The Journey.

A poem by Charles Churchill

Some of my friends (for friends I must suppose
All, who, not daring to appear my foes,
Feign great good will, and, not more full of spite
Than full of craft, under false colours fight),
Some of my friends (so lavishly I print),
As more in sorrow than in anger, hint
(Though that indeed will scarce admit a doubt)
That I shall run my stock of genius out,
My no great stock, and, publishing so fast,
Must needs become a bankrupt at the last.
'The husbandman, to spare a thankful soil,
Which, rich in disposition, pays his toil
More than a hundredfold, which swells his store
E'en to his wish, and makes his barns run o'er,
By long Experience taught, who teaches best,
Foregoes his hopes a while, and gives it rest:
The land, allow'd its losses to repair,
Refresh'd, and full in strength, delights to wear
A second youth, and to the farmer's eyes
Bids richer crops, and double harvests rise.
'Nor think this practice to the earth confined,
It reaches to the culture of the mind.
The mind of man craves rest, and cannot bear,
Though next in power to God's, continual care.
Genius himself (nor here let Genius frown)
Must, to ensure his vigour, be laid down,
And fallow'd well: had Churchill known but this,
Which the most slight observer scarce could miss,
He might have flourish'd twenty years or more,
Though now, alas! poor man! worn out in four.'[2]
Recover'd from the vanity of youth,
I feel, alas! this melancholy truth,
Thanks to each cordial, each advising friend,
And am, if not too late, resolved to mend,
Resolved to give some respite to my pen,
Apply myself once more to books and men;
View what is present, what is past review,
And, my old stock exhausted, lay in new.
For twice six moons (let winds, turn'd porters, bear
This oath to Heaven), for twice six moons, I swear,
No Muse shall tempt me with her siren lay,
Nor draw me from Improvement's thorny way.
Verse I abjure, nor will forgive that friend,
Who, in my hearing, shall a rhyme commend.
It cannot be--whether I will, or no,
Such as they are, my thoughts in measure flow.
Convinced, determined, I in prose begin,
But ere I write one sentence, verse creeps in,
And taints me through and through; by this good light,
In verse I talk by day, I dream by night!
If now and then I curse, my curses chime,
Nor can I pray, unless I pray in rhyme.
E'en now I err, in spite of Common Sense,
And my confession doubles my offence.
Rest then, my friends;--spare, spare your precious breath,
And be your slumbers not less sound than death;
Perturbed spirits rest, nor thus appear,
To waste your counsels in a spendthrift's ear;
On your grave lessons I cannot subsist,
Nor even in verse become economist.
Rest then, my friends; nor, hateful to my eyes,
Let Envy, in the shape of Pity, rise
To blast me ere my time; with patience wait,
('Tis no long interval) propitious Fate
Shall glut your pride, and every son of phlegm
Find ample room to censure and condemn.
Read some three hundred lines (no easy task,
_But probably the last that I shall ask_),
And give me up for ever; wait one hour,
Nay not so much, revenge is in your power,
And ye may cry, ere Time hath turn'd his glass,
Lo! what we prophesied is come to pass.
Let those, who poetry in poems claim,
Or not read this, or only read to blame;
Let those who are by Fiction's charms enslaved,
Return me thanks for half-a-crown well saved;
Let those who love a little gall in rhyme
Postpone their purchase now, and call next time;
Let those who, void of Nature, look for Art,
Take up their money, and in peace depart;
Let those who energy of diction prize,
For Billingsgate quit Flexney,[3] and be wise:
Here is no lie, no gall, no art, no force,
Mean are the words, and such as come of course;
The subject not less simple than the lay;
A plain, unlabour'd Journey of a Day.
Far from me now be every tuneful maid,
I neither ask, nor can receive their aid.
Pegasus turn'd into a common hack,
Alone I jog, and keep the beaten track,
Nor would I have the Sisters of the hill
Behold their bard in such a dishabille.
Absent, but only absent for a time,
Let them caress some dearer son of Rhyme;
Let them, as far as decency permits,
Without suspicion, play the fool with wits,
'Gainst fools be guarded; 'tis a certain rule,
Wits are safe things; there's danger in a fool.
Let them, though modest, Gray more modest woo;
Let them with Mason bleat, and bray, and coo;
Let them with Franklin,[4] proud of some small Greek,
Make Sophocles, disguised, in English speak;
Let them, with Glover,[5] o'er Medea doze;
Let them, with Dodsley, wail Cleone's[6] woes,
Whilst he, fine feeling creature, all in tears,
Melts as they melt, and weeps with weeping peers;
Let them, with simple Whitehead[7] taught to creep
Silent and soft, lay Fontenelle asleep;
Let them with Browne,[8] contrive, no vulgar trick,
To cure the dead, and make the living sick;
Let them, in charity, to Murphy give
Some old French piece, that he may steal and live;
Let them with antic Foote, subscriptions get,
And advertise a summer-house of wit.
Thus, or in any better way they please,
With these great men, or with great men like these,
Let them their appetite for laughter feed;
I on my Journey all alone proceed.
If fashionable grown, and fond of power,
With humorous Scots let them disport their hour,
Let them dance, fairy like, round Ossian's tomb;
Let them forge lies and histories for Hume;
Let them with Home, the very prince of verse,
Make something like a tragedy in Erse;
Under dark Allegory's flimsy veil,
Let them, with Ogilvie,[9] spin out a tale
Of rueful length; let them plain things obscure,
Debase what's truly rich, and what is poor
Make poorer still by jargon most uncouth;
With every pert, prim prettiness of youth,
Born of false taste, with Fancy (like a child
Not knowing what it cries for) running wild,
With bloated style, by Affectation taught,
With much false colouring, and little thought,
With phrases strange, and dialect decreed
By Reason never to have pass'd the Tweed,
With words, which Nature meant each other's foe,
Forced to compound whether they will or no;
With such materials, let them, if they will,
To prove at once their pleasantry and skill,
Build up a bard to war 'gainst Common Sense,
By way of compliment to Providence;
Let them, with Armstrong[10], taking leave of Sense,
Read musty lectures on Benevolence,
Or con the pages of his gaping Day,
Where all his former fame was thrown away,
Where all, but barren labour, was forgot,
And the vain stiffness of a letter'd Scot;
Let them, with Armstrong, pass the term of light,
But not one hour of darkness: when the night
Suspends this mortal coil, when Memory wakes,
When for our past misdoings, Conscience takes
A deep revenge, when, by Reflection led,
She draws his curtains, and looks Comfort dead,
Let every Muse be gone; in vain he turns,
And tries to pray for sleep; an Aetna burns,
A more than Aetna, in his coward breast,
And Guilt, with vengeance arm'd, forbids him rest:
Though soft as plumage from young Zephyr's wing,
His couch seems hard, and no relief can bring;
Ingratitude hath planted daggers there
No good man can deserve, no brave man bear.
Thus, or in any better way they please,
With these great men, or with great men like these,
Let them their appetite for laughter feed;
I on my Journey all alone proceed.

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'The Journey.' by Charles Churchill

comments powered by Disqus

Home | Search | About this website | Contact | Privacy Policy