Economy, A Rhapsody, Addressed To Young Poets

Insanis; omnes gelidis quaecunqne lacernis
Sunt tibi, Nasones Virgiliosque vides.
~Mart.
Imitation.

--Thou know'st not what thou say'st;
In garments that scarce fence them from the cold
Our Ovids and our Virgils you behold.

Part first.

To you, ye Bards! whose lavish breast requires
This monitory lay, the strains belong;
Nor think some miser vents his sapient saw,
Or some dull cit, unfeeling of the charms
That tempt profusion, sings; while friendly Zeal,
To guard from fatal ills the tribe he loves,
Inspires the meanest of the Muse's train!
Like you I loathe the grovelling progeny,
Whose wily arts, by creeping time matured,
Advance them high on Power's tyrannic throne,
To lord it there in gorgeous uselessness,
And spurn successless Worth that pines below!
See the rich churl, amid the social sons
Of wine and wit, regaling! hark, he joins
In the free jest delighted! seems to show
A meliorated heart! he laughs, he sings!
Songs of gay import, madrigals of glee,
And drunken anthems, set agape the board,
Like Demea, in the play, benign and mild,
And pouring forth benevolence of soul,
Till Micio wonder; or, in Shakspeare's line,
Obstreperous Silence, drowning Shallow's voice,
And startling Falstaff, and his mad compeers.
He owns 'tis prudence, ever and anon
To smooth his careful brow, to let his purse
Ope to a sixpence's diameter!
He likes our ways; he owns the ways of wit
Are ways of pleasance, and deserve regard.
True, we are dainty good society,
But what art thou? Alas! consider well,
Thou bane of social pleasure, know thyself:
Thy fell approach, like some invasive damp
Breathed through the pores of earth from Stygian caves
Destroys the lamp of mirth; the lamp which we,
Its flamens, boast to guard: we know not how,
But at thy sight the fading flame assumes
A ghastly blue, and in a stench expires.
True, thou seem'st changed; all sainted, all enskied:
The trembling tears that charge thy melting eyes
Say thou art honest and of gentle kind:
But all is false! an intermitting sigh
Condemns each hour, each moment given to smiles,
And deems those only lost thou dost not lose.
Even for a demi-groat this open'd soul,
This boon companion, this elastic breast,
Revibrates quick; and sends the tuneful tongue
To lavish music on the rugged walls
Of some dark dungeon. Hence, thou Caitiff! fly;
Touch not my glass, nor drain my sacred bowl,
Monster, ingrate! beneath one common sky
Why shouldst thou breathe? beneath one common roof
Thou ne'er shalt harbour, nor my little boat
Receive a soul with crimes to press it down.
Go to thy bags, thou Recreant! hourly go,
And, gazing there, bid them be wit, be mirth,
Be conversation. Not a face that smiles
Admits thy presence! not a soul that glows
With social purport, bid, or even or morn,
Invest thee happy! but when life declines,
May thy sure heirs stand tittering round thy bed,
And, ushering in their favourites, burst thy locks,
And fill their laps with gold, till Want and Care
With joy depart, and cry, 'We ask no more.'
Ah! never, never may the harmonious mind
Endure the worldly! Poets, ever void
Of guile, distrustless, scorn the treasured gold,
And spurn the miser, spurn his deity.
Balanced with friendship, in the poet's eye
The rival scale of interest kicks the beam,
Than lightning swifter. From his cavern'd store
The sordid soul, with self-applause, remarks
The kind propensity; remarks and smiles,
And hies with impious haste to spread the snare.
Him we deride, and in our comic scenes
Contemn the niggard form Moliere has drawn:
We loathe with justice; but, alas! the pain
To bow the knee before this calf of gold;
Implore his envious aid, and meet his frown!
But 'tis not Gomez, 'tis not he whose heart
Is crusted o'er with dross, whose callous mind
Is senseless as his gold, the slighted Muse
Intensely loathes. 'Tis sure no equal task
To pardon him who lavishes his wealth
On racer, foxhound, hawk, or spaniel, all
But human merit; who with gold essays
All, but the noblest pleasure, to remove
The wants of Genius, and its smiles enjoy.
