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〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉PLATO.〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉DIOG. LAERT.




1 IT is not from his form in which we trace
2 Strength joined with beauty, dignity with grace,
3 That man, the master of this globe, derives
4 His right of empire over all that lives.
5 That form indeed, th' associate of a mind
6 Vast in its pow'rs, ethereal in its kind,
7 That form, the labour of almighty skill,
8 Framed for the service of a free-born will,
9 Asserts precedence, and bespeaks controul,
10 But borrows all its grandeur from the soul.
11 Hers is the state, the splendour and the throne,
12 An intellectual kingdom, all her own.
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13 For her, the mem'ry fills her ample page
14 With truths pour'd down from ev'ry distant age,
15 For her amasses an unbounded store,
16 The wisdom of great nations, now no more,
17 Though laden, not incumber'd with her spoil,
18 Laborious, yet unconscious of her toil,
19 When copiously supplied, then most enlarged,
20 Still to be fed, and not to be surcharged.
21 For her, the fancy roving unconfined,
22 The present muse of ev'ry pensive mind,
23 Works magic wonders, adds a brighter hue
24 To nature's scenes, than nature ever knew,
25 At her command, winds rise and waters roar,
26 Again she lays them slumb'ring on the shore,
27 With flow'r and fruit the wilderness supplies,
28 Or bids the rocks in ruder pomp arise.
29 For her, the judgment, umpire in the strife,
30 That grace and nature have to wage through life,
31 Quick-sighted arbiter of good and ill,
32 Appointed sage preceptor to the will,
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33 Condemns, approves, and with a faithful voice
34 Guides the decision of a doubtful choice.
35 Why did the fiat of a God give birth
36 To yon fair sun and his attendant earth,
37 And when descending he resigns the skies,
38 Why takes the gent'ler moon her turn to rise,
39 Whom ocean feels through all his countless waves,
40 And owns her pow'r on ev'ry shore he laves?
41 Why do the seasons still enrich the year,
42 Fruitful and young as in their first career?
43 Spring hangs her infant blossoms on the trees,
44 Rock'd in the cradle of the western breeze,
45 Summer in haste the thriving charge receives
46 Beneath the shade of her expanded leaves,
47 'Till autumn's fiercer heats and plenteous dews
48 Dye them at last in all their glowing hues
49 'Twere wild profusion all, and bootless waste,
50 Pow'r misemployed, munificence misplaced,
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51 Had not its author dignified the plan,
52 And crowned it with the majesty of man.
53 Thus form'd, thus placed, intelligent, and taught
54 Look where he will, the wonders God has wrought
55 The wildest scorner of his Maker's laws
56 Finds in a sober moment time to pause,
57 To press th' important question on his heart,
58 "Why form'd at all, and wherefore as thou art?"
59 If man be what he seems, this hour a slave,
60 The next mere dust and ashes in the grave,
61 Endued with reason only to descry
62 His crimes and follies with an aching eye,
63 With passions, just that he may prove with pain
64 The force he spends against their fury, vain,
65 And if soon after having burnt by turns
66 With ev'ry lust with which frail nature burns,
67 His being end where death dissolves the bond,
68 The tomb take all, and all be blank beyond,
69 Then he, of all that nature has brought forth
70 Stands self-impeach'd the creature of least worth,
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71 And useless while he lives, and when he dies,
72 Brings into doubt the wisdom of the skies.
73 Truths that the learn'd pursue with eager thought,
74 Are not important always as dear-bought,
75 Proving at last, though told in pompous strains,
76 A childish waste of philosophic pains;
77 But truths on which depends our main concern,
78 That 'tis our shame and mis'ry not to learn,
79 Shine by the side of ev'ry path we tread
80 With such a lustre, he that runs may read.
81 'Tis true, that if to trifle life away
82 Down to the sun-set of their latest day,
83 Then perish on futurity's wide shore
84 Like fleeting exhalations, found no more,
85 Were all that heav'n required of human kind,
86 And all the plan their destiny designed,
87 What none could rev'rence all might justly blame,
88 And man would breathe but for his Maker's shame.
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89 But reason heard, and nature well perused,
90 At once the dreaming mind is disabused.
91 If all we find possessing earth, sea, air,
92 Reflect his attributes who plac'd them there,
93 Fulfill the purpose, and appear design'd
94 Proofs of the wisdom of th' all-seeing mind,
95 'Tis plain, the creature whom he chose t' invest
96 With kingship and dominion o'er the rest,
97 Received his nobler nature, and was made
98 Fit for the power in which he stands array'd,
99 That first or last, hereafter if not here,
100 He too might make his author's wisdom clear,
101 Praise him on earth, or obstinately dumb
102 Suffer his justice in a world to come.
103 This once believed, 'twere logic misapplied
104 To prove a consequence by none denied,
105 That we are bound to cast the minds of youth
106 Betimes into the mould of heav'nly truth,
107 That taught of God they may indeed be wise,
108 Nor ignorantly wand'ring miss the skies.
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109 In early days the conscience has in most
