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Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And, without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike;
Alike reserved to blame or to commend,
A timorous foe, and a suspicious friend;
Dreading e'en fools; by flatterers besieged,
And so obliging that he ne'er obliged;
Like Cato, give his little senate laws,
And sit attentive to his own applause;
While wits and templars every sentence raise,
And wonder with a foolish face of praise-
Who but must laugh, if such a man there be?
Who would not weep, if Atticus were he?
What though my name stood rubric on the walls
Or plaster'd posts, with claps, in capitals?
Or smoking forth, a hundred hawkers' load,
On wings of winds came flying all abroad?
I sought no homage from the race that write;
I kept, like Asian monarchs, from their sight:
Poems I heeded (now be-rhymed so long)
No more than thou,great George! a birth-day song.
I ne'er with wits or witlings pass'd my days,
To spread about the itch of verse and praise;
Nor like a puppy daggled through the town,
To fetch and carry sing-song up and down;
Nor at rehearsals sweat, and mouth'd, and cried,
With handkerchief and orange at my
But, sick of fops, and poetry, and prate,
To Bufo left the whole Castalian state.
Proud as Apollo on his forked hill,
Sat full-blown Bufo, puff'd by every quill:
Fed with soft dedication all day long,
Horace and he went hand in hand in song.
His library (where busts of poets dead,
And a true Pindar stood without a head)
Received of wits an undistinguish'd race,
Who first his judgment ask'd, and then a place
Much they extoll'd his pictures, much his seat,
And flatter'd every day, and some days eat:
Till grown more frugal in his riper days,
He paid some bards with port, and some with praise;
To some a dry rehearsal was assign'd,
And others (harder still) he paid in kind.
Dryden alone (what wonder!) came not nigh;
Dryden alone escaped this judging eye :
But still the great have kindness in reserve;
He help'd to bury whom he help'd to starve.
May some choice patron bless each grey-goose May every Bavius have his Bufo still! [quill! So when a statesman wants a day's defence, Or Envy holds a whole week's war with Sense, Or simple Pride for flattery makes demands, May dunce by dunce be whistled off my hands! Bless'd be the great! for those they take away, And those they left me-for they left me Gay; Left me to see neglected genius bloom, Neglected die, and tell it on his tomb: Of all thy blameless life the sole return My verse, and Queensberry weeping o'er thy urn! Oh! let me live my own, and die so too! (To live and die is all I have to do) Maintain a poet's dignity and ease,
And see what friends, and read what books, I Above a patron, though I condescend [please; Sometimes to call a minister my friend.
I was not born for courts or great affairs;
pay my debts, believe, and say my prayers;
Can sleep without a poem in my head,
Nor know if Dennis be alive or dead.
Why am I ask'd what next shall see the light? Heavens! was I born for nothing but to write? Has life no joys for me? or (to be grave)
Have I no friend to serve, no soul to save?
'I found him close with Swift'-'Indeed? no doubt
(Cries prating Balbus) something will come out.'
'Tis all in vain, deny it as I will;
'No, such a genius never can lie still :'
And then for mine obligingly mistakes
The first lampoon Sir Will, or Bubo makes.
Poor guiltless I! and can I choose but smile,
When every coxcomb knows me by my style?
Cursed be the verse, how well soe'er it flow,
That tends to make one worthy man my foe,
Give Virtue scandal, Innocence a fear,
Or from the soft-eyed virgin steal a tear!
But he who hurts a harmless neighbour's peace,
Insults fallen worth, or beauty in distress,
Who loves a lie, lame slander helps about,
Who writes a libel, or who copies out;
That fop whose pride affects a patron's name,
Yet absent wounds an author's honest fame;
Who can your merit selfishly approve,
And show the sense of it without the love;
Who has the vanity to call you friend,
Yet wants the honour, injured, to defend;
Who tells whate'er you think, whate'er you say,
And, if he lie not, must at least betray;
Who to the Dean and silver bell can swear,
And sees at Canons what was never there;
Who reads but with a lust to misapply,
Makes satire a lampoon, and fiction lie;
A lash like mine no honest man shall dread, But all such babbling blockheads in his stead.
Let Sporus tremble-A.What? that thing of silk, Sporus, that mere white curd of asses' milk? Satire of sense, alas! can Sporus feel? Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?
P. Yet let me flap this bug with gilded wings,
This painted child of dirt, that stinks and stings;
Whose buzz the witty and the fair annoys,
Yet wit ne'er tastes, and beauty ne'er enjoys:
So well-bred spaniels civilly delight
In mumbling of the game they dare not bite.
Eternal smiles his emptiness betray,
As shallow streams run dimpling all the way.
Whether in florid impotence he speaks,
And, as the prompter breathes, the puppet squeaks,
Or at the ear of Eve, familiar toad,
Half froth, half venom, spits himself abroad,
In puns, or politics, or tales, or lies,
Or spite, or smut, or rhymes, or blasphemies;
His wit all see-saw between that and this,
Now high, now low, now master up, now miss,
And he himself one vile antithesis.
Amphibious thing! that acting either part,
The trifling head, or the corrupted heart;
Fop at the toilet, flatterer at the board,
Now trips a lady, and now struts a lord.
Eve's tempter thus the rabbins have express'd,
A cherub's face, a reptile all the rest;
Beauty that shocks you, parts that none will trust,
Wit that can creep, and pride that licks the dust.
Not Fortune's worshipper, nor Fashion's fool,
Not Lucre's madman, nor Ambition's tool,
Not proud, nor servile; be one poet's praise, That, if he pleased, he pleased by manly ways; That flattery, e'en to kings, he held a shame, And thought a lie in verse or prose the same; That not in Fancy's maze he wander'd long, But stoop'd to truth, and moralized his song; That not for fame, but virtue's better end, He stood the furious foe, the timid friend, The damning critic, half-approving wit, The coxcomb hit, or fearing to be hit; Laugh'd at the loss of friends he never had, The dull, the proud, the wicked, and the mad; The distant threats of vengeance on his head, The blow unfelt, the tear he never shed; The tale revived, the lie so oft o'erthrown, The' imputed trash, and dulness not his own; The morals blacken'd when the writings scape, The libell'd person, and the pictured shape; Abuse on all he loved, or loved him, spread, A friend in exile, or a father dead; The whisper, that, to greatness still too near, Perhaps yet vibrates on his sovereign's earWelcome for thee, fair Virtue ! all the past: For thee, fair Virtue! welcome e'en the last!
A. But why insult the poor, affront the great? P. A knave's a knave to me in every state; Alike my scorn, if he succeed or fail, Sporus at court, or Japhet in a gaol; A hireling scribbler, or a hireling peer, Knight of the post corrupt, or of the shire; If on a pillory, or near a throne, He gain his prince's ear, or lose his own.
Yet soft by nature, more a dupe than wit, Sappho can tell you how this man was bit: