Books afford Consolation to the troubled Mind, by substituting a lighter Kind of Distress for its own They are productive of other Advantages An Author's Hope of being known in distant Times Arrangement of the Library Size and Form of the Volumes The ancient Folio, clasped and chained Fashion prevalent even in this Place The Mode of publishing in Numbers, Pamphlets, &c. Subjects of the different Classes Divinity Controversy The Friends of Religion often more dangerous than her Foes Sceptical Authors Reason too much rejected by the former Converts; exclusively relied upon by the latter Philosophy ascending through the Scale of Being to moral Subjects Books of Medicine: their Variety, Variance, and Proneness to System: the Evil of this, and the Difficulty it causes Farewell to this Study Law: the increasing Number of its Volumes Supposed happy State of Man without Laws Progress of Society Historians: their Subjects Dramatic Authors, Tragic and Comic Ancient Romances The Captive Heroine Happiness in the Perusal of such Books: why Criticism Apprehensions of the Author: removed by the Appearance of the Genius of the Place; whose Reasoning and Admonition conclude the Subject.

[Page 27]
1 When the sad soul, by care and grief oppress'd,
2 Looks round the world, but looks in vain for rest;
3 When every object that appears in view,
4 Partakes her gloom and seems dejected too;
5 Where shall affliction from itself retire?
6 Where fade away and placidly expire?
[Page 28]
7 Alas! we fly to silent scenes in vain;
8 Care blasts the honours of the flow'ry plain:
[Page 29]
9 Care veils in clouds the sun's meridian beam,
10 Sighs through the grove, and murmurs in the stream;
[Page 30]
11 For when the soul is labouring in despair,
12 In vain the body breathes a purer air:
13 No storm-tost sailor sighs for slumbering seas,
14 He dreads the tempest, but invokes the breeze;
15 On the smooth mirror of the deep resides
16 Reflected woe, and o'er unruffled tides
17 The ghost of every former danger glides.
18 Thus, in the calms of life, we only see
19 A steadier image of our misery;
20 But lively gales and gently clouded skies
21 Disperse the sad reflections as they rise;
[Page 31]
22 And busy thoughts and little cares avail
23 To ease the mind, when rest and reason fail.
24 When the dull thought, by no designs employ'd,
25 Dwells on the past, or suffer'd or enjoy'd,
26 We bleed anew in every former grief,
27 And joys departed furnish no relief.
28 Not Hope herself, with all her flattering art,
29 Can cure this stubborn sickness of the heart:
30 The soul disdains each comfort she prepares,
31 And anxious searches for congenial cares;
32 Those lenient cares, which, with our own combined,
33 By mix'd sensations ease th' afflicted mind,
34 And steal our grief away, and leave their own behind;
35 A lighter grief! which feeling hearts endure
36 Without regret, nor e'en demand a cure.
37 But what strange art, what magic can dispose
38 The troubled mind to change its native woes?
39 Or lead us willing from ourselves, to see
40 Others more wretched, more undone than we?
41 This, Books can do; nor this alone; they give
42 New views to life, and teach us how to live;
43 They soothe the grieved, the stubborn they chastise,
44 Fools they admonish, and confirm the wise:
45 Their aid they yield to all: they never shun
46 The man of sorrow, nor the wretch undone:
47 Unlike the hard, the selfish, and the proud,
48 They fly not sullen from the suppliant crowd;
[Page 32]
49 Nor tell to various people various things,
50 But show to subjects, what they show to kings.
51 Come, Child of Care! to make thy soul serene,
52 Approach the treasures of this tranquil scene;
53 Survey the dome, and, as the doors unfold,
54 The soul's best cure, in all her cares, behold!
55 Where mental wealth the poor in thought may find
56 And mental physic the diseased in mind;
57 See here the balms that passion's wounds assuage;
58 See coolers here, that damp the fire of rage;
59 Here alt'ratives, by slow degrees control
60 The chronic habits of the sickly soul;
61 And round the heart and o'er the aching head,
62 Mild opiates here their sober influence shed.
[Page 33]
