Long, Dodington, in debt, I long have sought
To ease the burden of my graceful thought:
And now a poet's gratitude you see:
Grant him two favours, and he'll ask for three:
For whose the present glory, or the gain?
You give protection, I a worthless strain.
You love and feel the poet's sacred flame,
And know the basis of a solid fame;
Though prone to like, yet cautious to commend,
You read with all the malice of a friend;
Nor favour my attempts that way alone,
But, more to raise my verse, conceal your own.
An ill-tim'd modesty! turn ages o'er,
When wanted Britain bright examples more?
Her learning, and her genius too, decays;
And dark and cold are her declining days;
As if men now were of another cast,
They meanly live on alms of ages past,
Men still are men; and they who boldly dare,
Shall triumph o'er the sons of cold despair;
Or, if they fail, they justly still take place
Of such who run in debt for their disgrace;
Who borrow much, then fairly make it known,
And damn it with improvements of their own.
We bring some new materials, and what's old
New cast with care, and in no borrow'd mould;
Late times the verse may read, if these refuse;
And from sour critics vindicate the Muse.
"Your work is long", the critics cry. 'Tis true,
And lengthens still, to take in fools like you:
Shorten my labour, if its length you blame:
For, grow but wise, you rob me of my game;
As haunted hags, who, while the dogs pursue,
Renounce their four legs, and start up on two.
Like the bold bird upon the banks of Nile
That picks the teeth of the dire crocodile,
Will I enjoy (dread feast!) the critic's rage,
And with the fell destroyer feed my page.
For what ambitious fools are more to blame,
Than those who thunder in the critic's name?
Good authors damn'd, have their revenge in this,
To see what wretches gain the praise they miss.
Balbutius, muffled in his sable cloak,
Like an old Druid from his hollow oak,
As ravens solemn, and as boding, cries,
"Ten thousand worlds for the three unities!"
Ye doctors sage, who through Parnassus teach,
Or quit the tub, or practise what you preach.
One judges as the weather dictates; right
The poem is at noon, and wrong at night:
Another judges by a surer gage,
An author's principles, or parentage;
Since his great ancestors in Flanders fell,
The poem doubtless must be written well.
Another judges by the writer's look;
Another judges, for he bought the book:
Some judge, their knack of judging wrong to keep;
Some judge, because it is too soon to sleep.
Thus all will judge, and with one single aim,
To gain themselves, not give the writer, fame.
The very best ambitiously advise,
Half to serve you, and half to pass for wise.
Critics on verse, as squibs on triumphs wait,
Proclaim the glory, and augment the state;
Hot, envious, noisy, proud, the scribbling fry
Burn, hiss, and bounce, waste paper, stink, and die.
Rail on, my friends! what more my verse can crown
Than Compton's smile, and your obliging frown?
Not all on books their criticism waste:
The genius of a dish some justly taste,
And eat their way to fame; with anxious thought
The salmon is refus'd, the turbot bought.
Impatient art rebukes the sun's delay
And bids December yield the fruits of May;
Their various cares in one great point combine
The business of their lives, that is--to dine.
Half of their precious day they give the feast;
And to a kind digestion spare the rest.
Apicius, here, the taster of the town,
Feeds twice a week, to settle their renown.
These worthies of the palate guard with care
The sacred annals of their bills of fare;
In those choice books their panegyrics read,
And scorn the creatures that for hunger feed.
If man by feeding well commences great,
Much more the worm to whom that man is meat.
To glory some advance a lying claim,
Thieves of renown, and pilferers of fame:
Their front supplies what their ambition lacks;
They know a thousand lords, behind their backs.
Cottil is apt to wink upon a peer,
When turn'd away, with a familiar leer;
And Harvey's eyes, unmercifully keen,
Have murdered fops, by whom she ne'er was seen.
Niger adopts stray libels; wisely prone,
To cover shame still greater than his own.
Bathyllus, in the winter of threescore,
Belies his innocence, and keeps a ----.
Absence of mind Brabantio turns to fame,
Learns to mistake, nor knows his brother's name;
Has words and thoughts in nice disorder set,
And takes a memorandum to forget.
Thus vain, not knowing what adorns or blots
Men forge the patents that create them sots.
As love of pleasure into pain betrays,
So most grow infamous through love of praise.
But whence for praise can such an ardour rise,
When those, who bring that incense, we despise?
For such the vanity of great and small,
Contempt goes round, and all men laugh at all.
Nor can even satire blame them; for 'tis true,
They have most ample cause for what they do
O fruitful Britain! doubtless thou wast meant
A nurse of fools, to stock the continent.
Though Phoebus and the Nine for ever mow,
Rank folly underneath the scythe will grow
The plenteous harvest calls me forward still,
Till I surpass in length my lawyer's bill;
A Welsh descent, which well-paid heralds damn;
Or, longer still, a Dutchman's epigram.
When, cloy'd, in fury I throw down my pen,
In comes a coxcomb, and I write again.
See Tityrus, with merriment possest,
Is burst with laughter, ere he hears the jest:
What need he stay? for when the jest is o'er,
His teeth will be no whiter than before.
Is there of thee, ye fair! so great a dearth,
That you need purchase monkeys for your mirth!
Some, vain of paintings, bid the world admire;
Of houses some; nay, houses that they hire:
Some (perfect wisdom!) of a beauteous wife;
And boast, like Cordeliers, a scourge for life.
Sometimes, through pride, the sexes change their airs;
My lord has vapours, and my lady swears;
Then, stranger still! on turning of the wind,
My lord wears breeches, and my lady's kind.
To show the strength, and infamy of pride,
By all 'tis follow'd, and by all denied.
What numbers are there, which at once pursue,
Praise, and the glory to contemn it, too?
Vincenna knows self-praise betrays to shame,
And therefore lays a stratagem for fame;
Makes his approach in modesty's disguise,
To win applause; and takes it by surprise.
"To err," says he, "in small things, is my fate."
You know your answer, "he's exact in great".
"My style", says he, "is rude and full of faults."
"But oh! what sense! what energy of thoughts!"
That he wants algebra, he must confess;
"But not a soul to give our arms success".
"Ah! that's an hit indeed," Vincenna cries;
"But who in heat of blood was ever wise?
I own 'twas wrong, when thousands called me back
To make that hopeless, ill-advised attack;
All say, 'twas madness; nor dare I deny;
Sure never fool so well deserved to die."
Could this deceive in others to be free,
It ne'er, Vincenna, could deceive in thee!
Whose conduct is a comment to thy tongue,
So clear, the dullest cannot take thee wrong.
Thou on one sleeve wilt thy revenues wear;
And haunt the court, without a prospect there.
Are these expedients for renown? Confess
Thy little self, that I may scorn thee less.
Be wise, Vincenna, and the court forsake;
Our fortunes there, nor thou, nor I, shall make.
Even men of merit, ere their point they gain,
In hardy service make a long campaign;
Most manfully besiege the patron's gate,
And oft repulsed, as oft attack the great
With painful art, and application warm.
And take, at last, some little place by storm;
Enough to keep two shoes on Sunday clean,
And starve upon discreetly, in Sheer-Lane.
Already this thy fortune can afford;
Then starve without the favour of my lord.
'Tis true, great fortunes some great men confer,
But often, even in doing right, they err:
From caprice, not from choice, their favours come:
They give, but think it toil to know to whom:
The man that's nearest, yawning, they advance:
'Tis inhumanity to bless by chance.
If merit sues, and greatness is so loth
To break its downy trance, I pity both.
Behold the masquerade's fantastic scene!
The Legislature join'd with Drury-Lane!
When Britain calls, th' embroider'd patriots run,
And serve their country--if the dance is done.
"Are we not then allow'd to be polite?"
Yes, doubtless; but first set your notions right.
Worth, of politeness is the needful ground;
Where that is wanting, this can ne'er be found.
Triflers not even in trifles can excel;
'Tis solid bodies only polish well.
Great, chosen prophet! for these latter days,
To turn a willing world from righteous ways!
Well, Heydegger, dost thou thy master serve;
Well has he seen his servant should not starve,
Thou to his name hast splendid temples raised
In various forms of worship seen him prais'd,
Gaudy devotion, like a Roman, shown,
And sung sweet anthems in a tongue unknown.
Inferior offerings to thy god of vice
Are duly paid, in fiddles, cards, and dice;
Thy sacrifice supreme, an hundred maids!
That solemn rite of midnight masquerades!
Though bold these truths, thou, Muse, with truths like these,
Wilt none offend, whom 'tis a praise to please;
Let others flatter to be flatter'd, thou
Like just tribunals, bend an awful brow.
How terrible it were to common-sense,
To write a satire, which gave none offence!
And, since from life I take the draughts you see.
If men dislike them, do they censure me?
The fool, and knave, 'tis glorious to offend,
And Godlike an attempt the world to mend,
The world, where lucky throws to blockheads fall,
Knaves know the game, and honest men pay all.
How hard for real worth to gain its price!
A man shall make his fortune in a trice,
If blest with pliant, though but slender, sense,
Feign'd modesty, and real impudence:
A supple knee, smooth tongue, an easy grace.
A curse within, a smile upon his face;
A beauteous sister, or convenient wife,
Are prizes in the lottery of life;
Genius and Virtue they will soon defeat,
And lodge you in the bosom of the great.
To merit, is but to provide a pain
For men's refusing what you ought to gain.
May, Dodington, this maxim fail in you,
Whom my presaging thoughts already view
By Walpole's conduct fired, and friendship grac'd,
Still higher in your Prince's favour plac'd:
And lending, here, those awful councils aid,
Which you, abroad, with such success obey'd!
Bear this from one, who holds your friendship dear;
What most we wish, with ease we fancy near.