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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 ?
D'ye 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 us from ourselves away;
In one our frolics, one amusements end,
In one a mistress drops, in one a friend.
This 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 stands 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 palate 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
My counsel sends to execute a deed: [friends?
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.—
Oh! 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 sir-reverence in a car?
Go, lofty poet! and in such a crowd
Sing thy sonorous verse-but not aloud.
Alas! to grottos and to groves we run,
To ease and silence, every Muse's son:
Blackmore himself, for any grand effort,
Would drink and dose at Tooting or Earl's-court.
How shall I rhyme in this eternal roar? [fore?
How match the bards whom none e'er match'd be-
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 two brother sergeants saw,
Who deem'd each other oracles of law;
With equal talents these congenial souls,
One lull'd the' Exchequer, and one stunn'd the
Each had a gravity would make you split, [Rolls;
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
Thus we dispose of all poetic merit, [sense.' 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
'My dear Tibullus! (if that will not do) [please.
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 show no mercy to an empty line;
Then polish all with so much life and ease
You think 'tis 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 sat,
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
Whereat the gentleman began to stare- [cured:
My friends! (he cried) pox 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.
There is a time when poets will grow dull:
I'll e'en leave verses to the boys at school:
To rules of poetry no more confined,
I'll learn to smooth and harmonize my mind,
Teach every thought within its bounds to roll,
And keep the equal measure of the soul.
Soon as I enter at my country door, My mind resumes the thread it dropp'd before; Thoughts, which at Hyde-park-corner I forgot, Meet and rejoin me in the pensive grot: