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Let not the insulting foe my
pursue, But shade those laurels which descend to you; And take for tribute what these lines express; You merit more, nor could my love do less.
EXCELLENT TRAGEDY CALLED 'HEROIC LOVE.'
AUSPICIOUS Poet, wert thou not my friend,
How could I envy what I must commend !
But since 'tis Nature's law, in love and wit,
That youth should reign, and withering age submit,
With less regret those laurels I resign,
Which, dying on my brows, revive on thine.
With better grace an ancient chief
The long-contended honours of the field,
Than venture all his fortune at a cast,
And fight, like Hannibal, to lose at last.
Young princes, obstinate to win the prize,
Though yearly beaten, yearly yet they rise:
Old monarchs, though successful, still in doubt,
Catch at a peace, and wisely turn devout.
Thine be the laurel, then; thy blooming age
Can best, if any can, support the stage;
Which so declines, that shortly we may see
Players and plays reduced to second infancy.
Sharp to the world, but thoughtless of renown,
They plot not on the stage, but on the Town,
And, in despair their empty pit to fill,
up some foreign monster in a bill. Thus they jog on, still tricking, never thriving, And murdering plays, which they miscal Reviving. Our sense is nonsense through their pipes convey'd; Scarce can a poet know the play he made, 'Tis so disguised in death: nor thinks 'tis he That suffers in the mangled tragedy. Thus Itys first was kill'd, and after dress'd For his own sire, the chief invited guest. I say
not this of thy successful scenes, Where thine was all the glory, theirs the gains. With length of time, much judgment, and more toil, Not ill they acted what they could not spoil. Their setting-sun still shoots a glimmering ray, Like ancient Rome, majestic in decay; And better gleanings their worn soil can boast Than the crab-vintage of the neighbouring coast. This difference yet, the judging world will see, Thou copiest Homer, and they copy thee,
"Tis hard, my friend, to write in such an age
As damns not only poets, but the stage.
That sacred art, by Heaven itself infused,
Which Moses, David, Solomon, have used,
Is now to be no more. The Muses' foes
Would sink their Makers' praises into prose.
Were they content to prune the lavish vine
Of straggling branches, and improve the wine,
Who, but a madman, would his thoughts defend?
All would submit; for all but fools will mend:
But when to common sense they give the lie,
And turn distorted words to blasphemy,
They give the scandal, and the wise discern
Their glosses teach an age too apt to learn.
What I have loosely or profanely writ,
Let them to fires, their due desert, commit:
Nor, when accused by me, let them complain;
Their faults, and not their function, I arraign.
Rebellion, worse than witchcraft, they pursued ;
The pulpit preach'd the crime the people rued.
The stage was silenced; for the saints would see
In fields perform'd their plotted tragedy.
But let us first reform, and then so live,
That we may teach our teachers to forgive:
Our desk be placed below their lofty chairs;
Ours be the practice, as the precept theirs.
The moral part, at least, we may divide,
Humility reward, and punish pride;
Ambition, interest, avarice accuse;
These are the province of a Tragic Muse.
These hast thou chosen; and the public voice
Has equalled thy performance with thy choice.
Time, action, place, are so preserved by thee,
That e’en Cornäille might with envy
The' alliance of his tripled unity.
Thy incidents, perhaps, too thick are sown;
But too much plenty is thy fault alone :
At least but two can that good crime commit,
Thou in design, and Wycherley in wit.
Let thy own Gauls condemn thee if they dare,
Contented to be thinly regular.
Born there, but not for them, our fruitful soil
With more increase rewards thy happy toil.
Their tongue, enfeebled, is refined too much,
And, like pure gold, it bends at every touch:
Our sturdy Teuton yet will art obey, [allay.
More fit for manly thought, and strengthen'd with
But whence art thou inspired, and thou alone,
To flourish in an idiom not thy own?
It moves our wonder that a foreign guest
Should overmatch the most, and match the best.
In under-praising thy deserts I wrong;
Here find the first deficience of our tongue;
Words, once my stock, are wanting to commend
So great a poet, and so good a friend.
OF CHESTERTON, IN THE COUNTY OF HUNTINGDON, ESQ.
How bless'd is he who leads a country life,
Unvex'd with anxious cares, and void of strife!
Who, studying peace, and shunning civil rage,
Enjoy'd his youth, and now enjoys his age!
All who deserve his love he makes his own,
And, to be loved himself, needs only to be known.
Just, good, and wise, contending neighbours
come, From your award, to wait their final doom, And, foes before, return in friendship home. Without their cost you terminate the cause, And save the expense of long litigious laws; Where suits are traversed, and so little won, That he who conquers, is but last undone. Such are not your decrees; but, so design’d, The sanction leaves a lasting peace behind, Like your own soul, serene, a pattern of your
mind. Promoting concord, and composing strife, Lord of yourself, uncumber'd with a wife; Where, for a year, a month, perhaps a night, Long penitence succeeds a short delight; Minds are so hardly match'd, that e’en the first, Though pair'd by Heaven, in Paradise were curs'd: For man and woman, though in one they grow, Yet, first or last, return again to two: He to God's image, she to his was made ; So farther from the fount the stream at random
stray'd. How could he stand, when put to double pain, He must a weaker than himself sustain ? Each might have stood perhaps; but, each alone! Two wrestlers help to pull each other down.
Not that my verse would blemish all the fair; But yet, if some be bad, 'tis wisdom to beware And better shun the bait than struggle in the snare. Thus have you shunned, and shun the married state, Trusting as little as you can to Fate.
No porter guards the passage of your door, To admit the wealthy and exclude the poor;