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- The Library - 3/4 -


To ease the victim no device can save, And smooth the stormy passage to the grave. 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 desolations 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, Nor grants the passive fluids power to kill; A learned friend some subtler reason brings, Absolves the channels, but condemns their springs; The subtile nerves, that shun the doctor's eye, Escape no more his subtler theory; The vital heat, that warms the labouring heart, Lends a fair system to these sons of art; The vital air, a pure and subtile stream, Serves a foundation for an airy scheme, Assists the doctor, and supports his dream. Some have their favourite ills, and each disease Is but a younger branch that kills from these; One to the gout contracts all human pain; He views it raging in the frantic brain; Finds it in fevers all his efforts mar, And sees it lurking in the cold catarrh: Bilious by some, by others nervous seen, Rage the fantastic demons of the spleen; And every symptom of the strange disease With every system of the sage agrees. 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 mix'd 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, While art eludes it, or while power defies. "Ah! happy age," the youthful poet sings, "When the free nations knew not laws nor kings, When all were blest to share a common store, And none were proud of wealth, for none were poor, No wars nor tumults vex'd each still domain, No thirst of empire, no desire of gain; No proud great man, nor one who would be great, Drove modest merit from its proper state; Nor into distant climes would Avarice roam, To fetch delights for Luxury at home: Bound by no ties which kept the soul in awe, They dwelt at liberty, and love was law!" "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 Bow'd 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 the 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." {3} Like some vast flood, unbounded, fierce, and strong, His nature leads ungovern'd man along; Like mighty bulwarks made to stem that tide, The laws are form'd, and placed on ev'ry side; Whene'er it breaks the bounds by these decreed, New statutes rise, and stronger laws succeed; More and more gentle grows the dying stream, More and more strong the rising bulwarks seem; Till, like a miner working sure and slow, Luxury creeps on, and ruins all below; The basis sinks, the ample piles decay; The stately fabric, shakes and falls away; Primeval want and ignorance come on, But Freedom, that exalts the savage state, is gone. 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 possess'd, 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 madd'ning 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, Old pious tracts, and Bibles bound in wood; There, such the taste of our degenerate age, Stand the profane delusions of the STAGE: Yet virtue owns the TRAGIC MUSE a friend, Fable her means, morality her end; For this she rules all passions in their turns, And now the bosom bleeds, and now it burns; Pity with weeping eye surveys her bowl, Her anger swells, her terror chills the soul; She makes the vile to virtue yield applause, And own her sceptre while they break her laws; For vice in others is abhorr'd of all, And villains triumph when the worthless fall. Not thus her sister COMEDY prevails, Who shoots at Folly, for her arrow fails; Folly, by Dulness arm'd, eludes the wound, And harmless sees the feather'd shafts rebound; Unhurt she stands, applauds the archer's skill, Laughs at her malice, and is Folly still. Yet well the Muse portrays, in fancied scenes, What pride will stoop to, what profession means; How formal fools the farce of state applaud; How caution watches at the lips of fraud; The wordy variance of domestic life; The tyrant husband, the retorting wife; The snares for innocence, the lie of trade, And the smooth tongue's habitual masquerade. With her the Virtues too obtain a place, Each gentle passion, each becoming grace; The social joy in life's securer road, Its easy pleasure, its substantial good; The happy thought that conscious virtue gives, And all that ought to live, and all that lives. But who are these? Methinks a noble mien And awful grandeur in 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 resign The captive queen;--for Claribel is mine." Away he flies; and now for bloody deeds, Black suits of armour, masks, and foaming steeds; The giant falls; his recreant throat I seize, And from his corslet take the massy keys:- Dukes, lords, and knights, in long procession move,


The Library - 3/4

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