But you, ye titled youths! whose nobler zeal
Would burnish o'er your coronets with fame;
Who listen pleased when poet tunes his lay;
Permit him not, in distant solitudes,
To pine, to languish out the fleeting hours
Of active youth; then Virtue pants for praise.
That season unadorn'd, the careless bard
Quits your worn threshold, and, like honest Gay,
Contemns the niggard boon ye time so ill.
Your favours then, like trophies given the tomb,
The enfranchised spirit soaring, not perceives,
Or scorns perceived, and execrates the smile
Which bade his vigorous bloom, to treacherous hopes
And servile cares a prey, expire in vain!
Two lawless powers, engaged by mutual hate
In endless war, beneath their flags enrol
The vassal world: this, Avarice is named;
That, Luxury: 'tis true their partial friends
Assign them softer names; usurpers both!
That share by dint of arms the legal throne
Of just Economy; yet both betray'd
By fraudful ministers. The niggard chief,
Listening to want, all faithless, and prepared
To join each moment in his rival's train,
His conduct models by the needless fears
The slave inspires, while Luxury, a chief
Of amplest faith, to Plenty's rule resigns
His whole campaign. 'Tis Plenty's flattering sounds
Engross his ear; 'tis Plenty's smiling form
Moves still before his eye. Discretion strives,
But strives in vain, to banish from the throne
The perjured minion: he, secure of trust,
With latent malice to the hostile camp;
Day, night, and hour, his monarch's wealth conveys.
Ye towering minds! ye sublimated souls!
Who, careless of your fortunes, seal and sign,
Set, let, contract, acquit, with easier mien
Than fops take snuff! whose economic care
Your green silk purse engrosses! easy, pleased,
To see gold sparkle through the subtle folds;
Lovely, as when the Hesperian fruitage smiled
Amid the verdurous grove! who fondly hope
Spontaneous harvests! harvests all the year!
Who scatter wealth, as though the radiant crop
Glitter'd on every bough; and every bough,
Like that the Trojan gather'd, once avulsed,
Were by a splendid successor supplied
Instant, spontaneous listen to my lays;
For 'tis not fools, whate'er proverbial phrase
Have long decreed, that quit with greatest ease
The treasured gold. Of words indeed profuse,
Of gold tenacious, their torpescent soul
Clenches their coin; and what electral fire
Shall solve the frosty gripe, and bid it flow?
'Tis Genius, Fancy, that to wild expense
Of health, of treasure, stimulates the soul;
These, with officious care, and fatal art,
Improve the vinous flavour; these the smile
Of Cloe soften: these the glare of dress
Illume; the glittering chariot gild anew,
And add strange wisdom to the furs of Power.
Alas! that he, amid the race of men,
That he who thinks of purest gold with scorn,
Should with unsated appetite demand,
And vainly court the pleasure it procures!
When Fancy's vivid spark impels the soul
To scorn quotidian scenes, to spurn the bliss
Of vulgar minds, what nostrum shall compose
Its fatal tension? in what lonely vale
Of balmy Medicine's various field, aspires
The blest refrigerant? Vain, ah! vain the hope
Of future peace, this orgasm uncontroll'd!
Impatient, hence, of all the frugal mind
Requires; to eat, to drink, to sleep, to fill
A chest with gold, the sprightly breast demands
Incessant rapture; life, a tedious load
Denied its continuity of joy.
But whence obtain? philosophy requires
No lavish cost; to crown its utmost prayer
Suffice the root-built cell, the simple fleece,
The juicy viand, and the crystal stream.
Even mild Stupidity rewards her train
With cheap contentment. Taste alone requires
Entire profusion! Days, and nights, and hours,
Thy voice, hydropic Fancy! calls aloud
For costly draughts, inundant bowls of joy,
Rivers of rich regalement, seas of bliss-
Seas without shore, infinity of sweets!
And yet, unless sage Reason join her hand
In Pleasure's purchase, Pleasure is unsure!
