Page images
PDF
EPUB

Events improbable and strange as these,
Which only a parental eye foresees,
A public school shall bring to pass with ease.
But how-resides such virtue in that air
As must create an appetite for prayer ?
And will it breathe into him all the zeal,
That candidates for such a prize should feel,
To take the lead, and be the foremost still
In all true worth and literary skill ?

« Ah blind to bright futurity, untaught
The knowledge of the world, and dull of thought!
Church-ladders are not always mounted best
By learned clerks, and Latinists profess'd.
The exalted prize demands an upward look,
Not to be found by poring on a book.
Small skill in Latin, and still less in Greek,
Is more than adequate to all I seek;
Let erudition grace him, or not grace,
I give the bauble but the second place;
His wealth, fame, honours, all that I intend,
Subsist and centre in one point, - a friend.
A friend, whate'er he studies or neglects,
Shall give him consequence, heal all defects.
His intercourse with peers and sons of peers -
There dawns the splendour of his future years ;
In that bright quarter his propitious skies
Shall blush betimes, and there his glory rise.
Your Lordship, and Your Grace ! what school can teach
A rhetoric equal to those parts of speech ?
What need of Homer's verse, or Tully's prose,
Sweet interjections ! if he learn but those ?
Let reverend churls his ignorance rebuke,
Who starve upon a dog's-ear'd Pentateuch,
The parson knows enough who knows a Duke."
Egregious purpose! worthily begun
In barbarous prostitution of your son ;
Press'd on his part by means that would disgrace
A scrivener's clerk, or footman out of place,
And ending, if at last its end be gain'd,
In sacrilege, in God's own house profaned.

It may succeed; and, if his sins should call
For more than common punishment, it shall ;
The wretch shall rise, and be the thing on earth
Least qualified in honour, learning, worth,
To occupy a sacred, awful post,
In which the best and worthiest tremble most.
The royal letters are a thing of course,
A king, that would, might recommend his horse ; .
And deans, no doubt, and chapters, with one voice,
As bound in duty, would confirm the choice.
Behold your bishop! well he plays his part,
Christian in name, and infidel in heart,
Ghostly in office, earthly in his plan,
A slave at court, elsewhere a lady's man.
Dumb as a senator, and as a priest
A piece of mere church furniture at best ;
To live estranged from God his total scope,
And his end sure, without one glimpse of hope.
But fair although and feasible it seem,
Depend not much upon your golden dream ;
For Providence, that seems concern'd to exempt
The hallow'd bench from absolute contempt,
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 shews 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 unfurld,
Shews all its rents and patches to the world.
If, therefore, e'en 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;

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Hurt too perhaps for life ; for early wrong,
Done to the nobler part, affects it long;
And you are stanch indeed in learning's cause,
If you can crown a discipline, that draws
Such mischiefs after it, with much applause.'

Connection 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 semininaries 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 judgment 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 pedagogue, 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 surpass'd 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

own ?
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,

« PreviousContinue »