Page images
PDF
EPUB

(Like journals, odes, and such forgotten things
As Eusden, Philips, Settle, writ of kings)
Clothe spice, line trunks, or, fluttering in a row,
Befringe the rails of Bedlam and Soho.

BOOK II. EPISTLE II.

Ludentis speciem dabit, et torquebitur.-Hor. Dear colonel, Cobham's and your country's friend, You love a verse, take such as I can send.

A Frenchman comes, presents you with his boy, Bows, and begins – This lad, sir, is of Blois : Observe his shape, bow clean! his locks, how curl'd I My only son; I'd have him see the world : His French is pure; his voice too--you shall hear ; Sir, he's your slave, for twenty pounds a-year. Mere wax as yet, you fashion him with ease, Your barber, cook, upholsterer, what you please : A perfect genius at an opera songTo say too much might do my honour wrong. Take him with all his virtues, on my word; His whole ambition was to serve a lord : But, sir, to you, with what would I not part? Though, 'faith, I fear 'twill break his mother's heart. Once (and but once) I caught him in a lie, And then, unwhipp'd, he had the grace to cry : The fault he has I fairly shall reveal (Could you o'erlook but that), it is, to steal.'

If, after this, you took the graceful lad, Could you complain, my friend, he proved so bad? 'Faith, in such

case,

if you should prosecute,
I think Sir Godfrey should decide the suit;
Who sent the thief that stole the cash, away,
And punish'd him that put it in his way.

Consider then, and judge me in this light;
I told you when I went, I could not write;
You said the same; and are you discontent
With laws to which you gave your own assent?
Nay worse, to ask for verse at such a time!
Do ye think me good for nothing but to rhyme ?

In Anna's wars, a soldier poor and old
Had dearly earn'd a little purse of gold:

Tired with a tedious march, one luckless night,
He slept, poor dog! and lost it, to a doit.
This put the man in such a desperate mind,
Between revenge and grief, and hunger join'd,
Against the foe, himself, and all mankind,
He leap'd the trenches, scaled a castle wall,
Tore down a standard, took the fort and all.
- Prodigious well!' his great commander cried,
Gave him much praise, and some reward beside.
Next, pleased his excellence a town to batter
(Its name I know not, and 'tis no great matter):
. Go on, my friend,' he cried; see yonder walls !
Advance and conquer! go where glory calls !
More honours, more rewards, attend the brave.'
Don't

you remember what reply he gave? Do you think me, noble general, such a sot? Let him take castles who has ne'er a groat,'

Bred up at home, full early I begun To read in Greek the wrath of Peleus' son, Besides, my father taught me from a lad, The better art, to know the good from bad (And little sure imported to remove, To hunt for truth in Maudlin's learned grove). But knottier points, we knew not half so well, Deprived us soon of our paternal cell ; And certain laws, by sufferers thought unjust, Denied all posts of profit or of trust: Hopes after hopes of pious papists fail'd, While mighty William's thundering arm prevail'd. For right hereditary tax'd and fined, He stuck to poverty with peace of mind; And me, the Muses help'd to undergo it; Convict a papist he, and I a poet. But (thanks to Homer) since I live and thrive, Indebted to no prince or peer alive, Sure I should want the care of ten Monroes, If I would scribble, rather than repose. Years following years steal something every

day, At last they steal as from ourselves away; lo one our frolics, one amusements end, In one a mistress drops, in one a friend :

Phis subtle thief of life, this paltry time,
What will it leave me, if it snatch my rhyme ?
If every wheel of that unwearied mill,
That turn'd ten thousand verses, now stand still ?

But after all, what would you have me do,
When out of twenty I can please not two?
When this heroics only deigns to praise,
Sharp satire that, and that Pindaric lays ?
One likes the pheasant's wing, and one the leg:
The vulgar boil, the learned roast an egg :
Hard task! to hit the palates of such guests,
When Oldfield loves what Dartineuf detests.

But grant I may relapse, for want of grace,
Again to rhyme: can London be the place ?
Who there his muse, or self, or soul attends,
In crowds, and courts, law, business, feasts, and friends?
My counsel sends to execute a deed:
A poet begs me I will hear him read:
In Palace-yard at nine you'll find me there,
At ten, for certain, sir, in Bloomsbury-square-
Before the lords at twelve my cause comes on
There's a rehearsal, sir, exact at one
·0! but a wit can study in the streets,
And raise his mind above the mob he meets.'
Not quite so well, however, as one ought;
A hackney-coach may chance to spoil a thought;
And then a nodding beam, or pig of lead,
God knows, may hurt the very ablest head,
Have you not seen, at Guildhall's narrow pass,
Two aldermen dispute it with an ass ?
And peers give way, exalted as they are,
E'en to their own s-r-v-nce in a car?

