To the Same.
From Hampton-Court, 1731.
Bono loco humanae sunt, quod nemo, nisi vitio suo, miser est. SENECA in EPIST.
1 WHILST in the fortunes of the gay and great,
2 The glare of courts, and luxury of state;
3 All that the meaner covet and deplore,
4 The pomp of wealth, and insolence of power:
5 Whilst in these various scenes of gilded life,
6 Of fraud, ambition, policy, and strife;
7 Where every word is dictated by art,
8 And ev'ry face the mask of ev'ry heart;[Page 190]
9 Whilst with such diff'rent objects entertain'd,
10 In all that's really felt, and all that's feign'd,
11 I speculate on human joys and woes,
12 Till from my pen the verse spontaneous flows;
13 To whom these artless off'rings should I bring,
14 To whom these undigested numbers sing,
15 But to a friend? — and to what friend but you,
16 Safe, just, sincere, indulgent, kind and true?
17 Disdain not then these trifles to attend,
18 Nor fear to blame, nor study to commend.
19 Say, where false notions erring I pursue,
20 And with the plausible confound the true:
21 Correct with all the freedom that I write;
22 And guide my darken'd reason with thy light.
23 Thee partial heaven has bless'd, profusely kind,
24 With wit, with judgment, and a taste refin'd,
25 Thy fancy rich, and thy observance true,
26 The last still wakeful, and the first still new.
27 Rare blessings! and to few divided known,
28 But giv'n united to thyself alone.
29 Instruction are thy words, and lively truth,
30 The school of age, and the delight of youth.
31 When men their various discontents relate,
32 And tell how wretched this our mortal state;
33 That life is but diversify'd distress,
34 The lot of all, and hardly more or less;
35 That kings and villagers have each their share,
36 These pinch'd with mean, and those with splendid care;[Page 191]
37 That seeming pleasure is intrinsick woe,
38 And all call'd happiness, delusive show;
39 Food only for the snakes in Envy's breast,
40 Who often grudges what is ne'er possess'd;
41 Say, for thou know'st the follies of mankind,
42 Can'st tell how obstinate, perverse, and blind;
43 Say, are we thus oppress'd by Nature's laws,
44 Or of our miseries, ourselves the cause?
45 Sure oft, unjustly, we impute to Fate
46 A thousand evils which ourselves create;
47 Complain that life affords but little joy,
48 And yet that little foolishly destroy.
49 We check the pleasures that too soon subside,
50 And break the current of too weak a tide.
51 Like Atalanta, golden trifles chace,
52 And baulk that swiftness which might win the race;
53 For life has joys adapted to each stage,
54 Love for our youth, ambition for our age.
55 But wilful man inverting her decrees,
56 When young would govern, and when old would please,
57 Covets the fruits his autumn shou'd bestow,
58 Nor tastes the fragrance whilst the blossoms blow.
59 Then far-fled joys in vain he would restore,
60 His appetite unanswer'd by his pow'r:
61 Round beauty's neck he twists his wither'd arms,
62 Receives with loathing to her venal charms:
63 He rakes the ashes, when the fire is spent,
64 Nor gains fruition, tho' he gains consent.[Page 192]
65 But can we say 'tis Providence's fault,
66 If thus untimely all her gifts are sought,
67 If summer-crops which must decay we keep,
68 And in the winter would the harvest reap?
69 When brutes, with what they are allow'd content,
70 Listen to Nature, and pursue her bent,
71 And still their pow'r with their ambition weigh'd,
72 Gain what they can, but never force a trade:
73 A thousand joys her happy followers prove,
74 Health, plenty, rest, society, and love.
75 To us alone, in fatal ign'rance proud,
76 To deviate from her dictates 'tis allow'd:
77 That boasted gift our reason to believe,
78 Or let caprice, in reason's garb, deceive.
79 To us the noble privilege is given
80 Of wise refining on the will of heav'n.
81 Our skill we trust, but lab'ring still to gain
82 More than we can, lose what we might obtain.
83 Will the wise elephant desert the wood,
84 To imitate the whale and range the flood?
85 Or will the mole her native earth forsake,
86 In wanton madness to explore the lake?
87 Yet man, whom still ideal profit sways,
88 Than those less prudent, and more blind than these,
89 Will quit his home, and vent'rous brave the seas.
90 And when his rashness its desert has found,
91 The fool surviving, weeps the fool that's drown'd.
92 Herds range the fields, the feather'd kind the grove,
93 Chuse, woo, caress, and with promiscuous love,
94 As taste and nature prompt, adhere, or rove;
95 They meet with pleasure, and with ease they part,
96 For beasts are only coupled by the heart.
97 The body still accompanies the mind,
98 And when this wanders, that is unconfin'd:
99 The love that join'd the sated pair once fled,
100 They change their haunts, their pasture, and their bed.
101 No four-legg'd ideots drag, with mutual pain,
102 The nat'ral cement pass'd, an artful chain:
103 Th' effect of passion ceases with the cause,
104 Clogg'd with no after-weight of forms or laws:
105 To no dull rules of custom they submit,
106 Like us they cool, but when they cool, they quit.
107 Nor find we in the wood, the sea, or plain,
108 One e'er elected o'er the rest to reign.
109 If any rule, 'tis force that gives the law,
110 What brutes are bound in voluntary awe?
111 Do they, like us, a pageant idol raise,
112 Swoln with false pride, and flatter'd by false praise?
113 Do they their equal, sometimes less, revere?
114 At once detest and serve, despise and fear?
115 To strength inferior do they bend the knee?
116 With ears and eyes of others hear and see?
117 Or ever vest a mortal god with pow'r
118 To do those wrongs they afterwards deplore?[Page 194]
119 These institutions are of man alone,
120 Marriage and monarchy are both our own.
121 Public oppression, and domestic strife,
122 Are ills which we ourselves annex'd to life,
123 God never made a husband, king, or wife.
124 Boast then, oh man! thy profitable gain,
125 To folly polish'd, civiliz'd to pain.
126 Here would I launch into the various field
127 Of all the cares our prejudices yield;
128 What multiply'd examples might be told,
129 Of pains they give, and joys that they withold?
130 When to credulity tradition preaches,
131 And ign'rance practises what error teaches!
132 Wou'd any feather'd maiden of the wood,
133 Or scaly female of the peopled flood,
134 When lust and hunger call'd, its force resist?
135 In abstinence, or chastity persist?
136 And cry, 'If heaven's intent was understood,
137 'These tastes were only given to be withstood.'
138 Or wou'd they wisely both these gifts improve,
139 And eat when hungry, and when am'rous love?
140 Yet superstition, in religion's name,
141 With future punishment and present shame,
142 Can fright weak woman from her lover's arms,
143 Who weeps with mutual pain her useless charms;
144 Whilst she, poor wretch! consum'd in secret fires,
145 With pow'r to seize, foregoes what she desires,[Page 195]
146 Till beauty fades, and inclination dies,
147 And the fair tree, the fruit ungather'd, dies.
148 But are these ills, the ills which heav'n design'd?
149 Are we unfortunate, or are we blind?
150 If in possession of our wishes curs'd,
151 Bath'd in untasted springs we die with thirst;
152 If we make miseries, what were blessings meant,
153 And benefits convert to punishment?
154 When in the spring the wise industrious bees
155 Collect the various bloom from fragrant trees,
156 Extract the liquid sweet of ev'ry flow'r,
157 And cull the garden to enrich their store:
158 Should any pedant bee of all the hive,
159 From this or that perfume the plund'rers drive,
160 And say, that he by inspiration knows,
161 The sacred, tempting, interdicting rose,
162 By heav'n's command, tho' sweetest, useless grows:
163 Think you the fool would ever be obey'd,
164 And that the lye would grow into a trade?
165 Ev'n Turks would answer, no — and yet, we see
166 The vine, that rose, and Mahomet, that bee.
167 To these, how many proofs I yet could add,
168 That man's superior sense is being mad?
169 That none, refining, their true int'rest view,
170 But for the substance, still the shade pursue.
171 That oft perverse, and prodigal of life,
172 (Our pow'r and will at everlasting strife)[Page 196]
173 We waste the present for the future hour,
174 And, miser-like, by hoarding, still are poor.
175 Or foolishly regretful of the past,
176 The good which yet remains neglect to taste.
177 Nor need I any foreign proof to bring,
178 Myself an instance of the truths I sing.
179 Whilst in a court, repugnant to my taste,
180 From my lov'd friend these precious hours I waste,
181 Why do I vainly here thy absence mourn,
182 And not anticipate thy wish'd return?
183 Why stay my passage to those happy fields,
184 Where fate in thee my ev'ry pleasure yields?
185 Fortune allows the blessings I refuse,
186 And ev'n this moment, were my heart to chuse;
187 For thee I should forsake this joyless crowd,
188 And not on paper think, but think aloud:
189 With thy lov'd converse fill the shorten'd day,
190 And glad my soul — Yet here unpleas'd I stay,
191 And by mean, sanguine views of int'rest sway'd,
192 By airy hopes, to real cares betray'd;
193 Lament a grievance which I might redress,
194 And wish that happiness I might possess.