110 A quickness, which in later life is lost,
111 Preserved from guilt by salutary fears,
112 Or, guilty, soon relenting into tears.
113 Too careless often as our years proceed,
114 What friends we sort with, or what books we read,
115 Our parents yet exert a prudent care
116 To feed our infant minds with proper fare,
117 And wisely store the nurs'ry by degrees
118 With wholesome learning, yet acquired with ease.
119 Neatly secured from being soiled or torn
120 Beneath a pane of thin translucent horn,
121 A book (to please us at a tender age
122 'Tis call'd a book, though but a single page)
123 Presents the pray'r the Saviour deign'd to teach,
124 Which children use, and parsons when they preach.
125 Lisping our syllables, we scramble next,
126 Through moral narrative, or sacred text,
127 And learn with wonder how this world began,
128 Who made, who marr'd, and who has ransom'd man.
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129 Points, which unless the Scripture made them plain,
130 The wisest heads might agitate in vain.
131 Oh thou, whom borne on fancy's eager wing
132 Back to the season of life's happy spring,
133 I pleased remember, and while mem'ry yet
134 Holds fast her office here, can ne'er forget,
135 Ingenious dreamer, in whose well told-tale
136 Sweet fiction and sweet truth alike prevail,
137 Whose hum'rous vein, strong sense, and simple stile,
138 May teach the gayest, make the gravest smile,
139 Witty, and well-employ'd, and like thy Lord,
140 Speaking in parables his slighted word,
141 I name thee not, lest so despised a name
142 Should move a sneer at thy deserved fame,
143 Yet ev'n in transitory life's late day
144 That mingles all my brown with sober gray,
145 Revere the man, whose Pilgrim marks the road
146 And guides the Progress of the soul to God.
147 'Twere well with most, if books that could engage
148 Their childhood, pleased them at a riper age;
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149 The man approving what had charm'd the boy,
150 Would die at last in comfort, peace, and joy,
151 And not with curses on his art who stole
152 The gem of truth from his unguarded soul.
153 The stamp of artless piety impress'd
154 By kind tuition on his yielding breast,
155 The youth now bearded, and yet pert and raw,
156 Regards with scorn, though once received with awe,
157 And warp'd into the labyrinth of lies
158 That babblers, called philosophers, devise,
159 Blasphemes his creed as founded on a plan
160 Replete with dreams, unworthy of a man.
161 Touch but his nature in its ailing part,
162 Assert the native evil of his heart,
163 His pride resents the charge, although the proof
* See Chron. Ch. 26. v. 19.
164 Rise in his forehead, and seem rank enough;
165 Point to the cure, describe a Saviour's cross
166 As God's expedient to retrieve his loss,
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167 The young apostate sickens at the view,
168 And hates it with the malice of a Jew.
169 How weak the barrier of mere nature proves
170 Oppos'd against the pleasures nature loves!
171 While self-betray'd, and wilfully undone,
172 She longs to yield, no sooner wooed than won.
173 Try now the merits of this blest exchange
174 Of modest truth for wits eccentric range.
175 'Time was, he closed as he began the day
176 With decent duty, not ashamed to pray.
177 The practice was a bond upon his heart,
178 A pledge he gave for a consistent part,
179 Nor could he dare prefumptuously displease
180 A pow'r confess'd so lately on his knees.
181 But now, farewell all legendary tales,
182 The shadows fly, philosophy prevails,
183 Pray'r to the winds and caution to the waves,
184 Religion makes the free by nature slaves,
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185 Priests have invented, and the world admired
186 What knavish priests promulgate as inspired,
187 'Till reason, now no longer overawed,
188 Resumes her pow'rs, and spurns the clumsy fraud,
189 And common-sense diffusing real day,
190 The meteor of the gospel dies away.
191 Such rhapsodies our shrew'd discerning youth
192 Learn from expert enquirers after truth,
193 Whose only care, might truth presume to speak,
194 Is not to find what they prosess to seek.
195 And thus well-tutor'd only while we share
196 A mother's lectures and a nurse's care,
197 And taught at schools much mythologic stuff,
* The author begs leave to explain, sensible that without such knowledge, neither the ancient poets nor historians can be tasted or indeed understood, he does not mean to censure the pains that are taken to instruct a school-boy in the religion of the heathen, but merely that neglect of christian culture which leaves him shamefully ignorant of his own.
198 But sound religion sparingly enough,
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199 Our early notices of truth disgraced
200 Soon lose their credit, and are all effaced.
201 Would you your son should be a sot or dunce,
202 Lascivious, headstrong, or all these at once,
203 That in good time, the stripling's finish'd taste
204 For loose expence and fashionable waste,
205 Should prove your ruin, and his own at last,
206 Train him in public with a mob of boys,
207 Childish in mischief only and in noise,
208 Else of a mannish growth, and five in ten
209 In infidelity and lewdness, men.
210 There shall he learn 'ere sixteen winter's old,
211 That authors are most useful, pawn'd or sold,
212 That pedantry is all that schools impart,
213 But taverns teach the knowledge of the heart,
214 There waiter Dick with Bacchanalian lays
215 Shall win his heart and have his drunken praise,
216 His counsellor and bosom-friend shall prove,
217 And some street-pacing harlot his first love.
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218 Schools, unless discipline where doubly strong,
