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To such base hopes, in many a sordid soul,
Owe their repute in part, but not the whole.
A principle, whose proud pretensions pass
Unquestion’d, though the jewel be but glass-
That with a world, not often over-nice,
Ranks as a virtue, and is yet a vice;
Or rather a gross compound, justly tried,
Of envy, hatred, jealousy, and pride-
Contributes most, perhaps, to enchance their fame;
And Emulation is its specious name.
Boys, once on fire with that contentious zeal,
Feel all the rage that female rivals feel;
The prize of beauty in a woman's eyes
Not brighter than in theirs the scholar's prize.
The spirit of that competition burns
With all varieties of ill by turns ;
Each vainly magnifies his own success,
Resents his fellow's, wishes it were less,
Exults in his miscarriage if he fail,
Deems his reward too great if he prevail
And labours to surpass him day and night,
Less for improvement than to tickle spite.
The spur is powerful, and I grant its force ;
It pricks the genius forward in its course,
Allows short time for play, and none for sloth ;
And, felt alike by each, advances both :
But judge, where so much evil intervenes,
The end, though plausible, not worth the means.
Weigh, for a moment, classical desert
Against a heart depraved and temper hurt;
Hurt too, perhaps, for life ; for early wrong
Done to the nobler part affects it long ;
And you are staunch indeed in learning's cause,
you can crown a discipline, that draws Such mischiefs after it, with much applause.
Connexion form’d for interest, and endear'd By selfish views, thus censured and cashier'd ; And Emulation, as engendering hate, Doom'd to a no less ignominious fate ; The props of such proud seminaries fall, The Jachin and the Boazl of them all. Great schools rejected then, as those that swell Beyond a size that can be managed well, Shall royal institutions miss the bays, And small academies win all the praise ? Force not my drift beyond its just intent, I praise a school, as Pope a government; So take my judgment in his language dress’d“ Whate'er is best administer'd, is best.” Few boys are born with talents that excel, But all are capable of living well ; Then ask not whether limited or large, But, watch they strictly, or neglect their charge ? If anxious only that their boys may learn, While morals languish, a despised concern ; The great and small deserve one common blame, Different in size, but in effect the same. Much zeal in virtue's cause all teachers boast, Though motives of mere lucre sway the most ; Therefore in towns and cities they abound, For there the game they seek is easiest found; Though there, in spite of all that care can do, Traps to catch youth are most abundant too. If shrewd, and of a well-constructed brain, Keen in pursuit, and vigorous to retain, Your son come forth a prodigy of skill, As, wheresoever taught, so form’d, he will ; The pedagogue, with self-complacent air, Claims more than half the praise as his due share.
1. Jachin and Boaz:' the two brazen pillars in Solomon's Templ
But if, with all his genius, he betray,
Not more intelligent than loose and gay,
Such vicious habits as disgrace his name,
Threaten his health, his fortune, and his fame;
Though want of due restraint alone have bred
The symptoms that you see with so much dread;
Unenvied there, he may sustain alone
The whole reproach, the fault was all his own.
Oh! 'tis a sight to be with joy perused,
By all whom sentiment has not abused;
New-fangled sentiment, the boasted grace
Of those who never feel in the right place;
A sight surpass’d by none that we can show,
Though Vestris on one leg still shine below;
A father blest with an ingenuous son,
Father, and friend, and tutor, all in one.
How !—turn again to tales long since forgot,
Æsop, and Phædrus, and the rest ?—Why not?
He will not blush, that has a father's heart,
To take in childish plays a childish part ;
But bends his sturdy back to any toy
That youth takes pleasure in, to please his boy ;
Then why resign into a stranger's hand
A task as much within your own command--
That God and nature, and your interest too,
Seem with one voice to delegate to you?
Why hire a lodging in a house unknown,
For one whose tenderest thoughts all hover round your own?
This second weaning, needless as it is,
How does it lacerate both your heart and his !
The indented stick, that loses day by day
Notch after notch, till all are smooth'd away,
Bears witness, long ere his dismission come,
With what intense desire he wants his home.
But though the joys he hopes beneath your roof
Bid fair enough to answer in the proof,
Harmless, and safe, and natural, as they are,
A disappointment waits him even there :
Arrived, he feels an unexpected change ;
He blushes, hangs his head, is shy and strange,
No longer takes, as once, with fearless ease,
His favourite stand between his father's knees,
But seeks the corner of some distant seat,
And eyes the door, and watches a retreat ;
And, least familiar where he should be most,
Feels all his happiest privileges lost.
Alas! poor boy !—the natural effect
Of love by absence chill'd into respect.
Say, what accomplishments, at school acquired,
Brings he, to sweeten fruits so undesired?
Thou well deservest an alienated son,
Unless thy conscious heart acknowledge—none;
None that, in thy domestic snug recess,
He had not made his own with more address;
Though some, perhaps, that shock thy feeling mind
And better never learn'd, or left behind.
Add too, that, thus estranged, thou canst obtain
By no kind arts his confidence again ;
That here begins with most that long complaint
Of filial frankness lost, and love grown faint,
Which, oft neglected, in life’s waning years
A parent pours into regardless ears.
Like caterpillars, dangling under trees
By slender threads, and swinging in the breeze,
Which filthily bewray and sore disgrace
The boughs in which are bred the unseemly race -
While every worm industriously weaves
And winds his web about the rivell'd leaves ;
So numerous are the follies that annoy
The mind and heart of every sprightly boy;
Imaginations noxious and perverse,
Which admonition can alone disperse.
The encroaching nuisance asks a faithful hand,
Patient, affectionate, of high command,
To check the procreation of a breed,
Sure to exhaust the plant on which they feed.
'Tis not enough that Greek or Roman page,
At stated hours, his freakish thoughts engage;
Even in his pastimes he requires a friend,
To warn, and teach him safely to unbend;
O’er all his pleasures gently to preside,
Watch his emotions, and control their tide ;
And, levying thus, and with an easy sway,
A tax of profit from his very play,
To impress a value, not to be erased,
On moments squander'd else, and running all to waste.
And seems it nothing in a father's eye,
That unimproved those many moments fly?
And is he well content his son should find
No nourishment to feed his growing mind,
But conjugated verbs, and nouns declined ?
For such is all the mental food purvey'd
By public hackneys in the schooling trade;
Who feed a pupil's intellect with store
Of syntax truly, but with little more ;
Dismiss their cares when they dismiss their flock,
Machines themselves, and govern’d by a clock.
Perhaps a father, blest with any brains,
Would deem it no abuse or waste of pains,
To improve this diet, at no great expense,
With savoury truth and wholesome common sense ;