MAY NOT THE LOVE OF PRAISE BE AN INCENTIVE TO VIRTUE?
1 "All praise is foreign, but of true desert,
2 Plays round the head, but comes not near the heart;" 1.
1. Pope's Essay on Man, Epistle IV.
3 Yet may a maid for love of praise contend,
4 Though Pleasure's votary, not less Virtue's friend.
5 May not she strive around her sacred shrine
6 The wreath of pleasure gaily to entwine?
7 To strew the path with many a fragrant flower,
8 And sweetly decorate the playful hour?
9 To tempt e'en Time to loiter on his way,
10 And feel a wish to lengthen out the day?
11 Could we not Worth and Pleasure reconcile,
12 Why wears the sun that universal smile?
13 Fountain of life! to him all power is given
14 To gild and ornament the works of heaven;
15 Its various gems to tinge with varying dyes,
16 And with new beauty strike th' admiring eyes,[Page 56]
17 While deeper shadows gently fall behind
18 To heighten objects that draw near the mind.
19 Those let us grasp, nor send th' inquiring eye
20 To draw the curtain of a future sky;
21 Nor see the cloud that some sad hour may shed
22 In floods of sorrow o'er the drooping head;
23 The present hour is all that man can boast,
24 And happy they who love the stranger most.
25 In future prospects let fond hearts rejoice,
26 Hear then the present hour's small whispering voice.
27 Low is the note, and silver'd is the sound,
28 When soft Persuasion winds the ear around;
29 Hark! how she sings: — Trust not the coming day;
30 The flowers of Autumn meet not those of May;
31 The present hour in present mirth employ,
32 And bribe the future with the hope of joy!
33 Hope still can please midst scenes of deep distress,
34 Can change the mourning to a fancy dress,
35 Can tread through brake, through thicket, and through thorn,
36 Without a mantle, or a garment torn.
37 What though the Palace in our distant view
38 The erring guide may ne'er conduct us to;
39 The potent spell shall shed its mists around
40 And mimic views swim o'er the fairy ground;
41 Stealing from thought the disappointment past,
42 By prospects opening fairer than the last;
43 O kind deceiver! do thou still deceive,
44 And teach this heart most firmly to believe! [Page 57]
45 The ills of life spring up where'er we tread,
46 Where'er we walk the Gorgon rears her head;
47 With spells surrounded should the traveller go,
48 And wear a charm for every sting of woe;
49 Hope, Love, and Friendship furnish not a few,
50 Guarded by these what heartaches dare pursue!
51 Friendship, with cordials in her hands and eyes,
52 The want of health, the want of ease supplies;
53 The want of all things firmly may be borne,
54 If from the foot she draws the rankling thorn;
55 If she supplies the balm the wound shall close,
56 And weary eyelids sink in calm repose.
57 Sacred to her the ills of life bow down,
58 Kneel at her shrine and her mild empire own;
59 Then to the heart in different forms are sent,
60 First seem Submission, and next grow Content,
61 Advice, Reproof, with gentle Pity joined;
62 All tend to strengthen and restore the mind:
63 The mind restored can see the change of things,
64 In equal fetters bind the throne of kings;
65 All nature find submitted to one law, —
66 A certain portion of predestin'd woe.
67 But to give ease to man's distracted frame,
68 The healing goddess watchful Friendship came;
69 To feel the sudden downcast of an eye,
70 And long before anticipate a sigh;
71 To see what would the present calm destroy,
72 When fond Remembrance paints some long lost joy.
73 The long lost joy, if never to return,
74 Asks the sad heart to cling around its urn;[Page 58]
75 But listening Friendship hears the low request,
76 And silent guards the inroad of the breast;
77 By slow degrees draws back the present scene,
78 Till gayer thoughts come gliding in between,
79 Till Hope again her flattering tints lets fall,
80 That lend some comfort, and that promise all.
81 Such was the cordial that kind heaven bestow'd
82 When the dire cup with every ill o'erflow'd,
83 One drop of hope clung to the poison'd side,
84 Or man had bow'd his languid head, and died.
85 If then we've left us by divine command
86 Those cordial drops to stay the trembling hand,
