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I hoped for no commission from his grace;
I bought no benefice, I begg'd no place;
Had no new verses, nor new suit to show;
Yet went to court!-the devil would have it go.
But, as the fool that in reforming days
Would go to mass in jest (as story says)
Could not but think, to pay his fine was odd,
Since 'twas no form'd design of serving God;
So was I punish’d, as if full as proud
As prone to ill, as negligent of good,
As deep in debt, without a thought to pay,
As vain, as idle, and as false, as they
Who live at court, for going once that way!
Scarce was I enter?d, when, behold! there came
A thing which Adam had been posed to name;
Noah had refused it lodging in his ark,
Where all the race of reptiles might embark:
A verier monster, than on Afric's shore
The sun e'er got, or slimy Nilus bore,
Or Sloane or Woodward's wondrous shelves contain,
Nay, all that lying travellers can feign.
The watch would hardly let him pass at noon,
At night would swear him dropt out of the moon.
One, whom the mob, when next we find or make
A popish plot, shall for a Jesuit take,
And the wise justice, starting from his chair,
Cry, By your priesthood tell me what you are?
Such was the wight: The apparel on his back,
Though coarse, was reverend, and though bare, was black:
The suit, if by the fashion one might guess,
Was velvet in the youth of good Queen Bess,
But mere tuff-taffety what now remain’d;
So Time, that changes all things, had ordain'd!
Our sons shall see it leisurely decay,
First turn plain rash, then vanish quite away.
This thing has travell’d, speaks each language too,
And knows what's fit for every state to do;
Of whose best phrase and courtly accent join'd,
He forms one tongue, exotic and refined.
Talkers I've learn'd to bear; Motteux I knew,
Henley himself I've heard, and Budgell too.
The Doctor's wormwood style, the hash of tongues
A pedant makes, the storm of Gonson's lungs,
The whole artillery of the terms of war,
And (all those plagues in one) the bawling bar:
These I could bear; but not a rogue so civil,
Whose tongue will compliment you to the devil:
A tongue, that can cheat widows, cancel scores,
Make Scots speak treason, cozen subtlest whores,
Viith royal favourites in flattery vie,
And Oldmixon and Burnet both outlie.
He spies me out; I whisper, gracious God!
What sin of mine could merit such a rod ?
That all the shot of dulness now must be
From this thy blunderbuss discharged on me!
Permit (he cries) no stranger to your fame
To crave your sentiment, if 's your name.
What speech esteem you most? “The king's," said I.
But the best words?“O, Sir, the dictionary."
You miss my aim; I mean the most acute,
And perfect speaker ?" Onslow, past dispute.”
But, Sir, of writers ? “Swift for closer style,
But Hoadly for a period of a mile.”
Why yes, 'tis granted, these indeed may pass:
Good common linguists, and so Panurge was;
Nay troth the apostles (though perhaps too rough)
Had once a pretty gift of tongues enough:
Yet these were all poor gentlemen! I dare
Affirm, 'twas travel made them what they were.
Thus other talents having nicely shown,
He came by sure transition to his own:
Till I cried out, You prove yourself so able,
Pity! you was not dragoman at Babel;
For had they found a linguist half so good,
I make no question but the tower had stood.
“Obliging Sir! for courts you sure were made:
Why then for ever buried in the shade ?
Spirits like you, should see and should be seen,
The king would smile on you—at least the queen."
“Ah, gentle Sir! you courtiers so cajole us-
But Tully has it, Nunquam minus solus:
And as for courts, forgive me, if I say
No lessons now are taught the Spartan way:
Though in his pictures lust be full display'd,
Few are the converts Aretine has made :
And though the court show vice exceeding clear,
None should, by my advice, learn virtue there.”
At this entranced, he lifts his hands and eyes,
Squeaks like a high-stretch'd lutestring, and replies;
Oh, 'tis the sweetest of all earthlyíthings
To gaze on princes, and to talk of kings !"
Then, happy man who shows the tombs! said I,
He dwells amidst the royal family;
He every day, from king to king can walk,
Of all our Harries, all our Edwards talk,
And get by speaking truth of monarchs dead,
What few can of the living, ease and bread.
Lord, Sir, a mere mechanic! strangely low,
And coarse of phrase,-your English all are so.
How elegant your Frenchmen ? Mine, d'ye mean?
I have but one, I hope the fellow's clean.
“Oh! Sir, politely so! nay, let me die,
Your only wearing is your paduasoy."
