AN ESSAY on SATIRE.
1 FATE gave the word; the cruel arrow sped;
2 And POPE lies number'd with the mighty dead!
3 Resign'd he fell superior to the dart,
4 That quench'd its rage in YOURS and BRITAIN'S heart:[Page 318]
5 You mourn: but BRITAIN, lull'd in rest profound,
6 (Unconscious Britain!) slumbers o'er her wound.
7 Exulting Dulness ey'd the setting light,
8 And flapp'd her wing, impatient for the night:
9 Rous'd at the signal, Guilt collects her train,
10 And counts the triumphs of her growing reign:
11 With inextinguishable rage they burn,
12 And snake-hung Envy hisses o'er his urn:
13 Th' envenom'd monsters spit their deadly foam,
14 To blast the laurel that surrounds his tomb.
15 But You, O WARBURTON! whose eye refin'd
16 Can see the greatness of an honest mind;
17 Can see each virtue and each grace unite,
18 And taste the raptures of a pure delight;
19 You visit oft' his aweful page with care,
20 And view that bright assemblage treasur'd there;
21 You trace the chain that links his deep design,
22 And pour new lustre on the glowing line.
23 Yet deign to hear the efforts of a Muse,
24 Whose eye, not wing, his ardent flight pursues;
25 Intent from this great archetype to draw
26 SATIRE'S bright form, and fix her equal law;
27 Pleas'd if from hence th' unlearn'd may comprehend,
28 And reverence HIS and SATIRE'S generous end.
29 In ev'ry breast there burns an active flame,
30 The love of glory, or the dread of shame:
31 The passion ONE, tho' various it appear,
32 As brighten'd into hope, or dimm'd by fear.[Page 319]
33 The lisping infant, and the hoary sire,
34 And youth and manhood feel the heart-born fire;
35 The charms of praise the coy, the modest wooe,
36 And only fly, that glory may pursue:
37 She, pow'r resistless, rules the wise and great;
38 Bends ev'n reluctant hermits at her feet:
39 Haunts the proud city, and the lowly shade,
40 And sways alike the scepter and the spade.
41 Thus heav'n in pity wakes the friendly flame,
42 To urge mankind on deeds that merit fame:
43 But man, vain man, in folly only wise,
44 Rejects the manna sent him from the skies:
45 With rapture hears corrupted passion's call,
46 Still proudly prone to mingle with the stall.
47 As each deceitful shadow tempts his view,
48 He for the imag'd substance quits the true:
49 Eager to catch the visionary prize,
50 In quest of glory plunges deep in vice;
51 Till madly zealous, impotently vain,
52 He forfeits ev'ry praise he pants to gain.
53 Thus still imperious Nature plies her part;
54 And still her dictates work in ev'ry heart.
55 Each pow'r that sov'reign Nature bids enjoy,
56 Man may corrupt, but man can ne'er destroy.
57 Like mighty rivers, with resistless force
58 The passions rage, obstructed in their course;
59 Swell to new heights, forbidden paths explore,
60 And drown those virtues which they fed before.
61 And sure, the dreadliest foe to virtue's flame,
62 Our worst of evils, is perverted shame.
63 Beneath this load what abject numbers groan,
64 Th' entangled slaves to folly not their own!
65 Meanly by fashionable fear oppress'd,
66 We seek our virtues in each other's breast;
67 Blind to ourselves, adopt each foreign vice,
68 Another's weakness, interest, or caprice.
69 Each fool to low ambition, poorly great,
70 That pines in splendid wretchedness of state,
71 Tir'd in the treach'rous chase, wou'd nobly yield,
72 And but for shame, like SYLLA, quit the field:
73 The daemon Shame paints strong the ridicule,
74 And whispers close "the world will call you fool."
75 Behold, yon wretch, by impious fashion driv'n,
76 Believes and trembles while he scoffs at heav'n.
77 By weakness strong, and bold thro' fear alone,
78 He dreads the sneer by shallow coxcombs thrown;
79 Dauntless pursues the path Spinoza trod;
80 To man a coward, and a brave to God. *
Vois tu ce libertin en public intrepide,
Qui preche contre un Dieu que dans son Ame il croit?
Il iroit embrasser la verité qu'il voit;
Mais de ses faux amis il craint la raillerie,
Et ne brave ainsi Dieu que par poltronnerie.BOILEAU, Ep. 3.
