Prothalamion.

A poem by Horace Smith

The following "Prothalamion" was recently discovered among some other rubbish in Pope's Villa at Twickenham. It was written on the backs of old envelopes, and has evidently not received the master's last touches. Some of the lines afford an admirable instance of the way in which great authors frequently repeat themselves.

Nothing so true as what you once let fall,--
"To growl at something is the lot of all;
Contentment is a gem on earth unknown,
And Perfect Happiness the wizard's stone.
Give me," you cried, "to see my duty clear,
And room to work, unhindered in my sphere;
To live my life, and work my work alone,
Unloved while living, and unwept when gone.
Let none my triumphs or my failures share,
Nor leave a sorrowing wife and joyful heir."

Go, like St. Simon, on your lonely tower,
Wish to make all men good, but want the power.
Freedom you'll have, but still will lack the thrall,--
The bond of sympathy, which binds us all.
Children and wives are hostages to fame,
But aids and helps in every useful aim.

You answer, "Look around, where'er you will,
Experience teaches the same lesson still.
Mark how the world, full nine times out of ten,
To abject drudgery dooms its married men:
A slave at first, before the knot is tied,
But soon a mere appendage to the bride;
A cover, next, to shield her arts from blame;
At home ill-tempered, but abroad quite tame;
In fact, her servant; though, in name, her lord;
Alive, neglected; but, defunct, adored."

This picture, friend, is surely overdone,
You paint the tribe by drawing only one;
Or from one peevish grunt, in haste, conclude
The man's whole life with misery imbued.

Say, what can Horace want to crown his life,
Blest with eight little urchins, and a wife?
His lively grin proclaims the man is blest,
Here perfect happiness must be confessed!
Hark, hear that melancholy shriek, alack!--
That vile lumbago keeps him on the rack.

This evil vexed not Courthope's happy ways,
Who wants no extra coat on coldest days.
His face, his walk, his dress--whate'er you scan,
He stands revealed the prosperous gentleman.
Still must he groan each Sabbath, while he hears
The hoarse Gregorians vex his tortured ears.

Sure Bosanquet true happiness must know,
While wit and wisdom mingle as they flow,
Him Bromley Sunday scholars will obey;
For him e'en Leech will work a good half day;
He strives to hide the fear he still must feel,
Lest sharp Jack Frost should catch his Marshal Niel.

Peace to all such; but were there one, whose fires
True genius kindles and fair fame inspires;
Blest with demurrers, statements, counts, and pleas,
And born to arbitrations, briefs, and fees;
Should such a man, couched on his easy throne,
(Unlike the Turk) desire to live alone;
View every virgin with distrustful eyes,
And dread those arts, which suitors mostly prize,
Alike averse to blame, or to commend,
Not quite their foe, but something less than friend;
Dreading e'en widows, when by these besieged;
And so obliging, that he ne'er obliged;
Who, in all marriage contracts, looks for flaws,
And sits, and meditates on Salic laws;
While Pall Mall bachelors proclaim his praise,
And spinsters wonder at his works and ways;
Who would not smile if such a man there be?
Who would not weep if Atticus were he?

Oh, blest beyond the common lot are they,
On whom Contentment sheds her cheerful ray;
Who find in Duty's path unmixed delight,
And perfect Pleasure in pursuit of Right;
Thankful for every Joy they feel, or share,
Unsought for blessings, like the light and air,
And grateful even for the ills they bear;
Wedded or single, taking nought amiss,
And learning that Content is more than Bliss.

Oh, friend, may each domestic joy be thine,
Be no unpleasing melancholy mine.
As rolling years disclose the will of Fate,
I see you wedded to some equal mate;
Thronged by a crowd of growing girls and boys,
A heap of troubles, but a host of joys.
On sights like these, should length of days attend,
Still may good luck pursue you to the end;
Still heaven vouchsafe the gifts it has in store;
Still make you, what you would be, more and more;
Preserve you happy, cheerful, and serene,
Blest with your young retainers, and your Queen.

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