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Forgot his epic, nay Pindaric 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. Spencer himself affects the obsolete, And Sydney'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, Sedly, 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 a Jas sanctified whole poems for an age.
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.
Hlad 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 rese, 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 love we hate ;
Now all for pleasure, now for church or state ;
Now for prerogative, 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 bear 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. 1, who so oft renounce the Muses, lie,
's self e'er cells 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 would smile, But those that 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,
lle ne'er rebels, or plots, like other men.
Flights 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,
what others say in
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 for 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 strains)
No wbiter page than Addison 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 Swist 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 or,
Proud vice to brand, or injured worth adorn,
And stretch the ray to ages yet unborn.
Not but there are, who merit other palms;
Ilopkins and Sternhold glad the heart with psalmg,
The boys and girls whom charity maintains,
Implore your help in these pathetic strains :
How could devotion touch the country pews,
Unless the gods bestowed a proper muse ?
Verse cheers their leisure, verse assists their work,
Verse prays for peace, or sings down pope and Turk.
The silenced preacher yields to potent strain,
And feels that grace his prayer besought in vain ;
The blessing thrills through all the labouring throng,
And heaven is won by violence of song.
Our rural ancestors, with little bless'd,
Patient of labour when the end was rest,
Indulged the day that housed their annual grain,
With feasts, and offerings, and a thankful strain ;
The joy their wives, their sons, and servants share,
Lase of their toil, and partners of their care :
The laugh, the jest, attendants on the bowl,
Smoothed every brow, and open'd every soul :
With growing years the pleasing licence grew,
And taunts alternate innocently flew.
But times corrupt, and nature ill-inclined,
Produced the point at left a sting behind ;
Till, friend with friend, and families at strife,
Triumphant malice raged through private life.
Who felt the wrong, or fear'd it, took the alarm,
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 flattery's side ; but some more nice,
Preserved the freedom and forbore the vice.
Hence satire rose, that just the medium hit,
And heals with morals what it hurts with wit.
We conquer'd France, but felt our captive's charms, Her arts victorious triumph'd o'er our arms ; Britain to soft refinements less z foe, Wit grew polite, and numbers learn'd to flow.