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Caught in a delicate soft silken net
By some lewd earl, or rakehell baronet:
Ye pimps, who under virtue's fair pretence,
Steal to the closet of young innocence,
And teach her, unexperienc'd yet and green,
To scribble as you scribbled at fifteen;
Who, kindling a combustion of desire,
With some cold moral think to quench the fire;
Though all your engineering proves in vain,
The dribbling stream ne'er puts it out again:
O that a verse had pow'r and could command
Far, far away these flesh-flies of the land;
Who fasten without mercy on the fair,
And suck, and leave a craving maggot there!
Howe'er disguis'd th' inflammatory tale,
And cover'd with a fine-spun specious veil;
Such writers, and such readers, owe the gust
And relish of their pleasure all to lust.
But the muse, eagle-pinion'd, has in view
A quarry more important still than you;
Down, down the wind she swims, and sails away,
Now stoops upon it, and now grasps the prey.
Petronius! all the muses weep for thee; But ev'ry tear shall scald thy memory;
VOL. I. E
The graces too, while Virtue at their shrine
Lay bleeding under that soft hand of thine,
Felt each a mortal stab in her own breast,
Abhorr'd the sacrifice, and curs'd the priest.
Thou polish'd and high-finish'd foe to truth,
Graybeard corrupter of our list'ning youth,
To purge and skim away the filth of vice,
That so refin'd it might the more entice,
Then pour it on the morals of thy son;
To taint his heart, was worthy of thine own!
Now, while the poison all high life pervades,
Write, if thou canst, one letter from the shades,
One, and one only, charg'd with deep regret,
That thy worse part, thy principles, live yet:
One sad epistle thence may cure mankind
Of the plague spread by bundles left behind.
Tis granted, and no plainer truth appears,
Our most important are our earliest years;
The Mind, impressible and soft, with ease
Imbibes and copies what she hears and sees,
And through life's labyrinth holds fast the clew,
That Education gives her, false or true.
Plants rais'd with tenderness are seldom strong;
Man's coltish disposition asks the thong;
And without discipline the fav'rite child,
Like a neglected forester, runs wild.
But we, as if good qualities would grow
Spontaneous, take but little pains to sow;
We give some Latin, and a smatch of Greek;
Teach him to fence and figure twice a week;
And having done, we think, the best we can,
Praise his proficiency, and dub him man.
From school to Cam or Isis, and thence home;
And thence with all convenient speed to Rome,
With rev'rend tutor clad in habit lay,
To tease for cash, and quarrel with all day;
With memorandum-book for ev'ry town,
And ev'ry post, and where the chaise broke down;
His stock, a few French phrases got by heart,
With much to learn, but nothing to impart.
The youth, obedient to his sire's commands,
Sets off a wand'rer into foreign lands.
Surpris'd at all they meet, the gosling pair,
With awkward gait, stretch'd neck, and silly stare,
Discover huge cathedrals built with stone,
And steeples tow'ring high much like our own;
But show peculiar light by many a grin
At popish practices observ'd within.
Ere long some bowing, smirking, smart abbe Remarks two loit'rers, that have lost their way; And being always prim'd with politesse For men of their appearance and address, With much compassion undertakes the task, To tell them more than they have wit to ask; Points to inscriptions wheresoe'er they tread, Such as, when legible, were never read, But, being canker'd now and half worn out, Craze antiquarian brains with endless doubt; Some headless hero, or some Caesar showsDefective only in his Roman nose; Exhibits elevations, drawings, plans, Models of Herculanean pots and pans; And sells them medals, which, if neither rare Nor ancient, will be so, preserv'd with care. Strange the recital! from whatever cause His great improvement and new light he draws, The squire, once bashful, is shamefac'd no more, But teems with pow'rs he never felt before: Whether increas'd momentum, and the force, With which from clime to clime he sped his course, (As axles sometimes kindle as they go) Chafd him, and brought dull nature to a glow;
Or whether clearer skies and softer air,
That make Italian flow'rs so sweet and fair,
Fresh'ning his lazy spirits as he ran,
Unfolded genially and spread the man;
Returning he proclaims by many a grace,
By shrugs and strange contortions of his face,
How much a dunce, that has been sent to roam,
Excels a dunce, that has been kept at home.
Accomplishments have taken virtue's place,
And wisdom falls before exterior grace;
We slight the precious kernel of the stone,
And toil to polish it's rough coat alone.
A just deportment, manners grac'd with ease,
Elegant phrase, and figure form'd to please,
Are qualities, that seem to comprehend
Whatever parents, guardians, schools, intend;
Hence an unfurnish'd and a listless mind,
Though busy, trifling; empty, though retin'd;
Hence all that interferes, and dares to clash
With indolence and luxury, is trash:
While learning, once the man's exclusive pride,
Seems verging fast towards the female side.
Learning itself, receiy'd into a mind
By nature weak, or viciously inclin'd,