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Profan'd by them, the Muse's laurels fade,
Her voice neglected, and her fame decay’d.
And the son's son must feel the father's crime,
A curse entail'd on all the race that rhyme.
New cares appear, new terrors swell the train, And must we paint them ere we close the scene ? Say, must the Muse th' unwilling task pursue, And to compleat her dangers mention you? Yes you, my friend, and those whose kind regard With partial fondness views this humble bard : 230 Ev'n you he dreads.- -Ah! kindly cease to raise Unwilling censure, by exacting praise. Just to itself the jealous world will claim A right to judge; or give, or cancel fame. And, if th' officious zeal unbounded flows, The friend too partial is the worst of foes.
Behold th' Athenian sage, whose piercing mind Had trac'd the wily lab'rinths of mankind, When now condemn’d, he leaves his infant care To all those evils man is born to bear. Not to his friends alone the charge he yields, But nobler hopes on juster motives builds; Bids ev'n his foes their future steps attend, And dar'd to censure, if they dar'd offend. Would thus the poet trust his offspring forth, Or bloom’d our BRITAIN with ATHENIAN worth: Would the brave fue th' imperfect work engage With honest freedom, not with partial rage,
What just productions might the world surprize!
What other Popes, what other Maros rise !
But since by foes, or friends alike deceiv’d,
Too little those, and these too much believ'd;
Since the same fate pursues by diff'rent ways,
Undone by censure, or undone by praise ;
Since Bards themselves submit to vice's rule,
feuds grow high, and patrons cool :
Since, still unnam’d, unnumber'd ills behind
Rise black in air, and only wait the wind :
Let me, O let me, ere the tempest roar,
Catch the first gale, and make the nearest shore ;
In sacred silence join th’inglorious train,
Where humble peace, and sweet contentment reign;
If not thy precepts, thy example own,
And steal through life not useless, though unknown.
I've often thought, my Lord, the thing now true,
Said by Lord Bute, but what I've learn’d from you:
“ We shall lose poetry :" In this alone
Too short,-he might have added, “ Wit is gone."
How came this prime delight of man thus lessen'd
From its full orb down to a thumb-nail crescent ?
With me the case admits not of a doubt!
The fact is, poesy itself's worn out.
To you, my Lord, this notion I submit,
Who knew and help'd to make this age of wit, 10
Mix'd with those demi-gods in verse and prose,
Congreves, and Addisons, and Garths, and Rowes,
Heroes of giant limb, and high renown,
Whose deeds we wonder at, and hide our own;
Whom but to copy in their idle fits,
Would break the backs of puny modern wits.
To set this matter in the clearest light,
And be myself th' example while I write,
Let us, my Lord, if so it may avail,
And you have patience for a long detail,
Give the Earl's sentence a poetic turn;
Let it run thus: “ See all Parnassus mourn,
“ Mute ev'ry muse, see George's praise unsung,
« Their laurels scatter'd, and their lyres unstrung,
“ Apollo veils with mists his beamy head,
“ Nay, Aganippe murmurs something sad.”
Say, will this stile, my Lord, go down or no,
Glib as it did two thousand years ago ?
I fancy scarce, and favor'd, if it pass
From a raw school-boy in the second class: 300
The reason then why no disgust it drew,
Was, that it might be Truth, for aught they knew.
Those early ages no mistrust had shewn,
Ready their faith, their manners roughly hewn,
And while both Reason and Suspicion doz’d,
Priest, Poet, Prophet, Patriot, impos'd.
With all that either broach'd, the world content,
Believ'd still farther than they could invent,
All irrealities came forth reveal'd
By pow'rful Fancy into fact congeal'd.
Then Poetry had elbow-room enough,
And not restrain'd, as now, for want of stuff;
The great abyss of Fable open stood,
And nothing solid rose above the flood.
A new Religion spreading ev'ry where,
The stock of Poetry fell under par ;
For Oracles grew dumb, as men grew wise,
None saw for those, who saw with their own eyes.
To waste her leaves no more the sybil chooses,
They and her tripod serve for other uses.
No more the Jesuit prompts her what to tell;
For to say Middleton and Fontenelle,
But the new doctrines being found too pure, Some able doctors undertook its cure; It serv'd no purposes but saving sinners, They added that by which themselves were winners; Ghosts, Devil, Witches, Conjurors, in flocks Came, like a new subscription, to the stocks ; And Poetry, enlarg'd with a new range, Began to shew her head again in Change. bo
The world grown old, its youthful follies past, Reason assumes her reign, tho’ late, at last. By slow degrees, and laboring up the hill, Step after step, yet seeming to stand still, She wins her way, wherever she advances; Satyr no more, nor Fawn, nor Dryad dances. The groves, tho' trembling to a natural breeze, Dismiss their horrors, and shew nought but trees, Before her, Nonsense, Superstition fly; We burn no Witch, let her be e'er so dry: