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Years following years steal something every day,
At least 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 stand still?
But after all, what would you have me do,
When out of twenty I can please not two?
When this heroic only deigns to praise,
Sharp satire that, and that Pindaric lays?
One likes the pheasa ' wing, and one the leg;
The vulgar boil, the learned roast as egg:
Hard task to hit the palates 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 friends?
My counsel sends to execute a deed:
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
'O! 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 s-r-v-nce in a car?
Go, lofty poet! and in such a crowd,
Sing thy sonorous verse-but not aloud.
Alas! to grottoes and to groves we run,
To ease and silence, every Muse's son:
Blackmore himself, for any grand effort,
Would drink and doze at Tootings or Earl's-Court.
How shall I rhyme in this eternal roar?
How match the bards whom none e'er match'd before?
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,
Que luli'd the Exchequer, and one stunn'd the Rolls
Each had a gravity would make you split,
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 sense.' Thus we dispose of all poetic merit,
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 please.
My dear Tibullus!' if that will not do,
Let me be Horace, and be Ovid you;
Or, I'm content, allow me Dryden's strains,
And you shall raise 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 learned 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 sate;
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 cured :
Whereat the gentleman began to stare—
My friends! he cried, 'p-x 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 hoys 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;
There all alone, and compliments apart,
I ask these sober questious of my heart;
If, when the more you drink, the more you crave,
You tell the doctor; when the more you have,
The more you want, why not with equal ease
Confess as well your folly as disease?
Her heart resolves this matter in a trice,
Men only feel the smart, but not the vice.'
When golden angels cease to cure the evil,
You give all royal witchcraft to the devil:
When servile chaplains cry, that birth and place
Endue a peer with honour, truth and grace;
Look in that breast, most dirty dean! be fair,
Say, can you find out one such lodger there?
Yet still, not heeding what your heart can teach,
You go to church to hear these flatterers preach.
Indeed, could wealth bestow or wit or merit,
A grain of courage, or a spark of spirit,
The wisest man might blush, I must agree,
If D*** loved sixpence more than he.
If there be truth in law, and use can give
A property, that's yours on which you live.
Delightful Abs-court, if its fields afford
Their fruits to you, confesses you its lord:
All Worldly's hens, nay, partridge, sold to town,
His venison too a guinea makes your own: