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Let these instruct, with truth's illustrious ray
Awake the world, and scar our owls away.
Meanwhile, o Friend ! indulge me, if I give
Some needful precepts how to write and live ;
Serious should be an author's final views :
Who write for pure amusement ne'er amuse.
An Author! 'tis a venerable name!
How few deserve it, and what numbers claim ?
Unbless'd with sense above their peers refin’d,
Who shall stand up dictators to mankind ?
Nay, who dare shine, if not in virtue's cause ;
That sole proprietor of just applause.
Ye restless Men! who pant for letter'd praise,
With whom would you consult to gain the bays ? -
With those great authors whose fam’d works you read ?
'Tis well; go, then, consult that laurell'd shade.
What answer will the laurell'd shade return
Hear it, and tremble; he commands you burn
The noblest works his envy'd genius writ,
The boast of nought more excellent than wit.
If this be true, as 'tis a truth most dread,
Woe to the page which has not that to plead !
Fontaine and Chaucer, dying, wish'd unwrote
The sprightliest efforts of their wanton thought:
Sidney and Waller, brightest sons of Fame,
Condemn'd the charm of ages to the flame.
And in one point is all true wisdom cast?
To think that early, we must think at last,
Immortal wits, ev'n dead, break Nature's laws,
Injurious still to virtue's sacred cause;
And their guilt growing, as their bodies rot,
(Revers'd ambition !), pant to be forgot.
Thus ends your courted fame : does lucre then,
The sacred thirst of gold, betray your pen ?
In prose'tis blameable, in verse 'tis worse,
Provokes the Muse, extorts Apollo's curse;
His sacred influence never should be sold;
'Tis arrant Simony to sing for gold:
'Tis immortality should fire your mind :
Scorn a less paymaster than all mankind.
If bribes you seek, know this, ye writing Tribe !
Who writes for virtue has the largest bribe: 50
All's on the party of the virtuous man;
The good will surely serve him if they can;
The bad, when intrest or ambition guide,
And’ris at once their int’rest and their pride;
But should both fail to take him to their care,
He boasts a greater friend, and both may spare.
Letters to man uncommon light dispense, And what is virtue but superior sense ?
> In parts and learning you who place your pride; Your faults are crimes, your crimes are double-dy'd, What is a scandal of the first renown,
6) But letter'd knaves, and Atheists in a gown ?
'Tis harder far to please than give offence; The east misconduct damns the brightest sense:
Each shallow pale, that cannot read your name,
Can read your life, and will be proud to blame.
Flagitious manners make impressions deep
On those that o'er a page of Milion sleep:
Nur in their dulness think to save your shame;
True, these are fools; but wise men say the same. 70
Wits are a despicable race of men,
If they confine their talents to the pen;
When the man shocks us, while the writer shines,
Our scorn in life, our envy in his lines.
Yet, proud of parts, with prudence some dispense,
And play the fool because they're men of sense.
What instances bleed recent in each thought,
Of men to ruin by their genius brought?
Against their wills what numbers ruin shun,
Purely thro' want of wit to be undone ?
Nature has shewn, by makirg it so rare,
That wit's a jewel which we need not wear:
Of plain sound sense life's current coin is made;
With that we drive the most substantial trade.
Prudence protects and guides us; wit betrays,
A splendid source of ill ten thousand ways;
A certain snare to miseries immense,
A gay prerogative from common sense;
Unless strong judgment that wild thing can tame,
And break to paths of virtue and of fame.
But grant your judgment equal to the best,
Sense fills your head, and genius fires your breast;
Yet still forbear: your wit (consider well)
'Tis great to shew, but greater to conceal;
As it is great to seize the golden prize
Of place or pow'r, but greater to despise.
If still you languish for an author's name,
Think private merit less than public fame,
And fancy not to write is not to live;
Deserve, and take that great prerogative:
100 But ponder what it is, how dear 't will cost To write one page which you may justly boast.
Sense may be good, yet not deserve the press;
Who write, an awful character profess;
The world as pupil of their wisdom claim,
And for their stipend an immortal fame.
Nothing but what is solid or refin'd
Should dare ask public audience of mankind.
Severely weigh your learning and your wit;
Keep dwn your pride by what is nobly writ:
No writer, tam'd in your own way, pass o'er;
Much trust exan.ple, but reflection more:
More had the ancients writ they more had taught,
Which shows some work is left for modern thought.
This weigh'd, perfection know, and know n, adore, Toil, burn for that, but do not aim at more: Above, beneath it, the just limits fix, And zealously prefer four lines to six.
Write, and re-write, blot out, and write again, And for its swiftness ne'er applaud your penį
Leave to the jockeys that Newmarket praise;
Slow runs the Pegasus that wins the bays.
Much time for immortality to pay
Is just and wise; for less is thrown away.
Time only can mature the lab'ring brain ;
Time is the father and the midwife Pain:
The same good sense that makes a man excel,
Still makes him doubt he ne'er has written well.
Downright impossibilities they seek.
What man can be immortal in a week ?
Excuse no fault, tho' beautiful 'twill harm;
One fault shocks inore than twenty beauties charm.
Our age demand correctness; Addison
And you this commendable hurt have done.
Now writers find, as once Achilles found,
The whole is mortal, if a part's unsound.
He that strikes out, and strikes not out the best, Pours lustre in, and dignifies the rest : Give e'er so little, if what's right be there, We praise for what you burn, and what you spare: The part you burn smells sweet before the shrine, 141 And is as incense to the part divine.
Nor frequent write, tho' you can do it well; Men may 100 oft', tho' not too much excel. A few good works gain fame; more sink their price; Mankind are fickle, and hate paying twice: They granted you writ well; what can they more, Unless you let them praise for giving o'er?