EPISTLE TO THE Right Honble. the Lord Viscount BEAUCHAMP.
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR MDCCXXXV-VI.
1 "WHAT is Nobility?" you wish to know,
2 The real substance stripp'd of all its show:
3 And can you then the honest freedom bear
4 Of truths I ought to tell, and you to hear?
5 Or shall I say — "Such beauty, birth, estate,
6 " Must make their owner lov'd, and make him great! [Page 44]
7 "Above the mean restraint of vulgar rules,
8 " Your will a law, plebeians but your tools,
9 "While mingling with your blood each honour flows;
10 " And in each pulse a Percy's ardor glows? —
11 Not so the muse: she teaches you to know,
12 How vain those honours you to others owe!
13 Who rise to glory, must by virtue rise,
14 'Tis in the mind all genuine greatness lies:
15 On that eternal base, on that alone,
16 The world's esteem you build, and more — your own.
17 Tho' Percy, Seymour, mighty names! combine
18 To swell your blood, to dignify your line;
19 For you tho' fortune all her stores has spread,
20 And beauty points to pleasure's rosy bed;
21 Yet what avail birth, beauty, fortune's store,
22 The plume of title, and the pride of power,
23 If deaf to virtue, deaf to honour's call,
24 To tyrant vice a wretched slave you fall?
25 To vice, paternal laurels you must yield;
26 Revers'd each triumph, lost each purple field;
27 Your sires no more their captive foes detain,
28 You pay the ransom, and you break the chain;
29 No more your high-descended fame we view,
30 No Hartford fought, no Percy bled for you.
31 I know, my lord, ambition fills your mind,
32 And in life's voyage is th'impelling wind;
33 But at the helm let sober reason stand,
34 And steer the bark, with heaven-directed hand;[Page 45]
35 So shall you safe ambition's gales receive,
36 And ride securely, tho' the billows heave;
37 So shall you shun the giddy hero's fate,
38 And by her influence be both good and great.
39 She bids you first, in life's soft vernal hours,
40 With active industry, wake nature's powers;
41 With rising years, still rising arts display;
42 With new-born graces, mark each new-born day.
43 'Tis now the time young passion to command,
44 While yet the pliant stem obeys the hand;
45 Guide now the courser with a steady rein,
46 Ere yet he bounds o'er pleasure's flowery plain:
47 In passion's strife, no medium you can have;
48 You rule a master, or submit a slave.
49 "For whom these toils, you may perhaps enquire;"