63 Now bid thy soul man's busy scenes exclude,
64 And view composed this silent multitude:
65 Silent they are but, though deprived of sound,
66 Here all the living languages abound;
67 Here all that live no more; preserved they lie,
68 In tombs that open to the curious eye.
69 Blest be the gracious Power, who taught mankind
70 To stamp a lasting image of the mind!
71 Beasts may convey, and tuneful birds may sing,
72 Their mutual feelings, in the opening spring;
73 But Man alone has skill and power to send
74 The heart's warm dictates to the distant friend;
75 'Tis his alone to please, instruct, advise
76 Ages remote, and nations yet to rise.
[Page 34]
77 In sweet repose, when Labour's children sleep,
78 When Joy forgets to smile and Care to weep,
79 When Passion slumbers in the lover's breast,
80 And Fear and Guilt partake the balm of rest,
81 Why then denies the studious man to share
82 Man's common good, who feels his common care?
83 Because the hope is his, that bids him fly
84 Night's soft repose, and sleep's mild power defy;
85 That after-ages may repeat his praise,
86 And fame's fair meed be his, for length of days.
87 Delightful prospect! when we leave behind
88 A worthy offspring of the fruitful mind!
89 Which, born and nursed through many an anxious day,
90 Shall all our labour, all our care repay.
91 Yet all are not these births of noble kind,
92 Not all the children of a vigorous mind;
93 But where the wisest should alone preside
94 The weak would rule us, and the blind would guide;
95 Nay, man's best efforts taste of man, and show
96 The poor and troubled source from which they flow:
97 Where most he triumphs, we his wants perceive,
98 And for his weakness in his wisdom grieve.
99 But though imperfect all; yet wisdom loves
100 This seat serene, and virtue's self approves:
101 Here come the grieved, a change of thought to find;
102 The curious here to feed a craving mind;
103 Here the devout their peaceful temple choose;
104 And here the poet meets his favouring muse.
[Page 35]
105 With awe, around these silent walks I tread;
106 These are the lasting mansions of the dead:
107 "The dead!" methinks a thousand tongues reply;
108 "These are the tombs of such as cannot die!
109 " Crown'd with eternal fame, they sit sublime,
110 "And laugh at all the little strife of time."
111 Hail, then, immortals! ye who shine above,
112 Each, in his sphere, the literary Jove;
113 And ye the common people of these skies,
114 A humbler crowd of nameless deities;
[Page 36]
115 Whether 'tis yours to lead the willing mind
116 Through History's mazes, and the turnings find;
117 Or whether, led by Science, ye retire,
118 Lost and bewilder'd in the vast desire;
119 Whether the Muse invites you to her bowers,
120 And crowns your placid brows with living flowers;
121 Or godlike Wisdom teaches you to show
122 The noblest road to happiness below;
123 Or men and manners prompt the easy page
124 To mark the flying follies of the age:
125 Whatever good ye boast, that good impart;
126 Inform the head and rectify the heart.
127 Lo, all in silence, all in order stand,
128 And mighty folios first, a lordly band;
129 Then quartos their well-order'd ranks maintain,
130 And light octavos fill a spacious plain:
131 See yonder, ranged in more frequented rows,
132 A humbler band of duodecimos;
133 While undistinguish'd trifles swell the scene,
134 The last new play and fritter'd magazine.
[Page 37]
135 Thus 'tis in life, where first the proud, the great,
136 In leagued assembly keep their cumbrous state;
137 Heavy and huge, they fill the world with dread,
138 Are much admired, and are but little read:
139 The commons next, a middle rank, are found;
140 Professions fruitful pour their offspring round;
141 Reasoners and wits are next their place allow'd,
142 And last, of vulgar tribes a countless crowd.
143 First, let us view the form, the size, the dress;
144 For these the manners, nay the mind express;
145 That weight of wood, with leathern coat o'erlaid;
146 Those ample clasps, of solid metal made;
147 The close-press'd leaves, unclosed for many an age;
148 The dull red edging of the well-fill'd page;
149 On the broad back the stubborn ridges roll'd
150 Where yet the title stands in tarnish'd gold;
151 These all a sage and labour'd work proclaim,
152 A painful candidate for lasting fame:
[Page 38]
153 No idle wit, no trifling verse can lurk
154 In the deep bosom of that weighty work;
155 No playful thoughts degrade the solemn style,
156 Nor one light sentence claims a transient smile.
157 Hence, in these times, untouch'd the pages lie,
158 And slumber out their immortality:
159 They had their day, when, after all his toil,
160 His morning study, and his midnight oil,
161 At length an author's one great work appear'd,
162 By patient hope, and length of days, endear'd:
163 Expecting nations hail'd it from the press;
164 Poetic friends prefix'd each kind address;
165 Princes and kings received the pond'rous gift,
166 And ladies read the work they could not lift.
167 Fashion, though Folly's child, and guide of fools,
168 Rules e'en the wisest, and in learning rules;
169 From crowds and courts to Wisdom's seat she goes
170 And reigns triumphant o'er her mother's foes.
171 For lo! these fav'rites of the ancient mode
172 Lie all neglected like the Birthday Ode.
[Page 39]
173 Ah! needless now this weight of massy chain;
174 Safe in themselves, the once-loved works remain;
175 No readers now invade their still retreat,
176 None try to steal them from their parent-seat;
177 Like ancient beauties, they may now discard
178 Chains, bolts, and locks, and lie without a guard.
179 Our patient fathers trifling themes laid by,
180 And roll'd, o'er labour'd works, th' attentive eye:
181 Page after page, the much-enduring men
182 Explored, the deeps and shallows of the pen;
183 Till, every former note and comment known,
184 They mark'd the spacious margin with their own:
185 Minute corrections proved their studious care;
186 The little index, pointing, told us where;
187 And many an emendation show'd the age
188 Look'd far beyond the rubric title-page.
189 Our nicer palates lighter labours seek,
190 Cloy'd with a folio-Number once a week;
191 Bibles, with cuts and comments, thus go down:
192 E'en light Voltaire is number'd through the town:
193 Thus physic flies abroad, and thus the law,
194 From men of study, and from men of straw;
195 Abstracts, abridgments, please the fickle times,
196 Pamphlets and plays, and politics and rhymes:
[Page 40]
197 But though to write be now a task of ease,
198 The task is hard by manly arts to please,
199 When all our weakness is exposed to view
200 And half our judges are our rivals too.
201 Amid these works, on which the eager eye
202 Delights to fix, or glides reluctant by,
203 When all combined, their decent pomp display,
204 Where shall we first our early offering pay?
205 To thee, Divinity! to thee, the light
206 And guide of mortals, through their mental night;
207 By whom we learn our hopes and fears to guide;
208 To bear with pain, and to contend with pride;
209 When grieved, to pray; when injured, to forgive;
210 And with the world in charity to live.
[Page 41]
211 Not truths like these inspired that numerous race,
212 Whose pious labours fill this ample space;
213 But questions nice, where doubt on doubt arose,
214 Awaked to war the long-contending foes.
215 For dubious meanings, learn'd polemics strove,
216 And wars on faith prevented works of love;
217 The brands of discord far around were hurl'd,
218 And holy wrath inflamed a sinful world:
219 Dull though impatient, peevish though devout,
220 With wit disgusting, and despised without;
221 Saints in design, in execution men,
222 Peace in their looks, and vengeance in their pen.
223 Methinks I see, and sicken at the sight,
224 Spirits of spleen from yonder pile alight;
225 Spirits who prompted every damning page,
226 With pontiff pride and still-increasing rage:
[Page 42]
227 Lo! how they stretch their gloomy wings around,
228 And lash with furious strokes the trembling ground!
229 They pray, they fight, they murder, and they weep,
230 Wolves in their vengeance, in their manners sheep;
231 Too well they act the prophet's fatal part,
232 Denouncing evil with a zealous heart;
233 And each, like Jonah, is displeased if God
234 Repent his anger, or withhold his rod.
235 But here the dormant fury rests unsought,
236 And Zeal sleeps soundly by the foes she fought;
237 Here all the rage of controversy ends,
238 And rival zealots rest like bosom-friends:
239 An Athanasian here, in deep repose,
240 Sleeps with the fiercest of his Arian foes;
241 Socinians here with Calvinists abide,
242 And thin partitions angry chiefs divide;
243 Here wily Jesuits simple Quakers meet,
244 And Bellarmine has rest at Luther's feet.
245 Great authors, for the church's glory fired,
246 Are, for the church's peace, to rest retired;
247 And close beside, a mystic, maudlin race,
248 Lie "Crumbs of Comfort for the Babes of Grace."
[Page 43]
