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The spirit of that competition burns
With all varieties of ill by turns ;
Each vainly magnifies his own success,
Resents his fellow's, wishes it were less,
Exults in his miscarriage if he fail,
Deems his reward too great if he prevail,
And labours to surpass him day and night,
Less for improvement than to tickle spite.
The spur is powerful, and I grant its force ;
It pricks the genius forward in its course,
Allows short time for play, and none for sloth;
And felt alike by each, adrances both :
But judge, where so much evil intervenes,
The end, though plausible, not worth the means.
Weigh, for a moment, classical desert
Against a heart depraved and temper hurt;
Hurt too perhaps for life ; for early wrong
Done to the nobler part affects it long;
And you are stanch indeed in learning's cause
If you can crown a discipline, that draws
Such mischiefs after it with much applause.
Connexion form'd for interest, and endear'd
By selfish views, thus censured and cashier'd;
And emulation, as engendering hate,
Doom'd to a no less ignominious fate :
The props of such proud seminaries fall,
The Jachin and the Boaz of them all.
Great schools rejected then as those that swell
Beyond a size that can be managed well,
Shall royal institutions miss the bays,
And small academies win all the praise ?
Force not my drist beyond its just intent,
I praise a school as Pope a government;
So take my judgment in his language dress'd,
" Whate'er is best administer'd is best."
Few boys are born with talents that excel,
But all are capable of living well;
Then ask not whether limited or large?
But, watch they strictly, or neglect their charge ?
If anxious only that their boys may learn,
While morals languish, a despised concern,
The great and small deserve one common blame,
Different in size, but in effect the same.
Much zeal in virtue's cause all teachers boast,
Though motives of mere lucre sway the most ;
Therefore in towns and cities they abound,
For there the game they seek is easiest found,
Though there, in spite of all that care can do,
Traps to catch youth are most abundant too.
If shrewd, and of a well-constructed brain,
Keen in pursuit, and vigorous to retain,
Your son come forth a prodigy of skill ;
As, wheresoever taught, so form'd he will ;
The pedagogue, with self-complacent air,
Claims more than half the praise as his due share.
But if, with all his genius, he betray,
Not more intelligent :han loose and gay,
Such vicious habits as disgrace his name,
Threaten his health, his fortune, and his fame;
Though want of due restraint. alone have bred
The symptoms that you see with so much dread;
Unenvied there, he may sustain alone
The whole reproach, the fault was all his own.
Oh! 'tis a sight to be with joy perused,
By all whom sentiment has not abused;
New-fangled sentiment, the boasted grace
Of those who never feel in the right place;
A sight surpass'd by none that we can show,
Though Vestris on one leg still shine below;
A father blest with an ingenious son,
Father, and friend, and tutor, all in one.
How !-turn again to tales long since forgot,
Æsop, and Phædrus, and the rest ?-Why not?
He will not blush, that has a father's heart,
To take in childish plays a childish part;
But bends his sturdy back to any toy
That youth takes pleasure in, to please his boy :
Then why resign into a stranger's hand
A task as much within your own command,
That God and nature, and your interest too,
Seem with one voice to delegate to you?
Why hire a lodging in a house unknown
For one whose tenderest thoughts all hover round your own?
This second weaning, needless as it is,
How does it lacerate both your heart and his !
The indented stick, that loses day by day
Notch after notch, till all are smooth'd away,
Bears witness, long ere his dismission come,
With what intense desire he wants his home.
But though the joys he hopes beneath your roof
Bid fair enough to answer in the proof,
Harmless, and safe, and natural, as they are,
A disappointment waits him even there :
Arrived, he feels an unexpected change;
He blushes, hangs his head, is shy and strange,
No longer takes, as once, with searless ease,
His favourite stand between his father's knees,
But seeks the corner of some distant seat,
And eyes the door, and watches a retreat,
And, least familiar, where he should be most,
Feels all his happiest privileges lost.
Alas, poor boy !-the natural effect
Of love by absence chill'd into respect.
Say, what accomplishments, at school acquired,
Brings he, to sweeten fruits so undesired?
Thou well deserv'st an alienated son,
Unless thy conscious heart acknowledge-none;
None that, in thy domestic snug recess,
He had not made his own with more address,
Though some, perhaps, that shock thy feeling mind,
And better never learn'd, or lest behind.
Add too, that thus estranged, thou canst obtain
By no kind arts his confidence again;
That here begins with most that long complaint
Of filial frankness lost, and love grown faint,
Which, ost neglected, in life's waning years
A parent pours into regardless ears.
Like caterpillars, dangling under trees
By slender threads, and swinging in the breeze,
Which filthily bewray and sore disgrace
The boughs in which are bred the unseemly race ;
While every worm industriously weaves
And winds his web about the rivelld leaves ;
So numerous are the follies that annoy
The mind and heart of every sprightly boy ;
Imaginations noxious and perverse,
Which admonition can alone disperse.
The encroaching nuisance asks a faithful hand,
Patient, affectionate, of high command,
To check the procreation of a breed
Sure to exhaust the plant on which they feed.
'Tis not enough that Greek or Roman page,
At stated hours, his freakish thoughts engage;
E'en in his pastimes he requires a friend
To warn, and teach him safely to unbend;
O'er all his pleasures gently to preside,
Watch his emotions, and control their tide;
And levying thus, and with an easy sway,
A tax of profit from his very play,
To impress a value not to be erased,
On moments squander'd else, and running all to waste.