219 Detain their adolescent charge too long.
220 The management of Tiro's of eighteen
221 Is difficult, their punishment obscene.
222 The stout tall Captain, whose superior size
223 The minor heroes view with envious eyes,
224 Becomes their pattern, upon whom they fix
225 Their whole attention, and ape all his tricks.
226 His pride that scorns t' obey or to submit,
227 With them is courage, his effront'ry wit.
228 His wild excursions, window-breaking feats,
229 Robb'ry of gardens, quarrels in the streets,
230 His hair-breadth 'scapes, and all his daring schemes,
231 Transport them, and are made their fav'rite themes.
232 In little bosoms such atchievements strike
233 A kindred spark, they burn to do the like.
234 Thus half accomplish'd, 'ere he yet begin
235 To show the peeping down upon his chin,
236 And as maturity of years comes on
237 Made just th' adept that you design'd your son,
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238 T' insure the perseverance of his course,
239 And give your monstrous project all its force,
240 Send him to college. If he there be tamed,
241 Or in one article of vice reclaimed,
242 Where no regard of ord'nances is shown
243 Or look'd for now, the fault must be his own.
244 Some sneaking virtue lurks in him no doubt,
245 Where neither strumpets charms nor drinking-bout,
246 Nor gambling practices can find it out.
247 Such youths of spirit, and that spirit too
248 Ye nurs'ries of our boys, we owe to you.
249 Though from ourselves the mischief more proceeds,
250 For public schools 'tis public folly feeds.
251 The slaves of custom and establish'd mode,
252 With pack-horse constancy we keep the road
253 Crooked or strait, through quags or thorny dells,
254 True to the jingling of our leaders bells.
255 To follow foolish precedents, and wink
256 With both our eyes, is easier than to think,
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257 And such an age as ours baulks no expence
258 Except of caution and of common-sense,
259 Else sure, notorious fact and proof so plain
260 Would turn our steps into a wiser train.
261 I blame not those who with what care they can
262 O'erwatch the num'rous and unruly clan,
263 Or if I blame, 'tis only that they dare
264 Promise a work of which they must despair.
265 Have ye, ye sage intendants of the whole,
266 An ubiquarian presence and controul,
267 Elisha's eye, that when Gehazi stray'd
268 Went with him, and saw all the game he play'd?
269 Yes ye are conscious; and on all the shelves
270 Your pupils strike upon, have struck yourselves.
271 Or if by nature sober, ye had then
272 Boys as ye were, the gravity of men,
273 Ye knew at least, by constant proofs address'd
274 To ears and eyes, the vices of the rest.
275 But ye connive at what ye cannot cure,
276 And evils not to be endured, endure,
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277 Lest pow'r exerted, but without success,
278 Should make the little ye retain still less.
279 Ye once were justly famed for bringing forth
280 Undoubted scholarship and genuine worth,
281 And in the firmament of fame still shines
282 A glory bright as that of all the signs
283 Of poets raised by you, and statesmen and divines.
284 Peace to them all, those brilliant times are fled,
285 And no such lights are kindling in their stead.
286 Our striplings shine indeed, but with such rays
287 As set the midnight riot in a blaze,
288 And seem, if judged by their expressive looks,
289 Deeper in none than in their surgeons books.
290 Say muse (for education made the song,
291 No muse can hesitate or linger long)
292 What causes move us, knowing as we must
293 That these Menageries all fail their trust,
294 To send our sons to scout and scamper there,
295 While colts and puppies cost us so much care?
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296 Be it a weakness, it deserves some praise,
297 We love the play-place of our early days.
298 The scene is touching, and the heart is stone
299 That feels not at that sight, and feels at none.
300 The wall on which we tried our graving skill,
301 The very name we carved subsisting still,
302 The bench on which we sat while deep-employ'd
303 Though mangled, hack'd and hew'd, not yet destroy'd,
304 The little ones unbutton'd, glowing hot,
305 Playing our games, and on the very spot,
306 As happy as we once, to kneel and draw
307 The chalky ring, and knuckle down at taw,
308 To pitch the ball into the grounded hat,
309 Or drive it devious with a dex'trous pat,
310 The pleasing spectacle at once excites
311 Such recollection of our own delights,
312 That viewing it, we seem almost t' obtain
313 Our innocent sweet simple years again.
314 This fond attachment to the well-known place
315 Whence first we started into life's long race,
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316 Maintains its hold with such unfailing sway,
317 We feel it ev'n in age, and at our latest day.
318 Hark! how the sire of chits whose future share
319 Of classic food begins to be his care,
320 With his own likeness placed on either knee,
321 Indulges all a father's heart-felt glee,
322 And tells them as he strokes their silver locks,
323 That they must soon learn Latin and to box;
324 Then turning, he regales his list'ning wife
325 With all th' adventures of his early life,
326 His skill in coachmanship or driving chaise,
327 In bilking tavern bills and spouting plays,
328 What shifts he used detected in a scrape,
329 How he was flogg'd, or had the luck t' escape,
330 What sums he lost at play, and how he sold
331 Watch, seals, and all, 'till all his pranks are told.
332 Retracing thus his frolics ('tis a name
333 That palliates deeds of folly and of shame)
334 He gives the local biass all its sway,
335 Resolves that where he play'd his sons shall play,
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336 And destines their bright genius to be shown