249 Against her foes Religion well defends
250 Her sacred truths, but often fears her friends;
251 If learn'd, their pride, if weak, their zeal she dreads,
252 And their hearts 'weakness, who have soundest heads:
253 But most she fears the controversial pen,
254 The holy strife of disputatious men;
255 Who the blest Gospel's peaceful page explore,
256 Only to fight against its precepts more.
257 Near to these seats, behold yon slender frames,
258 All closely fill'd and mark'd with modern names;
259 Where no fair science ever shows her face,
260 Few sparks of genius, and no spark of grace;
261 There sceptics rest, a still-increasing throng,
262 And stretch their widening wings ten thousand strong;
263 Some in close fight their dubious claims maintain;
264 Some skirmish lightly, fly and fight again;
265 Coldly profane, and impiously gay,
266 Their end the same, though various in their way.
267 When first Religion came to bless the land,
268 Her friends were then a firm believing band;
[Page 44]
269 To doubt was then to plunge in guilt extreme,
270 And all was gospel that a monk could dream;
271 Insulted Reason fled the grov'ling soul,
272 For Fear to guide, and visions to control:
273 But now, when Reason has assumed her throne,
274 She, in her turn, demands to reign alone;
275 Rejecting all that lies beyond her view,
276 And, being judge, will be a witness too:
277 Insulted Faith then leaves the doubtful mind,
278 To seek for truth, without a power to find:
279 Ah! when will both in friendly beams unite,
280 And pour on erring man resistless light?
281 Next to the seats, well stored with works divine,
282 An ample space, Philosophy! is thine;
[Page 45]
283 Our reason's guide, by whose assisting light
284 We trace the moral bounds of wrong and right;
285 Our guide through nature, from the sterile clay,
286 To the bright orbs of yon celestial way!
287 'T is thine, the great, the golden chain to trace,
288 Which runs through all, connecting race with race.
289 Save where those puzzling, stubborn links remain,
290 Which thy inferior light pursues in vain:
291 How vice and virtue in the soul contend;
292 How widely differ, yet how nearly blend;
293 What various passions war on either part,
294 And now confirm, now melt the yielding heart:
295 How Fancy loves around the world to stray,
296 While Judgment slowly picks his sober way;
[Page 46]
297 The stores of memory, and the flights sublime
298 Of genius, bound by neither space nor time;
299 All these divine Philosophy explores,
300 Till, lost in awe, she wonders and adores.
301 From these, descending to the earth, she turns,
302 And matter, in its various form, discerns;
303 She parts the beamy light with skill profound,
304 Metes the thin air, and weighs the flying sound;
305 'T is hers the lightning from the clouds to call,
306 And teach the fiery mischief where to fall.
307 Yet more her volumes teach, on these we look
308 As abstracts drawn from Nature's larger book:
309 Here, first described, the torpid earth appears,
310 And next, the vegetable robe it wears;
311 Where flow'ry tribes, in valleys, fields, and groves,
312 Nurse the still flame, and feed the silent loves;
313 Loves, where no grief, nor joy, nor bliss, nor pain,
314 Warm the glad heart or vex the labouring brain;
315 But as the green blood moves along the blade,
316 The bed of Flora on the branch is made;
317 Where, without passion, love instinctive lives,
318 And gives new life, unconscious that it gives.
[Page 47]
319 Advancing still in Nature's maze, we trace,
320 In dens and burning plains, her savage race;
321 With those tame tribes who on their lord attend,
322 And find, in man, a master and a friend;
323 Man crowns the scene, a world of wonders new,
324 A moral world, that well demands our view.
[Page 48]
