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TO MR. ADDISON.
Occasioned by his Dialogues on Medals.
This was originally written in the year 1715, when Mr. Addison intended to publish his book of medals; it was some tiine before he was secretary of state; but not published till Mr. Tickell's edition of his works : at which time his verses on Mr. Craggs, which conclude the poem, were added, viz. in 1720.
As the third Epistle treated of the extremes of avarice and profusion; and the fourth took up one particular branch of the latter, namely, the vanity of expense in people of wealth and quality, aud was therefore a corollary to the third; so tbis treats of one circumstance of that vanity, as it appears in the common collectors of old coins; and is, therefore, a corollary to the fourth.
EE the wild waste of all-devouring years !
How Rome her own sad sepulchre appears ! With nodding arches, broken temples spread! The very tombs now vanish'd like their dead ! Imperial wonders rais'd on nations spoil'd, Where mix'd with slaves the groaning martyr toild : Huge theatres, that now unpeopled woods, Now drain'd a distant country of her floods:
Fanes, which admiring gods with pride survey;
Ambition sigh’d: she found it vain to trust
shore, Their ruins perish'd, and their place no more! Convinc'd, she now contracts her vast design, And all her triumphs shrink into a coin. A parrow orb each crowded conquest keeps, Beneath her palm here sad Judea weeps. Now scautier limits the proud arch confine, And scarce are seen the prostrate Nile or Rhine; A small Euphrates through the piece is rollid, And little eagles wave their wings in gold.
The medal faithful to its charge of fame, Through climes and ages bears each form and name : In one short view subjected to our eye, Gods, emperors, heroes, sages, beauties, lie. With sharpen'd sight pale antiquaries pore, Th’ inscription value, but the rust adore. This the blue varnish, that the green endears, The sacred rust of twice ten hundred years ! To gain Pescennius one employs his schemes, One grasps a Cecrops in ecstatic dreams. Poor Vadius, long with learned spleen devour'd, Can taste no pleasure since his shield was scour'd; And Curio, restless by the fair-one's side, Sighs for an Otho, and neglects his bride.
Theirs is the vanity, the learning thine: Touch'd by thy hand, agaiu Rome's glories shine ;
Her gods and godlike heroes rise to view,
Oh, when shall Britain, conscious of her claim,
This paper is a sort of bill of complaint, begua
many years since, and drawn up by snatches, as the several occasions offered. I had no thoughts of publishing it, till it pleased some persons of rank and fortune (the authors of Verses to the Imitator of Horace, and of an Epistle to a Doctor of Divinity froin a Nobleman at Hampton Court] to attack, in a very extraordinary manner, not only my writings (of which, being public, the public is judge) but my person, morals, and family; whereof, to those who know me not, a truer information may be requisite. Being divided between the necessity to say something of myself, and my own laziness to undertake so awkward a task, I thought it the shortest way to put the last hand to this Epistle. If it have any thing pleasing, it will be that by which I am most desirous to please, the truth and the sentiment; and if any thing offensive, it will be only to those I am least sorry to offend, the vicious or the ungeMany will know their own pictures in it, there
being not a circumstance but what is true; but I have, for the most part, spared their names; and
they may escape being laughed at, if they please. I would have some of them to know, it was owing
to the request of the learned and candid friend to whom it is inscribed, that I make not as free use of theirs as they have done of mine. However, I shall have this advantage and honour on my side, that whereas, by their proceeding, any abuse may he directed at any man, no injury can possibly be done by mine, since a nameless character can never be found out but by its truth and likeness.
P.SHUT, shut the door, good John ! fatigu’d, I
said, • Tie up the knocker, say I'm sick, I'm dead.' The dog-star rages ! nay, 'tis past a doubt, All Bedlam, or Parnassus, is let out: Fire in each eye, and papers in each hand, They rave, recite, and madden round the land. What walls can guard me, or what shades can
hide? They pierce iny thickets, through my grot they glide. By land, by water, they renew the charge ; They stop the chariot, and they board the barge. No place is sacred, not the church is free, Ev'n Sunday shines no sabbath-day to me; Then from the mint walks forth the man of rhyme, Happy! to catch me, just at dinner-time.
Is there a parson, much bemus'd in beer, A maudlin poetess, a rhyming peer, A clerk foredoom'd his father's soul to cross, Who pens a stanza when he should engross? Is there who, lock'd from ink and paper, scrawls With desperate charcoal round his darken'd walls? All Ay to Twit'nam, and in humble strain Apply to me, to keep them mad or vain.