And yet, unless Economy's consent
Legitimate expense, some graceless mark,
Some symptom ill conceal'd, shall, soon or late,
Burst like a pimple from the vicious tide
Of acid blood, proclaiming Want's disease,
Amidst the bloom of show. The scanty stream,
Slow-loitering in its channel, seems to vie
With Vaga's depth; but should the sedgy power,
Vain-glorious, empty his penurious urn
O'er the rough rock, how must his fellow streams
Deride the tinklings of the boastive rill!
I not aspire to mark the dubious path
That leads to wealth, to poets mark'd in vain!
But, ere self-flattery soothe the vivid breast
With dreams of fortune near allied to fame,
Reflect how few, who charm'd the listening ear
Of satrap or of king, her smiles enjoyed!
Consider well, what meagre alms repaid
The great Maeonian! fire of tuneful song,
And prototype of all that soar'd sublime,
And left dull cares below; what griefs impell'd
The modest bard of learn'd Eliza's reign
To swell with tears his Mulla's parent stream,
And mourn aloud the pang, 'to ride, to run,
To spend, to give, to want, to be undone.'
Why should I tell of Cowley's pensive Muse,
Beloved in vain? too copious is my theme!
Which of your boasted race might hope reward
Like loyal Butler, when the liberal Charles,
The judge of wit, perused the sprightly page,
Triumphant o'er his foes? Believe not Hope,
The poet's parasite; but learn alone
To spare the scanty boon the Fates decree.
Poet and rich! 'tis solecism extreme!
'Tis heighten'd contradiction! in his frame,
In every nerve and fibre of his soul,
The latent seeds and principles of want
Has Nature wove, and Fate confirm'd the clue.
Nor yet despair to shun the ruder gripe
Of Penury: with nice precision learn
A dollar's value. Foremost in the page
That marks the expense of each revolving year,
Place inattention. When the lust of praise,
Or honour's false idea, tempts thy soul
To slight frugality, assure thine heart
That danger's near. This perishable coin
Is no vain ore. It is thy liberty;
It fetters misers, but it must alone
Enfranchise thee. The world, the cit-like world,
Bids thee beware; thy little craft essay;
Nor, piddling with a tea-spoon's slender form,
See with soup-ladles devils gormandize.
Economy! thou good old aunt, whose mien,
Furrow'd with age and care, the wise adore,
The wits contemn! reserving still thy stores
To cheer thy friends at last! why with the cit
Or bookless churl, with each ignoble name,
Each earthly nature, deign'st thou to reside?
And shunning all, who by thy favours crown'd
Might glad the world, to seek some vulgar mind,
Inspiring pride, and selfish shapes of ill?
Why with the old, infirm, and impotent,
And childless, love to dwell; yet leave the breast
Of youth unwarn'd, unguided, uninform'd?
Of youth, to whom thy monitory voice
Were doubly kind? for, sure, to youthful eyes,
(How short soe'er it prove), the road of life
Appears protracted; fair on either side
The Loves, the Graces play, on Fortune's child
Profusely smiling: well might youth essay
The frugal plan, the lucrative employ,
Source of their favour all the livelong day;
But Fate assents not. Age alone contracts
His meagre palm, to clench the tempting bane
Of all his peace, the glittering seeds of care!
O that the Muse's voice might pierce the ear
Of generous youth! for youth deserves her song.
Youth is fair virtue's season, virtue then
Requires the pruner's hand; the sequent stage,
It barely vegetates; nor long the space
Ere, robb'd of warmth, its arid trunk displays
Fell Winter's total reign. O lovely source
Of generous foibles, youth! when opening minds
Are honest as the light, lucid as air,
As fostering breezes kind, as linnets gay,
Tender as buds, and lavish as the spring!
Yet, hapless state of man! his earliest youth
Cozens itself; his age defrauds mankind.
Nor deem it strange that rolling years abrade
The social bias. Life's extensive page,
What does it but unfold repeated proofs
Of gold's omnipotence? With patriots, friends,
Sickening beneath its ray, enervate some,
And others dead, whose putrid name exhales
A noisome scent, the bulky volume teems:
With kinsmen, brothers, sons, moistening the shroud,
Or honouring the grave, with specious grief
Of short duration; soon in fortune's beams
Alert, and wondering at the tears they shed.
