Too oft we hide our Frailties' Blame
Beneath some simple-sounding Name!
So Folks, who in gilt Coaches ride,
Will call Display but Proper Pride;
So Spendthrifts, who their Acres lose,
Curse not their Folly but the Jews;
So Madam, when her Roses faint,
Resorts to ... anything but Paint.
An honest Uncle, who had plied
His Trade of Mercer in Cheapside,
Until his Name on 'Change was found
Good for some Thirty Thousand Pound,
Was burdened with an Heir inclined
To thoughts of quite a different Kind.
His Nephew dreamed of Naught but Verse
From Morn to Night, and, what was worse,
He quitted all at length to follow
That "sneaking, whey-faced God, APOLLO."
In plainer Words, he ran up Bills
At Child's, at Batson's and at Will's;
Discussed the Claims of rival Bards
At Midnight,--with a Pack of Cards;
Or made excuse for "t'other Bottle"
Over a point in ARISTOTLE.
This could not last, and like his Betters
He found, too soon, the Cost of Letters.
Back to his Uncle's House he flew,
Confessing that he'd not a Sou.
'Tis true, his Reasons, if sincere,
Were more poetical than clear:
"Alas!" he said, "I name no Names:
The Muse, dear Sir, the Muse has claims."
His Uncle, who, behind his Till,
Knew less of Pindus than Snow-Hill,
Looked grave, but thinking (as Men say)
That Youth but once can have its Day,
Equipped anew his Pride and Hope
To frisk it on Parnassus Slope.
In one short Month he sought the Door
More shorn and ragged than before.
This Time he showed but small Contrition,
And gloried in his mean Condition.
"The greatest of our Race," he said,
"Through Asian Cities begged his Bread.
The Muse--the Muse delights to see
Not Broadcloth but Philosophy!
Who doubts of this her Honour shames,
But (as you know) she has her Claims...."
"Friend," quoth his Uncle then, "I doubt
This scurvy Craft that you're about
Will lead your philosophic Feet
Either to Bedlam or the Fleet.
Still, as I would not have you lack,
Go get some Broadcloth to your Back,
And--if it please this precious Muse--
'Twere well to purchase decent Shoes.
Though harkye, Sir...." The Youth was gone,
Before the good Man could go on.
And yet ere long again was seen
That Votary of Hippocrene.
As along Cheap his Way he took,
His Uncle spied him by a Brook,
Not such as Nymphs Castalian pour,--
'Twas but the Kennel, nothing more.
His Plight was plain by every Sign
Of Idiot Smile and Stains of Wine.
He strove to rise, and wagged his Head--
"The Muse, dear Sir, the Muse--" he said.
"Muse!" quoth the Other, in a Fury,
"The Muse shan't serve you, I assure ye.
She's just some wanton, idle Jade
That makes young Fools forget their Trade,--
Who should be whipped, if I'd my Will,
From Charing Cross to Ludgate Hill.
She's just...." But he began to stutter,
So left SIR GRACELESS in the Gutter.