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So nice his ear, so delicate his touch)
Made poetry a mere mechanic art,
And every warbler has his tune by heart.
Nature imparting her satiric gift,
Her serious mirth, to Arbuthnot and Swift,
With droll sobriety they raised a smile
At folly's cost, themselves unmoved the while.
That constellation set, the world in vain
Must hope to look upon their like again.
A. Are we then left— B. Not wholly in the dark:
Wit now and then, struck smartly, shows a spark,
Sufficient to redeem the modem race
From total night and absolute disgrace.
While servile trick and imitative knack
Confine the million in the beaten track,
Perhaps some courser who disdains the road,
Snuffs up the wind and flings himself abroad.
Contemporaries all surpassed, see one,
Short his career, indeed, but ably run. *
Churchill, himself unconscious of his powers,
In penury consumed his idle hours,
And like a scattered seed at random sown,
Was left to spring by vigour of his own.
Lifted at length by dignity of thought,
And dint of genius to an affluent lot,
He laid his head in luxury's soft lap,
And took too often there his easy nap.
If brighter beams than all he threw not forth,
'Twas negligence in him, not want of worth.
Surly and slovenly and bold and coarse,
Too proud for art, and trusting in mere force,
Spendthrift alike of money and of wit,
Always at speed, and never drawing bit,
He struck the lyre in such a careless mood,
And so disdained the rules he understood,
The laurel seemed to wait on his command,
He snatched it rudely from the Muse's hand.
Nature exerting an unwearied power,
Forms, opens and gives scent to every flower,
Spreads the fresh verdure of the field, and leads
The dancing Naiads through the dewy meads,
She fills profuse ten thousand little throats
With music, modulating all their notes,
And charms the woodland scenes and wilds unknown,
With artless airs and concerts of her own;
But seldom (as if fearful of expense)
Vouchsafes to man a poet's just pretence,
Fervency, freedom, fluency of thought,
Harmony, strength, words exquisitely sought,
Fancy that from the bow that spans the sky,
ISrings colours dipt in heaven that never die,
A soul exalted above earth, a mind
Skilled in the characters that form mankind,—
And as the sun in rising beauty dressed,
Looks to the westward from the dappled east,
And marks, whatever clouds may interpose,
Ere yet his race begins, its glorious close,
An eye like his to catch the distant goal,
Or ere the wheels of verse begin to roll,
Like his to shed illuminating rays
On every scene and subject it surveys,—
Thus graced the man asserts a poet's name,
And the world cheerfully admits the claim.
Pity! Religion has so seldom found
A skilful guide into poetic ground!
The flowers would spring where'er she deigned to stray,
And every Muse attend her in her way.
Virtue indeed meets many a rhyming friend,
And many a compliment politely penned,
But unattired in that becoming vest
Religion weaves for her, and half undressed,
Stands in the desert shivering and forlorn,
A wintry figure, like a withered thom.
The shelves are full, all other themes are sped;
Hackneyed and worn to the last flimsy thread,
Satire has long smce done his best, and curst
And loathsome ribaldry has done his worst;
Fancy has sported all her powers away
In tales, in trifles, and in children's play,
And 'tis the sad complaint, and almost true,
Whate'er we write, we bring forth nothing new.
'Twere new indeed, to see a bard all fire,
Touched with a coal from heaven, assume the lyre,
And tell the world, still kindling as he sung,
With more than mortal music on his tongue
That He who died below, and reigns above,
Inspires the song, and that his name is Love.
For after all, if merely to beguile
By flowing numbers and a flowery style
The tedium that the lazy rich endure,
Which now and then sweet poetry may cure,
Or if to see the name of idle self
Stamped on the well-bound quarto, grace the shelf,
To float a bubble on the breath of fame,
Prompt his endeavour, and engage his aim,
Debased to servile purposes of pride,
How are the powers of genius misapplied!
The gift whose office is the giver's praise,
To trace him in his word, his works, his ways,
Then spread the rich discovery, and invite
Mankind to share in the divine delight,
Distorted from its use and just design,
To make the pitiful possessor shine,
To purchase at the fool-frequented fair
Of vanity, a wreath for self to wear,
Is profanation of the basest kind,
Proof of a trifling and a worthless mind.
A. Hail Sternhold then and Hopkins hail I B. Amen.
If flattery, folly, lust employ the pen,
If acrimony, slander and abuse,
Give it a charge to blacken and traduce;
Though Butler's wit, Pope's numbers, Prior's ease,
With all that fancy can invent to please,
Adorned the polished periods as they fall,
One madrigal of theirs is worth them all.
A. 'Twould thin the ranks of the poetic tribe, To dash the pen through all that you proscribe.
B. No matter ;—we could shift when they were not, And should no doubt if they were all forgot.
THE PROGRESS OF ERROR.
Si quid loquar audiendum.—Hor. lib. iv. od. 2.
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 flowery shades,
That not a glimpse of genuine light pervades,
The poisonous, black, insinuating worm
Successfully conceals her loathsome form.
Take, if 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 rhetoric they display
Shines as it runs, but grasped at slips away.
Placed 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 fatalist's 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 every thought, word, action to the test,
Warns him or prompts, approves him or restrains,
As reason, or as passion, takes the reins.
Heaven from above, and Conscience from within,
Cry in his startled ear, "Abstain from sin!"
The world around solicits his desire,
And kindles in his soul a treacherous 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;
These open on the spot their honeyed store,
Those 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,
Power, pomp, and splendour, and the thirst of praise;
There beauty wooes him with expanded arms:
E'en Bacchanalian madness has its charms.
Nor these alone, whose pleasures less refined
Might well alarm the most unguarded mind,
Seek to supplant his inexperienced youth,
Or lead him devious from the path of truth;
Hourly allurements on his passions press,
Safe in themselves, but dangerous in the excess.
Hark ! how it floats upon the dewy air;—
Oh, what a dying, dying close was there!
'Tis harmony from yon sequestered bower,
Sweet harmony that soothes the midnight hour;
Long ere the charioteer of day had run
His morning course, the 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 wise,
Detach the soul from earth, and speed her to the skies?
Ye devotees to your adored employ,
Enthusiasts, drunk with an unreal joy,
Love makes the music of the blest above,
Heaven's harmony is universal love;
And earthly sounds, though sweet and well combined,
And lenient as soft opiates to the mind,
Leave vice and folly unsubdued behind.
Gray dawn appears, the sportsman and his train
Speckle the bosom of the distant plain;
"Tis he, the Nimrod of the neighbouring lairs,
Save that his scent is less acute than theirs,
P'or persevering chase and headlong leaps,
True beagle as the staunchest hound he keeps.
Charged with the folly of his life's mad scene,
He takes offence and wonders what you mean;
The joy, the danger and the toil o'erpays;
'Tis exercise and health, and length of days.
Again impetuous to the field he flies,
Leaps every fence but one, there falls and dies;
Like a slain deer, the tumbril brings him home,
Unmissed but by his dogs and by his groom.
Ye clergy, while your orbit is your place,
Lights of the world, and stars of human race,—
But if eccentric ye forsake your sphere,
Prodigious, ominous, and viewed with fear,
The comet's baneful influence is a dream,
Yours real, and pernicious in the extreme.
What then,—are appetites and lusts laid down,
With the same ease the man puts on his gown?
Will avarice and concupiscence give place,
Charmed by the sounds, your reverence, or your grace?
No. But his own engagement binds him fast;
Or if it does not, brands him to the last
What atheists call him, a designing knave,
A mere church juggler, hypocrite, and slave.
Oh, laugh or mourn with me, the rueful jest,
A cassocked huntsman, and a fiddling priest;
He from Italian songsters takes his cue,
Set Paul to music, he shall quote him too.
He takes the field, the master of the pack
Cries, Well done, Saint!—and claps him on the back.
Is this the path of sanctity? Is this
To stand a way-mark in the road to bliss?
Himself a wanderer from the narrow way,
His silly sheep, what wonder if they stray?
(Jo, cast your orders at your Bishop's feet,
Send youi dishonoured gown to Monmouth Street,
The sacred function, in your hands is made,
Sad sacrilege ! no function, but a trade.
Occiduus is a pastor of renown; When he has prayed and preached the Sabbath down, With wire and catgut he concludes the day, Quavering and semiquavering care away. The full concerto swells upon your ear; All elbows shake. Look in, and you would sweat The Babylonian tyrant with a nod Had summoned them to serve his golden god. So well that thought the employment seems to suit, Psaltery and sackbut, dulcimer and flute. Oh, fie! 'Tis evangelical and pure; Observe each face, how sober and demurs' Ecstasy sets her stamp on every mien,