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Its destined office, yet with gentle stroke,
Dismiss me weary to a safe retreat,
Beneath the turf, that I have often trod
It shall not grieve me then, that once, when called To dress a Sofa with the flowers of verse,
I played a while, obedient to the fair,
With that light task; but soon, to please her more,
Whom flowers alone I knew would little please,
Let fall th' unfinished wreath, and roved for fruit;
Roved far, and gathered much: some harsh, 'tis true,
Picked from the thorns and briers of reproof,
But wholesome, well-digested; grateful some
To palates that can taste immortal truth;
Insipid else, and sure to be despised.
But all is in His hand, whose praise I seek.
In vain the poet sings, and the world hears,
If He regard not, though divine the theme.
'Tis not in artful measures, in the chime
And idle tinkling of a minstrel's lyre,
To charm his ear, whose eye is on the heart;
Whose frown can disappoint the proudest strain,
Whose approbation-prosper even mine.
DEAR JOSEPH-five and twenty years ago—
Alas how time escapes!-'tis even so~~
With frequent intercourse, and always sweet,
And always friendly, we were wont to cheat
A tedious hour-and now we never meet!
As some grave gentleman in Terence says,
('Twas therefore much the same in ancient days)
Good lack, we know not what to-morrow brings-
Strange fluctuation of all human things!
True. Changes will befall, and friends may part,
But distance only cannot change the heart:
And, were I called to prove th' assertion true,
One proof should serve-a reference to you.
Whence comes it then, that in the wane of life, Though nothing have occurred to kindle strife, We find the friends we fancied we had won, Though numerous once, reduced to few or none?
194 AN EPISTLE TO JOSEPH HILL, Esq.
Can gold grow worthless, that has stood the touch?
No; gold they seemed, but they were never such.
Horatio's servant once, with bow and cringe,
Swinging the parlour door upon its hinge,
Dreading a negative, and overawed
Lest he should trespass, begged to go abroad.
Go, fellow?-whither?-turning short about-
Nay. Stay at home-you're always going out.
'Tis but a step, sir, just at the street's end-
For what?-An please you, sir, to see a friend.—
A friend! Horatio cried, and seemed to start-
Yea marry shalt thou, and with all my heart.—
And fetch my cloak; for, though the night be raw,
I'll see him too-the first I ever saw.
I knew the man, and knew his nature mild,
And was his plaything often when a child;
But somewhat at that moment pinched him close,
Else he was seldom bitter or morose.
Perhaps his confidence just then betrayed,
His grief might prompt him with the speech he made;
Perhaps 'twas mere good humour gave it birth,
The harmless play of pleasantry and mirth.
Howe'er it was, his language, in my mind,
Bespoke at least a man that knew mankind.
But not to moralize too much, and strain
To prove an evil, of which all complain,
(I hate long arguments verbosely spun)
One story more, dear Hill, and I have done.
Once on a time an emperor, a wise man,
No matter where, in China, or Japan,
AN EPISTLE TO JOSEPH HILL, Esq. 195 Decreed, that whosoever should offend
Against the well-known duties of a friend,
Convicted once should ever after wear
But half a coat, and show his bosom bare.
The punishment importing this, no doubt,
That all was naught within, and all found out.
O happy Britain! we have not to fear
Such hard and arbitrary measure here;
Else, could a law, like that which I relate,
Once have the sanction of our triple state,
Some few, that I have known in days of old,
Would run most dreadful risk of catching cold;
While you, my friend, whatever wind should blow,
Might traverse England safely to and fro,
An honest man, close-buttoned to the chin,
Broad cloth without, and a warm heart within.