The best famous Couplet poems by international web poets. These are the best examples of couplet poems.
As Rochefoucauld his maxims drew
From nature, I believe 'em true:
They argue no corrupted mind
In him; the fault is in mankind.
This maxim more than all the rest
Is thought too base for human breast:
"In all distresses of our friends,
We first consult our private ends;
While nature, kindly bent to ease us,
Points out some circumstance to please us."
If this perhaps your patience move,
Let reason and experience prove.
We all behold with envious eyes
Our equal raised above our size.
Who would not at a crowded show
Stand high himself, keep others low?
I love my friend as well as you:
But why should he obstruct my view?
Then let me have the higher post:
Suppose it but an inch at most.
If in battle you should find
One whom you love of all mankind,
Had some heroic action done,
A champion killed, or trophy won;
Rather than thus be overtopped,
Would you not wish his laurels cropped?
Dear honest Ned is in the gout,
Lies racked with pain, and you without:
How patiently you hear him groan!
How glad the case is not your own!
What poet would not grieve to see
His breth'ren write as well as he?
But rather than they should excel,
He wished his rivals all in hell.
Her end when Emulation misses,
She turns to Envy, stings, and hisses:
The strongest friendship yields to pride,
Unless the odds be on our side.
Vain human kind! fantastic race!
Thy various follies who can trace?
Self-love, ambition, envy, pride,
Their empire in our hearts divide.
Give others riches, power, and station,
'Tis all on me an usurpation.
I have no title to aspire;
Yet, when you sink, I seem the higher.
In Pope I cannot read a line,
But with a sigh I wish it mine;
When he can in one couplet fix
More sense than I can do in six;
It gives me such a jealous fit,
I cry "Pox take him and his wit!"
I grieve to be outdone by Gay
In my own hum'rous biting way.
Arbuthnot is no more my friend,
Who dares to irony pretend,
Which I was born to introduce,
Refined it first, and shewed its use.
St. John, as well as Pultney, knows
That I had some repute for prose;
And till they drove me out of date
Could maul a minister of state.
If they have mortified my pride,
And made me throw my pen aside;
If with such talents Heav'n has blest 'em,
Have I not reason to detest 'em?
To all my foes, dear Fortune, send
Thy gifts; but never to my friend:
I tamely can endure the first;
But this with envy makes me burst.
Thus much may serve by way of proem:
Proceed we therefore to our poem.
The time is not remote when I
Must by the course of nature die;
When, I foresee, my special friends
Will try to find their private ends:
Tho' it is hardly understood
Which way my death can do them good,
Yet thus, methinks, I hear 'em speak:
"See, how the Dean begins to break!
Poor gentleman, he droops apace!
You plainly find it in his face.
That old vertigo in his head
Will never leave him till he's dead.
Besides, his memory decays:
He recollects not what he says;
He cannot call his friends to mind;
Forgets the place where last he dined;
Plyes you with stories o'er and o'er,
He told them fifty times before.
How does he fancy we can sit
To hear his out-of-fashioned wit?
But he takes up with younger folks,
Who for his wine will bear his jokes.
Faith! he must make his stories shorter,
Or change his comrades once a quarter:
In half the time he talks them round,
There must another set be found.
"For poetry he's past his prime:
He takes an hour to find a rhyme;
His fire is out, his wit decayed,
His fancy sunk, his Muse a jade.
I'd have him throw away his pen; -
But there's no talking to some men!"
And then their tenderness appears,
By adding largely to my years:
"He's older than he would be reckoned,
And well remembers Charles the Second.
He hardly drinks a pint of wine;
And that, I doubt, is no good sign.
His stomach too begins to fail;
Last year we thought him strong and hale,
But now he's quite another thing:
I wish he may hold out till spring."
Then hug themselves, and reason thus:
"It is not yet so bad with us!"
In such a case they talk in tropes,
And by their fears express their hopes:
Some great misfortune to portend,
No enemy can match a friend.
With all the kindness they profess,
The merit of a lucky guess
(When daily how-d'ye's come of course,
And servants answer, Worse and worse!)
Would please 'em better than to tell
That "God be praised, the Dean is well."
Then he who prophecied the best
Approves his foresight to the rest:
"You know I always feared the worst,
And often told you so at first." -
He'd rather choose that I should die
Than his prediction prove a lie.
Not one foretells I shall recover,
But all agree to give me over.
Yet, should some neighbour feel a pain
Just in the parts where I complain,
How many a message would he send?
What hearty prayers that I should mend?
Inquire what regimen I kept,
What gave me ease, and how I slept?
And more lament when I was dead,
Than all the sniv'llers round my bed.
My good companions, never fear,
For though you may mistake a year,
Though your prognostics run too fast,
They must be verified at last.
Behold the fatal day arrive!
"How is the Dean?" -"He's just alive."
Now the departing prayer is read:
"He hardly breathes." -"The Dean is dead."
Before the Passing-bell begun,
The news thro' half the town has run.
"O, may we all for death prepare!
What has he left? and who's his heir?" -
"I know no more that what the news is:
'Tis all bequeathed to public uses." -
"To public use! A perfect whim!
What had the public done for him?
Mere envy, avarice, and pride:
He gave it all -but first he died.
And had the Dean, in all the nation,
No worthy friend, no poor relation?
So ready to do strangers good,
Forgetting his own flesh and blood!"
Now Grub Street wits are all employed;
With elegies the town is cloyed:
Some paragraph in ev'ry paper,
To curse the Dean, or bless the Drapier.
The doctors, tender of their fame,
Wisely on me lay all the blame:
"We must confess his case was nice;
But he would never take advice.
Had he been ruled, for aught appears,
He might have lived these twenty years;
For when we opened him we found
That all his vital parts were sound."
From Dublin soon to London spread,
'Tis told at court "the Dean is dead."
Kind Lady Suffolk, in the spleen,
Runs laughing up to tell the queen.
The queen, so gracious, mild, and good,
Cries "Is he gone? 'tis time he should.
He's dead, you say; why, let him rot:
I'm glad the medals were forgot.
I promised him, I own; but when?
I only was a princess then;
But now, as consort of a king,
You know, 'tis quite a diff'rent thing."
Now Chartres, at Sir Robert's levee,
Tells with a sneer the tidings heavy:
"Why, is he dead without his shoes?"
Cries Bob "I'm sorry for the news:
O, were the wretch but living still,
And in his place my good friend Will!
Or had a mitre on his head,
Provided Bolinbroke were dead!"
Now Curll his shop from rubbish drains:
Three genuine tomes of Swift's remains!
And then, to make them pass the glibber,
Revised by Tibbalds, Moore, and Cibber.
He'll treat me as he does my betters,
Publish my will, my life, my letters;
Revive the libels born to die;
Which Pope must bear, as well as I.
Here shift the scene, to represent
How those I love my death lament.
Poor Pope will grieve a month; and Gay
A week; and Arbuthnot a day.
St. John himself will scarce forbear
To bite his pen, and drop a tear.
The rest will give a shrug, and cry
"I'm sorry -but we all must die."
Indifference, clad in Wisdom's guise,
All fortitude of mind supplies:
For how can stony bowels melt
In those who never pity felt?
When we are lashed, they kiss the rod,
Resigning to the will of God.
The fools, my juniors by a year,
Are tortured with suspense and fear:
Who wisely thought my age a screen
When death approached, to stand between: -
The screen removed, their hearts are trembling;
They mourn for me without dissembling.
My female friends, whose tender hearts
Have better learned to act their parts,
Receive the news in doleful dumps:
"The Dean is dead -and what is trumps? -
Then Lord have mercy on his soul!
- Ladies, I'll venture for the vole. -
Six deans, they say, must bear the pall.
- I wish I knew what king to call. -
Madam, your husband will attend
The funeral of so good a friend?
No, madam, 'tis a shocking sight,
And he's engaged tomorrow night;
My Lady Club would take it ill
If he should fail her at quadrille.
He loved the Dean -I lead a heart -
But dearest friends, they say, must part.
His time was come; he ran his race;
We hope he's in a better place."
Why do we grieve that friends should die?
No loss more easy to supply.
One year is past: a different scene:
No further mention of the Dean;
Who now, alas, no more is missed
Than if he never did exist.
Where's now this fav'rite of Apollo?
Departed: -and his works must follow;
Must undergo the common fate;
His kind of wit is out of date.
Some country squire to Lintot goes,
Inquires for "Swift in Verse and Prose".
Says Lintot "I have heard the name;
He died a year ago." -"The same."
He searches all the shop in vain.
"Sir, you may find them in Duck Lane:
I sent them with a load of books
Last Monday to the pastry-cook's.
To fancy they could live a year!
I find you're but a stranger here.
The Dean was famous in his time,
And had a kind of knack at rhyme.
His way of writing now is past;
The town has got a better taste.
I keep no antiquated stuff;
But spick and span I have enough.
Pray do but give me leave to show 'em:
Here's Colley Cibber's birthday poem.
This ode you never yet have seen,
By Stephen Duck, upon the queen.
Then here's a letter finely penned
Against the Craftsman and his friend;
It clearly shows that all reflection
On ministers is disaffection.
Next, here's Sir Robert's vindication;
And Mr Henley's last oration.
The hawkers have not got 'em yet -
Your honour please to buy a set?
Here's Woolston's tracts, the twelfth edition,
'Tis read by ev'ry politician:
The country members, when in town,
To all their boroughs send them down;
You never met a thing so smart!
The courtiers have them all by heart;
Those maids of honour (who can read),
Are taught to use them for their creed.
The rev'rend author's good intention
Has been rewarded with a pension.
He does an honour to his gown,
By bravely running priestcraft down:
He shows, as sure as God's in Gloucester,
That Moses was a grand imposter;
That all his miracles were cheats,
Performed as jugglers do their feats.
The church had never such a writer;
A shame he has not got a mitre!"
Suppose me dead; and then suppose
A club assembled at the Rose;
Where, from discourse of this and that,
I grow the subject of their chat.
And while they toss my name about,
With favour some, and some without,
One, quite indiff'rent in the cause,
My character impartial draws:
"The Dean, if we believe report,
Was never ill-received at court.
As for his works in verse and prose,
I own myself no judge of those;
Nor can I tell what critics thought 'em,
But this I know, all people bought 'em;
As with a moral view designed
To cure the vices of mankind:
And, if he often missed his aim,
The world must own it, to their shame:
The praise is his, and theirs the blame."
"Sir, I have heard another story:
He was a most confounded Tory,
And grew, or he is much belied,
Extremely dull before he died."
"Can we the Drapier then forget?
Is not our nation in his debt?
'Twas he that writ the Drapier's letters!"
"He should have left them for his betters;
We had a hundred abler men,
Nor need depend upon his pen.
Say what you will about his reading,
You never can defend his breeding;
Who in his satires running riot,
Could never leave the world in quiet;
Attacking, when he took the whim,
Court, city, camp -all one to him!
But why should he, except he slobber't,
Offend our patriot, great Sir Robert,
Whose counsels aid the sov'reign power
To save the nation every hour?
What scenes of evil he unravels
In satires, libels, lying travels!
Not sparing his own clergy-cloth,
But eats into it, like a moth!"
"His vein, ironically grave,
Exposed the fool and lashed the knave.
To steal a hint was never known,
But what he writ was all his own.
He never thought an honour done him
Because a duke was proud to own him;
Would rather slip aside and choose
To talk with wits in dirty shoes;
Despised the fools with stars and garters,
So often seen caressing Chartres.
He never courted men in station,
Nor persons held in admiration.
Of no man's greatness was afraid,
Because he sought for no man's aid.
Though trusted long in great affairs,
He gave himself no haughty airs.
Without regarding private ends,
Spent all his credit for his friends;
And only chose the wise and good;
No flatterers; no allies in blood;
But succoured virtue in distress,
And seldom failed of good success;
As numbers in their hearts must own,
Who, but for him, had been unknown.
With princes kept a due decorum,
But never stood in awe before 'em.
He followed David's lesson just:
In princes never put thy trust.
And would you make him truly sour,
Provoke him with a slave in power.
The Irish senate, if you named,
With what impatience he declaimed!
Fair LIBERTY was all his cry;
For her he stood prepared to die;
For her he boldly stood alone;
For her he oft exposed his own.
Two kingdoms, just as faction led,
Had set a price upon his head;
But not a traitor could be found
To sell him for six hundred pound.
Had he but spared his tongue and pen,
He might have rose like other men;
But power was never in his thought,
And wealth he valued not a groat.
Ingratitude he often found,
And pitied those who meant the wound;
But kept the tenor of his mind
To merit well of human kind;
Nor made a sacrifice of those
Who still were true, to please his foes.
He laboured many a fruitless hour
To reconcile his friends in power;
Saw mischief by a faction brewing,
While they pursued each other's ruin.
But finding vain was all his care,
He left the court in mere despair.
And oh! how short are human schemes!
Here ended all our golden dreams.
What St John's skill in state affairs,
What Ormond's valour, Oxford's cares,
To save their sinking country lent,
Was all destroyed by one event.
Too soon that precious life was ended,
On which alone our weal depended.
When up a dangerous faction starts,
With wrath and vengeance in their hearts,
By solemn League and Cov'nant bound,
To ruin, slaughter, and confound;
To turn religion to a fable,
And make the government a Babel;
Pervert the laws, disgrace the gown,
Corrupt the senate, rob the crown;
To sacrifice old England's glory,
And make her infamous in story: -
When such a tempest shook the land,
How could unguarded Virtue stand!
With horror, grief, despair, the Dean
Beheld the dire destructive scene:
His friends in exile, or the tower,
Himself within the frown of power,
Pursued by base envenomed pens,
Far to the land of slaves and fens;
A servile race in folly nursed,
Who truckle most when treated worst.
By innocence and resolution,
He bore continual persecution;
While numbers to preferment rose,
Whose merits were, to be his foes;
When ev'n his own familiar friends,
Intent upon their private ends,
Like renegadoes now he feels,
Against him lifting up their heels.
The Dean did by his pen defeat
An infamous destructive cheat;
Taught fools their int'rest how to know,
And gave them arms to ward the blow.
Envy has owned it was his doing,
To save that hapless land from ruin;
While they who at the steerage stood,
And reaped the profit, sought his blood.
To save them from their evil fate,
In him was held a crime of state.
A wicked monster on the bench,
Whose fury blood could never quench
- As vile and profligate a villain
As modern Scroggs, or old Tresilian;
Who long all justice had discarded,
Nor feared he God, nor man regarded -
Vowed on the Dean his rage to vent,
And make him of his zeal repent.
But Heaven his innocence defends,
The grateful people stand his friends:
Not strains of law, nor judge's frown,
Nor topics brought to please the crown,
Nor witness hired, nor jury picked,
Prevail to bring him in convict.
In exile, with a steady heart,
He spent his life's declining part;
Where folly, pride, and faction sway,
Remote from St John, Pope, and Gay.
Alas, poor Dean! his only scope
Was to be held a misanthrope.
This into gen'ral odium drew him,
Which, if he liked, much good may't do him.
His zeal was not to lash our crimes,
But discontent against the times;
For had we made him timely offers
To raise his post, or fill his coffers,
Perhaps he might have truckled down,
Like other brethren of his gown.
For party he would scarce have bled -
I say no more, because he's dead.
What writings has he left behind?
I hear they're of a different kind:
A few in verse, but most in prose,
- Some high-flown pamphlets, I suppose -
All scribbled in the worst of times,
To palliate his friend Oxford's crimes,
To praise Queen Anne, nay more, defend her,
As never fav'ring the Pretender;
Or libels yet concealed from sight,
Against the court to show his spite;
Perhaps his Travels, part the third,
A lie at every second word,
Offensive to a loyal ear;
But not one sermon, you may swear."
"His friendships there, to few confined,
Were always of the middling kind:
No fools of rank, a mongrel breed,
Who fain would pass for lords indeed.
Where titles give no right or power,
And peerage is a withered flower,
He would have held it a disgrace
If such a wretch had known his face.
On rural squires, that kingdom's bane,
He vented oft his wrath in vain;
[Biennial] squires to market brought,
Who sell their souls and [votes] for nought;
The [nation stripped,] go joyful back,
To [rob the] church, their tenants rack,
Go snacks with [rogues and rapparees,]
And keep the peace to pick up fees;
In every job to have a share,
A goal or barrack to repair;
And turn the tax for public roads
Commodious to their own abodes."
"Perhaps I may allow the Dean
Had too much satire in his vein,
And seemed determined not to starve it,
Because no age could more deserve it.
Yet malice never was his aim;
He lashed the vice, but spared the name;
No individual could resent
Where thousands equally were meant.
His satire points at no defect
But what all mortals may correct;
For he abhorred that senseless tribe
Who call it humour when they gibe.
He spared a hump, or crooked nose,
Whose owners set not up for beaux.
True genuine dulness moved his pity,
Unless it offered to be witty.
Those who their ignornace confessed
He ne'er offended with a jest;
But laughed to hear an idiot quote
A verse from Horace learned by rote.
Vice, if it e'er can be abashed,
Must be or ridiculed or lashed.
If you resent it, who's to blame?
He neither knew you nor your name.
Should vice expect to 'scape rebuke,
Because its owner is a duke?"
"He knew an hundred pleasant stories,
With all the turns of Whigs and Tories;
Was cheerful to his dying day,
And friends would let him have his way."
"He gave what little wealth he had
To build a house for fools and mad;
And showed by one satiric touch,
No nation wanted it so much.
That kingdom he hath left his debtor,
I wish it soon may have a better."
And since you dread no further lashes,
Methinks you may forgive his ashes.
'Tis hard to say, if greater Want of Skill
Appear in Writing or in Judging ill,
But, of the two, less dang'rous is th' Offence,
To tire our Patience, than mis-lead our Sense:
Some few in that, but Numbers err in this,
Ten Censure wrong for one who Writes amiss;
A Fool might once himself alone expose,
Now One in Verse makes many more in Prose.
'Tis with our Judgments as our Watches, none
Go just alike, yet each believes his own.
In Poets as true Genius is but rare,
True Taste as seldom is the Critick's Share;
Both must alike from Heav'n derive their Light,
These born to Judge, as well as those to Write.
Let such teach others who themselves excell,
And censure freely who have written well.
Authors are partial to their Wit, 'tis true,
But are not Criticks to their Judgment too?
Yet if we look more closely, we shall find
Most have the Seeds of Judgment in their Mind;
Nature affords at least a glimm'ring Light;
The Lines, tho' touch'd but faintly, are drawn right.
But as the slightest Sketch, if justly trac'd,
Is by ill Colouring but the more disgrac'd,
So by false Learning is good Sense defac'd.
Some are bewilder'd in the Maze of Schools,
And some made Coxcombs Nature meant but Fools.
In search of Wit these lose their common Sense,
And then turn Criticks in their own Defence.
Each burns alike, who can, or cannot write,
Or with a Rival's or an Eunuch's spite.
All Fools have still an Itching to deride,
And fain wou'd be upon the Laughing Side;
If Maevius Scribble in Apollo's spight,
There are, who judge still worse than he can write
Some have at first for Wits, then Poets past,
Turn'd Criticks next, and prov'd plain Fools at last;
Some neither can for Wits nor Criticks pass,
As heavy Mules are neither Horse or Ass.
Those half-learn'd Witlings, num'rous in our Isle,
As half-form'd Insects on the Banks of Nile:
Unfinish'd Things, one knows now what to call,
Their Generation's so equivocal:
To tell 'em, wou'd a hundred Tongues require,
Or one vain Wit's, that might a hundred tire.
But you who seek to give and merit Fame,
And justly bear a Critick's noble Name,
Be sure your self and your own Reach to know.
How far your Genius, Taste, and Learning go;
Launch not beyond your Depth, but be discreet,
And mark that Point where Sense and Dulness meet.
Nature to all things fix'd the Limits fit,
And wisely curb'd proud Man's pretending Wit:
As on the Land while here the Ocean gains,
In other Parts it leaves wide sandy Plains;
Thus in the Soul while Memory prevails,
The solid Pow'r of Understanding fails;
Where Beams of warm Imagination play,
The Memory's soft Figures melt away.
One Science only will one Genius fit;
So vast is Art, so narrow Human Wit;
Not only bounded to peculiar Arts,
But oft in those, confin'd to single Parts.
Like Kings we lose the Conquests gain'd before,
By vain Ambition still to make them more:
Each might his sev'ral Province well command,
Wou'd all but stoop to what they understand.
First follow NATURE, and your Judgment frame
By her just Standard, which is still the same:
Unerring Nature, still divinely bright,
One clear, unchang'd and Universal Light,
Life, Force, and Beauty, must to all impart,
At once the Source, and End, and Test of Art
Art from that Fund each just Supply provides,
Works without Show, and without Pomp presides:
In some fair Body thus th' informing Soul
With Spirits feeds, with Vigour fills the whole,
Each Motion guides, and ev'ry Nerve sustains;
It self unseen, but in th' Effects, remains.
Some, to whom Heav'n in Wit has been profuse.
Want as much more, to turn it to its use,
For Wit and Judgment often are at strife,
Tho' meant each other's Aid, like Man and Wife.
'Tis more to guide than spur the Muse's Steed;
Restrain his Fury, than provoke his Speed;
The winged Courser, like a gen'rous Horse,
Shows most true Mettle when you check his Course.
Those RULES of old discover'd, not devis'd,
Are Nature still, but Nature Methodiz'd;
Nature, like Liberty, is but restrain'd
By the same Laws which first herself ordain'd.
Hear how learn'd Greece her useful Rules indites,
When to repress, and when indulge our Flights:
High on Parnassus' Top her Sons she show'd,
And pointed out those arduous Paths they trod,
Held from afar, aloft, th' Immortal Prize,
And urg'd the rest by equal Steps to rise;
Just Precepts thus from great Examples giv'n,
She drew from them what they deriv'd from Heav'n
The gen'rous Critick fann'd the Poet's Fire,
And taught the World, with Reason to Admire.
Then Criticism the Muse's Handmaid prov'd,
To dress her Charms, and make her more belov'd;
But following Wits from that Intention stray'd;
Who cou'd not win the Mistress, woo'd the Maid;
Against the Poets their own Arms they turn'd,
Sure to hate most the Men from whom they learn'd
So modern Pothecaries, taught the Art
By Doctor's Bills to play the Doctor's Part,
Bold in the Practice of mistaken Rules,
Prescribe, apply, and call their Masters Fools.
Some on the Leaves of ancient Authors prey,
Nor Time nor Moths e'er spoil'd so much as they:
Some dryly plain, without Invention's Aid,
Write dull Receits how Poems may be made:
These leave the Sense, their Learning to display,
And theme explain the Meaning quite away
You then whose Judgment the right Course wou'd steer,
Know well each ANCIENT's proper Character,
His Fable, Subject, Scope in ev'ry Page,
Religion, Country, Genius of his Age:
Without all these at once before your Eyes,
Cavil you may, but never Criticize.
Be Homer's Works your Study, and Delight,
Read them by Day, and meditate by Night,
Thence form your Judgment, thence your Maxims bring,
And trace the Muses upward to their Spring;
Still with It self compar'd, his Text peruse;
And let your Comment be the Mantuan Muse.
When first young Maro in his boundless Mind
A Work t' outlast Immortal Rome design'd,
Perhaps he seem'd above the Critick's Law,
And but from Nature's Fountains scorn'd to draw:
But when t'examine ev'ry Part he came,
Nature and Homer were, he found, the same:
Convinc'd, amaz'd, he checks the bold Design,
And Rules as strict his labour'd Work confine,
As if the Stagyrite o'er looked each Line.
Learn hence for Ancient Rules a just Esteem;
To copy Nature is to copy Them.
Some Beauties yet, no Precepts can declare,
For there's a Happiness as well as Care.
Musick resembles Poetry, in each
Are nameless Graces which no Methods teach,
And which a Master-Hand alone can reach.
If, where the Rules not far enough extend,
(Since Rules were made but to promote their End)
Some Lucky LICENCE answers to the full
Th' Intent propos'd, that Licence is a Rule.
Thus Pegasus, a nearer way to take,
May boldly deviate from the common Track.
Great Wits sometimes may gloriously offend,
And rise to Faults true Criticks dare not mend;
From vulgar Bounds with brave Disorder part,
And snatch a Grace beyond the Reach of Art,
Which, without passing thro' the Judgment, gains
The Heart, and all its End at once attains.
In Prospects, thus, some Objects please our Eyes,
Which out of Nature's common Order rise,
The shapeless Rock, or hanging Precipice.
But tho' the Ancients thus their Rules invade,
(As Kings dispense with Laws Themselves have made)
Moderns, beware! Or if you must offend
Against the Precept, ne'er transgress its End,
Let it be seldom, and compell'd by Need,
And have, at least, Their Precedent to plead.
The Critick else proceeds without Remorse,
Seizes your Fame, and puts his Laws in force.
I know there are, to whose presumptuous Thoughts
Those Freer Beauties, ev'n in Them, seem Faults:
Some Figures monstrous and mis-shap'd appear,
Consider'd singly, or beheld too near,
Which, but proportion'd to their Light, or Place,
Due Distance reconciles to Form and Grace.
A prudent Chief not always must display
His Pow'rs in equal Ranks, and fair Array,
But with th' Occasion and the Place comply,
Conceal his Force, nay seem sometimes to Fly.
Those oft are Stratagems which Errors seem,
Nor is it Homer Nods, but We that Dream.
Still green with Bays each ancient Altar stands,
Above the reach of Sacrilegious Hands,
Secure from Flames, from Envy's fiercer Rage,
Destructive War, and all-involving Age.
See, from each Clime the Learn'd their Incense bring;
Hear, in all Tongues consenting Paeans ring!
In Praise so just, let ev'ry Voice be join'd,
And fill the Gen'ral Chorus of Mankind!
Hail Bards Triumphant! born in happier Days;
Immortal Heirs of Universal Praise!
Whose Honours with Increase of Ages grow,
As streams roll down, enlarging as they flow!
Nations unborn your mighty Names shall sound,
And Worlds applaud that must not yet be found!
Oh may some Spark of your Coelestial Fire
The last, the meanest of your Sons inspire,
(That on weak Wings, from far, pursues your Flights;
Glows while he reads, but trembles as he writes)
To teach vain Wits a Science little known,
T' admire Superior Sense, and doubt their own!
Of all the Causes which conspire to blind
Man's erring Judgment, and misguide the Mind,
What the weak Head with strongest Byass rules,
Is Pride, the never-failing Vice of Fools.
Whatever Nature has in Worth deny'd,
She gives in large Recruits of needful Pride;
For as in Bodies, thus in Souls, we find
What wants in Blood and Spirits, swell'd with Wind;
Pride, where Wit fails, steps in to our Defence,
And fills up all the mighty Void of Sense!
If once right Reason drives that Cloud away,
Truth breaks upon us with resistless Day;
Trust not your self; but your Defects to know,
Make use of ev'ry Friend--and ev'ry Foe.
A little Learning is a dang'rous Thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring:
There shallow Draughts intoxicate the Brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Fir'd at first Sight with what the Muse imparts,
In fearless Youth we tempt the Heights of Arts,
While from the bounded Level of our Mind,
Short Views we take, nor see the lengths behind,
But more advanc'd, behold with strange Surprize
New, distant Scenes of endless Science rise!
So pleas'd at first, the towring Alps we try,
Mount o'er the Vales, and seem to tread the Sky;
Th' Eternal Snows appear already past,
And the first Clouds and Mountains seem the last:
But those attain'd, we tremble to survey
The growing Labours of the lengthen'd Way,
Th' increasing Prospect tires our wandering Eyes,
Hills peep o'er Hills, and Alps on Alps arise!
A perfect Judge will read each Work of Wit
With the same Spirit that its Author writ,
Survey the Whole, nor seek slight Faults to find,
Where Nature moves, and Rapture warms the Mind;
Nor lose, for that malignant dull Delight,
The gen'rous Pleasure to be charm'd with Wit.
But in such Lays as neither ebb, nor flow,
Correctly cold, and regularly low,
That shunning Faults, one quiet Tenour keep;
We cannot blame indeed--but we may sleep.
In Wit, as Nature, what affects our Hearts
Is nor th' Exactness of peculiar Parts;
'Tis not a Lip, or Eye, we Beauty call,
But the joint Force and full Result of all.
Thus when we view some well-proportion'd Dome,
The World's just Wonder, and ev'n thine O Rome!)
No single Parts unequally surprize;
All comes united to th' admiring Eyes;
No monstrous Height, or Breadth, or Length appear;
The Whole at once is Bold, and Regular.
Whoever thinks a faultless Piece to see,
Thinks what ne'er was, nor is, nor e'er shall be.
In ev'ry Work regard the Writer's End,
Since none can compass more than they Intend;
And if the Means be just, the Conduct true,
Applause, in spite of trivial Faults, is due.
As Men of Breeding, sometimes Men of Wit,
T' avoid great Errors, must the less commit,
Neglect the Rules each Verbal Critick lays,
For not to know some Trifles, is a Praise.
Most Criticks, fond of some subservient Art,
Still make the Whole depend upon a Part,
They talk of Principles, but Notions prize,
And All to one lov'd Folly Sacrifice.
Once on a time, La Mancha's Knight, they say,
A certain Bard encountring on the Way,
Discours'd in Terms as just, with Looks as Sage,
As e'er cou'd Dennis, of the Grecian Stage;
Concluding all were desp'rate Sots and Fools,
Who durst depart from Aristotle's Rules.
Our Author, happy in a Judge so nice,
Produc'd his Play, and beg'd the Knight's Advice,
Made him observe the Subject and the Plot,
The Manners, Passions, Unities, what not?
All which, exact to Rule were brought about,
Were but a Combate in the Lists left out.
What! Leave the Combate out? Exclaims the Knight;
Yes, or we must renounce the Stagyrite.
Not so by Heav'n (he answers in a Rage)
Knights, Squires, and Steeds, must enter on the Stage.
So vast a Throng the Stage can ne'er contain.
Then build a New, or act it in a Plain.
Thus Criticks, of less Judgment than Caprice,
Curious, not Knowing, not exact, but nice,
Form short Ideas; and offend in Arts
(As most in Manners) by a Love to Parts.
Some to Conceit alone their Taste confine,
And glitt'ring Thoughts struck out at ev'ry Line;
Pleas'd with a Work where nothing's just or fit;
One glaring Chaos and wild Heap of Wit;
Poets like Painters, thus, unskill'd to trace
The naked Nature and the living Grace,
With Gold and Jewels cover ev'ry Part,
And hide with Ornaments their Want of Art.
True Wit is Nature to Advantage drest,
What oft was Thought, but ne'er so well Exprest,
Something, whose Truth convinc'd at Sight we find,
That gives us back the Image of our Mind:
As Shades more sweetly recommend the Light,
So modest Plainness sets off sprightly Wit:
For Works may have more Wit than does 'em good,
As Bodies perish through Excess of Blood.
Others for Language all their Care express,
And value Books, as Women Men, for Dress:
Their Praise is still--The Stile is excellent:
The Sense, they humbly take upon Content.
Words are like Leaves; and where they most abound,
Much Fruit of Sense beneath is rarely found.
False Eloquence, like the Prismatic Glass,
Its gawdy Colours spreads on ev'ry place;
The Face of Nature was no more Survey,
All glares alike, without Distinction gay:
But true Expression, like th' unchanging Sun,
Clears, and improves whate'er it shines upon,
It gilds all Objects, but it alters none.
Expression is the Dress of Thought, and still
Appears more decent as more suitable;
A vile Conceit in pompous Words exprest,
Is like a Clown in regal Purple drest;
For diff'rent Styles with diff'rent Subjects sort,
As several Garbs with Country, Town, and Court.
Some by Old Words to Fame have made Pretence;
Ancients in Phrase, meer Moderns in their Sense!
Such labour'd Nothings, in so strange a Style,
Amaze th'unlearn'd, and make the Learned Smile.
Unlucky, as Fungoso in the Play,
These Sparks with aukward Vanity display
What the Fine Gentleman wore Yesterday!
And but so mimick ancient Wits at best,
As Apes our Grandsires in their Doublets treat.
In Words, as Fashions, the same Rule will hold;
Alike Fantastick, if too New, or Old;
Be not the first by whom the New are try'd,
Nor yet the last to lay the Old aside.
But most by Numbers judge a Poet's Song,
And smooth or rough, with them, is right or wrong;
In the bright Muse tho' thousand Charms conspire,
Her Voice is all these tuneful Fools admire,
Who haunt Parnassus but to please their Ear,
Not mend their Minds; as some to Church repair,
Not for the Doctrine, but the Musick there.
These Equal Syllables alone require,
Tho' oft the Ear the open Vowels tire,
While Expletives their feeble Aid do join,
And ten low Words oft creep in one dull Line,
While they ring round the same unvary'd Chimes,
With sure Returns of still expected Rhymes.
Where-e'er you find the cooling Western Breeze,
In the next Line, it whispers thro' the Trees;
If Chrystal Streams with pleasing Murmurs creep,
The Reader's threaten'd (not in vain) with Sleep.
Then, at the last, and only Couplet fraught
With some unmeaning Thing they call a Thought,
A needless Alexandrine ends the Song,
That like a wounded Snake, drags its slow length along.
Leave such to tune their own dull Rhimes, and know
What's roundly smooth, or languishingly slow;
And praise the Easie Vigor of a Line,
Where Denham's Strength, and Waller's Sweetness join.
True Ease in Writing comes from Art, not Chance,
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance,
'Tis not enough no Harshness gives Offence,
The Sound must seem an Eccho to the Sense.
Soft is the Strain when Zephyr gently blows,
And the smooth Stream in smoother Numbers flows;
But when loud Surges lash the sounding Shore,
The hoarse, rough Verse shou'd like the Torrent roar.
When Ajax strives, some Rocks' vast Weight to throw,
The Line too labours, and the Words move slow;
Not so, when swift Camilla scours the Plain,
Flies o'er th'unbending Corn, and skims along the Main.
Hear how Timotheus' vary'd Lays surprize,
And bid Alternate Passions fall and rise!
While, at each Change, the Son of Lybian Jove
Now burns with Glory, and then melts with Love;
Now his fierce Eyes with sparkling Fury glow;
Now Sighs steal out, and Tears begin to flow:
Persians and Greeks like Turns of Nature found,
And the World's Victor stood subdu'd by Sound!
The Pow'rs of Musick all our Hearts allow;
And what Timotheus was, is Dryden now.
Avoid Extreams; and shun the Fault of such,
Who still are pleas'd too little, or too much.
At ev'ry Trifle scorn to take Offence,
That always shows Great Pride, or Little Sense;
Those Heads as Stomachs are not sure the best
Which nauseate all, and nothing can digest.
Yet let not each gay Turn thy Rapture move,
For Fools Admire, but Men of Sense Approve;
As things seem large which we thro' Mists descry,
Dulness is ever apt to Magnify.
Some foreign Writers, some our own despise;
The Ancients only, or the Moderns prize:
(Thus Wit, like Faith by each Man is apply'd
To one small Sect, and All are damn'd beside.)
Meanly they seek the Blessing to confine,
And force that Sun but on a Part to Shine;
Which not alone the Southern Wit sublimes,
But ripens Spirits in cold Northern Climes;
Which from the first has shone on Ages past,
Enlights the present, and shall warm the last:
(Tho' each may feel Increases and Decays,
And see now clearer and now darker Days)
Regard not then if Wit be Old or New,
But blame the False, and value still the True.
Some ne'er advance a Judgment of their own,
But catch the spreading Notion of the Town;
They reason and conclude by Precedent,
And own stale Nonsense which they ne'er invent.
Some judge of Authors' Names, not Works, and then
Nor praise nor blame the Writings, but the Men.
Of all this Servile Herd the worst is He
That in proud Dulness joins with Quality,
A constant Critick at the Great-man's Board,
To fetch and carry Nonsense for my Lord.
What woful stuff this Madrigal wou'd be,
To some starv'd Hackny Sonneteer, or me?
But let a Lord once own the happy Lines,
How the Wit brightens! How the Style refines!
Before his sacred Name flies ev'ry Fault,
And each exalted Stanza teems with Thought!
The Vulgar thus through Imitation err;
As oft the Learn'd by being Singular;
So much they scorn the Crowd, that if the Throng
By Chance go right, they purposely go wrong;
So Schismatics the plain Believers quit,
And are but damn'd for having too much Wit.
Some praise at Morning what they blame at Night;
But always think the last Opinion right.
A Muse by these is like a Mistress us'd,
This hour she's idoliz'd, the next abus'd,
While their weak Heads, like Towns unfortify'd,
'Twixt Sense and Nonsense daily change their Side.
Ask them the Cause; They're wiser still, they say;
And still to Morrow's wiser than to Day.
We think our Fathers Fools, so wise we grow;
Our wiser Sons, no doubt, will think us so.
Once School-Divines this zealous Isle o'erspread;
Who knew most Sentences was deepest read;
Faith, Gospel, All, seem'd made to be disputed,
And none had Sense enough to be Confuted.
Scotists and Thomists, now, in Peace remain,
Amidst their kindred Cobwebs in Duck-Lane.
If Faith it self has diff'rent Dresses worn,
What wonder Modes in Wit shou'd take their Turn?
Oft, leaving what is Natural and fit,
The current Folly proves the ready Wit,
And Authors think their Reputation safe,
Which lives as long as Fools are pleas'd to Laugh.
Some valuing those of their own, Side or Mind,
Still make themselves the measure of Mankind;
Fondly we think we honour Merit then,
When we but praise Our selves in Other Men.
Parties in Wit attend on those of State,
And publick Faction doubles private Hate.
Pride, Malice, Folly, against Dryden rose,
In various Shapes of Parsons, Criticks, Beaus;
But Sense surviv'd, when merry Jests were past;
For rising Merit will buoy up at last.
Might he return, and bless once more our Eyes,
New Blackmores and new Milbourns must arise;
Nay shou'd great Homer lift his awful Head,
Zoilus again would start up from the Dead.
Envy will Merit as its Shade pursue,
But like a Shadow, proves the Substance true;
For envy'd Wit, like Sol Eclips'd, makes known
Th' opposing Body's Grossness, not its own.
When first that Sun too powerful Beams displays,
It draws up Vapours which obscure its Rays;
But ev'n those Clouds at last adorn its Way,
Reflect new Glories, and augment the Day.
Be thou the first true Merit to befriend;
His Praise is lost, who stays till All commend;
Short is the Date, alas, of Modern Rhymes;
And 'tis but just to let 'em live betimes.
No longer now that Golden Age appears,
When Patriarch-Wits surviv'd thousand Years;
Now Length of Fame (our second Life) is lost,
And bare Threescore is all ev'n That can boast:
Our Sons their Fathers' failing language see,
And such as Chaucer is, shall Dryden be.
So when the faithful Pencil has design'd
Some bright Idea of the Master's Mind,
Where a new World leaps out at his command,
And ready Nature waits upon his Hand;
When the ripe Colours soften and unite,
And sweetly melt into just Shade and Light,
When mellowing Years their full Perfection give,
And each Bold Figure just begins to Live;
The treach'rous Colours the fair Art betray,
And all the bright Creation fades away!
Unhappy Wit, like most mistaken Things,
Attones not for that Envy which it brings.
In Youth alone its empty Praise we boast,
But soon the Short-liv'd Vanity is lost!
Like some fair Flow'r the early Spring supplies,
That gaily Blooms, but ev'n in blooming Dies.
What is this Wit which must our Cares employ?
The Owner's Wife, that other Men enjoy,
Then most our Trouble still when most admir'd,
And still the more we give, the more requir'd;
Whose Fame with Pains we guard, but lose with Ease,
Sure some to vex, but never all to please;
'Tis what the Vicious fear, the Virtuous shun;
By Fools 'tis hated, and by Knaves undone!
If Wit so much from Ign'rance undergo,
Ah let not Learning too commence its Foe!
Of old, those met Rewards who cou'd excel,
And such were Prais'd who but endeavour'd well:
Tho' Triumphs were to Gen'rals only due,
Crowns were reserv'd to grace the Soldiers too.
Now, they who reached Parnassus' lofty Crown,
Employ their Pains to spurn some others down;
And while Self-Love each jealous Writer rules,
Contending Wits becomes the Sport of Fools:
But still the Worst with most Regret commend,
For each Ill Author is as bad a Friend.
To what base Ends, and by what abject Ways,
Are Mortals urg'd thro' Sacred Lust of praise!
Ah ne'er so dire a Thirst of Glory boast,
Nor in the Critick let the Man be lost!
Good-Nature and Good-Sense must ever join;
To err is Humane; to Forgive, Divine.
But if in Noble Minds some Dregs remain,
Not yet purg'd off, of Spleen and sow'r Disdain,
Discharge that Rage on more Provoking Crimes,
Nor fear a Dearth in these Flagitious Times.
No Pardon vile Obscenity should find,
Tho' Wit and Art conspire to move your Mind;
But Dulness with Obscenity must prove
As Shameful sure as Importance in Love.
In the fat Age of Pleasure, Wealth, and Ease,
Sprung the rank Weed, and thriv'd with large Increase;
When Love was all an easie Monarch's Care;
Seldom at Council, never in a War:
Jilts rul'd the State, and Statesmen Farces writ;
Nay Wits had Pensions, and young Lords had Wit:
The Fair sate panting at a Courtier's Play,
And not a Mask went un-improv'd away:
The modest Fan was liked up no more,
And Virgins smil'd at what they blush'd before--
The following Licence of a Foreign Reign
Did all the Dregs of bold Socinus drain;
Then Unbelieving Priests reform'd the Nation,
And taught more Pleasant Methods of Salvation;
Where Heav'ns Free Subjects might their Rights dispute,
Lest God himself shou'd seem too Absolute.