But who shall save, by tame prosaic strain,
That glowing breast where wit with youth conspires
To sweeten luxury? The fearful Muse
Shall yet proceed, though by the faintest gleam
Of hope inspired, to warn the train she loves.


Part second.

In some dark season, when the misty shower
Obscures the sun, and saddens all the sky,
When linnets drop the wing, nor grove nor stream
Invites thee forth, to sport thy drooping muse;
Seize the dull hour, nor with regret assign
To worldly Prudence. She, nor nice nor coy,
Accepts the tribute of a joyless day;
She smiles well pleased when wit and mirth recede,
And not a Grace, and not a Muse will hear.
Then, from majestic Maro's awful strain,
Or towering Homer, let thine eye descend
To trace, with patient industry, the page
Of income and expense: and, oh! beware
Thy breast, self-flattering; place no courtly smile,
No golden promise of your faithless Muse,
Nor latent mine which Fortune's hand may show,
Amid thy solid store: the Siren's song
Wrecks not the listening sailor, half so sure.
See by what avenues, what devious paths,
The foot of Want, detested, steals along,
And bars each fatal pass! Some few short hours
Of punctual care, the refuse of thy year,
On frugal schemes employ'd, shall give the Muse
To sing intrepid many a cheerful day.
But if too soon before the tepid gales
Thy resolution melt; and ardent vows,
In wary hours preferr'd, or die forgot,
Or seem the forced effect of hazy skies;
Then, ere surprise, by whose impetuous rage
The massy fort, with which thy gentler breast
I not compare, is won, the song proceeds.
Know, too, by Nature's undiminish'd law,
Throughout her realms obey'd, the various parts
Of deep creation, atoms, systems, all,
Attract, and are attracted; nor prevails the law
Alone in matter; soul alike with soul
Aspires to join; nor yet in souls alone;
In each idea it imbibes, is found
The kind propensity; and when they meet
And grow familiar, various though their tribe,
Their tempers various, vow perpetual faith;
That, should the world's disjointed frame once more
To chaos yield the sway, amid the wreck
Their union should survive; with Roman warmth,
By sacred hospitable laws endear'd,
Should each idea recollect its friend.
Here then we fix; on this perennial base
Erect thy safety, and defy the storm.
Let soft Profusion's fair idea join
Her hand with Poverty; nor here desist,
Till o'er the group that forms their various train
Thou sing loud hymeneals. Let the pride
Of outward show in lasting leagues combine
With shame threadbare; the gay vermilion face
Of rash Intemperance be discreetly pair'd
With sallow Hunger: the licentious joy
With mean dependence; even the dear delight
Of sculpture, paint, intaglios, books, and coins,
Thy breast, sagacious Prudence! shall connect
With filth and beggary; nor disdain to link
With black Insolvency. Thy soul, alarm'd,
Shall shun the Siren's voice; nor boldly dare
To bid the soft enchantress share thy breast,
With such a train of horrid fiends conjoin'd.
Nor think, ye sordid race! ye grovelling minds!
I frame the song for you; for you the Muse
Could other rules impart. The friendly strain,
For gentler bosoms plann'd, to yours would prove
The juice of lurid aconite, exceed
Whatever Colchos bore; and in your breast
Compassion, love, and friendship, all destroy!
It greatly shall avail, if e'er thy stores.
Increase apace, by periodic days
Of annual payment, or thy patron's boon,
The lean reward of gross unbounded praise!
It much avails, to seize the present hour,
And, undeliberating, call around
Thy hungry creditors; their horrid rage,
When once appeased, the small remaining store
Shall rise in weight tenfold, in lustre rise,
As gold improved by many a fierce assay.
'Tis thus the frugal husbandman directs
His narrow stream, if o'er its wonted banks,
By sudden rains impell'd, it proudly swell;
His timely hand through better tracts conveys
The quick decreasing tide: ere borne along,
Or through the wild morass, or cultured fields,
Or bladed grass mature, or barren sands,
It flow destructive, or it flow in vain.
