1 ONCE on a time two certain men,
2 No matter much for where and when;
3 (Sir Thomas one, plain William t'other,
4 A second cousin by the mother;
5 Something between a friend and servant,
6 Of titles and respects observant;)
7 Were got in philosophic chat,
8 Of pro and con, and this and that;
9 Concerning man, his occupations,
10 Pursuits and pleasures, plagues and passions:
11 The first of whom this doctrine vented,
13 The Knight, who held th' affirmative,
14 If we may babbling Fame believe,
[Page 2]
15 Tho' no great scholar, knew your Greek A,
16 Alpha, and so forth, to Omega;
17 Had fables read of beasts and birds,
18 Some reason spoke, and many words;
19 Saw cause and consequence combin'd,
20 And watch'd the emotions of the mind:
21 Was held, in short, for one of those,
22 Who know their navel from their nose;
23 And, tho' he had not read Confucius,
24 Could feel if pinch'd by old or new shoes.
25 The other, whom we William christen'd,
26 Spoke much the loudest when he listen'd.
27 In many cases men of sense
28 Know silence is good eloquence;
29 And he who means to keep his patron,
30 Must unmolested let him chatter on;
31 Must patient sit, and hear his quoth-ing,
32 And get prefer'd for saying nothing.
33 For your dependant, like your pointer,
34 Should neither tongue nor limb nor joint stir,
35 But, all attentive, crouch and watch,
36 Obedient ev'ry signal catch,
37 'Till you've discharg'd your Wit; sure token
38 He then may wag his tail and open.
39 William was but a coadjutor,
40 Sir Thomas was chief prolocutor.
[Page 3]
41 He, half in earnest, half in jest,
42 As uppermost ideas prest,
43 Emotions various could provoke;
44 Read how he thought, and what he spoke.
45 I say, friend William, nay I swear,
46 The world's not worth a wise man's care;
47 Not worth, though you hold life a blessing,
48 Fatigue of dressing and undressing:
49 Not worth, believe me, honest Will,
50 The pain of swallowing a pill.
51 Nay, life is, and I think the figure
52 Will give my argument some vigor,
53 A dream of phantasies and lies,
54 Which no man wakes from till he dies:
55 Or rather, still to speak profounder,
56 From which he wakes by sleeping sounder:
57 A nauseous draught that's never swallow'd,
58 Or by succeeding potions follow'd,
59 An everlasting, bitter bolus;
60 Disguis'd to cheat, or to condole us:
61 So, William, till you're laid in hearse,
62 I lie not, tho' I speak in verse,
63 You'll have some loathsome pois'nous pill,
64 That shall disgust your palate still.
65 Pray, tell me, what's this boasted man,
66 But some boy's top, or vixen's fan?
[Page 4]
67 By passion flirted, torn, and hurl'd,
68 And spun and whipt about the world;
69 This way and that, now there now here,
70 Set up and lash'd by Hope and Fear;
71 For some new gewgaw ever panting,
72 Enjoying nothing, all things wanting;
73 Never content with drink and meat,
74 Sufficient for himself to eat,
75 But all he can monopolizes,
76 And picks and culls and gormandizes,
77 Then wallows in th' exhaustless slough,
78 Yet ne'er suspects he has enough;
79 Has something further to desire,
80 If yeoman now, he'd next be 'Squire;
81 When 'Squire a Lord, when Lord a King,
82 When that why he'd be every thing!
83 Would grasp the globe, and for a socket
84 Compress and put it in his pocket.
85 But could he all things thus command,
86 Chang'd into stone, he'd lifeless stand,
87 By Vis Inertiae's magic wand.
88 For only can the Puppet move,
89 Play'd by the wire of dear self-love;
90 When It some pleasure would obtain,
91 Or when 'twould run away from pain.
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92 They make It caper, simple Fool,
93 Like elephant at dancing-school;
94 Pain heats the floor, and flogs like Beadle,
95 While Madam Pleasure plays the fiddle.
96 Shew me the man, or small or great,
97 With kingdoms, or without estate;
98 A buyer, seller, loser, winner,
99 Philosopher, or saint, or sinner,
100 No matter for his youth or age,
101 Whether he's simple or he's sage,
102 Of temp'rate or of torrid region,
103 Or what his colour or religion;
104 Shew me the man, throughout the earth,
105 Who, 'tween his burial and his birth,
106 Could truly say he did possess
107 A day of perfect happiness.
108 William, observe, I mean to prove
109 Our minds are so dispos'd to rove,
110 So much is Fancy giv'n to gadding,
111 For this thing or for that still madding,
112 Impetuous after some new toy,
113 She never gives you time t' enjoy
114 What God and Industry have sent,
115 But makes your life continual Lent;
116 So eager is she in pursuit,
117 She plucks and throws away the fruit;
[Page 6]
118 Or say she should sit still awhile,
119 For half an hour, or half a mile,
120 'Tis not her nature to be quiet;
121 And, so capricious is her diet,
122 A go-cart child, or woman breeding,
123 Is not more whimsical in feeding;
124 Nor can your wheedling, or your flogging,
125 Keep her consistent in her progging.
126 Quoth Will, Sir Thomas, how shall I
127 To such sound arguments reply?
128 Your oratory is so good,
129 I think it cannot be withstood;
130 Yet, something which your Worship said
131 Started a hint, if 'tis not fled,
132 Which I'll pursue, under correction,
133 And not by way of contradiction;
134 I were an ass to think of that
135 Your Worship's words come in so pat,
136 Your figures fall so very thick,
137 Like plumbs in pudding, Sir, they stick;
138 You've such abundant rhetoric
139 You've learnt by rote all Aristotle.
140 I say then life is like a bottle,
141 Which, when uncork'd, is full of liquor
142 That may be emptied slow or quicker,
[Page 7]
143 In gentle streams, or rude inflations,
144 Impell'd by soft or boist'rous passions.
145 This bottle, likewise, may contain
146 Bad vinegar, or good Champagne;
147 (That is, to shew the figure fit,
148 A Misanthrope, or man of wit)
149 Hungary water, fine and clear,
150 Or muddy, stale, and flat small-beer;
151 Your subtile spirits, or your mighty,
152 Your aqua fortis, aqua vitae;
153 Your fiery spirits, or your placid,
154 Your cordial, or corroding acid;
155 With many more, that I can't think of,
156 Which men and maids do daily drink of.
157 Whence I dare undertake to trace
158 The likeness of all human race
159 And, first, there's bawd and brandy face.
160 Which metaphor more meaning holds
161 Than the first glance, perhaps, unfolds;
162 For, I dare say, you'll own, Sir Thomas,
163 When lust and liquor overcome us,
164 Tho' sweet to taste as barley-sugar,
165 When slily ta'en in hugger-mugger,
166 Alike the brandy and the bawd,
167 Will man of health and fame defraud.
[Page 8]
168 Hold, hold, friend William, said the Knight,
169 Pull up your horse, and take me right:
170 Tho' drunkenness and fornication
171 Are vices, past all disputation,
172 Which, when indulg'd, deserve recision;
173 Yet, with Morality's permission,
174 I sometimes love my thirst to quench,
175 And, sure, I love a pretty wench!
176 Better by far that niggard Fate
177 Should man at once annihilate,
178 And out of Nature's reg'ment drum us,
179 Than take that first of pleasures from us.
180 Shall I, when the kind turtle's willing,
181 Forego the dear delight of billing?
182 When on my breast her head reclines,
183 And while my eager arm entwines
184 Around her slender yielding waist,
185 Then, when embracing, and embrac'd;
186 When I behold, impatient grown,
187 Her swelling bosom up and down
188 Impassion'd heave, and pant, and sigh,
189 Then, when ten thousand transports lie
190 Within her half-clos'd liquid eye;
191 Of pleasure then shall I be flam'd?
192 No, if I am, may I be d—d.
[Page 9]