87 Shall we 'gainst heaven essay an impious skill,
88 If by some other means we cure the ill?
89 If love of praise should tempt us to endure
90 With patient calm those ills we cannot cure; —
91 Should prove the stimulus, and lead the way
92 To noble actions, — should the Censor say
93 No merit follows — though great good ensue?
94 If you are serv'd, sure it is good to you!
95 And actions guarded by the sense of shame,
96 Will struggle hard to bear an honest name.
97 For me, I own, that hope of praise can charm
98 This little heart, and all its feelings warm;
99 Can bid me throw the selfish wish aside,
100 And for a weaker frame than mine provide:
101 Not but compassion may, to me unknown,
102 Give praise that merit which was all her own.
103 If custom is to man the foster nurse,
104 Strengthens good habits, and makes bad men worse,[Page 59]
105 May I not hope, whatever is the cause,
106 Custom may teach me to deserve applause!
107 Grafted on stocks inferior to the fruit,
108 The apple tasted we forget the root.
109 The love of praise this privilege may claim,
110 And rank as equal with the fear of shame.
111 Both have their use; — the one is to impel,
112 The other to restrain, or check, or quell,
113 The rising Passions as they grow too loud,
114 To raise the humble, and depress the proud.
115 If then to good or ill our passions tend,
116 Why not conduct them to their proper end?
117 Virtue, too plain to strike voluptuous sight,
118 Barely can touch the heart with true delight,
119 Till dress'd in garbs more flattering to the sense,
120 The eye grows pleas'd and sanctifies expense:
121 Not but her native loveliness would do,
122 Were man but perfect, and his judgment true;
123 But as it is, e'en she herself must bend,
124 And ask assistance from a humble friend.
125 If man, proud man! although the lord of all,
126 Now on his fellows, now his creatures call, —
127 Assistance wants, however high his sphere,
128 It is to prove nought's independent here.
129 So Virtue found, when she forsook the sky,
130 Passions must oft her better aid supply;
131 And Love of Praise the foremost passion came,
132 And claim'd, and won, the loudest trump of Fame;
133 If not for this our virtuous deeds might tire, —
134 Praise fans the flames of the celestial fire;[Page 60]
135 And watchful keeps it glowing in the breast,
136 At once to melt and purify the rest.
137 If o'er the mind meek diffidence has spread
138 Her everlasting glow of blushing red,
139 The conscious tinge steals o'er the crimson cheek,
140 And leaves a blush for every wish to speak;
141 The mind thus check'd grows dubious of its powers,
142 And careless wastes the all-important hours:
143 If cold despair the rising genius quell,
144 And chain the trembler in her icy cell,
145 The wish to please will soon forsake the heart,
146 And one by one the talents all depart;
147 Had this blessed wish stood foremost of the throng,
148 The heart enraptur'd had not tarried long;
149 O! had sweet Praise but met them on their way,
150 Her smile had sooth'd the labours of the day, —
151 Each thorny path reveal'd the blushing rose,
152 And prov'd midst tangling brakes the destin'd floweret blows.
153 Pride is a phantom self-conceit has rear'd,
154 By Reason hated, and by Fancy feared;
155 A flattering painter, that with nicest art
156 Hides each defect of judgment and of heart;
157 Sees little virtues swell before his eye,
158 As man through glasses sees the smallest fly!
159 Yet the two evils, Diffidence and Pride,
160 As foes to Virtue, nearly are allied;
161 I mean, when each extreme affects our end,
162 And to one purpose both the feelings tend. [Page 61]
163 What matters it, if Virtue droop her head,
164 From what contagion the dire sickness spread;
165 Whether from Pride the malady first sprung,
166 Or round Humility the languor clung!
167 For me, may fate, propitious to my prayer,
168 Still give a friend to see things as they are,
169 To chide my errors, and my worth approve,
170 With all th' encouragement of partial love;
171 So shall this wish rise warmest in my breast,
172 To bless another as myself am blest, —
173 To please — to serve — to animate, and cheer,
174 And prove that Praise can turn reformer here!