81 Faith, Justice, heav'n itself now quit their hold,
82 When to false fame the captiv'd heart is fold:
83 Hence blind to truth, relentless Cato dy'd:
84 Nought cou'd subdue his virtue, but his pride.[Page 321]
85 Hence chaste Lucretia's innocence betray'd
86 Fell by that honour which was meant its aid.
87 Thus Virtue sinks beneath unnumber'd woes,
88 When passions born her friends, revolt, her foes.
89 Hence SATIRE'S pow'r: 'tis her corrective part
90 To calm the wild disorders of the heart.
91 She points the arduous height where glory lies,
92 And teaches mad ambition to be wise:
93 In the dark bosom wakes the fair desire,
94 Draws good from ill, a brighter flame from fire;
95 Strips black Oppression of her gay disguise,
96 And bids the hag in native horror rise;
97 Strikes tow'ring pride and lawless rapine dead,
98 And plants the wreath on Virtue's aweful head.
99 Nor boasts the Muse a vain imagin'd pow'r,
100 Tho' oft she mourn those ills she cannot cure.
101 The worthy court her, and the worthless fear;
102 Who shun her piercing eye, that eye revere.
103 Her aweful voice the vain and vile obey,
104 And every foe to wisdom feel her sway.
105 Smarts, pedants, as she smiles, no more are vain;
106 Desponding fops resign the clouded cane:
107 Hush'd at her voice, pert Folly's self is still,
108 And Dulness wonders while she drops her quill.
Like the arm'd BEE, with art most subtly true
Alluding to these lines of Mr. Pope;
In the nice bee what art so subtly true,
From pois'nous herbs extracts a healing dew.
110 From pois'nous Vice she draws a healing dew:[Page 322]
111 Weak are the ties that civil arts can find,
112 To quell the ferment of the tainted mind:
113 Cunning evades, securely wrapt in wiles;
114 And Force strong-sinew'd rends th' unequal toils:
115 The stream of vice impetuous drives along,
116 Too deep for policy, for pow'r too strong.
117 Ev'n fair Religion, native of the skies,
118 Scorn'd by the crowd, seeks refuge with the wise;
119 The crowd with laughter spurns her aweful train,
120 And Mercy courts, and Justice frowns in vain.
121 But SATIRE'S shaft can pierce the harden'd breast:
122 She plays a ruling passion on the rest:
123 Undaunted mounts the battery of his pride,
124 And awes the Brave, that earth and heav'n defy'd.
125 When fell Corruption, by her vassals crown'd,
126 Derides fall'n Justice prostrate on the ground;
127 Swift to redress an injur'd people's groan,
128 Bold SATIRE shakes the tyrant on her throne;
129 Pow'rful as death, defies the sordid train,
130 And slaves and sycophants surround in vain.
131 But with the friends of Vice, the foes of SATIRE,
132 All truth is spleen; all just reproof, ill-nature.
133 Well may they dread the Muse's fatal skill;
134 Well may they tremble when she draws her quill:
135 Her magick quill, that like ITHURIEL'S spear
136 Reveals the cloven hoof, or lengthen'd ear:
137 Bids Vice and Folly take their natural shapes,
138 Turns duchesses to strumpets, beaux to apes;[Page 323]
139 Drags the vile whisperer from his dark abode,
140 Till all the daemon starts up from the toad.
141 O sordid maxim, form'd to screen the vile,
142 That true good-nature still must wear a smile!
143 In frowns array'd her beauties stronger rise,
144 When love of virtue wakes her scorn of vice:
145 Where justice calls, 'tis cruelty to save;
146 And 'tis the law's good-nature hangs the knave.
147 Who combats Virtue's foe is Virtue's friend;
148 Then judge of SATIRE'S merit by her end:
149 To guilt alone her vengeance stands confin'd,
150 The object of her love is all mankind.
151 Scarce more the friend of man, the wise must own,
152 Ev'n ALLEN'S bounteous hand, than SATIRE'S frown:
153 This to chastise, as that to bless, was giv'n;
154 Alike the faithful ministers of heav'n.
155 Oft' on unfeeling hearts the shaft is spent:
156 Tho' strong th' example, weak the punishment.
157 They least are pain'd, who merit Satire most;
158 Folly the Laureat's, Vice was Chartres' boast;
159 Then where's the wrong, to gibbet high the name
160 Of fools and knaves already dead to shame?
161 Oft' SATIRE acts the faithful surgeon's part;
162 Generous and kind, tho' painful is her art:
163 With caution bold, she only strikes to heal,
164 Tho' folly raves to break the friendly steel.
165 Then sure no fault impartial SATIRE knows,
166 Kind, ev'n in vengeance kind, to Virtue's foes.[Page 324]
167 Whose is the crime, the scandal too be theirs:
168 The knave and fool are their own libellers.
1 DARE nobly then: but conscious of your trust,
2 As ever warm and bold, be ever just:
3 Nor court applause in these degenerate days:
4 The villain's censure is extorted praise.
5 But chief, be steady in a noble end,
6 And shew mankind that truth has yet a friend.
7 'Tis mean for empty praise of wit to write,
8 As foplings grin to show their teeth are white:
9 To brand a doubtful folly with a smile,
10 Or madly blaze unknown defects, is vile:
11 'Tis doubly vile, when but to prove your art,
12 You fix an arrow in a blameless heart.
13 O lost to honour's voice, O doom'd to shame,
14 Thou fiend accurs'd, thou murderer of fame!
15 Fell ravisher, from innocence to tear
16 That name, than liberty, than life more dear!
17 Where shall thy baseness meet its just return,
18 Or what repay thy guilt, but endless scorn!
19 And know, immortal truth shall mock thy toil:
20 Immortal truth shall bid the shaft recoil;
21 With rage retorted, wing the deadly dart;
22 And empty all its poison in thy heart.
23 With caution, next, the dang'rous power apply;
24 An eagle's talon asks an eagle's eye:[Page 325]
25 Let SATIRE then her proper object know,
26 And ere she strike, be sure she strikes a foe.
27 Nor fondly deem the real fool confest,
28 Because blind Ridicule conceives a jest:
29 Before whose altar Virtue oft' hath bled,
30 And oft' a destin'd victim shall be led:
Shaftsb'ry rears her high on Reason's throne,
It were to be wished that lord Shaftsbury had expressed himself with greater precision on this subject: however, thus much may be affirmed with truth.
1st, By the general tenor of his essays on Enthusiasm, and the freedom of wit and humour, it appears that his principal design was to recommend the way of ridicule, (as he calls it) for the investigation of truth, and detection of falsehood, not only in moral but religious subjects.
2dly, It appears no less evident, that in the course of his reasonings on this question, he confounds two things which are in their nature and consequences entirely different. These are ridicule and good-humour: the latter acknowledged by all to be the best mediator in every debate; the former no less regarded by most, as an embroiler and incendiary. Tho' he sets out with a formal profession of proving the efficacy of wit, humour, and ridicule, in the investigation of truth, yet by shifting and mixing his terms, he generally slides insensibly into mere encomiums on good-breeding, chearfulness, urbanity, and free enquiry. This indeed keeps something like an argument on foot, and amuses the superficial reader; but to a more observant eye discovers a very contemptible defect, either of sincerity or penetration.
The question concerning ridicule may be thus not improperly stated, Whether doubtful propositions of any kind can be determined by the application of ridicule? Much might be said on this question; but a few words will make the matter clear to an unprejudiced mind.
The disapprobation or contempt which certain objects raise in the mind of man, is a particular mode of passion. The objects of this passion are apparent falsehood, incongruity, or impropriety of some particular kinds. Thus, the object of fear is apparent danger: the object of anger is apparent injury. But who hath ever dreamt of exalting the passions of fear and anger into a standard or test of real danger and injury? The design must have been rejected as absurd, because it is the work of reason only, to correct and fix the passions on their proper objects. The case is parallel: apparent or seeming falsehoods, &c. are the objects of contempt; but it is the work of reason only, to determine whether the supposed falsehood be real or fictitious. But it is said,The sense of ridicule can never be mistaken.— Why, no more can the sense of danger, or the sense of injury. — "What, do men never fear or resent without reason?" — Yes, very commonly: but they as often despise and laugh without reason. Thus before any thing can be determined in either case, reason, and reason only, must examine circumstances, separate ideas, decide upon, restrain, and correct the passion.
Hence it follows, that the way of ridicule, of late so much celebrated, is in fact no more than a species of eloquence; and that too the lowest of all others: so Tully justly calls it, tenuissimus ingenii fructus. It applies to a passion, and therefore can go no farther in the investigation of truth, than any of those arts which tend to raise love, pity, terror, rage or hatred in the heart of man. Consequently, his lordship might have transplanted the whole system of rhetorick into his new scheme, with the same propriety as he hath introduced the way of ridicule itself. A hopeful project this, for the propagation of truth!
As this seems to be the real nature of ridicule, it hath been generally discouraged by philosophers and divines, together with every other mode of eloquence, when applied to controverted opinions. This discouragement, from what is said above, appears to have been rational and just: therefore the charge laid against divines with regard to this affair by a zealous admirer of Lord Shaftsbury (see a note on the Pleasures of Imagination, Book III. ) seems entirely groundless. The distinction which the same author hath attempted with respect to the influence of ridicule, between speculative and moral truths, seems no better founded. It is certain that opinions are no less liable to ridicule than actions. And it is no less certain, that the way of ridicule cannot determine the propriety or impropriety of the one, more than the truth or falsehood of the other; because the same passion of contempt is equally engaged in both cases, and therefore, as above, reason only can examine the circumstances of the action or opinion, and thus fix the passion on its proper objects.
Upon the whole, this new design of discovering truth by the vague and unsteady light of ridicule, puts one in mind of the honest Irishman, who apply'd his candle to the sun-dial in order to see how the night went.
32 And loads the slave with honours not her own:[Page 326]
33 Big-swoln with folly, as her smiles provoke,
34 Prophaneness spawns, pert dunces nurse the joke!
35 Come, let us join awhile this tittering crew,
36 And own the ideot guide for once is true;
37 Deride our weak forefathers' musty rule,
38 Who therefore smil'd, because they saw a fool;[Page 327]
39 Sublimer logick now adorns our isle,
40 We therefore see a fool, because we smile.
41 Truth in her gloomy cave why fondly seek?
42 Lo, gay she sits in Laughter's dimpled cheek:
43 Contemns each surly academic foe,
44 And courts the spruce free-thinker and the beau.[Page 328]
45 Daedalian arguments but few can trace,
46 But all can read the language of grimace.
47 Hence mighty Ridicule's all-conqu'ring hand
48 Shall work Herculean wonders thro' the land:
49 Bound in the magick of her cobweb chain,
50 You, mighty WARBURTON, shall rage in vain,
51 In the vain trackless maze of Truth YOU scan,
52 And lend th' informing clue to erring man:
53 No more shall Reason boast her pow'r divine,
54 Her base eternal shook by Folly's mine!
55 Truth's sacred fort th' exploded laugh shall win;
56 And coxcombs vanquish BERKLEY by a grin.
57 But you, more sage, reject th' inverted rule,
58 That Truth is e'er explor'd by Ridicule:
59 On truth, on falsehood let her colours fall,
60 She throws a dazzling glare alike on all;
61 As the gay prism but mocks the flatter'd eye,
62 And gives to ev'ry object ev'ry dye.
63 Beware the mad advent'rer: bold and blind
64 She hoists her sail, and drives with ev'ry wind;
65 Deaf as the storm to sinking Virtue's groan,
66 Nor heeds a friend's destruction, or her own.
67 Let clear-ey'd Reason at the helm preside,
68 Bear to the wind, or stem the furious tide;
69 Then mirth may urge, when reason can explore,
70 This point the way, that waft us glad to shore.
71 Tho' distant times may rise in SATIRE'S page,
72 Yet chief 'tis her's to draw the present age:[Page 329]
73 With Wisdom's lustre, Folly's shade contrast,
74 And judge the reigning manners by the past:
75 Bid Britain's heroes (aweful shades!) arise,
76 And ancient honour beam on modern vice:
77 Point back to minds ingenuous, actions fair,
78 Till the sons blush at what their fathers were:
79 Ere yet 'twas beggary the great to trust;
80 Ere yet 'twas quite a folly to be just;
81 When low-born sharpers only dar'd a lye,
82 Or falsify'd the card, or cogg'd the dye:
83 Ere lewdness the stain'd garb of honour wore,
84 Or chastity was carted for the whore;
85 Vice flutter'd, in the plumes of freedom dress'd;
86 Or publick spirit was the publick jest.
87 Be ever in a just expression bold,
88 Yet ne'er degrade fair SATIRE to a scold:
89 Let no unworthy mien her form debase,
90 But let her smile, and let her frown with grace:
91 In mirth be temp'rate, temp'rate in her spleen;
92 Nor while she preaches modesty, obscene.
93 Deep let her wound, not rankle to a sore,
94 Nor call his lordship —, her grace a —:
95 The Muse's charms resistless then assail,
96 When wrapt in irony's transparent veil:
97 Her beauties half-conceal'd the more surprize,
98 And keener lustre sparkles in her eyes.
99 Then be your line with sharp encomiums grac'd:
100 Stile Clodius honourable, Bufa chaste.
101 Dart not on Folly an indignant eye:
102 Who e'er discharg'd artillery on a fly?
103 Deride not Vice: absurd the thought and vain,
104 To bind the tyger in so weak a chain.
105 Nay more: when flagrant crimes your laughter move,
106 The knave exults: to smile is to approve.
107 The Muse' labour then success shall crown,
108 When Folly feels her smile, and Vice her frown.
109 Know next what measures to each theme belong,
110 And suit your thoughts and numbers to your song:
111 On wing proportion'd to your quarry rise,
112 And stoop to earth, or soar among the skies.
113 Thus when a modish folly you rehearse,
114 Free the expression, simple be the verse.
115 In artless numbers paint th' ambitious peer
116 That mounts the box, and shines a charioteer:
117 In strains familiar sing the midnight toil
118 Of camps and senates disciplin'd by Hoyle.
119 Patriots and chiefs whose deep design invades
120 And carries off the captive king of — spades!
121 Let SATIRE here in milder vigour shine,
122 And gayly graceful sport along the line;
123 Bid courtly Fashion quit her thin pretence,
124 And smile each affectation into sense.
125 Not so when Virtue by her guards betray'd,
126 Spurn'd from her throne, implores the Muse's aid;
127 When crimes, which erst in kindred darkness lay,
128 Rise frontless, and insult the eye of day;[Page 331]
129 Indignant Hymen veils his hallow'd fires,
130 And white-rob'd Chastity with tears retires;
131 When rank Adultery on the genial bed
132 Hot from Cocytus rears her baleful head:
133 When private faith and publick trust are sold,
134 And traitors barter liberty for gold;
135 When fell Corruption dark and deep, like Fate,
136 Saps the foundation of a sinking state:
137 When giant-vice and irreligion rise,
138 On mountain'd falsehoods to invade the skies:
139 Then warmer numbers glow thro' SATIRE'S page,
140 And all her smiles are darken'd into rage:
141 On eagle-wing she gains Parnassus' height,
142 Not lofty EPIC soars a nobler flight:
143 Then keener indignation fires her eye;
144 Then flash her lightnings, and her thunders fly;
145 Wide and more wide her flaming bolts are hurl'd,
146 Till all her wrath involves the guilty world.
147 Yet SATIRE oft' assumes a gentler mien,
148 And beams on Virtue's friends a look serene:
149 She wounds reluctant, pours her balm and joy,
150 Glad to commend where merit strikes her eye.
151 But tread with cautious step this dangerous ground,
152 Beset with faithless precipices round:
153 Truth be your guide: disdain Ambition's call;
154 And if you fall with truth, you greatly fall.
155 'Tis Virtue's native lustre that must shine:
156 The poet can but set it in his line:[Page 332]
157 And who unmov'd with laughter can behold
158 A sordid pebble meanly grac'd with gold?
159 Let real merit then adorn your lays,
160 For shame a tends on prostituted praise:
161 And all your wit, your most distinguish'd art
162 But makes us grieve, you want an honest heart.
163 Nor think the Muse by SATIRE'S law confin'd:
164 She yields description of the noblest kind,
165 Inferior art the landskip may design,
166 And paint the purple evening in the line:
167 Her daring thought essays a higher plan;
168 Her hand delineates passion, pictures man.
169 And great the toil, the latent soul to trace,
170 To paint the heart, and catch internal grace;
171 By turns bid vice or virtue strike our eyes,
172 Now bid a Wolsey or a Cromwell rise;
173 Now with a touch more sacred and refin'd,
174 Call forth a CHESTERFIELD'S or LONSDALE'S mind.
175 Here sweet or strong may ev'ry colour flow,
176 Here let the pencil warm, the canvass glow:
177 Of light and shade provoke the noble strife,
178 And wake each striking feature into life.
1 THRO' ages thus hath SATIRE keenly shin'd,
2 The friend to truth, to virtue, and mankind:
3 Yet the bright flame from virtue ne'er had sprung,
4 And man was guilty ere the poet sung. [Page 333]
5 This Muse in silence joy'd each better age,
6 Till glowing crimes had wak'd her into rage.
7 Truth saw her honest spleen with new delight,
8 And bade her wing her shafts, and urge their flight.
9 First on the sons of Greece she prov'd her art,
10 And Sparta felt the fierce IAMBICK dartb
b Archilocum proprio rabies armavit Iambo. HOR..
11 To LATIUM next avenging SATIRE flew:
12 The flaming faulchion rough LUCILIUSc
Ense velut stricto quoties Lucilius ardens
Infremuit, rubet auditor cui frigida mens est
Criminibus, tacita sudant praecordia culpa.JUV. S. 1.
13 With dauntless warmth in Virtue's cause engag'd,
14 And conscious villains trembled as he rag'd.
15 Then sportive HORACEd
caught the generous fire
Omne vafer vitium ridenti Flaccus amico
Tangit, & admissus circum praecordia ludit,
Callidus excusso populum suspendere Naso.PERS. S. 1.
16 For SATIRE'S bow resign'd the sounding lyre:
17 Each arrow polish'd in his hand was seen,
18 And as it grew more polish'd, grew more keen.
19 His art, conceal'd in study'd negligence
20 Politely sly, cajol'd the foes of sense:
21 He seem'd to sport and trifle with the dart,
22 But while he sported, drove it to the heart.
23 In graver strains majestick PERSIUS wrote,
24 Big with a ripe exuberance of thought:
25 Greatly sedate, contemn'd a tyrant's reign,
26 And lash'd corruption with a calm disdain.
27 More ardent eloquence, and boundless rage
28 Inflame bold JUVENAL'S exalted page.
29 His mighty numbers aw'd corrupted Rome,
30 And swept audacious greatness to its doom;
31 The headlong torrent thundering from on high,
32 Rent the proud rock that lately brav'd the sky.
33 But lo! the fatal victor of mankind,
34 Swoln Luxury! — Pale Ruin stalks behind!
35 As countless insects from the north-east pour,
36 To blast the spring, and ravage ev'ry flow'r:
37 So barb'rous millions spread contagious death:
38 The sick'ning laurel wither'd at their breath.
39 Deep superstition's night the skies o'erhung,
40 Beneath whose baleful dews the poppy sprung.
41 No longer Genius woo'd the Nine to love,
42 But Dulness nodded in the Muses' grove:
43 Wit, spirit, freedom, were the sole offence,
44 Nor aught was held so dangerous as sense.
45 At length, again fair Science shot her ray,
46 Dawn'd in the skies, and spoke returning day.
47 Now SATIRE, triumph o'er thy flying foe,
48 Now load thy quiver, string thy slacken'd bow!
49 'Tis done — See, great ERASMUS breaks the spell,
50 And wounds triumphant Folly in her cell!
51 (In vain the solemn cowl surrounds her face,
52 Vain all her bigot cant, her sowr grimace)
53 With shame compell'd her leaden throne to quit,
54 And own the force of reason urg'd by wit.
55 'Twas then plain DONNE in honest vengeance rose,
56 His wit refulgent, tho' his rhyme was prose:
57 He 'midst an age of puns and pedants wrote
58 With genuine sense, and Roman strength of thought.
59 Yet scarce had SATIRE well relum'd her flame,
60 (With grief the Muse records her country's shame)
61 Ere Britain saw the foul revolt commence,
62 And treach'rous Wit began her war with Sense.
63 Then 'rose a shameless, mercenary train,
64 Whom latest time shall view with just disdain:
65 A race fantastick, in whose gaudy line
66 Untutor'd thought, and tinsel beauty shine;
67 Wit's shatter'd mirror lies in fragments bright,
68 Reflects not nature, but confounds the sight.
69 Dry morals the court-poet blush'd to sing:
70 'Twas all his praise to say "the oddest thing."
71 Proud for a jest obscene, a patron's nod,
72 To martyr Virtue, or blaspheme his God.
73 Ill-fated DRYDEN! who unmov'd can see
74 Th' extremes of wit and meanness join'd in thee!
75 Flames that cou'd mount, and gain their kindred skies,
76 Low creeping in the putrid sink of vice:
77 A Muse whom Wisdom woo'd, but woo'd in vain,
78 The pimp of pow'r, the prostitute to gain:
79 Wreaths, that shou'd deck fair Virtue's form alone,
80 To strumpets, traitors, tyrants, vilely thrown:
81 Unrival'd parts, the scorn of honest fame;
82 And genius rise, a monument of shame!
83 More happy France: immortal BOILEAU there
84 Supported genius with a sage's care:
85 Him with her love propitious SATIRE blest,
86 And breath'd her airs divine into his breast:
87 Fancy and sense to form his line conspire,
88 And faultless judgment guides the purest fire.
89 But see, at length, the British Genius smile,
90 And show'r her bounties o'er her favour'd isle:
91 Behold for POPE she twines the laurel crown,
92 And centers ev'ry poet's pow'r in one:
93 Each Roman's force adorns his various page;
94 Gay smiles, collected strength, and manly rage.
95 Despairing Guilt and Dulness loath the sight,
96 As spectres vanish at approaching light:
97 In this clear mirror with delight we view
98 Each image justly fine, and boldly true:
99 Here Vice, drag'd forth by Truth's supreme decree,
100 Beholds and hates her own deformity:
101 While self-seen Virtue in the faithful line
102 With modest joy surveys her form divine.
103 But oh, what thoughts, what numbers shall I find,
104 But faintly to express the poet's mind!
105 Who yonder star's effulgence can display,
106 Unless he dip his pencil in the ray?
107 Who paint a god, unless the god inspire?
108 What catch the lightning, but the speed of fire?
109 So, mighty POPE, to make thy genius known,
110 All pow'r is weak, all numbers — but thy own.[Page 337]
111 Each Muse for thee with kind contention strove,
112 For thee the Graces left th' IDALIAN grove:
113 With watchful fondness o'er thy cradle hung,
114 Attun'd thy voice, and form'd thy infant tongue.
115 Next, to her bard majestick Wisdom came;
116 The bard enraptur'd caught the heav'nly flame:
117 With taste superior scorn'd the venal tribe,
118 Whom fear can sway, or guilty greatness bribe;
119 At fancy's call who rear the wanton sail,
120 Sport with the stream, and trifle in the gale:
121 Sublimer views thy daring spirit bound;
122 Thy mighty voyage was creation's round;
123 Intent new worlds of wisdom to explore,
124 And bless mankind with Virtue's sacred store;
125 A nobler joy than wit can give, impart;
126 And pour a moral transport o'er the heart.
127 Fantastick wit shoots momentary fires,
128 And like a meteor, while we gaze, expires:
129 Wit kindled by the sulph'rous breath of Vice,
130 Like the blue lightning, while it shines, destroys:
131 But genius, fir'd by truth's eternal ray,
132 Burns clear and constant, like the source of day:
133 Like this, its beam prolifick and refin'd
134 Feeds, warms, inspirits, and exalts the mind;
135 Mildly dispels each wint'ry passion's gloom,
136 And opens all the virtues into bloom.
137 This praise, immortal POPE, to thee be giv'n:
138 Thy genius was indeed a gift from heav'n.[Page 338]
139 Hail, bard unequall'd, in whose deathless line
140 Reason and wit with strength collected shine:
141 Where matchless wit but wins the second praise,
142 Lost, nobly lost, in truth's superior blaze.
143 Did FRIENDSHIP e'er mislead thy wand'ring Muse?
144 That friendship sure may plead the great excuse:
145 That sacred friendship which inspir'd thy song,
146 Fair in defect, and amiably wrong.
147 Error like this ev'n truth can scarce reprove;
148 'Tis almost virtue when it flows from love.
149 Ye deathless names, ye sons of endless praise,
150 By Virtue crown'd with never-fading bays!
151 Say, shall an artless Muse, if you inspire,
152 Light her pale lamp at your immortal fire?
153 Or if, O WARBURTON, inspir'd by YOU,
154 The daring Muse a nobler path pursue,
155 By You inspir'd, on trembling pinion soar,
156 The sacred founts of social bliss explore,
157 In her bold numbers chain the tyrant's rage,
158 And bid her country's glory fire her page:
159 If such her fate, do thou, fair Truth, descend,
160 And watchful guard her in an honest end:
161 Kindly severe, instruct her equal line
162 To court no friend, nor own a foe but thine.
163 But if her giddy eye should vainly quit
164 Thy sacred paths, to run the maze of wit;
165 If her apostate heart shou'd e'er incline
166 To offer incense at Corruption's shrine;[Page 339]
167 Urge, urge thy pow'r, the black attempt confound,
168 And dash the smoaking censer to the ground.
169 Thus aw'd to fear, instructed bards may see,
170 That guilt is doom'd to sink in infamy.