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For ever wretched, with themselves at strife,
Whilst thus engaged, high views enlarge the soul,
But man, who knows no good unmix'd and pure, Oft finds a poison where he sought a cure; For, grave deceivers lodge their labours here, And cloud the science they pretend to clear : Scourges for sin, the solemn tribe are sent; Like fire and storms, they call us to repent; But storms subside, and fires forget to rage, These are eternal scourges of the age : 'Tis not enough that each terrific hand Spreads desolation round a guilty land; But, train'd to ill, and harden'd by its crimes, Their pen relentless kills through future times.
Say ye, who search these records of the dead, Who read huge works, to boast what ye have read; Can all the real knowledge ye possess, Or those (if such there are,) who more than guess, Atone for each impostor's wild mistakes, And mend the blunders pride or folly makes ?
What thought so wild, what airy dream so light, That will not prompt a theorist to write ? What art so prevalent, what proof so strong, That will convince him his attempt is wrong?
One in the solids finds each lurking ill,
Ye frigid tribe, on whom I wasted long The tedious hours and ne'er indulged in song ; Ye first seducers of my easy heart, Who promised knowledge ye could not impart : Ye dull deluders, truth's destructive foes ; Ye sons of fiction, clad in stupid prose ; Ye treacherous leaders, who, yourselves in doubt, Light up false fires and send us far about :Still may yon spider round your pages spin, Subtile and slow, her emblematic gin! Buried in dust and lost in silence, dwell, Most potent, grave, and reverend friends—farewell !
Near these, and where the setting sun displays, Through the dim window, his departing rays, And gilds yon columns, there, on either side, The huge abridgments of the law abide ; Fruitful as vice the dread correctors stand, And spread their guardian terrors round the land ; Yet, as the best that human care can do, Is mixt with error, oft with evil too, Skill'd in deceit, and practised to evade, Knaves stand secure, for whom these laws were made :
And justice vainly each expedient tries,
“ Mistaken youth ! each nation first was rude, Each man a cheerless son of solitude, To whom no joys of social life were known, None felt a care that was not all his own; Or in some languid clime his abject soul Bowed to a little tyrant's stern control; A slave, with slaves his monarch's throne he raised, And in rude song his ruder idol praised ; The meaner cares of life were all he knew, Bounded his pleasures, and his wishes few : But when by slow degrees the arts arose, And science waken'd from her long repose ; When commerce, rising from her bed of ease, Ran round the land and pointed to the seas ; When emulation, born with jealous eye, And avarice, lent their spurs to industry; Then one by one the numerous laws were made, Those to control, and these to succour trade ; To curb the insolence of rude command, To snatch the victim from the usurer's hand; To awe the bold, to yield the wrong'd redress, And feed the poor with luxury's excess.'
Like some vast flood, unbounded, fierce, and strorg, His nature leads ungoverned man along ; Like mighty bulwarks made to stem that tide, The laws are form’d and placed on every side : Whene'er it breaks the bounds by these decreed, New statues rise, and stronger laws succeed; More and more gentle grows the dying stream, More and more strong the risin bulwarks seem;
Till, like a miner, working sure and slow,
Next, History ranks :—there full in front she lies, And every nation her dread tale supplies ; Yet history has her doubts, and every age With sceptic queries marks the passing page ; Records of old nor later date are clear, Too distant those, and these are placed too near ; There time conceals the objects from our view, Here our own passions and a writer's too : Yet, in these volumes, see how states arose ! Guarded by virtue from surrounding foes ; Their virtue lost, and of their triumphs vain, Lo! how they sunk to slavery again! Satiate with power, of fame and wealth possest, A nation grows too glorious to be blest : Conspicuous made, she stands the mark of all, And foes join foes to triumph in her fall.
Thus speaks the page that paints ambition's race, The monarch's pride, his glory, his disgrace; The headlong course that maddening heroes run, How soon triumphant, and how soon undone; How slaves, turn'd tyrants, offer crowns to sale, And each fall'n nation's melancholy tale.
Lo! where of late the Book of Martyrs stood,
Not thus her sister Comedy prevails,
With her the virtues too obtain a place,
But who are these ? Methinks a noble mien, And awful grandeur
their form are seen, Now in disgrace : what though by time is spread Polluting dust o'er every reverend head; What though beneath yon gilded tribe they lie, And dull observers pass insulting by : Forbid it shame, forbid it decent awe, What seems so grave, should no attention draw? Come, let us then with reverend step advance, And greet the ancient worthies of romance.
Hence, ye profane! I feel a former dread, A thousand visions float around my head : Hark! hollow blasts through empty courts resound, And shadowy forms with staring eyes stalk round; See! moats and bridges, walls and castles rise, Ghosts, fairies, demons, dance before our eyes ; Lo! magic verse inscribed on golden gate, And bloody hand that beckons on to fate ;“And who art thou, thou little page, unfold ? Say, doth thy lord my Claribel withhold ? Go tell him straight, Sir Knight, thou must resig :) The captive queen :--for Claribel is mine.”