To the Reverend T— T—, D. D.[ed.]
"To his friend and neighbour Dr. Thomas Taylor. 1744." (1782
1 — FRench pow'r, and weak allies, and war, and want —
2 No more of that, my friend; you touch a string
3 That hurts my ear. All politics apart,
4 Except a gen'rous wish, a glowing prayer
5 For British welfare, commerce, glory, peace.
6 Give party to the winds: it is a word,
7 A phantom sound, by which the cunning great
8 Whistle to their dependents: a decoy
9 To gull th' unwary, where the master stands[Page 143]
10 Encouraging his minions, his train'd birds,
11 Fed and caress'd their species to betray.
12 See with what hollow blandishment and art
13 They lead the winged captive to the snare!
14 Fools! that in open aether might have soar'd,
15 Free as the air they cut; sip'd purest rills,
16 Din'd with the Thames, or bath'd in crystal lakes.
17 We wear no badges, no dependence own:
18 Who truly loves thee, dearest Liberty,
19 A silken fetter will uneasy sit.
20 Heav'n knows it is not Insolence that speaks!
21 The tribute of respect to greatness due
22 Not the brib'd sycophant more willing pays.
23 Still, still as much of party be retain'd,
24 As principle requires, and sense directs:
25 Else our vain bark, without a rudder, floats
26 The scorn and pastime of each veering gale.
27 This gentle ev'ning let the sun descend
28 Untroubled, while it paints your ambient hills
29 With faded lustre, and a sweet farewel.
30 Here is our seat: that castle opposite,
31 Proud of its woody brow, adorns the scene,
32 Dictate, O vers'd in books, and just of taste,
33 Dictate the pleasing theme of our discourse.
34 Shall we trace Science from her Eastern home
35 Chaldaean; or the banks of Nile, where Thebes,
36 Nursing her daughter arts, majestic stood,
37 And pour'd forth knowledge from an hundred gates?[Page 144]
38 There first the marble learn'd to mimic life,
39 The pillar'd temple rose, and pyramids,
40 Whose undecaying grandeur laughs at Time;
41 Birth-place of letters, where the sun was shewn
42 His radiant way, and heav'ns were taught to roll.
43 There too the Muses tun'd their earliest lyre,
44 Warbling soft numbers to Serapis' ear;
45 'Till chac'd by tyrants, or a milder clime
46 Inviting, they remov'd with pilgrim harps,
47 And all their band of harmony to Greece.
48 As when a flock of linnets, if perchance
49 Deliver'd from the falcon's talon, fly
50 With trembling wing to cover, and renew
51 Their notes; tell ev'ry bush of their escape,
52 And thrill their merry thanks to Liberty.
53 The tuneful tribe, pleas'd with their new abode,
54 Polish'd the rude inhabitants, whence tales
55 Of list'ning woods, and rocks that danc'd to sound.
56 Hear the full chorus lifting hymns to Jove!
57 Linus and Orpheus catch the strain, and all
58 The raptur'd audience utter loud applause.
59 A song, believe me, was no trifle then:
60 Weighty the Muse's task, and wide her sway:
61 Her's was religion, the resounding fanes
62 Echo'd her language; polity was her's,
63 And the world bow'd to legislative verse.
64 As states increas'd, and governments were form'd,
65 Her aid less useful, she retir'd to grots[Page 145]
66 And shady bow'rs, content to teach and please.
67 Under her laurel frequent bards repos'd;
68 Voluble Pindar troll'd his rapid song,
69 Or Sappho breath'd her spirited complaint:
70 Here the stage buskin, there the lyric choir,
71 And Homer's epic trumpet. Happy Greece,
72 Bless'd in her offspring! Seat of eloquence,
73 Of arts and reason; patriot-virtue's seat!
74 Did the sun thither dart uncommon rays!
75 Did some presiding genius hover o'er
76 That animated soil with brooding wings!
77 The sad reverse might start a gentle tear —
78 Go, search in Athens for herself, enquire
79 Where are her orators, her sages now:
80 Her arsenal overturn'd, her walls in dust,
81 But far less ruin'd than her soul decay'd.
82 The stone inscrib'd to Socrates, debas'd
83 To prop a reeling cot: Minerva's shrine
84 Possess'd by those who never heard her name.
85 Upon the mount where old Mùsaeus sung,
86 Sits the grim turban'd captain, and exacts
87 Harsh tribute; on the spot where Plato taught
88 His heav'nly strains sublime, a stupid Turk
89 Is preaching ignorance and Mahomet.
90 Turn next to Rome: is that the clime, the place,
91 Where once, as Fame reports, Augustus liv'd?
92 What magic has transform'd her, shrunk her nerves?
93 A wither'd laurel, and a mould'ring arch! —[Page 146]
94 Cou'd the pure crimson tide, the noblest blood
95 That ever flow'd, to such a puddle turn?
96 She ends, like her long Appian, in a marsh;
97 Or Jordan's river pouring his clear urn
98 Into the black Asphaltus' slimy lap.
99 Patrons of wit, and victors of mankind,
100 Bards, warriors, worthies (revolution strange)
101 Are pimps and fidlers, mountebanks and monks.
102 In Tully's beehive, magazine of sweets,
103 The lazy drones are buzzing or asleep.
104 But we forgive the living for the dead;
105 Indebted more to Rome than we can pay.
106 Of a long dearth prophetic, she lay'd in
107 A feast for ages. — O thou banquet nice,
108 Where the soul riots with secure excess!
109 What felt delight! what pleasing useful hours
110 Repeated owe we to her letter'd sons!
111 We by their favour Tiber's walks enjoy,
112 Their temples trace, and share their noble games;
113 Enter the crowded theatre at will,
114 Go to the forum, hear the consul plead,
115 Are present in the thund'ring Capitol
116 When Tully speaks; at softer hours attend
117 Harmonious Virgil to his Mantuan farm,
118 Or Baian; and with happy Horace talk
119 In myrtle groves by Teverone's cascade.
120 Hail, precious pages! that amuse and teach,
121 Exalt the genius, and improve the breast.[Page 147]
122 Ye sage historians all your stores unfold,
123 Reach your clear steady mirror — in that glass
124 The forms of good and ill are well portray'd.
125 But chiefly thou, divine Philosophy,
126 Shed thy bless'd influence; with thy train appear
127 Of graces mild, far be the Stoic boast,
128 The Cynic's snarl, and churlish pedantry.
129 Bright visitant, if not too high my wish,
130 Come in the lovely dress you wore, a guest
131 At Plato's table, or at Tusculum,
132 The Roman feasting his selected friends.
133 Tamer of pride! at thy serene rebuke
134 See crouching insolence, spleen, and revenge
135 Before thy shining taper disappear.
136 Tutor of human life, auspicious guide,
137 Whose faithful clue unravels ev'ry Muse,
138 Whose conduct smooths the roughest paths; whose voice
139 Controuls each storm, and bids the roar be still:
140 O condescend to gild my darksome roof:
141 Let me know thee — the Delphic oracle
142 Is then obey'd — and I shall know myself.