193 In such a dear, delightful season,
194 Shall I ask leave of madam Reason?
195 A prim, precise, fanatic prude,
196 That bawls out rape if you are rude;
197 That cants and whines, and prays and preaches,
198 And hates both petticoats and breeches;
199 That, with respect to loco-motions,
200 Has such affected, queasy notions,
201 Tho' mother Church should grant commission,
202 She'd turn her nose up at co-t—n.
203 For my part, I must freely own,
204 So much have I the flesh and bone
205 Of father Adam in me cas'd,
206 When th' apple's offer'd I must taste;
207 And 'tis, indeed, my firm opinion
208 You'd do the very same, my minion.
209 For as for Joseph, whom the Jews
210 Pretend th' Egyptian did refuse,
211 I place it to the lies o' th' nation,
212 Or else an error in translation;
213 Because, if you will please to look
214 In Matthew, Chronicles, or Luke,
215 You'll find, without much pains or pother,
216 How fast these Jews begat each other:
217 And howsoe'er 't may be revil'd,
218 There's but one way to get a child.
[Page 10]
219 The seventh and tenth of Nehemiah
220 Will, likewise, prove that man a liar
221 Who should pretend that th' Israelites
222 Forbore to celebrate Love's rites;
223 And Solomon, in all his glory,
224 Took vast delight in rory tory;
225 On which he made so sweet a song,
226 A man might sing it all day long.
227 Again, friend William, know we not,
228 How sons and daughters were begot
229 By Isaac, Abraham, and Lot?
230 And, cntre nous, if I may hint
231 What may be each day read in print,
232 'Twas sometimes done, to make it snugger,
233 In your said way of hugger mugger;
234 For brother, sister, father, daughter,
235 Would eat a cherry, if chops did water.
236 It was by this kind of homogeny
237 King Priam had so vast a progeny;
238 And have not all succeeding ages
239 Follow'd th' example of these sages?
240 In short, the business must be done,
241 Or how should father come by son?
242 And, since it can't be done by proxy,
243 Duke must have Dutchess, or a doxy.
[Page 11]
244 Were these things held in persecution,
245 'Twould overturn the Constitution;
246 For how can he be call'd a free man
247 Who's not allow'd to have a leman?
248 William, who found he'ad trod o' th' corns
249 Of Letchery, drew in his horns;
250 And, while Sir Thomas gave the rein,
251 Wholly salacious, half profane,
252 To this his twittle twattle vein,
253 Knowing his humour to a hair,
254 Friend William took a different air
255 And often simper'd at the joke
256 Ere it was understood, or spoke:
257 And, for he knew 'twould please the Knight,
258 At certain places laugh'd outright;
259 Then, when the orator had spun
260 His wit, as far as it would run,
261 Reply'd, in recantation quaint,
262 I don't pretend, Sir, I'm a saint.
263 No, if you did, rejoin'd the Knight,
264 You'd be a scoundrel hypocrite.
265 Nor are there many people fonder
266 Than I, said Will, of double entendre;
267 Provided it be done quite clean,
268 And fools can't find out what you mean.
[Page 12]
269 Your Worship has that happy knack;
270 You're decent, yet retain a smack
271 You slily draw some odd allusion,
272 Yet look as grave as a Carthusian.
273 And then each hint so clean convey'd is,
274 You're quite a fav'rite with the ladies:
275 They always love a merry man,
276 Who makes them laugh behind their fan.
277 Those whom your implications hit,
278 Forgive the sin for sake o' th' wit;
279 Nor ever dream of rods in pickle,
280 When metaphors their fancies tickle
281 Concerning things which all folks dote on,
282 But yet which can't be spoke, or wrote on,
283 Except it be the way you wote on.
284 When Will thought proper thus to knuckle,
285 The Knight, forthwith, began to chuckle;
286 It put him in a merry mood,
287 To find his wit was understood:
288 Then strait, with jocund heart and phrase,
289 Retorted back friend William's praise.
290 For, though he wanted not for sense,
291 He, like his neighbours, could dispense
292 With all the flattery folks could spare,
293 And more, indeed, than was his snare.
[Page 13]
294 I've often said, both here and hence,
295 Cousin, you've more than common sense;
296 Tho' faith, I cannot chuse but smile,
297 And well I may, to think that while
298 After Miss Tickle-tail we ran,
299 The theme on which we first began
300 Is so far lost, in this digression
301 We must snuff hard to scent the question.
302 Howe'er, I'm glad our evagation,
303 With these free hints on fecundation,
304 Are but by way of conversation.
305 For, were they meant t' appear in print,
306 Tho' I, instead of flesh, were stint,
307 I would not feel the goose-quill rod,
308 No, not for fifty pounds by .
309 Which Critic would remorseless thwack,
310 With iteration, on my back.
311 True, Will replied; but here you know, Sir,
312 These slips for little or nothing go, Sir;
313 The present error's this your bent
314 Has overturn'd your argument:
315 You've prov'd, at least while veins are sappy,
316 We're very often very happy.
317 Thanks for the hint, return'd the Knight
318 Instead of wrong, I find I'm right;
[Page 14]
319 I've no digression made, my friend,
320 For now most firmly I contend,
321 It to the argument rejoin'd is,
322 Because, I find, the case in point is;
323 And, though my fancy, overheated,
324 This as a solid blessing treated,
325 A very little recollection
326 Will shew us all its imperfection.
327 Thus what we call the greatest pleasure,
328 And value so above all measure,
329 So small a portion of our time
330 Employs, when even in our prime,
331 And makes one look so foolish after,
332 Fit subject or of scorn or laughter;
333 'Twould puzzle a Grecian orator
334 To prove it worthy living for.
335 Or, should you urge, more than in doing,
336 The pleasure lies in the pursuing,
337 This, I aver, doth most provoke us,
338 Because it's all meer hocus pocus.
339 Delights may twinkle in your eye,
340 Num'rous as candles in the sky;
341 (Which, your Astronomers do hold,
342 Strange as it seems, may all be told)
343 But people find, whene'er they marry,
344 Their Hymen's heav'n not half so starry.
[Page 15]
345 Ma'am Venus, ever in mutation,
346 Gives most light at her elongation;
347 Our Venus too, without a scoff,
348 Shines brightest when she's farthest off;
349 For Bel a wife, and Bel a maid,
350 Are opposite as light and shade.
351 Your women, when in hopes of wivery,
352 Appear as they were carv'd of ivory;
353 And, though we see they carry noses,
354 They surely smell to nought but roses;
355 But, when unloos'd the virgin zone is,
356 Your alabaster flesh and bone is:
357 Your maid of snow, some short time a'ter,
358 Melts into frothy muddy water.
359 Will, who the Knight's warm temper knew,
360 Look'd as he thought the satire true;
361 But heard, like Disputant o'erthrown,
362 His arguments, and b'liev'd his own.
363 Suppos'd the cap might fit a slattern,
364 But was no universal pattern;
365 For, from most women he survey'd,
366 Whether a widow, wife, or maid,
367 He deem'd their wit, and form, and features,
368 Had made them most bewitching creatures.
[Page 17]


1 QUOTH William, Sir, the question rests
2 Concerning human happiness;
3 The which I think you would deny
4 That it exists I don't know why
5 Especially when I reflect
6 On all the riches, and respect,
7 The parks, the tenements, and manors,
8 The titles, ancestry, and honours,
9 With every other worldly blessing,
10 All which I see you, Sir, possessing.
11 Pshaw, William, you're a simple tony,
12 Because you're poor, you think that money
13 Will exorcise each human evil,
14 And send it packing to the Devil;
[Page 18]
15 That nothing could excite your cares,
16 But want, or sickness, or grey hairs:
17 You'll find, friend William, to your cost,
18 You've reckon'd here without your host.
19 You little know the freaks and fancies,
20 The ups and downs, and pranks and prances
21 Of Miss Imagination's mare,
22 When frisking forth to take the air:
23 Not troops of witches, or of fairies,
24 Sailing to sup on dead man's gizzard,
25 With Lapland or Norwegian wizard,
26 On broom-sticks e'er had such vagaries;
27 Or winc'd and winnied, cut and caper'd,
28 Half like this Lady, when she's vapor'd.
29 This, William, as you may divine,
30 Is no discovery of mine;
31 'Tis known in every king's dominion,
32 That happiness is but opinion;
33 But since the subject has been started,
34 Somewhat, perhaps, may be imparted,
35 Tho' we in whifflng squalls do sail,
36 Of whim, or humour, wit, or tale,
37 Of satire, argument, or pathos,
38 Shall steer us clear of quicksand bathos.
39 T' exemplify what I assert,
40 Once more to Fancy we'll revert;
[Page 19]
41 To Fancy, that capricious Goddess,
42 Who plays such pranks with human bodies.
43 You've read, no doubt, for who has not?
44 Who reads not Pope? Or has forgot,
45 She once suppos'd herself a pot?
46 (In which a Lady made her tea,
47 Or slily kept her ratafia)
48 This arm a kimbo, that stretch'd out,
49 She call'd the handle and the spout;
50 And most devoutly begg'd and pray'd
51 Not to be wash'd by careless maid,
52 Lest she, in action of ablution,
53 Should suffer total dissolution;
54 Deeming, full sure, a broken pate,
55 Were mortal in that fragile state.
56 Another time, as authors tell ye,
57 She call'd herself a currant jelly;
58 And squatted, crouching, quivering, quaking,
59 Imploring in most piteous taking,
60 When haunch of ven'son chanc'd to meet her,
61 No hungry Alderman might eat her.
62 A third strange whimwham, pray Sir note,
63 She once crept down a cobler's throat,
64 And there the curst, fantastic vixen
65 The simple fellow play'd her tricks on;
[Page 20]
