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A. Good friend, forbear! you deal in dangerous
I'd never name queens, ministers, or kings;
Keep close to ears, and those let asses prick,
'Tis nothing.-P. Nothing ! if they bite and kick?
Out with it, Dunciad ! let the secret pass,
That secret to each fool, that he's an ass:
The truth once told (and wherefore should we lie?)
The queen of Midas slept, and so may I.
You think this cruel? take it for a rule
No creature smarts so little as a fool.
Let peals of laughter, Codrus, round thee break,
Thou unconcern'd canst hear the mighty crack:
Pit, box, and gallery, in convulsions hurl'd,
Thou stand'st unshook amidst a bursting world.
Who shames a scribbleri break one cobweb through,
He spins the slight self-pleasing thread anew :
Destroy his fib, or sophistry, in vain;
The creature's at his dirty work again,
Thron'd on the centre of his thin designs,
Proud of a vast extent of flimsy lines !
Whom have I hurt? has poet yet or peer
Lost the arch'd eyebrow or Parnassian sneer?
And has not Colley still his lord and whore?
His butchers Henley? his free-masons Moore?
Does not one table Bavius still admit?
Still to one bishop Philips seem a wit?
Still Sappho.-A. Hold! for God's sake-you'll offend.
No names-be calm-learn prudence of a friend:
I too could write, and I am twice as tall;
But foes like these.-P. One flatterer's worse than all,
Of all mad creatures, if the learn'd are right,
It is the slaver kills and not the bite.
A fool quite angry is quite innocent:
Alas ! 'tis ten times worse when they repent.
One dedicates in high heroic prose,
And ridicules beyond a hundred foes :
One from all Grub-street will my fame defend,
And, more abusive, calls himself my friend.
This prints my letters, that expects a bribe,
And others roar aloud, Subscribe, subscribe !"
There are who to my person pay their court :-
I cough like Horace; and, though lean, am short;
Ammon's great son one shoulder had too high,
Such Ovid's nose, and Sir! you have an eye-
Go on, obliging creatures! make me see
All that disgrac'd my betters met in me.
Say, for my comfort, languishing in bed,
Just so immortal Maro held his head :'
And when I die, be sure you let me know
Great Homer died three thousand years ago.
Why did I write ? what sin to me unknown Dipp'd me in ink, my parents', or my own? As yet a child, nor yet a fool to fame, I lisp'd in numbers, for the numbers came : I left no calling for this idle trade, No duty broke, no father disobey'd: The Muse but seri'd to ease some friend, not wife, To help me through this long disease, my life, To second, Arbuthnot! thy art and care, And teach the being you preserv'd to bear.
But why then publish? Granville the polite, And knowing Walsh, would tell me I could write; Well-natar'd Garth iufiam'd with early praise, And Congreve lov'd, and Swift endur'd, my lays; 'The courtly Talbot, Sonners, Sheffield, read, Ev'n mitred Rochester would nod the head, And St. John's self (great Dryden's triends before) With open arms receiv'd one poet more. Happy my studies, when by these approv'd! Happier their author, when by these belov'd! From these the world will judge of men and books, Not from the Burnets, Oldmixons, and Cooks.
Soft were my numbers; who could take offencé While pure description held the place of sense ? Like gentle Fanny's was my flowery theme, "A painted mistress, or a purling stream." Yet then did Gildon draw his venal quill; I wish'd the man a dinner, and sat still:
Yet then did Dennis rave in furious fret;
I never answer'd; I was not in debt.
If want provok'd, or madness made them print,
I wag'd no war with Bedlam or the Mint.
Did some more sober critic come abroad;
If wrong I smild, if right I kiss'd the rod.
Pains, reading, study, are their just pretence,
And all they want is spirit, taste, and sense.
Commas and points they set exactly right,
And 'twere a sin to rob them of their mite,
Yet ne'er one sprig of laurel grac'd these ribalds,
From slashing Beutly down to piddling Tibbalds:
Each wight who reads not, and but scans and spells,
Each word-catcher that lives on syllables,
Ev'n such small critics some regard may claim,
Preserv'd in Milton's or in Shakspeare's name.
Pretty ! in amber to observe the forms
Of hairs, or straws, or dirt, or grubs, or worms!
The things, we know, are neither rich nor rare,
But wonder how the devil they got there.
Were others angry: I excus'd them too; Well might they rage, I gave them but their due. A man's true merit 'tis not hard to find ; But each man's secret standard in his mind, That casting-weight pride adds to emptiness, This who can gratify ? for who can guess ? The bard whom pilfer'd pastorals renown, Who turns a Persian tale for alf-a-crown, Just writes to make his barrenness appear, And strains from hard-bound brains eight lines a year; He who still wanting, though he lives on theft, Steals much, spends little, yet has nothing left; And he who now to sense, now nonsense, leaning, Means not, but blunders round about a meaning; And he whose fustian's so sublimely bad, It is not poetry, but prose run mad: All these my modest satire bade translate, And own'd that nine such poets made a Tate. How did they fume, and stamp, and roar, and chafe! And swear not Addison himself was safe.
Peace to all such ! but were there one whose fires True genius kindles, and fair fame inspires, Bless'd with each talent and each art to please, And born to write, converse, and live with ease; Should such a man, too fond to rule alone, Bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne; View him with scornful yet with jealous eyes, And hate for arts that caus'd himself to rise; Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer, And without sneering teach the rest to sheer ; Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike, Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike; Alike reserv'd to blame or to commend, A timorous foe, and a suspicious friend Dreading ev'n fools ; by flatterers besieg'd, And so obliging that he ne'er oblig'd; Like Cato, give his little senate laws, And sit attentive to his own applause; While wits and templars every sentence raise, And wonder with a foolish face of praiseWho but must laugh if such a man there be ? Who would not weep, if Atticus were he?
What thongh my name stood rubric on the walls,
Or plaster'd posts, with claps, in capitals ?
Or smoking forth, a hundred hawkers' load,
On wings of winds came flying all abroad?
I sought no homage from the race that write;
I kept, like Asian monarchs, from their sight;
Poems I heeded (now be-rhym'd so long)
No more than thou, great George! a birth-day song.
I ne'er with wits or witlings pass'd my days
To spread about the itch of verse and praise;
Nor like a puppy daggled through the town
To fetch and carry sing-song up and down;
Nor at rehearsals sweat, and mouth'd, and cried,
With handkerchief and orange at my side;
But sick of fops, and poetry, and prate,
To Bufo left the whole Castalian state.
Proud as Apollo on his forked hill
Sat full-blown Bufo, puffd by every guill;
Fed with soft dedication all day long,
Horace and he went hand in hand in song.
His library (where busts of poets dead,
And a true Pindar stood without a head)
Receiv'd of wits an undistinguish'd race,
Who first his judgment ask'd, and then a place :
Much they extoll'd liis pictures, much his seat,
And flatter'd every day, and some days eat :
Till grown more frugal in his riper days,
He paid some bards with port, and some with praise ;
To sóme a dry rehearsal was assign'd,
And others (harder still) he paid in kind.
Dryden alone (what wonder ?) came not nigh;
Dryden alone escap'd this judging eye :
But still the great have kindness in reserve;
He help'd to bury whom he help'd to starve.
May some choice patron blesseacht grey-goose quill!
May every Bavius have his Bufo still!
So when a statesman wants a day's defence,
Or envy holds a whole week's war with sense,
Or simple pride for flattery makes demands,
May dunce by dunce be whistled off my hands !
Bless'd be the great! for those they take away,
And those they left me-for they left me Gay ;
Left me to see neglected genius bloom,
Neglected die, and tell it on his tomb :
Of all thy blameless life the sole return
My verse, and Queensberry weeping o'er thy urn!
Oh ! let me live my own, and die so too! (To live and die is all I have to do) Maintain a poet's dignity and ease, And see what friends, and read what books, I please; Above a patron, though I condescend Sometimes to call a minister my friend. I was not born for courts or great affairs; I pay my debts, believe, and say my pray'rs; Can sleep without a poem in my head, Nor know if Dennis be alive or dead.
Why am I ask'd what next shall see the light? Heav'ns I was I born for nothing but to write ?