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At length, by wholesome dread of statutes bound,
The poets learn’d to please, and not to wound:
Most warp'd to flattery's side ; but some more nice,
Preserv'd the freedom, and forbore the vice.
Hence satire rose, that just the medium hit,
And heals with morals what it hurts with wit.
We conquer'd France, but felt our captive's charms;
Her arts victorious triumph'd o'er our arms;
Britain to soft refinements less a foe,
Wit grew polite, and numbers learn'd to flow.
Waller was smooth; but Dryden taught to join
The varying verse, the full-resounding line,
The long majestic march, and
Tho' still some traces of our rustic vein,
And splay-foot verse, remain'd, and will remain.
Late, very late, correctness grew our care,
When the tir'd nation breath'd from civil war.
Exact Racine, and Corneille's noble fire,
Show'd us that France had something to admire.
Not but the tragic spirit was our own,
And full in Shakespeare, fair in Otway shone :
But Otway fail'd to polish or refine,
And fluent Shakespeare scarce effac'd a line.
Ey'n copious Dryden wanted, or forgot,
The last and greatest art, the art to blot.
Some doubt, if equal pains, or equal fire
The humble muse of comedy require.
But in known images of life, I guess
The labour greater, as th' indulgence less.
Observe how seldom ev'n the best succeed :
Tell me if Congreve's fools are fools indeed ?
What pert, low dialogue has Farquhar writ!
How Van wants grace, who never wanted wit !
The stage how loosely does Astrea tread,
Who fairly puts all characters to bed !
And idle Cibber, how he breaks the laws,
To make poor Pinky eat with vast applause !
But fill their purse, our poet's work is done,
Alike to them, by pathos or by pun.
O you ! whom vanity's light bark conveys
On fame's mad voyage by the wind of praise,
With what a shifting gale your course you ply,
For ever sunk too low, or born too high!
Who pants for glory finds but short repose,
A breath revives him, or a breath o'erthrows.
Farewell the stage ! if just as thrives the play,
The silly bard grows fat, or falls away.
There still remains to mortify a wit,
The many-headed monster of the pit :
A senseless, worthless, and unhonour'd crowd ;
Who, to disturb their betters mighty proud,
Clattering their sticks before ten lines are spoke,
Call for the farce, the bear, or the black-joke.
What dear delight to Britons farce affords !
Ever the taste of mobs, but now of lords :
(Taste, that eternal wanderer, which flies
From heads to ears, and now from ears to eyes.)
The play stands still ; damn action and discourse,
Back fly the scenes, and enter foot and horse ;
Pageants on pageants, in long order drawn,
Peers, heralds, bishops, ermine, gold, and lawn ;
The champion too! and, to complete the jest,
Old Edward's armour beams on Cibber's breast.
With laughter sure Democritus had died,
Had he beheld an audience gape so wide.
Let bear or elephant be e'er so white,
The people, sure, the people are the sight !
Ah luckless poet! stretch thy lungs and roar,
That bear or elephant shall heed thee more ;
While all its throats the gallery extends,
And all the thunder of the pit ascends !
Loud as the wolves, on Orcas' stormy steep,
Howl to the roarings of the Northern deep,
Such is the shout, the long-applanding note,
At Quin's high plume, or Oldfield's petticoat;
Or when from court a birthday suit bestow'd,
Sinks the lost actor in the tawdry load.
Booth enters,—hark! the universal peal ! ‘But has he spoken ?' Not a syllable. "What shook the stage, and made the people stare ?' Cato's long wig, flower'd gown, and lacquer'd chair.
FROM THE EPILOGUE TO THE SATIRES.
Fr. Not twice a twelvemonth you appear in print,
And when it comes, the court see nothing in’t,
You grow correct that once with rapture writ,
And are, besides, too moral for a wit.
Decay of parts, alas! we all must feel-
Why now, this moment, don't I see you steal ?
'Tis all from Horace ; Horace long before ye
Said, “Tories call’d him Whig, and Whigs a Tory;'
And taught his Romans, in much better metre,
To laugh at fools who put their trust in Peter.'
