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All offices of dignity or power
Thefe fwarming locufts greedily devour;
Preferr'd to all the fecrets of the state,
These fenfelefs finners in the council fate,
In their unjuft deceitful balance laid,
The great concerns of war and peace were weigh'd.
This wife Lovifius knew, whofe mighty mind
Had univerfal empire long defign'd;
And when he all things found were bought and fold,
Thought nothing there impoffible to gold:
With mighty fums, through secret channels brought,
On the corrupted counfellors he wrought:
Against the neighbouring Belgians they declare
A hazardous and an expensive war.
Their fresh affronts and matchlefs infolence
To Cæfar's honour made a fair pretence;
Meer outfide this, but, ruling by his pay,
Cunning Lovifius did this project lay,
By mutual damages to weaken those
Who only could his vast designs oppose.
But Cæfar, looking with a juft disdain
Upon their bold pretences to the main,
Sent forth his royal brother from his fide,
To lafh their infolence, and curb their pride:
Britannicus, by whose high virtues grac'd,
The prefent age contends with all the past;
Him heaven a pattern did for heroes form,
Slow to advise, but eager to perform,
In council calm, fierce as a ftorm in fight,
Danger his fport, and labour his delight:
To him the fleet and camp, the fea and field,
Did equal harvefts of bright glory yield.
No lefs each civil virtue him commends,
The best of fubjects, brothers, mafters, friends;
To merit juft, to needy virtue kind,
True to his word, and constant to his friend:
What's well refolv'd as bravely he pursues,
Fix'd in his choice, as careful how to chuse.
Honour was born, not planted in his heart,
And Virtue came by nature, not by art:
Where glory calls, and Cæfar gives command,
He flies; his pointed thunder in his hand.
The Belgian fleet endeavour'd, but in vain,
The tempeft of his fury to sustain :
Shatter'd and torn, before his flags they fly
Like doves that the exalted eagle spy,
Ready to stoop and feize them from on high:
He, Neptune like, when, from his watery bed
Above the waves lifting his awful head,
He fimiles, and to his chariot gives the rein,
In triumph rides o'er the afferted main ;
And now returns, the watery empire won,
At Cæfar's feet to lay his trident down.
But who the fhouts and triumphs can relate
Of the glad ifle that his return did wait?
Rejoicing crowds attend him on the strand,
Loud as the fea, and numerous as the fand.
A joy too great to be by words expreft,
Shines in each eye, and beats in every breast :
So joy the many, but the wiser few
The godlike prince with filent wonder view.
The grateful fenate his high acts confess
In a vaft gift, but than his merit lefs.
Britannicus is all the voice of Fame,
Britannicus fhe knows no other name;
The people's darling, and the court's delight,
Lovely in peace, as dreadful in the fight!
Shall he, fhall ever he, who now commands
So many thousand hearts, and tongues, and hands;
Shall ever he, by fome ftrange crime of fate,
Fall under the ignoble vulgar's hate?
Who knows? the turns of Fortune who can tell?
Who fix her globe, or stop the rolling wheel?
The crowd 's a fea, whofe wants run high or low,
According as the winds, their leaders, blow.
All calm and fmooth, till from fome corner flies
An envious blaft, that makes the billows rife :
The blaft, that whence it comes, or where it goes,
We know not, but where-e'er it lifts it blows.
Was not of old the Jewish rabble's cry
Hofanna firft, and after crucify?
Now Byrfa with full orb illustrious fhone,
With beams reflected from his glorious fon;
All power his own, but what was given to thofe
That counsellors by him from rebels rofe;
But, rais'd fo far, each now difdains a firft,
The tafte of power does but inflame the thirst.
With envious eyes they Bryfa's glories fee,
Nor think they can be great, while less than he.
Envy their cunning sharpen'd, and their wit,
Enough before for treacherous councils fit:
T'accufe him openly not yet they dare,
But fubtly by degrees his fall prepare:
They knew by long-experienc'd defert
How near he grew rooted to Cæfar's heart;
To move him hence, requir'd no common skill,
But what is hard to a refolved will?
They found his public actions all confpire,
Wifely apply'd, to favour their defire :
But one they want their venom to fuggeft,
And make it gently flide to Cæfar's breast:
Who fitter than Villerius for this part?
And him to gain requir'd but little art,
For mischief was the darling of his heart.
A compound of fuch parts as never yet
In any one of all God's creatures met :
Not fick men's dreams fo various or fo wild,
Or of fuch difagreeing fhapes compil'd;
Yet, through all changes of his shifting scene,
Still conftant to buffoon and harlequin,
As if he 'ad made a prayer, than his of old
More foolish, that turn'd all he touch'd to gold.
God granted him to play th' eternal fool,
And all he handled turn to ridicule.
Thus a new Midas truly he appears,
And fhews, through all disguise, his affes ears.
Did he the weightiest business of the state
At council or in fenate-houfe debate,
King, country, all, he for a jeft would quit,
To catch fome little flash of paltry wit :
How full of gravity foe'er he struts,
The ape in robes will scramble for his nuts:
Did he all laws of heaven or earth defy,
Blafpheme his God, or give his king the lye;
Adultery, murders, or ev'n worse, commit,
Still 'twas a jeft, and nothing but sheer wit:
At last this edg'd-tool wit, his darling fport,
Wounded himself, and banish'd him the court:
Like common jugglers, or like common whores,
All his tricks fhewn, he was kick'd out of doors.
Not chang'd in humour by his change of place,
He ftill found company to fuit his grace;
Mountebanks, quakers, chemifts, trading varlets,
Pimps, players, city fheriffs, and fuburb harlots;
War his averfion, once he heard it roar,
But, "Damn him if he ever hear it more!"
And there you may believe him, though he fwore.
But with play-houses, wars, immortal wars,
He wag'd, and ten years rage produc'd a * farce.
As many rolling years he did employ,
And hands almost as many, to destroy
Heroic rhyme, as Greece to ruin Troy.