owe the gust
And relish of their pleasure all to lust.
But the muse, eagle-pinion'd, has in view
A quarry more important still than you;
Down, down the wind she swims, and sails away,
Now stoops upon it, and now grasps
Petronius! all the Muses weep for thee;
But ev'ry tear shall scald thy memory:
The Graces, too, while Virtue at their shrine
Lay bleeding under that soft hand of thine,
Fest each a mortal stab in her own breast,
Abhorr’d the sacrifice, and curs’d the priest.
Thou polish'd and high-finish'd foe to truth,
Graybeard corrupter of our list'ning youth,
To purge and skim away the filth of vice,
That so refin'd it might the more entice,
pour it on the morals of thy son;
To taint his heart, was worthy of thine own!
Now, while the poison all high life pervades,
Write, if thou canst, one letter from the shades,
One, and one only, charg'd with deep regret,
That thy worse part, thy principles, live yet :
One sad epistle thence may cure mankind
Of the plague spread by bundles left behind.
"Tis granted, and no plainer truth appears,
Our most important are our earliest years ;
The Mind, impressible and soft, with ease
Imbibes and copies what she hears and sees,
And through life's labyrinth hol is fast the clew
That Education gives her, false or true.
Plants rais'd with tenderness are seldom strong ;
Man's coltish disposition asks the thong;
And without discipline, the fav'rite child,
Like a neglected forester, runs wild.
But we, as if good qualities would grow
Spontaneous, take but little pains to sow;
We give some Latin, and a smatch of Greek;
Teach him to fence and figure twice a-week;
And having done, we think the best we can,
Praise his proficiency, and dub him man.
From school to Cam or Isis, and thence home;
And thence with all convenient speed to Rome,
With rev’rend tutor clad in habit lay,
To tease for cash, and quarrel with all day;
With memorandum-book for ev'ry town,
And ev'ry post, and where the chaise broke down ;
His stock, a few French phrases got by heart,
With much to learn, but nothing to impart.
The youth, obedient to his sire's commands,
Sets off a wand'rer into foreign lands.
Surpris'd at all they meet, the gosling pair,
With awkward gait, stretch'd neck, and silly stare,
Discover huge cathedrals built with stone,
And steeples tow'ring high much like our own;
But show peculiar light by many a grin,
At popish "praetices obsery'd within.
Ere long, some bowing, smirking, smart Abbé
Remarks two loit'rers, that have lost their way;
And being always prim'd with politesse
For men of their appearance and address,
With much compassion undertakes the task,
To tell them more than they have wit to ask;
Points to inscriptions whereso’er they tread,
when legible, were never read,
But, being canker'd now and half worn out,
Craze antiquarian brains with endless doubt;
Some heedless hero, or some Cæsar shows-
Defective only in his Roman nose;
Exbibits elevations, drawings, plans,
Models of Herculean pots and pans;
And sells them medals, which, if neither rare
Nor ancient, will be so, preserv’d with care.
Strange the recital ! from whatever cause His great improvement and new light he draws, The squire, once hashful, is shamefac'd no more, But teems with powers he never felt before; Whether increas'd momentum, and the force, With which from clime to clime he sped his course (As axles sometimes kindle as they go), Chafd him, and brought dull nature to a glow; Or whether clearer skies and softer air, That make Italian flowers so sweet and fair, Fresh’ning his lazy spirits as he ran, Unfolded genially and spread the man; Returning he proclaims by many a grace, By shrugs and strange contortions of his face, How much a dunce, that has been sent to roam, Excels a dunce, that has been kept at home.
Accomplishments have taken virtue's place, And wisdom falls before exterior grace; We slight the precious kernel of the stone, And toil to polish its rough coat alone. A just deportment, manners grac'd with ease, Elegant phrase, and figure form’d to please, Are qualities, that seem to comprehend Whatever parents, guardians, schools intend, Hence an unfurnish'd and a listless mind, Though busy, trifling ; empty, though refin’d; Hence all that interferes, and dares to clash With indolence and luxury, is trash: While learning, once the man's exclusive pride, Seems verging fast towards the female side. Learning itself, receiv'd into a mind By nature weak, or viciously inclin'd, Serves but to lead philosophers astray, Where children would with ease discern the way. And of all arts sagacious dupes invent, To cheat themselves and gain the world's assent, The worst is---Scripture warp'd from its intent.
The carriage bowls along, and all are pleas'd
If Tom be sober, and the wheels well greas'd;
But if the rogue have gone a cup too far,
Left out his linchpin, or forgot his tar,
It suffers interruption and delay,
And meets with hindrance in the smoothest way.
When some hypothesis, absurd and vain,
Has fill'd with all its fumes a critic's brain,
The text that sorts not with his darling whim,
Though plain to others, is obscure to him,
The will made subject to a lawless force,
All is irregular and out of course;
And Judgment drunk, and brib'd' to lose his way
Winks hard, and talks of darkness at noonday.
A critic on the sacred book should be
Candid and learn'd, dispassionate and free;
Free from the wayward bias bigots feel,
From fancy's influence, and intemp'rate zeal:
But above all, (or let the wretch refrain,
Nor touch the page he cannot but profane,)
Free from the domineering pow'r of lust;
A lewd interpreter is never just.
How shall I speak thee, or thy pow'r address,
Thou god of our idolatry, the Press ?
By thee religion, liberty, and laws,
Exert their influence, and advance their cause :
By thee worse plagues than Pharaoh's land befel,
Diffus'd, make Earth the vestibule of Hell;
Thou fountain, at which drink the good and wise ;
Thou ever-bubbling spring of endless lies;
Like Eden's dread probationary tree,
Knowledge of good and evil is from thee.
No wild enthusiast ever yet could rest, Till half mankind were like himself possess’d. Philosophers, who darken and put out Eternal truth by everlasting doubt; Church quacks, with passions under no command, Who fill the world with doctrines contraband,
Discov’rers of they know not what, confin'd
Within no bounds--the blind that lead the blind;
To streams of popular opinion drawn,
Deposite in those shallows all their spawn.
The wriggling fry soon fill the creaks around,
Pois’ning the waters where their swarms abound.
Scorn'd by the nobler tenants of the flood,
Minnows and gudgeons gorge th’unwholesome food.
The propagated myriads spread so fast,
E'en Lewenhoeck himself would stand aghast,
Employ'd to calculate th' enormous sum,
And own his crab-computing pow'rs o'ercome.
Is this hyperbole? The world well known,
Your sober thoughts will hardly find it one.
Fresh confidence the speculatist takes
From ev'ry hair-brain'd proselyte he makes;
And therefore prints.' Himself but half deceivid,
Till others have the soothing tale believ'd.
Hence comment after comment, spun as fine
As bloated spiders draw the Aimsy line:
Hence the same word, that bids our lusts obey,
Is misapplied to sanctify their sway:
If stubborn Greek refuse to be his friend,
Hebrew or Syriac shall be forc'd to bend:
If languages and copies all cry, No-
Somebody prov'd it centuries ago.
Like trout pursu'd, the critic in despair
Darts to the mud, and finds his safety there.
Woman, whom custom has forbid to fly
The scholar's pitch (the scholar best knows why,)
With all the simple and unletter'd poor,
Admire his learning, and almost adore.
Whoever errs, the priest can ne'er be wrong,
With such fine words familiar to his tongue.
Ye ladies! (for indiff'rent in your cause, I should deserve to forfeit all applause,) Whatever shocks or gives the least offence To virtue, delicacy, truth, or sense,