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'Tis granted, and no plainer truth appears, Our most important are our earliest years; The mind, impressible and soft, with ease Imbibes and copies what she hears and sees, And through life’s labyrinth holds fast the clue, That education gives her, false or true. Plants raised with tenderness are seldom strong; Man's coltish disposition asks the thong; And without discipline the favourite child, Like a neglected forester, runs wild. But we, as if good qualities would grow Spontaneous, take but little pains to sow; We give some Latin, and a smatch of Greek; Teach him to fence and figure twice a week; And having done, we think, the best we can, Praise his proficiency, and dub him man.
From school to Cam or Isis, and thence home: And thence with all convenient speed to Rome, With reverend tutor clad in habit lay, To tease for cash and quarrel with all day; With memorandum-book for every town, And every post, and where the chaise broke down;
His stock, a few French phrases got by heart,
With much to learn, but nothing to impart,
The youth, obedient to his sire's commands,
Sets off a wanderer into foreign lands.
Surprised at all they meet, the gosling pair
With awkward gait, stretched neck, and silly stare,
Discover huge cathedrals built with stone,
And steeples towering high, much like our own;
But show peculiar light by many a grin
At popish practices observed within.
Ere long some bowing, smirking, smart Abbé
Remarks two loiterers, that have lost their way;
And being always primed with politesse
For men of their appearance and address,
With much compassion undertakes the task
To tell them more than they have wit to ask:
Points to inscriptions wheresoever they tread,
Such as, when legible, were never read.
But, being cankered now, and half worn out,
Craze antiquarian brains with endless doubt;
Some headless hero, or some.Cæsar shews--
Defective only in his Roman nose;
Exhibits elevations, drawings, plans,
Models of Herculanean pots and pans;
And sells them medals, which if neither rare
Nor ancient, will be so, preserved with care.
Strange the recital! from whatever cause
His great improvement and new light he draws,
The squire, once bashful, is shamefaced no more,
But teems with powers he never felt before:
Whether increased momentum, and the force,
With which from clime to clime he sped his course,
(As axles sometimes kindle as they go)
Chafed him, and brought dull nature to a glow;
Or whether clearer skies and softer air,
That make Italian flowers so sweet and fair,
Freshening his lazy spirits as he ran,
Unfolded genially and spread the man;
Returning he proclaims by many a grace,
By shrugs and strange contortions of his face,
How much a dunce that has been sent to roam,
Excels a dunce that has been kept at home.
Accomplishments have taken virtue's place, And wisdom falls before exterior grace;
We slight the precious kernel of the stone,
And toil to polish its rough coat alone.
A just deportment, manners graced with ease,
Elegant phrase, and figure formed to please,
Are qualities, that seem to comprehend
Whatever parents, guardians, schools, intend;
Hence an unfurnished and a listless mind,
Though busy, trifling; empty, though refined;
Hence all that interferes, and dares to clash
With indolence and luxury, is trash:
While learning, once the man's exclusive pride,
Seems verging fast towards the female side.
Learning itself, received into a mind
By nature weak, or viciously inclined,
Serves but to lead philosophers astray,
Where children would with ease discern the
way. And of all arts sagacious dupes invent, To cheat themselves and gain the world's assent, The worst is-scripture warped from its intent.
The carriage bowls along, and all are pleased If Tom be sober, and the wheels well greased;
But if the
gone a cup too far,
Left out his linch-pin, or forgot his tar,
It suffers interruption and delay;
And meets with bindrance in the smoothest way.
When some hypothesis absurd and vain
Has filled with all its fumes a critic's brain,
The text that sorts not with his darling whim,
Though plain to others, is obscure to him.
The will made subject to a lawless force,
All is irregular, and out of course;
And judgment drunk, and bribed to lose his way,
Winks hard, and talks of darkness at noon day.
A critic on the sacred book should be
Candid and learned, dispassionate and free;
Free from the wayward bias bigots feel,
From fancy's influence, and intemperate zeal :
But above all, (or let the wretch refrain,
Nor touch the page he cannot but profane)
Free from the domineering power of lust;
A lewd interpreter is never just.
How shall I speak thee, or thy power address, Thou god of our idolatry, the press ?