Not, Sir, my only, I have better still,
And this you see is but my dishabille.-
Wild to get loose, his patience I provoke,
Mistake, confound, object at all he spoke:
But as coarse iron, sharpen'd, mangles more,
And itch most hurts when anger'd to a sore;
So when you plague a fool, 'tis still the curse,
You only make the matter worse and worse.
He pass'd it o'er; affects an easy smile
At all my peevishness, and turns his style.
He asks,“What news?" I tell him of new plays,
New eunuchs, harlequins, and operas.
He hears, and as a still with simples in it,
Between each drop it gives, stays half a minute,
Loth to enrich me with too quick replies,
By little, and by little, drops his lies.
Mere household trash! of birth-nights, balls, and shows,
More than ten Hollinsheds, or Halls, or Stowes.
When the queen frown'd, or smiled, he knows; and what
A subtle minister may make of that:
Who sins with whom: who got his pension rug,
Or quicken'd a reversion by a drug:
Whose place is quarter'd out, three parts in four,
And whether to a bishop, or a whore:
Who, having lost his credit, pawn'd his rent,
Is therefore fit to have a government:
Who in the secret, deals in stocks secure,
And cheats the unknowing widow and the poor
Who makes a trust of charity a job,
And gets an act of parliament to rob:
Why turnpikes rise, and now no cit nor clown
Can gratis see the country, or the town:
Shortly no lad shall chuck, or lady vole,
But some excising courtier will have toll.
He tells what strumpet places sells for life,
What squire his lands, what citizen his wife;
And last (which proves him wiser still than all)
What lady's face is not a whited wall.
As one of Woodward's patients, sick, and sore,
I puke, I nauseate, yet he thrusts in more:
Trims Europe's balance, tops the statesman's part,
And talks Gazettes and Post-boys o'er by heart.
Like a big wife at sight of loathsome meat
Ready to cast, I yawn, I sigh, and sweat.
Then as a licensed spy, whom nothing can
Silence or hurt, he libels the great man;
Swears every place entail'd for years to come,
In sure succession to the day of doom:
He names the price for every office paid,
And says our wars thrive ill, because delay'd:
Nay, hints, 'tis by connivance of the court,
That Spain robs on, and Dunkirk's still a port.
Not more amazement seized on Circe's guests,
To see themselves fall endlong into beasts,
Than mine, to find a subject staid and wise
Already half turn'd traitor by surprise.
I felt the infection slide from him to me,
As in the pox, some give it to get free;
And quick to swallow me, methought I saw
One of our giant statues ope its jaw,
In that nice moment, as another lie Stood just a-tilt, the minister came by. To him he flies, and bows, and bows again, Then, close as Umbra, joins the dirty train. Not Fanniusself more impudently near, When half his nose is in his Prince's ear. I quaked at heart; and still afraid, to see All the court fill'd with stranger things than he, Ran out as fast as one, that pays his bail And dreads more actions, hurries from a gaol.
Bear me, some god! oh quickly bear me hence To wholesome solitude, the nurse of sense:
Where Contemplation prunes her ruffled wings,
And the free soul looks down to pity kings !
There sober thought pursued the amusing theme
Till fancy colour'd it, and form'd a dream.
A vision hermits can to hell transport,
And forced even me to see the damn'd at court.
Not Dante dreaming all the infernal state
Beheld such scenes of envy, sin, and hate.
Base fear becomes the guilty, not the free;
Suits tyrants, plunderers, but suits not me:
Shall I, the terror of this sinful town,
Care, if a liveried lord or smile or frown?
Who cannot flatter, and detest who can,
Tremble before a noble serving-man ?
O my fair mistress, Truth! shall I quit theo
For huffing, braggart, puff'd nobility ?
Thou, who since yesterday hast rollid o'er all
The busy, idle blockheads of the ball,
Hast thou, O Sun! beheld an emptier sort,
Than such as swell this bladder of a court?
Now pox on those who show a court in wax!
It ought to bring all courtiers on their backs:
Such painted puppets ! such a varnish'd race
Of hollow gew-gaws, only dress and face!
Such waxen noses, stately staring things
No wonder some folks bow, and think them kings.
See! where the British youth, engaged no more
At Fig's, at White's, with felons, or a whore,
Pay their last duty to the court, and come
All fresh and fragrant to the drawing room;
In hues as gay, and odours as divine,
As the fair fields they sold to look so fine.
“That's velvet for a king !" the flatterer swears;
'Tis true, for ten days hence 'twill be king Lear's.
Our court may justly to our stage give rules,
That helps it both to fools-coats and to fools.
And why not players strut in courtiers' clothes ?
For these are actors too, as well as those: