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Sufficient to redeem the modern 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 surpass'd, see one;
Short his career indeed, but ably run;
Churchill, himself unconscious of his powers,
In penury consumed his idle hours;
And, like a scatter'd 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 disdain'd the rules he understood,
The laurel seem'd to wait on his command,
He snatch'd it rudely from the Muses' 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;
Andcharmsthewoodlandscenes,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,
Brings colours, dipp'd in Heaven, that never die;
A soul exalted above earth, a mind
Skill'd in the characters that form mankind;
And,as the Sun in rising beanty dress'd,
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 deign'd to
And every muse attend her in her way.
Virtue indeed meets many a rhyming friend,
And many a compliment politely penn'd;
But, nnattired in that becoming vest
Religion weaves for her, and half undress'd,
Stands in the desert, shivering and forlorn,
A wintry figure, like a wither'd thorn.
The shelves are full, all other themes are sped;
Hackneyed and worn to the last flimsy thread.
Satire has long since done his best; and cursed
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,
Tonch'd 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 tasdinm that the lazy rich endure,
Which now and then sweet poetry may cure;
Or, if to see the name of idle self,
Stamp'd on the well-bound quarto, grace the shel r
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!—
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,
Adorn the polish'd 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.
Si quid loquar audiendum. Jlor. 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 Errour 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 grasp'd 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;
22 THE PROGRESS OF ERROUR.Else, on the fatalist's unrighteous plan, Say to what bar amenable were man?
itli nanght 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, Cries in his startled ear—Abstain from sin I 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 us 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; Those open on the spot their honied store; These call him loudly to pursuit of more. His unexhausted mine the sordid vice Avarice shows, and virtue is the price. Her various motives his ambition raise— Power, pomp, and splendour, and the thirst of praise;There Beanty 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! O what a dying, dying close was there!