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Insulting quack! on thy sad business go,
And land the stranger on this world of woe.
Still I pass on, and now before me find
The restless ocean, emblem of my mind;
There wave on wave, here thought on thought succeeds,
Their produce idle works, and idle weeds:
Dark is the prospect o'er the rolling sea,
But not more dark than my sad views to me;
Yet from the rising moon the light beams dance
In troubled splendour o'er the wide expanse ;
So on my soul, whom cares and troubles fright,
The Muse pours comfort in a flood of light.
Shine out, fair flood! until the day-star flings
His brighter rays on all sublunar things.
“ Why in such haste ? by all the powers of wit,
I have against thee neither bond nor writ;
If thou ’rt a poet, now indulge the fight
Of thy fine fancy in this dubious light;
Cold, gloom, and silence shall assist thy rhyme,
And all things meet to form the true sublime.”
“ Shall I, preserver deem'd around the place,
With abject rhymes a doctor's name disgrace?
Nor doctor solely, in the healing art
I'm all in all, and all in every part ;
Wise Scotland's boast let that diploma be
Which gave me right to claim the golden fee :
Praise, then, I claim, to skilful surgeon due,
For mine th’advice and operation too;
And, fearing all the vile compounding tribe,
I make myself the med'cines I prescribe;
Mine, too, the chemic art; and not a drop
Goes to my patients from a vulgar shop.
But chief my fame and fortune I command
From the rare skill of this obstetric hand :
This our chaste dames and prudent wives allow,
With her who calls me from thy wonder now.”
WRITTEN IN LONDON, FEBRUARY, 1780.
• The clock struck one! we take no thought of Time,"
Wrapt up in night, and meditating rhyme :
All big with vision, we despise the powers
That vulgar beings link to days and hours ;
Those vile, mechanic things, that rule our hearts,
And cut our lives in momentary parts.
“ That speech of Time was Wisdom's gift,” said Young:
Ah, Doctor! better Time would hold his tongue:
What serves the clock ? “ To warn the careless crew
How much in little space they have to do;
To bid the busy world resign their breath,
And beat each moment a soft call for death
To give it, then, a tongue, was wise in man.'
Support the assertion, Doctor, if you can:
It tells the ruffian when his comrades wait;
It calls the duns to crowd my hapless gate;
It tells my heart the paralysing tale,
Of hours to come, when Misery must prevail.
WRITTEN IN LONDON, FEBRUARY, 1780.
What vulgar title thus salutes the eye,
The schoolboy's first attempt at poesy?
The long-worn theme of every humbler Muse,
For wits to scorn and nurses to peruse ;
The dull description of a scribbler's brain,
And sigh’d-for wealth, for which he sighs in vain;
A glowing chart of fairy-land estate,
Romantic scenes, and visions out of date,
Clear skies, clear streams, soft banks, and sober bowers,
Deer, whimpering brooks, and wind-perfuming flowers ?
Not thus ! too long have I in fancy wove My slender webs of wealth, and peace, and love; Have dream'd of plenty, in the midst of want, And sought, by Hope, what Hope can never grant, Been fool'd by wishes, and still wish'd again, And loved the flattery, while I knew it vain ! “ Gain by the Muse!” — alas ! thou might'st as soon Pluck gain (as Percy honour) from the moon; As soon grow rich by ministerial nods, As soon divine by dreaming of the gods, As soon succeed by telling ladies truth, Or preaching moral documents to youth: To as much purpose, mortal! thy desires, As Tully's flourishes to country squires ; As simple truth within St. James's state, Or the soft lute in shrill-tongued Billingsgate. “ Gain by the Muse!” alas, preposterous hope ! Who ever gain’d by poetry - but Pope? And what art thou? No St. John takes thy part: No potent Dean commends thy head or heart ! What gain'st thou but the praises of the poor? They bribe no milkman to thy lofty door, They wipe no scrawl from thy increasing score. What did the Muse, or Fame, for Dryden, say? What for poor Butler ? what for honest Gay? For Thomson, what? or what to Savage give? Or how did Johnson - how did Otway live? Like thee! dependent on to-morrow's good, Their thin revenue never understood;
Like thee, elate at what thou canst not know;
Like thee, repining at each puny blow;
Like thee they lived, each dream of Hope to mock,
Upon their wits — but with a larger stock.
No, if for food thy unambitious pray'r,
With supple acts to supple minds repair;
Learn of the base, in soft grimace to deal,
And deck thee with the livery genteel ;
Or trim the wherry, or the flail invite,
Draw teeth, or any viler thing but write.
Writers, whom once th' astonish'd vulgar saw,
Give nations language, and great cities law;
Whom gods, they said -- and surely gods-inspired,
Whom emp'rors honour'd, and the world admired-
Now common grown, they awe mankind nu more,
But vassals are, who judges were before;
Blockheads on wits their little talents waste,
As files gnaw metal that they cannot taste:
Though still some good, the trial may produce,
To shape the useful to a nobler use.
Some few of these, a statue and a stone
Has Fame decreed — but deals out bread to none.
Unhappy art! decreed thine owner's curse,
Vile diagnostic of consumptive purse:
Members by bribes, and ministers by lies,
Gamesters by luck, by courage soldiers rise:
Beaux by the outside of their heads may win,
And wily sergeants by the craft within :
Who but the race, by Fancy's demon led,
Starve by the means they use to gain their bread ?
Oft have I read, and, reading, mourn'd the fate
Of garret-bard, and his unpitied mate;
Of children stinted in their daily meal! -
The joke of wealthier wits, who could not feel ;
Portentous spoke that pity in my breast !
And pleaded self — who ever pleads the best:
No! thank my stars, my misery 's all my own,
To friends to family to foes unknown :
Who hates my verse, and damns the mean design,
Shall wound no peace — shall grieve no heart but mine.
One trial past, let sober Reason speak :
Here shall we rest, or shall we further seek ?
Rest here, if our relenting stars ordain
A placid harbour from the stormy main:
Or, that denied, the fond remembrance weep,
And sink, forgotten, in the mighty deep.