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EPISTLE

TO

SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS.

WHEN Dryden, worn with sickness, bow'd with

years, Was doom'd (my friend, let pity warm thy tears) The galling pang of penury to feel, For ill-plac'd loyalty and courtly zeal, To see that laurel which his brows o'erspread, Transplanted, droop on Shadwell's barren head, The bard oppress'd, yet not subdu'd by fate, For very bread descended to translate : And he, whose fancy, copious as his phrase, Could light at will expression's brightest blaze, On Fresnoy's lay employ'd his studious hour ; But niggard there of that melodious power, His pen, in haste the hireling task to close, Transform'd the studied strain to careless prose, Which, fondly lending faith to French pretence, Mistook its meaning, or obscur'd its sense.

Yet still he pleas’d, for Dryden still must please, Whether with artless elegance and ease

He glides in prose, or from its tinkling chime,
By varied pauses, purifies his rhyme,
And mounts on Maro's plumes, and soars his

heights sublime.
This artless elegance, this native fire
Provok'd his tuneful heir* to strike the lyre,
Who proud his numbers with that prose to join,
Wove an illustrious wreath for friendship’s shrine.

How oft, on that fair shrine when poets bind The flowers of song, does partial passion blind Their judgment's eye! How oft does truth disclaim The deed, and scorn to call it genuine fame! How did she here, when Jervas was the theme, Waft thro' the ivory gate the poet's dream! How view, indignant, error's base alloy The sterling lustre of his praise destroy. Which now, if praise like his my Muse could coin, Current through ages, she would stamp for thine !

Let friendship, as she caus’d, excuse the deed; With thee, and such as thee, she must succeed.

But what, if fashion tempted Pope astray ? The witch has spells; and Jervas knew a day When mode-struck belles and beaux were proud

to come And buy of him a thousand years of bloom.t * Mr. Pope, in his Epistle to Jervas, has these lines : Read these instructive leaves, in which conspire

Fresnoy's close art with Dryden's native fire. † Alluding to another couplet in the same Epistle :

Beauty, frail flower, that every season fears,
Blooms in thy colours for a thousand years,

Ev’n then I deem it but a venal crime : Perish alone that selfish sordid rhyme, Which flatters lawless sway, or tinsel pride ; Let black Oblivion plunge it in her tide.

From fate like this my truth-supported lays,
Ev'n if aspiring to thy pencil's praise,
Would flow secure: but humbler strains are mine;
Know, when to thee I consecrate the line,
Tis but to thank thy genius for the ray
Which pours on Fresnoy's rules a fuller day :
Those candid strictures, those reflections new,
Refin’d by taste, yet still as nature true,
Which blended here with his instructive strains,
Shall bid thy art inherit new domains ;
Give her in Albion as in Greece to rule,
And guide (what thou hast form’d) a British
:: School.

And, 0, if aught thy Poet can pretend
Beyond his favourite wish to call thee friend,
Be it that here his tuneful toil has drest
The Muse of Fresnoy in a modern vest;
And, with that skill his fancy could bestow,
Taught the close folds to take an easier flow ; '
Be it, that here thy partial smile approv'd
The pains he lavish'd on the art he lov’d.

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W. MASON.

Oct. 10, 1782..

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