Pulpits their Sacred Satire learn'd to spare,
And Vice admir'd to find a Flatt'rer there!
Encourag'd thus, Witt's Titans brav'd the Skies,
And the Press groan'd with Licenc'd Blasphemies--
These Monsters, Criticks! with your Darts engage,
Here point your Thunder, and exhaust your Rage!
Yet shun their Fault, who, Scandalously nice,
Will needs mistake an Author into Vice;
All seems Infected that th' Infected spy,
As all looks yellow to the Jaundic'd Eye.
LEARN then what MORALS Criticks ought to show,
For 'tis but half a Judge's Task, to Know.
'Tis not enough, Taste, Judgment, Learning, join;
In all you speak, let Truth and Candor shine:
That not alone what to your Sense is due,
All may allow; but seek your Friendship too.
Be silent always when you doubt your Sense;
And speak, tho' sure, with seeming Diffidence:
Some positive persisting Fops we know,
Who, if once wrong, will needs be always so;
But you, with Pleasure own your Errors past,
An make each Day a Critick on the last.
'Tis not enough your Counsel still be true,
Blunt Truths more Mischief than nice Falsehood do;
Men must be taught as if you taught them not;
And Things unknown propos'd as Things forgot:
Without Good Breeding, Truth is disapprov'd;
That only makes Superior Sense belov'd.
Be Niggards of Advice on no Pretence;
For the worst Avarice is that of Sense:
With mean Complacence ne'er betray your Trust,
Nor be so Civil as to prove Unjust;
Fear not the Anger of the Wise to raise;
Those best can bear Reproof, who merit Praise.
'Twere well, might Criticks still this Freedom take;
But Appius reddens at each Word you speak,
And stares, Tremendous! with a threatning Eye
Like some fierce Tyrant in Old Tapestry!
Fear most to tax an Honourable Fool,
Whose Right it is, uncensur'd to be dull;
Such without Wit are Poets when they please.
As without Learning they can take Degrees.
Leave dang'rous Truths to unsuccessful Satyrs,
And Flattery to fulsome Dedicators,
Whom, when they Praise, the World believes no more,
Than when they promise to give Scribling o'er.
'Tis best sometimes your Censure to restrain,
And charitably let the Dull be vain:
Your Silence there is better than your Spite,
For who can rail so long as they can write?
Still humming on, their drowzy Course they keep,
And lash'd so long, like Tops, are lash'd asleep.
False Steps but help them to renew the Race,
As after Stumbling, Jades will mend their Pace.
What Crouds of these, impenitently bold,
In Sounds and jingling Syllables grown old,
Still run on Poets in a raging Vein,
Ev'n to the Dregs and Squeezings of the Brain;
Strain out the last, dull droppings of their Sense,
And Rhyme with all the Rage of Impotence!
Such shameless Bards we have; and yet 'tis true,
There are as mad, abandon'd Criticks too.
The Bookful Blockhead, ignorantly read,
With Loads of Learned Lumber in his Head,
With his own Tongue still edifies his Ears,
And always List'ning to Himself appears.
All Books he reads, and all he reads assails,
From Dryden's Fables down to Durfey's Tales.
With him, most Authors steal their Works, or buy;
Garth did not write his own Dispensary.
Name a new Play, and he's the Poet's Friend,
Nay show'd his Faults--but when wou'd Poets mend?
No Place so Sacred from such Fops is barr'd,
Nor is Paul's Church more safe than Paul's Church-yard:
Nay, fly to Altars; there they'll talk you dead;
For Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread.
Distrustful Sense with modest Caution speaks;
It still looks home, and short Excursions makes;
But ratling Nonsense in full Vollies breaks;
And never shock'd, and never turn'd aside,
Bursts out, resistless, with a thundering Tyde!
But where's the Man, who Counsel can bestow,
Still pleas'd to teach, and not proud to know?
Unbiass'd, or by Favour or by Spite;
Not dully prepossest, nor blindly right;
Tho' Learn'd well-bred; and tho' well-bred, sincere;
Modestly bold, and Humanly severe?
Who to a Friend his Faults can freely show,
And gladly praise the Merit of a Foe?
Blest with a Taste exact, yet unconfin'd;
A Knowledge both of Books and Humankind;
Gen'rous Converse; a Sound exempt from Pride;
And Love to Praise, with Reason on his Side?
Such once were Criticks, such the Happy Few,
Athens and Rome in better Ages knew.
The mighty Stagyrite first left the Shore,
Spread all his Sails, and durst the Deeps explore;
He steer'd securely, and discover'd far,
Led by the Light of the Maeonian Star.
Poets, a Race long unconfin'd and free,
Still fond and proud of Savage Liberty,
Receiv'd his Laws, and stood convinc'd 'twas fit
Who conquer'd Nature, shou'd preside o'er Wit.
Horace still charms with graceful Negligence,
And without Method talks us into Sense,
Will like a Friend familarly convey
The truest Notions in the easiest way.
He, who Supream in Judgment, as in Wit,
Might boldly censure, as he boldly writ,
Yet judg'd with Coolness tho' he sung with Fire;
His Precepts teach but what his Works inspire.
Our Criticks take a contrary Extream,
They judge with Fury, but they write with Fle'me:
Nor suffers Horace more in wrong Translations
By Wits, than Criticks in as wrong Quotations.
See Dionysius Homer's Thoughts refine,
And call new Beauties forth from ev'ry Line!
Fancy and Art in gay Petronius please,
The Scholar's Learning, with the Courtier's Ease.
In grave Quintilian's copious Work we find
The justest Rules, and clearest Method join'd;
Thus useful Arms in Magazines we place,
All rang'd in Order, and dispos'd with Grace,
But less to please the Eye, than arm the Hand,
Still fit for Use, and ready at Command.
Thee, bold Longinus! all the Nine inspire,
And bless their Critick with a Poet's Fire.
An ardent Judge, who Zealous in his Trust,
With Warmth gives Sentence, yet is always Just;
Whose own Example strengthens all his Laws,
And Is himself that great Sublime he draws.
Thus long succeeding Criticks justly reign'd,
Licence repress'd, and useful Laws ordain'd;
Learning and Rome alike in Empire grew,
And Arts still follow'd where her Eagles flew;
From the same Foes, at last, both felt their Doom,
And the same Age saw Learning fall, and Rome.
With Tyranny, then Superstition join'd,
As that the Body, this enslav'd the Mind;
Much was Believ'd, but little understood,
And to be dull was constru'd to be good;
A second Deluge Learning thus o'er-run,
And the Monks finish'd what the Goths begun.
At length, Erasmus, that great, injur'd Name,
(The Glory of the Priesthood, and the Shame!)
Stemm'd the wild Torrent of a barb'rous Age.
And drove those Holy Vandals off the Stage.
But see! each Muse, in Leo's Golden Days,
Starts from her Trance, and trims her wither'd Bays!
Rome's ancient Genius, o'er its Ruins spread,
Shakes off the Dust, and rears his rev'rend Head!
Then Sculpture and her Sister-Arts revive;
Stones leap'd to Form, and Rocks began to live;
With sweeter Notes each rising Temple rung;
A Raphael painted, and a Vida sung!
Immortal Vida! on whose honour'd Brow
The Poet's Bays and Critick's Ivy grow:
Cremona now shall ever boast thy Name,
As next in Place to Mantua, next in Fame!
But soon by Impious Arms from Latium chas'd,
Their ancient Bounds the banish'd Muses past:
Thence Arts o'er all the Northern World advance,
But Critic Learning flourish'd most in France.
The Rules, a Nation born to serve, obeys,
And Boileau still in Right of Horace sways.
But we, brave Britons, Foreign Laws despis'd,
And kept unconquer'd and unciviliz'd,
Fierce for the Liberties of Wit, and bold,
We still defy'd the Romans as of old.
Yet some there were, among the sounder Few
Of those who less presum'd, and better knew,
Who durst assert the juster Ancient Cause,
And here restor'd Wit's Fundamental Laws.
Such was the Muse, whose Rules and Practice tell,
Nature's chief Master-piece is writing well.
Such was Roscomon--not more learn'd than good,
With Manners gen'rous as his Noble Blood;
To him the Wit of Greece and Rome was known,
And ev'ry Author's Merit, but his own.
Such late was Walsh,--the Muse's Judge and Friend,
Who justly knew to blame or to commend;
To Failings mild, but zealous for Desert;
The clearest Head, and the sincerest Heart.
This humble Praise, lamented Shade! receive,
This Praise at least a grateful Muse may give!
The Muse, whose early Voice you taught to Sing,
Prescrib'd her Heights, and prun'd her tender Wing,
(Her Guide now lost) no more attempts to rise,
But in low Numbers short Excursions tries:
Content, if hence th' Unlearned their Wants may view,
The Learn'd reflect on what before they knew:
Careless of Censure, not too fond of Fame,
Still pleas'd to praise, yet not afraid to blame,
Averse alike to Flatter, or Offend,
Not free from Faults, nor yet too vain to mend.
I envy not those gay galoots
Who count on dying in their boots;
For that, to tell the sober truth
Sould be the privilege of youth;
But aged bones are better sped
To heaven from a downy bed.
So prop me up with pillows two,
And serve me with the barley brew;
And put a pencil in my hand,
A copy book at my command;
And let my final effort be
To ring a rhyme of homely glee.
For since I've loved it oh so long,
Let my last labour be in song;
And when my pencil falters down,
Oh may a final couplet crown
The years of striving I have made
To justify the jinglers trade.
Let me surrender with a rhyme
My long and lovely lease of time;
Let me be grateful for the gift
To couple words in lyric lift;
Let me song-build with humble hod,
My last brick dedicate to God.
Roses, rooted warm in earth,
Bud in rhyme, another age;
Lilies know a ghostly birth
Strewn along a patterned page;
Golden lad and chimbley sweep
Die; and so their song shall keep.
Wind that in Arcadia starts
In and out a couplet plays;
And the drums of bitter hearts
Beat the measure of a phrase.
Sweets and woes but come to print
Quae cum ita sint.
(or ‘Huddersfield the Second Poetry Capital of England Re-visited’)
What was it Janice Simmons said to me as James lay dying in Ireland?
