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TO THE RIGHT HON. THE EARL OF LITCHFIELD.
Lorenzo! to recriminate is justi
Fondness for fame is avarice of air.
I grant the man is vain who writes for praise.
Praise no man e'er deserv'd, who sought no more.
As just thy second charge. I grant the Muse
Has often blush'd at her degenerate sons,
Retain'd by sense to plead her filthy cause;
To raise the low, to magnify the mean,
And subtilize the gross into refin'd :
As if to magic numbers' powerful charm
'T was given, to make a civet of their song
Obscene, and sweeten ordure to perfume.
Wit, a true pagan, deifies the brute,
And lifts our'swine-enjoyments from the mire.
The fact notorious, nor obscure the cause,
We wear the chains of pleasure and of pride.
These share the man'; and these distract him too;
Draw different ways, and clash in their commands
Pride, like an eagle, builds among the stars,
But pleasure, lark-like, nests upon the ground.
Joys shar'd by brute-creation, pride resents;
Pleasure embraces: man would both enjoy,
And both at once : a point how hard to gain !
But, what can't wit, when stung by strong desire
Wit dares attempt this arduous enterprise.
Since joys of sense can't rise to reason's taste;
In subtle sophistry's laborious forge,
Wit hammers out a reason new, that stoops
To sordid scenes, and meets them with applause.
Wit calls the graces the chaste zone to loose;
Nor less than a plump god to fill the bowl:
A thousand phantoms, and a thousand spells,
A thousand opiates scatters, to delude,
To fascinate, inebriate, lay asleep,
And the fool'd mind delightfully confound. [more;
Thus that which shock'd the judgment, shocks no
That which gave pride offence, no more offends.
Pleasure and pride, by nature mortal foes,
At war eternal, which in man shall reign,
By wit's address, patch up a fatal peace,
And hand in hand lead on the rank debauch,
From rank, refin'd to delicate and gay.
Art, cursed art! wipes off th' indebted blush
From Nature's cheek, and bronzes every shame.
Man smiles in ruin, glories in his guilt,
And infamy stands candidate for praise,
All writ by man in favour of the soul,
These sensual ethics far, in bulk, transcend.
The flowers of eloquence, profusely pour'd
O'er spotted vice, fill half the letter'd world
Can powers of genius exorcise their page,
And consecrate enormities with song ?
But let not these inexpiable strains
Condemn the Muse that knows her dignity;
Nor meanly stops at time, but holds the world
As 't is, in Nature's ample field, a point,
A point in her esteem; from whence to start,
And run the round of universal space,
To visit being universal there,
And being's Source, that utmost flight of mind !
Yet, spite of this so vast circumference,
Well knows, but what is moral, nought is great.
Sing syrens only? Do not angels sing?
There is in poesy a decent pride,
Which well becomes her when she speaks to prose,
Her younger sister ; haply, not more wise.
Think'st thou, Lorenzo ! to find pastimes here?
No guilty passion blown into a flame,
No foible flatter'd, dignity disgrac'd,
No fairy field of fiction, all on flower,
No rainbow colours, here, or silken tale :
But solemn counsels, images of awe,
Truths, which eternity lets fall on man (spheres,
With double weight, through these revolving
This death-deep silence, and incumbent shade :
Thoughts, such as shall revisit your last hour;
Visit uncall'd, and live when life expires ;
And thy dark pencil, midnight ! darker still
In melancholy dipt, embrowns the whole.
Yet this, even this, my laughter-loving friends! Lorenzo! and thy brothers of the smile ! If, what imports you most, can most engage, Shall steal your ear, and chain you to my song. Or if you fail me, know, the wise shall taste The truths I sing ; the truths I sing shall feel; And, feeling, give assent; and their assent Is ample recompense ; is more than praise. But chiefly thine, O Litchfield ! nor mistake; Think not unintroduc'd I force my way; Narcissa, not unknown, not unallied, By virtue, or by blood, illustrious youth!
To thee, from blooming amaranthine bowers,
Where all the language harmony, descends
Uncall’d, and asks admittance for the Muse:
A Muse that will not pain thee with thy praise ;
Thy praise she drops, by nobler still inspir'd.
O thou! Blest Spirit! whether the supreme,
Great antemundane Father! in whose breast
Embryo creation, unborn being, dwelt,
And all its various revolutions rollid
Present, though future ; prior to themselves;
Whose breath can blow it into nought again ;
Or, from his throne some delegated power,
Who, studious of our peace, dost turn the thought
From vain and vile, to solid and sublime!
Unseen thou lead'st me to delicious draughts
Of inspiration, from a purer stream,
And fuller of the god, than that which burst
From fam'd Castalia : nor is yet allay'd
My sacred thirst; though long my soul has rang'd
Through pleasing paths of moral and divine,
By thee sustain'd, and lighted by the stars.
By them best lighted are the paths of thought ; Nights are their days, their most illumin'd hours. By day, the soul, o'erborne by life's career, Stunn'd by the din, and giddy with the glare, Reels far from reason, jostled by the throng. By day the soul is passive, all her thoughts Impos'd, precarious, broken ere mature. By night, from objects free, from passion cool, Thoughts uncontroll’d, and unimpress'd, the births Of pure election, arbitrary range, Not to the limits of one world confin'd;
But from ethereal travels light on Earth,
As voyagers drop anchor, for repose,
Let Indians, and the gay, like Indians, fond
Of feather'd fopperies, the Sun adore :
Darkness has more divinity for me;
It strikes thought inward; it drives back the soul
To settle on herself, our point supreme !
There lies our theatre ! there sits our judge.
Darkness the curtain drops o'er life's dull scene;
'T is the kind hand of Providence stretch'd out
'Twixt man and vanity; 't is reason's reign,
And virtue's too; these tutelary shades
Are man's asylum from the tainted throng.
Night is the good man's friend, and guardian too;
It no less rescues virtue, than inspires.
Virtue, for ever frail, as fair, below, Her tender nature suffers in the crowd, Nor touches on the world, without a stain : The world's infectious ; few bring back at eve, Immaculate, the manners of the morn. Something we thought, is blotted ! we resolv’d, Is shaken; we renounc'd, returns again. . Each salutation may slide in a sin Unthought before, or fix a former flaw. Nor is it strange: light, motion, concourse, noise, All, scatter us abroad; thought outward.bound, Neglectful of our home affairs, flies off In fume and dissipation, quits her charge, And leaves the breast unguarded to the foe.
Present example gets within our guard, And acts with double force, by few repell’d. Ambition fires ambition ; love of gain