Ode X: To Thomas Edwards, Esquire: On The Late Edition Of Mr. Pope's Work
by Mark Akenside
Believe me, Edwards, to restrain
The licence of a railer's tongue
Is what but seldom men obtain
By sense or wit, by prose or song:
A task for more Herculean powers,
Nor suited to the sacred hours
Of leisure in the Muse's bowers.
In bowers where laurel weds with palm,
The Muse, the blameless queen, resides:
Fair fame attends, and wisdom calm
Her eloquence harmonious guides:
While, shut for ever from her gate,
Oft trying, still repining, wait
Fierce envy and calumnious hate.
Who then from her delightful bounds
Would step one moment forth to heed
What impotent and savage sounds
From their unhappy mouths proceed?
No: rather Spenser's lyre again
Prepare, and let thy pious strain
For Pope's dishonor'd shade complain.
Tell how displeas'd was every bard,
When lately in the Elysian grove
They of his Muse's guardian heard,
His delegate to fame above;
And what with one accord they said
Of wit in drooping age misled,
And Warburton's officious aid:
How Virgil mourn'd the sordid fate
To that melodious lyre assign'd
Beneath a tutor who so late
With Midas and his rout combin'd
By spiteful clamor to confound
That very lyre's enchanting sound,
Though listening realms admir'd around:
How Horace own'd he thought the fire
Of his friend Pope's satiric line
Did farther fuel scarce require
From such a militant divine:
How Milton scorn'd the sophist vain
Who durst approach his hallow'd strain
With unwash'd hands and lips profane.
Then Shakespear debonnair and mild
Brought that strange comment forth to view;
Conceits more deep, he said and smil'd,
Than his own fools or madmen knew:
But thank'd a generous friend above,
Who did with free adventurous love
Such pageants from his tomb remove.
And if to Pope, in equal need,
The same kind office thou would'st pay,
Then, Edwards, all the band decreed
That future bards with frequent lay
Should call on thy auspicious name,
From each absurd intruder's claim
To keep inviolate their fame.