“Phone Peter Pegnall in Leeds, an ex-pupil of Jimmy’s. He’s organising
A benefit reading, he’d love to hear from you and have your help.”
‘Like hell he would’ I thought but I phoned him all the same
At his converted farmhouse at Barswill, a Lecturer in Creative Writing
At the uni. But what’s he written, I wondered, apart from his CV?
“Well I am organising a reading but only for the big people, you understand,
Hardman, Harrison, Doughty, Duhig, Basher O’Brien, you know the kind,
The ones that count, the ones I owe my job to.”
We nattered on and on until by way of adieu I read the final couplet
Of my Goodbye poem, the lines about ‘One Leeds Jimmy who could fix the world’s.
Duhigs once and for all/Write them into the ground and still have a hundred
Lyrics in his quiver.’
Pete Stifled a cough which dipped into a gurgle and sank into a mire
Of strangulated affect which almost became a convulsion until finally
He shrieked, “I have to go, the cat’s under the Christmas tree, ripping
Open all the presents, the central heating boiler’s on the blink,
The house is on fucking fire!”
So I was left with the offer of being raffle-ticket tout as a special favour,
Some recompense for giving over two entire newsletters to Jimmy’s work:
The words of the letter before his stroke still burned. “I don’t know why
They omitted me, Armitage and Harrison were my best mates once. You and I
A whole year’s silence until the card with its cryptic message
‘Jimmy’s recovering slowly but better than expected’.
I never heard from Pegnall about the reading, the pamphlets he asked for
Went unacknowledged. Whalebone, the fellow-tutor he commended, also stayed silent.
Had the event been cancelled? Happening to be in Huddersfield on Good Friday
I staggered up three flights of stone steps in the Byram Arcade to the Poetry Business
Where, next to the ‘closed’ sign an out-of-date poster announced the reading in Leeds
At a date long gone.
I peered through the slats at empty desks, at brimming racks of books,
At overflowing bin-bags and the yellowing poster. Desperately I tried to remember
What Janice had said. “We were sat up in bed, planning to take the children
For a walk when Jimmy stopped looking at me, the pupils of his eyes rolled sideways,
His head lolled and he keeled over.”
The title of the reading was from Jimmy’s best collection
‘With Energy To Burn’
with energy to burn.
