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Of little use the man, you may suppose, Who says in verse what others say
prose; Yet let me show a poet's of some weight, And [tho' no soldier] useful to the state. What will a child learn sooner than a song? 205 What better teach a foreigner the tongue? What's long or short, each accent where to place? And speak in public with some sort of grace? I scarce can think him such a worthless thing, Unless he praise some monster of a king ; 210 Or virtue or religion turn to sport, To please a lewd or unbelieving Court. Unhappy Dryden !-In all Charles's days Roscommon only boasts unspotted bays; And in our own (excuse some courtly stains) 215 No whiter page than Addison remains : He from the taste obscene reclaims our youth, And sets the passions on the side of truth, Forms the soft bosom with the gentlest art, And pours each human virtue in the heart. 220 Let Ireland tell how Wit upheld her cause, Her trade supported, and supply'd her laws, And leave on Swift this grateful verse engrav’d, “ The rights a Court attack'—a Poet sav'd.” Behold the hand that wrought a nation's cure 225 Stretch'd to relieve the idiot and the poor,
Proud vice to brand, or injur'd worth adorn,
peace, or sings down Pope and Turk. The silenc'd preacher yields to potent strain, And feels that grace his pray'r besought in vain : The blessing thrills thro' all the lab'ring throng, And heav'n is won by violence of song.
240 Our rural ancestors, with little blest, Patient of labour when the end was rest, Indulg'd the day that hous'd their annual grain With feasts, and off'rings, and a thankful strain : The joy their wives, their sons and servants, share, Ease of their toil and partners of their care : 246 The laugh, the jest, attendants on the bowl, Smooth'd ev'ry brow, and open'd ev'ry soul : With growing years the pleasing licence grew, And taunts alternate innocently flew.
250 But times corrupt, and nature ill-inclin'd, Produc'd the point that left a sting behind;
Till friend with friend, and families at strife,
260 Hence Satire rose, that just the medium hit, And heals with morals what it hurts with wit.
We conquer'd France, but left our captives' charms, Her arts victorious triumph'd o'er our arms; Britain to soft refinements less a foe,
265 Wit grew polite, and numbers learn'd to flow. Waller was smooth ; but Dryden taught to join The varying verse, the full-resounding line, The long majestic march, and energy divine; Tho'still some traces of our rustic vein, 270 And splay-foot verse remain'd, and will remain. Late, very late, correctness grew our care, When the tir'd nation breath'd from civil war. Exact Racine and Corneille's noble fire Show'd us that France had something to admire. 275 Not but the tragic spirit was our own, And full in Shakespeare, fair in Otway, shone ;
But Otway fail'd to polish or refine,
280 The last and greatest art, the art to blot.
Some doubt if equal pains or equal fire The humbler Muse of Comedy require. But in known images of life I guess The labour greater as the indulgence less. 285 Observe how seldom ev'n the best succeed ; Tell me if Congreve's fools are fools indeed ? What pert low dialogue has Farquhar writ! How Van, wants grace, who never wanted wit! The stage how loosely does Astrea tread, 290 Who fairly puts all characters to bed! And idle Cibber, how he breaks the laws, To make poor Pinkney eat with vast applause ! But fill their purse, our poet's work is done; Alike to them by Pathos or by Pun.
295 O) you! whom Vanity's light bark conveys On Fame's mad voyage by the wind of praise, With what a shifting gale your course you ply, For ever sunk too low, or borne too high! Who pants for glory finds but short repose; SOO A breath revives him, or a breath o'erthrows, Farewell the stage! if just as thrives the play The silly bards grow fat or fall away.
There still remains, to mortify a wit, The many headed monster of the pit;
305 A senseless, worthless, and unhonour'd crowd, Who, to disturb their betters mighty proud, Chatt’ring their sticks before ten lines are spoke, Call for the Farce, the Bear, or the Black-Joke. What dear delight to Britons farce affords! 310 Ever the taste of mobs, but now of lords; (Taste! that eternal wanderer, which flies From heads to ears, and now from ears to eyes.) The play stands still; damn action and discourse; Back fly the scenes, and enter foot and horse;
315 Pageants on pageants, in long order drawn, Peers, heralds, bishops, ermine, gold and lawn, The champion too! and, to complete the jest, Old Edward's.armour beams on Cibber's breast. With laughter sure Democritus had dy'd 320 Had he beheld an audience gape so wide. Let bear or elephant be e'er so white, The people, sure, the people are the sight! Ah, luckless Poet! stretch thy lungs and roar, That bear or elephant shall heed thee more';
325 While all its throats the gallery extends, And all the thunder of the pit ascends ! Loud as the wolves on Orcas' stormy steep Howl to the roarings of the northern deep;