And seems it nothing in a father's eye
That unimproved those many moments fly?
And is he well content his son should find
No nourishment to feed his growing mind,
But conjugated verbs and nouns declined ?
For such is all the mental food purvey'd
By public hackneys in the schooling trade;
Who feeds a pupil's intellect with store
Of syntax, truly, but with little more ;
Dismiss their cares when they dismiss their flock,
Machines themselves, and governd by a clock.
Perhaps a father, blest with any brains,
Would deem it no abuse, or waste of pains,
To improve this diet, at no great expense,
With savoury truth and wholesome common sense ;
To lead his son, for prospects of delight,
To some not steep, though philosophic, height,
Thence to exhibit to his wondering eyes,
Yon circling worlds, their distance, and their size,
The moons of Jove, and Saturn's belted ball,
And the harmonious order of them all;
To show him in an insect or a flower
Such microscopic proof of skill and power,
As, hid from ages past, God now displays
To combat atheists with in modern days;
To spread the earth before him, and commend,
With designation of the finger’s end,
Its various parts to his attentive note,
Thus bringing home to him the most remote ;
To teach his heart to glow with generous flame,
Caught from the deeds of men of ancient fame;
And, more than all, with commendation due,
To set some living worthy in his view,
Whose fair example may at once inspire
A wish to copy what he must admire.
Such knowledge, gain'd betimes, and which appears,
Though solid, not too weighty for his years,
Sweet in itsell, and not forbidding sport,
When health demands it, of athletic sort,
Would make him-what some lovely boys have been,
And more than one perhaps that I have seen
An evidence and reprehension both
Of the mere schoolboy's lean and -tardy growth.
Art thou a man professionally tied,
With all thy faculties elsewhere applied,
Too busy to intend a meaner care
Than bow to enrich thyself, and next thine heir;
Or art thou (as, though rich, perhaps thou art)
But poor in knowledge, having none to impart:
Behold that figure, neat, though plainly clad;
His sprightly mingled with a shade of sad;
Not of a nimble tongue, though now and then
Heard to articulate like other men;
No jester, and yet lively in discourse,
His phrase well chosen, clear, and full of force;
And his address, if not quite French in ease,
Not English stiff, but frank and formed to please ;
Low in the world, because he scorns its arts ;
A man of letters, manners, morals, parts ;
Unpatronized, and therefore little known;
Wise for himself, and his few friends alone
In him thy well-appointed proxy see,
Arm'd for a work too difficult for thee;
Prepared by taste, by learning and true worth,
To form thy son, to strike his genius forth;
Beneath thy roof, beneath thine eye, to prove
The force of discipline when back'd by love ;
To double all thy pleasure in thy child,
His mind inform'd, his morals undefiled,
Safe under such a wing, the boy shall show
No spots contracted among grooms below,
Nor taint his speech with meannesses, design'd
By footman Tom for witty and refined.
There, in his commerce with the liveried herd,
Lurks the contagion chiefly to be fear'd;
For since (so fashion dictates) all, who claim
A higher than a mere plebeian fame,
Find it expedient, come what mischief may,
To entertain a thief or two in pay,
(And they that can afford the expense of more,
Some half a dozen, and some half a score,)
Great cause occurs to save him from a band,
So sure to spoil him, and so near at land;
A point secured, if once he be supplied
With some such Mentor always at his side.
Are such men rare ! perhaps they would abound
Were occupation easier to be found,
Were education, else so sure to fail,
Conducted on a manageable scale,
And schools, that have outlived all just esteem,
Exchanged for the secure domestic scheme.-
But, having found him, be thou duke or earl,
Show thou hast sense enough to prize the pearl,
And, as thou wouldst the advancement of thine heir
In all good faculties beneath his care,
Respect, as is but rational and just,
A man drem'd worthy of so dear a trust.
Despised by thee, what more can he expect
From youthful folly than the same neglect !
A flat and fatal negative obtains
That instant upon all his future pains;
His lessous tire, his mild rebukes offend,
And all the instructions of thy son's best friend
Are a streain choked, or trickling to no end.
Doom him not then to solitary meals;
But recollect that he has sense. and feels,
And that, possessor of a soul refined,
An upright heart, and cultivated mind,
His post not mean, his talents not unknown,
He deems it hard to vegetate alone.
And, if admitted at thy board he sit,
Account him no just mark for idle wit;
Offend not him, whom modesty restrains
From repartee, with jokes that he disdains ;
Much less transfix his feelings with an oath ;
Nor frown, unless he vanish with the cloth-
And, trust me, his utility may reach
To more than he is hired or bound to teach ;
Much trash unutter'd, and some ills undone,
Through reverence of the censor of thy son.
But, if thy table be indeed unclean,
Foul with excess, and with discourse obscene,
And thou a wretch, whom following her old plan,
The world accounts an honourable man,
Because forsooth thy courage has been tried,
And stood the test, perhaps on the wrong side ;
Though thou hadst never grace enough to prove
That any thing but vice could win thy love ;-
Or hast thou a polite, card-playing wise,
Chain'd to the routs that she frequents for life :
Who, just when industry begins lo snore,
Flies, wing'd with joy, to some coach-crowded door ;