325 This world is here; for, of more lofty kind,
326 These neighbouring volumes reason on the mind;
327 They paint the state of man ere yet endued
328 With knowledge; man, poor, ignorant, and rude;
329 Then, as his state improves, their pages swell,
330 And all its cares, and all its comforts, tell:
331 Here we behold how inexperience buys,
332 At little price, the wisdom of the wise;
333 Without the troubles of an active state,
334 Without the cares and dangers of the great,
335 Without the miseries of the poor, we know
336 What wisdom, wealth, and poverty bestow;
337 We see how reason calms the raging mind,
338 And how contending passions urge mankind:
339 Some, won by virtue, glow with sacred fire;
340 Some, lured by vice, indulge the low desire;
341 Whilst others, won by either, now pursue
342 The guilty chase, now keep the good in view;
343 For ever wretched, with themselves at strife,
344 They lead a puzzled, vex'd, uncertain life;
345 For transient vice bequeaths a lingering pain,
346 Which transient virtue seeks to cure in vain.
347 Whilst thus engaged, high views enlarge the soul,
348 New interests draw, new principles control:
349 Nor thus the soul alone resigns her grief,
350 But here the tortured body finds relief;
351 For see where yonder sage Arachnè shapes
352 Her subtile gin, that not a fly escapes!
[Page 49]
353 There Physic fills the space, and far around,
354 Pile above pile her learned works abound:
355 Glorious their aim to ease the labouring heart;
356 To war with death, and stop his flying dart;
357 To trace the source whence the fierce contest grew,
358 And life's short lease on easier terms renew;
359 To calm the phrensy of the burning brain;
360 To heal the tortures of imploring pain;
361 Or, when more powerful ills all efforts brave,
362 To ease the victim no device can save,
363 And smooth the stormy passage to the grave.
[Page 50]
364 But man, who knows no good unmix'd and pure,
365 Oft finds a poison where he sought a cure;
366 For grave deceivers lodge their labours here,
367 And cloud the science they pretend to clear:
368 Scourges for sin, the solemn tribe are sent;
369 Like fire and storms, they call us to repent;
370 But storms subside, and fires forget to rage.
371 These are eternal scourges of the age:
372 'T is not enough that each terrific hand
373 Spreads desolation round a guilty land;
374 But train'd to ill, and harden'd by its crimes,
375 Their pen relentless kills through future times.
376 Say ye, who search these records of the dead
377 Who read huge works, to boast what ye have read;
378 Can all the real knowledge ye possess,
379 Or those if such there are who more than guess,
380 Atone for each impostor's wild mistakes,
381 And mend the blunders pride or folly makes?
382 What thought so wild, what airy dream so light,
383 That will not prompt a theorist to write?
384 What art so prevalent, what proof so strong,
385 That will convince him his attempt is wrong?
386 One in the solids finds each lurking ill,
387 Nor grants the passive fluids power to kill;
388 A learned friend some subtler reason brings,
389 Absolves the channels, but condemns their springs;
390 The subtile nerves, that shun the doctor's eye,
391 Escape no more his subtler theory;
[Page 51]
392 The vital heat, that warms the labouring heart,
393 Lends a fair system to these sons of art;
394 The vital air, a pure and subtile stream,
395 Serves a foundation for an airy scheme,
396 Assists the doctor, and supports his dream.
397 Some have their favourite ills, and each disease
398 Is but a younger branch that kills from these:
399 One to the gout contracts all human pain;
400 He views it raging in the frantic brain;
401 Finds it in fevers all his efforts mar,
402 And sees it lurking in the cold catarrh:
403 Bilious by some, by others nervous seen,
404 Rage the fantastic demons of the spleen;
405 And every symptom of the strange disease
406 With every system of the sage agrees.
407 Ye frigid tribe, on whom I wasted long
408 The tedious hours, and ne'er indulged in song;
409 Ye first seducers of my easy heart,
410 Who promised knowledge ye could not impart;
411 Ye dull deluders, truth's destructive foes;
412 Ye sons of fiction, clad in stupid prose;
413 Ye treacherous leaders, who, yourselves in doubt,
414 Light up false fires, and send us far about;
415 Still may yon spider round your pages spin,
416 Subtile and slow, her emblematic gin!
[Page 52]
417 Buried in dust and lost in silence, dwell,
418 Most potent, grave, and reverend friends farewell!
419 Near these, and where the setting sun displays,
420 Through the dim window, his departing rays,
421 And gilds yon columns, there, on either side,
422 The huge Abridgments of the Law abide;
423 Fruitful as vice the dread correctors stand,
424 And spread their guardian terrors round the land;
425 Yet, as the best that human care can do,
426 Is mix'd with error, oft with evil too,
427 Skill'd in deceit, and practised to evade,
428 Knaves stand secure, for whom these laws were made,
[Page 53]
429 And justice vainly each expedient tries,
430 While art eludes it, or while power defies.
431 "Ah! happy age," the youthful poet sings,
432 "When the free nations knew not laws nor kings;
433 " When all were blest to share a common store,
434 "And none were proud of wealth, for none were poor;
435 " No wars nor tumults vex'd each still domain,
436 "No thirst of empire, no desire of gain;
437 " No proud great man, nor one who would be great,
438 "Drove modest merit from its proper state;
439 " Nor into distant climes would Avarice roam,
440 "To fetch delights for Luxury at home:
441 " Bound by no ties which kept the soul in awe,
442 "They dwelt at liberty, and love was law!"
443 "Mistaken youth! each nation first was rude,
444 " Each man a cheerless son of solitude,
445 "To whom no joys of social life were known,
446 " None felt a care that was not all his own;
447 "Or in some languid clime his abject soul
448 " Bow'd to a little tyrant's stern control;
449 "A slave, with slaves his monarch's throne he raised,
450 " And in rude song his ruder idol praised;
[Page 54]
451 "The meaner cares of life were all he knew;
452 " Bounded his pleasures, and his wishes few:
453 "But when by slow degrees the Arts arose,
454 " And Science waken'd from her long repose;
455 "When Commerce, rising from the bed of ease,
456 " Ran round the land, and pointed to the seas;
457 "When Emulation, born with jealous eye,
458 " And Avarice, lent their spurs to industry;
459 "Then one by one the numerous laws were made,
460 " Those to control, and these to succour trade;
461 "To curb the insolence of rude command,
462 " To snatch the victim from the usurer's hand;
463 "To awe the bold, to yield the wrong'd redress,
464 " And feed the poor with Luxury's excess. "
465 Like some vast flood, unbounded, fierce, and strong,
466 His nature leads ungovern'd man along;
467 Like mighty bulwarks made to stem that tide,
468 The laws are form'd, and placed on ev'ry side:
469 Whene'er it breaks the bounds by these decreed,
470 New statutes rise, and stronger laws succeed;
471 More and more gentle grows the dying stream,
472 More and more strong the rising bulwarks seem;
473 Till, like a miner working sure and slow,
474 Luxury creeps on, and ruins all below;
475 The basis sinks, the ample piles decay;
476 The stately fabric shakes and falls away;
477 Primeval want and ignorance come on,
478 But Freedom, that exalts the savage state, is gone.
[Page 55]
479 Next, History ranks; there full in front she lies,
480 And every nation her dread tale supplies;
481 Yet History has her doubts, and every age
482 With sceptic queries marks the passing page;
483 Records of old nor later date are clear,
484 Too distant those, and these are placed too near;
485 There time conceals the objects from our view,
486 Here our own passions and a writer's too:
487 Yet, in these volumes, see how states arose!
488 Guarded by virtue from surrounding foes;
489 Their virtue lost, and of their triumphs vain,
490 Lo! how they sunk to slavery again!
491 Satiate with power, of fame and wealth possess'd,
492 A nation grows too glorious to be blest;
493 Conspicuous made, she stands the mark of all,
494 And foes join foes to triumph in her fall.
495 Thus speaks the page that paints ambition's race,
496 The monarch's pride, his glory, his disgrace;
497 The headlong course, that madd'ning heroes run,
498 How soon triumphant, and how soon undone;
499 How slaves, turn'd tyrants, offer crowns to sale,
500 And each fall'n nation's melancholy tale.
[Page 56]
501 Lo! where of late the Book of Martyrs stood,
502 Old pious tracts, and Bibles bound in wood;
503 There, such the taste of our degenerate age,
504 Stand the profane delusions of the Stage:
505 Yet virtue owns the Tragic Muse a friend,
506 Fable her means, morality her end;
507 For this she rules all passions in their turns,
508 And now the bosom bleeds, and now it burns;
509 Pity with weeping eye surveys her bowl,
510 Her anger swells, her terror chills the soul;
511 She makes the vile to virtue yield applause,
512 And own her sceptre while they break her laws;
513 For vice in others is abhorr'd of all,
514 And villains triumph when the worthless fall.
515 Not thus her sister Comedy prevails,
516 Who shoots at Folly, for her arrow fails;
[Page 57]
517 Folly, by Dulness arm'd, eludes the wound,
518 And harmless sees the feather'd shafts rebound;
519 Unhurt she stands, applauds the archer's skill,
520 Laughs at her malice, and is Folly still.
521 Yet well the Muse portrays, in fancied scenes,
522 What pride will stoop to, what profession means;
523 How formal fools the farce of state applaud;
524 How caution watches at the lips of fraud;
525 The wordy variance of domestic life;
526 The tyrant husband, the retorting wife;
527 The snares for innocence, the lie of trade,
528 And the smooth tongue's habitual masquerade.
529 With her the Virtues too obtain a place,
530 Each gentle passion, each becoming grace;
531 The social joy in life's securer road,
532 Its easy pleasure, its substantial good;
533 The happy thought that conscious virtue gives,
534 And all that ought to live, and all that lives.
535 But who are these? Methinks a noble mien
536 And awful grandeur in their form are seen,
537 Now in disgrace: what though by time is spread
538 Polluting dust o'er every reverend head;
539 What though beneath yon gilded tribe they lie,
540 And dull observers pass insulting by:
541 Forbid it shame, forbid it decent awe,
542 What seems so grave, should no attention draw!
543 Come, let us then with reverend step advance,
544 And greet the ancient worthies of Romance.
[Page 58]
545 Hence, ye profane! I feel a former dread,
546 A thousand visions float around my head:
547 Hark! hollow blasts through empty courts resound
548 And shadowy forms with staring eyes stalk round;
549 See! moats and bridges, walls and castles rise,
550 Ghosts, fairies, demons, dance before our eyes;
551 Lo! magic verse inscribed on golden gate,
552 And bloody hand that beckons on to fate:
553 "And who art thou, thou little page, unfold?
554 " Say, doth thy lord my Claribel withhold?
555 "Go tell him straight, Sir Knight, thou must resign
556 " The captive queen; for Claribel is mine. "
557 Away he flies; and now for bloody deeds,
558 Black suits of armour, masks, and foaming steeds;
559 The giant falls; his recreant throat I seize,
560 And from his corslet take the massy keys:
561 Dukes, lords, and knights in long procession move,
562 Released from bondage with my virgin love:
563 She comes! she comes! in all the charms of youth,
564 Unequall'd love, and unsuspected truth!
[Page 59]
565 Ah! happy he who thus, in magic themes,
566 O'er worlds bewitch'd, in early rapture dreams,
567 Where wild Enchantment waves her potent wand,
568 And Fancy's beauties fill her fairy land;
569 Where doubtful objects strange desires excite,
570 And Fear and Ignorance afford delight.
571 But lost, for ever lost, to me these joys,
572 Which Reason scatters, and which Time destroys;
573 Too dearly bought: maturer judgment calls
574 My busied mind from tales and madrigals;
575 My doughty giants all are slain or fled,
576 And all my knights blue, green, and yellow dead!
577 No more the midnight fairy tribe I view,
578 All in the merry moonshine tippling dew;
[Page 60]
579 E'en the last lingering fiction of the brain,
580 The churchyard ghost, is now at rest again;
581 And all these wayward wanderings of my youth
582 Fly Reason's power, and shun the light of Truth.
583 With Fiction then does real joy reside,
584 And is our reason the delusive guide?
585 Is it then right to dream the syrens sing?
586 Or mount enraptured on the dragon's wing?
587 No; 't is the infant mind, to care unknown,
588 That makes th' imagined paradise its own;
589 Soon as reflections in the bosom rise,
590 Light slumbers vanish from the clouded eyes:
591 The tear and smile, that once together rose,
592 Are then divorced; the head and heart are foes:
593 Enchantment bows to Wisdom's serious plan,
594 And Pain and Prudence make and mar the man.
[Page 61]
595 While thus, of power and fancied empire vain,
596 With various thoughts my mind I entertain;
[Page 62]
597 While books, my slaves, with tyrant hand I seize,
598 Pleased with the pride that will not let them please;
599 Sudden I find terrific thoughts arise,
600 And sympathetic sorrow fills my eyes;
601 For, lo! while yet my heart admits the wound,
602 I see the Critic army ranged around.
[Page 63]
603 Foes to our race! if ever ye have known
604 A father's fears for offspring of your own;
605 If ever, smiling o'er a lucky line,
606 Ye thought the sudden sentiment divine,
607 Then paused and doubted, and then, tired of doubt,
608 With rage as sudden dash'd the stanza out;
609 If, after fearing much and pausing long,
610 Ye ventured on the world your labour'd song,
611 And from the crusty critics of those days
612 Implored the feeble tribute of their praise;
613 Remember now the fears that moved you then,
614 And, spite of truth, let mercy guide your pen.
615 What vent'rous race are ours! what mighty foes
616 Lie waiting all around them to oppose!
617 What treacherous friends betray them to the fight!
618 What dangers threaten them! yet still they write:
619 A hapless tribe! to every evil born,
620 Whom villains hate, and fools affect to scorn:
[Page 64]