66 Swearing, in phrases most unhallow'd,
67 Poor Crispin had his lapstone swallow'd;
68 And press'd so hard upon his liver,
69 And took such oaths, good God forgive her,
70 And told such lies, all to convince
71 The brain of our distemper'd prince;
72 That, had he been or Turk or Jew,
73 He must have thought the thing were true.
74 Another time, as I've heard say,
75 She swore she was a truss of hay,
76 And told, in wailings and alasses,
77 How she was prey'd upon by asses;
78 Tho' here, some add, this piece of fun,
79 Was but contriv'd for sake o'th' pun.
80 But I despair to think of half
81 The tricks she acts to make you laugh.
82 Sometimes she mounts into the head
83 Of some poor wretch, before half mad;
84 There his weak intellect abuses,
85 And swears, by G—, she's one o'th' Muses;
86 And, tho' before he did not know it,
87 Himself is, out of doubt, a poet.
88 Then you shall see him stamp and stare,
89 And look as wise as Moss's mare,
90 And beat his brow, and curse his fate,
91 And rub his eyes, and scratch his pate,
[Page 21]
92 And beg and pray his Polyhymnia,
93 To please to grant a rhyme to chimney;
94 Then strait unbuttons he his doublet,
95 To hammer out unmeaning couplet;
96 About it and about it lingers,
97 And counts his feet upon his fingers;
98 But tho' his thoughts run music-ally,
99 He cannot somehow make 'em tally;
100 Tho' fifty Loves and Doves are there,
101 Not any two of them will pair.
102 He studies, dozes, twirls his thumbs,
103 And when, at last, the butter comes,
104 Enraptur'd at the lucky hit,
105 And all amaz'd at his own wit,
106 Without the help of toe or tarsus,
107 He's at the top of Mount Parnassus.
108 Thus, whilst this most insiduous jade
109 The simple fellow would persuade
110 That he's the only man i' th' moon,
111 And all the world shall know it soon;
112 That she'll provide him better forage,
113 And give him plumbs to put in's porridge;
114 Likewise, or else it shall be curst hard,
115 Will send him mutton to his mustard;
116 That woodcock, ortolan, and chicken
117 Are ready roasted for his picking;
[Page 22]
118 Thus, while he waddles up Fame's ladder,
119 As empty and as big as bladder,
120 Inflated and possess'd by legion,
121 And thinks he soon shall reach the region,
122 Where he'll p-ss down, while they adore him,
123 On all that ever went before him,
124 Instead of finding he's more glorious
125 Than Bantam King, of fame notorious;
126 The d d, insidious, sly suborner
127 Hath pill'ried him in poet's corner.
128 Sometimes the wicked hussey steals
129 Into the head, or rather heels,
130 Of a dull cit, or weak patrician,
131 And, lo! behold a politician!
132 See how he runs about the town,
133 Cries this man up, and that man down;
134 Gives tongue and toe eternal action,
135 The busiest loudest tool of Faction;
136 Harangues at taverns, mounts the table,
137 With piteous phiz, prognosticable,
138 Foretels a fact by way of fable;
139 (He had it from a wise Phry-gian)
140 As how an ass may spurn a lion.
141 Thus makes his senseless hearers stare,
142 In hopes next night to fill the chair.
[Page 23]
143 Thus, having first pull'd up his breeches,
144 Unloads most lamentable speeches
145 From belly warehouse, where they lie
146 Pack'd up and stow'd, all cut and dry;
147 Then wipes his eyes, and eke his nose,
148 And weeps his bleeding country's woes;
149 For if so be, as how, because
150 He's one o'th' guardians of her laws;
151 And then the beetle-brain'd rebuker
152 Abjures all filthy lust of lucre;
153 And swears so fervently he's honest,
154 He almost thinks himself in earnest;
155 Then prophesies, like Jeremiah,
156 Till he makes all his hearers cry ah!
157 Tells how the people are abus'd,
158 What places, pensions, he refus'd;
159 Of trade declin'd, supplies mispent,
160 How farmers cannot pay their rent;
161 How, what is most to be lamented,
162 Not one in fifty's represented;
163 How 'tis our duty to combine,
164 T' eradicate or countermine
165 Prerogative, since all may see
166 Men who are govern'd can't be free;
167 How, 'mong a people wise and brave,
168 The King should be the only slave;
[Page 24]
169 How, might he carry on the farce,
170 He'd strip him bare as a bird's a se
171 Of sceptres, crowns, and glories garish,
172 And send him packing to his parish.
173 Then vents he mouthfuls of big breath,
174 Of traitors, Tower-hill and death;
175 So many necks has he to stretch,
176 You'd think th' infatuated wretch
177 Were Lord Chief Justice or Jack Ketch.
178 Not Welch itself, by Welchmen utter'd,
179 Was e'er with more vehemence sputter'd;
180 His words so singe you as they sally,
181 You'd swear he'd wildfire in his belly;
182 Or that the hissing, quacking gander
183 Maintain'd, incog, a salamander.
184 But should you from these fumes of reason
185 Subtract hems, epithets, and treason;
186 Of all this wond'rous waste of brains
187 You'd quickly find that nought remains.
188 Friend William, didst thou e'er behold
189 A flock of sheep, pent in a fold?
190 And didst thou see, when thou wert gazing,
191 The shepherd turn them out a grazing?
192 If so, thou couldst not chuse but note
193 How stupidly, within their cote,
[Page 25]
194 Like wond'ring clown with oh la-a!
195 These sheep have stood and bleated Ba!
196 And how they wanted, 'mid their moping,
197 The instinct to begin eloping;
198 How they'd not stir a single foot,
199 'Till crook or cur had set 'em to't.
200 But, when the first had pass'd the hurdle,
201 A man of Gotham might as soon
202 Forth from a fish-pond rake the moon
203 As keep them in their twiggen girdle.
204 William, just so, your patriot sheep
205 Will from their torpid stupor leap,
206 And bound o'er every proper fence
207 Of law, of loyalty, and sense,
208 Soon as some knave, adroit and knowing,
209 Has set the stupid flock agoing.
210 This, William, give me leave to say,
211 Of all the whims in Fancy's pate,
212 Will most to wickedness betray
213 Those whom it shall contaminate.
214 And yet, methinks, I've heard you plead,
215 Said Will, as tho' it were your creed,
216 With wond'rous force of elocution,
217 In favour of the constitution;
218 As tho' you would gain proselytes,
219 To struggle for the people's rights;
[Page 26]
220 Have heard you vow, with iteration,
221 Indeed, with awful imprecation,
222 To see them violated, rather,
223 With your own hand, you'd stab your father!
224 Ay, quick return'd the impetuous Knight
225 May plagues and perils infinite,
226 May ev'ry pest Hell could supply
227 O'erwhelm my house and me, if I,
228 Tho' I detest the horrid fact,
229 Would not this tragedy enact
230 E'er see, howe'er th' accursed crime were mourn'd,
231 E'er see the Constitution overturn'd!
232 But, when a Monarch fills the throne,
233 Whom even Faction's self must own
234 Is anxious still in Virtue's cause,
235 And holds inviolate those laws,
236 Which are the comments of his pow'r;
237 His guide, his sword, his shield, his tow'r;
238 A Monarch merciful and just,
239 Who so reveres his sacred trust,
240 That, rather than o'erstep the mound
241 By which he's circumscrib'd and bound,
242 He patient hears, audacious grown,
243 The traitor's speech approach the throne;
244 Forgets, to gain his people's love,
245 Revenge, which Pity would approve;
[Page 27]
246 Feels the black hand of Malice press
247 With tenfold weight, nor seeks redress;
248 But takes the noblest way to Fame,
249 Abhorrent of the tyrant's name
250 When virtues such as these preside,
251 Shall I with venom'd tongue deride?
252 Or labour, with unhallow'd hand,
253 To sow dissension thro' the land?
254 Shall I become a nation's scourge,
255 With frontless, damn'd ambition urge
256 An ignorant and headstrong rage,
257 And every knave and fool engage,
258 To bawl for me, and spread sedition,
259 Regardless of mankind's perdition,
260 And, for some partial, private good,
261 Plunge thus a weeping world in blood;
262 Tear the poor peasant from his home,
263 And send the widow to the tomb;
264 Nations make waste and desolate,
265 That once were happy, rich, and great?
266 Oh! curst! oh, doubly curst, be he,
267 Who, thus, from human pity free,
268 Disclaiming Nature's social ties,
269 Deaf to a suffering people's cries,
270 Sinks millions, that himself may rise!
[Page 28]
271 Gives War and Devastation birth,
272 And hurls Destruction o'er the earth.
273 My heart's appall'd! My blood runs cold!
274 Methinks, affrighted, I behold
275 Insatiate Rage, by Discord led,
276 Where Faction shakes her snaky head!
277 The yell of Death howls in my ear!
278 Lo! brother's blood their hands besmear!
279 Their garments dy'd in matron's gore,
280 By children slain whom once they bore!
281 Vain are the virgin's streaming eyes,
282 The groans of age, and orphan's cries;
283 No help the mother's shrieks obtain,
284 The kneeling wife implores in vain;
285 Where Rape defil'd her sacred bed,
286 Her husband mangled lies, and dead!
287 No tears could stay th' impending blow,
288 Fell Discord mocks at human woe;
289 Remorseless gives the fatal stab,
290 And views the vital fountain ebb;
291 Beholds the writhing infant die,
292 Hears Nature utter her last cry;
293 Reviews the havoc she has made,
294 Her prowess, arm, and clotted blade;
295 Exults, recounts each mortal thrust,
296 Each act of carnage and of lust;
[Page 29]
297 With horrid pleasure sucks the parting breath,
298 Then flies to seek new scenes of blood and death!
299 These are thy deeds, from thee they sprung;
300 Thy ranc'rous heart and clam'rous tongue,
301 Oh Faction! most accursed siend!
302 War, Discord, Slaughter, Rage conven'd;
303 Bade them, their hellish flags unfurl'd,
304 Proclaim thee Mistress of the World.
305 Oh William, could a single hand
306 But drive that Daemon from the land
307 Were it but ah, the wish is vain,
308 A tyrant's veins the steel may drain,
309 A Demagogue is never slain;
310 For while the fire funereal flashes,
311 A hundred rise from forth his ashes.
312 But let us quit the dismal theme;
313 'Tis painful William in th' extreme:
314 This, only, I intreat you'll note,
315 Not one example I can quote
316 More firmly proves my first position
317 That is, the hapless inhibition
318 Which Fancy lays, or more or less,
319 On what's call'd human happiness.
320 When Passions, violent as these,
321 Once on the restless bosom seize,
322 Labours, vexations, cares, and fears
323 Increase, still, with encreasing years.
[Page 31]


1 NOW let us once again proceed,
2 With Madam Fancy, and her breed
3 Of airy visions in the brain:
4 But this much let me first explain;
5 I can't perhaps at all times stay
6 The application to convey,
7 If with the subject I should wax warm.
8 Take this, then, as a general axiom:
9 There's not an instance I shall cite,
10 Of Miss Imagination's flight,
11 But tends to prove how, more or less,
12 She cheats us of our happiness.
13 Remember this, and be aware on't,
14 For tho' it often seem apparent,
[Page 32]
15 That she on some delight is feeding,
16 Or is with joy and pleasure breeding,
17 She swells, as presently you'll find,
18 Either with water, or with wind;
19 Or else, with many a strange contortion,
20 Brings forth an embrio in abortion.
21 The only comfort she is skill'd in
22 Is that fine art call'd Castle-building:
23 Pursuing which, sometimes, she'll rise
24 Ten thousand leagues above the skies;
25 And, ere you'd empty Mah'met's pitcher,
26 Find fifty thousand whims bewitch her;
27 There will the busy brain-sick fool
28 Among th' immortals place her stool:
29 But, on so ticklish a foundation,
30 The slightest jog of pain, or passion,
31 Strait tumbles down my anti-mentor,
32 Ten thousand leagues below the center.
33 Should you demand the reason why
34 She sinks so low, and soars so high,
35 Is strong yet feeble, quick yet slow,
36 I'll tell you, William when I know.
37 Anon, invited by the weather,
38 She'll perch upon an ostrich feather;
39 Whence she'll persuade, with wheedling air,
40 Some maid to pin it in her hair:
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41 And there, to pay her thanks and duty,
42 She sits and forms the line of beauty;
43 Waves, curtsies, nods, and bows, to please
44 Each well-dress'd passenger she sees;
45 Hoping to find that man in dis-tress
46 Who does not long to kiss her mistress.
47 And, should the dear bewitching maid
48 But take her to a Masquerade,
49 Or jig her tail down at a Court dance,
50 She swells to see her own importance!
51 The posture which you put your lip in
52 Tells me you think you've caught me tripping:
53 That, vice versa to my plan,
54 I'm proving now my goose a swan.
55 But, though you think you're Signior Sly-boots,
56 I'm coming with a pair of dry puts.
57 And, first, friend William, pray declare,
58 Had Fancy coax'd the gentle fair
59 Some social duty to sustain,
60 Instead of bidding her be vain
61 And ogle ev'ry petit maitre,
62 Had not her pleasure been much greater?
63 Again pray did you never find,
64 From observations on your mind,
65 When you've been dup'd into applause,
66 By crowns and sceptres made of straws,
[Page 34]
67 Have ran to seize, hot and impetuous,
68 Some whiz-gig of an ignis-fatuus
69 Have call'd a council on your cloaths,
70 And plac'd a patch beside your nose,
71 That you might rival certain beaus
72 To prove yourself the drunkard's match,
73 Have clapt and chorus'd ev'ry catch
74 And roar'd, and been damnation jolly,
75 Lest you had been outdone in folly
76 When back conducted, by reflection,
77 To reason, and to recollection;
78 I say, with most abundant gall,
79 Abjur'd you not the midnight brawl?
80 Deplor'd you not your time thus fled,
81 At ev'ry throbbing of your head?
82 And curst, in ev'ry various shape,
83 The fops and fools you strove to ape?
84 While strenuous, thus, Sir Thomas pleads,
85 Will smiles assent the Knight proceeds.
86 Sometimes our minx, of grandeur vain,
87 Is seated in a lady's train,
88 While fops behind, and fops before,
89 Surround, attend her, and adore;
90 And, with a civet cat's assistance,
91 The rabble keep at awful distance.
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92 There, like our Monarch, heav'n bless him,
93 When Common-council-men address him,
94 She hears with dignity their speeches,
95 With mildness answers each demand,
96 Then strait presents her lady's hand,
97 And bids them kiss, and grow like leeches.
98 Or, rather, like, with cannon's rouse,
99 The King proceeding to the House:
100 For thus, with mien majestical,
101 She spreads the flowing garment round,
102 And, as it slowly sweeps the ground,
103 Is drawn in state along the Mall.
104 But if, her reason to recall,
105 A little rain should chance to fall,
106 Asham'd of her fantastic feats,
107 She shrinks, and hides her in the plaits:
108 Most cursedly chagrin'd to hear,
109 Miss Daggletail hiss in her ear.
110 Oft, with ad inquirendum big,
111 She squats down on a Judge's wig,
112 And hears, with most affected patience,
113 Rejoinders bully replications;
114 Thinks it behoveth her to stay,
115 Tho' 'twere 'till resurrection day,
116 Most solemnly to hear 'em argu' on
117 But, tir'd at last of law and jargon,
[Page 36]
118 She tells my Lord its very late,
119 Or, tickling, makes him scratch his pate,
120 And shake his well-fill'd wig about her;
121 Then skulks off in a shower of powder.
122 In graceful shape, you'll sometimes see her,
123 Pendant at Miss or Madam's ear,
124 Sit bragging how she has the art
125 To deck that unimportant part;
126 To prove which farther still she goes,
127 And bobs about a Banyan's nose:
128 But, if a cold should seize her vassal,
129 And rheum should run down sewer nasal,
130 No dog more simple phyz e'er put on,
131 When he was bid beware of mutton.
132 Of this see more, if you desire,
133 Cantus Secundus, Matthew Prior,
134 Who, to his most harmonious lyre,
135 Sang something like the present song,
136 And sang so various, sweet, and long,
137 I'm troubled, with my notes jejune,
138 To keep from strumming Matthew's tune.
139 Observe, my friend, before my next
140 Remark, I chuse to change my text;
141 I chuse to call our old parole,
[Page 37]
143 The dictionary search, you'll find
144 SOUL is synonimous to MIND;
145 And MIND is with IMAGINATION
146 The same thing held, throughout the nation.
147 And seeing, Will, I speak in rhyme
148 Of subjects vulgar and sublime,
149 I'll wrest the word, or phrase, to my sense,
150 That is I'll take poetic licence.
151 I tergiverse, as you shall see,
152 But let that rest 'tween you and me,
153 To introduce a similie.
154 The body's an ingenious house;
155 The soul a sort of little mouse,
156 That through some chink, or cranny, enters,
157 And seldom into day-light ventures;
158 But duly takes her midnight ramble,
159 In zig-zag motions skimble skamble:
160 Is found nocturnally eloping,
161 Whene'er the door (the mouth) is open;
162 And scuds and gibbers in the glades,
163 To fright your clownish men and maids;
164 And frisks and glides about the bed,
165 And often makes my Lady dread
166 She hears a thief or sees a sprite,
167 And ring her bell, and strike a light;
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168 When strait the cause of all her fears
169 Jumps down her throat, and disappears.
170 This mouse herself, both day and night,
171 Is also often in a fright;
172 For, not to mention mynheer rat,
173 She swoons if you should name a cat.
174 By rat and cat, no doubt, you ween;
175 I Hope and Fear, friend William, mean:
176 Who keep such watch, o'er madam's diet,
177 She scarce can mump a crust in quiet;
178 But goes with divers fears and pains to't,
179 Although she's hid behind the wainscot.
180 And though the foe's not under arms,
181 She's always subject to alarms.
182 For why? she oft has felt their claws,
183 When farthest, as she deem'd, from paws;
184 And when she thought to lick her chaps,
185 Has many times been caught in traps
186 When least she dreamt of such mishaps.
[Page 39]


1 MY similie is at an end;
2 To Fancy we'll return, my friend.
3 Sometimes she'll take it in her head,
4 To sit and muse among the dead;
5 And then, before your eye could twinkle,
6 She'll hop to th' charnel-house, and sprinkle
7 Some favorite friend's unconscious bones,
8 And hear again his dying groans;
9 And kiss his lips, and catch his sighs,
10 And cleanse his brow, and close his eyes;
11 And wring her hands, and rend her hair,
12 In all the horrors of despair:
13 As when she caught his parting breath,
14 In the last agonies of death.
[Page 40]
15 Nor are such griefs to her ideal;
16 With Fancy every thing is real:
17 Which gives occasion to your sceptic,
18 Or, rather, to herself, to deem,
19 From these emotions epileptic,
20 That she exists but in a dream.
21 That soul and body, matter and spirit,
22 With all which men think they inherit,
23 To which they give such fond reception,
24 Is nothing but a meer deception.
25 I can't, said William, I protest,
26 Conceive such things, except in jest,
27 Have ever enter'd mortal head;
28 Have ever, yet, been sung, or said.
29 Then, pray inform me, by what token, Sir,
30 I shall gain certainty, fair spoken, Sir,
31 Replied Sir Thomas: or what sign
32 Shall bring conviction, friend of mine,
33 That I am now with you debating,
34 And 'gainst the post exonerating:
35 Or, though I think I make it shake,
36 I shall not shortly start and wake.
37 Why, Sir, last night, in my first sleep,
38 I, at my spigot end, did weep;
39 (Observe, when stomach too replete is,
40 I'm subject to your diabetes;
[Page 41]
41 Which, though the bed it will besmear,
42 Is sweeter than your diarrhoea.)
43 I say, I stood against the wall,
44 And saw and heard the water fall;
45 It could not be behind the curtain,
46 So well convinc'd was I, and certain:
47 But more to prove it to the million,
48 I wrangled with my own postillion,
49 Dar'd the best man that e'er wore head
50 To prove that I then p t the bed.
51 And yet, for all my fending feats,
52 Molly was forc'd to change the sheets;
53 At least, so did I after deem,
54 For so depos'd my waking dream.
55 But which was right, or which was wrong,
56 To your Logicians doth belong,
57 From Mr. Minor and Mr. Major,
58 By consequent, or else by wager,
59 These doubts and darkness to dispel;
60 For I'll be d d if I can tell.
61 Again I dreamt one night before,
62 As I was standing at my door,
63 A woman came a frightful figure
64 And of a pistol held the trigger;
65 Her hands were bloody she would enter,
66 And, as I follow'd, to prevent her
[Page 42]
67 From strangling my beloved Nancy,
68 She striding forward, to my fancy,
69 Just then, as I with fear was fainting,
70 I look'd and found her head was wanting.
71 And now my courage had forsook me,
72 Another terror overtook me.
73 Instead of Nancy's massacre,
74 I found that I had murder'd her;
75 For, being headless, it was plain
76 She had by somebody been slain;
77 So dreading to be left i' th' lurch,
78 I made a skip to top o' th' Church,
79 And on the steeple sat me down,
80 And laugh'd, and look'd about the town.
81 Here I was seiz'd a-new with fright;
82 For, meditating on the height,
83 And seeing nothing on the wall
84 That I could catch to save my fall,
85 I found, by calculation true,
86 As I look'd down, and took a view,
87 E'er I could light in streets or lanes,
88 'Twas odds that I dash'd out my brains.
89 Now for a moment I forgot
90 If I had being, or had not;
91 Then found myself upon my feet,
92 And walking up a spacious street:
[Page 43]
93 But, ere I could proceed much further,
94 Was taken up, and hung for murder;
95 To Sweeps and Sandmen did exhibit
96 A body dangling to a gibbet.
97 And now, I was not only vex'd,
98 But, somehow, damnably perplex'd,
99 To think, on finding I was dead,
100 What I should do to get my bread;
101 But in the midst of all this thrall,
102 I jump'd from thence to Surgeon's Hall:
103 Where I beheld a row of fellows,
104 That just were taken from the gallows;
105 Ill-looking, ragged, vile companions,
106 And strung all round like ropes of onions;
107 By wires hung pendant, as their wont is,
108 'Tween os occipitis et frontis.
109 And here, instead of being dissected,
110 I see those operations acted.
111 My perinaeum shrinks to note 'em;
112 I clap my hand upon my scrotum,
113 And view, the while my flesh doth quiver,
114 Now this man's heart, then that man's liver.
115 No mortal yet, by day or night,
116 Ever beheld more shocking sight.
117 Yet they're alive, nor are they screaming,
118 But wrangling, singing, and blaspheming,
[Page 44]
119 From mouths that with most ghastly grin,
120 Tobacco take, and beg for gin.
121 And here, amidst this scene of terrors,
122 I feel insufferable horrors;
123 I fly, oppress'd with dreadful gloom,
124 To every corner of the room:
125 From this man start, and jerk from t'other,
126 Then bob my back against another
127 Swifter than ball in Tennis-court,
128 'Till Nature can no more support,
129 But shrieks with violent agitation,
130 And, waking, says its suffocation:
131 Or swears some fiend her rest was troubling,
132 Some Night-mare, Witch, or glum Hobgoblin.
133 One other vision give me leave,
134 Among my arguments, to weave.
135 I went one night, about eleven,
136 To bed or, rather went to Heaven.
137 'Twas in the latter end of spring,
138 My heart was light as Wood-lark's wing;
139 My health was good, my spirits better,
140 My mind without a single fetter;
141 By cares nor crosses was I teaz'd,
142 Nor spleen, nor passion, on me seiz'd:
143 I mean to say, I felt, just then,
144 What happiness is call'd, by men.
[Page 45]
145 I cannot give sufficient cause,
146 I only know that so it was;
147 And that such feelings, as it seems,
148 Do gen'rate most delightful dreams.
149 I went to bed, then, thus dispos'd,
150 And, as I guess, not long had doz'd
151 Before I fell, by some blest chance,
152 Into a kind of heav'nly trance;
153 Unconscious I of sleep or bed,
154 No pillow now supports my head,
155 Nor bolts, nor bars, nor walls restrain,
156 Nor heavy limbs my soul detain;
157 But, gliding on, by swift degrees,
158 I seem to be where'er I please:
159 I lightly leap o'er brook, or briar,
160 And step as far as I desire.
161 Anon, on lofty hill I stand,
162 View the green corn, and furrow'd land;
163 See mountain, valley, wood and mead,
164 And shepherd stray, and cattle feed;
165 And distant hills, and waters spy,
166 That glitter pleasure to the eye;
167 While the sweet landscape doth unite
168 Innumerous objects of delight.
169 Then, quick as thought, they instant take
170 The form of an extensive lake,
[Page 46]
171 In amphitheatre capacious,
172 A flat of waters, bright and spacious,
173 Which Fancy quickly scatters o'er
174 With islands, towns, and many a shore,
175 Where verdure smiles, and men are seen,
176 And happy Nature plays serene.
177 Here, while I view the water's gleam,
178 I find myself amid the stream;
179 And, as the gentle current glides,
180 My active thought my body guides
181 To ship or shore, now there, now here,
182 Sportive and undisturb'd by fear;
183 And, as the waters me embrace,
184 I vagrant roam from place to place:
185 And, as I lave each happy limb,
186 And strike, and dart, and lightly skim,
187 I think, good God! how well I swim!
188 While thus supine I lie, anon,
189 I twinkle, and the whole is gone;
190 The scene is chang'd, no more appear
191 Or ships, or towns, or islands, near.
192 No more the chrystal waves are seen,
193 Two tow'ring mountains I'm between;
194 Prodigious in their height and size,
195 Their summits lie beyond the skies;
[Page 47]
