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In spite of all the wrigglers into place,
Still keeps a seat or two for worth and grace;
And therefore 'tis, that, though the sight be rare,
We sometimes see a Lowth or Bagot there.
Besides, school-friendships are not always found,
Though fair in promise, permanent and sound.
The most disinterested and virtuous minds
In early years connected, time unbinds ;
New situations give a different cast
Of habit, inclination, temper, taste,
And he that seem'd our counterpart at first,
Soon shows the strong similitude reversed.
Young heads are giddy, and young hearts are warm,
And make mistakes for manhood to reform.
Boys are at best but pretty buds unblown,
Whose scent and hues are rather guess'd than known.
Each dreams that each is just what he appears,
But learns his error in maturer years,
When disposition, like a sail unfurl'd,
Shows all its rents and patches to the world.
If therefore, even when honest in design,
A boyish friendship may so soon decline,
'Twere wiser sure to inspire a little heart
With just abhorrence of so mean a part,
Than set your son to work at a vile trade
For wages so unlikely to be paid.
Our public hives of puerile resort
That are of chief and most approved report,
To such base hopes in many a sordid soul
Owe their repute in part, but not the whole.
A principle, whose proud pretensions pass
Unquestion'd, though the jewel be but glass,
That with a world not often over-nice Ranks as a virtue, and is yet a vice, Or rather a gross compound, justly tried, Of envy, hatred, jealousy, and pride, Contributes most perhaps to enhance their fame, And Emulation is its specious name. Boys once on fire with that contentious zeal Feel all the rage that female rivals feel, The prize of beauty in a woman's eyes Not brighter than in theirs the scholar's prize. The spirit of that competition burns With all varieties of ill by turns, Each vainly magnifies his own success, Resents his fellow's, wishes it were less, Exults in his miscarriage if he fail, Deems his reward too great if he prevail, And labours to surpass him day and night, Less for improvement, than to tickle spite. The spur is powerful, and I grant its force; It pricks the genius forward in its course, Allows short time for play, and none for sloth, And felt alike by each, advances both, But judge where so much evil intervenes, The end, though plausible, not worth the means. Weigh, for a moment, classical desert Against a heart depraved and temper hurt, Hurt too perhaps for life, for early wrong Done to the nobler part, affects it long, And you are staunch indeed in learning's cause, If you can crown a discipline that draws Such mischiefs after it, with much applause.
Connexion form’d for interest, and endear’d By selfish views, thus censured and cashier'd, And emulation, as engendering hate, Doom'd to a no less ignominious fate, The props of such proud seminaries fall, The Jachin and the Boaz of them all. Great schools rejected then, as those that swell Beyond a size that can be managed well, Shall royal institutions miss the bays, And small academies win all the praise ? Force not my drift beyond its just intent, I praise a school as Pope a government; So take my judgement in his language dress'd, " Whate'er is best administer'd, is best.” Few boys are born with talents that excel, But all are capable of living well. Then ask not, whether limited or large, But, watch they strictly or neglect their charge? If anxious only that their boys may learn, While Morals languish, a despised concern, The great and small deserve one common blame, Different in size, but in effect the same. Much zeal in virtue's cause all teachers boast, Though motives of mere lucre sway the most. Therefore in towns and cities they abound, For there, the game they seek is easiest found, Though there, in spite of all that care can do, Traps to catch youth are most abundant too. If shrewd, and of a well-constructed brain, Keen in pursuit, and vigorous to retain, Your son come forth a prodigy of skill, As wheresoever taught, so form’d, he will,
The pædagogue, with self-complacent air,
Claims more than half the praise as his due share;
But if with all his genius he betray,
Not more intelligent, than loose and gay,
Such vicious habits as disgrace his name,
Threaten his health, his fortune, and his fame,
Though want of due restraint alone have bred
The symptoms that you see with so much dread,
Unenvied there, he may sustain alone
The whole reproach, the fault was all his own.
Oh 'tis a sight to be with joy perused
By all whom sentiment has not abused,
New-fangled sentiment, the boasted grace
Of those who never feel in the right place,
A sight surpassed by none that we can show,
Though Vestris on one leg still shine below,
A father blest with an ingenuous son,
Father and friend and tutor all in one.
How? turn again to tales long since forgot,
Æsop and Phædrus and the rest ?-why not?
He will not blush that has a father's heart,
To take in childish plays a childish part,
But bends his sturdy back to any toy
That youth takes pleasure in, to please his boy ;
Then why resign into a stranger's hand
A task as much within your own command,
That God and nature and your interest too
Seem with one voice to delegate to you?
Why hire a lodging in a house unknown
For one whose tenderest thoughts all hover round your
This second weaning, needless as it is,
How does it lacerate both your heart and his !
The indented stick that loses day by day
Notch after notch, till all are smooth'd away,
Bears witness long ere his dismission come,
With what intense desire he wants his home.
But though the joys he hopes beneath your roof
Bid fair enough to answer in the proof,
Harmless and safe and natural as they are,
A disappointment waits him even there :
Arrived, he feels an unexpected change,
He blushes, hangs his head, is shy and strange,
No longer takes, as once, with fearless ease
His favourite stand between his father's knees,
But seeks the corner of some distant seat,
And eyes the door, and watches a retreat,
And least familiar where he should be most,
Feels all his happiest privileges lost.
Alas, poor boy !—the natural effect
Of love by absence chilled into respect.
Say, what accomplishments at school acquired
Brings he to sweeten fruits so undesired ?
Thou well deservest an alienated son,
Unless thy conscious heart acknowledge—none;
None that in thy domestic snug recess,
He had not made his own with more address,
Though some perhaps that shock thy feeling mind,
And better never learn'd, or left behind.
Add too, that thus estranged thou canst obtain
By no kind arts his confidence again,
That here begins with most that long complaint
Of filial frankness lost, and love grown faint,