337 Just in the scene where he display'd his own.
338 The meek and bashful boy will soon be taught
339 To be as bold and forward as he ought,
340 The rude will scuffle through with ease enough,
341 Great schools suit best the sturdy and the rough.
342 Ah happy designation, prudent choice,
343 Th' event is sure, expect it and rejoice!
344 Soon see your wish fulfilled in either child,
345 The pert made perter, and the tame made wild.
346 The great indeed, by titles, riches, birth,
347 Excused th' incumbrance of more solid worth,
348 Are best disposed of, where with most success
349 They may acquire that confident address,
350 Those habits of profuse and lew'd expence,
351 That scorn of all delights but those of sense,
352 Which though in plain plebeians we condemn,
353 With so much reason all expect from them.
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354 But families of less illustrious fame,
355 Whose chief distinction is their spotless name,
356 Whose heirs, their honours none, their income small,
357 Must shine by true desert, or not at all,
358 What dream they of, that with so little care
359 They risk their hopes, their dearest treasure there?
360 They dream of little Charles or William graced
361 With wig prolix, down-flowing to his waist,
362 They see th' attentive crowds his talents draw,
363 They hear him speak the oracle of law.
364 The father who designs his babe a priest,
365 Dreams him episcopally such at least,
366 And while the playful jockey scow'rs the room
367 Briskly, astride upon the parlour broom,
368 In fancy sees him more superbly ride
369 In coach with purple lined, and mitres on its side.
370 Events improbable and strange as these,
371 Which only a parental eye foresees,
372 A public school shall bring to pass with ease.
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373 But how? resides such virtue in that air
374 As must create an appetite for pray'r?
375 And will it breathe into him all the zeal
376 That candidates for such a prize should feel,
377 To take the lead and be the foremost still
378 In all true worth and literary skill?
379 "Ah blind to bright futurity, untaught
380 "The knowledge of the world, and dull of thought!
381 "Church-ladders are not always mounted best
382 "By learned Clerks and Latinists profess'd.
383 "Th' exalted prize demands an upward look,
384 "Not to be found by poring on a book.
385 "Small skill in Latin, and still less in Greek,
386 "Is more than adequate to all I seek,
387 "Let erudition grace him or not grace,
388 "I give the bawble but the second place,
389 "His wealth, fame, honors, all that I intend,
390 "Subsist and center in one point a friend.
391 "A friend, whate'er he studies or neglects,
392 "Shall give him consequence, heal all defects,
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393 "His intercourse with peers, and sons of peers
394 "There dawns the splendour of his future years,
395 "In that bright quarter his propitious skies
396 "Shall blush betimes, and there his glory rise.
397 "Your Lordship and your Grace, what school can teach
398 "A rhet'ric equal to those parts of speech?
399 "What need of Homer's verse or Tully's prose,
400 "Sweet interjections! if he learn but those?
401 "Let rev'rend churls his ignorance rebuke,
402 "Who starve upon a dogs-ear'd Pentateuch,
403 "The parson knows enough who knows a Duke. "
404 Egregious purpose! worthily begun
405 In barb'rous prostitution of your son,
406 Pressed on his part by means that would disgrace
407 A scriv'ners clerk or footman out of place,
408 And ending, if at last its end be gained,
409 In sacrilege, in God's own house profaned.
410 It may succeed; and if his sins should call
411 For more than common punishment, it shall.
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412 The wretch shall rise, and be the thing on earth
413 Least qualified in honor, learning, worth,
414 To occupy a sacred, awful post,
415 In which the best and worthiest tremble most.
416 The royal letters, are a thing of course,
417 A king that would, might recommend his horse,
418 And Deans no doubt and Chapters, with one voice
419 As bound in duty, would confirm the choice.
420 Behold your Bishop! well he plays his part,
421 Christian in name, and Infidel in heart,
422 Ghostly in office, earthly in his plan,
423 A slave at court, elsewhere a lady's man,
424 Dumb as a senator, and as a priest
425 A piece of mere church-furniture at best;
426 To live estranged from God his total scope,
427 And his end sure, without one glimpse of hope.
428 But fair although and feasible it seem,
429 Depend not much upon your golden dream;
430 For Providence that seems concern'd t' exempt
431 The hallow'd bench from absolute contempt,
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432 In spite of all the wrigglers into place,
433 Still keeps a seat or two for worth and grace,
434 And therefore 'tis, that, though the sight be rare,
435 We sometimes see a Lowth or Bagot there.
436 Besides, school-friendships are not always found,
437 Though fair in promise, permanent and sound.
438 The most disint'rested and virtuous minds
439 In early years connected, time unbinds.
440 New situations give a diff'rent cast
441 Of habit, inclination, temper, taste,
442 And he that seem'd our counterpart at first,
443 Soon shows the strong similitude revers'd.
444 Young heads are giddy, and young hearts are warm,
445 And make mistakes for manhood to reform.
446 Boys are at best but pretty buds unblown,
447 Whose scent and hues are rather guess'd than known.
448 Each dreams that each is just what he appears,
449 But learns his error in maturer years,
450 When disposition like a sail unfurl'd
451 Shows all its rents and patches to the world.
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452 If therefore, ev'n when honest in design,