But Horace, Sir, was delicate, was nice;
Bubo observes, he lash'd no sort of vice :
Horace would say, Sir Billy serv'd the crown,
Blunt could do bus’ness, H-ggins knew the town ;
In Sappho touch the failings of the sex,
In reverend bishops note some small neglects,
And own, the Spaniard did a waggish thing,
Who cropt our ears, and sent them to the King.
His sly, polite, insinuating style
Could please at court, and make Augustus smile :
An artful manager, that crept between
His friend and shame, and was a kind of screen.
But 'faith your very friends will soon be sore ;
Patriots there are, who wish you ’d jest no more-
And where's the glory ? 'twill be only thought
That great men never offer'd you a groat.
Go see Sir Robert-
P. See Sir Robert !-hum
And never laugh—for all my life to come?
Seen him I have, but in his happier hour
Of social pleasure, ill-exchang'd for power ;
Seen him, uncumber'd with the venal tribe,
Smile without art, and win without a bribe.
Would he oblige me? let me only find,
He does not think me what he thinks mankind.
Come, come, at all I laugh he laughs no doubt ;
The only diff'rence is, I dare laugh out.
F. Why, yes: with Scripture still you may be free;
A horse-laugh, if you please, at honesty;
A joke on Jekyl, or some odd old Whig
Who never chang'd his principle, or wig:
A patriot is a fool in ev'ry age,
Whom all Lord Chamberlains allow the stage :
These nothing hurts ; they keep their fashion still,
And wear their strange old virtue, as they will.
If any ask you, 'Who's the man so near
His prince, that writes in verse, and has his ear?'
Why, answer, Lyttelton, and I'll engage
The worthy youth shall ne'er be in a rage :
But were his verses vile, his whisper base,
You'd quickly find him in Lord Fanny's case.
Sejanus, Wolsey, hurt not honest Fleury,
But well may put some statesmen in a fury.
Laugh then at any, but at fools or foes ;
These you but anger, and you mend not those.
Laugh at your friends, and, if your friends are sore,
So much the better, you may laugh the more.
To vice and folly to confine the jest,
Sets half the world, God knows, against the rest ;
Did not the sneer of more impartial men
At sense and virtue, balance all again.
Judicious wits spread wide the ridicule,
And charitably comfort knave and fool.
P. Dear Sir, forgive the prejudice of youth:
Adieu distinction, satire, warmth, and truth !
Come, harmless characters that no one hit ;
Come Henley's oratory, Osborn's wit !
The honey dropping from Favonio's tongue,
The flow'rs of Bubo, and the flow of Y-ng!
The gracious dew of pulpit eloquence,
And all the well-whipt cream of courtly sense,
That first was H-vy's, F—'s next, and then
The S-te's, and then H-vy's once again.
O come, that easy, Ciceronian style,
So Latin, yet so English all the while,
As, tho' the pride of Middleton and Bland,
All boys may read, and girls may understand !
Then might I sing, without the least offence,
And all I sung should be the nation's sense :
Or teach the melancholy muse to mourn,
Hang the sad verse on Carolina's urn,
And hail her passage to the realms of rest,
All parts perform’d, and all her children blest !
So-Satire is no more—I feel it die-
No Gazetteer more innocent than 1.-
And let, a God's-name, ev'ry fool and knave
Be grac'd through life, and flatter'd in his grave.
F. Why so? if Satire knows its time and place,
You still may lash the greatest—in disgrace :
For merit will by turns forsake them all ;
Would you know when ? exactly when they fall.
But let all satire in all changes spare
Immortal S-k, and grave Dere.
Silent and soft, as saints remove to heav'n,
All ties dissolv'd, and ev'ry sin forgiv'n,
These may some gentle ministerial wing
Receive, and place for ever near a king !
There, where no passion, pride, or shame transport,
Lull'd with the sweet nepenthe of a court ;
There, where no father's, brother's, friend's, disgrace
Once break their rest, or stir them from their place :
But past the sense of human miseries,
All tears are wip'd for ever from all eyes ;
No cheek is known to blush, no heart to throb,
Save when they lose a question, or a job.