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To give the gospel new editions,
Split doctrines into propositions,
Draw motives, uses, inferences,
And torture words in thousand senses;
Learn the grave style and goodly phrase,
Safe handed down from Cromwell's days,
And shun, with anxious care, the while,
The infection of a modern style;
Or on the wings of folly fly
Aloft in metaphysic sky;
The system of the world explain,
Till night and chaos come again;
Deride what old divines can say,
Point out to heaven a nearer way;
Explode all known establish'd rules,
Affirm our fathers all were fools,
The present age is growing wise,
But wisdom in her cradle lies;
Late, like Minerva, born and bred,
Not from a Jove's, but scribbler's head,
While thousand youths their homage lend her
And nursing fathers rock and tend her.
Round him much manuscript is spread,
Extracts from living works, and dead,
Themes, sermons, plans of controversy,
That hack and mangle without mercy,
And whence to glad the reader's eyes,
The future dialogue shall rise.
At length, matured the grand design,
He stalks abroad a grave divine.
Meanwhile, from every distant seat,
At stated time the clergy meet.
Our hero comes, his sermon reads,
Explains the doctrine of his creeds,
A license gains to preach and pray,
And makes his bow and goes his way.
What though his wits could ne'er dispense
One page of grammar, or of sense;
What though his learning be so slight,
He scarcely knows to spell or write;
What though his skull be cudgel-proof!
He's orthodox, and that's enough.
Harriet now bath had her day;
No more the beaux confess her sway;
New beauties push her from the stage;
She trembles at th' approach of age,
And starts to view the alter'd face,
That wrinkles at her in her glass :
So Satan, in the monk's tradition,
Feard when he met his apparition.
At length her name each coxcomb cancels
From standing lists of toasts and angels;
And slighted where she shone before,
A grace and goddess now no more,
Despised by all, and doom'd to meet
Her lovers at her rival's feet,
She flies assemblies, shuns the ball,
And cries out, vanity, on all;
Affects to scorn the tinsel-shows
Of glittering belles and gaudy beaux;
Nor longer hopes to bide by dress
The tracks of age upon her face.
Now careless grown of airs polite,
Her noonday nightcap meets the sight;
Her hair uncomb'd collects together,
With ornaments of many a feather;
Her stays for easiness thrown by,
Her rumpled handkerchief awry,
A careless figure half undress'd
(The reader's wits may guess the rest);
All points of dress and neatness carried,
As though she'd been a twelvemonth married ;
She spends her breath, as years prevail,
At this sad wicked world to rail,
To slander all her sex impromptu,
And wonder what the times will come to.
[“M'Fingal. A Modern Epic Poem.” 1782.–The Poetical Works of John Trumbull. 1820.]
"FINGAL, rising at the word,
Drew forth his old militia-sword ;
Thrice cried “ King George,” as erst in distress,
Knights of romance invoked a mistress;
And, brandishing the blade in air,
Struck terror through th' opposing war.
The Whigs, unsafe within the wind
Of such commotion, shrunk behind.
With whirling steel around address'd,
Fierce through their thickest throng he pressid,
(Who rollid on either side in arch,
Like Red Sea waves in Israel's march)
And, like a meteor rushing through,
Struck on their Pole a vengeful blow.
Around, the Whigs, of clubs and stones
Discharged whole volleys, in platoons,
That o'er in whistling fury fly;
But not a foe dares venture nigh.
And now perhaps with glory crowu'd
Our 'Squire had felld the pole to ground,
Had not some Pow'r, a whig at heart,
Descended down and took their part;
(Whether 't were Pallas, Mars or Iris,
'Tis scarce worth while to make inquiries)
Who, at the nick of time alarming,
Assumed the solemn form of Chairman,
Address'd a Whig, in every scene
The stoutest wrestler on the green,
And pointed where the spade was found,
Late used to set their pole in ground,
And urged, with equal arms and might,
To dare our 'Squire to single fight.
The Whig thus arm’d, untaught to yield,
Advanced tremendous to the field:
Nor did M'Fingal shun the foe
But stood to brave the desp'rate blow;
While all the party gazed, suspended,
To see the deadly combat ended;
And Jove in equal balance weigh'u
The sword against the brandish'd spade;
He weigh’d; but, lighter than a dream,
The sword flew up, and kick’d the beam.
Our 'Squire on tiptoe rising fair
Lifts high a noble stroke in air,
Which hung not, but, like dreadful engines,
Descended on his foe in vengeance.
But ah! in danger, with dishonor
The sword perfidious fails its owner;
That sword, which oft had stood its ground,
By huge train-bands encircled round,
And on the bench, with blade right loyal,
Had won the day at many a trial,
Of stones and clubs had braved th' alarms,
Shrunk from these new Vulcanian arms.
The spade so temper'd from the sledge,
Nor keen nor solid harm'd its edge,
Now met it, from his arm of might,
Descending with steep force to smite;
The blade snapp'u short—and from his hand,
Withı rust embrown'd the glittering sand.
Swift turn'd M'Fingal at the view,
And call'd to aid th'attendant crew,
In vain; the Tories all had run,
When scarce the fight was well begun;
Their setting wigs he saw decreas'd
Far in th' horizon tow'rd the west.
Amazed he view'd the shameful sight,
And saw no refuge, but in flight;
But age unwieldy check'd his pace,
Though fear had wing'd his flying race;
For not a trifling prize at stake;
No less than great M'Fingal's back.
With legs and arms he work'd his course,
Like rider that outgoes his horse,
And labor'd hard to get away, as
Old Satan struggling on through chaos;
Till looking back, he spied in rear
The spa le-arm'd chief advanced too near:
Then stopp'd and seized a stone, that lay
An ancient landmark near the way;
Nor shall we as old bards have done,
Affirm it weigh'd an hundred ton;
But such a stone, as at a shift
A modern might suffice to lift,
Since men, to credit their enigmas,
Are dwindled down to dwarfs and pigmies,
And giants exiled with their cronies
To Brobdignags and Patagonias.
But while our hero turn'd him round,
And tugg’d to raise it from the ground,
The fatal spade discharged a blow
Tremendous on his rear below:
His bent knee fail'd, and void of strength
Stretch'd on the ground his manly length,
Like ancient oak o'erturn'd, he lay,
Or tower to tempests fallin a prey,
Or mountain sunk with all his pines,
Or flow'r the plough to dust consigns,
And more things else--but all men know 'em,
If slightly versed in epic poem,
At once the crew, at this dread crisis,
Fall on, and bind him, ere he rises,
And with loud shouts and joyful soul,
Conduct him prisoner to the pole.