THE LOVE OF GAIN.
EMILIUS — THE AUTHOR.
1 THOUGH oft the heart, when raging passions storm,
2 To Vice we kneel, and fain would veil her form,
3 Her native darkness ever mocks disguise,
4 And crimes look foul, e'en in their author's eyes.
5 Here the first mark of heav'nly vengeance view;
6 Vice, false to others, to herself is true!
7 When the pack'd jury, and the quibbled flaw
8 Delude the eye, and lame the arm of law;
9 When Erskine's wit the culprit-client saves,
10 And fraud unscourged offended justice braves;
11 Still is the wretch in private doom'd to hear
12 From his own heart a verdict more severe.[Page 5]
13 There dwells a judge, whose voice no bribe can pay,
14 No party silence, and no flattery sway;
15 The sinner shrinks, before himself arraign'd,
16 And almost sorrows, that his cause is gain'd.
17 Nor does his guilt himself alone disgust;
18 The world condemns, for here the world is just:
19 Unpunish'd crimes still shock the public ear,
20 And crimes unpunish'd doubly foul appear.
21 Then why, Emilius, thus in furious strain
22 Of broken faith, and laws corrupt complain?
23 Less warmth, my testy friend; more justly sound
24 Your injury's depth, nor call your scratch a wound.
25 With plenteous store by Fortune's bounty blest,
26 Of bonds, and stock, and fertile lands possest,
27 Your loss is trifling, and so trite your case,
28 Scarce in the public prints 'twill find a place.
29 While, then, we mark your breast with passion rise,
30 Your trembling lips, clench'd hands, and flashing eyes,
31 When ask'd the cause, how poor the answer sounds,
32 "A friend is false! I've lost a thousand pounds. " —[Page 7]
33 A friend is false? Does that amaze the eye
34 Which lately saw its sixtieth year go by?
35 Has age then bleach'd your raven locks in vain,
36 Impair'd your limbs, and not matur'd your brain?
37 Oh! mourn your dross no more: with tears lament
38 Your mind unfurnish'd, and your time mispent.
39 Blest is the man, whom philosophic lore
40 Beyond proud Fortune's reach has taught to soar;
41 Who, when she frowns, her falshood not reviles,
42 Nor boasts her favour when the harlot smiles.
43 Nor him less happy count, whose years have bought
44 Precious experience, and deep-searching thought,
45 Wisdom to know all bliss is insecure,
46 Courage to hope, and patience to endure.
47 Say, loud complainant, does the rolling year
48 Present one day from fraud or knavery clear,
49 Whose spotless White no thefts, no murders stain,
50 Writing in blood man's damning lust for gain?
51 In vain you search: — yet still the search pursue,
52 Examine men, and find of good how few![Page 9]
53 So few, alas! that if that guilt to fly
54 Which daily, hourly, here disgusts the eye,
55 The just resolv'd to leave the British strand,
56 And seek some distant less polluted land,
57 The whole fair troop away with ease might bear
58 My lord-mayor's barge, and still have room to spare.
59 Now let the iron age no more be blam'd;
60 Blest should its memory be, when ours is nam'd,
61 For which no bard can find in nature's page
62 So base a metal as would mark the age!
63 Yet though ourselves still sin, not less we blame
64 Our neighbour's sin, and, when he errs, exclaim
65 Louder than fishwives scold, or asses bray,
66 Or Vapid puffs his own dry dull damn'd play!
67 All-hail, mouth-virtue! at your altar bend
68 Each canting hypocrite, and perjur'd friend;
69 Spare Lovegold sees his houshold god in you,
70 Who cost no sixpence, and who seem Peru!
71 Boy-witted Elder! must thou still be told,
72 No sorcerer's spell can witch an heart like gold?[Page 11]
73 That in each guinea conqu'ring Cupids swarm,
74 And Venus less than good King George can charm?
75 Hear you not, how the rude but wiser crowd
76 Mock your simplicity with laughter loud,
77 When raving about faith, and virtuous dread,
78 And lightnings destin'd for each perjur'd head,
79 You hope the traitor (by your threats dismay'd)
80 Will keep the promise, which he can evade?
81 If such things were, 'twas sure ere Adam fell,
82 Or Eve lost Eden for a nonpareil!
83 But now a debt if some strange man should own,
84 When neither bond or witness prove the loan,
85 To mark an act so just, and truth so rare,
86 His marble form should grace some public square,
87 And his name blazon'd in the historic page,
88 Attest that one good man adorn'd our age.
89 For me, whene'er such acts of faith I hear,
90 Lost in amaze, and trusting scarce mine ear,
91 "Let all," I cry, "to view this wonder run,
92 " And Pidcock*[Page 13]
* Keeper of the Exhibition at Exeter 'Change.own his rarities outdone.