Go, lofty poet! and in such a crowd Sing thy sonorous verse, but not aloud. Alas! to grottoes and to groves we run, To ease and silence, every Muse's son: Blackmore himself, for any grand effort, Would drink and doze at Tooting or Earl's-Court. How shall I rhyme in this eternal roar ? How match the bards whom none e'er match'd before?

The man, who, stretch'd in Isis' calm retreat, To books and study gives seven years complete,

See! strow'd with learned dust, his nightcap on,
He walks an object new beneath the sun!
The boys flock round him, and the people stare:
So stiff, so mute! some statue, you would swear,
Stepp'd from its pedestal to take the air!
And here, while town, and court, and city roars,
With mobs, and duns, and soldiers at their doors;
Shall I, in London, act this idle part,
Composing songs for fools to get by heart?

The Temple late twu brother sergeants saw,
Who deem'd each other oracles of law;
With equal talents, these congenial souls,
One lull'd th’ Exchequer, and one stunn'd the Rolls;
Each had a gravity would make you split,
And shook his head at Murray as a wit.
'Twas, ' Sir, your law-and 'Sir, your eloquence,"
Yours, Cowper's manner'—and yours, Talbot's

sense.'
Thus we dispose of all poetic merit,
Yours Milton's genius, and mine Homer's spirit.
Call Tibbald Shakspeare, and he'll swear the Nine, :
Dear Cibber! never match'd one ode of thine.
Lord ! how we strut through Merlin's Cave to see
No poets there, but Stephen, you, and me.
Walk with respect behind, while we at ease
Weave laurel crowns, and take what names we please.

My dear Tibullus!' If that will not do,
Let me be Horace, and be Ovid you;
Or, I'm content, allow me Dryden's strains,
And you shall rise up Otway for your pains.
Much do I suffer, much to keep in peace
This jealous, waspish, wrong-head, rhyming race;
And much must flatter, if the whim should bite,
To court applause by printing what I write:
But let the fit pass o'er, I'm wise enough
To stop my ears to their confounded stuff.

In vain bad rhymers all mankind reject,
They treat themselves with most profound respect;
Tis to small purpose that you hold your tongue,
Each, praised within, is happy all day long :
But how severely with themselves proceed
The men who write such verse as we can read!

Their own strict judges, not a word they spare
That wants or force, or light, or weight, or care,
Howe'er unwillingly it quits its place,
Nay, though at court, perhaps, it may find

grace:
Such they'll degrade; and sometimes, in its stead,
In downright charity revive the dead ;
Mark where a bold, expressive phrase appears,
Bright through the rubbish of some hundred years;
Command old words that long have slept, to wake,
Words that wise Bacon or brave Raleigh spake;
Or bid the new be English ages hence
(For use will father what's begot by sense),
Pour the full tide of eloquence along,
Serenely pure, and yet divinely strong,
Rich with the treasures of each foreign tongue;
Prune the luxuriant, the uncouth refine,
But shew no mercy to an empty line :
Then polish all, with so much life and ease,
You think 'tig nature, and a knack to please :
• But ease in writing flows from art, not chance ;
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance."

If such the plague and pains to write by rule, Better, say I, be pleased, and play the fool; Call, if you will, bad rhyming a disease, It gives men happiness, or leaves them ease. There lived in primo Georgii (they record) A worthy member, no small fool, a lord; Who, though the house was up, delighted sate; Heard, noted, answer'd, as in full debate: In all but this, a man of sober life, Fond of his friend, and civil to his wife; Not quite a madman, though a pasty fell; And much too wise to walk into a well. Him the damn'd doctors and his friends immured, They bled, they cupp'd, they purged; in short, they

cured: Whereat the gentleman began to stare* My friends! he cried, p-x take you for your care! That from a patriot of distinguish'd note, Have bled and purged me to a simple vote.'

Well, on the whole, plain prose must be my fate: Wisdom (curse on it!) will come soon or late.

« PreviousContinue »