453 A boyish friendship may so soon decline,
454 'Twere wiser sure t' inspire a little heart
455 With just abhorrence of so mean a part,
456 Than set your son to work at a vile trade
457 For wages so unlikely to be paid.
458 Our public hives of puerile resort
459 That are of chief and most approved report,
460 To such base hopes in many a sordid soul
461 Owe their repute in part, but not the whole.
462 A principle, whose proud pretensions pass
463 Unquestioned, though the jewel be but glass,
464 That with a world not often over-nice
465 Ranks as a virtue, and is yet a vice,
466 Or rather a gross compound, justly tried,
467 Of envy, hatred, jealousy, and pride,
468 Contributes most perhaps t' inhance their fame,
469 And Emulation is its specious name.
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470 Boys once on fire with that contentious zeal
471 Feel all the rage that female rivals feel,
472 The prize of beauty in a woman's eyes
473 Not brighter than in theirs the scholar's prize.
474 The spirit of that competition burns
475 With all varieties of ill by turns,
476 Each vainly magnifies his own success,
477 Resents his fellows, wishes it were less,
478 Exults in his miscarriage if he fail,
479 Deems his reward too great if he prevail,
480 And labors to surpass him day and night,
481 Less for improvement, than to tickle spite.
482 The spur is pow'rful, and I grant its force,
483 It pricks the genius forward in its course,
484 Allows short time for play, and none for sloth,
485 And felt alike by each, advances both,
486 But judge where so much evil intervenes,
487 The end, though plausible, not worth the means.
488 Weigh, for a moment, classical desert
489 Against an heart depraved and temper hurt,
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490 Hurt too perhaps for life, for early wrong
491 Done to the nobler part, affects it long,
492 And you are staunch indeed in learning's cause,
493 If you can crown a discipline that draws
494 Such mischiefs after it, with much applause.
495 Connection form'd for int'rest, and endear'd
496 By selfish views, thus censured and cashier'd,
497 And emulation, as engend'ring hate,
498 Doom'd to a no less ignominious fate,
499 The props of such proud seminaries fall,
500 The JACHIN and the BOAZ of them all.
501 Great schools rejected then, as those that swell
502 Beyond a size that can be managed well,
503 Shall royal institutions miss the bays,
504 And small academies win all the praise?
505 Force not my drift beyond its just intent,
506 I praise a school as Pope a government;
507 So take my judgment in his language dress'd,
508 "Whate'er is best administer'd, is best."
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509 Few boys are born with talents that excel,
510 But all are capable of living well.
511 Then ask not, whether limited or large,
512 But, watch they strictly, or neglect their charge?
513 If anxious only that their boys may learn,
514 While Morals languish, a despised concern,
515 The great and small deserve one common blame,
516 Diff'rent in size, but in effect the same.
517 Much zeal in virtue's cause all teachers boast,
518 Though motives of mere lucre sway the most.
519 Therefore in towns and cities they abound,
520 For there, the game they seek is easiest found,
521 Though there, in spite of all that care can do,
522 Traps to catch youth are most abundant too.
523 If shrew'd, and of a well-constructed brain,
524 Keen in pursuit, and vig'rous to retain,
525 Your son come forth a prodigy of skill,
526 As wheresoever taught, so form'd, he will,
527 The paedagogue, with self-complacent air,
528 Claims more than half the praise as his due share;
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529 But if with all his genius he betray,
530 Not more intelligent, than loose and gay,
531 Such vicious habits as disgrace his name,
532 Threaten his health, his fortune, and his fame,
533 Though want of due restraint alone have bred
534 The symptoms that you see with so much dread,
535 Unenvied there, he may sustain alone
536 The whole reproach, the fault was all his own.
537 Oh 'tis a sight to be with joy perused
538 By all whom sentiment has not abused,
539 New-fangled sentiment, the boasted grace
540 Of those who never feel in the right place,
541 A sight surpassed by none that we can show,
542 Though Vestris on one leg still shine below,
543 A father blest with an ingenuous son,
544 Father and friend and tutour all in one.
545 How? turn again to tales long since forgot,
546 Aesop and Phaedrus and the rest? why not?
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547 He will not blush that has a father's heart,
548 To take in childish plays a childish part,
549 But bends his sturdy back to any toy
550 That youth takes pleasure in, to please his boy;
551 Then why resign into a stranger's hand
552 A task as much within your own command,
553 That God and nature and your int'rest too
554 Seem with one voice to delegate to you?
555 Why hire a lodging in a house unknown
556 For one whose tend'rest thoughts all hover round your own?
557 This second weaning, needless as it is,
558 How does it lacerate both your heart and his!
559 Th' indented stick that loses day by day
560 Notch after notch, 'till all are smooth'd away,
561 Bears witness long 'ere his dismission come,
562 With what intense desire he wants his home.
563 But though the joys he hopes beneath your roof
564 Bid fair enough to answer in the proof
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565 Harmless and safe and nat'ral as they are,
