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FRIEND. None, or, what's next to none, but two or three. Tis hard, I grant.
PERSIUS. "Tis nothing; I can bear, That paltry scribblers have the public ear; That this vast universal fool, the town, Should cry up Labeo's stuff, * and cry me down. They damn themselves; nor will my muse descend To clap with such, who fools and knaves commend: Their smiles and censures are to me the same; I care not what they praise, or wliat they blanie. In full assemblies let the crowd prevail; I weigh no merit by the common scale. The conscience is the test of every mind; “Seek not thyself, without thyself, to find." But where's that Roman-Somewhat I would
But fear-let fear, for once, to truth give way.
Truth lends the Stoic courage; when I look
On human acts, and read in Nature's book,
From the first pastimes of our infant age,
To elder cares, and man's severer page;
When stern as tutors, and as uncles hard,
Wę lash the pupil, and defraud the ward,
Then, then 1 say—or would say, if I durst-
But, thus provoked, I must speak out, or burst.
Once more forbear.
I cannot rule my spleen;
My scorn rebels, and tickles me within.
First, to begin at home :-Our authors write In lonely rooms, secured from public sight; Whether in prose, or verse, 'tis all the same, The prose is fustian, and the numbers lame; All noise, and empty pomp, a storm of words, Labouring with sound, that little sense affords. They comb, and then they order every hair ; A gown, or white, or scoured to whiteness, wear, A birth-day jewel bobbing at their ear; Next, gargle well their throats; and, thus prepared, They mount, a God's name, to be seen and heard ; From their high scaffold, with a trumpet cheek, And ogling all their audience ere they speak. The nauseous nobles, even the chief of Rome, With gaping mouths to these rehearsals come, And pant with pleasure, when some lusty line The marrow pierces, and invades the chine; At open fulsome bawdry they rejoice, And slimy jests applaud with broken voice. Base prostitute! thus dost thou gain thy bread ? Thus dost thou feed their ears, and thus art fed? At his own filthy stuff he grins and brays, And gives the sign where he expects their praise.
Why have I learned, sayst thou, if thus confined, I choke the noble vigour of my mind ? Know, my wild fig-tree, which in rocks is bred, Will split the quarry, and shoot out the head. + Fine fruits of learning! old ambitious fool, Darest thou apply that adage of the school, As if 'tis nothing worth that lies concealed, And “ science is not science till revealed ?" Oh, but 'tis brave to be admired, to see The crowd, with pointing fingers, cry,—That's he; That's he, whose wonderous poem is become A lecture for the noble youth of Rome ! * Note II.
+ Note III. VOL. XIII.
Who, by their fathers, is at feasts renowned,
And often quoted when the bowls
Full gorged and flushed, they wantonly rehearse,
And add to wine the luxury of verse.
One, clad in purple, not to lose his time,
Eats and recites some lamentable rhyme;
Some senseless Phillis, in a broken note,
Snuffling at nose, and croaking in his throat.
Then graciously the mellow audience nod;
Is not the immortal author made a god ?
Are not his manes blest, such praise to have ?
Lies not the turf more lightly on his grave?
And roses (while his loud applause they sing)
Stand ready from his sepulchre to spring ?
All these, you cry, but light objections are,
Mere malice, and you drive the jest too far:
For does there breathe a man, who can reject
A general fame, and his own lines neglect?
In cedar tablets * worthy to appear,
That need not fish, or frankincense, to fear?
Thou, whom I make the adverse part to bear,
Be answered thus:- If I by chance succeed
In what I write, (and that's a chance indeed,)
Know, I am not so stupid, or so hard,
Not to feel praise, or fame's deserved reward ;
But this I cannot grant, that thy applause
Is my work's ultimate, or only cause.
Prudence can ne'er propose so mean a prize;
For mark what vanity within it lies.
Like Labeo's Iliads, in whose verse is found
Nothing but trifling care, and empty sound;
Such little elegies as nobles write,
Who would be poets, in Apollo's spite.
Them and their woeful works the Muse defies;
Products of citron beds, † and golden canopies.
To give thee all thy due, thou hast the heart
To make a supper, with a fine desert,
And to thy thread-bare friend a cast old suit impart.
Thus bribed, thou thus bespeak’st him—Teli me,
(For I love truth, nor can plain speech offend,)
What says the world of me and of my muse?
The poor dare nothing tell but flattering news; But shall I speak? Thy verse is wretched rhyme, And all thy labours are but loss of time. Thy strutting belly swells, thy paunch is high; Thou writ'st not, but thou pissest poetry.
All authors to their own defects are blind;
Hadst thou hut, Janus-like, * a face behind,
To see the people, what splay-mouths they make;
To mark their fingers, pointed at thy back ;
Their tongues lolled out, a foot beyond the pitch,
When most athirst, of an Apulian bitch :
But noble scribblers are with flattery fed,
For none dare find their faults, who eat their bread.
the poets of patrician blood,
What is't the common reader takes for good ?
The verse in fashion is, when numbers flow,
Soft without sense, and without spirit slow;
So smooth and equal, that no sight can find
The rivet, where the polished piece was joined;
-So even all, with such a steady view,
As if he shut one eye to level true.
Whether the vulgar vice his satire stings,
The people's riots, or the rage of kings,
The gentle poet is alike in all;
His reader hopes no rise, and fears no fall.
Hourly we see some raw pin-feathered thing
Attempt to mount, and fights and heroes sing;
Who for false quantities was whipt at school
But t'other day, and breaking grammar-rule ;
Whose trivial art was never tried above
The bare description of a native grove;
Who knows not how to praise the country store,
The feasts, the baskets, nor the fatted boar,
Nor paint the flowery fields that paint themselves
Where Romulus was bred, and Quintius born,
Whose shining plough-share was in furrows worn,
Met by his trembling wife returning home,
And rustically joyed, as chief of Rome :
She wiped the sweat from the Dictator's brow,
And o'er his back his robe did rudely throw;
The lictors bore in state their lord's triumphant
Some love to hear the fustian poet roar,
And some on antiquated authors pore;
Rummage for sense, and think those only good
Who labour most, and least are understood.
When thou shalt see the blear-eyed fathers teach
Their sons this harsh and mouldy sort of speech,
Or others new affected ways to try,
Of wanton smoothness, female poetry;
One would enquire from whence this motley style
Did first our Roman purity defile.
For our old dotards cannot keep their seat,
But leap and catch at all that's obsolete.
Others, by foolish ostentation led,
When called before the bar, to save their head,
Bring trifling tropes, instead of solid sense,
And mind their figures more than their defence;
Are pleased to hear their thick-skulled judges cry,
Well moved, oh finely said, and decently!
Theft (says the accuser) to thy charge I lay,
O Pedius: what does gentle Pedius say?