621 Strangers they come, amid a world of woe,
622 And taste the largest portion ere they go.
[Page 65]
623 Pensive I spoke, and cast mine eyes around;
624 The roof, methought, return'd a solemn sound;
625 Each column seem'd to shake, and clouds, like smoke,
626 From dusty piles and ancient volumes broke;
627 Gathering above, like mists condensed they seem,
628 Exhaled in summer from the rushy stream;
629 Like flowing robes they now appear, and twine
630 Round the large members of a form divine;
631 His silver beard, that swept his aged breast,
632 His piercing eye, that inward light express'd,
633 Were seen, but clouds and darkness veil'd the rest.
634 Fear chill'd my heart: to one of mortal race,
635 How awful seem'd the Genius of the place!
636 So in Cimmerian shores, Ulysses saw
637 His parent-shade, and shrunk in pious awe;
638 Like him I stood, and wrapt in thought profound,
639 When from the pitying power broke forth a solemn sound:
640 "Care lives with all; no rules, no precepts save
641 " The wise from woe, no fortitude the brave;
642 "Grief is to man as certain as the grave:
643 " Tempests and storms in life's whole progress rise,
644 "And hope shines dimly through o'erclouded skies;
[Page 66]
645 " Some drops of comfort on the favour'd fall,
646 "But showers of sorrow are the lot of all:
647 " Partial to talents, then, shall Heav'n withdraw
648 "Th' afflicting rod, or break the general law?
649 " Shall he who soars, inspired by loftier views,
650 "Life's little cares and little pains refuse?
651 " Shall he not rather feel a double share
652 "Of mortal woe, when doubly arm'd to bear?
653 "Hard is his fate who builds his peace of mind
654 " On the precarious mercy of mankind;
655 "Who hopes for wild and visionary things,
656 " And mounts o'er unknown seas with vent'rous wings:
657 "But as, of various evils that befal
658 " The human race, some portion goes to all;
659 "To him perhaps the milder lot's assign'd,
660 " Who feels his consolation in his mind;
661 "And, lock'd within his bosom, bears about
662 " A mental charm for every care without.
[Page 67]
663 "E'en in the pangs of each domestic grief,
664 " Or health or vigorous hope affords relief;
665 "And every wound the tortured bosom feels,
666 " Or virtue bears, or some preserver heals;
667 "Some generous friend, of ample power possess'd;
668 " Some feeling heart, that bleeds for the distress'd;
669 "Some breast that glows with virtues all divine;
670 " Some noble RUTLAND, misery's friend and thine.
[Page 68]
671 "Nor say, the Muse's song, the Poet's pen,
672 " Merit the scorn they meet from little men.
673 "With cautious freedom if the numbers flow,
674 " Not wildly high, nor pitifully low;
675 "If vice alone their honest aims oppose,
676 " Why so ashamed their friends, so loud their foes?
677 "Happy for men in every age and clime,
678 " If all the sons of vision dealt in rhyme.
679 "Go on, then, Son of Vision! still pursue
680 " Thy airy dreams; the world is dreaming too
681 "Ambition's lofty views, the pomp of state,
682 " The pride of wealth, the splendour of the great,
683 "Stripp'd of their mask, their cares and troubles known,
684 " Are visions far less happy than thy own:
685 "Go on! and, while the sons of care complain,
686 " Be wisely gay and innocently vain;
687 "While serious souls are by their fears undone,
688 " Blow sportive bladders in the beamy sun,
[Page 69]
689 "And call them worlds! and bid the greatest show
690 " More radiant colours in their worlds below:
691 "Then, as they break, the slaves of care reprove,
692 " And tell them, Such are all the toys they love. "


  • TEI/XML [chunk] (XML - 1.8M / ZIP - 161K) / ECPA schema (RNC - 357K / ZIP - 73K)
  • Plain text [excluding paratexts] (TXT - 31K / ZIP - 14K)

Facsimile (Source Edition)

(Page images digitized from a copy in the Bodleian Library [Dunston B 650 (2)].)



All Images (PDF - 60M)

About this text

Title (in Source Edition): THE LIBRARY.
Author: George Crabbe
Themes: books; imagination; poetry; literature; writing
Genres: essay

Text view / Document view

Source edition

Crabbe, George, 1754-1832. The Poetical Works of the Rev. George Crabbe: with his letters and journals, and his life, by his son. In eight volumes. Vol. II. [poems only] London: John Murray, Albemarle Street. MDCCCXXXVIII., 1838. 8 volumes. (Page images digitized from a copy in the Bodleian Library [Dunston B 650 (2)].)

Editorial principles

Typography, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation have been cautiously modernized. The source of the text is given and all significant editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. 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.