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The practice was a bond upon his heart,
A pledge he gave for a consistent part;
Nor could he dare presumptuously displease
A power, confess’d so lately on his knees.
But now farewell all legendary tales,
The shadows fly, philosophy prevails ;
Prayer to the winds, and caution to the waves,
Religion makes the free by nature-— slaves ;
Priests have invented, and the world admired,
What knavish priests promulgate as inspired,
Till reason, now no longer overawed,
Resumes her powers, and spurns the clumsy fraud ;
And common sense diffusing real day,
The meteor of the Gospel dies away
Such rhapsodies our shrewd discerning youth
Learn from expert inquirers after truth ;
Whose only care, might truth presume to speak,
Is not to find what they profess to seek.
And thus, well tutor'd only while we share
A mother's lectures and a nurse's care ;
And taught at schools much mythologic stuff, *
But sound religion sparingly enough ;
Our early notices of truth, disgraced,
Soon lose their credit, and are all effaced.
Would you your son should be a sot or dunce,
Lascivious, headstrong, or all these at once ;
That in good time the stripling's finish'd taste
For loose expense and fashionable waste,
Should prove your ruin, and his own at last ;
Train him in public with a mob of boys,
Childish in mischief only and in noise,
Else of a mannish growth, and five in ten
In infidelity and lewdness men.
There shall he learn, ere sixteen winters old,
That authors are most useful pawn'd or sold ;
That pedantry is all that schools impart,
But taverns teach the knowledge of the heart ;
There waiter Dick, with Bacchanalian lays,
Shall win his heart, and have his drunken praise,
His counsellor and bosom friend shall prove,
And some street-pacing harlot his first love.
Schools, unless discipline were doubly strong,
Detain their adolescent charge too long;
The management of tiros of eighteen
Is difficult; their punishment obscene.
The stout tall captain, whose superior size
The minor heroes view with envious eyes,
Becomes their pattern, upon whom they fix
Their whole attention, and ape all his tricks.
His pride, that scorns to obey or to submit,
With them is courage; his effrontery wit.
His wild excursions, window-breaking feats,
Robbery of gardens, quarrels in the streets,
His hairbreadth 'scapes, and all his daring schemes,
Transport them, and are made their favourite themes.
In little bosoms, such achievements strike
A kindred spark; they burn to do the like.
Thus, half accomplish'd ere he yet begin
To shew the peeping down upon his chin ;
And, as maturity of years comes on,
Made just the adept that you design'd your son ;
To ensure the perseverance of his course,
And give your monstrous project all its force,
Send him to college. If he there be tamed,
Or in one article of vice reclaim'd,
Where no regard of ord’nances is shewn
Or look'd for now, the fault must be his own.
Some sneaking virtue lurks in him, no doubt,
Where neither strumpets' charms, nor drinking-bout,
Nor gambling practices, can find it out.
Such youths of spirit, and that spirit too,
Ye nurseries of our boys, we owe to you:
Though from ourselves the mischief more proceeds,
For public schools ’tis public folly feeds.
The slaves of custom and establish'd mode,
With packhorse constancy we keep the road,
Crooked or straight, through quags or thorny dells,
True to the jingling of our leader's bells.
To follow foolish precedents, and wink
With both our eyes, is easier than to think;
And such an age as ours balks no expense,
Except of caution, and of common sense ;
Else, sure, notorious fact, and proof so plain,
Would turn our steps into a wiser train.
I blame not those, who with what care they can
O’erwatch the numerous and unruly clan ;
Or, if I blame, 'tis only that they dare
Promise a work, of which they must despair.
Have ye, ye sage intendants of the whole,
An ubiquarian presence and control,
Elisha's eye, that, when Gehazi stray'd,
Went with him, and saw all the game he play'd ?
Yes — ye are conscious; and on all the shelves
Your pupils strike upon, have struck yourselves.
Or if, by nature sober, ye had then,
Boys as ye were, the gravity of men,
Ye knew at least, by constant proofs address'd
To ears and eyes, the vices of the rest.
But ye connive at what ye cannot cure,
And evils, not to be endured, endure,
Lest power exerted, but without success,
Should make the little ye retain still less.
Ye once were justly famed for bringing forth
Undoubted scholarship and genuine worth,
And in the firmament of fame still shines .
A glory, bright as that of all the signs,
Of poets raised by you, and statesmen, and divines.
Peace to them all! those brilliant times are fled,
And no such lights are kindling in their stead.
Our striplings shine, indeed, but with such rays
As set the midnight riot in a blaze ;
And seem, if judged by their expressive looks,
Deeper in none than in their surgeon's books.
Say, muse (for, education made the song,
No muse can hesitate, or linger long)
What causes move us, knowing as we must
That these menageries all fail their trust,
To send our sons to scout and scamper there,
While colts and puppies cost us so much care ?
Be it a weakness, it deserves some praise,
We love the playplace of our early days;
The scene is touching, and the heart is stone
That feels not at that sight, and feels at none.
The wall on which we tried our graving skill,
The very name we carved subsisting still,
The bench on which we sat while deep employ'd,
Though mangled, hack’d, and hew'd, not yet destroy'd;
The little ones, unbutton'd, glowing hot,
Playing our games, and on the very spot,
As happy as we once, to kneel and draw
The chalky ring, and knuckle down at taw,
To pitch the ball into the grounded hat,
Or drive it devious with a dexterous pat;
The pleasing spectacle at once excites
Such recollection of our own delights,
That viewing it, we seem almost to obtain
Our innocent sweet simple years again.
This fond attachment to the well-known place,
Whence first we started into life's long race,
Maintains its hold with such unfailing sway,
We feel it even in age, and at our latest day.
Hark! how the sire of chits, whose future share
Of classic food begins to be his care,
With his own likeness placed on either knee,
Indulges all a father's heart-felt glee,
And tells them, as he strokes their silver locks,
That they must soon learn Latin, and to box;
Then turning, he regales his listening wife
With all the adventures of his early life,
His skill in coachmanship, or driving chaise,
In bilking tavern bills, and spouting plays,
What shifts he used, detected in a scrape,
How he was flogg'd, or had the luck to escape,
What sums he lost at play, and how he sold
Watch, seals, and all — till all his pranks are told.
Retracing thus his frolics ('tis a name
That palliates deeds of folly and of shame)
Ile gives the local bias all its sway, Resolves that where he play'd his sons shall play, And destines their bright genius to be shown Just in the scene where he display'd his own. The meek and bashful boy will soon be taught To be as bold and forward as he ought, The rude will scuffle through with ease enough, Great schools suit best the sturdy and the rough. Ah, happy designation, prudent choice, The event is sure; expect it, and rejoice! Soon see your wish fulfill'd in either child. The pert made perter, and the tame made wild. *
The great, indeed, by titles, riches, birth, Excused the encumbrance of more solid worth, Are best disposed of where with most success They may acquire that confident address, Those habits of profuse and lewd expense, That scorn of all delights but those of sense, Which, though in plain plebeians we condemn, With so much reason all expect from them. But families of less illustrious fame, Whose chief distinction is their spotless name, Whose heirs, their honours none, their income small, Must shine by true desert or not at all, What dream they of, that with so little care They risk their hopes, their dearest treasure, there? They dream of little Charles or William graced With wig prolix, down flowing to his waist; They see the attentive crowds his talents draw, They hear him speak — the oracle of law. The father, who designs his babe a priest, Dreams him episcopally such at least, And while the playful jockey scours the room Briskly, astride upon the parlour broom, In fancy sees him more superbly ride In coach with purple lined, and mitres on its side.