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- The Village and The Newspaper - 5/6 -


A tax commuted, or a tithe in kind; The Dutch and Germans kindling into strife; Dull port and poachers vile; the serious ills of life. Here comes the neighbouring Justice, pleased to guide His little club, and in the chair preside. In private business his commands prevail, On public themes his reasoning turns the scale; Assenting silence soothes his happy ear, And, in or out, his party triumphs here. Nor here th' infectious rage for party stops, But flits along from palaces to shops; Our weekly journals o'er the land abound, And spread their plague and influenzas round; The village, too, the peaceful, pleasant plain, Breeds the Whig farmer and the Tory swain; Brookes' and St Alban's boasts not, but, instead, Stares the Red Ram, and swings the Rodney's Head:- Hither, with all a patriot's care, comes he Who owns the little hut that makes him free; Whose yearly forty shillings buy the smile Of mightier men, and never waste the while; Who feels his freehold's worth, and looks elate, A little prop and pillar of the state. Here he delights the weekly news to con, And mingle comments as he blunders on; To swallow all their varying authors teach, To spell a title, and confound a speech: Till with a muddled mind he quits the news, And claims his nation's licence to abuse; Then joins the cry, "That all the courtly race Are venal candidates for power and place;" Yet feels some joy, amid the general vice, That his own vote will bring its wonted price. These are the ills the teeming Press supplies, The pois'nous springs from learning's fountain rise; Not there the wise alone their entrance find, Imparting useful light to mortals blind; But, blind themselves, these erring guides hold out Alluring lights to lead us far about; Screen'd by such means, here Scandal whets her quill, Here Slander shoots unseen, whene'er she will; Here Fraud and Falsehood labour to deceive, And Folly aids them both, impatient to believe. Such, sons of Britain! are the guides ye trust; So wise their counsel, their reports so just!- Yet, though we cannot call their morals pure, Their judgment nice, or their decisions sure; Merit they have to mightier works unknown, A style, a manner, and a fate their own. We, who for longer fame with labour strive, Are pain'd to keep our sickly works alive; Studious we toil, with patient care refine, Nor let our love protect one languid line. Severe ourselves, at last our works appear, When, ah! we find our readers more severe; For, after all our care and pains, how few Acquire applause, or keep it if they do! Not so these sheets, ordain'd to happier fate, Praised through their day, and but that day their date; Their careless authors only strive to join As many words as make an even line; As many lines as fill a row complete; As many rows as furnish up a sheet: From side to side, with ready types they run, The measure's ended, and the work is done; Oh, born with ease, how envied and how blest! Your fate to-day and your to-morrow's rest, To you all readers turn, and they can look Pleased on a paper, who abhor a book; Those who ne'er deign'd their Bible to peruse, Would think it hard to be denied their News; Sinners and saints, the wisest with the weak, Here mingle tastes, and one amusement seek; This, like the public inn, provides a treat, Where each promiscuous guest sits down to eat; And such this mental food, as we may call Something to all men, and to some men all. Next, in what rare production shall we trace Such various subjects in so small a space? As the first ship upon the waters bore Incongruous kinds who never met before; Or as some curious virtuoso joins In one small room, moths, minerals, and coins, Birds, beasts, and fishes; nor refuses place To serpents, toads, and all the reptile race; So here compress'd within a single sheet, Great things and small, the mean and mighty meet. 'Tis this which makes all Europe's business known, Yet here a private man may place his own: And, where he reads of Lords and Commons, he May tell their honours that he sells rappee. Add next th' amusement which the motley page Affords to either sex and every age: Lo! where it comes before the cheerful fire,- Damps from the press in smoky curls aspire (As from the earth the sun exhales the dew), Ere we can read the wonders that ensue: Then eager every eye surveys the part That brings its favourite subject to the heart; Grave politicians look for facts alone, And gravely add conjectures of their own: The sprightly nymph, who never broke her rest For tottering crowns or mighty lands oppress'd, Finds broils and battles, but neglects them all For songs and suits, a birth-day, or a ball: The keen warm man o'erlooks each idle tale For "Monies wanted," and "Estates on Sale;" While some with equal minds to all attend, Pleased with each part, and grieved to find an end. So charm the news; but we who, far from town, Wait till the postman brings the packet down, Once in the week, a vacant day behold, And stay for tidings, till they're three days old: That day arrives; no welcome post appears, But the dull morn a sullen aspect wears: We meet, but ah! without our wonted smile, To talk of headaches, and complain of bile; Sullen we ponder o'er a dull repast, Nor feast the body while the mind must fast. A master passion is the love of news, Not music so commands, nor so the Muse: Give poets claret, they grow idle soon; Feed the musician and he's out of tune; But the sick mind, of this disease possess'd, Flies from all cure, and sickens when at rest. Now sing, my Muse, what various parts compose These rival sheets of politics and prose. First, from each brother's hoard a part they draw, A mutual theft that never feared a law; Whate'er they gain, to each man's portion fall, And read it once, you read it through them all: For this their runners ramble day and night, To drag each lurking deed to open light; For daily bread the dirty trade they ply, Coin their fresh tales, and live upon the lie: Like bees for honey, forth for news they spring,- Industrious creatures! ever on the wing; Home to their several cells they bear the store, Cull'd of all kinds, then roam abroad for more. No anxious virgin flies to "fair Tweed-side;" No injured husband mourns his faithless bride; No duel dooms the fiery youth to bleed; But through the town transpires each vent'rous deed. Should some fair frail one drive her prancing pair Where rival peers contend to please the fair; When, with new force, she aids her conquering eyes, And beauty decks, with all that beauty buys: Quickly we learn whose heart her influence feels, Whose acres melt before her glowing wheels. To these a thousand idle themes succeed, Deeds of all kinds, and comments to each deed. Here stocks, the state barometers, we view, That rise or fall by causes known to few; Promotion's ladder who goes up or down; Who wed, or who seduced, amuse the town; What new-born heir has made his father blest; What heir exults, his father now at rest; That ample list the Tyburn-herald gives, And each known knave, who still for Tyburn lives. So grows the work, and now the printer tries His powers no more, but leans on his allies. When lo! the advertising tribe succeed, Pay to be read, yet find but few will read; And chief th' illustrious race, whose drops and pills Have patent powers to vanquish human ills: These, with their cures, a constant aid remain, To bless the pale composer's fertile brain; Fertile it is, but still the noblest soil Requires some pause, some intervals from toil; And they at least a certain ease obtain From Katterfelto's skill, and Graham's glowing strain. I too must aid, and pay to see my name Hung in these dirty avenues to fame; Nor pay in vain, if aught the Muse has seen, And sung, could make these avenues more clean; Could stop one slander ere it found its way, And give to public scorn its helpless prey. By the same aid, the Stage invites her friends, And kindly tells the banquet she intends; Thither from real life the many run, With Siddons weep, or laugh with Abingdon; Pleased in fictitious joy or grief, to see The mimic passion with their own agree; To steal a few enchanted hours away From self, and drop the curtain on the day. But who can steal from self that wretched wight Whose darling work is tried some fatal night? Most wretched man! when, bane to every bliss, He hears the serpent-critic's rising hiss; Then groans succeed; nor traitors on the wheel Can feel like him, or have such pangs to feel. Nor end they here: next day he reads his fall In every paper; critics are they all: He sees his branded name with wild affright, And hears again the cat-calls of the night. Such help the STAGE affords: a larger space Is fill'd by PUFFS and all the puffing race. Physic had once alone the lofty style, The well-known boast, that ceased to raise a smile: Now all the province of that tribe invade,


The Village and The Newspaper - 5/6

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