93 "Mourn, hapless Pidcock, mourn! your reign is o'er;
94 " In vain your eagles scream, and tigers roar;
95 "The crowds, who erst to view your monsters ran,
96 " Now seek a rarer sight, an honest man!
97 "What drinks, what eats he? for I ne'er can think,
98 " Like common mortals he can eat or drink.
99 "How speaks, how walks he? ere I sleep to-night,
100 " On this rare creature I must feast my sight. "
101 And when, at length, this wonder I behold,
102 Amaz'd to find him cast in human mould,
103 I'm vex'd that like ourselves on earth he treads,
104 And scarce believe he hasn't got two heads.
105 But say, Emilius, if a wrong thus slight
106 So wounds thy feelings and disgusts thy sight,
107 How wouldst thou rave, if Fraud's glib tongue had found
108 The means to 'reave thee of thy last poor pound;
109 Or how support a friend's more guilty stealth,
110 When loss of freedom follows loss of wealth?
111 Turn to yon prison! list yon captive's tale,
112 Who rashly stood his smooth-tongu'd brother's bail:[Page 15]
113 Pent in those walls, the wretch all hope resigns,
114 Now wildly raves, and now dejected pines;
115 While his free life abroad the debtor spends,
116 Enjoys new pleasure, and defrauds new friends.
117 Oh! but my wretch so wondrous well deceiv'd,
118 Suspicion's self had sure his faith believ'd!
119 He swore such oaths! .....
119 He swore! did that prevail,
120 And wert thou blinded by a trick so stale?
121 Oaths now are trifles few refuse to take,
122 Easy to form, and easier still to break;
123 Their perjur'd vows but few with horror scan;
124 But few fear heavenly wrath, if safe from man,
125 Or shuddering think, their guilt that angels know,
126 The secret sin a secret still below.
127 Mark'd you, when late your cause in court was tried,
128 And your false friend his lawful debt denied,
129 One slight convulsion, or one transient blush
130 Bid his lip quiver, or his forehead flush?[Page 17]
131 Falter'd his tongue, when, lost all sacred fear,
132 On God he call'd to prove his words sincere;
133 And wish'd, if just your charge, to curse his sin
134 Flames might consume himself and all his kin?
135 No! such his earnest air, and changeless face,
136 Each word, each look such candour seem'd to grace,
137 So firm his voice, so bold and clear his eye,
138 Yourself could scarce believe his tale a lye!
139 'Tis true! 'tis true! with horror struck I heard
140 The unblushing villain speak the damning word.
141 Gods! how can man thus brave celestial ire,
142 While heaven has justice, and while hell has fire!
143 Alas! my friend, an awful truth to tell,
144 There are, who scorn that heaven, and mock that hell.
145 In vain for these alternate seasons reign,
146 Spring robes the fields, and Autumn swells the grain;
147 In vain the moon now gilds the brow of night,
148 And now the sun pours floods of glorious light:[Page 19]
149 "'Twas chance," they cry, "to those fair orbs gave birth,
150 " And chance alone with produce bless'd the earth! "
151 Then boldly on the sacred book they lay
152 Their lips to swear some good man's wealth away,
153 And while his spoils their ravish'd eyes bewitch,
154 Laugh at poor rogues, less impious and less rich.
155 Others, whom timid guilt forbids to climb
156 Those dreadful heights where Atheists soar sublime,
157 Own that a Power Supreme exists on high,
158 But while they own a power, that power defy.
159 To these the priest inspir'd describes in vain
160 Each promis'd pleasure, and each threaten'd pain:
161 Heaven's future joys their notice scarce seem worth,
162 Wealth in this world, their present heaven on earth,
163 Nor fear they to deserve the Eternal's curse,
164 Hell bad, 'tis true, but want of money worse!
165 "Let wrath divine," thus Gripe in transport cries,
166 "Curse every limb, and quench my blasted eyes,
167 " If still harmonious sounds mine ears may drink,
168 "While in yon chest my counted guineas chink,[Page 21]
169 " And still my palsied hands have power to hold,
170 "Close to my heart, this bag of darling gold!