50 First for yourself: Next nature will inspire
51 The filial thought, fond wish, and kindred tear,
52 Which make the parent and the sister dear:
53 To these, in closest bands of love, ally'd,
54 Their joy or grief you live, their shame or pride:
55 Hence timely learn to make their bliss your own,
56 And scorn to think or act for self alone;
57 Hence bravely strive upon your own to raise
58 Their honour, grandeur, dignity, and praise.
59 But wider far, beyond the narrow bound
60 Of family, ambition searches round;
61 Searches to find the friend's delightful face,
62 The friend at least demands the second place. [Page 46]
63 And yet beware: for most desire a friend
64 From meaner motives, not for virtue's end.
65 There are, who with fond favour's fickle gale
66 Now sudden swell, and now contract their sail;
67 This week devour, the next with sickening eye
68 Avoid, and cast the sully'd play-thing by;
69 There are, who, tossing in the bed of vice,
70 For flattery's opiate give the highest price;
71 Yet from the saving hand of friendship turn,
72 Her med'cines dread, her generous offers spurn.
73 Deserted greatness! who but pities thee?
74 By crowds encompass'd, thou no friend can'st see:
75 Or should kind truth invade thy tender ear,
76 We pity still; for thou no truth can'st hear.
77 Ne'er grudg'd thy wealth to swell an useless state,
78 Yet, frugal, deems th' expence of friends too great;
79 For friends, ne'er mixing in ambitious strife,
80 For friends, the richest furniture of life!
81 Be your's, my lord, a nobler, higher aim,
82 Your pride to burn with friendship's sacred flame;
83 By virtue kindled, by like manners fed,
84 By mutual wishes, mutual favors spread,
85 Increas'd with years, by candid truth refin'd,
86 Pour all its boundless ardors thro' your mind.
87 Be your's the care a chosen band to gain;
88 With them to glory's radiant summit strain,
89 Aiding and aided each, while all contend,
90 Who best, who bravest, shall assist his friend.
91 Thus still should private friendships spread around,
92 Till in their joint embrace the public's found,
93 The common friend! — then all her good explore,
94 Explor'd, pursue with each unbiass'd power.
95 But chief the greatest should her laws revere,
96 Ennobling honours, which she bids them wear.
97 A British noble is a dubious name,
98 Of lowest infamy; or highest fame:
99 Born to redress an injur'd orphan's cause,
100 To smooth th' unequal frown of rigid laws;
101 To stand an isthmus of our well-mix'd state,
102 Where rival powers with restless billows beat,
103 And from each side alike the fury fling
104 Of maddening commons, or incroaching king.
105 How mean, who scorns his country's sacred voice!
106 By birth a patriot, but a slave by choice.
107 How great, who answers this illustrious end,
108 Whom prince and people call their equal friend!
109 "Yes, there I'll rest; ambition toils no more,
110 " That goal attain'd, sure her long race is o'er. "
111 Alas! 'tis scarce begun; ambition smiles
112 At the poor limits of the British isles;
113 She o'er the globe expatiates unconfin'd,
114 Expands with christian charity the mind,
115 And pants to be the friend of all mankind.
116 Her country all beneath one ambient sky;
117 Whoe'er beholds you radiant orbs on high. [Page 48]
118 To whom one sun impartial gives the day,
119 To whom the silver moon her milder ray,
120 Whom the same water, earth, and air sustain,
121 O'er whom one parent-king extends his reign,
122 Are her compatriots all; by her belov'd,
123 In nature near, tho' far by space remov'd;
124 On common earth, no foreigner she knows;
125 No foe can find, or none but virtue's foes:
126 Ready she stands her chearful aid to lend,
127 To want and woe an undemanded friend;
128 Nor thus advances others bliss alone;
129 But in the way to theirs still finds her own.
130 Their's is her own. What, should your taper light
131 Ten thousand, burns it to yourself less bright?
132 " Men are ungrateful. "— Be they so, that dare!
133 Is that the giver's, or receiver's care?
134 Oh! blind to joys, that from true bounty flow,
135 To think, those e'er repent whose hearts bestow!
136 Man to his Maker thus best homage pays,
137 Thus peaceful walks thro' virtue's pleasing ways:
138 Her gentle image on the soul imprest
139 Bids each tempestnous passion leave the breast:
140 Thence with her livid self-devouring snakes
141 Pale Envy flies; her quiver Slander breaks:
142 Thus falis (dire scourge of a distracted age!)
143 The knave-led, one-ey'd monster, Party-Rage.
144 Ambition jostles with her friends no more;
145 Nor thirsts Revenge to drink a brother's gore;[Page 49]
146 Fury-Remorse no stinging scorpion rears;
147 O'er trembling Guilt no falling sword appears.
148 Hence Conscience, void of blame, her front erects,
149 Her God she fears, all other fear rejects.
150 Hence Just Ambition boundless splendours crown,
151 And hence she calls eternity her own.
152 Thus your lov'dz
z Scipio Africanus Aemilianus. Scipio past his glorious days,
153 Blest with his kindred's, friend's, and country's praise.
154 Nor ended there the human hero's thought,
155 Nor in the Roman was the man forgot;
156 In the deaf battle hearing nature's call,
157 He doom'd with tears a rival empire's fall,
158 The world's great patriot he! — by fame inspir'd,
159 His youth each art adorn'd, each virtue fir'd;
160 He thro' Rome's sons the brave contagion spread,
161 Now led to conquest, now to wisdom led;
162 Pleas'd, or to still the forum's civil roar,
163 Or muse, Cajeta, on thy bending shore;
164 Free from affairs, unfetter'd with parade,
165 To taste a friend amid the rural shade:
166 There deigns to mingle in immortal lays,
167 There deep thro' time his country's fate surveys;
168 While from his tongue sublimest precepts flow —
169 "How man but sojourns on this spot below,
170 " How mortal fame is to a point confin'd,
171 "Heaven only fit to fill th' immortal mind;[Page 50]
172 " For heaven, how virtue can alone prepare,
173 "And vice wou'd find herself unhappy there."