566 A disappointment waits him even there:
567 Arrived, he feels an unexpected change,
568 He blushes, hangs his head, is shy and strange,
569 No longer takes, as once, with fearless ease
570 His fav'rite stand between his father's knees,
571 But seeks the corner of some distant seat,
572 And eyes the door, and watches a retreat,
573 And least familiar where he should be most,
574 Feels all his happiest privileges lost.
575 Alas poor boy! the natural effect
576 Of love by absence chilled into respect.
577 Say, what accomplishments at school acquired
578 Brings he to sweeten fruits so undesired?
579 Thou well deserv'st an alienated son,
580 Unless thy conscious heart acknowledge none.
581 None that in thy domestic snug recess,
582 He had not made his own with more address,
583 Though some perhaps that shock thy feeling mind,
584 And better never learn'd, or left behind.
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585 Add too, that thus estranged thou can'st obtain
586 By no kind arts his confidence again,
587 That here begins with most that long complaint
588 Of filial frankness lost, and love grown faint,
589 Which, oft neglected in life's waning years,
590 A parent pours into regardless ears.
591 Like caterpillars dangling under trees
592 By slender threads, and swinging in the breeze,
593 Which filthily bewray and sore disgrace
594 The boughs in which are bred th' unseemly race,
595 While ev'ry worm industriously weaves
596 And winds his web about the rivell'd leaves;
597 So num'rous are the follies that annoy
598 'The mind and heart of ev'ry sprightly boy,
599 Imaginations noxious and perverse,
600 Which admonition can alone disperse.
601 Th' encroaching nuisance asks a faithful hand,
602 Patient, affectionate, of high command,
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603 To check the procreation of a breed
604 Sure to exhaust the plant on which they feed.
605 'Tis not enough that Greek or Roman page
606 At stated hours his freakish thoughts engage,
607 Ev'n in his pastimes he requires a friend
608 To warn, and teach him safely to unbend,
609 O'er all his pleasures gently to preside,
610 Watch his emotions and controul their tide,
611 And levying thus, and with an easy sway,
612 A tax of profit from his very play,
613 T' impress a value not to be eras'd
614 On moments squander'd else, and running all to waste.
615 And seems it nothing in a father's eye
616 That unimproved those many moments fly?
617 And is he well content, his son should find
618 No nourishment to feed his growing mind
619 But conjugated verbs, and nouns declined?
620 For such is all the mental food purvey'd
621 By public hacknies in the schooling trade,
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622 Who feed a pupils intellect with store
623 Of syntax truely, but with little more,
624 Dismiss their cares when they dismiss their flock,
625 Machines themselves, and govern'd by a clock.
626 Perhaps a father blest with any brains
627 Would deem it no abuse or waste of pains,
628 T' improve this diet at no great expence,
629 With sav'ry truth and wholesome common sense.
630 To lead his son for prospects of delight
631 To some not steep, though philosophic height,
632 Thence to exhibit to his wondering eyes
633 Yon circling worlds, their distance, and their size,
634 The moons of Jove and Saturn's belted ball,
635 And the harmonious order of them all;
636 To show him in an insect or a flow'r,
637 Such microscopic proofs of skill and pow'r,
638 As hid from ages pass'd, God now displays
639 To combat Atheists with in modern days;
640 To spread the earth before him, and commend
641 With designation of the fingers end
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642 Its various parts to his attentive note,
643 Thus bringing home to him the most remote;
644 To teach his heart to glow with gen'rous flame
645 Caught from the deeds of men of ancient fame,
646 And more than all, with commendation due
647 To set some living worthy in his view,
648 Whose fair example may at once inspire
649 A wish to copy what he must admire.
650 Such knowledge gained betimes, and which appears
651 Though solid, not too weighty for his years,
652 Sweet in itself, and not forbidding sport,
653 When health demands it, of athletic sort,
654 Would make him what some lovely boys have been,
655 And more than one perhaps that I have seen,
656 An evidence and reprehension both
657 Of the mere school-boy's lean and tardy growth.
658 Art thou a man professionally tied,
659 With all thy faculties elsewhere applied,
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660 Too busy to intend a meaner care
661 Than how to enrich thyself, and next, thine heir;
662 Or art thou (as though rich, perhaps thou art)
663 But poor in knowledge, having none to impart
664 Behold that figure, neat, though plainly clad,
665 His sprightly mingled with a shade of sad,
666 Not of a nimble tongue, though now and then
667 Heard to articulate like other men,
668 No jester, and yet lively in discourse,
669 His phrase well chosen, clear, and full of force,
670 And his address, if not quite French in ease,
671 Not English stiff, but frank and formed to please,
672 Low in the world because he scorns its arts,
673 A man of letters, manners, morals, parts,
674 Unpatronized, and therefore little known,
675 Wise for himself and his few friends alone,
676 In him, thy well appointed proxy see,
677 Armed for a work too difficult for thee,
678 Prepared by taste, by learning, and true worth,
679 To form thy son, to strike his genius forth,
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680 Beneath thy roof, beneath thine eye to prove
681 The force of discipline when back'd by love,
682 To double all thy pleasure in thy child,
683 His mind informed, his morals undefiled.
684 Safe under such a wing, the boy shall show
685 No spots contracted among grooms below,
686 Nor taint his speech with meannesses design'd
687 By footman Tom for witty and refin'd.
688 There in his commerce with the liveried herd
689 Lurks the contagion chiefly to be fear'd.
690 For since (so fashion dictates) all who claim
691 An higher than a mere plebeian fame,
692 Find it expedient, come what mischief may,
693 To entertain a thief or two in pay,
694 And they that can afford th' expence of more,
695 Some half a dozen, and some half a score,
696 Great cause occurs to save him from a band
697 So sure to spoil him, and so near at hand,
698 A point secured, if once he be supplied
699 With some such Mentor always at his side.
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700 Are such men rare? perhaps they would abound
