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Then peers grew proud in horsemanship t excel,
But Britain, changeful as a child at play, 155
160 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;
165 To teach their frugal virtues to bis heir; To
prove that luxury could never hold, And place on good security his gold. Now times are chang'd, and one poetic itch Has seiz'd the court and city, poor and rich: 170 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,
176 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 shew our wit. 180
He serv'd a 'prenticeship who sets up shop; Ward tried on puppies and the poor,
Ev'n Radcliff's doctors travel first to France,
Yet, sir, reflect; the mischief is not grcat:
200 Of little use the man, you may suppose, Who says in verse what others say
prose; Yet let me shew a poet's of some weight, And (though no soldier) useful to the state. What will a child learn sooner than a song? 205 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; 210 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 strains) 215 No whiter page than Addison remains: He from the taste obscene reclaims our youth, And sets the passions on the side of truth, Forms the soft hosom with the gentlest art, And pours each human virtue in the heart. 220 Let Ireland tell how wit upheld her cause, Her trade supported, and supplied her laws,
And leave on Swift this grateful verse engravid, • The rights a court attack'd, a poet sav'd.' Behold the hand that wrought a nation's cure
225 Stretch'd to relieve the idiot and the poor, Proud vice to brand, or injur'd 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 ; The boys and girls whom charity maintains 231 Implore your help in these pathetic strains: How could devotion touch the country pews Unless the gods bestow'd a proper Muse? Verse cheers their leisure, verse assists their work,
for peace, or sings down pope and Turk. The silenc'd preacher yields to potent strain, And feels that grace his pray’r besovght in vain ; The blessing thrills through all the labouring throng, And heaven is won by violence of song.
240 Our rural ancestors, with little blest, Patient of labour when the end was rest, Indulg’d the day that hous’d their annual grain With feasts, and offerings, and a thankful strain: The joy their wives, their sons, and servants, share, Ease of their toil, and partners of their care: 246 The laugh, the jest, attendants on the bowl, Smooth'd every brow, and open'd every soul: With growing years the pleasing licence grew, And taunts alternate innocently flew.
250 But times corrupt, and nature ill-inclin'r, Produc'd the point that lett a sting behind; Till friend with friend, and families at strife, Triumphant malice ray'd through private life. Who felt the wrong, or fear'd it, took th'alarm, 255 Appeal'd to law, and justice lent her arm. At length by wholesome dread of statutes bound, The poets learn’d to please, and not to wound: Most warp'd to faitery's side; but some, more
nice, Preserv'd the freedom, and forebore the vice. 260
Hence satire rose, that just the medium hit,
We conquer'd France, but felt our captives' charms,
265 Wit grew polite, and numbers learn'd to flow. Waller was smooth; but Dryden taught to join The varying verse, the full resounding line, The long majestic march, and energy divine; Though still some traces of our rustic vein, 270 And splay-foot verse remain'd, and will remain. Late, very late, correctness grew our care, When the tir'd nation breath'd from civil war. Exact Racine and Corneille's noble fire Shew'd us that France had something to admire. 275 Not but the tragic spirit was our own, And full in Shakspeare, fair in Otway, shone; But Otway fail'd to polish or refine, And fluent Shakspeare scarce effac'd a line. Ev'n copious Dryden wanted, or forgot,
280 The last and greatest art, the art to blot.
Some doubt if equal pains or equal fire The humbler Muse of Comedy require. But in known images of life I guess The labour greater as th’indulgence less. 285 Observe how seldom e'en the best succeed; Tell me if Congreve's fools are fools indeed ? What pert low dialogue has Farquhar writ! How Van wants grace, who never wanted wit! The stage how loosely does Astrea tread, 290 Who fairly puts all characters to bed! And idle Cibber, how he breaks the laws, To make poor Pinkey eat with vast applause! But fill their purse, our poet's work is done; Alike to them by pathos or by pun.
295 O you! whom vanity's light bark conveys On Fame's mad voyage by the wind of praise, With what a shifting gale your course you ply, For ever sunk too low, or borne too high!
Who pants for glory tinds but short repose ! 300
There still remains, to mortity a wit,
305 A senseless, worthless, and unhonour'd crowd, Who, to disturb their betters mighty proud, Clattering their sticks before ten lines are spoke, Call for the farce, the bear, or the black-joke, What dear delight to Britons farce affords! 310 Ever the taste of mobs, but now of lorus; (Taste! that eternal wanderer, which thies Froin heads to ears, and now from ears to eyes.) The play stands still; damn action and discourse; Back tly the scenes, and enter foot and horse; 315 Pageants on pageants, in long order drawn, Peers, heralds, bishops, ermine, gold, and lawn, The champion too! and, to complete the jest, Old Edward's arnour beams on Cibber's breast, With laughter sure Democritus had died
320 Had he beheld an audience gape so wide. Let bear or elephant be e'er so white, The people, sure, the people are the sight! Ah, luckless poet! stretch thy lungs and roar, That bear or elephant shall heed thee more ; 325 While all its throats the gallery extends, And all the thunder of the pit ascends! Loud as the wolves on Orcas' stormy steep Howl to the roarings of the northern deep; Such is the shout, the long-applauding note,
330 At Quin's high plumes, or Oldlield's petticoat; Or when from court a birth-day suit bestow'd, Sinks the lost actor in the tawdry load. Booth enters-bark! the universal peal! “ But has he spoken ?” Not a syllable.
335 “What shook the stage, and made the people stare?" Cato's long wig, flower'd gown, and lacker'd chair.
Yet, lest you think I rally more than teach, Or praise malignly arts I cannot reach,