174 Hence, loos'd from earth, his pure affections soar
175 Where sensual pleasure cheats the soul no more.
176 Beneath his feet do nations treasures lie?
177 Millions he views with unretorted eye.
178 His country's manners does corruption drown?
179 He, blameless censor! stems them by his own.
180 Did kingdoms groan? he bade oppression cease,
181 Stern tyrants aw'd, and hush'd the world to peace.
182 Did justice call? he car'd not what became
183 Of life, or of life's sweetest breath, his fame:
184 For her he dar'd the nobles, peoples hate,
185 For her he liv'd, for her resign'd to fate.
186 These were his honours, his high triumphs these!
187 Oh! how unlike the slaves of wealth and ease:
188 With plenty curst, to make their life a void,
189 Too great, too noble, to be well employ'd,
190 They seek some livery'd friend to drag away
191 The heavy, cumberous, miserable day.
192 There are, my lord, that with unfeeling ear
193 A Scipio's, Sydney's, Falkland's glory hear,
194 Unmov'd a Lonsdale's spotless honour see,
195 Wise, studious, generous, loyal, just, and free!
196 Are proof to every lure of honest fame;
197 And yet of sycophants would buy a name;
198 Hence birds of throat obscene, and greedy maw,
199 The chattering magpye, the tale-bearing daw,[Page 51]
200 Rooks, vultures, harpies, their vile board surround,
201 While frighted merit flies th' unhallow'd ground,
202 Flies to the private shade, the pure retreat,
203 And to their flatterers leaves the proud and great.
204 What, tho' their hands ne'er hold Britannia's reins,
205 Nor swords e'er seek her foes on crimson plains?
206 Yet, Blount shall own they drive six horses well,
207 And Mordington's their bolder courage tell,
208 Their name with Mordaunt's Pope disdains to sing,
209 Yet with their triumphs does Newmarket ring.
210 What tho' (ye fair!) they break thro' honour's laws;
211 Yet hence they gain a modish world's applause:
212 Receiv'd, repuls'd, their boast is still the same,
213 And still they triumph o'er each injur'd name.
214 Their vote, we know, ne'er rais'd the drooping state,
215 But rescu'd operas from impending fate.
216 Their bounty never bids Affliction smile,
217 But pampers fidlers with the tradesman's spoil.
218 No Goth to learning e'er was foe so fell,
219 Yet their bought praises dedications swell;
220 Yet White's allows them, in a length of years,
221 The first of sharpers, tho' the last of peers.
222 In vain for such may domes on domes arise,
223 With heads audacious, and invade the skies;
224 In vain dishonour'd stars dart mimic rays,
225 To give their sordid breasts a borrow'd blaze;
226 In vain with lordly rule, their wide domains
227 Swell hundred hills, and spread an hundred plains:[Page 52]
228 If mean, still meaner by their lofty state,
229 (So statues lessen by a base too great)
230 With birth ignoble, poor amid their store,
231 Obscur'd by splendor, impotent with power,
232 By titles stain'd, with beauty unadorn'd,
233 Courted by flattery, but by merit scorn'd,
234 The slaves of slaves, corruption's dirty tools,
235 The prey of villains, and the gaze of fools.
236 Rise then, my lord, with noble ardor rise!
237 And whilst your sires before your ravish'd eyes
238 Pass in a grand review, oh! pant for fame,
239 And by your actions dignify their name,
240 Transmitting thence, with heighten'd lustre down,
241 Honours, that may your future offspring crown!
242 That sight the muse with pleasing hope surveys,
243 While to the blissful hour her fancy strays,
244 When in the Hertford of another age
245 The same fair virtues shall your soul engage;
246 The same soft meekness and majestic mien
247 Shall chear the private, grace the public scene.
248 From her, to glad at once your ears and eyes,
249 A fair Eliza shall with spirit rise,
250 With lively humour, yet devoid of blame,
251 And be, with sweet variety, the same;
252 O'er some blest heart confirm her lasting sawy,
253 With reason sprightly, and with goodness gay.
254 When to another Beauchamp you shall owe
255 Those joys, that with your dawning virtues grow,[Page 53]
256 In him again be born, again shall live,
257 And take that happiness, which now you give.
258 Heaven has on you pour'd down his kindest shower,
259 Health, riches, honours, bless'd your natal hour;
260 At once an elegance of form and mind,
261 To please, to serve, and to adorn your kind;
262 In manners gentle, but in genius strong;
263 Tho' gay, collected, and polite, tho' young.
264 These bounteous heaven bestows! 'tis your's to raise
265 His gifts, and from their use derive your praise:
266 His the materials, your's the work must be;
267 Your choice, my lord, is fame or infamy.
268 Oh! should your virtues in pure current flow,
269 And wealth and pleasure all around bestow,
270 Till earth no more their length'ning stream can bound,
271 Nor sinks their fame in time's vast ocean drown'd,
272 Say, might the muse to future age declare,
273 They were her early honour and her care?
274 That by her hand the bubbling fount was clear'd,
275 That, following where the mazy rill appear'd,
276 She form'd their channel, and their course she steer'd?
277 Might then this fond ambitious verse pretend,
278 She taught the pupil, yet preserv'd the friend;
279 First twin'd the wreaths, that shall your temples crown,
280 Still in your glory happier than her own?