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And what so foolish as the chance of fame ? How vain the prize! how impotent our aim ! For what are men who grasp at praise sublime, But bubbles on the rapid stream of time, That rise, and fall, that swell, and are no more, Born, and forgot, ten thousand in an hour ?
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE MR. DODINGTON,
Long, Dodington, in debt, I long have sought
To ease the burthen of my grateful thought;
And now a poet's gratitude you see;
Grant him two favours, and he'll ask for three :
For whose the present glory, or the gain?
You give protection, I a worthless strain.
You love and feel the poet's sacred flame,
And know the basis of a solid fame;
Tho' prone to like, yet cautious to commend,
You read with all the malice of a friend;
Nor favour my attempts that way alone,
But, more to raise my verse, conceal your own.
An ill-tim’d modesty! turn ages o’er,
When wanted Britain bright examples more?
Her learning, and her genius too, decays,
And dark and cold are her declining days ;
As if men now were of another cast,
They meanly live on alms of ages past.
Men still are men; and they who boldly dare,
Shall triumph o'er the sons of cold despair;
Or, if they fail, they justly still take place
Of such who run in debt for their disgrace;
Who borrow much, then fairly make it known,
And damn it with improvements of their own.
We bring some new materials, and what's old
New cast with care, and in no borrow'd mould ;
Late times the verse may read, if these refuse;
And from sour critics vindicate the muse.
“ Your work is long,” the critics cry. 'Tis true,
And lengthens still, to take in fools like you :
Shorten my labour, if its length you blame;
For, grow but wise, you rob me of my game;
As hunted hags, who, while the dogs pursue,
Renounce their four legs, and start up on two.
Like the bold bird upon the banks of Nile,
That picks the teeth of the dire crocodile,
Will I enjoy, (dread feast !) the critic's rage,
And with the fell destroyer feed my page.
For what ambitious fools are more to blame,
Than those who thunder in the critic's name?
Good authors damn'd, have their revenge in this,
To see what wretches gain the praise they miss.
Balbutius, muffled in his sable cloak,
Like an old Druid from his hollow oak,
As ravens solemn, and as boding, cries,
“ Ten thousand worlds for the three unities !”
Ye doctors sage, who thro' Parnassus teach,
Or quit the tub, or practise what you preach.
One judges as the weather dictates ; right
The poem is at noon, and wrong at night:
Another judges by a surer gage,
An author's principles, or parentage;
Since his great ancestors in Flanders fell,
The poem doubtless must be written well.
Another judges by the writer's look ;
Another judges, for he bought the book;
Some judge, their knack of judging wrong to keep;
Some judge, because it is too soon to sleep.
Thus all will judge, and with one single aim,
To gain themselves, not give the writer, fame.
The very best ambitiously advise,
Half to serve you, and half to pass for wise.
Critics on verse, as squibs on triumphs wait, Proclaim the glory, and augment the state ; Hot, envious, noisy, proud, the scribbling fry Burn, hiss, and bounce, waste paper, stink, and die. Rail on, my friends! what more my verse can crown Than Compton's smile, and your obliging frown?
Not all on books their criticism waste :
The genius of a dish some justly taste,
And eat their way to fame; with anxious thought
The salmon is refus’d, the turbot bought.
Impatient art rebukes the sun's delay,
And bids December yield the fruits of May;
Their various cares in one great point combine
The business of their lives, that is—to dine.
Half of their precious day they give the feast;
And to a kind digestion spare the rest.
Apicius, here, the taster of the town,
Feeds twice a week, to settle their renown.
These worthies of the palate guard with care
The sacred annals of their bills of fare ;
In those choice books their panegyrics read,
And scorn the creatures that for hunger feed.
If man by feeding well commences great,
Much more the worm to whom that man is meat.
To glory some advance a lying claim,
Thieves of renown, and pilferers of fame:
Their front supplies what their ambition lacks ;
They know a thousand lords, behind their backs.
Cottil is apt to wink upon a peer,
When turn'd away, with a familiar leer;
And Harvey's eyes, unmercifully keen,
Have murder'd fops, by whom she ne'er was seen
Niger adopts stray libels; wisely prone
To covet shame still greater than his own.
Bathyllus, in the winter of threescore,
Belies his innocence, and keeps a whore.
Absence of mind Brabantio turns to fame,
Learns to mistake, nor knows his brother's name;
Has words and thoughts in nice disorder set,
And takes a memorandum to forget.
Thus vain, not knowing what adorns, or blots,
Men forge the patents, that create them sots.
As love of pleasure into pain betrays, So most grow infamous thro' love of praise. But whence for praise can such an ardour rise, When those, who bring that incense, we despise ? For such the vanity of great and small, Contempt goes round, and all men laugh at all.
Nor can ev'n satire blame them; for, 'tis true, They have most ample cause for what they do. O fruitful Britain ! doubtless thou wast meant A nurse of fools, to stock the continent. Tho' Phoebus and the Nine for ever mow,
Rank folly underneath the scythe will grow.
The plenteous harvest calls me forward still,
Till I surpass in length my lawyer's bill;
A Welsh descent, which well paid heralds damn;
Or, longer still, a Dutchman's epigram.
When, cloy’d, in fury I throw down my pen,
In comes a coxcomb, and I write again.
See Tityrus, with merriment possest,
Is burst with laughter, ere he hears the jest:
What need he stay? for when the joke is o'er,
His teeth will be no whiter than before.
Is there of these, ye fair! so great a dearth,
That you need purchase monkeys for your mirth? ?
Some, vain of paintings, bid the world admire; Of houses some; nay, houses that they hire : Some (perfect wisdom !) of a beauteous wife; And boast, like Cordeliers, a scourge for life.
Sometimes, thro' pride, the sexes change their My lord has vapours, and my lady swears; (airs; Then, stranger still ! on turning of the wind, My lord wears breeches, and my lady's kind.
To show the strength, and infamy of pride, By all 'tis follow'd, and by all denied. What numbers are there, which at once pursue Praise, and the glory to contemn it, too! Vincenna knows self-praise betrays to shame, And therefore lays a stratagem for fame; Makes his approach in modesty's disguise, To win applause; and takes it by surprise. “ To err," says he, “ in small things, is my fate." You know your answer, he's exact in great. “My style,” says he, “is rude and full of faults."