Page images
PDF
EPUB

POEMS

TABLE TALK.

Si te forte meæ gravis uret sarcipa chartæ,
Abjicito

Hor. Lib. 1. Epist. 13.

A. YOU told me, I remember, glory, built
On selfish principles, is shame and guilt;
The deeds, that men admire as half divine,
Stark naught, because corrupt in their design.
Strange doctrine this! that without scruple tears
The laurel, that the very lightning spares !
Brings down the warrior's trophy to the dust,
And eats into his bloody sword like rust.

B. I grant that, men continuing what they are,
Fierce, avaricious, proud, there must be war;
And never meant the rule should be applied
To him that fights with justice on his side.

Let laurels, drenched in pure Parnassian dews, Reward his memory, dear to every muse, Who, with a courage of unshaken root, In honour's field advancing his firm foot, Plants it upon the line that justice draws, And will prevail or perish in her cause. 'Tis to the virtues of such men, man owes His portion in the good that heaven bestows; And when recording history displays Feats of renown, though wrought in ancient days, Tell of a few stout hearts, that fought and died Where duty placed them, at their country's side;

B

The man that is not moved with what he reads,
That takes not fire at their heroic deeds,
Unworthy of the blessings of the brave,
Is base in kind, and born to be a slave.

But let eternal infamy pursue
The wretch, to nought but his ámbition true,
Who, for the sake of filling with one blast
The post-horns of all Europe, lays her waste.
Think yourself stationed on a towering rock,
To see a people scattered like a fock,
Some royal mastiff panting at their heels,
With all the savage thirst a tiger feels ;
Then view him self-proclaimed in a gazette
Chief monster that has plagued the nations yet :
The globe and sceptre in such hands misplaced,
Those ensigns of dominion, how disgraced !
The glass that bids man mark the fleeting hour,
And death's own scythe would better speak his power ;
Then grace the bony phantom in their stead
With the king's shoulder-knot and gay cockade;
Clothe the twin brethren in each other's dress,
The same their occupation and success.

A. 'Tis your belief the world was made for man; Kings do but reason on the self-same plan; Maintaining your's, you cannot their’s condemn, Who think, or seem to think, man made for them.

B. Seldom, alas! the power of logic reigns
With much sufficiency in royal brains;
Such reasoning falls like an inverted cone,
Wanting its proper base to stand upon.
Man made for kings ! those optics are but dim
That tell you so---say, rather, they for him,
That were indeed a king ennobling thought,
Could they, or would they, reason as they ought.
The diadem, with mighty projects lined
To catch renown by ruining mankind,
Is worth, with all its gold and glittering store,
Just what the toy will sell for, and no more.

Oh! bright occasions of dispensing good,
How seldom used, how little understood !
To pour in virtue's lap her just reward,
Keep vice restrained behind a double guard ;

To quell the faction that affronts the throne,
By silent magnanimity alone;
To nurse with tender care the thriving arts,
Watch every beam philosophy imparts ;
To give religion her unbridled scope,
Nor judge by statute a believer's hope;
With close fidelity and love unfeigned
To keep the matrimonial bond unstained ;
Covetous only of a virtuous praise;
His life a lesson to the land he sways;
To touch the sword with conscientious awe,
Nor draw it but when duty bids him draw;
To sheath it in the peace-restoring close
With joy beyond what victory bestows;
Blest country, where these kingly glories shine;
Blest England, if this happiness be thine!

A. Guard what you say; the patriotic tribe
Will sneer and charge you with a bribe. --B. A bribe?
The worth of his three kingdoms I defy,
To lure me to the baseness of a lie.
. And, of all lies, (be that one poet's boast)
The lie that flatters I abhor the most.
Those arts be their's, who hate his gentle reign,
But he that loves bim has no need to feign.