701 Were occupation easier to be found,
702 Were education, else so sure to fail,
703 Conducted on a manageable scale,
704 And schools that have outlived all just esteem,
705 Exchang'd for the secure domestie scheme.
706 But having found him, be thou duke or earl,
707 Show thou hast sense enough to prize the pearl,
708 And as thou would'st th' advancement of thine heir
709 In all good faculties beneath his care,
710 Respect, as is but rational and just,
711 A man deem'd worthy of so dear a trust.
712 Despised by thee, what more can he expect
713 From youthful folly, than the same neglect?
714 A flat and fatal negative obtains
715 That instant, upon all his future pains;
716 His lessons tire, his mild rebukes offend,
717 And all the instructions of thy son's best friend
718 Are a stream choak'd, or trickling to no end.
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719 Doom him not then to solitary meals,
720 But recollect that he has sense, and feels.
721 And, that possessor of a soul refin'd,
722 An upright heart and cultivated mind,
723 His post not mean, his talents not unknown,
724 He deems it hard to vegetate alone.
725 And if admitted at thy board he sit,
726 Account him no just mark for idle wit,
727 Offend not him whom modesty restrains
728 From repartee, with jokes that he disdains,
729 Much less transfix his feelings with an oath,
730 Nor frown, unless he vanish with the cloth.
731 And trust me, his utility may reach
732 To more than he is hired or bound to teach,
733 Much trash unutter'd and some ills undone,
734 Through rev'rence of the censor of thy son.
735 But if thy table be indeed unclean,
736 Foul with excess, and with discourse obscene,
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737 And thou a wretch, whom, following her old plan
738 The world accounts an honourable man,
739 Because forsooth thy courage has been tried
740 And stood the test, perhaps on the wrong side,
741 Though thou hadst never grace enough to prove
742 That any thing but vice could win thy love;
743 Or hast thou a polite, card-playing wife,
744 Chained to the routs that she frequents, for life,
745 Who, just when industry begins to snore,
746 Flies, wing'd with joy, to some coach-crouded door,
747 And thrice in ev'ry winter throngs thine own
748 With half the chariots and sedans in town,
749 Thyself meanwhile e'en shifting as thou may'st,
750 Not very sober though, nor very chaste;
751 Or is thine house, though less superb thy rank,
752 If not a scene of pleasure, a mere blank,
753 And thou at best, and in thy sob'rest mood,
754 A trifler, vain, and empty of all good?
755 Though mercy for thyself thou can'st have none,
756 Hear nature plead, show mercy to thy son.
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757 Saved from his home, where ev'ry day brings forth
758 Some mischief fatal to his future worth,
759 Find him a better in a distant spot,
760 Within some pious pastor's humble cot,
761 Where vile example (your's I chiefly mean,
762 The most seducing and the oft'nest seen)
763 May never more be stamp'd upon his breast
764 Not yet perhaps incurably impress'd.
765 Where early rest makes early rising sure,
766 Disease or comes not, or finds easy cure,
767 Prevented much by diet neat and plain,
768 Or if it enter, soon starved out again.
769 Where all th' attention of his faithful host
770 Discreetly limited to two at most,
771 May raise such fruits as shall reward his care,
772 And not at last evaporate in air.
773 Where stillness aiding study, and his mind
774 Serene, and to his duties much inclined,
775 Not occupied in day-dreams, as at home,
776 Of pleasures past or follies yet to come,
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777 His virtuous toil may terminate at last
778 In settled habit and decided taste.
779 But whom do I advise? the fashion-led,
780 Th' incorrigibly wrong, the deaf, the dead,
781 Whom care and cool deliberation suit
782 Not better much, than spectacles a brute,
783 Who if their sons some slight tuition share,
784 Deem it of no great moment, whose, or where,
785 Too proud t' adopt the thoughts of one unknown,
786 And much too gay t' have any of their own.
787 But courage man! methought the muse replied,
788 Mankind are various, and the world is wide;
789 The ostrich, silliest of the feather'd kind,
790 And form'd of God without a parent's mind,
791 Commits her eggs, incautious, to the dust,
792 Forgetful that the foot may crush the trust;
793 And while on public nurs'ries they rely,
794 Not knowing, and too oft not caring why,
795 Irrational in what they thus prefer,
796 No few, that would seem wise, resemble her.
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797 But all are not alike. Thy warning voice