196 Their magnitude new wonder brings,
197 From which a pleasing grandeur springs;
198 Such vast immensity before
199 The face of Nature never wore:
200 Nor e'er in me, till now did blend,
201 Such happy pow'rs to comprehend.
202 While down the winding vale I stray,
203 Upon an ivory pipe I play
204 A various and delightful lay.
205 My fingers touch as though they flew,
206 Each note's so sweet, and yet so new,
207 I play and listen to the sound,
208 From rock to rock I lightly bound;
209 Sweet echos ev'ry cavern fill,
210 While my agility and skill
211 A mixture breed of strange surmize,
212 Of doubt, of pleasure, and surprize!
213 Encourag'd by the past, I try
214 If it be possible to fly:
215 When, strange to think, with utmost ease
216 I sail adown the pleasant breeze.
217 Amazement new, and new demur,
218 Again, and yet again, recur.
219 Have I my former self forgot?
220 Or is it me or is it not?
[Page 48]
221 Again I try, again I find,
222 My body lighter than the wind;
223 Till, wanton grown, with joy and mirth,
224 I spurn the bosom of the earth;
225 Into the middle region mount,
226 And cities, seas, and kingdoms count:
227 Strait recollect, and now behold,
228 Whate'er I'ad read, or had been told.
229 My mind, my sight, my soul, expand;
230 I view the near and distant land,
231 Each object see, examine all,
232 And understand both great and small!
233 The freedom, too, with which I range
234 Is more extatic, than 'tis strange.
235 When, as I high, and higher, fly,
236 Sudden appear, throughout the sky,
237 Horses and men in glittering arms,
238 And nought is heard but war's alarms:
239 The warm bright sun, in splendant glances,
240 Plays quivering on their burnish'd lances.
241 Yet as I view the shining steel,
242 No sense of danger do I feel;
243 To win renown I now aspire,
244 And glow with all the hero's fire;
245 My arm bears vict'ry, I presage,
246 But, ere the armies can engage
[Page 49]
247 I look again, when, lo! the host
248 Is all in dancing meteors lost!
249 Still Night appears, and Luna's beams,
250 And light shoots o'er the sky in gleams.
251 But how shall I find words to tell,
252 What, William, after this befel?
253 Conceive me sailing still on high,
254 That, swifter than the winds, I fly;
255 That, now, I feel a tempest rise,
256 In which I'm tost about the skies,
257 Which are with clouds and gloom o'ercast,
258 A trumpet blows a solemn blast;
259 Then, in the murky hemisphere,
260 Myriads of seraphim appear,
261 That all the heav'ns illuminate,
262 And joys, unfelt before, create.
263 They cry aloud "THE GENERAL DOOM,
265 And lo! as down my sight I bend,
266 Th' inhabitants of earth ascend!
267 In swarms they rise, from latest time,
268 From ev'ry nation, ev'ry clime!
269 The quick and dead of ev'ry coast,
270 Now, smiling, meet the angelic host!
[Page 50]
271 All upward, now, their course pursue,
272 'Till heav'n itself appears in view!
273 'Till the fam'd music of the spheres,
274 Salutes our ravish'd wond'ring ears!
275 But, William, just as I believe,
276 No pow'r can me of bliss bereave
277 Just as th' eternal gates unfold,
278 And, past conceiving, I behold
279 The glories I must soon partake
280 William just then alas I wake.
281 Suddenly, thus, my hopes were gone,
282 In less time than St. Paul's strikes one!
283 And all, because, such was my lot,
284 Before I went to sleep, god-wot,
285 A certain duty I forgot.
286 Thus, while I had my heavenly trances,
287 My Lady had her earthly fancies.
288 Thus, while I floated in the air,
289 She, restless, tumbling here and there,
290 With her sharp elbow spoil'd my mirth,
291 And cast me down from heav'n to earth.
292 Oh could I but, my friend, have tarried
293 In this blest place but I was married
294 And women, Will, are very loath
295 Men should feel joys not felt by both.
[Page 51]
296 Just so Eurydice, I've read,
297 Brought down her spouse among the dead,
298 On earth she would not let him dwell,
299 While she was forc'd to live in Hell.
[Page 52]


1 CUZ', I've related all these visions,
2 To help our logical decisions;
3 From which I can't but draw conclusion,
4 That all is chaos and confusion:
5 That I'm as well convinc'd each night
6 As the next day, that I am right:
7 In walking can no more confide
8 Than when on "wings of winds I ride."
9 The consequence of which I take, is,
10 That, whether man asleep or 'wake is,
11 His happiness, whate'er it seem,
12 Is full as false as any dream.
13 How often, pray, are we mistaken,
14 When we conclude we're really waking?
[Page 54]
15 How often does each simple bustard
16 Firmly believe rice-pudding custard?
17 And is not ev'ry term that's us'd,
18 Still, liable to be abus'd?
19 A relative that has no standard,
20 That may mean rear, when it says van-guard?
21 What you intend by sweet and sour,
22 By short and long, by day and hour,
23 Are but significant, and true,
24 When felt by me as felt by you.
25 You may affirm the ven'son sweet,
26 I swear it is not fit to eat.
27 Some liquorice love, and others lacker
28 Their grinders with quid of tobacco.
29 Your birds of passage fly, with ease,
30 From land to land, across the seas;
31 From Dover Cliff to th' church at Dieppe,
32 Your swallows say is but a step;
33 But ask a snail, or slow-worm, either,
34 How long they'd be in crawling thither.
35 In Lapland, if I'm told aright,
36 Summer is day, and Winter night:
37 Then how can you in terms be clear,
38 If half a day be half a year?
39 Whatever may be said at college,
40 SENSATION is the source of knowledge;
[Page 55]
41 Our tongue, eyes, nose, and ears perceptive,
42 Taste, colour, smell, and sound make captive:
43 These bring the various wares they deal in,
44 And stock their great emporium FEELING;
45 But then they're all so curst conceited,
46 They everlastingly are cheated:
47 Are so deceiving, and deceiv'd,
48 They ne'er deserve to be believ'd;
49 So simple are, and void of art,
50 They'll take the veriest juggler's part;
51 Wou'd Breslaw help, them to trepan, Sir,
52 Then hang him for a necromancer.
53 William, whose tongue began to itch,
54 Thought he, who such attention paid
55 To ev'ry thing Sir Thomas said,
56 Might be allow'd to make a speech;
57 Then, with a look a little sly,
58 Return'd the Knight this answer dry.
59 Men, Sir, may play you very odd tricks,
60 Who have but small skill in dioptrics;
61 Ev'n I, here, simple as I stand,
62 Can make the shadow of my hand
63 Spread over many a rood of land;
64 For, place a candle out, at night,
65 Your trav'ler, oft, its twinkling light
[Page 56]
66 Will fix his distant, longing eyes on,
67 While it illumes the whole horizon.
68 But let me curve my hand around it,
69 The light's all lost, and who hath found it?
70 Why, Sir, my hollow palm, 'tis plain,
71 Doth miles and miles of light contain;
72 And, most ungenerous too, doth hide
73 The weary wand'rer's hope and guide.
74 By which you mean to hint, no doubt,
75 I've put your farthing candle out;
76 Or at the best, my cousin comrade,
77 What light you have I would obumbrate.
78 But I can prove, by reading Clerkly,
79 From Leibnitz, Malbranche, Bayle, and Berkley,
80 Things far more strange, friend Will, than these;
81 Can prove, whenever you shall please,
82 The mite is larger than the cheese.
83 That, howsoever you suppose,
84 You do not walk behind your nose;
85 That there's not water, in the sea,
86 Enough to make a dish of tea;
87 That, when he drinks, your guzzling sot
88 Don't touch the handle, or the pot;
89 Nay, more, can prove, without your candle,
90 There's neither drink, sot, pot, or handle.
[Page 57]
91 Your Philomath, with philology,
92 Quoth Will, I grant, doth often dodge ye
93 At hide and seek, Sir, intellectual,
94 To make your errors more effectual;
95 'Mong A's and B's so snug will hide him,
96 Tho' you look near him, and beside him,
97 Tho' fifty times you've round him gallop'd,
98 So close, in mystery, he's invellop'd,
99 That, tho' by hearing him, you wind him,
100 The devil a bit, Sir, can you find him.
101 My understanding so obtuse is,
102 I own, I cannot find the uses
103 Of all these arguments, to shew
104 We nothing are, and nothing know.
105 Were oracles by Wisdom utter'd,
106 Still we must think our bread is butter'd,
107 Whatever Sceptics may imagine us,
108 When tongue and fingers are ol'aginous;
109 And, for this part o'th' argument,
110 I quote from you, Sir, precedent;
111 "These things, to us, are not ideal,
112 With Fancy every thing is real."
113 For, what to me, Sir, would it matter,
114 Altho' my wine were really water,
115 If, as it trickled down my gullet,
116 It gave me mirth, and pleas'd my palate?
[Page 58]
117 Nay, sure, Sir, 'twould be very rude,
118 Or worse, 'twould be ingratitude,
119 If, while I drink it, at your table,
120 I should affirm 'twere nought but fable.
121 Your learned folks are, oft, such fools,
122 And know so little of their tools,
123 When they chop logic, silly elves,
124 They're apt to hack and hew themselves.
125 Whence some deduce, from proofs like these,
126 That ign'rance is a blest disease;
127 That he who after knowledge lingers
128 But grasps a flame, and burns his fingers;
129 And his ambitious folly shews,
130 Like whelps that yelp, and run at crows.
131 Hark you, friend Will, you're last suggestion
132 Is quite on my side of the question.
133 Since ignorance is despicable,
134 And makes, who has it, one o'th' rabble:
135 And learning is, still, something worse;
136 You've form'd one comprehensive curse,
137 More vast, and certain to engulph us,
138 Than that erst utter'd by Ernulphus.
139 The more we search, the more we find,
140 We're feeble, foolish, vain, and blind;
141 This only certain seems to be,
142 We're all absurd uncertainty.
[Page 59]
143 Our joys are false, and false our tears,
144 False are our hopes, and false our fears.
145 Our pleasure, like the rainbow, shews
146 Then only beauteous when not close;
147 Tho', glorious in its shining birth,
148 It seems to reach from heav'n to earth,
149 Approach to touch it, and you'll see
150 'Twill vanish in nonentity!
151 I own, said Will, I'm at a loss,
152 You press the point so very close;
153 You scarely can be contradicted,
154 Yet I don't wish to be convicted;
155 For, tho' with you I cannot cope,
156 So much my int'rest 'tis to hope
157 The joys my young imagination
158 Foretold should follow, in rotation,
159 Each after each, as life advances,
160 Were truths, I'm loth to think them trances.
161 But, granting all as false and vain
162 As meteors, caus'd by sun and rain,
163 Tho' active pleasures should beguile 'em,
164 Men may in passive find asylum.
165 YOU, Sir, whose well-provided boat,
166 Blest Independence keeps afloat,
167 While she thus condescends to steer,
168 What tempests have YOU, Sir, to fear?
[Page 60]
169 She, with expert and jocund crew,
170 Weathers all winds that ever blew.
171 Should tow'ring Pride contemptuous think her,
172 And make her strike, It could not sink her;
173 Malice may shoot, but cannot shake her;
174 Lame Poverty can ne'er o'ertake her;
175 While Labour, Learning, Genius, all
176 Are ever ready at her call;
177 Happy, by her, to be employ'd,
178 Thrice happy if, by her, enjoy'd.
179 From whence you argue, Cousin Will,
180 At least, we're easy, when we're still.
181 That, when kind heav'n has sent us meat,
182 We've only to sit down and eat.
183 But, when the passions are in chace,
184 It, then, may prove a silly race.
185 Like as the hind-legs of a hound
186 May run o'er many a league of ground
187 To catch the fore but they're mistaken
188 When they lie down they're overtaken.
189 Whence, I conjecture, you profess
190 That apathy is happiness;
191 That he, whose wishes breed no riot,
192 Is comfortable, good, and quiet.
193 To such a one I'd grant, at most,
194 He's just as happy as a post.
[Page 61]
195 His goodness, likewise, be it said,
196 Is like a wife's without her head;
197 Who, tho' her humours never teize you,
198 Her kisses are not like to please you:
199 For she, 'tis held, who has no mouth,
200 Will neither kiss, nor quench her drowth.
201 For this, friend William, I contend,
202 Better had man his being end,
203 And die at once, since die he must,
204 Than, with inanity, to rust.
205 Better, than thus to mope and doze,
206 Feel pangs from fingers down to toes.
207 Better, than thus to sit hum drum,
208 Like country schoolmaster become,
209 Who hammers at each stupid cub,
210 To teach him ab, eb, ib, ob, ub
211 And, midst a squawling, wrangling crew,
212 Doth everlastingly pursue
213 His d d dull ba, be, bi, bo, bu.
[Page 63]


1 YET sure, said Will, Sir, some of those
2 Whom Fame, as Nature's wonders, shews;
3 Who, high in honours, high in birth,
4 Rever'd for sacred virtue's worth;
5 Whose deeds, descent, and merits are
6 Held equally renown'd and rare;
7 Or those whose fortunes some blest chance
8 Conspir'd with Genius to advance;
9 And gave, what Genius deems his due,
10 A seat among th' immortal few;
11 Sure those brave spirits, who, when fled,
12 Were ever call'd the mighty dead;
13 Whose actions grace the scroll of Fame,
14 Sure those to happiness had claim.
[Page 64]
15 And, 'tis an axiom, long in use,
16 Like causes like effects produce.
17 From whence, friend Will, you would infer,
18 Some men are blest, because some were.
19 But this wont pass, my cunning stager,
20 Imprimis, I deny your major.
21 These mighty dead, of whom you puff,
22 And think you ne'er can brag enough;
23 Nor your trull Fame (whose cheeks are bloated
24 Like bladders, on which boys have floated)
25 Stuft out and cramm'd with lies enormous,
26 About her slashing, swashing Hectors,
27 Her grim Mandragons Plusquamperfectors,
28 Of suffering man the curst dissectors,
29 But who's more silent than a dormouse
30 Concerning private worth and action;
31 Or, if she speak, speaks in detraction;
32 These bull-fac'd, brazen-headed Messieurs,
33 Wholesale and retail human graziers,
34 These man-flesh butchers, with their fly-flops,
35 These Anthropophaginian Cyclops,
36 That tap who never had the Hydrops,
37 These Caco-daemons, I maintain, Sir,
38 Of whom both she and you are vain, Sir,
39 As subject were to flux, or cancer,
40 As you, or I, or any man, Sir:
[Page 65]
41 As liable to puke, and be sick,
42 When they were order'd to take physic;
43 As much would scratch and writhe and groan,
44 At itch, gripes, gravel, gout, or stone;
45 With screw'd-up phiz would grunt and twist Oh la!
46 When they were cutting for a fistula;
47 Would faint as soon if, for a scotomy,
48 The Doctor should prescribe phlebotomy;
49 As much would caper, curse, and kick,
50 When needle under nail did stick;
51 As much were tortur'd by brain-tumours,
52 I mean as captious in their humours,
53 Would fret and fume, and be as fractious,
54 As drunken chymney-sweeps or blackshoes;
55 Would break the crockery, spill the grey peas,
56 And cuff their wives, and whip their babies,
57 Burn tables, stools, and chairs to cinders,
58 And toss the house out at the windows;
59 Would pinch, bite, scratch, snarl, scold or squabble,
60 Like Billinsgate or Ragfair rabble.
61 Methinks I hear one of these heroes,
62 Who little better were than Neros,
63 Wrangling with Ma'am, and domineering,
64 Bullying at this, at that thing sneering,
65 Cry "D n your pudding d n your beef,
66 " And d n your sobbing, sniveling grief;
[Page 66]
67 "Damme I'd rather munch a dry crust
68 " Alone, than live with you on pie-crust;
69 "For neither you, your soup, or sallad,
70 " Are made at all to please my palate. "
71 If Ma'am replies, he lays the lash on,
72 And, with his hair erect, with passion,
73 Out issues he, brimful of ire,
74 Snorts swords, breathes brimstone, and spits fire,
75 Snuffs gunpowder, rips up red coats,
76 Cuts you some fifty thousand throats,
77 Leaves not a rat, cat, hog, or dog an eye,
78 But cleaves them as you'd cleave mahogany;
79 Vineyards and fields devours in malice,
80 And quaffs hot blood in scull-scoop'd chalice:
81 Then vaunts his most pernicious pranks,
82 And looks dead who don't give him thanks:
83 Annihilates Tuum and Meum,
84 Commands the priest to chant Te Deum,
85 And, like Drawcansir, bluffly swears,
86 " All this he does, because he dares. "
87 Good Sir, said Will, I ne'er suppos'd
88 Content, by such folks, was engross'd.
89 Far other men were in my guess,
90 Whom every age and people bless;
91 Who useful arts the nations taught,
92 Or who for Freedom bravely fought;
[Page 67]
93 Who, first, with ploughshare, broke the glebe,
94 Or pass'd the shuttle thro' the web;
95 He who conducted lovely Truth
96 And Science to the haunts of Youth,
97 Aptly their pleasing lore convey'd,
98 And all their wond'rous gifts display'd.
99 Of such I spoke or he whose song
100 Charm'd and reform'd the listening throng.
101 Who, as the ringing harp he swung,
102 Rais'd his sweet voice and rapid tongue
103 In phrase most fit, and lofty verse,
104 The deeds of heroes to rehearse!
105 (Of heroes, who, by Virtue claim'd,
106 Among th' immortal Gods are nam'd)
107 Who, as along the numbers roll'd,
108 The laws of Nature could unfold!
109 Or with a sad and piteous tale
110 The man of iron could assail;
111 Or, when Oppression durst provoke,
112 In thunder to the passions spoke!
113 Their headlong rage would strait controul,
114 "And freeze and harrow up the soul!"
