THE LADY AND THE LINNET.
ADDRESSED TO A FRIEND.
Sumit Myrrha novos, veteres ut ponit amictus,
Mutat amatores miseros, sic mutat amicos.
FRAGM. INCERT. AUTH.
1 TO lift the low, the proud depress,
2 And succour weakness in distress;
3 A foe forgive, and yet contend
4 With generous ardour for a friend:
5 Are virtues, tho' but thinly sown,
6 Not circumscrib'd to you alone;
7 Since hourly observation finds
8 They spring in some inferior minds;[Page 185]
9 Which, tho' we justly pass our praise on,
10 Are not the sound effects of reason;
11 But often flow from whim or fashion,
12 From pride, or some impurer passion.
13 But you, whom heaven at first design'd
14 The boast and envy of your kind;
15 Above your sex's censure plac'd,
16 In beauty, breeding, temper, taste;
17 Who only show regard to merit,
18 Unconscious what yourself inherit;
19 While other ladies fume and rail
20 In indignation at my tale;
21 With each reflection pick a quarrel,
22 And find a satire in each moral;
23 May safely every page peruse,
24 Nor be offended with the Muse;
25 Where not a single line appears,
26 Which honour dreads, or virtue fears.
27 A hungry hawk, in quest of prey,
28 Wide o'er the forest wing'd his way;
29 Whence every bird, that haunts the glade,
30 Or warbles in the rural shade,
31 Dispers'd, in wild disorder flies
32 Before the tyrant of the skies.
33 A linnet, feebler than the rest,
34 With weary wings and panting breast
35 Sought Sylvia's window in despair,
36 And fluttering crav'd protection there.
37 Compassion touch'd the fair one's mind,
38 (For female hearts are always kind.) [Page 186]
39 Upward the gliding sash she threw,
40 And in the little stranger flew;
41 There, in her fragrant bosom prest,
42 The nymph revives her drooping guest;
43 Then (danger o'er, and all serene)
44 Restores him to his fields again.
45 What wondrous joy, what grateful love!
46 Inspir'd the wanderer of the grove!
47 In unexpected life elate,
48 When now he recollects his fate!
49 And sets the friendly fair in view,
50 Who gave him life and freedom too!
51 For gratitude, to courts unknown,
52 And unreturn'd by man alone,
53 Wide thro' the wing'd creation reigns,
54 And dwells amidst the humble plains;
55 In every verdant field and shade,
56 The just, the generous debt is paid.
57 Back from the Sylvan bower he hies,
58 To thank his dear deliverer flies;
59 And, at her window, chaunting stood
60 Her praise, with all the zeal he could.
61 There Lin his morning visits pays,
62 And there he tunes his evening lays;
63 There oft the noon-day hour prolongs,
64 And pours his little soul in songs.
65 His heavenly airs attention drew,
66 And Sylvia soon the warbler knew;
67 Then uses every charm to win,
68 And draw the wild musician in;[Page 187]
69 He enters, fearless of a snare,
70 For how should fraud inhabit there?
71 And now by frequent visits free,
72 At first he perches on her knee;
73 Then, grown by long acquaintance bolder,
74 Familiarly ascends her shoulder;
75 And, wholly now devoid of fear,
76 Plays with the pendant in her ear;
77 O'er all her neck and bosom strays,
78 And, like a lover, learns to teaze;
79 Pecks on her hand, and fondly sips
80 Delicious nectar from her lips.
81 Thrice happy bird, how wert thou bless'd,
82 Of such superior love possess'd!
83 Couldst thou but make the tenure sure,
84 And those unrivall'd hours endure;
85 But love, a light, fantastic thing,
86 Like thee, is always on the wing;
87 And sacred friendship oft a jest,
88 When center'd in a female breast!
89 Thus Lin the circling moments past
90 In raptures too refin'd to last;
91 When (as his constant court he paid)
92 Some envious songsters of the shade
93 Observ'd his motions to and fro,
94 For merit's ne'er without a foe.
95 They mark'd the transports of his eye,
96 His sprightly air and glossy dye;
97 And all agreed to know, ere night,
98 What gave the vagrant such delight.
99 Strait to the beauteous bower they throng,
100 Nor for admittance waited long;
101 The nymph, whom every charm attends,
102 Receives her new, aerial friends;
103 With crumbled cake, and fruitage feeds,
104 And feasts them on her choicest seeds;
105 Did all, that kindness could inspire,
106 To bring her coy acquaintance nigh her;
107 And Linny now returns, to pay
108 The due devotions of the day;
109 When to his wondering eyes arose
110 A numerous circle of his foes;
111 Grief touch'd his soul, to see them there,
112 But, with a seeming easy air,
113 He took his place among the rest,
114 And sat an undistinguish'd guest.
115 Alas, how soon can time destroy
116 The surest pledge of earthly joy?
117 A favourite's flattering hopes defeat,
118 And tumble tyrants from their state?
119 For time, indulgent but to few,
120 Deposes kings — and linnets too.
121 He, who was once the nymph's delight,
122 Sits now neglected in her sight;
123 In vain to charm her ear he tries,
124 New forms engag'd her ears and eyes!
125 The goldfinch spreads his gaudy coat,
126 And all were ravish'd with his note;
127 While none attends to Linny's strain,
128 For, ah, poor Linny's plumes were plain.
129 And now (the mournful warbler flown)
130 The nymph and friendly bower their own,
131 O'er all reserve their spleen prevails,
132 And every tongue in concert rails:
133 All wonder'd what her eyes could see
134 In such a worthless thing as he!
135 Who still pursues his private ends,
136 Ungrateful to his kindest friends;
137 One instance sure might serve to show him!
138 Alas, how little did they know him?
139 Some then recounted all the arts
140 He us'd, to vanquish little hearts;
141 Affirm'd, he still was making love,
142 And kept a miss in every grove;
143 Could trifle with the meanest fowl,
144 Nay, offer courtship to an owl!
145 Scandal, tho' pointed in the dark,
146 Is seldom known to miss its mark;
147 While few will interrupt its aim,
148 Regardless of another's fame!
149 Even they, by whom we once were lov'd,
150 Thro' life for several years approv'd!
151 When spleen and envy rail aloud,
152 Are often carried with the crowd;
153 Preferring, rather than contend,
154 To sacrifice their nearest friend.
155 Thus Sylvia yielded to the birds,
156 Too complaisant to doubt their words;
157 Nor thought, that creatures so polite
158 Could deal in calumny and spite! [Page 190]
159 The injur'd Linnet, with their leaves,
160 For decency she still receives;
161 Who, tho' he sees his foes carest,
162 Like some fond lover, hopes the best;
163 And doubts his own discerning eyes,
164 But, ah, how obvious is disguise?
165 At length of hope itself bereft,
166 When now no friendly look was left,
167 And every mark of fondness fled;
168 He hung his wings, and droop'd his head.
169 And am I then resign'd, he says,
170 To such ungenerous foes as these?
171 By these defrauded of my bliss?
172 Is all her kindness come to this?
173 Yet ah, my tongue, forbear to blame
174 That lov'd, that ever-honour'd name;
175 This heart, howe'er misus'd at last,
176 Must own unnumber'd favours past;
177 And shall, tho' ne'er to meet again,
178 The dear remembrance still retain.
179 He spoke — and to the window flew,
180 There sat, and sung his last adieu.