171 " What! shall I fear, indignant Heaven to see
172 "Its magazine of plagues exhaust on me?
173 " What! shall I mourn the bargain made, if wealth
174 "I buy with loss of fame, and loss of health?
175 " No, still with glad content my heart shall beat,
176 "Though tortures rack my hands, my eyes, my feet,
177 " If hoards of gold my bursting coffers fill,
178 "Gold, which can soothe each pang, each fear can still,
179 " Comfort for every care, and balm for every ill!
180 "Yet why these fears? Celestial wrath, we know,
181 " Though just, is merciful; though fierce, is slow:
182 "Perhaps too, when arrives the avenging hour,
183 " Repentant prayers may calm Heaven's angry power;
184 "Nor always in the world's vast book we find
185 " To equal sin an equal doom assigned.
186 "Here see with honours crown'd, there'whelm'd with grief,
187 " The Indian spoiler, and the English thief;
188 "And mark, what varying fates their plunders stop
189 " Who robb'd a nation, and who robb'd a shop.[Page 23]
190 "Rascals alike, by Fortune's wayward sport
191 " One goes to Tyburn, t'other goes to Court;
192 "And while this rogue is doom'd in air to swing,
193 " That for a peerage kneels to thank the King. "
194 The sophist's fears thus calm'd, the legal war
195 No more he dreads, but dauntless seeks the bar,
196 Arrives before you, wonders why you stay,
197 And cries — "Sure conscience makes the wretch delay!"
198 Caught by his tranquil air and front of brass,
199 (Oft does for innocence assurance pass)
