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Yet ne'er so sure our passion to create,
As when she touch'd the brink of all we hate.
Narcissa's nature, tolerably mild,
To make a wash would hardly stew a child;
Has e'en been proved to grant a lover's prayer,
And paid a tradesman once to make him stare ;
Gave alms at Easter in a Christian trim,
And made a widow happy for a whim.
Why then declare good-nature is her scorn,
When 'tis by that alone she can be borne?
Why pique all mortals, yet affect a name?
A fool to pleasure, yet a slave to fame :
Now deep in Taylor and the Book of Martyrs,
Now drinking citron with his grace and Chartres :
Now conscience chills her, and now passion burns ;
And atheism and religion take their turns:
A very heathen in the carnal part,
Yet still a sad good Christian at her heart.
See sin in state, majestically drunk, Proud as a peeress, prouder as a punk :
70 Chaste to her husband, frank to all beside, A teeming mistress, but a barren bride. What then ? let blood and body bear the fault, Her head's untouch'd, that noble seat of thought : Such this day's doctrine-in another fit She sins with poets through pure love of wit. What has not fired her bosum or her brain ? Cæsar and Tall-boy, Charles and Charlemagne. As Helluo, late dictator of the feast, The nose of haut-gout, and the tip of taste,
80 Critiqued your wine, and analyzed your meat, Yet on plain pudding deign'd at home to eat: So Philomedé, lecturing all mankind On the soft passion, and the taste refined, The address, the delicacy-stoops at once, And makes her hearty meal upon a dunce.
Flavia's a wit, has too much sense to pray; To toast our wants and wishes, is her way; Nor asks of God, but of her stars, to give The mighty blessing,' while we live, to live.' 90 Then all for death, that opiate of the soul ! Lucretia's dagger, Rosamonda's bowl.
Say, what can cause such impotence of mind?
A spark tro fickle, or a spouse too kind.
Wise wretch! with pleasures too refined to please;
With too much spirit to be e'er at ease;
With too much quickness ever to be taught;
With too much thinking to have common thought :
You purchase pain with all that joy can give,
And die of nothing but a rage to live.
Turn then from wits, and look on Simo's mate;
No ass so meek, no ass so obstinate :
Or her that owns her faults but never mends,
Because she's honest, and the best of friends :
Or her whose life the church and scandal share,
For ever in a passion or a prayer :
Or her who laughs at hell, but (like her grace)
Cries, ' Ah! how charming, if there's no such place!"
Or who in sweet vicissitude appears
Of mirth and opium, ratafie and tears,
The daily anodyne, and nightly draught,
To kill those foes to fair-ones, time and thought.
Woman and fool are too hard things to hit:
For true no-meaning puzzles more than wit.
But what are those to great Atossa's mind ? Scarce once herself, by turns all womankind ! Who, with herself, or others, from her birth Finds all her life one warfare upon earth : Shines in exposing knaves and painting fools, Yet is whate'er she hates and ridicules.
120 No thought advances, but her eddy brain Whisks it about, and down it goes again. Full sixty years the world has been her trade, The wisest fool much time has ever made. From loveless youth to unrespected age, No passion gratified, except her rage : So much the fury still outran the wit, The pleasure miss'd her, and the scandal hit. Who breaks with her, provokes revenge from hell, But he's a bolder man who dares be well.
130 Her every turn with violence pursued, Nor more a storm her hate than gratitude: To that each passion turns, or soon or late; Love, if it makes her yield, must make her hate :
Superiors ? death! and equals ? what a curse!
But an inferior not dependent ! worse.
Offend her, and she knows not to forgive ;
Oblige her, and she'll hate you while you live:
But die, and she'll adore you—Then the bust
And temple rise-then fall again to dust.
Last night, her lord was all that's good and great;
A knave this morning, and his will a cheat.
Strange! by the means defeated of the ends,
By spirit robb'd of power, by warmth of friends,
By wealth of followers! without one distress
Sick of herself, through very selfishness !
Atossa, cursed with every granted prayer,
Childless with all her children, wants an heir.
To heirs unknown descends th'unguarded sture,
Or wanders, Heaven-directed, to the puor.
150 Pictures, like these, dear madam, to design, Asks no firm hand, and no unerring line; Some wandering touches, some reflected light, Some flying stroke alone can hit them right: For how should equal colours do the knack? Chameleons who can paint in white and black ?
• Yet Chloe sure was form'd without a spot.' Nature in her then err'd not, but forgot. "With every pleasing, every prudent part, 159 Say, what can Chloe want?-She wants a heart. She speaks, behaves, and acts just as she ought; But never, never reach'd one generous thought. Virtue she finds too painful an endeavour, Content to dwell in decencies for ever. So very reasonable, so unmoved, As never yet to love, or to be loved. She, while her lover pants upon her breast, Can mark the figures on an Indian chest; And when she sees her friend in deep despair, Observes how much a chintz exceeds mohair. 170 Forbid it, Heaven, a favour or a debt She e'er should cancel—but she may forget. Safe is your secret still in Chloe's ear; But none of Chloe's shall you ever hear. Of all her dears she never slander'd one, But cares not if a thousand are undone.
Would Chloe know if you're alive or dead?
She bids her footman put it in her head.
Chloe is prudent-Would you too be wise ?
Then never break your heart when Chloe dies. 180
One certain portrait may (I grant) be seen,
Which Heaven has varnish'd out, and made a queen :
The same for ever! and described by all
With truth and goodness, as with crown and ball.
Poets heap virtues, painters gems at will,
And shew their zeal, and hide their want of skill.
'Tis well-but, artists! who can paint or write,
To draw the naked is your true delight.
That robe of quality so struts and swells,
None see what parts of nature it conceals : 195
Th' exactest traits of body or of mind,
We owe tu models of a humble kind.
If Queensberry to strip there's no compelling,
"Tis from a handmaid we must take a Helen.
From peer or bishop 'tis no easy thing
To draw the man who loves his god or king:
Alas! I copy (or my draught would fail)
From honest Mahomet or plain parson Hale.
But grant, in public men sometimes are shewn,
A woman's seen in private life alone :
Our bolder talents in full light display'd ;
Your virtues open fairest in the shade.
Bred to disguise, in public 'tis you hide ;
There, none distinguish 'twixt your shade or pride,
Weakness or delicacy; all so nice,
That each may seem a virtue or a vice.
In men we various ruling passions find;
In women, two almost divide the kind :
Those, only fix'd, they first or last obey,
The love of pleasure, and the love of sway. 210
That nature gives ; and where the lesson taught
Is but to please, can pleasure seem a fault?
Experience, this; by man's oppression cursed,
They seek the second not to lose the first.
Men, some to business, some to pleasure take;
But every woman is at heart a rake:
Men, some to quiet, some to public strife;
But every lady would be queen for life.
Yet mark the fate of a whole sex of queens !
Power all their end, but beauty all the means: 220
In youth they conquer with so wild a rage,
As leaves them scarce a subject in their age :
For foreign glory, foreign joy, they roam;
No thought of peace or happiness at home.
But wisdom's triumph is well-timed retreat,
As hard a science to the fair as great!
Beauties, like tyrants, old and friendless grown,
Yet hate repose, and dread to be alone :
Worn out in public, weary every eye,
Nor leave one sigh behind them when they die. 230
Pleasures the sex, as children birds, pursue,
Still out of reach, yet never out of view;
Sure, if they catch, to spoil the toy at most,
To covet flying, and regret when lost:
At last, to follies youth could scarce defiend,
It grows their age's prudence to pretend ;
Ashamed to own they gave delight before,
Reduced to feign it, when they give no more :
As hags hold sabbaths less for joy than spite,
So these their merry, miserable night;
240 Still round and round the ghosts of beauty glide, And haunt the places where their honour died.
See how the world its veterans rewards!
A youth of frolics, an old age of cards;
Fair to no purpose, artful to no end,
Young without lovers, old without a friend;
A fop their passion, but their prize a sot,
Alive ridiculous, and dead forgot!
Ah, friend! to dazzle let the vain design ; 249
To raise the thought, and touch the heart, be thine!
That charm shall grow, while what fatigues the ring,
Flaunts and goes down, an unregarded thing :
So when the sun's broad beam has tired the sight,
All mild ascends the moon's more sober light,
Serene in virgin modesty she shines,
And unobserved the glaring orb declines.
0! bless'd with temper, whose unclouded ray Can make to-morrow cheerful as to-day; She who can love a sister's charms, or hear Sighs for a daughter with unwounded ear ; 200