798 May here and there prevent erroneous choice,
799 And some perhaps, who, busy as they are,
800 Yet make their progeny their dearest care,
801 Whose hearts will ache once told what ills may reach
802 Their offspring left upon so wild a beach,
803 Will need no stress of argument t' inforce
804 Th' expedience of a less advent'rous course.
805 The rest will slight thy counsel, or condemn,
806 But they have human feelings. Turn to them.
807 To you then, tenants of life's middle state,
808 Securely placed between the small and great,
809 Whose character, yet undebauch'd, retains
810 Two thirds of all the virtue that remains,
811 Who wise yourselves, desire your sons should learn
812 Your wisdom and your ways to you I turn.
813 Look round you on a world perversely blind,
814 See what contempt is fall'n on human kind,
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815 See wealth abused, and dignities misplac'd,
816 Great titles, offices, and trusts disgrac'd,
817 Long lines of ancestry renown'd of old,
818 Their noble qualities all quench'd and cold,
819 See Bedlam's closetted and hand-cuff'd charge
820 Surpass'd in frenzy by the mad at large,
821 See great commanders making war a trade,
822 Great lawyers, lawyers without study made,
823 Churchmen, in whose esteem their blest employ
824 Is odious, and their wages all their joy,
825 Who far enough from furnishing their shelves
826 With gospel lore, turn infidels themselves,
827 See womanhood despised, and manhood shamed
828 With infamy too nauseous to be named,
829 Fops at all corners lady-like in mien,
830 Civetted fellows, smelt 'ere they are seen,
831 Else coarse and rude in manners, and their tongue
832 On fire with curses and with nonsense hung,
833 Now flush'd with drunk'ness, now with whoredom pale,
834 Their breath a sample of last night's regale,
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835 See volunteers in all the vilest arts
836 Men well endowed, of honourable parts,
837 Design'd by nature wise, but self-made fools;
838 All these, and more like these, were bred at schools.
839 And if it chance, as sometimes chance it will,
840 That though school-bred, the boy be virtuous still,
841 Such rare exceptions shining in the dark,
842 Prove rather than impeach the just remark,
843 As here and there a twinkling star descried
844 Serves but to show how black is all beside.
845 Now look on him whose very voice in tone
846 Just echos thine, whose features are thine own,
847 And stroke his polish'd cheek of purest red,
848 And lay thine hand upon his flaxen head,
849 And say, my boy, th' unwelcome hour is come,
850 When thou, transplanted from thy genial home
851 Must find a colder soil and bleaker air,
852 And trust for safety to a stranger's care;
853 What character, what turn thou wilt assume
854 From constant converse with I know not whom,
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855 Who there will court thy friendship, with what views,
856 And, artless as thou art, whom thou wilt chuse,
857 Though much depends on what thy choice shall be,
858 Is all chance-medley and unknown to me.
859 Can'st thou, the tear just trembling on thy lids,
860 And while the dreadful risque foreseen, forbids,
861 Free too, and under no constraining force,
862 Unless the sway of custom warp thy course,
863 Lay such a stake upon the losing side,
864 Merely to gratify so blind a guide?
865 Thou can'st not: Nature pulling at thine heart
866 Condemns th' unfatherly, th' imprudent part.
867 Thou would'st not, deaf to Nature's tend'rest plea,
868 Turn him adrift upon a rolling sea,
869 Nor say, go thither, conscious that there lay
870 A brood of asps, or quicksands in his way,
871 Then only govern'd by the self-same rule
872 Of nat'ral pity, send him not to school.
873 No Guard him better; Is he not thine own,
874 Thyself in miniature, thy flesh, thy bone?
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875 And hopest thou not ('tis ev'ry father's hope)
876 That since thy strength must with thy years elope;
877 And thou wilt need some comfort to assuage
878 Health's last farewell, a staff of thine old age,
879 That then, in recompense of all thy cares,
880 Thy child shall show respect to thy grey hairs,
881 Befriend thee of all other friends bereft,
882 And give thy life its only cordial left?
883 Aware then how much danger intervenes,
884 To compass that good end, forecast the means.
885 His heart, now passive, yields to thy command;
886 Secure it thine. Its key is in thine hand.
887 If thou desert thy charge and throw it wide,
888 Nor heed what guests there enter and abide,
889 Complain not if attachments lewd and base
890 Supplant thee in it, and usurp thy place.
891 But if thou guard its sacred chambers sure
892 From vicious inmates and delights impure,
893 Either his gratitude shall hold him fast,
894 And keep him warm and filial to the last,
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895 Or if he prove unkind, (as who can say
896 But being man, and therefore frail, he may)
897 One comfort yet shall cheer thine aged heart,
898 Howe'er he slight thee, thou hast done thy part.
899 Oh barb'rous! would'st thou with a Gothic hand
900 Pull down the schools what! all the schools i' th' land?
901 Or throw them up to liv'ry-nags and grooms,
902 Or turn them into shops and auction-rooms?
903 A captious question, sir, and your's is one,
904 Deserves an answer similar, or none.
905 Would'st thou, possessor of a flock, employ
906 (Apprized that he is such) a careless boy,
907 And feed him well and give him handsome pay,
908 Merely to sleep, and let them run astray?
909 Survey our schools and colleges, and see
910 A sight not much unlike my simile.
911 From education, as the leading cause,
912 The public character its colour draws,
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913 Thence the prevailing manners take their cast,
914 Extravagant or sober, loose or chaste.
915 And though I would not advertize them yet,
916 Nor write on each This Building to be Lett,
917 Unless the world were all prepared to embrace
918 A plan well-worthy to supply their place,
919 Yet backward as they are, and long have been,
920 To cultivate and keep the MORALS clean,
921 (Forgive the crime) I wish them, I confess,
922 Or better managed, or encouraged less.


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Title (in Source Edition): TIROCINIUM.
Themes: education
Genres: heroic couplet

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Source edition

Cowper, William, 1731-1800. The task: a poem, in six books. By William Cowper, ... To which are added, by the same author, An epistle to Joseph Hill, Esq. ... To which are added, ... an epistle ... and the history of John Gilpin. London: printed for J. Johnson, 1785, pp. [290]-341. [8],359,[1]p. ; 8⁰. (ESTC T14896; OTA K027776.000)

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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 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 4.0.0.

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