200 The judge declares your charge must groundless be,
201 Its malice blames, and sets the prisoner free;
202 While you with fiercer rage assert your cause,
203 And term the judge corrupt, unjust the laws,
204 Than Sappho felt when Drury damn'd her work,
205 Or Gallia's struggles rais'd in zealous Burke!
206 Yet now, Emilius, let my prayers assuage
207 Awhile this flood of grief, this storm of rage,
208 Nor scorn my counsel, though from one it flows,
209 Whose life few years, whose brain small judgment knows:[Page 25]
210 Your lack of temper suits my lack of wit,
211 And boyish griefs with boyish counsels fit.
212 When amputation risques a patient's life,
213 Some skilful hand should guide the surgeon's knife;
214 But who to bleed him Farquhar need retain,
215 When the next barber's boy could breathe the vein?
216 Mark then! — If what you mourn, were some dire ill
217 No partner suffer'd, and no time could still;
218 If some strange curse, some plague to nature new,
219 On you had fall'n, and fall'n on none but you,
220 No word of mine should mock your publish'd pain,
221 Or strive to bind your wrath in reason's chain.
222 Who knows the human heart, must also know
223 How keen the pangs which make your sorrows flow:
224 Not with those sighs, which heave the nephew's heart,
225 Who sees his hoarding uncle's life depart;
226 Not with those tears, which custom bids be shed
227 By youthful widows for old husbands dead;
228 Grieve they, who dear departing wealth behold,
229 And mourn, not loss of friends, but loss of gold.[Page 27]
230 No forc'd affliction bids their sorrows rise;
231 They need no onion to provoke their eyes;
232 No! — Lost that idol most adored and dear,
233 Heart-felt despair, wild rage, and grief sincere
234 Burst in each bitter sigh, gush in each scalding tear.
235 Yet sure, my friend, 'tis wrong, unusual rage
236 To feel at crimes so usual in this age,
237 Unless your lot by fate you hoped design'd
238 Free from all crosses common to mankind.
239 Alas! ere beat your breast, ere rent your hair,
240 Weigh, what you bear yourself, what others bear.
241 No pangs are yours past man's, past Heaven's relief,
242 No mighty mischiefs move this mighty grief;
243 Search but the world, then own your wrongs how small
244 Placed near those wrongs on other heads which fall.
245 Must I attest the fact? To prove how Vice
246 Reigns sovereign here, one house can well suffice.
247 To Bow-street turn!*
* The lines from the 247th to the 270th are by the Hon. William Lambe.—
247 Ye giddy, gay, and proud,
248 Who swell great London's ever-bustling crowd,[Page 29]
249 London, where all extremes together meet,
250 Folly's chief throne, and Wisdom's gravest seat;
251 Where disagreements in agreement lie,
252 Our close-knit mass of contrariety;
253 Where throng the rich and poor, the fool and knave,
254 Where statesmen juggle, and where patriots rave;
255 Where balls for advocates prepare their work,
256 And embryo law-suits in a whisper lurk;
257 Where Cupid pays in specie for his wiles,
258 And judges frown whene'er a lady smiles;
259 Where equal farce continual sport affords
260 At Covent-Garden, or the House of Lords;
261 Where beggars with feigned tears and ready smiles,
262 Cringe to St. James, or blubber to St. Giles;
263 Ye who confusedly sail in motley trim
264 Down this full flood of pleasure, business, whim,
265 Whether you frame smooth, glib, and specious lies
266 To cheat a tradesman, or to raise supplies,
267 With private or with public misery sport,
268 Cheats upon 'Change, or Parasites at Court,[Page 31]
269 Now pause awhile! — For one reflecting hour
270 Forego your hopes of gain, your dreams of power,
271 And hark, while tells the Muse what monstrous crimes,
272 What new-found sins reserv'd for our strange times,
273 Their hideous forms to Addington betray,
274 From morn's first languish to the death of day.
275 Here mark the thankless child, the unnatural sire,
276 The Pandar slave who lets his spouse for hire,
277 The adulterous friend, the trusted wanton wife,
278 The brother aiming at the brother's life,
279 The rake who cools in beauty's arms his heat,
280 Then lets her starve, or ply for bread the street,
281 And that dark train of foes to moral rules,
282 Thieves, Bawds, Assassins, Gamblers, Knaves, and Fools,
283 Fools, who would fain be knaves ...... No more I'll write,
284 Hence, odious forms, nor longer shock my sight!
285 Else by disgust and scorn to madness driven,
286 Bursting those chains which bind my soul to Heaven,
287 I shall disdain to breathe such tainted air,
288 Shall blush an human form like these to wear,[Page 33]
289 For present ease shall barter future bliss,
290 And sure no world can be more black than this,
291 Deep in my swelling heart shall plunge the knife,
292 And cry, while flies my soul from mortal strife,
293 "Heaven bless my father, though he gave me life!"
