[Page 41]


1 THE counsels of a friend, Belinda, hear,
2 Too roughly kind to please a Lady's ear,
3 Unlike the flatt'ries of a lover's pen,
4 Such truths as women seldom learn from men.
5 Nor think I praise you ill, when thus I shew
6 What female Vanity might fear to know:
7 Some merit's mine, to dare to be sincere,
8 But greater your's, sincerity to bear.
9 Hard is the fortune that your sex attends;
10 Women, like Princes, find few real friends:
11 All who approach them their own ends pursue:
12 Lovers and ministers are seldom true.
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13 Hence oft from Reason heedless Beauty strays,
14 And the most trusted Guide the most betrays:
15 Hence by fond dreams of fancy'd pow'r amus'd,
16 When most you tyrannize you're most abus'd.
17 What is your sex's earliest, latest care,
18 Your heart's supreme ambition? To be fair:
19 For this the toilet ev'ry thought employs,
20 Hence all the toils of dress, and all the joys:
21 For this, hands, lips, and eyes are put to school,
22 And each instructive feature has its rule;
23 And yet how few have learnt, when this is giv'n.
24 Not to disgrace the partial boon of heav'n?
25 How few with all their pride of form can move?
26 How few are lovely, that were made for love?
27 Do you, my fair, endeavour to possess
28 An elegance of mind as well as dress;
29 Be that your ornament, and know to please
30 By grateful Nature's unaffected ease.
31 Nor make to dang'rous Wit a vain pretence,
32 But wisely rest content with modest Sense;
33 For wit, like wine, intoxicates the brain,
34 Too strong for feeble women to sustain;
35 Of those who claim it, more than half have none,
36 And half of those who have it, are undone.
37 Be still superior to your sex's arts,
38 Nor think Dishonesty a proof of Parts;
39 For you the plainest is the wisest rule,
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41 Be good yourself, nor think another's shame
42 Can raise your merit, or adorn your fame.
43 Prudes rail at whores, as statesmen in disgrace
44 At ministers, because they wish their place.
45 Virtue is amiable, mild, serene,
46 Without all beauty, and all peace within:
47 The honour of a prude is rage and storm,
48 'Tis ugliness in its most frightful form:
49 Fiercely it stands defying gods and men,
50 As fiery monsters guard a giant's den.
51 Seek to be good, but aim not to be great:
52 A woman's noblest station is Retreat;
53 Her fairest virtues fly from publick sight,
54 Domestick worth, that shuns too strong a light.
55 To rougher man Ambition's task resign:
56 'Tis ours in Senates or in Courts to shine,
57 To labour for a sunk corrupted state,
58 Or dare the rage of envy, and be great.
59 One only care your gentle breasts should move,
60 Th' important business of your life is Love:
61 To this great point direct your constant aim,
62 This makes your Happiness, and this your Fame.
63 Be never cool reserve with passion join'd;
64 With caution chuse; but then be fondly kind.
65 The selfish heart, that but by halves is giv'n,
66 Shall find no place in Love's delightful heav'n;
67 Here sweet extremes alone can truly bless,
68 The virtue of a lover is excess.
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69 A maid unask'd may own a well-plac'd flame,
70 Not loving first, but loving wrong is shame.
71 Contemn the little pride of giving pain,
72 Nor think that conquest justifies disdain;
73 Short is the period of insulting Pow'r;
74 Offended Cupid finds his vengeful hour,
75 Soon will resume the empire which he gave,
76 And soon the Tyrant shall become the Slave.
77 Blest is the maid, and worthy to be blest,
78 Whose soul, entire by him she loves possess'd,
79 Feels ev'ry vanity in fondness lost,
80 And asks no pow'r, but that of pleasing most:
81 Her's is the bliss in just return to prove
82 The honest warmth of undissembled Love;
83 For her, inconstant man might cease to range,
84 And Gratitude forbid Desire to change.
85 But lest harsh Care the lover's peace destroy,
86 And roughly blight the tender buds of joy,
87 Let Reason teach what Passion fain would hide,
88 That Hymen's bands by Prudence should be ty'd,
89 Venus in vain the wedded pair would crown,
90 If angry Fortune on their union frown:
91 Soon will the flatt'ring dream of bliss be o'er,
92 And cloy'd imagination cheat no more.
93 Then waking to the sense of lasting pain,
94 With mutual tears the nuptial couch they stain;
95 And that fond love, which should afford relief,
96 Does but increase the anguish of their grief;
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97 While both could easier their own sorrows bear,
98 Than the sad knowledge of each other's care.
99 Yet may you rather feel that virtuous pain,
100 Than sell your violated charms for gain;
101 Than wed the wretch whom you despise, or hate,
102 For the vain glare of useless wealth or state.
103 The most abandoned prostitutes are they,
104 Who not to Love, but Av'rice fall a prey:
105 Nor aught avails the specious name of WIFE;
106 A maid so wedded, is a WHORE FOR LIFE.
107 Ev'n in the happiest choice, where fav'ring Heav'n
108 Has equal love, and easy fortune giv'n,
109 Think not, the husband gain'd, that all is done;
110 The prize of Happiness must still be won;
111 And oft, the careless find it to their cost,
112 The Lover in the Husband may be lost;
113 The Graces might alone his heart allure;
114 They and the Virtues meeting must secure.
115 Let ev'n your Prudence wear the pleasing dress
116 Of care for him, and anxious tenderness.
117 From kind concern about his weal or woe,
118 Let each domestick duty seem to flow;
119 The HOUSHOLD SCEPTRE, if he bids you bear,
120 Make it your pride his servant to appear;
121 Endearing thus the common acts of life,
122 The Mistress still shall charm him in the Wife;
123 And wrinkled age shall unobserv'd come on,
124 Before his eye perceives one beauty gone:
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125 Ev'n o'er your cold, and ever-sacred urn,
126 His constant flame shall unextinguish'd burn.
127 Thus I, Belinda, would your charms improve,
128 And form your heart to all the arts of Love;
129 The task were harder to secure my own
130 Against the pow'r of those already known;
131 For well you twist the secret chains that bind
132 With gentle force the captivated mind,
133 Skill'd ev'ry soft attraction to employ,
134 Each flatt'ring hope, and each alluring joy;
135 I own your genius, and from you receive
136 The rules of Pleasing, which to you I give.


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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): ADVICE to a LADY.
Themes: women; female character
Genres: heroic couplet; advice
References: DMI 12335

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Source edition

Dodsley, Robert, 1703-1764. A Collection of Poems in Six Volumes. By Several Hands. Vol. II. London: printed by J. Hughs, for R. and J. Dodsley, 1763 [1st ed. 1758], pp. 41-46. 6v.: music; 8⁰. (ESTC T131163; OTA K104099.002) (Page images digitized by the Eighteenth-Century Poetry Archive from a copy in the archive's library.)

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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.

Other works by George Lyttelton, 1st Baron Lyttelton