115 How oft, friend Will, reply'd the Knight,
116 Am I oblig'd to set you right;
117 Again repeating, and again,
118 Men ever were, and will be men?
[Page 68]
119 Why must I tell you, no man, yet,
120 That Eve and Adam could beget,
121 (This to your memory pray recall,
122 Adam and Eve begat us all;
123 For, in their primary endeavour,
124 World without end, for ever and ever,
125 The blacks and whites, and those of copper,
126 Were ground out of our Granny's hopper.
127 Such is the orthodoxy dixit,
128 And d d be he who contradicts it.)
129 No man is freed from Fate's mischances,
130 Except in novels and romances?
131 The brightest characters have blots;
132 The sun itself is full of spots:
133 Which, as I guess, ar'n't very young,
134 Yet have not been discover'd long.
135 In fact, our eyes are oft so feeble,
136 They'd overlook the parish steeple;
137 And tho' sent forth to search and mind it,
138 Return and say they could not find it.
139 You see these folks thro' a dark lantern,
140 And still, most carefully, your hand turn,
141 Full on each face to throw the light,
142 Then wonder how it came so bright.
143 So once a painter, in supposes,
144 The radiance drew of grandsire Moses;
[Page 69]
145 And, when he'd done, so says the story,
146 Fell down and worshipp'd his own glory:
147 But (for a Christian cuckolds scorns)
148 He quite forgot to add the horns.
149 Tho' Jews, with reverence be it spoken,
150 Hold horns a magisterial token;
151 Which is the reason, say the witty,
152 Why Jews do mostly live i'th' city.
153 But to our text I say, once more,
154 All's not divine that men adore.
155 Your Germans bow to Jacob Behmen,
156 Your Greeks, Sir, reverence Philopaemon.
157 Saint Januarius keeps, at Naple,
158 A market where he's always staple.
159 Your Russian is tied down to th' grindstone
160 Of Nicholases holy mill-stone.
161 Some love th' eleven hundred virgins;
162 Your Jews and Turks are circum-surgeons:
163 And he who dares be het'rodox,
164 Had better get the plague, or p-x.
165 For priests in all lands preach and pray,
166 Not to convince, but get the day,
167 Or, what is better still, the pay:
168 And tho' some bid each humble brother,
169 When smote on one cheek, to turn t'other,
[Page 70]
170 Oppos'd themselves, they still incline 'em
171 To Argumentum Bacculinum:
172 And he's puff'd down, who their fine flams scorns,
173 Like Jericho, at blast of rams-horns.
174 Will star'd, and cry'd, Sir, whither verge you?
175 You're not a foe sure to the Clergy!
176 That, Will, depends on circumstances,
177 I'm no man's foe who peace advances;
178 Who, mild and gentle, strives to win,
179 Not to opinion but from sin:
180 Who, like the Parson of old Dryden,
181 Would scorn Oppression's back to ride on:
182 Who can suppose a Turk may be
183 Almost as good a man as he,
184 And that opinions with salvation
185 Are not allied, in any nation;
186 That, tho' a man were so absurd
187 As not to b'lieve a single word
188 O'th' stuff with which some folks are cram'd,
189 There yet are hopes he may'nt be damn'd.
190 Or, let's suppose what's still absurder,
191 Since supposition is no murder,
192 One who has faith in all the fictions,
193 The fables, lies, and contradictions
194 That e'er were broach'd from Folly's mouth,
195 Between the North pole and the South;
[Page 71]
196 Who'd worship Molock, God of Ammon,
197 Or dance to Tomtom round Ramraman;
198 Pay Mumbo-jumbo adoration,
199 Hold Pawaws in vast veneration;
200 Believe i'th' navel-string of Brama,
201 Eat holy dung of Dalay Lama;
202 Credit the tale of St. Gelasias
203 As much as Creed of Athanasius;
204 Resolving to have faith in all,
205 Lest men him heretic should call;
206 The Priest who'd hope my love to win,
207 Must think e'en this no mortal sin:
208 With points of doctrine must dispense,
209 From who've too much or little sense,
210 Provided they to others do
211 As they wish to be done unto:
212 Must still preserve that simple plan
213 Which his meek Master first began;
214 On human hearts must make invasion
215 By gentleness, and mild persuasion;
216 Nor think to cure the mind of maggots
217 By purging it with fiery faggots:
218 Nor must pretend, if me he'd please,
219 To supernat'ral extasies;
220 But must be as sincere as kind.
221 This brings an anecdote to mind,
[Page 72]
222 Concerning an irreverend Friar,
223 Miracle-monger, therefore liar;
224 A relic juggler, most rapacious;
225 Of life luxurious and salacious,
226 Who watch'd a wooden virgin's shrine,
227 And was, by fools, suppos'd divine.
228 It chanc'd, one Summer, where he dwelt,
229 The heavens did not that year melt,
230 As usual, in refreshing showers,
231 To chear the thirsty, languid flowers;
232 Hence, 'twas much fear'd, the gasping earth
233 Would feel a universal dearth.
234 Hence, too, did selfish Superstition
235 To heav'n send many a vague petition;
236 But, in the midst of this her grief,
237 Our Friar promis'd her relief;
238 If to his shrine she'd make procession,
239 The clouds should, likewise, make emission;
240 For so, said he, the holy mother
241 Has told me, your unworthy brother.
242 Well, Sir, the farce is underta'en,
243 When lo! it strait begins to rain;
244 A Miracle! the people cry,
245 A Miracle! resounds on high.
246 The gaping crowd run here and there,
247 And tell of angels made of air;
[Page 73]
248 Trot home for off'rings not a few,
249 To pay old scores as well as new;
250 And, as they bring their glad oblations,
251 Recount their many obligations;
252 And how the Virgin did inspire,
253 With prophecy, her holy Friar;
254 While he applauds his dext'rous wit,
255 And laughs to think how fools are bit.
256 You ask how he could here deceive:
257 I'll tell you, if you'll give me leave.
258 Not by his faith did he foretell,
259 His want of faith did just as well.
260 His lust, and former fornication,
261 Supplied the place of Revelation.
262 For nought of Heav'n, or Hell, more true is,
263 Than that the Friar had a Lues,
264 Of ten years standing at the least,
265 Which us'd to twinge the unclean beast;
266 And taught him, from his pangs, to gather
267 Prognostics of a change of weather.
268 Which cheat this reverend, chaste divi e,
269 Discover'd to his concubine;
270 And she, being tickled with the joke,
271 Told it to all with whom she spoke;
[Page 74]
272 While those who heard, fail'd not to scoff it,
273 And say the p x had made a prophet.
274 You seem to wonder where I'll end,
275 And whither all these windings tend:
276 I'll tell you, Will, they form a mirror,
277 That shews men lost in fogs of error.
278 They tend to prove my first position,
280 A shadow which men keep in view,
281 That runs as fast as they pursue,
282 Stands when they stand, winds when they wind,
283 Sometimes before, sometimes behind,
284 At all attempts to catch it mocks,
285 And ne'er was brought t'an Equinox:
286 At no one moment would allow
287 A man to say I have thee now.
288 They tend to shew, that life, at best,
289 As saith Dan Gay, is but a jest;
290 A candle, where fresh tumors sprout,
291 Which, to remove, is oft snuff d out
292 By Law or Honour, Rope or Sword,
293 As Judge or General gives the word:
294 And he has sure a lucky snuffing,
295 Who's cropt from cradle into coffin.
[Page 75]
296 And should you think these doctrines vain,
297 Hear, Will, the moral they contain.
298 So short a time are mortals twirl'd
299 About this transitory world;
300 (For he who tarries longest in it
301 Can scarce be said to live a minute)
302 So little do we truly know,
303 What shall bring future weal or woe;
304 Such trifles are the things we prize,
305 In Truth and sober Reason's eyes;
306 So futile and incompetent,
307 To make one blessing permanent;
308 That he who'd ignominious live,
309 For any good this world can give;
310 Would condescend to recollect
311 The loss of Worth, and Worth's respect;
312 Or, to obtain some private end,
313 To guilt, or meanness could descend,
314 And act, from self-applause exempt,
315 What sinks him into self-contempt;
316 Could see how short, how vague, how vain
317 Are joys, and all that joys contain;
318 Yet, seeing this, could be betray'd,
319 Doth Common-sense so much degrade,
[Page 76]
320 Such ample infamy deserves,
321 If he with such conviction swerves,
322 No epithet, by man express'd,
323 That Wit or Malice can suggest,
324 Or scurril Rancour e'er devis'd,
325 Can say how such a fool shou'd be despis'd.


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Source edition

Holcroft, Thomas, 1745-1809. Human happiness: or the sceptic. A poem, in six cantos. By Thomas Holcroft, ... London:: printed for L. Davis; J. Robson; J. Johnson; J. Sewell; J. Fielding; and J. Stockdale,, 1783., pp. []-76. [4],76p.; 4⁰. (ESTC T107179; OTA K086062.000)

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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.