294 Cease, wild enthusiast! end thy angry tale,
295 O'er human frailties drop compassion's veil;
296 View them with grief, not rage, nor dare to scan
297 With censure too severe thy fellow-man!
298 Think, had no parent watch'd thy pliant youth,
299 Curb'd thy wild passions, turn'd thy steps to Truth,
300 And taught thee by her radiant light to know
301 That bliss is virtue, and that guilt is woe,
302 Spurning restraint, and scorn'd each sacred vow,
303 Haply thyself had been what these are now;
304 These, who by headstrong passions forc'd away,
305 Or pressing want, or strong example's sway,
306 Strangers to love of man, or fear of God,
307 But trod perhaps those paths their parents trod,
308 While ignorance led them to that whirlpool's brink,
309 Where long they struggled, and where now they sink!
310 Oh! view their lot, my soul, nor more repine
311 To bear those evils Fate has fix'd on mine;
312 Content, though many a grief my bosom wrings,
313 If still that bosom owns no conscious stings,
314 If still I know for others wounds to feel,
315 With pity view them, and with pleasure heal,
316 And still those pangs which cause so keen a smart,
317 Nor sour my temper, nor deprave my heart.
318 Yes! though by fate with heaviest sorrows curst,
319 From my pale lips no murmuring breath should burst,
320 If still my hand had power to raise the opprest,
321 And, though unblest myself, make others blest!
322 That power, Emilius, still is yours! — Then why
323 Thus pants your bosom, and thus flames your eye?
324 Your gold, though lost .....
324 ...... Nay, 'tis not gold which makes
325 This fury tear me; but my bile it shakes,
326 That still my lawful suit in vain I urge,
327 And still yon caitiff mocks the avenging scourge![Page 37]
328 Could I but once his well-earn'd sufferings see! ....
329 And would his sufferings then bring wealth to thee?
330 Would with his blood gold to thy coffers run,
331 Or all his groans repay thee one pound one?
332 Not so; but vengeance .....
332 ...... Hush! — To mention fear
333 What thou must shame to speak, I shame to hear!
334 Base minds alone delight in vengeance find,
335 That low vile passion of a low vile mind!
336 Oh! think, when summoned to the throne of Heaven,
337 As thou forgav'st, so thou shalt be forgiven!
338 And think, what pangs would rack each throbbing nerve,
339 If God should judge us, as our faults deserve!
340 Say, at this moment should the perjur'd wretch,
341 Stung with remorse, his hands imploring stretch
342 Tow'rds thee for pardon, while with tears and groans
343 Thy foot he kisses, and his guilt he owns,[Page 39]
344 Should that foot spurn him? Would'st thou frown, and cry
345 "Back, sinner, to the flames thou fain would'st fly!"
346 'Twere nobler far, thy thirst of vengeance o'er,
347 To bid the sinner rise, and sin no more;
348 'Twere nobler far to play the Christian's part,
349 Aid struggling Conscience to secure his heart,
350 Confirm his faith, with hope inspire his breast,
351 And make him virtuous now, hereafter blest.
352 Then, when thou died'st, the transport thine would be
353 Proudly to boast — "God owes a soul to me!"
354 But if revenge alone can please you, know,
355 E'en now, though law was blind, though justice slow,
356 More pangs he feels, his heart by conscience rent,
357 Than you could name, or mortal brain invent.
358 True, from his lips no 'plaints inform the crowd
359 What pains are his — deep are his groans, not loud*
* "Curses not loud, but deep." MACBETH.;
360 True, from his eyes no streams of anguish roll,
361 His burning tears fall inwards on his soul:
362 There brood thy vipers, Conscious Guilt, and dart
363 With ceaseless spite their fangs into his heart;[Page 41]
364 There prints with bloodless stroke thy silent steel
365 Wounds, that no balm can ease, no time can heal!
366 Not all the pangs which Dante's visions swell,
367 No freezing limbo, and no fiery hell,
368 Surpass his torments, who still bears unblest
369 A self-accuser in his own sad breast.
370 Disgust, and ceaseless Care, and anxious Fear
371 Still share his bed, and at his board appear.
372 In vain his Cooks their various arts combine
373 Each dish to season, and each sauce refine;
374 Champagne's rich grape in vain, to chear his soul,
375 With brilliant bubbles fills his chrystal bowl:
376 The harpy Conscience pounces on her prey*
At subitae horrisico lapsu de montibus adsunt
Harpyiae, & magnis quatiunt clangoribus alas,
Deripiuntque dapes, contactuque omnia foedant
AENEID, Book III.
