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- Inebriety and the Candidate - 4/4 -


Then let me (pleasing task!) however hard, Join, as of old, the prophet and the bard; If not, ah! shield me from the dire disgrace, That haunts our wild and visionary race; Let me not draw my lengthen'd lines along, And tire in untamed infamy of song, Lest, in some dismal Dunciad's future page, I stand the CIBBER of this tuneless age; Lest, in another POPE th' indulgent skies Should give inspired by all their deities, My luckless name, in his immortal strain, Should, blasted, brand me as a second Cain; Doom'd in that song to live against my will, Whom all must scorn, and yet whom none could kill. The youth, resisted by the maiden's art, Persists, and time subdues her kindling heart; To strong entreaty yields the widow's vow, As mighty walls to bold beseigers bow; Repeated prayers draw bounty from the sky, And heaven is won by importunity; Ours, a projecting tribe, pursue in vain, In tedious trials, an uncertain gain; Madly plunge on through every hope's defeat, And with our ruin only find the cheat. "And why then seek that luckless doom to share?" Who, I?--To shun it is my only care. I grant it true, that others better tell Of mighty WOLFE, who conquer'd as he fell; Of heroes born, their threaten'd realms to save, Whom Fame anoints, and Envy tends whose grave; Of crimson'd fields, where Fate, in dire array, Gives to the breathless the short-breathing clay; Ours, a young train, by humbler fountains dream, Nor taste presumptuous the Pierian stream; When Rodney's triumph comes on eagle-wing, We hail the victor whom we fear to sing; Nor tell we how each hostile chief goes on, The luckless Lee, or wary Washington; How Spanish bombast blusters--they were beat, And French politeness dulcifies--defeat. My modest Muse forbears to speak of kings, Lest fainting stanzas blast the name she sings; For who--the tenant of the beechen shade, Dares the big thought in regal breasts pervade? Or search his soul, whom each too-favouring god Gives to delight in plunder, pomp, and blood? No; let me free from Cupid's frolic round, Rejoice, or more rejoice by Cupid bound; Of laughing girls in smiling couplets tell, And paint the dark-brow'd grove, where wood-nymphs dwell; Who bid invading youths their vengeance feel, And pierce the votive hearts they mean to heal. Such were the themes I knew in school-day ease, When first the moral magic learn'd to please, Ere Judgment told how transports warm'd the breast, Transported Fancy there her stores imprest; The soul in varied raptures learn'd to fly, Felt all their force, and never question'd why; No idle doubts could then her peace molest, She found delight, and left to heaven the rest; Soft joys in Evening's placid shades were born; And where sweet fragrance wing'd the balmy morn, When the wild thought roved vision's circuit o'er, And caught the raptures, caught, alas! no more: No care did then a dull attention ask, For study pleased, and that was every task; No guilty dreams stalk'd that heaven-favour'd round, Heaven-guarded, too, no Envy entrance found; Nor numerous wants, that vex advancing age, Nor Flattery's silver tale, nor Sorrow's sage; Frugal Affliction kept each growing dart, To o'erwhelm in future days the bleeding heart. No sceptic art veil'd Pride in Truth's disguise, But prayer unsoil'd of doubt besieged the skies; Ambition, avarice, care, to man retired, Nor came desires more quick than joys desired. A summer morn there was, and passing fair, Still was the breeze, and health perfumed the air; The glowing east in crimson'd splendour shone, What time the eye just marks the pallid moon, Vi'let-wing'd Zephyr fann'd each opening flower, And brush'd from fragrant cups the limpid shower; A distant huntsman fill'd his cheerful horn, The vivid dew hung trembling on the thorn, And mists, like creeping rocks, arose to meet the morn. Huge giant shadows spread along the plain, Or shot from towering rocks o'er half the main, There to the slumbering bark the gentle tide Stole soft, and faintly beat against its side; Such is that sound, which fond designs convey, When, true to love, the damsel speeds away; The sails unshaken, hung aloft unfurl'd, And simpering