1 "LET venal annals boast a Caesar's reign,
2 " When Rome's great genius hugg'd th' imperial chain,
3 "Freedom, gay Goddess, glads our happier isle,
4 " Peace smooths her brow, as Plenty decks her smile;
5 "In every son th' inspirer lives confess'd,
6 " And lights up all the patriot in his breast,
7 "Breathes the same social warmth from soul to soul,
8 " Till widening Nature pants but for a whole.
9 "Shines he in life's meridian beam display'd,
10 " Or gives his milder virtues to the shade;
11 "Glares the proud ribbon, nods the martial crest,
12 " Or flaunt the tatters on his motly vest;
13 "The godlike Briton fills his every sphere
14 " Without a frailty, and without a fear.
15 "If rich: Bright image of the Eternal Mind,
16 " His opening bosom takes in all mankind;
17 "Where'er he comes, Health triumphs o'er Disease,
18 " Hope glads Despair, and Anguish melts to ease.
19 "Is Knowledge his? He lends his every art,
20 " To rear the genius, and to mould the heart;[Page 73]
21 "Fondly pursues with Boyle's auspicious blaze
22 " Truth thro' her masques, and Nature thro' her maze;
23 "To heedless Justice gives the well-poiz'd scale,
24 " And raises Commerce as he guides the sail.
25 "Is power his orb? He lives but to defend;
26 " The statesman only dignifies the friend:
27 "Disarms Oppression, prunes Ambition's wing,
28 " And stifles Faction ere she darts her sting;
29 "Enriches every coffer but his own,
30 " And shields the cottage while he guards the throne;
31 "Sees at his nod our plunder'd rights restor'd,
32 " And Europe trembling when he grasps the sword. "
33 Thus sung the Muse when Fancy vigorous ran,
34 And warm'd the youth, ere Reason form'd the man;
35 Life thro' Opinion's false perspective seen,
36 With mimic beauty glow'd in every scene;
37 Dress'd in an angel's visionary form,
38 Vice aim'd to please, and Madness learn'd to charm:
39 Rebellion soften'd into public love,
40 And each enormous villain seem'd a Jove.
41 Doubly deceiv'd, what Lelius could I find
42 To chase the phantoms, or to free the mind?
43 No Lelius came, no Seraph lent his aid,
44 No pitying Genius whisper'd in the glade.
45 It chanc'd that Virtue heard th' untutor'd lays,
46 Still madly lisping with the voice of praise;
47 She heard, as thro' the mall the Goddess stray'd,
48 When the gay world had peopled all the shade,[Page 74]
49 Mild as the softness of a vernal sky,
50 Youth flush'd her cheek, while caution arm'd her eye;
51 Half loose majestic flow'd her azure vest,
52 A spotless ruby bled upon her breast,
53 At every step kind Nature felt her power,
54 Soft blew the zephyr, and soft sprung the flower;
55 A brighter freshness hung on every green,
56 And a new Eden stole upon the scene,
57 Awhile she paus'd, and with a frown survey'd
58 The mingling swarm of tatters and brocade.
59 When, as the Goddess wav'd th' ethereal spear,
60 Pride dropt her smile, and Artifice her tear;
61 Lust threw aside Religion's borrow'd grace,
62 A leering Satyr gloated in her face;
63 The prude, who fainted at the name of vice,
64 Now hugg'd the bottle, and now grasp'd the dice;
65 While tortur'd with the town's obscener ail,
66 A Saint stood melting o'er a luscious tale.
67 Here, the bribe glitter'd in a Courtier's hand;
68 There, the grave Patriot bellow'd — for a wand:
69 Full in his eye th' enchanting object hung,
70 And dying Freedom gasp'd upon his tongue.
71 All who to Drury's deadly stews resort,
72 Rob at the Change, or plunder in the Court,
73 Stripp'd of their masques in wild disorder rose,
74 One with a halter, one without a nose;
75 So oddly mix'd, so excellently ill,
76 Such motly spectres of Quevedo's hell;[Page 75]
77 They'd make a Jesuit quit the absolving chair,
78 A brothel tremble, and a conclave stare.
79 So when, where Bedlam's air-dress'd visions dwell,
80 Tom stalks a straw-crown'd monarch in his cell;
81 Just as he soars tremendous to a God,
82 And the wing'd thunder only waits his nod;
83 Shudd'ring, he hears his keeper's surly tone,
84 He hears, and horror wraps his tott'ring throne;
85 Crowns drop their lustre, scepters lose their awe,
86 Robes fly to rags, and empires sink to straw.
87 "Learn hence, fair Virtue cry'd, mistaken youth,
88 " What various monsters wear the guise of Truth.