The World without Imagination
1 Nota: man is the intelligence of his soil,
2 The sovereign ghost. As such, the Socrates
3 Of snails, musician of pears, principium
4 And lex. Sed quaeritur: is this same wig
5 Of things, this nincompated pedagogue,
6 Preceptor to the sea? Crispin at sea
7 Created, in his day, a touch of doubt.
8 An eye most apt in gelatines and jupes,
9 Berries of villages, a barber's eye,
10 An eye of land, of simple salad-beds,
11 Of honest quilts, the eye of Crispin, hung
12 On porpoises, instead of apricots,
13 And on silentious porpoises, whose snouts
14 Dibbled in waves that were mustachios,
15 Inscrutable hair in an inscrutable world.
16 One eats one pat¨¦, even of salt, quotha.
17 It was not so much the lost terrestrial,
18 The snug hibernal from that sea and salt,
19 That century of wind in a single puff.
20 What counted was mythology of self,
21 Blotched out beyond unblotching. Crispin,
22 The lutanist of fleas, the knave, the thane,
23 The ribboned stick, the bellowing breeches, cloak
24 Of China, cap of Spain, imperative haw
25 Of hum, inquisitorial botanist,
26 And general lexicographer of mute
27 And maidenly greenhorns, now beheld himself,
28 A skinny sailor peering in the sea-glass.
29 What word split up in clickering syllables
30 And storming under multitudinous tones
31 Was name for this short-shanks in all that brunt?
32 Crispin was washed away by magnitude.
33 The whole of life that still remained in him
34 Dwindled to one sound strumming in his ear,
35 Ubiquitous concussion, slap and sigh,
36 Polyphony beyond his baton's thrust.
37 Could Crispin stem verboseness in the sea,
38 The old age of a watery realist,
39 Triton, dissolved in shifting diaphanes
40 Of blue and green? A wordy, watery age
41 That whispered to the sun's compassion, made
42 A convocation, nightly, of the sea-stars,
43 And on the cropping foot-ways of the moon
44 Lay grovelling. Triton incomplicate with that
45 Which made him Triton, nothing left of him,
46 Except in faint, memorial gesturings,
47 That were like arms and shoulders in the waves,
48 Here, something in the rise and fall of wind
49 That seemed hallucinating horn, and here,
50 A sunken voice, both of remembering
51 And of forgetfulness, in alternate strain.
52 Just so an ancient Crispin was dissolved.
53 The valet in the tempest was annulled.
54 Bordeaux to Yucatan, Havana next,
55 And then to Carolina. Simple jaunt.
56 Crispin, merest minuscule in the gates,
57 Dejected his manner to the turbulence.
58 The salt hung on his spirit like a frost,
59 The dead brine melted in him like a dew
60 Of winter, until nothing of himself
61 Remained, except some starker, barer self
62 In a starker, barer world, in which the sun
63 Was not the sun because it never shone
64 With bland complaisance on pale parasols,
65 Beetled, in chapels, on the chaste bouquets.
66 Against his pipping sounds a trumpet cried
67 Celestial sneering boisterously. Crispin
68 Became an introspective voyager.
69 Here was the veritable ding an sich, at last,
70 Crispin confronting it, a vocable thing,
71 But with a speech belched out of hoary darks
72 Noway resembling his, a visible thing,
73 And excepting negligible Triton, free
74 From the unavoidable shadow of himself
75 That lay elsewhere around him. Severance
76 Was clear. The last distortion of romance
77 Forsook the insatiable egotist. The sea
78 Severs not only lands but also selves.
79 Here was no help before reality.
80 Crispin beheld and Crispin was made new.
81 The imagination, here, could not evade,
82 In poems of plums, the strict austerity
83 Of one vast, subjugating, final tone.
84 The drenching of stale lives no more fell down.
85 What was this gaudy, gusty panoply?
86 Out of what swift destruction did it spring?
87 It was caparison of mind and cloud
88 And something given to make whole among
89 The ruses that were shattered by the large.
Concerning the Thunderstorms of Yucatan
90 In Yucatan, the Maya sonneteers
91 Of the Caribbean amphitheatre,
92 In spite of hawk and falcon, green toucan
93 And jay, still to the night-bird made their plea,
94 As if raspberry tanagers in palms,
95 High up in orange air, were barbarous.
96 But Crispin was too destitute to find
97 In any commonplace the sought-for aid.
98 He was a man made vivid by the sea,
99 A man come out of luminous traversing,
100 Much trumpeted, made desperately clear,
101 Fresh from discoveries of tidal skies,
102 To whom oracular rockings gave no rest.
103 Into a savage color he went on.
104 How greatly had he grown in his demesne,
105 This auditor of insects! He that saw
106 The stride of vanishing autumn in a park
107 By way of decorous melancholy; he
108 That wrote his couplet yearly to the spring,
109 As dissertation of profound delight,
110 Stopping, on voyage, in a land of snakes,
111 Found his vicissitudes had much enlarged
112 His apprehension, made him intricate
113 In moody rucks, and difficult and strange
114 In all desires, his destitution's mark.
115 He was in this as other freemen are,
116 Sonorous nutshells rattling inwardly.
117 His violence was for aggrandizement
118 And not for stupor, such as music makes
119 For sleepers halfway waking. He perceived
120 That coolness for his heat came suddenly,
121 And only, in the fables that he scrawled
122 With his own quill, in its indigenous dew,
123 Of an aesthetic tough, diverse, untamed,
124 Incredible to prudes, the mint of dirt,
125 Green barbarism turning paradigm.
126 Crispin foresaw a curious promenade
127 Or, nobler, sensed an elemental fate,
128 And elemental potencies and pangs,
129 And beautiful barenesses as yet unseen,
130 Making the most of savagery of palms,
131 Of moonlight on the thick, cadaverous bloom
132 That yuccas breed, and of the panther's tread.
133 The fabulous and its intrinsic verse
134 Came like two spirits parlaying, adorned
135 In radiance from the Atlantic coign,
136 For Crispin and his quill to catechize.
137 But they came parlaying of such an earth,
138 So thick with sides and jagged lops of green,
139 So intertwined with serpent-kin encoiled
140 Among the purple tufts, the scarlet crowns,
141 Scenting the jungle in their refuges,
142 So streaked with yellow, blue and green and red
143 In beak and bud and fruity gobbet-skins,
144 That earth was like a jostling festival
145 Of seeds grown fat, too juicily opulent,
146 Expanding in the gold's maternal warmth.
147 So much for that. The affectionate emigrant found
148 A new reality in parrot-squawks.
149 Yet let that trifle pass. Now, as this odd
150 Discoverer walked through the harbor streets
151 Inspecting the cabildo, the fa?ade
152 Of the cathedral, making notes, he heard
153 A rumbling, west of Mexico, it seemed,
154 Approaching like a gasconade of drums.
155 The white cabildo darkened, the fa?ade,
156 As sullen as the sky, was swallowed up
157 In swift, successive shadows, dolefully.
158 The rumbling broadened as it fell. The wind,
159 Tempestuous clarion, with heavy cry,
160 Came bluntly thundering, more terrible
161 Than the revenge of music on bassoons.
162 Gesticulating lightning, mystical,
163 Made pallid flitter. Crispin, here, took flight.
164 An annotator has his scruples, too.
165 He knelt in the cathedral with the rest,
166 This connoisseur of elemental fate,
167 Aware of exquisite thought. The storm was one
168 Of many proclamations of the kind,
169 Proclaiming something harsher than he learned
170 From hearing signboards whimper in cold nights
171 Or seeing the midsummer artifice
172 Of heat upon his pane. This was the span
173 Of force, the quintessential fact, the note
174 Of Vulcan, that a valet seeks to own,
175 The thing that makes him envious in phrase.
176 And while the torrent on the roof still droned
177 He felt the Andean breath. His mind was free
178 And more than free, elate, intent, profound
179 And studious of a self possessing him,
180 That was not in him in the crusty town
181 From which he sailed. Beyond him, westward, lay
182 The mountainous ridges, purple balustrades,
183 In which the thunder, lapsing in its clap,
184 Let down gigantic quavers of its voice,
185 For Crispin to vociferate again.
186 The book of moonlight is not written yet
187 Nor half begun, but, when it is, leave room
188 For Crispin, fagot in the lunar fire,
189 Who, in the hubbub of his pilgrimage
190 Through sweating changes, never could forget
191 That wakefulness or meditating sleep,
192 In which the sulky strophes willingly
193 Bore up, in time, the somnolent, deep songs.
194 Leave room, therefore, in that unwritten book
195 For the legendary moonlight that once burned
196 In Crispin's mind above a continent.
197 America was always north to him,
198 A northern west or western north, but north,
199 And thereby polar, polar-purple, chilled
200 And lank, rising and slumping from a sea
201 Of hardy foam, receding flatly, spread
202 In endless ledges, glittering, submerged
203 And cold in a boreal mistiness of the moon.
204 The spring came there in clinking pannicles
205 Of half-dissolving frost, the summer came,
206 If ever, whisked and wet, not ripening,
207 Before the winter's vacancy returned.
208 The myrtle, if the myrtle ever bloomed,
209 Was like a glacial pink upon the air.
210 The green palmettoes in crepuscular ice
211 Clipped frigidly blue-black meridians,
212 Morose chiaroscuro, gauntly drawn.
213 How many poems he denied himself
214 In his observant progress, lesser things
215 Than the relentless contact he desired;
216 How many sea-masks he ignored; what sounds
217 He shut out from his tempering ear; what thoughts,
218 Like jades affecting the sequestered bride;
219 And what descants, he sent to banishment!
220 Perhaps the Arctic moonlight really gave
221 The liaison, the blissful liaison,
222 Between himself and his environment,
223 Which was, and is, chief motive, first delight,
224 For him, and not for him alone. It seemed
225 Elusive, faint, more mist than moon, perverse,
226 Wrong as a divagation to Peking,
227 To him that postulated as his theme
228 The vulgar, as his theme and hymn and flight,
229 A passionately niggling nightingale.
230 Moonlight was an evasion, or, if not,
231 A minor meeting, facile, delicate.
232 Thus he conceived his voyaging to be
233 An up and down between two elements,
234 A fluctuating between sun and moon,
235 A sally into gold and crimson forms,
236 As on this voyage, out of goblinry,
237 And then retirement like a turning back
238 And sinking down to the indulgences
239 That in the moonlight have their habitude.
240 But let these backward lapses, if they would,
241 Grind their seductions on him, Crispin knew
242 It was a flourishing tropic he required
243 For his refreshment, an abundant zone,
244 Prickly and obdurate, dense, harmonious
245 Yet with a harmony not rarefied
246 Nor fined for the inhibited instruments
247 Of over-civil stops. And thus he tossed
248 Between a Carolina of old time,
249 A little juvenile, an ancient whim,
250 And the visible, circumspect presentment drawn
251 From what he saw across his vessel's prow.
252 He came. The poetic hero without palms
253 Or jugglery, without regalia.
254 And as he came he saw that it was spring,
255 A time abhorrent to the nihilist
256 Or searcher for the fecund minimum.
257 The moonlight fiction disappeared. The spring,
258 Although contending featly in its veils,
259 Irised in dew and early fragrancies,
260 Was gemmy marionette to him that sought
261 A sinewy nakedness. A river bore
262 The vessel inward. Tilting up his nose,
263 He inhaled the rancid rosin, burly smells
264 Of dampened lumber, emanations blown
265 From warehouse doors, the gustiness of ropes,
266 Decays of sacks, and all the arrant stinks
267 That helped him round his rude aesthetic out.
268 He savored rankness like a sensualist.
269 He marked the marshy ground around the dock,
270 The crawling railroad spur, the rotten fence,
271 Curriculum for the marvellous sophomore.
272 It purified. It made him see how much
273 Of what he saw he never saw at all.
274 He gripped more closely the essential prose
275 As being, in a world so falsified,
276 The one integrity for him, the one
277 Discovery still possible to make,
278 To which all poems were incident, unless
279 That prose should wear a poem's guise at last.
The Idea of a Colony
280 Nota: his soil is man's intelligence.
281 That's better. That's worth crossing seas to find.
282 Crispin in one laconic phrase laid bare
283 His cloudy drift and planned a colony.
284 Exit the mental moonlight, exit lex,
285 Rex and principium, exit the whole
286 Shebang. Exeunt omnes. Here was prose
287 More exquisite than any tumbling verse:
288 A still new continent in which to dwell.
289 What was the purpose of his pilgrimage,
290 Whatever shape it took in Crispin's mind,
291 If not, when all is said, to drive away
292 The shadow of his fellows from the skies,
293 And, from their stale intelligence released,
294 To make a new intelligence prevail?
295 Hence the reverberations in the words
296 Of his first central hymns, the celebrants
297 Of rankest trivia, tests of the strength
298 Of his aesthetic, his philosophy,
299 The more invidious, the more desired.
300 The florist asking aid from cabbages,
301 The rich man going bare, the paladin
302 Afraid, the blind man as astronomer,
303 The appointed power unwielded from disdain.
304 His western voyage ended and began.
305 The torment of fastidious thought grew slack,
306 Another, still more bellicose, came on.
307 He, therefore, wrote his prolegomena,
308 And, being full of the caprice, inscribed
309 Commingled souvenirs and prophecies.
310 He made a singular collation. Thus:
311 The natives of the rain are rainy men.
312 Although they paint effulgent, azure lakes,
313 And April hillsides wooded white and pink,
314 Their azure has a cloudy edge, their white
315 And pink, the water bright that dogwood bears.
316 And in their music showering sounds intone.
317 On what strange froth does the gross Indian dote,
318 What Eden sapling gum, what honeyed gore,
319 What pulpy dram distilled of innocence,
320 That streaking gold should speak in him
321 Or bask within his images and words?
322 If these rude instances impeach themselves
323 By force of rudeness, let the principle
324 Be plain. For application Crispin strove,
325 Abhorring Turk as Esquimau, the lute
326 As the marimba, the magnolia as rose.
327 Upon these premises propounding, he
328 Projected a colony that should extend
329 To the dusk of a whistling south below the south.
330 A comprehensive island hemisphere.
331 The man in Georgia waking among pines
332 Should be pine-spokesman. The responsive man,
333 Planting his pristine cores in Florida,
334 Should prick thereof, not on the psaltery,
335 But on the banjo's categorical gut,
336 Tuck tuck, while the flamingos flapped his bays.
337 Sepulchral se?ors, bibbing pale mescal,
338 Oblivious to the Aztec almanacs,
339 Should make the intricate Sierra scan.
340 And dark Brazilians in their caf¨¦s,
341 Musing immaculate, pampean dits,
342 Should scrawl a vigilant anthology,
343 To be their latest, lucent paramour.
344 These are the broadest instances. Crispin,
345 Progenitor of such extensive scope,
346 Was not indifferent to smart detail.
347 The melon should have apposite ritual,
