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Yet always wishing to retreat:
O, could I see my country-seat!
There, leaning near a gentle brook,
Sleep, or peruse some ancient book,
And there in sweet oblivion drown
Those cares that haunt the court and town.
O charming noon! and nights divine!
Or when I sup, or when I dine,
My friends above, my folks below,
Chatting and laughing all-a-row,
The beans and bacon set before them,
The grace-cup served with all decorum ;
Each willing to be pleased, and please,
And e'en the very dogs at ease!
Here no man prates of idle things,
How this or that Italian sings,
A neighbour's madness, or his spouse's,
Or what's in either of the houses;
But something much more our concern,
And quite a scandal not to learn ;
Which is the happier or the wiser,
A man of merit, or a miser ?
Whether we ought to choose our friends
For their own worth or our own ends?
What good, or better, we may call,
And what the very best of all?
Our friend Dan Prior told (you know)
A tale extremely à-propos:
Name a town life, and in a trice
He had a story of two mice.
Once on a time (so runs the fable)
A country mouse, right hospitable,
Received a town mouse at his board,
Just as a farmer might a lord.
A frugal mouse, upon the whole,
Yet loved his friend, and had a soul;
Knew what was handsome, and would do't,
On just occasion, coûte qui coûte.
He brought him bacon, (nothing lean)
Pudding that might have pleased a dean;
Cheese, such as men in Suffolk make,
But wish'd it Stilton for his sake:
Yet, to his guest though no way sparing,
He ate himself the rind and paring,
Our courtier scarce could touch a bit,
But show'd his breeding and his wit;
He did his best to seem to eat,
And cry'd, 'I vow you're mighty neat;
But, lord, my friend, this savage scene!
For God's sake, come and live with men :
Consider, mice, like men, must die,
Both small and great, both you and I;
Then spend your life in joy and sport
(This doctrine, friend, I learn'd at court).'
The veriest hermit in the nation
May yield, God knows, to strong temptation.
Away they came, through thick and thin,
To a tall house near Lincoln's Inn
(Twas on the night of a debate,
When all their lordships had sat late).
Behold the place, where if a poet
Shined in description he might show it;
Tell how the moon-beam trembling falls,
And tips with silver all the walls;
Palladian walls, Venetian doors,
Grotesco roofs, and stucco floors:
But let it (in a word) be said,
The moon was up, and men a-bed,
The napkins white, the carpet red:
The guests withdrawn, had left the treat,
And down the mice sat tête à tête.
Our courtier walks from dish to dish,
Tastes for his friend of fowl and fish;
Tells all their names, lays down the law,
"Que ça est bon! Ah, goutez ça!
That jelly's rich, this Malmsey healing,
Pray, dip your whiskers and your tail in.'
Was ever such a happy swain!
He stuffs and swills, and stuffs again.
'I'm quite ashamed-'tis mighty rude
To eat so much-but all's so good-
I have a thousand thanks to give-
My lord alone knows how to live.'
No sooner said, but from the hall
Rush chaplain, butler, dogs, and all:
'A rat, a rat! clap to the door'—
The cat comes bouncing on the floor.
O for the art of Homer's mice,
Or gods to save them in a trice!
(It was by Providence they think,
For your damn'd stucco has no chink)
'An't please your honour, (quoth the peasant)
This same desert is not so pleasant:
Give me again my hollow tree,
A crust of bread and liberty!'
BOOK I. EPISTLE I.
To Lord Bolingbroke.
ST. JOHN, whose love indulged my labours past, Matures my present, and shall bound my last! Why will you break the sabbath of my days? Now sick alike of envy and of praise.
Public too long, ah! let me hide my age:
See modest Cibber now has left the stage:
Our generals now, retired to their estates,
Hang their old trophies o'er the garden gates;
In life's cool evening satiate of applause,
Nor fond of bleeding e'en in Brunswick's cause.
A voice there is, that whispers in my ear
('Tis Reason's voice, which sometimes one can
'Friend Pope! be prudent, let your Muse take
And never gallop Pegasus to death;
Lest stiff and stately, void of fire or force,
You limp, like Blackmore on a lord-mayor's horse.'
Farewell then verse, and love, and every toy,
The rhymes and rattles of the man or boy;
What right, what true, what fit, we justly call,
Let this be all my care-for this is all;
To lay this harvest up, and hoard with haste
What every day will want, and most the last.
But ask not to what doctors I apply?
Sworn to no master, of no sect am I:
As drives the storm, at any door I knock,
And house with Montaigne now, or now with Locke.
Sometimes a patriot, active in debate,
Mix with the world, and battle for the state;
Free as young Lyttelton her cause pursue,
Still true to virtue, and as warm as true :
Sometimes with Aristippus or Saint Paul,
Indulge my candour, and grow all to all;
Back to my native moderation slide,
And win my way by yielding to the tide.
Long as to him who works for debt the day,
Long as the night to her whose love's away,
Long as the year's dull circle seems to run
When the brisk minor pants for twenty-one ;
So slow the' unprofitable moments roll
That lock up all the functions of my soul,
That keep me from myself, and still delay
Life's instant business to a future day;
That task which, as we follow or despise,
The eldest is a fool, the youngest wise;
Which done, the poorest can no wants endure ;
And which not done, the richest must be poor.
Late as it is, I put myself to school,
And feel some comfort not to be a fool.
Weak though I am of limb, and short of sight,
Far from a lynx, and not a giant quite,
I'll do what Mead and Cheselden advise,
To keep these limbs, and to preserve these eyes.
Not to go back is somewhat to advance,
And men must walk, at least, before they dance.
Say, does thy blood rebel, thy bosom move
With wretched avarice, or as wretched love?
Know there are words and spells which can control
Between the fits, this fever of the soul;
Know there are rhymes which, fresh and fresh apWill cure the arrant'st puppy of his pride. [plied, Be furious, envious, slothful, mad, or drunk, Slave to a wife, or vassal to a punk,
A Switz, a High Dutch or a Low Dutch bear; All that we ask is but a patient ear.
"Tis the first virtue vices to abhor,
And the first wisdom to be fool no more:
But to the world no bugbear is so great
As want of figure and a small estate.
To either India see the merchant fly,
Scared at the spectre of pale poverty!
See him with pains of body, pangs of soul,
Burn through the tropic, freeze beneath the pole!