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Si quid loquar audiendum. Hor. Lib. 4. Od. 1.
Sing, muse, (if such a theme, so dark, so long, May find a muse to grace it with a song) By what unseen and unsuspected arts The serpent error twines round human hearts; Tell where she lurks, beneath what flow'ry shades, That not a glimpse of genuine light pervades, The pois'nous, black, insinuating worm Successfully conceals her loathsome form.
Take, is ye can, ye careless and supine, Counsel and caution from a voice like mine! Truths, that the theorist could never reach, And observation taught me, I would teach.
Not all, whose eloquence the fancy fills, Musical as the chime of tinkling rills, Weak to perform, though mighty to pretend, Can trace her mazy windings to their end; Discern the fraud beneath the specious lure, Prevent the danger, or prescribe the cure. The clear harangue, and cold as it is clear, Falls soporific on the listless ear; Like quicksilver, the rhet'ric they display Shines as it runs, but, grasp'd at, slips away.
Plac'd for his trial on this bustling stage, From thoughtless youth to ruminating age, Free in his will to choose or to refuse, Man may improve the crisis, or abuse; Else, on the fatalists unrighteous plan, Say, to what bar amenable were man?
With nought in charge, he could betray no trust;
And, if he fell, would fall because he must;
If love reward him, or if vengeance strike,
His recompense in both unjust alike.
Divine authority within his breast
Brings ev'ry thought, word, action, to the test;
Warns him or prompts, approves him or restrains,
As reason, or as passion, takes the reins.
Heav'n from above, and conscience from within,
Cries in his startled ear—Abstain from fin!
The world around solicits his desire,
And kindles in his foul a treach'rous fire;
While, all his purposes and steps to guard,
Peace follows virtue, as its sure reward;
And pleasure brings as surely in her train
Remorse, and sorrow, and vindictive pain.
Man, thus endued with an elective voice,
Must be supplied with objects of his choice.
Where'er he turns, enjoyment and delight,
Or present, or in prospect, meet his sight
Those open on the spot their honey'd store;
These call him loudly to pursuit of more.
His unexhausted mine the sordid vice
Avarice shows, and virtue is the price.
Here various motives his ambition raise—
Pow'r, pomp, and splendour, and the thirst os praise
There beauty woos him with expanded arms;
E'en Bacchanalian madness has its charms.
Nor these alone, whose pleasures, less refin'd,
Might well alarm the most unguarded mind,
Seek to supplant his inexperienc'd youth,
Or lead him devious from the path of truth;
Hourly allurements on his passions press,
Safe in themselves, but dang'rous in th' excess.
Hark! how it floats upon the dewy air!
O what a dying, dying close was there!
'Tis harmony from yon sequester'd bow'r,
Sweet harmony, that sooths the midnight hour!
Long ere the charioteer of day had run
His morning course, th' enchantment was begun;
And he shall gild yon mountain's height again,
Ere yet the pleasing toil becomes a pain.
Is this the rugged path, the steep ascent,
That virtue points to? Can a life thus spent
Lead to the bliss she promises the wife,
Detach the foul from earth, and speed her to the fides?
Ye devotees to your ador'd employ,
Enthusiasts, drunk with an unreal joy,
Love makes the music of the blest above,
Heav'n's harmony is universal love;
And earthly sounds, though sweet and well combin'd.
And lenient as soft opiates to the mind,
Leave vice and folly unsubdu'd behind.
Gray dawn appears; the sportsman and his train
Speckle the bosom of the distant plain;
'Tis he, the Nimrod of the neighb'ring lairs;
Save that his scent is less acute than their's,
For persevering chase, and headlong leaps,
True beagle as the staunchest hound he keeps.
Charg'd with the folly of his life's mad scene,
He takes offence, and wonders what you mean;