But happiest he who sanctifies expense
By present pay; who subjects not his fame
To tradesmen's varlets, nor bequeaths his name,
His honour'd name, to deck the vulgar page
Of base mechanic, sordid, unsincere!
There haply, while thy Muse sublimely soars
Beyond this earthly sphere, in heaven's abodes,
And dreams of nectar and ambrosial sweets,
Thy growing debt steals unregarded o'er
The punctual record; till nor Phoebus self,
Nor sage Minerva's art, can aught avail
To soothe the ruthless dun's detested rage:
Frantic and fell, with many a curse profane
He loads the gentle Muse, then hurls thee down
To want, remorse, captivity, and shame.
Each public place, the glittering haunts of men,
With horror fly. Why loiter near thy bane?-
Why fondly linger on a hostile shore,
Disarm'd, defenceless? why require to tread
The precipice? or why, alas! to breathe
A moment's space, where every breeze is death,
Death to thy future peace? Away, collect
Thy dissipated mind; contract thy train
Of wild ideas, o'er the flowery fields
Of show diffused, and speed to safer climes.
Economy presents her glass, accept
The faithful mirror, powerful to disclose
A thousand forms, unseen by careless eyes,
That plot thy fate. Temptation in a robe
Of Tyrian dye, with every sweet perfumed,
Besets thy sense; Extortion follows close
Her wanton step, and Ruin brings the rear.
These and the rest shall her mysterious glass
Embody to thy view; like Venus kind,
When to her labouring son, the vengeful powers
That urged the fall of Ilium, she displayed:
He, not imprudent, at the sight declined
The unequal conflict, and decreed to raise
The Trojan welfare on some happier shore.
For here to drain thy swelling purse await
A thousand arts, a thousand frauds attend:
'The cloud-wrought canes, the gorgeous snuff-boxes,
The twinkling jewels, and the gold etui,
With all its bright inhabitants, shall waste
Its melting stores, and in the dreary void
Leave not a doit behind.' Ere yet, exhaust,
Its flimsy folds offend thy pensive eye,
Away! embosom'd deep in distant shades,
Nor seen nor seeing, thou mayst vent thy scorn
Of lace, embroidery, purple, gems, and gold!
There of the faded fop and essenced beau,
Ferocious, with a Stoic's frown disclose
Thy manly scorn, averse to tinsel pomp;
And fluent thine harangue. But can thy soul
Deny thy limbs the radiant grace of dress,
Where dress is merit? where thy graver friend
Shall wish thee burnish'd? where the sprightly fair
Demand embellishment? even Delia's eye,
As in a garden, roves, of hues alone
Inquirent, curious? Fly the cursed domain;
These are the realms of luxury and show,
No classic soil; away! the bloomy spring
Attracts thee hence; the warning autumn warns;
Fly to thy native shades, and dread, even there,
Lest busy fancy tempt thy narrow state
Beyond its bounds. Observe Florelio's mien:
Why treads my friend with melancholy step
That beauteous lawn? why, pensive, strays his eye
O'er statues, grottos, urns, by critic art
Proportion'd fair? or from his lofty dome,
Bright glittering through the grove, returns his eye
Unpleased, disconsolate? And is it love,
Disastrous love, that robs the finish'd scenes
Of all their beauty, centering all in her
His soul adores? or from a blacker cause
Springs this remorseful gloom? Is conscious guilt
The latent source of more than love's despair?
It cannot be within that polish'd breast,
Where science dwells, that guilt should harbour there.
No; 'tis the sad survey of present want
And past profusion! lost to him the sweets
Of yon pavilion, fraught with every charm
For other eyes; or if remaining, proofs
Of criminal expense! Sweet interchange
Of river, valley, mountain, woods, and plains!
How gladsome once he ranged your native turf,
Your simple scenes, how raptured! ere Expense
Had lavish'd thousand ornaments, and taught
Convenience to perplex him, Art to pall,
Pomp to deject, and Beauty to displease!
Oh! for a soul to all the glare of wealth,
To Fortune's wide exhaustless treasury,
Nobly superior! but let Caution guide
The coy disposal of the wealth we scorn,
And Prudence be our Almoner. Alas!