377 Tears from his hand the untasted food away,
378 And, ere the wine his pallid lips can pass,
379 Her gall-fraught tongue drops poison in his glass.
380 Next mark, my friend, his slumbers! — If Repose
381 Lists to his suit, and bids his eye-lids close,
382 Mark what convulsions heave his martyr'd breast,
383 And frequent starts, and heart-drawn sighs attest,
384 Though Nature grants him sleep, that Guilt denies him rest.
385 Now groans of tortur'd ghosts his ear affright;
386 Now ghastly phantoms dance before his sight;
387 And now he sees (and screams in frantic fear)
388 To size gigantic swell'd thy angry shade appear!
389 Swift at thy summons rush with hideous yell
390 Their prey to seize the Denizens of hell!
391 Headlong they hurl him on some ice-rock's point,
392 Mangle each limb, and dislocate each joint;
393 Or plunge him deep in blue sulphureous lakes;
394 Or lash his quivering flesh with twisted snakes;
395 Or in his brain their burning talons dart;
396 Or from his bosom rend his panting heart
397 To bathe their fiery lips in guilty gore! —
398 Then starts he from his couch, while dews of horror pour
399 Down his dank forehead — wrings his hands, and prays to sleep no more.
400 Hark! the Storm-daemon shrieks! — It thunders! — Lo!
401 How pale his cheeks, how wild his eye-balls grow,
402 Heard the first murmur; while he waits the crash,
403 And dreads to see the etherial meteors flash.
404 No shock of clouds, he thinks, no casual hand
405 Rolls the red bolt, or darts th' avenging brand;
406 'Tis Heaven's own voice in thunder bids him die,
407 And 'tis to blast him yon blue lightnings fly!
408 His fears were vain; the storm disperses; — true,
409 But who can answer what the next may do?
410 Though now sweet nature sleeps, and skies are fair,
411 Soon gathering clouds again may gloom the air;
412 Soon shafts divine, winged by celestial breath,
413 Again may glare, and the next shaft brings death!
414 With ceaseless fears and conscious pangs opprest
415 By day, by night unknown one hour of rest,
416 Wasted his limbs, his strength and spirits fled,
417 Disease now chains him on her thorny bed.
418 The couch in crowds though Galen's sons surround,
419 His dire complaints deride their skill profound;[Page 47]
420 No med'cine brings relief, no pang is eas'd,
421 For who can medicine to a mind diseas'd*
Can'st thou not minister to a mind diseased,
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,
Raze out the written troubles of the brain,
And with some sweet oblivious antidote
Cleanse the foul spirit of that perilous stuff
That weighs upon the heart?
422 Heaven's Lord alone! — "And shall I dare invoke
423 " With prayers that Power, whose holiest law I broke?
424 "In heaven still fresh my violated vow,
425 " Will angels heed my forced repentance now?
426 "Hence, idle thought! no prayers can now obtain
427 " Aid from insulted Heaven, and man's is vain! "
428 Thus cries the wretch, distraction in his eye,
429 Hopeless to live, yet unprepared to die;
430 By fear his soul, by pain his body vext,
431 By conscience tortured, and by doubt perplext,
432 Loathing this world, and shuddering at the next.
433 Yet though his old offence thus brands with shame
434 His conscious forehead, and unmans his frame,[Page 49]
435 When some new sin excites his impious zeal,
436 His heart is adamant, his nerves are steel:
437 Nor think, your perjur'd friend, reform'd by time,
438 Will bound his forfeits to this single crime.
439 The rose of innocence, once rent away,
440 No more shall grace his brow. And who can say,
441 "One step, and then no further?" — This first sin
442 Crown'd with success, ere long his feet shall win
443 To loftier heights of vice, and urge his fate
444 From bad to worse, from little crimes to great,
445 Till his broad guilt for public vengeance calls,
446 And to the laws his life a victim falls.
447 Then shalt thou own (and blush at thy mistrust),
448 Crimes still are punish'd, and God still is just!
449 Here break we off! — Speed thou to Lombard-street,
450 Or plod the gambling 'Change with busy feet,
451 'Midst Bulls and Bears some false report to spread,
452 Of Prussia armed, or Buonaparte dead,
453 From specious lies an honest gain to draw,
454 And spoil some wretch in forms allowed by law;[Page 51]
455 More dupes to find, more knavish tricks to learn,
456 And fooled thyself, fool others in thy turn:
457 While I, sequestered in some favourite nook,
458 Or guide the pencil, or explore the book,
459 Blest, if still free from mad Ambition's dreams,
460 Youth's vain rash hopes, and Interest's fordid schemes,
461 I sometimes hear, to chear my lonely hours,
462 The Muse awake her lute's harmonious powers,
463 And still can boast (when down life's vale I bend
464 My steps, nor grieved, nor glad my days to end),
465 A feeling heart, an open hand, content, and one true friend.
About this text
Title (in Source Edition): THE LOVE OF GAIN.
Author: Matthew Gregory Lewis
Genres: narrative verse
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The text has been typographically modernized, but without any silent modernization of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. The source of the text is given and all editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. Based on the electronic text originally produced by the ECCO-TCP project, this ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 3.0.