348 Performed in verd apparel, and the peach,
349 When its black branches came to bud, belle day,
350 Should have an incantation. And again,
351 When piled on salvers its aroma steeped
352 The summer, it should have a sacrament
353 And celebration. Shrewd novitiates
354 Should be the clerks of our experience.
355 These bland excursions into time to come,
356 Related in romance to backward flights,
357 However prodigal, however proud,
358 Contained in their afflatus the reproach
359 That first drove Crispin to his wandering.
360 He could not be content with counterfeit,
361 With masquerade of thought, with hapless words
362 That must belie the racking masquerade,
363 With fictive flourishes that preordained
364 His passion's permit, hang of coat, degree
365 Of buttons, measure of his salt. Such trash
366 Might help the blind, not him, serenely sly.
367 It irked beyond his patience. Hence it was,
368 Preferring text to gloss, he humbly served
369 Grotesque apprenticeship to chance event,
370 A clown, perhaps, but an aspiring clown.
371 There is a monotonous babbling in our dreams
372 That makes them our dependent heirs, the heirs
373 Of dreamers buried in our sleep, and not
374 The oncoming fantasies of better birth.
375 The apprentice knew these dreamers. If he dreamed
376 Their dreams, he did it in a gingerly way.
377 All dreams are vexing. Let them be expunged.
378 But let the rabbit run, the cock declaim.
379 Trinket pasticcio, flaunting skyey sheets,
380 With Crispin as the tiptoe cozener?
381 No, no: veracious page on page, exact.
A Nice Shady Home
382 Crispin as hermit, pure and capable,
383 Dwelt in the land. Perhaps if discontent
384 Had kept him still the pricking realist,
385 Choosing his element from droll confect
386 Of was and is and shall or ought to be,
387 Beyond Bordeaux, beyond Havana, far
388 Beyond carked Yucatan, he might have come
389 To colonize his polar planterdom
390 And jig his chits upon a cloudy knee.
391 But his emprize to that idea soon sped.
392 Crispin dwelt in the land and dwelling there
393 Slid from his continent by slow recess
394 To things within his actual eye, alert
395 To the difficulty of rebellious thought
396 When the sky is blue. The blue infected will.
397 It may be that the yarrow in his fields
398 Sealed pensive purple under its concern.
399 But day by day, now this thing and now that
400 Confined him, while it cosseted, condoned,
401 Little by little, as if the suzerain soil
402 Abashed him by carouse to humble yet
403 Attach. It seemed haphazard denouement.
404 He first, as realist, admitted that
405 Whoever hunts a matinal continent
406 May, after all, stop short before a plum
407 And be content and still be realist.
408 The words of things entangle and confuse.
409 The plum survives its poems. It may hang
410 In the sunshine placidly, colored by ground
411 Obliquities of those who pass beneath,
412 Harlequined and mazily dewed and mauved
413 In bloom. Yet it survives in its own form,
414 Beyond these changes, good, fat, guzzly fruit.
415 So Crispin hasped on the surviving form,
416 For him, of shall or ought to be in is.
417 Was he to bray this in profoundest brass
418 Arointing his dreams with fugal requiems?
419 Was he to company vastest things defunct
420 With a blubber of tom-toms harrowing the sky?
421 Scrawl a tragedian's testament? Prolong
422 His active force in an inactive dirge,
423 Which, let the tall musicians call and call,
424 Should merely call him dead? Pronounce amen
425 Through choirs infolded to the outmost clouds?
426 Because he built a cabin who once planned
427 Loquacious columns by the ructive sea?
428 Because he turned to salad-beds again?
429 Jovial Crispin, in calamitous crape?
430 Should he lay by the personal and make
431 Of his own fate an instance of all fate?
432 What is one man among so many men?
433 What are so many men in such a world?
434 Can one man think one thing and think it long?
435 Can one man be one thing and be it long?
436 The very man despising honest quilts
437 Lies quilted to his poll in his despite.
438 For realists, what is is what should be.
439 And so it came, his cabin shuffled up,
440 His trees were planted, his duenna brought
441 Her prismy blonde and clapped her in his hands,
442 The curtains flittered and the door was closed.
443 Crispin, magister of a single room,
444 Latched up the night. So deep a sound fell down
445 It was as if the solitude concealed
446 And covered him and his congenial sleep.
447 So deep a sound fell down it grew to be
448 A long soothsaying silence down and down.
449 The crickets beat their tambours in the wind,
450 Marching a motionless march, custodians.
451 In the presto of the morning, Crispin trod,
452 Each day, still curious, but in a round
453 Less prickly and much more condign than that
454 He once thought necessary. Like Candide,
455 Yeoman and grub, but with a fig in sight,
456 And cream for the fig and silver for the cream,
457 A blonde to tip the silver and to taste
458 The rapey gouts. Good star, how that to be
459 Annealed them in their cabin ribaldries!
460 Yet the quotidian saps philosophers
461 And men like Crispin like them in intent,
462 If not in will, to track the knaves of thought.
463 But the quotidian composed as his,
464 Of breakfast ribands, fruits laid in their leaves,
465 The tomtit and the cassia and the rose,
466 Although the rose was not the noble thorn
467 Of crinoline spread, but of a pining sweet,
468 Composed of evenings like cracked shutters flung
469 Upon the rumpling bottomness, and nights
470 In which those frail custodians watched,
471 Indifferent to the tepid summer cold,
472 While he poured out upon the lips of her
473 That lay beside him, the quotidian
474 Like this, saps like the sun, true fortuner.
475 For all it takes it gives a humped return
476 Exchequering from piebald fiscs unkeyed.
And Daughters with Curls
477 Portentous enunciation, syllable
478 To blessed syllable affined, and sound
479 Bubbling felicity in cantilene,
480 Prolific and tormenting tenderness
481 Of music, as it comes to unison,
482 Forgather and bell boldly Crispin's last
483 Deduction. Thrum, with a proud douceur
484 His grand pronunciamento and devise.
485 The chits came for his jigging, bluet-eyed,
486 Hands without touch yet touching poignantly,
487 Leaving no room upon his cloudy knee,
488 Prophetic joint, for its diviner young.
489 The return to social nature, once begun,
490 Anabasis or slump, ascent or chute,
491 Involved him in midwifery so dense
492 His cabin counted as phylactery,
493 Then place of vexing palankeens, then haunt
494 Of children nibbling at the sugared void,
495 Infants yet eminently old, then dome
496 And halidom for the unbraided femes,
497 Green crammers of the green fruits of the world,
498 Bidders and biders for its ecstasies,
499 True daughters both of Crispin and his clay.
500 All this with many mulctings of the man,
501 Effective colonizer sharply stopped
502 In the door-yard by his own capacious bloom.
503 But that this bloom grown riper, showing nibs
504 Of its eventual roundness, puerile tints
505 Of spiced and weathery rouges, should complex
506 The stopper to indulgent fatalist
507 Was unforeseen. First Crispin smiled upon
508 His goldenest demoiselle, inhabitant,
509 She seemed, of a country of the capuchins,
510 So delicately blushed, so humbly eyed,
511 Attentive to a coronal of things
512 Secret and singular. Second, upon
513 A second similar counterpart, a maid
514 Most sisterly to the first, not yet awake
515 Excepting to the motherly footstep, but
516 Marvelling sometimes at the shaken sleep.
517 Then third, a thing still flaxen in the light,
518 A creeper under jaunty leaves. And fourth,
519 Mere blusteriness that gewgaws jollified,
520 All din and gobble, blasphemously pink.
521 A few years more and the vermeil capuchin
522 Gave to the cabin, lordlier than it was,
523 The dulcet omen fit for such a house.
524 The second sister dallying was shy
525 To fetch the one full-pinioned one himself
526 Out of her botches, hot embosomer.
527 The third one gaping at the orioles
528 Lettered herself demurely as became
529 A pearly poetess, peaked for rhapsody.
530 The fourth, pent now, a digit curious.
531 Four daughters in a world too intricate
532 In the beginning, four blithe instruments
533 Of differing struts, four voices several
534 In couch, four more person?, intimate
535 As buffo, yet divers, four mirrors blue
536 That should be silver, four accustomed seeds
537 Hinting incredible hues, four self-same lights
538 That spread chromatics in hilarious dark,
539 Four questioners and four sure answerers.
540 Crispin concocted doctrine from the rout.
541 The world, a turnip once so readily plucked,
542 Sacked up and carried overseas, daubed out
543 Of its ancient purple, pruned to the fertile main,
544 And sown again by the stiffest realist,
545 Came reproduced in purple, family font,
546 The same insoluble lump. The fatalist
547 Stepped in and dropped the chuckling down his craw,
548 Without grace or grumble. Score this anecdote
549 Invented for its pith, not doctrinal
550 In form though in design, as Crispin willed,
551 Disguised pronunciamento, summary,
552 Autumn's compendium, strident in itself
553 But muted, mused, and perfectly revolved
554 In those portentous accents, syllables,
555 And sounds of music coming to accord
556 Upon his law, like their inherent sphere,
557 Seraphic proclamations of the pure
558 Delivered with a deluging onwardness.
559 Or if the music sticks, if the anecdote
560 Is false, if Crispin is a profitless
561 Philosopher, beginning with green brag,
562 Concluding fadedly, if as a man
563 Prone to distemper he abates in taste,
564 Fickle and fumbling, variable, obscure,
565 Glozing his life with after-shining flicks,
566 Illuminating, from a fancy gorged
567 By apparition, plain and common things,
568 Sequestering the fluster from the year,
569 Making gulped potions from obstreperous drops,
570 And so distorting, proving what he proves
571 Is nothing, what can all this matter since
572 The relation comes, benignly, to its end?
573 So may the relation of each man be clipped.
All human things are subject to decay.
And, when fate summons, monarchs must obey.
This Flecknoe found, who, like Augustus, young
Was called to empire, and had governed long;
In prose and verse was owned, without dispute,
Throughout the realms of nonsense, absolute.
RIFTED mountains, clad with forests, girded round by gleaming pines,
Where the morning, like an angel, robed in golden splendour shines;
Shimmering mountains, throwing downward on the slopes a mazy glare
Where the noonday glory sails through gulfs of calm and glittering air;
Stately mountains, high and hoary, piled with blocks of amber cloud,
Where the fading twilight lingers, when the winds are wailing loud;
Grand old mountains, overbeetling brawling brooks and deep ravines,
Where the moonshine, pale and mournful, flows on rocks and evergreens.
Underneath these regal ridges - underneath the gnarly trees,
I am sitting, lonely-hearted, listening to a lonely breeze!
Sitting by an ancient casement, casting many a longing look
Out across the hazy gloaming - out beyond the brawling brook!
Over pathways leading skyward - over crag and swelling cone,
Past long hillocks looking like to waves of ocean turned to stone;
Yearning for a bliss unworldly, yearning for a brighter change,
Yearning for the mystic Aidenn, built beyond this mountain range.
Happy years, amongst these valleys, happy years have come and gone,
And my youthful hopes and friendships withered with them one by one;
Days and moments bearing onward many a bright and beauteous dream,
All have passed me like to sunstreaks flying down a distant stream.
Oh, the love returned by loved ones! Oh, the faces that I knew!
Oh, the wrecks of fond affection! Oh, the hearts so warm and true!
But their voices I remember, and a something lingers still,
Like a dying echo roaming sadly round a far off hill.
I would sojourn here contented, tranquil as I was of yore,
And would never wish to clamber, seeking for an unknown shore;
I have dwelt within this cottage twenty summers, and mine eyes
Never wandered erewhile round in search of undiscovered skies;
But a spirit sits beside me, veiled in robes of dazzling white,
And a dear one's whisper wakens with the symphonies of night;
And a low sad music cometh, borne along on windy wings,
Like a strain familiar rising from a maze of slumbering springs.
And the Spirit, by my window, speaketh to my restless soul,
Telling of the clime she came from, where the silent moments roll;
Telling of the bourne mysterious, where the sunny summers flee
Cliffs and coasts, by man untrodden, ridging round a shipless sea.
There the years of yore are blooming - there departed life-dreams dwell,
There the faces beam with gladness that I loved in youth so well;
There the songs of childhood travel, over wave-worn steep and strand -
Over dale and upland stretching out behind this mountain land.
``Lovely Being, can a mortal, weary of this changeless scene,
Cross these cloudy summits to the land where man hath never been?
Can he find a pathway leading through that wildering mass of pines,
So that he shall reach the country where ethereal glory shines;
So that he may glance at waters never dark with coming ships;
Hearing round him gentle language floating from angelic lips;
Casting off his earthly fetters, living there for evermore;
All the blooms of Beauty near him, gleaming on that quiet shore?
``Ere you quit this ancient casement, tell me, is it well to yearn
For the evanescent visions, vanished never to return?
Is it well that I should with to leave this dreary world behind,
Seeking for your fair Utopia, which perchance I may not find?
Passing through a gloomy forest, scaling steeps like prison walls,
Where the scanty sunshine wavers and the moonlight seldom falls?
Oh, the feelings re-awakened! Oh, the hopes of loftier range!
Is it well, thou friendly Being, well to wish for such a change?''
But the Spirit answers nothing! and the dazzling mantle fades;
And a wailing whisper wanders out from dismal seaside shades!
``Lo, the trees are moaning loudly, underneath their hood-like shrouds,
And the arch above us darkens, scarred with ragged thunder clouds!''
But the spirit answers nothing, and I linger all alone,
Gazing through the moony vapours where the lovely Dream has flown;
And my heart is beating sadly, and the music waxeth faint,
Sailing up to holy Heaven, like the anthems of a Saint.
To her who, cast with me in trying days,
Stood in the place of health and power and praise;-
Who, when I thought all light was out, became
A lamp of hope that put my fears to shame;-
Who faced for love's sole sake the life austere
That waits upon the man of letters here;-
Who, unawares, her deep affection showed,
By many a touching little wifely mode;-
Whose spirit, self-denying, dear, divine,
Its sorrows hid, so it might lessen mine, -
To her, my bright, best friend, I dedicate
This book of songs. 'Twill help to compensate
For much neglect. The act, if not the rhyme,
Will touch her heart, and lead her to the time
Of trials past. That which is most intense
Within these leaves is of her influence;
And if aught here is sweetened with a tone
Sincere, like love, it came of love alone.