Fr. 'Tis all a libel--Paxton (sir) will say.
P. Not yet, my friend! to-morrow, faith, it may;
And for that very cause I print to-day.
How should I fret to mangle every line,
In reverence to the sins of thirty-nine!
Vice with such giant strides comes on amain,
Invention strives to be before in vain;
Feign what I will, and paint it e'er so strong,
Some rising genius sins up to my song.
F. Yet none but you by name the guilty lash;
Ev'n Guthrie saves half Newgate by a dash.
Spare then the person, and expose the vice.
P. How, sir! not damn the sharper, but the dice?
Come on then, Satire! general, unconfined,
Spread thy broad wing, and souse on all the kind.
Ye statesmen, priests, of one religion all!
Ye tradesmen, vile, in army, court, or hall!
Ye reverend atheists----
F. Scandal! name them, who?
P. Why that's the thing you bid me not to do.
Who starved a sister, who forswore a debt,
I never named; the town's inquiring yet.
The poisoning dame----
F. You mean----
P. I don't.
F. You do.
P. See, now I keep the secret, and not you!
The bribing statesman----
F. Hold, too high you go.
P. The bribed elector----
F. There you stoop too low.
P. I fain would please you, if I knew with what;
Tell me, which knave is lawful game, which not?
Must great offenders, once escaped the crown,
Like royal harts, be never more run down?
Admit, your law to spare the knight requires,
As beasts of nature may we hunt the 'squires?
Suppose I censure--you know what I mean--
To save a bishop, may I name a dean?
F. A dean, sir? no: his fortune is not made,
You hurt a man that's rising in the trade.
P. If not the tradesman who set up to-day,
Much less the 'prentice who to-morrow may.
Down, down, proud Satire! though a realm be spoil'd,
Arraign no mightier thief than wretched Wild;
Or, if a court or country's made a job,
Go drench a pickpocket, and join the mob.
But, sir, I beg you (for the love of vice!)
The matter's weighty, pray consider twice;
Have you less pity for the needy cheat,
The poor and friendless villain, than the great?
Alas! the small discredit of a bribe
Scarce hurts the lawyer, but undoes the scribe.
Then better, sure, it charity becomes
To tax directors, who (thank God) have plums;
Still better, ministers; or, if the thing
May pinch ev'n there--why lay it on a king.
F. Stop! stop!
P. Must Satire, then, nor rise nor fall?
Speak out, and bid me blame no rogues at all.
F. Yes, strike that Wild, I'll justify the blow.
P. Strike! why the man was hanged ten years ago:
Who now that obsolete example fears?
Ev'n Peter trembles only for his ears.
F. What, always Peter! Peter thinks you mad,
You make men desperate if they once are bad:
Else might he take to virtue some years hence
P. As Selkirk, if he lives, will love the Prince.
F. Strange spleen to Selkirk!
P. Do I wrong the man?
God knows, I praise a courtier where I can.
When I confess, there is who feels for fame,
And melts to goodness, need I Scarb'rough name?
Pleased, let me own, in Esher's peaceful grove
(Where Kent and nature vie for Pelham's love)
The scene, the master, opening to my view,
I sit and dream I see my Craggs anew!
Ev'n in a bishop I can spy desert;
Secker is decent--Rundel has a heart--
Manners with candour are to Benson given--
To Berkeley, every virtue under heaven.
But does the court a worthy man remove?
That instant, I declare, he has my love:
I shun his zenith, court his mild decline;
Thus Somers once, and Halifax, were mine.
Oft, in the clear, still mirror of retreat,
I studied Shrewsbury, the wise and great:
Carleton's calm sense, and Stanhope's noble flame,
Compared, and knew their generous end the same:
How pleasing Atterbury's softer hour!
How shined the soul, unconquer'd in the Tower!
How can I Pulteney, Chesterfield, forget,
While Roman spirit charms, and Attic wit:
Argyll, the state's whole thunder born to wield,
And shake alike the senate and the field:
Or Wyndham, just to freedom and the throne,
The master of our passions, and his own.