nigh, the languid current curl'd; A crumbling ruin, once a city's pride, The well-pleased eye through withering oaks descried, Where Sadness, gazing on time's ravage, hung, And Silence to Destruction's trophy clung - Save that as morning songsters swell'd their lays, Awaken'd Echo humm'd repeated praise: The lark on quavering pinion woo'd the day, Less towering linnets fill'd the vocal spray, And song-invited pilgrims rose to pray. Here at a pine-press'd hill's embroider'd base I stood, and hail'd the Genius of the place. Then was it doom'd by fate, my idle heart, Soften'd by Nature, gave access to Art; The Muse approach'd, her syren-song I heard, Her magic felt, and all her charms revered: E'er since she rules in absolute control, And Mira only dearer to my soul. Ah! tell me not these empty joys to fly, If they deceive, I would deluded die; To the fond themes my heart so early wed, So soon in life to blooming visions led, So prone to run the vague uncertain course, 'Tis more than death to think of a divorce. What wills the poet of the favouring gods, Led to their shrine, and blest in their abodes? What when he fills the glass, and to each youth Names his loved maid, and glories in his truth? Not India's spoils, the splended nabob's pride, Not the full trade of Hermes' own Cheapside, Nor gold itself, nor all the Ganges laves, Or shrouds, well shrouded in his sacred waves; Nor gorgeous vessels deck'd in trim array, Which the more noble Thames bears far away; Let those whose nod makes sooty subjects flee? Hack with blunt steel the savory callipee; Let those whose ill-used wealth their country fly, Virtue-scorn'd wines from hostile France to buy; Favour'd by Fate, let such in joy appear, Their smuggled cargoes landed thrice a year; Disdaining these, for simpler food I'll look, And crop my beverage at the mantled brook. O Virtue! brighter than the noon-tide ray, My humble prayers with sacred joys repay! Health to my limbs may the kind gods impart, And thy fair form delight my yielding heart! Grant me to shun each vile inglorious road, To see thy way, and trace each moral good: If more--let Wisdom's sons my page peruse, And decent credit deck my modest Muse. Nor deem it pride that prophesies my song Shall please the sons of taste, and please them long. Say ye! to whom my Muse submissive brings Her first-fruit offering, and on trembling wings, May she not hope in future days to soar, Where fancy's sons have led the way before? Where genius strives in each ambrosial bower To snatch with agile hand the opening flower? To cull what sweets adorn the mountain's brow, What humbler blossoms crown the vales below? To blend with these the stores by art refined, And give the moral Flora to the mind? Far other scenes my timid hour admits, Relentless critics and avenging wits; E'en coxcombs take a licence from their pen, And to each "Let him perish," cry Amen! And thus, with wits or fools my heart shall cry, For if they please not, let the trifles die: Die, and be lost in dark oblivion's shore, And never rise to vex their author more. I would not dream o'er some soft liquid line, Amid a thousand blunders form'd to shine; Yet rather this, than that dull scribbler be, From every fault and every beauty free, Curst with tame thoughts and mediocrity. Some have I found so thick beset with spots, 'Twas hard to trace their beauties through their blots; And these, as tapers round a sick man's room Or passing chimes, but warn'd me of the tomb! O! if you blast, at once consume my bays, And damn me not with mutilated praise. With candour judge; and, a young bard in view, Allow for that, and judge with kindness too; Faults he must own, though hard for him to find, Not to some happier merits quite so blind; These if mistaken Fancy only sees, Or Hope, that takes Deformity for these: If Dunce, the crowd-befitting title falls His lot, and Dulness her new subject calls, To the poor bard alone your censures give - Let his fame die, but let his honour live; Laugh if you must--be candid as you can, And when you lash the Poet, spare the Man.

Footnotes:

{1} First published in Ipswich, 1775.

{2} First published 1780.


Inebriety and the Candidate - 4/4

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