The pilgrim wandering o'er some distant clime,
Sworn foe of avarice! nor disdains to learn
Its coin's imputed worth, the destined means
To smooth his passage to the favour'd shrine.
Ah! let not us, who tread this stranger world,
Let none who sojourn on the realms of life,
Forget the land is mercenary, nor waste
His fare, ere landed on no venal shore.
Let never bard consult Palladio's rules;
Let never bard, O Burlington! survey
Thy learned art, in Chiswick's dome display'd;
Dangerous incentive! nor with lingering eye
Survey the window Venice calls her own.
Better for him, with no ingrateful Muse,
To sing a requiem to that gentle soul
Who plann'd the skylight, which to lavish bards
Conveys alone the pure ethereal ray;
For garrets him, and squalid walls, await,
Unless, presageful, from this friendly strain
He glean advice, and shun the scribbler's doom.


Part third.

Yet once again, and to thy doubtful fate
The trembling Muse consigns thee. Ere contempt,
Or Want's empoison'd arrow, ridicule,
Transfix thy weak unguarded breast, behold!
The poet's roofs, the careless poet's, his
Who scorns advice, shall close my serious lay.
When Gulliver, now great, now little deem'd,
The plaything of Comparison, arrived
Where learned bosoms their aerial schemes
Projected, studious of the public weal;
'Mid these, one subtler artist he descried,
Who cherish'd in his dusty tenement
The spider's web, injurious, to supplant
Fair Albion's fleeces! Never, never may
Our monarchs on such fatal purpose smile,
And irritate Minerva's beggar'd sons,
The Melksham weavers! Here in every nook
Their wefts they spun; here revell'd uncontroll'd,
And, like the flags from Westminster's high roof
Dependent, here their fluttering textures waved.
Such, so adorn'd the cell I mean to sing!
Cell ever squalid! where the sneerful maid
Will not fatigue her hand! broom never comes,
That comes to all! o'er whose quiescent walls
Arachne's unmolested care has drawn
Curtains subsusk, and save the expense of art.
Survey those walls, in fady texture clad,
Where wandering snails in many a slimy path,
Free, unrestrain'd, their various journeys crawl;
Peregrinations strange, and labyrinths
Confused, inextricable! such the clue
Of Cretan Ariadne ne'er explain'd!
Hooks! angles! crooks! and involutions wild!
Meantime, thus silver'd with meanders gay,
In mimic pride the snail-wrought tissue shines,
Perchance of tabby, or of aretine,
Not ill expressive; such the power of snails!
Behold his chair, whose fractured seat infirm
An aged cushion hides! replete with dust
The foliaged velvet; pleasing to the eye
Of great Eliza's reign, but now the snare
Of weary guest that on the specious bed
Sits down confiding. Ah! disastrous wight!
In evil hour and rashly dost thou trust
The fraudful couch! for though in velvet cased,
Thy fated thigh shall kiss the dusty floor.
The traveller thus, that o'er Hibernian plains
Hath shaped his way, on beds profuse of flowers,
Cowslip, or primrose, or the circular eye
Of daisy fair, decrees to bask supine.
And see! delighted, down he drops, secure
Of sweet refreshment, ease without annoy,
Or luscious noonday nap. Ah! much deceived,
Much suffering pilgrim! thou nor noonday nap
Nor sweet repose shalt find; the false morass
In quivering undulations yields beneath
Thy burden, in the miry gulf enclosed!
And who would trust appearance? cast thine eye
Where 'mid machines of heterogeneous form
His coat depends; alas! his only coat,
Eldest of things! and napless as an heath
Of small extent by fleecy myriads grazed.
Not different have I seen in dreary vault
Display'd a coffin; on each sable side
The texture unmolested seems entire;
Fraudful, when touch'd it glides to dust away,
And leaves the wondering swain to gape, to stare,
And with expressive shrug and piteous sigh,
Declare the fatal force of rolling years,
Or dire extent of frail mortality.
This aged vesture, scorn of gazing beaus,
And formal cits (themselves too haply scorn'd),
Both on its sleeve, and on its skirt, retains
Full many a pin wide-sparkling: for, if e'er
Their well-known crest met his delighted eye,
Though wrapt in thought, commercing with the sky,
He, gently stooping, scorn'd not to upraise,
And on each sleeve, as conscious of their use,
Indenting fix them; nor, when arm'd with these,
The cure of rents and separations dire,
And chasms enormous, did he view, dismay'd,
Hedge, bramble, thicket, bush, portending fate
To breeches, coat, and hose! had any wight
Of vulgar skill the tender texture own'd;
But gave his mind to form a sonnet quaint
Of Silvia's shoe-string, or of Chloe's fan,
Or sweetly-fashion'd tip of Celia's ear.
Alas! by frequent use decays the force
Of mortal art! the refractory robe
Eludes the tailor's art, eludes his own;
How potent once, in union quaint conjoin'd!
See, near his bed (his bed, too falsely call'd
The place of rest, while it a bard sustains;
Pale, meagre, muse-rid wight! who reads in vain
Narcotic volumes o'er) his candlestick,
Radiant machine! when from the plastic hand
Of Mulciber, the Mayor of Birmingham,
The engine issued; now, alas! disguised
By many an unctuous tide, that wandering down
Its sides congeal; what he, perhaps, essays,
With humour forced, and ill-dissembled smile,
Idly to liken to the poplar's trunk,
When o'er its bark the lucid amber, wound
In many a pleasing fold, incrusts the tree;
Or suits him more the winter's candied thorn,
When from each branch, annealed, the works of frost
Pervasive, radiant icicles depend?
How shall I sing the various ills that wait
The careful sonneteer? or who can paint
The shifts enormous, that in vain he forms
To patch his paneless window; to cement
His batter'd tea-pot, ill-retentive vase,
To war with ruin? anxious to conceal
Want's fell appearance, of the real ill
Nor foe, nor fearful. Ruin unforeseen
Invades his chattels; Ruin will invade,
Will claim his whole invention to repair,
Nor of the gift, for tuneful ends design'd,
Allow one part to decorate his song;
While Ridicule, with ever-pointing hand,
Conscious of every shift, of every shift
Indicative, his inmost plot betrays,
Points to the nook, which he his Study calls,
Pompous and vain! for thus he might esteem
His chest a wardrobe; purse, a treasury;
And shows, to crown her full display, himself;
One whom the powers above, in place of health
And wonted vigour, of paternal cot,
Or little farm; of bag, or scrip, or staff,
Cup, dish, spoon, plate, or worldly utensil,
A poet framed, yet framed not to repine,
And wish the cobbler's loftiest site his own;
Nor, partial as they seem, upbraid the Fates,
Who to the humbler mechanism join'd
Goods so superior, such exalted bliss!
See with what seeming ease, what labour'd peace,
He, hapless hypocrite! refines his nail,
His chief amusement! then how feign'd, how forced,
That care-defying sonnet, which implies
His debts discharged, and he of half-a-crown
In full possession, uncontested right
And property! Yet, ah! whoe'er this wight
Admiring view, if such there be, distrust
The vain pretence, the smiles that harbour grief,
As lurks the serpent deep in flowers enwreath'd.
Forewarn'd, be frugal, or with prudent rage
Thy pen demolish; choose the trustier flail,
And bless those labours which the choice inspired.
But if thou view'st a vulgar mind, a wight
Of common sense, who seeks no brighter name,
Him envy, him admire; him, from thy breast,
Prescient of future dignities, salute
Sheriff, or mayor, in comfortable furs
Enwrapt, secure; nor yet the laureat's crown
In thought exclude him! he perchance shall rise
To nobler heights than foresight can decree.
When fired with wrath for his intrigues display'd
In many an idle song, Saturnian Jove
Vow'd sure destruction to the tuneful race;
Appeased by suppliant Phoebus; 'Bards,' he said,
'Henceforth of plenty, wealth and pomp debarr'd,
But fed by frugal cares, might wear the bay
Secure of thunder.'-Low the Delian bow'd,
Nor at the invidious favour dared repine.

by William Shenstone

Comments (2)

Me too I dig this poem
mmm. wise guy. I like him.