Names, which I long have loved, nor loved in vain,
Rank'd with their friends, not number'd with their train:
And if yet higher the proud list should end,
Still let me say,--No follower, but a friend.
Yet think not Friendship only prompts my lays;
I follow Virtue; where she shines, I praise:
Point she to priest or elder, Whig or Tory,
Or round a Quaker's beaver cast a glory.
I never (to my sorrow I declare)
Dined with the Man of Ross, or my Lord Mayor.
Some, in their choice of friends, (nay, look not grave)
Have still a secret bias to a knave:
To find an honest man I beat about.
And love him, court him, praise him, in or out.
F. Then why so few commended?
P. Not so fierce;
Find you the virtue, and I'll find the verse.
But random praise--the task can ne'er be done;
Each mother asks it for her booby son,
Each widow asks it for 'the best of men,'
For him she weeps, and him she weds again.
Praise cannot stoop, like satire, to the ground;
The number may be hang'd, but not be crown'd.
Enough for half the greatest of these days,
To 'scape my censure, not expect my praise.
Are they not rich? what more can they pretend?
Dare they to hope a poet for their friend?
What Richelieu wanted, Louis scarce could gain,
And what young Ammon wish'd, but wish'd in vain.
No power the Muse's friendship can command;
No power, when Virtue claims it, can withstand:
To Cato, Virgil paid one honest line;
Oh let my country's friends illumine mine!
--What are you thinking?
F. Faith, the thought's no sin--
I think your friends are out, and would be in.
P. If merely to come in, sir, they go out,
The way they take is strangely round about.
F. They too may be corrupted, you'll allow?
P. I only call those knaves who are so now.
Is that too little? Come then, I'll comply--
Spirit of Arnall! aid me while I lie.
Cobham's a coward, Polwarth is a slave,
And Lyttleton a dark, designing knave,
St John has ever been a wealthy fool--
But let me add, Sir Robert's mighty dull,
Has never made a friend in private life,
And was, besides, a tyrant to his wife.
But pray, when others praise him, do I blame?
Call Verres, Wolsey, any odious name?
Why rail they then, if but a wreath of mine,
O all-accomplish'd St John! deck thy shrine?
What! shall each spur-gall'd hackney of the day,
When Paxton gives him double pots and pay,
Or each new-pension'd sycophant, pretend
To break my windows if I treat a friend?
Then wisely plead, to me they meant no hurt,
But 'twas my guest at whom they threw the dirt?
Sure, if I spare the minister, no rules
Of honour bind me, not to maul his tools;
Sure, if they cannot cut, it may be said
His saws are toothless, and his hatchet's lead.
It anger'd Turenne, once upon a day,
To see a footman kick'd that took his pay:
But when he heard the affront the fellow gave,
Knew one a man of honour, one a knave,
The prudent general turn'd it to a jest,
And begg'd he'd take the pains to kick the rest:
Which not at present having time to do----
F. Hold sir! for God's-sake where 'a the affront to you?
Against your worship when had Selkirk writ?
Or Page pour'd forth the torrent of his wit?
Or grant the bard whose distich all commend
'In power a servant, out of power a friend,'
To Walpole guilty of some venial sin;
What's that to you who ne'er was out nor in?
The priest whose flattery bedropp'd the crown,
How hurt he you? he only stain'd the gown.
And how did, pray, the florid youth offend,
Whose speech you took, and gave it to a friend?
P. Faith, it imports not much from whom it came;
Whoever borrow'd, could not be to blame,
Since the whole house did afterwards the same.
Let courtly wits to wits afford supply,
As hog to hog in huts of Westphaly;
If one, through Nature's bounty, or his lord's,
Has what the frugal, dirty soil affords,
From him the next receives it, thick or thin,
As pure a mess almost as it came in;
The blessed benefit, not there confined,
Drops to the third, who nuzzles close behind;
From tail to mouth, they feed and they carouse:
The last full fairly gives it to the House.
F. This filthy simile, this beastly line
Quite turns my stomach----
P. So does flattery mine;
And all your courtly civet-cats can vent,
Perfume to you, to me is excrement.
But hear me further--Japhet, 'tis agreed,
Writ not, and Chartres scarce could write or read,
In all the courts of Pindus guiltless quite;
But pens can forge, my friend, that cannot write;
And must no egg in Japhet's face be thrown,
Because the deed he forged was not my own?
Must never patriot then declaim at gin,
Unless, good man! he has been fairly in?
No zealous pastor blame a failing spouse,
Without a staring reason on his brows?
And each blasphemer quite escape the rod,
Because the insult's not on man, but God?
Ask you what provocation I have had?
The strong antipathy of good to bad.
When truth or virtue an affront endures,
The affront is mine, my friend, and should be yours.
Mine, as a foe profess'd to false pretence,
Who think a coxcomb's honour like his sense;
Mine, as a friend to every worthy mind;
And mine, as man, who feel for all mankind.
F. You're strangely proud.
P. So proud, I am no slave:
So impudent, I own myself no knave:
So odd, my country's ruin makes me grave.
Yes, I am proud; I must be proud to see
Men not afraid of God, afraid of me:
Safe from the bar, the pulpit, and the throne,
Yet touch'd and shamed by ridicule alone.
O sacred weapon! left for truth's defence,
Sole dread of folly, vice, and insolence!
To all but heaven-directed hands denied,
The Muse may give thee, but the gods must guide:
Rev'rent I touch thee! but with honest zeal;
To rouse the watchmen of the public weal,
To virtue's work provoke the tardy Hall,
And goad the prelate slumbering in his stall.
Ye tinsel insects! whom a court maintains,
That counts your beauties only by your stains,
Spin all your cobwebs o'er the eye of day!
The Muse's wing shall brush you all away:
All his grace preaches, all his lordship sings,
All that makes saints of queens, and gods of kings,--
All, all but truth, drops dead-born from the press,
Like the last gazette, or the last address.
When black ambition stains a public cause,
A monarch's sword when mad vain-glory draws,
Not Waller's wreath can hide the nation's scar,
Nor Boileau turn the feather to a star.
Not so, when, diadem'd with rays divine,
Touch'd with the flame that breaks from Virtue's shrine,
Her priestess Muse forbids the good to die,
And opes the temple of Eternity.
There, other trophies deck the truly brave,
Than such as Anstis casts into the grave;
Far other stars than ---- and ---- wear,
And may descend to Mordington from Stair:
(Such as on Hough's unsullied mitre shine,
Or beam, good Digby, from a heart like thine)
Let Envy howl, while Heaven's whole chorus sings,
And bark at honour not conferr'd by kings;
Let Flattery sickening see the incense rise,
Sweet to the world, and grateful to the skies:
Truth guards the poet, sanctifies the line,
And makes immortal verse as mean as mine.
Yes, the last pen for freedom let me draw,
When truth stands trembling on the edge of law;
Here, last of Britons! let your names be read;
Are none, none living? let me praise the dead,
And for that cause which made your fathers shine,
Fall by the votes of their degenerate line.
F. Alas! alas! pray end what you began,
And write next winter more 'Essays on Man.'
* * * * *
VER. 185 in the MS.--
I grant it, sir; and further, 'tis agreed,
Japhet writ not, and Chartres scarce could read.
After VER. 227 in the MS.--
Where's now the star that lighted Charles to rise?
--With that which follow'd Julius to the skies
Angels that watch'd the Royal Oak so well,
How chanced ye nod, when luckless Sorel fell?
Hence, lying miracles! reduced so low
As to the regal-touch, and papal-toe;
Hence haughty Edgar's title to the main,
Britain's to France, and thine to India, Spain!
VER. 255 in the MS.--
Quit, quit these themes, and write 'Essays on Man.'