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Soft were my numbers; who could take offence
While pure description held the place of sense ?
Like gentle Fanny's was my flow'ry theme,
A painted mistress, or a purling stream.
Yet then did Gildon draw his venal quil;
I wish'd the man a dinner, and sat still.
Yet then did Dennis rave in furious fret ;
I never answer'd: I was not in debt.
If want provok’d, or madness made them print, 155
I wag'd no war with Bedlam or the Mint.
Did some more sober critic come abroad,
If wrong, I smil'd; if right, I kiss'd the rcd.
Pains, reading, study, are their just pretence,
And all they want is spirit, taste, and sense, 160
Commas and points they set exactly right,
And 'twere a sin to rob them of their mite.
Yet ne'er one sprig of laurel grac'd these ribalds,
From slashing Bentley, down to piddling Tibalas :
Each wight, who reads not, and but scans and spells,
Each word-catcher, that lives on syllables, 166
Ev'n such small critics some regard may claim,
Preserv'd in Milton's, or in Shakespeare's name.
Pretty! in amber to observe the forms
Of hairs, or straws, or dirt, or grubs, or worms ! 170
The things, we know, are neither rich nor rare,
But wonder how the devil they got there.
Were others angry, I excus'd them too;
Well might they rage, I gave them but their due.
A man's true merit 'tis not hard to find;
175 But each man's secret standard in his mind,
That casting-weight pride adds to emptiness,
This who can gratify ? for who can guess ?
The bard whom pilfer'd pastorals renown,
Who turns a Persian tale for half-a-crown, 180
Just writes to make his barrenness appear, [a-year;
And strains, from hard-bound brains, eight lines a-
He, who still wanting, tho' he lives on theft,
Steals much, spends little, yet has nothing left;
And he who now to sense, now nonsense, leaning,
Means not, but blunders round about a meaning;
And he whose fustian's so sublimely bad,
It is not poetry, but prose run mad:
All these my modest Satire bade translate,
And own'd that nine such poets made a Tate. 190
How did they fume, and stamp, and roar, and chafe!
And swear, not Addison himself was safe.
Peace to all such! But were there one whose fires
True genius kindles, and fair fame inspires,
Bless'd with each talent and each art to please, 195
And born to write, converse, and live with ease;
Should such a man, too fond to rule alone,
Bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne,
View him with scornful, yet with jealous eyes,
And hate for arts that caus’d himself to rise;
Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And without sneering teach the rest to sneer;
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike ;
Alike reserv’d to blame, or to commend,
205 A tim'rous foe, and a suspicious friend;
Dreading ev'n fools, by flatterers besieg'd,
And so obliging that he ne'er cblig'd;
Like Cato, give his little senate laws,
And sit attentive to his own applause;
While wits and Templars ev'ry sentence raise,
And wonder with a foolish face of praise---
Who but must laugh, if such a man there be?
Who would not weep, if Atticus were he!
What tho' my name stood rubric on the walls, 215
Or plaister'd posts, with claps, in capitals?
Or smoking forth, a hundred hawkers' load,
On wings of winds came flying all abroad?
I sought no homage from the race that write;
I kept, like Asian monarchs, from their sight;
Poems I heeded (now berhym'd so long)
No more than thou, great George! a birthday song.
I ne'er with wits or wítlingś pass’d my days,
To spread about the itch of verse and praise; Nor, like a puppy, daggled' thro' the Town, 225 To fetch and carry sing-song up and down ; Nor at rehearsals sweat, and mouth'd, and cry’d, With handkerchief and orange at my side; But sick of fops, and poetry, and prate, To Bufo left the whole Castalian state.
239 Proud as Apollo on his forked hill, Sate full-blown Bufo, puff'd by ev'ry quill; Fed with soft dedication all day long, Horace and he went hand in hand in song. His library (where busts of poets dead
235 And a true Pindar stood without a head)
Receiv'd of wits an undistinguish'd race,
Who first his judgment ask'd, and then a place:
Much they extoll'd his pictures, much his seat,
And flatter'd ev'ry day, and some days eat; 240
Till grown more frugal in his riper days,
He paid some bards with port, and some with praise ;
To some a dry rehearsal was assign'd,
And others (harder still) he paid in kind.
Dryden alone (what wonder ?) came not nigh, 245
Dryden alone escap'd this judging eye,
But still the great have kindness in reserve:
He help'd to bury whom he help'd to starve.
May some choice patron bless each gray-goose quill! May ev'ry Bavius have his Bufo still!
So when a statesman wants a day's defence,
Or Envy holds a whole weeks war with Sense,
Or simple Pride for flatt'ry makes demands,
May dunce by dunce be whistled off my hands !
Bless'd be the great! for those they take away, 255
And those they left me---for they left me Gay;
Left me to see neglected genius bloom,
Neglected die, and tell it on his tomb:
Of all thy blameless life the sole return
My verse, and Queesnb'ry weeping o'er thy urn! 260
Oh! let me live my own, and die so too!
(To live and die is all I have to do ;)
Maintain a poet's dignity and ease,
And see what friends, and read what books, I please;
Above a patron, tho' I condescend
265 Sometimes to call a minister my friend.
I was not born for courts or great affairs;
I pay my debts, believe, and say my pray’rs;
Can sleep without a poem in my head,
Nor know, if Dennis be alive or dead.
Why am I ask'd what next shall see the light?
Heav'ns ! was I born for nothing but to write?
Has life no joys for me? or (to be grave)
Have I no friend to serve, no soul to save ?
274 “ I found him close with Swift---Indeed? no doubt “ (Cries prating Balbus) something will come out.” 'Tis all in vain, deny it as I will; “ No, such a genius never can lie still;"
And then for mine obligingly mistakes i The first lampoon Sir Will. or Bubo makes.
280 Poor guiltless I! and can I chuse but smile, When ev'ry coxcomb knows me by my Style ?
Curst be the verse, how well soe'er it flow, That tends to make one worthy man my foe, Give virtue scandal, innocence a fear,
285 Or from the soft-ey'd virgin steal a tear! But he who hurts a harmless neighbour's peace, Insults fall’n worth, or beauty in distress, Who loves a lie, lame slander helps about, Who writes a libel, or who copies out;
290 That fop whose pride affects a patron's name, Yet absent wounds an author's honest fame; Who can your merit selfishly approve, And show the sense of it, without the love; Who has the vanity to call you Friend,
295 Yet wants the honour, injur'd, to defend;