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We shall not quarrel for a year or two; By courtesy of England he may do.'
Then by the rule that made the horse-tail bare, I pluck out year by year, as hair by hair, And melt down ancients like a heap of snow, While you, to measure merits, look in Stowe, And estimating authors by the year, Bestow a garland only on a bier.
Shakspeare (whom you and every playhouse bill Style the divine! the matchless! what you will,) For gain, not glory, wing'd his roving flight, And grew immortal in his own despite. Ben, old and poor, as little seem'd to heed The life to come in every poet's creed. Who now reads Cowley? if he pleases yet, His moral pleases, not his pointed wit: Forgot his Epic, nay Pindarie art,
But still I love the language of his heart.
‹ Yet surely, surely these were famous men! What boy but hears the sayings of old Ben? In all debates where critics bear a part, Not one but nods, and talks of Jonson's art, Of Shakspeare's nature, and of Cowley's wit; How Beaumont's judgment check'd what Fletcher How Shadwell hasty, Wycherley was slow; [writ; But for the passions, Southern, sure, and Rowe! These, only these, support the crowded stage, From eldest Heywood down to Cibber's age.' All this may be; the people's voice is odd; It is, and it is not, the voice of God. To Gammer Gurton if it give the bays, And yet deny the Careless Husband praise, Or say our fathers never broke a rule; Why then, I say, the public is a fool.
But let them own that greater faults than we
They had, and greater virtues, I'll agree.
Spenser himself affects the obsolete,
And Sidney's verse halts ill on Roman feet;
Milton's strong pinion now not Heaven can bound,
Now, serpent-like, in prose he sweeps the ground;
In quibbles angel and archangel join,
And God the Father turns a school-divine.
Not that I'd lop the beauties from his book,
Like slashing Bentley, with his desperate hook;
Or damn all Shakspeare, like the' affected fool
At court, who hates whate'er he read at school.
But for the wits of either Charles's days,
The mob of gentlemen who wrote with ease;
Sprat, Carew, Sedley, and a hundred more,
(Like twinkling stars the miscellanies o'er)
One simile that solitary shines
In the dry desert of a thousand lines,
Or lengthen'd thought, that gleams through many
Has sanctified whole poems for an age. [a page,
I lose my patience, and I own it too,
When works are censured, not as bad, but new;
While, if our elders break all reason's laws,
These fools demand not pardon, but applause.
On Avon's bank, where flowers eternal blow,
If I but ask if any weed can grow;
One tragic sentence if I dare deride,
Which Betterton's grave action dignified,
Or well-mouth'd Booth with emphasis proclaims,
(Though but perhaps a muster-roll of names)
How will our fathers rise up in a rage,
And swear all shame is lost in George's age !
You'd think no fools disgraced the former reign,
Did not some grave examples yet remain,
Who scorn a lad should teach his father skill,
And having once been wrong will be so still.
He who, to seem more deep than you or I,
Extols old bards, or Merlin's prophecy,
Mistake him not; he envies, not admires,
And, to debase the sons, exalts the sires.
Had ancient times conspired to disallow
What then was new, what had been ancient now?
Or what remain'd, so worthy to be read
By learned critics, of the mighty dead?
In days of ease, when now the weary sword Was sheath'd, and luxury with Charles restored; In every taste of foreign courts improved,
All by the king's example lived and loved.'
Then peers grew proud in horsemanship to' excel,
Newmarket's glory rose, as Britain's fell;
The soldier breathed the gallantries of France,
And every flowery courtier writ romance.
Then marble, soften'd into life, grew warm,
And yielding metal flow'd to human form:
Lely on animated canvass stole
The sleepy eye, that spoke the melting soul.
No wonder then, when all was love and sport,
The willing Muses were debauch'd at court;
On each enervate string they taught the note
To pant, or tremble through an eunuch's throat.
But Britain, changeful as a child at play,
Now calls in princes, and now turns away.
Now whig, now tory, what we loved we hate;
Now all for pleasure, now for church and state;
Now for prerogatives, and now for laws;
Effects unhappy! from a noble cause.
Time was, a sober Englishman would knock His servants up, and rise by five o'clock;
Instruct his family in every rule,
And send his wife to church, his son to school.
To worship like his fathers was his care;
To teach their frugal virtues to his heir;
To prove that luxury could never hold,
And place on good security his gold.
Now times are changed, and one poetic itch
Has seized the court and city, poor and rich;
Sons, sires, and grandsires, all will wear the bays;
Our wives read Milton; and our daughters, plays;
To theatres and to rehearsals throng,
And all our grace at table is a song.
I, who so oft renounce the Muses' lie,
Not**'s self e'er tells more fibs than I.
When sick of Muse our follies we deplore,
And promise our best friends to rhyme no more;
We wake next morning in a raging fit,
And call for pen and ink to show our wit.
He served a prenticeship who sets up shop;
Ward tried on puppies and the poor, his drop;
E'en Radcliffe's doctors travel first to France,
Nor dare to practise till they've learn'd to dance.
Who builds a bridge, that never drove a pile?
(Should Ripley venture, all the world should smile)
But those who cannot write, and those who can,
All rhyme, and scrawl, and scribble, to a man.
Yet, sir, reflect: the mischief is not great; These madmen never hurt the church or state: Sometimes the folly benefits mankind, And rarely avarice taints the tuneful mind. Allow him but his plaything of a pen, He ne'er rebels, or plots, like other men: Flight of cashiers, or mobs, he'll never mind, And knows no losses while the Muse is kind,
To cheat a friend or ward, he leaves to Peter;
The good man heaps up nothing but mere metre,
Enjoys his garden and his book in quiet;
And then a perfect hermit in his diet.
Of little use the man you may suppose
Who says in verse what others say in prose;
Yet let me show a poet's of some weight,
And (though no soldier) useful to the state.
What will a child learn sooner than a song?
What better teach a foreigner the tongue ?
What's long or short, each accent where to place,
And speak in public with some sort of grace?
I scarce can think him such a worthless thing,
Unless he praise some monster of a king;
Or virtue or religion turn to sport,
To please a lewd or unbelieving court.
Unhappy Dryden!—In all Charles's days
Roscommon only boasts unspotted bays;
And in our own (excuse some courtly stains)
No whiter page than Addison's remains:
He from the taste obscene reclaims our youth,
And sets the passions on the side of truth;
Forms the soft bosom with the gentlest art,
And pours each human virtue in the heart!
Let Ireland tell how wit upheld her cause,
Her trade supported, and supplied her laws,
And leave on Swift this grateful verse engraved,
The rights a court attack'd, a poet saved.'
Behold the hand that wrought a nation's cure,
Stretch'd to relieve the idiot and the poor;
Proud vice to brand, or injured worth adorn,
And stretch the ray to ages yet unborn.
Not but there are, who merit other palms;
Hopkins and Sternhold glad the heart with psalms;