A. Your smooth eulogium to one crown addressed, Seems to imply a censure on the rest.

B. Quevido, as he tells his sober tale,
Asked, when in hell, to see the royal jail ;
Approved their method in all other things;
But where, good sir, do you confine your kings?
There---said his guide---the group is full in view.
Indeed !---replied the Don---there are but few.
His black interpreter the charge disdained---
Few, fellow ?--- There are all that ever reigned.
Wit, undistinguishing, is apt to strike
The guilty and not guilty both alike.
I grant the sarcasm is too severe,
And we can readily refute it here;
While Alfred's name, the father of his age,
And the Sixth Edward's grace the historic page.

A. Kings then at last have but the lot of all,
By their own conduct they must stand or fall.

B. True. While they live the courtly laureat pays
His quit-rent owed, his pepper-corn of praise ;
And many a dunce whose fingers itch to write,
Adds, as he can, his tributary mite;
A subject's faults a subject may proclaim,
A monarch's errors are forbidden game!
Thus free from censure, over-awed by fear,
And praised for virtues, that they scorn to wear,
The Aeeting forms of majesty engage
Respect, while stalking over life's narrow stage;
Then leave their crimes for history to scan,
And ask with busy scorn, Was this the man ?

I pity kings, whom worship waits upon,
Obsequious, from the cradle to the throne ;
Before whose infant eyes the flatterer bows,
And binds a wreath about their baby brows;
Whom education stiffens into state,
And death awakens from that dream too late.
Oh! if servility with supple knees,
Whose trade it is to smile, to croucḥ, to please;
If smooth dissimulation, skilled to grace
A devil's purpose with an angel's face;
If smiling peeresses, and simpering peers,
Encompassing his throne a few short years;
If the gilt carriage and the pampered steed,
That wants po driving, and disdains the lead;
If guards, mechanically formed in ranks,
Playing, at beat of drum, their martial pranks,
Shouldering and standing as if stuck to stone,
While condescending majesty looks on ;
If monarchy consist in such base things,
Sighing, I say again, I pity kings!

To be suspected, thwarted, and withstood,
Even when he labours for his country's good;
To see a band, called patriot for no cause,
But that they catch at popular applause,
Careless of all the anxiety he feels,
Hook disappointment on the public wheels;
With all the flippant Auency of tongue,
Most confident, when palpably most wrong ;
If this be kingly, then farewell for me
All kingship; and may I be poor and free!

To be the Table Talk of clubs up stairs,
To which the unwashed artificer repairs,
To indulge his genius after long fatigue,
By diving into cabinet intrigue;
(For what kings deem a toil, as well they may,
To bim is relaxation and mere play)
To win no praise when well-wrought plans prevail,
But to be rudely censured when they fail ;
To doubt the love his favourites may pretend,
And in reality to find no friend;
If he indulge a cultivated taste,
His galleries with the works of art well graced,
To hear it called extravagance and waste;
If these attendants, and if such as these,
Must follow royalty, then welcome ease ;
However humble and confined the sphere,
Happy the state that has not these to fear.
A. Thus men, whose thoughts contemplative have

dwelt
On situations that they never felt,
Start up sagacious, covered with the dust
Of dreaming study and pedantic rust,
And prate and preach about what others prove,
As if the world and they were hand and glove.
Leave kingly backs to cope with kingly cares ;
They have their weight to carry, subjects their’s ;
Poets, of all men, ever least regret
Increasing taxes and the nation's debt.
Could you contrive the payment, and rehearse
The mighty plan, oracular, in verse,
No bard, howe'er majestic, old or new,
Should claim my fixt attention more than you.

B. Not Brindley nor Bridgewater would essay
To turn the course of Helicon that way;
Nor would the Nine consent the sacred tide
Should purl amidst the traffic of Cheapside,
Or tinkle in Change Alley, to amuse
The leathern ears of stock-jobbers and Jews.

A. Vouchsafe, at least, to pitch the key of rhyme
To themes more pertinent, if less sublime.
When ministers and ministerial arts;
Patriots, who love good places as their hearts;

« PreviousContinue »