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The courtly Talbot, Somers, Sheffield read,
Ev'n mitred Rochester would nod the head,
And St. John's self (great Dryden's friend before)
With open arms received one poet more.
Happy my studies, when by these approv'd!
Happier their author, when by these belov'd!
From these the world will judge of men and books.
Not from the Burnets, Oldmixons, and Cooks.
Soft were my numbers: who could take offence
While pure description held the place of sense?
Like gentle Fanny's was my flowery theme,
A painted mistress, or a purling stream.
Yet then did Gildon draw his venal quill;
I wish'd the man a dinner, and sate still.
Yet then did Dennis rave in furious fret:
I never answer'd, I was not in debt.
If want provok'd, or madness made them print,
I wag'd no war with Bedlam or the Mint.
Did some more sober critic come abroad; If wrong, I smil'd; if right, I kiss'd the rod. Pains, reading, study, are their just pretence, And all they want is spirit, taste, and sense. Commas and points they set exactly right, And 'twere a sin to rob them of their mite. Yet ne'er one sprig of laurel grac'd these ribalds, From slashing Bentley down to pidling Tibalds: Each wight, who reads not, and but scans and spells, Each word-catcher, that lives on syllables, Ev'n such small critics some regard may claim, Preserv'd in Milton's or in Shakspeare's name. Pretty! in amber to observe the forms Of hairs, or straws, or dirt, or grubs, or worms!
The things we know are neither rich nor rare,
But wonder how the devil they got there.
Were others angry: I excus'd them too;
Well might they rage, I gave them but their due.
A man's true merit 'tis not hard to find;
But each man's secret standard in his mind,
That casting-weight pride adds to emptiness,
This, who can gratify? for who can guess?
The bard whom pilfer'd pastorals renown,
Who turns a Persian tale for half a crown,
Just writes to make his barrenness appear, [year;
And strains from hard-bound brains, eight lines a
He, who, still wanting, though he lives on theft,
Steals much, spends little, yet has nothing left:
And he, who, now to sense, now nonsense leaning,
Means not, but blunders round about a meaning:
And he, whose fustian's so sublimely bad,
It is not poetry, but prose run mad:
All these, my modest satire bad translate,
And own'd that nine such poets made a Tate.
How did they fume, and stamp, and roar, and chafe!
And swear, not Addison himself was safe.
Peace to all such! but were there one whose fires True genius kindles, and fair fame inspires; Blest with each talent and each art to please, And born to write, converse, and live with ease: Should such a man, too fond to rule alone, Bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne, View him with scornful, yet with jealous eyes, And hate for arts that caus'd himself to rise; 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 reserv'd to blame, or to commend,
A timorous foe, and a suspicious friend;
Dreading ev'n fools, by flatterers besieg'd,
And so obliging, that he ne'er oblig'd;
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 berhym'd 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 cry'd,
With handkerchief and orange at my side!
But, sick of fops, and poetry, and prate,
To Bufo left the whole Castalian state.
Proud as Apollo on his forked hill,
Sate 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)
Receiv'd 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 escap'd 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!
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!
Blest 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 please: Above a patron, though I condescend
Sometimes to call a minister my friend.
I was not born for courts or great affairs :
I 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?
Curst 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-ey'd virgin steal a tear!
But he who hurts a harmless neighbour's peace,
Insults fall'n 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, injur'd, to defend ;
Who tells whate'er you think, whate'er you say,
And, if he lie not, must at least betray: