A Letter from Cambridge to a young Gentleman at Eton School.
1 THO' plagu'd with algebraic lectures,
2 And astronomical conjectures,
3 Wean'd from the sweets of poetry
4 To scraps of dry philosophy,
5 You see, dear sir, I've found a time
6 T' express my thoughts to you in rhime.
7 For why, my friend, shou'd distant parts,
8 Or times, disjoin united hearts,
9 Since, tho' by intervening space
10 Depriv'd of speaking face to face,
11 By faithful emissary letter
12 We may converse as well, or better?
13 And not to stretch a narrow fancy,
14 To shew what pretty things I can say,
15 (As some will strain at simile,
16 First work it fine, and then apply;
17 Tag Butler's rhimes to Prior's thoughts,
18 And chuse to mimic all their faults,
19 By head and shoulders bring in a stick,
20 To shew their knack at hudibrastic,)
21 I'll tell you as a friend, and crony,
22 How here I spend my time, and money;[Page 291]
23 For time, and money, go together
24 As sure as weathercock, and weather;
25 And thrifty guardians all allow
26 This grave reflection to be true,
27 That whilst we pay so dear for learning
28 Those weighty truths we've no concern in,
29 The spark who squanders time away
30 In vain pursuits, and fruitless play,
31 Not only proves an arrant blockhead,
32 But, what's much worse, is out of pocket.
33 Whether my conduct bad, or good is,
34 Judge from the nature of my studies.
35 No more majestic Virgil's heights,
36 Nor tow'ring Milton's loftier flights,
37 Nor courtly Flaccus's rebukes,
38 Who banters vice with friendly jokes,
39 Nor Congreve's life, nor Cowley's fire,
40 Nor all the beauties that conspire
41 To place the greenest bays upon
42 Th' immortal brows of Addison;
43 Prior's inimitable ease,
44 Nor Pope's harmonious numbers please;
45 Homer indeed (for critics shew it)
46 Was both philosopher, and poet,
47 But tedious philosophic chapters
48 Quite stifle my poetic raptures,
49 And I to Phoebus bade adieu
50 When first I took my leave of you.[Page 292]
51 Now algebra, geometry,
52 Arithmetic, astronomy,
53 Optics, chronology, and statics,
54 All tiresome parts of mathematics;
55 With twenty harder names than these
56 Disturb my brain, and break my peace.
57 All seeming inconsistencies
58 Are nicely solv'd by a's, and b's;
59 Our eye-sight is disprov'd by prisms,
60 Our arguments by syllogisms.
61 If I shou'd confidently write
62 This ink is black, this paper white,
63 Or, to express myself yet fuller,
64 Shou'd say that black, or white's a colour;
65 They'd contradict it, and perplex one
66 With motion, rays, and their reflexion,
67 And solve th' apparent falsehood by
68 The curious texture of the eye.
69 Shou'd I the poker want, and take it,
70 When't looks as hot, as fire can make it,
71 And burn my finger, and my coat,
72 They'd flatly tell me, 'tis not hot;
73 The fire, say they, has in't, 'tis true,
74 The pow'r of causing heat in you;
75 But no more heat's in fire that heats you,
76 Than there is pain in stick that beats you.
77 Thus too philosophers expound
78 The names of odour, taste, and sound;[Page 293]
79 The salts, and juices in all meat
80 Affect the tongues of them that eat,
81 And by some secret poignant power
82 Give them the taste of sweet, and sour.
83 Carnations, violets, and roses
84 Cause a sensation in our noses;
85 But then there's none of us can tell
86 The things themselves have taste, or smell.
87 So when melodious Mason sings,
88 Or Gethring tunes the trembling strings,
89 Or when the trumpet's brisk alarms
90 Call forth the cheerful youth to arms,
91 Convey'd thro' undulating air
92 The music's only in the ear.
93 We're told how planets roll on high,
94 How large their orbits, and how nigh;
95 I hope in little time to know
96 Whether the moon's a cheese, or no;
97 Whether the man in't, as some tell ye,
98 With beef and carrots fills his belly;
99 Why like a lunatic confin'd
100 He lives at distance from mankind;
101 When he at one good hearty shake,
102 Might whirl his prison off his back;
103 Or like a maggot in a nut
104 Full bravely eat his passage out.
105 Who knows what vast discoveries
106 From such inquiries might arise?[Page 294]
107 But feuds, and tumults in the nation
108 Disturb such curious speculation.
109 Cambridge from furious broils of state,
110 Foresees her near-approaching fate;
111 Her surest patrons are remov'd,
112 And her triumphant foes approv'd.
113 No more! this due to friendship take,
114 Not idly writ for writing's sake;
115 No longer question my respect,
116 Nor call this short delay neglect;
117 At least excuse it, when you see
118 This pledge of my sincerity;
119 For one who rhimes to make you easy,
120 And his invention strains to please you,
121 To shew his friendship cracks his brains,
122 Sure is a mad-man if he feigns.