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And the harmonious order of them all;
To show him in an insect or a flower
Such microscopic proofs of skill and power,
As hid from ages past, God now displays
To combat atheists with in modern days;
To spread the earth before him, and commend,
With designation of the finger's end,
Its various parts to his attentive note,
Thus bringing home to him the most remote;
To teach his heart to glow with generous flame
Caught from the deeds of men of ancient fame,
And more than all with commendation due
To set some living worthy in his view,
Whose fair example may at once inspire
A wish to copy what he must admire.
Such knowledge gained betimes, and which appears,
Though solid, not too weighty for his years,
Sweet in itself, and not forbidding sport,
When health demands it, of athletic sort,
Would make him what some lovely boys have been,
And more than one perhaps that I have seen,
An evidence and reprehension both
Of the mere school-boy's lean and tardy growth.
Art thou a man professionally tied,
By footman Tom for witty and refined.
There,—in his commerce with the liveried herd
Lurks the contagion chiefly to be feared.
For since (so fashion dictates) all who claim
A higher than a mere plebeian fame,
Find it expedient, come what mischief may,
To entertain a thief or two in pay,
And they that can afford the expense of more,
Some half a dozen, and some half a score,
Great cause occurs to save him from a band
So sure to spoil him, and so near at hand,
A point secured, if once he be supplied
With some such mentor always at his side.
Are such men rare? perhaps they would abound
Were occupation easier to be found,
Were education, else so sure to fail,
Conducted on a manageable scale,
And schools that have outlived all just esteem,
Exchanged for the secure domestic scheme.
But having found him, be thou duke or earl,
Show thou hast sense enough to prize the pearl,
And as thou wouldst the advancement of thine heir
In all good faculties beneath his care,
Respect, as is but rational and just,
A man deemed worthy of so dear a trust.
Despised by thee, what more can he expect
From youthful folly, than the same neglect?
A flat and fatal negative obtains
That instant, upon all his future pains;
His lessons tire, his mild rebukes offend,
And all the instructions of thy son's best friend
Are a stream choked, or trickling to no end.
Doom him not then to solitary meals,
But recollect that he has sense, and feels,
And, that possessor of a soul refined,
An upright heart and cultivated mind,
His post not mean, his talents not unknown,
He deems it hard to vegetate alone.
And if admitted at thy board he sit,
Account him no just mark for idle wit,
Offend not him whom modesty restrains
From repartee, with jokes that he disdains,
Much less transfix his feelings with an oath,
Nor frown, unless he vanish with the cloth,—
And trust me, his utility may reach
To more than he is hired or bound to teach,
Much trash unuttered and some ills undone,
Through reverence of the censor of thy son.
But if thy table be indeed unclean, Foul with excess, and with discourse obscene, And thou a wretch, whom, following her old plan, The world accounts an honourable man,
Because forsooth thy courage has been tried,
And stood the test, perhaps on the wrong side,
Though thou hadst never grace enough to prove
That anything but vice could win thy love;
Or hast thou a polite, card-playing wife,
Chained to the routs that she frequents, for life,
Who, just when industry begins to snore,
Flies, winged with joy, to some coach-crowded door,
And thrice in every winter throngs thine own
With half the chariots and sedans in town,
Thyself meanwhile e'en shifting as thou mayest,
Not very sober though, nor very chaste;
Or is thine house, though less superb thy rank,
If not a scene of pleasure, a mere blank,
And thou at best, and in thy soberest mood,
A trifler, vam, and empty of all good?
Though mercy for thyself thou canst have none,
Hear nature plead, show mercy to thy son.
Saved from his home, where every day brings forth
Some mischief fatal to his future worth,
Find him a better in a distant spot,
Within some pious pastor's humble cot,
Where vile example (yours I chiefly mean,
The most seducing and the oftenest seen),
May never more be stamped upon his breast,
Not yet perhaps incurably impressed
Where early rest makes early rising sure,
Disease or comes not, or finds easy cure,
Prevented much by diet neat and plain,
Or if it enter, soon starved out again.
Where all the attention of his faithful host
Discreetly limited to two at most,
May raise such fruits as shall reward his care,
And not at last evaporate in air.
Where stillness aiding study, and his mind
Serene, and to his duties much inclined,
Not occupied in day-dreams, as at home,
Of pleasures past or follies yet to come,
His virtuous toil may terminate at last
In settled habit and decided taste.
But whom do I advise ? the fashion-led,
The incorrigibly wrong, the deaf, the dead,
Whom care and cool deliberation suit
Not better much than spectacles a brute;
Who if their sons some slight tuition share,
Deem it of no great moment, whose, or where,
Too proud to adopt the thoughts of one unknown;
And much too gay to have any of their own.
But courage, man ! methought the Muse replied,
Mankind are various, and the world is wide;
The ostrich, silliest of the feathered kind,
And formed of God without a parent's mind,
Commits her eggs, incautious, to the dust,
Forgetful that the foot may crust, the trust;
And while on public nurseries they rely,
Not knowing, and too oft not caring why,
Irrational in what they thus prefer,
No few, that would seem wise, resemble her,
But all are not alike. Thy warning voice
May here and there prevent erroneous choice,
And some perhaps, who, busy as they are,
Yet make their progeny their dearest care,
Whose hearts will ache once told what ills may reach
Their offspring left upon so wild a beach,
Will need no stress of argument to enforce
The expedience of a less adventurous course.
The rest will slight thy counsel, or condemn;
But they have human feelings. Turn to them.
To you then, tenants of life's middle state, Securely placed between the small and great, Whose character, yet undebauched, retains Two-thirds of all the virtue that remains, Who wise yourselves desire your sons should learn Your wisdom and your ways—to you I turn. Look round you on a world perversely blind, See what contempt is fallen on human kind; See wealth abused, and dignities misplaced, Great titles, offices, and trusts disgraced, Long lines of ancestry renowned of old, Their noble qualities all quenched and cold; See Bedlam's closeted and handcuffed charge Surpassed in frenzy by the mad at large; See great commanders making war a trade, Great lawyers, lawyers without study made, Churchmen, in whose esteem their blest employ Is odious, and their wages all their joy, Who far enough from furnishing their shelves With gospel lore, turn infidels themselves; See womanhood despised, and manhood shamed With infamy too nauseous to be named, Fops at all corners, lady-like in mien, Civeted fellows, smelt ere they are seen, Else coarse and rude in manners, and their tongue On fire with curses and with nonsense hung, Now flushed with drunkenness, now with whoredom pale, Their breath a sample of last night's regale; See volunteers in all the vilest arts Men well endowed, of honourable parts, Designed by nature wise, but self-made fools; All these, and more like these, were bred at schools. And if it chance, as sometimes chance it will, That though school-bred, the boy be virtuous still, Such rare exceptions shining in the dark, Prove rather than impeach the just remark,
As here and there a twinkling star descried
Serves but to show how black is all beside.
Now look on him whose very voice in tone
Just echoes thine, whose features are thine own,
And stroke his polished cheek of purest red,
And lay thine hand upon his flaxen head,
And say, my boy, the unwelcome hour is come,
When thou, transplanted from thy genial home,
Must find a colder soil and bleaker air,
And trust for safety to a stranger's care;
What character, what turn thou wilt assume
From constant converse with I know not whom,
Who there will court thy friendship, with what view
And, artless as thou art, whom thou wilt choose,
Though much depends on what thy choice shall be,
Is all chance-medley and unknown to me.
Canst thou, the tear just trembling on thy lids.
And while the dreadful risk foreseen, forbids,
Free too, and under no constraining force,
Unless the sway of custom warp thy course,
Lay such a stake upon the losing side,
Merely to gratify so blind a guide?
Thou canst not: Nature pulling at thine heart,
Condemns the unfatherly, the imprudent part.
Thou wouldst not, deaf to nature's tenderest plea,
Turn him adrift upon a rolling sea,
Nor say, go thither, conscious that there lay
A brood of asps, or quicksands in his way;
Then only governed by the self-same rule
Of natural pity, send him not to school.
No !—Guard him better: Is he not thine own,
Thyself in miniature, thy flesh, thy bone?
And hopest thou not ('tis every father's hope)
That since thy strength must with thy years elope,
And thou wilt need some comfort to assuage
Health's last farewell, a staff of thine old age,
That then, in recompense of all thy cares,
Thy child shall show respect to thy gray hairs.
Befriend thee, of all other friends bereft,
And give thy life its only cordial left?
Aware then how much danger intervenes,
To compass that good end, forecast the means .
His heart, now passive, yields to thy command;
Secure it thine. Its key is in thine hand.
If thou desert thy charge and throw it wide,
Nor heed what guests there enter and abide,
Complain not if attachments lewd and base
Supplant thee in it, and usurp thy place.
But if thou guard its secret chambers sure
From vicious inmates and delights impure,
Either his gratitude shall hold him fast,
And keep him warm and filial to the last,