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As alphabets in ivory employ,
Hour after hour, the yet unlettered boy,
Sorting and puzzling with a deal of glee
Those seeds of science called his A B C;
So language in the mouths of the adult,
Witness its insignificant result,
Too often proves an implement of play,
A toy to sport with and pass time away.
Collect at evening what the day brought forth,
Compress the sum into its solid worth,
And if it weigh the importance of a fly,
The scales are false, or algebra a lie.
Sacred interpreter of human thought,
How few respect or use thee as they ought!
But all shall give account of every wrong,
Who dare dishonour or defile the tongue;
Who prostitute it in the cause of vice,
Or sell their glory at a market-price;
Who vote for hire, or point it with lampoon,
The dear-bought placeman, and the cheap buffoon.
There is a prurience in the speech of some, Wrath stays him, or else God would strike them
His wise forbearance has their end in view, They fill their measure, and receive their due. The heathen law-givers of ancient days, Names almost worthy of a Christian's praise, Would drive them forth from the resort of men, And shut up every satyr in his den. Oh come not ye near innocence and truth, Ye worms that eat into the bud of youth! Infectious as impure, your blighting power Taints in its rudiments the promised flower; Its odour perished and its charming hue, Thenceforth 'tis hateful, for it smells of you. Not even the vigorous and headlong rage Of adolescence, or a firmer age, Affords a plea allowable or just For making speech the pamperer of lust; But when the breath of age commits the fault, 'Tis nauseous as the vapour of a vault. So withered stumps disgrace the sylvan scene, No longer fruitful, and no longer green: The sapless wood, divested of the bark, Grows fungous, and takes fire at every spark.
Oaths terminate, as Paul observes, all strife Some men have surely then a peaceful life; Whatever subject occupy discourse, The feats of Vestris, or the naval force, Asseveration blustering in your face Makes contradiction such an hopeless case: In every tale they tell, or false or true, Well known, or such as no man ever knew, They fix attention, heedless of your pain, With oaths like rivets forced into the brain; And even when sober truth prevails throughout, They swear it till affirmance breeds a doubt. A Persian, humble servant of the sun, Who though devout yet bigotry had none, Hearing a lawyer, grave in his address, With adjurations every word impress, Supposed the man'a bishop, or at least, God's name so much upon his lips, a priest; Bowed at the close with all his graceful airs, And begged an interest in his frequent prayers.
Go, quit the rank to which ye stood preferred, Henceforth associate in one.common herd;
Religion, virtue, reason, common sense,
Pronounce your human foron a false pretence;
A mere disguise, in which a devil lurks,
Who yet betrays his secret by his works.
Ye powers who rule the tongue, if such there are,
And make colloquial happiness your care,
Preserve me from the thing I dread and hate,
A duel in the form of a debate.
The clash of arguments and jar of words,
Worse than the mortal brunt of rival swords,
Decide no question with their tedious length,
For opposition gives opinion strength:
Divert the champions prodigal of breath,
And put the peaceably-disposed to death.
Oh thwart me not, sir Soph, at every turn,
Nor carp at every flaw you may discern;
Though syllogisms hang not upon my tongue,
I am not surely always in the wrong;
'Tis hard if all is false that I advance,
A fool must now and then be right by chance,
Not that all freedom of dissent I blame;
No-there I grant the privilege I claim,
A disputable point is no man's ground;
Rove where you please, 'tis common all around.
Discourse may want an animated-No,
To brush the surface and to make it flow;
But still remember, if you inean to please,
To press your point with modesty and ease.
The mark, at which my juster aim I take,
Is contradiction for its own dear sake.
Set your opinion at whatever pitch,
Knots and impediments make something hitch;
Adopt his own, 'tis equally in vain,
Your thread of argument is snapt again;
The wrangler, rather than accord with you,
Will judge himself deceived, and prove it too.
Vociferated logic kills me quite,
A noisy man is always in the right.
I twirl my thumbs, fall back into my chair,
Fix on the wainscot a distressful stare,
And, when I hope his blunders are all out,
Reply discreetly-To be sure-no doubt!
Dubius is such a scrupulous good manYes-you may catch him tripping if you can,