« PreviousContinue »
WHO DESIRED ME TO WRITE ON THE DEATH OF KING
WILLIAM. APRIL 20, 1702.
TRUST me, dear George, could I in verse but show
What sorrow I, what sorrow all men, owe
To Nassau's fate; or could I hope to raise
A song proportion'd to the monarch's praise;
Could I his merits, or my grief, express,
And proper thoughts in proper language dress;
Unbidden should my pious numbers flow,
The tribute of a heart o'ercharged with woe:
But, rather than profane his sacred hearse
With languid praises, and unhallow'd verse,
My sighs I to myself in silence keep,
And inwardly, with secret anguish, weep.
Let Halifax's Muse (he knew him well)
His virtues to succeeding ages tell.
Let him, who sung the warrior on the Boyne,
(Provoking Dorset in the task to join)
And show'd the hero more than man before,
Let him the' illustrious mortal's fate deplore;
A mournful theme; while, on raw pinions, I
But flutter, and make weak attempts to fly;
Content, if, to divert my vacant time,
can but like some lovesick fopling rhyme,
To some kind-hearted mistress make my court, And, like a modish wit, in sonnet sport.
Let others, more ambitious, rack their brains In polish'd sentiments, and labour'd strains: To blooming Phyllis I a song compose, And, for a rhyme, compare her to the rose; Then, while my fancy works, I write down morn, To paint the blush that does her cheek adorn; And, when the whiteness of her skin I show, With ecstasy bethink myself of snow. Thus, without pains, I tinkle in the close, And sweeten into verse insipid prose.
The country scraper, when he wakes his crowd, And makes the tortured cat-gut squeak aloud, · Is often ravish'd, and in transport lost: What more, my friend, can famed Corelli boast, When harmony herself from heaven descends, And on the artist's moving bow attends? Why then, in making verses, should I strain For wit, and of Apollo beg a vein? Why study Horace and the Stagyrite? Why cramp my dulness, and in torment write? Let me transgress by nature, not by rule, An artless idiot, not a studied fool, A Withers, not a Rymer; since I aim At nothing less, in writing, than a name.
FROM Utrecht's silent walks, by winds, I send
Health and kind wishes to my absent friend.
The winter spent, I feel the poet's fire;
The sun advances, and the fogs retire:
The genial spring unbinds the frozen earth,
Dawns on the trees, and gives the primrose birth.
Loosed from their friendly harbours, once again
Confederate fleets assemble on the main :
The voice of war the gallant soldier wakes;
And weeping Chloë parting kisses takes.
On new-plumed wings the Roman eagle soars:
The Belgic lion in full fury roars.
Dispatch the leader from your happy coast,
The hope of Europe, and Britannia's boast;
O, Marlborough, come! fresh laurels for thee rise!
One conquest more, and Gallia will grow wise.
Meanwhile, my friend, the thickening shades I
And smooth canals, and after rivulets pant:
The smooth canals, alas! too lifeless show,
Nor to the eye, nor to the ear, they flow.
Studious of ease, and fond of humble things,
Below the smiles, below the frowns of kings,
Thanks to my stars, I prize the sweets of life:
No sleepless nights I count, no days of strife,
Content to live, content to die, unknown,
Lord of myself, accountable to none;
I sleep, I wake, I drink; I sometimes love;
I read, I write; I settle, and I rove,
When, and where'er, I please: thus, every hour
Gives some new proof of my despotic power.
All, that I will, I can; but then, I will
As reason bids; I meditate no ill;
And, pleased with things which in my level lie,
Leave it to madmen o'er the clouds to fly.
But this is all romance, a dream to you,
Who fence and dance, and keep the court in view.
While staffs and truncheons, seals and golden keys,
And silver stars, your towering genius please:
Such manly thoughts in every infant rise,
Who daily for some tinsel trinket cries.
Go on, and prosper, sir: but first from me
Learn your own temper; for I know you free.
You can be honest; but you cannot bow,
And cringe, beneath a supercilious brow:
You cannot fawn; your stubborn soul recoils
At baseness; and your blood too highly boils.
From nature some submissive tempers have;
Unkind to you, she form'd you not a slave.
A courtier must be supple, full of guile,
Must learn to praise, to flatter, to revile,
The good, the bad, an enemy, a friend,
To give false hopes, and on false hopes depend.
Go on, and prosper,
but learn to hide
Your upright spirit; 't will be construed pride.
The splendour of a court is all a cheat;
You must be servile, ere you can be great.
Besides, your ancient patrimony wasted,
Your youth run out, your schemes of grandeur
You may perhaps retire in discontent, [blasted,
And curse your patron, for no strange event:
The patron will his innocence protest,
And frown in earnest, though he smiled in jest.
Man, only from himself, can suffer wrong;
His reason fails, as his desires grow strong:
Hence, wanting ballast, and too full of sail,
He lies exposed to every rising gale.
From youth to age, for happiness he's bound:
He splits on rocks, or runs his bark aground;
Or, wide of land, a desert ocean views,
And, to the last, the flying port pursues;
Yet, to the last, the port he does not gain,
And dying finds, too late, he lived in vain.
COPENHAGEN, MARCH 9, 1709.
FROM frozen climes, and endless tracts of snow,
From streams which northern winds forbid to flow,
What present shall the Muse to Dorset bring,
Or how, so near the pole, attempt to sing?
The hoary winter here conceals from sight
All pleasing objects which to verse invite.
The hills and dales, and the delightful woods,
The flowery plains, and silver-streaming floods,
By snow disguised, in bright confusion lie,
And with one dazzling waste fatigue the eye.
No gentle breathing breeze prepares the spring,
No birds within the desert region sing.
The ships, unmoved, the boisterous winds defy,
While rattling chariots o'er the ocean fly.