89 "Deck'd with each grace, immortal Merit shews
90 " The cheek that reddens, and the soul that glows;
91 "With heaven's own image beaming in his eye,
92 " Man smiles a dagger, and he looks a lie. "
93 She spoke, and lo! the long-misguided fire,
94 With every number, slept along the lyre.
95 Say then, my friend! whose virtues are my pride,
96 Whose candour soothes me, while thy precepts guide;
97 Thou whose quick eye has look'd thro' every age,
98 View'd every scene, and studied every sage;
99 Say, shall I praise th' escutcheon's proud record,
100 When a lost Brutus sinks into a lord?
101 With fulsome sing-song after shadows run,
102 And still mistake a meteor for a sun?
103 Shall I be silent, while from day to day
104 Bellville in bagnios revels life away;[Page 76]
105 Flagitious drops the majesty of power
106 In the mad mischiefs of the midnight hour;
107 No flatterer left to daub, no friend to aid,
108 By strumpets plunder'd, and by wits betray'd?
109 Rous'd at the thought, keen Satire spurns her chain,
110 Springs with new life, and pants in every vein,
111 On vice, impatient, wreaks her gathering rage,
112 And bids the tyrant bleed thro' all the page.
113 Broods she in purple o'er the venal bar,
114 Struts in a gown, or blazes in a star?
115 My pen shall trace her out from slave to slave,
116 Nor dares Oblivion screen her in the grave.
117 Come then, ye self-curs'd atheists! who degrade
118 Truth to a sound, and scripture to a trade;
119 Ye bearded sycophants! who life supply
120 With the warm sun-shine of a minion's eye:
121 Ye French editions of a British fool;
122 Abroad a cypher, and at home a fool;
123 Ye —
123 Are you mad? or have you lost all grace?
124 What, write a satire when you want a place!
125 Hold, hold, for God's sake, ere your friends bestow
126 A few stout cords; and send you to Monrok
k Physician to Bethlem hospital..
127 Would you avoid the pedant's learned sneer?
128 Awe the pert fop? or sooth a doctor's ear?[Page 77]
129 Heedless of all the phantom Sisters play'd,
130 From cloud-topt Pindus to the Latian shade,
131 Pursue deep Science thro' her mazy road,
132 Hunt every page, and crawl from code to code;
133 Where musty systems solid joy dispense,
134 And wise smiglecius fills the void of sense;
135 Or proud some more important truths to learn,
136 Dream o'er the labour'd glossaries of Hearn:
137 So you may live, approv'd, perhaps preferr'd,
138 Your wisdom gravely measur'd by your beard.
139 But soft — Your aim's to civilize mankind,
140 To wake each social virtue of the mind;
141 To strip from Vice the gay disguise of art,
142 And bare the villain lurking in the heart;
143 For this your grasp the falchion, spread the shield,
144 A pigmy Quixot in the 'listed field.
145 Time was, when satire delicately nice
146 Cou'd rouze each virtue, and cou'd blast each vice;
147 Truth learn'd to please from Aesop's fabling tongue,
148 And Rome grew virtuous when her Ennius sung.
149 Once lost to goodness, but now lost to shame,
150 We court dishonour, as we laugh'd at fame;
151 With the same raptures plunge in every crime,
152 Tho' fifty Oldhams stab in every rhime.
153 A native sin each vigorous Frenchman hails,
154 Politely partial to his own Versailles.
155 There, toujours gai, he loves a looser rein;
156 His Miss, la Contesse, and his wine Champagne.[Page 78]
157 Britain, more generous, every vice provides,
158 That Europe ripens, and that Asia hides.
159 Th' enormous harvest to our ports consign'd
160 Loads every ship, and busies every wind.
161 Soon a vast group of follies croud the shore,
162 As soon they cloy. — Fly hence, and fetch-us more,
163 Quick spread th' impatient sail from pole to pole,
164 Ye zephyrs, waft her! and ye oceans, roll!
165 Strike whom you please, and write whate'er you will,
166 Harpax will cheat, and Phillis hide spadille:
167 Hircus in brothels impotently toil,
168 And Verres murder merit with a smile:
169 Murder, secure of same, for vulgar eyes
170 Will still adore him, tho' the good despise;
171 At his rich coat and gorgeous chariot gaze,
172 And lose at once th' assassin in the blaze.
173 E'en Young himself, distinguish'd, lov'd, carest,
174 Mark'd by each eye, and hugg'd to every breast,
175 Sees he among this vicious race of men
176 One rascal mended when he grasps the pen?
177 Still at the levee swarms the venal tribe,
178 And still Corruption longs for every bribe.
179 What then? If Vice unblushing hears the sage,
180 Shall Reason struggle in the check of age?
181 Shall Truth shut up in complaisance her heart,
182 Young lend a smile, and Satire drop her dart?[Page 79]
183 No, let the fiend-like heads of Hydra grow,
184 Rise as he strikes, and double from the blow;
185 One honest drudge our Hercules has found,
186 To sear the monster sprouting in the wound.
187 Come, come, my friend; throw off this rising frown,
188 Nor curb my passions while you loose your own.
189 Oft have you bid proud Thraso mend his life,
190 Who kick'd a sister, and who starv'd a wife;
191 Nay, insolently dar'd to tell her grace,
192 That virtue made a Goddess, not the face.
193 When brisker spirits thro' the bosom roll,
194 And life's mad tumuit rushes on the soul;
195 Each beardless Cato wings with awkward zeal
196 His little arrow ere he learns to feel;
197 Fierce as old Appius, apes th' insulting air,
198 Th' uplifted eye-brow, and the lordly stare.
199 So I — But now that age with smooth career
200 Wafts cooler notions on my sixtieth year;
201 Lost to each hope, each visionary joy,
202 Pomps that disturb, and vanities that cloy;
203 Heedless what wit's cashier'd, what sool's carest,
204 Who lives an hero, or who lives a jest,
205 I view the world's romantic scene pass by,
206 And stifle all my anger in a sigh.
207 While thus my days steal on the wing of time,
208 Unstain'd by wit, and guiltless of a rhyme,[Page 80]
209 Unnumber'd ills the dreaded Satirist wait,
210 Stand fast, Olympus! and support him, Fate!
211 See! frantic Dulness panting for the war,
212 Grasps the keen spear, and mounts th' imperial car,
213 Shrill clarions sound, attending Furies yell,
214 The length'ning echo howls thro' every cell;
215 Rous'd by th' inspiring clang, each mighty son,
216 Congenial offspring of his fire, the Hun,
217 Slides from his garret formidably gay,
218 An human vulture darting on his prey.
219 All they whose science loads th' incumber'd stall,
220 Who wound the wainscot, and who daub the wall,
221 Luxurious rogues, that revel once a week
222 On the rich feast of visto's and ox-cheek;
223 From the soft lyric to the wretch who squalls
224 The Mint-born ballad at the end of Paul's,
225 Around the flag in martial pomp appear,
226 Curl in the van, and Osborne in the rear.
227 Th' impatient battle joins, and lo! at once
228 The same wild phrenzy spreads from dunce to dunce,
229 Fir'd with one soul, the shirtless legions run,
230 One hurls a journal, and one darts a pun,
231 In snip-snap prose vindictive lightnings play,
232 And loud hoarse thunders rattle thro' the lay.
233 Quick and more quick, the dire discordant din
234 Rolls thro' each hall, and roars from inn to inn;
235 Wakes the loud horrors of the wrangling school,
236 Where Priscian bawls, and fool re-echoes fool.
237 But should you all the mighty mad defeat,
238 Who howl in Bedlam, and who stun the Fleet,
239 See the pert critic tremble to engage,
240 Wit blunt her sting, and Envy drop her rage;
241 Yet can poor Innocence to mercy awe
242 Those deadlier pests, the harpies of the law?
243 Another P—n shields each worthless lord,
244 Arms the dread scourge, and whets th' avenging sword,
245 Where he, great genius! throws his letter'd eye,
246 Truth stares a libel, Honesty a lye,
247 Young embryo treasons in each period shine,
248 And fancy'd poisons kill thro' every line.
249 He sure will curb you, tho' my precepts fail,
250 No stoic bullies when he smells a jail,
251 Conscious that Wisdom mounts her throne too late,
252 When doom'd to warble ethics thro' a grate.
253 Speak you of Claudius? Let the minion rave,
254 Say Pitt's a fool, and Lyttelton's a knave,
255 Call wit a libel, and yet never see
256 Swords in a brief, or poisons in a fee.
257 But from my soul all scandal I detest,
258 Truth forms my numbers, as she warms my breast,
259 Learns me to triumph o'er a pimp's disdain,
260 And bids me laugh when Claudius threats the chain.
261 What, shall I strive to dignify disgrace?
262 And hail a patriot less'ning in a place?[Page 82]
263 Rear the proud trophy on a soldier's grave,
264 Who liv'd a coward, and who dy'd a slave?
265 Shall I on Vice's pageantry attend,
266 Croud to her car, and at her altars bend?
267 Rather, where Indian suns their rays unfold,
268 And ripen half Potosi into gold,
269 Let me beneath a Spaniard's insult pine,
270 Crouch to the scourge, and drudge from mine to mine.
271 Yet is there one, my friend! who shines confest
272 With all that heaven stamps upon the breast,
273 Who, nobly conscious of paternal fire,
274 Feeds the bright blaze, and beams upon his sire.
275 Mine be the task to swell from day to day
276 Th' applauding paean, and the loud huzza;
277 To bid our sons with filial fondness warm,
278 Eye every grace, and copy every charm;
279 Explore his purpose, catch his God-like rage,
280 And be the Maltons of another age.
281 My verse, you say, will certainly offend.
282 Who? Not the man whom Virtue calls her friend.
283 Virtue, like gold, of genuine worth possess'd,
284 Shines out more radiant when she dares the test.
285 Swords arm her bosom, racks her vigour raise,
286 And all hell's fires but give her strength to blaze.
287 Can truth than hurt her? wound her sacred ear?
288 Wake the keen pang? or rouze th' impassion'd tear?
289 'Tis true, the selfish mercenary train,
290 Whom honours libel, and whom titles stain,[Page 83]
291 Struck with the face in Satire's mirror shown,
292 Perhaps may tremble, and perhaps may frown.
293 Thanks to their rage, my days will happier flow,
294 And my joys brighten when a knave's my foe.
295 Yet think not that the Muse, to spleen resign'd,
296 Aims monster-like to swallow up mankind,
297 Bids her keen shafts with baleful vengeance fly,
298 Taint the pure breeze, and poison half the sky,
299 Or fond to spread destruction thro' the land,
300 Exults with Nero as she lights the brand;
301 With honest warmth she wishes to controul
302 Each deadly weed that blossoms on the soul,
303 That wildly vigorous mocks at Virtue's toil,
304 That choaks the scion, and that robs the soil;
305 But sadly conscious that just heaven has made
306 Each grace to border on its kindred shade;
307 That in the gem some sullying vein will run,
308 And the disk darken while there shines a sun;
309 The melting image gains upon her heart,
310 And spite of justice half disarms the dart.
311 Oh! let me then in Fable's empire rove,
312 Where talks the forest, and where laughs the grove;
313 Attend the Goddess thro' her airy scene,
314 Her pictures borrow, and her morals glean;
315 From wolves and lions draw th' instructive tale,
316 And hide the glare of reason in a veil.
317 Blest be the thought. Here guiltless of offence,
318 Dispassion'd Truth may sneer you into sense;[Page 84]
319 On vicious men her whole artillery play,
320 Sublimely grave or whimsically gay;
321 Thro' the wide world in moral vision range,
322 Glide thro' the Court, and steal upon the Change;
323 Lust's rampant empress keenly-ey'd pursue,
324 Or opening in her Paphos, or the stew;
325 Lethargic Justice on the bench assail,
326 Edge the dull sword, and poise th' unequal scale:
327 With Rabelais' jest display th' officious knave,
328 In life's mad vortex whirling to the grave;
329 Point at Opinion's self-embroider'd vest,
330 Folly's gay plume, and Pride's enormous crest,
331 Each frenzy mortify, each vice confound,
332 And Self-conviction only feel the wound.
About this text
Title (in Source Edition): MODERN VIRTUE. A SATIRE.
Themes: virtue; vice
Genres: heroic couplet; satire
References: DMI 31302
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The text has been typographically modernized, but without any silent modernization of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. The source of the text is given and all editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. Based on the electronic text originally produced by the ECCO-TCP project, this ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 3.0.