Page images
PDF
EPUB

Now be their arts display'd, how first they choose A cause and party, as the bard his muse; Inspired by these, with clamorous zeal they cry, And through the town their dreams and omens fly: So the Sibylline leaves (1) were blown about, Disjointed scraps of fate involved in doubt; So idle dreams, the journals of the night, Are right and wrong by turns, and mingle wrong with

right.Some champions for the rights that prop the crown, Some sturdy patriots, sworn to pull them down; Some neutral powers, with secret forces fraught, Wishing for war, but willing to be bought : While some to every side and party go, Shift every friend, and join with every foe; Like sturdy rogues in privateers, they strike This side and that, the foes of both alike; A traitor-crew, who thrive in troubled times, Fear'd for their force, and courted for their crimes.

Chief to the prosperous side the numbers sail, Fickle and false, they veer with every gale ; () As birds that migrate from a freezing shore, In search of warmer climes, come skimming o'er, Some bold adventurers first prepare to try The doubtful sunshine of the distant sky; But soon the growing Summer's certain sun Wins more and more, till all at last are won:

(1) [....., in foliis descripsit carmina Virgo;

. et teneres turbavit janua frondes. — VIRG. Æn. lib. iii.] (2) [Original edition :

Soon as the chiefs, whom once they choose, lie low,
Their praise too, slackens; and their aid moves slow,
Not so when leagued with rising powers, their rage
Then wounds the unwary foe, and burns along the page.]

So, on the early prospect of disgrace,
Fly in vast troops this apprehensive race;
Instinctive tribes ! their failing food they dread,
And buy, with timely change, their future bread.()

Such are our guides : how many a peaceful head, Born to be still, have they to wrangling led ! How

many an honest zealot stol'n from trade, And factious tools of pious pastors made ! With clews like these they thread the maze of state, These oracles explore, to learn our fate ; Pleased with the guides who can so well deceive, Who cannot lie so fast as they believe

Oft lend I, loth, to some sage friend an ear, (For we who will not speak are doom'd to hear); While he, bewilder'd, tells his anxious thought, Infectious fear from tainted scribblers caught, Or idiot hope; for each his mind assails, As Lloyd's court-light (?) or STOCKDALE's (3)

gloom prevails. Yet stand I patient while but one declaims, Or gives dull comments on the speech he maims :

(1) [Original edition:

Or are there those, who ne'er their friends forsook,
Lured by no promise, by no danger shook ?
Then bolder bribes the venal aid procure,
And golden fetters make the faithless sure;
For those who deal in flattery or abuse,

Will sell them where they can the most produce.] (2) [Lloyd's Evening Post - at this time a ministerial journal, published three times a week.]

(3) [Mr. Stockdale was, during the coalition administration, an opposition bookseller.]

But oh! ye Muses, keep your votary's feet
From tavern-haunts where politicians meet ;
Where rector, doctor, and attorney paase,
First on each parish, then each public cause :
Indited roads, and rates that still increase;
The murmuring poor, who will not fast in peace;
Election zeal and friendship, since declined ;
A tax commuted, or a tithe in kind;
The Dutch and Germans kindling into strife;
Dull port and poachers vile! the serious ills of life.
Here comes the neighbouring Justice, pleased to

guide
His little club, and in the chair preside.
In private business his commands prevail,
On public themes his reasoning turns the scale ;
Assenting silence soothes his happy ear,
And, in or out, his party triumphs here.

Nor here th' infectious rage for party stops,
But fits along from palaces to shops ;
Our weekly journals o'er the land abound,
And spread their plague and influenzas round;
The village, too, the peaceful, pleasant plain,
Breeds the Whig farmer and the Tory swain ;
Brookes' and St. Alban's (1) boasts not, but, instead,
Stares the Red Ram, and swings the Rodney's

Head :
Hither, with all a patriot's care, comes he
Who owns the little hut that makes him free;

(1) [Brookes's club, in St. James's Street, still flourishes - the great ren. dezvous of Whig politicians. The St. Alban's club, an association of the same kind on the Tory side, was broken up when old St. Alban's Street was cleared away among other improvements in the west end of London.]

Then joins

Whose yearly forty shillings buy the smile
Of mightier men, and never waste the while ;
Who feels his freehold's worth, and looks elate,
A little prop and pillar of the state.

Here he delights the weekly news to con,
And mingle comments as he blunders on;
To swallow all their varying authors teach,
To spell a title, and confound a speech :
Till with a muddled mind he quits the news,
And claims his nation's license to abuse ;

the
cry,

“ That all the courtly race “ Are venal candidates for power and place ;” (1) Yet feels some joy, amid the general vice, That his own vote will bring its wonted price.

These are the ills the teeming Press supplies, The pois'nous springs from learning's fountain rise; Not there the wise alone their entrance find, Imparting useful light to mortals blind ; But, blind themselves, these erring guides hold out Alluring lights to lead us far about; Screen’d by such means, here Scandal whets her quill, Here Slander shoots unseen, whene'er she will ; Here Fraud and Falsehood labour to deceive, And Folly aids them both, impatient to believe. (2)

(1) [Original edition:

Strive but for power, and parley but for place;
Yet hopes, good man!" that all may still be well,"
And thanks the stars he has a vote to sell ;
While thus he reads or raves, around him wait
A rustic band, and join in each debate;
Partake his manly spirit, and delight
To praise or blame, to judge of wrong or right;
Measures to mend, and ministers to make,

Till all go madding for their country's sake.] (2) (“ The spirit of defama by which a newspaper is often possessed

[ocr errors]

Such, sons of Britain ! are the guides ye trust; So wise their counsel, their reports so just ! Yet, though we cannot call their morals pure, Their judgment nice, or their decisions sure; Merit they have to mightier works unknown, A style, a manner, and a fate their own.

We, who for longer fame with labour strive, Are pain'd to keep our sickly works alive ; Studious we toil, with patient care refine, Nor let our love protect one languid line. (1) Severe ourselves, at last our works appear, When, ah! we find our readers more severe; For, after all our care and pains, how few Acquire applause, or keep it if they do! Not so these sheets, ordain'd to happier fate, Praised through their day, and but that day their

date;

Their careless authors only strive to join
As many words as make an even line;(2)
As many lines as fill a row complete ;
As many rows as furnish up a sheet :

has now found its own remedy in the diversity of them; for though a gentleman may read that he himself is a scoundrel, and his wife no better than she should be to-day, he will be sure to read that both of them are very good sort of people to-morrow. In the same manner, if one paper, through mistake or design, kill his friend, there is another ready to fetch him to life; nay, if he have good luck in the order of his reading, he may be informed that his friend is alive again before he had perused the account of his death." - Bishop Horne.] (1) [Original edition :..

Studious we toil, correct, amend, retouch,

Take much away, yet mostly leave too much.) (2) “ How many hours bring about the year?

How many days will furnish up the year?
How many years a mortal man may live!”

SHAKSPEARE, Henry VI.

« PreviousContinue »