ESSAY on FRIENDSHIP.
1 TO Artemisia. — 'Tis to her we sing,
2 For her once more we touch the sounding String,
3 'Tis not to Cythera's Reign nor Cupid's Fires,
4 But sacred Friendship that our Muse inspires.
5 A Theme that suits Aemilia's pleasing Tongue:
6 So to the Fair Ones I devote my Song.
7 The Wise will seldom credit all they hear,
8 Tho' saucy Wits shou'd tell them with a Sneer,
9 That Womens Friendships, like a certain Fly,
10 Are hatch'd i'th Morning and at Ev'ning die.
11 'Tis true, our Sex has been from early Time
12 A constant Topick for Satirick Rhyme:[Page 75]
13 Nor without Reason — since we're often found,
14 Or lost in Passion, or in Pleasures drown'd:
15 And the fierce Winds that bid the Ocean roll,
16 Are less inconstant than a Woman's Soul:
17 Yet some there are who keep the mod'rate Way,
18 Can think an Hour, and be calm a Day:
19 Who ne'er were known to start into a Flame,
20 Turn Pale or tremble at a losing Game.
21 Run Chloe's Shape or Delia's Features down,
22 Or change Complexion at Celinda's Gown:
23 But still serene, compassionate and kind,
24 Walk through Life's Circuit with an equal Mind.
25 Of all Companions I would choose to shun
26 Such, whose blunt Truths are like a bursting Gun,
27 Who in a Breath count all your Follies o'er,
28 And close their Lectures with a mirthful Roar:
29 But Reason here will prove the safest Guide,
30 Extremes are dang'rous plac'd on either Side.
31 A Friend too soft will hardly prove sincere;
32 The Wit's inconstant, and the Learn'd severe.
33 Good-Breeding, Wit, and Learning, all conspire
34 To charm Mankind and make the World admire:
35 Yet in a Friend but serve an under Part,
36 The main Ingredient is an honest Heart:
37 By this can Urs'la all our Souls subdue
38 Which wanting, this, not Sylvia's Charms, can do.
39 Now let the Muse (who takes no Courtier's Fee)
40 Point to her Friend — and future Ages see
41 (If this shall live 'till future Ages be)
42 One Line devoted to Fidelia's Praise,
43 The lov'd Companion of my early Days:
44 Whouse harmless Thoughts are sprightly as her Eyes,
45 By Nature chearful, and by Nature wise.
46 To have them last, the social Laws decree;
47 We choose our Friendships in the same degree:
48 What mighty Pleasure, if we might presume,
49 To strut with Freedom in Arvida's Room,
50 Or share the Table what supreme Delight?
51 With some proud Dutchess or a scornful Knight,[Page 77]
52 To sit with formal and assenting Face?
53 For who shall dare to contradict her Grace?
54 Our free-born Nature hates to be confin'd,
55 Where State and Power check the speaking Mind;
56 Where heavy Pomp and sullen Form withholds
57 That chearful Ease and Sympathy of Souls.
58 But yet the Soul whate'er its Partner do,
59 Must lift its Head above the baser Crew.
60 Celestial Friendship with its nicer Rules,
61 Frequents not Dunghills nor the Clubs of Fools.
62 It asks, to make this Union soft and long,
63 A Mind susceptible, and Judgment strong;
64 And then a Taste: But let that Taste be giv'n
65 By mighty Nature and the Stamp of Heav'n:
66 Possest of these, the justly temper'd Flame
67 Will glow incessant, and be still the same:
68 Not mov'd by Sorrow, Sickness, or by Age
69 To sullen Coldness or distemper'd Rage.
70 The Soul unstain'd with Envy or with Pride,
71 Pleas'd with itself and all the World beside,[Page 78]
72 Unmov'd can see gilt Chariots whirling by,
73 Or view the wretched with a melting Eye,
74 Discern a Failing and forgive it too:
75 Such, Artemisia, we may find in you.
76 Be seldom sour, or your Friends will fly
77 From the hung Forehead and the scornful Eye:
78 Nor, like Aurelia, in the Morning kind,
79 And soft as Summer or the western Wind:
80 But round ere night her giddy Passions wheel,
81 She'll clap the Door against your parting Heel.
82 An even Temper will be sure to please,
83 With cool Reflexion and a chearful Ease.
84 But see Armida's unfrequented Rooms,
85 How vainly spread with Carpets and Perfumes:
86 All shun her like the Cocatrice's Beams,
87 And for no other Reason but her loath'd Extremes.
88 To-day more holy than a cloister'd Nun,
89 Almost an Atheist by to-morrow's Sun:
90 Now speaks to Heaven with a lifted Eye:
91 Now to her Footman, You're a Rogue, and lye. [Page 79]
92 O say, from what strange Principles begin
93 These odd Compounds of Piety and Sin?
94 A sickly Fair may some Excuses find,
95 (What grieves the Body will affect the Mind)
96 But not the Creatures who have learn'd to screen
97 Their own Ill-nature in the name of Spleen.
98 What the black Mists afflict the aking Skull,
99 The Spirits tremble and the Heart be dull:
100 Have you from thence a Licence to offend,
101 Affront a Patron or abuse a Friend?
102 And ape the Manners of a surly Beast,
103 Because 'tis cloudy and the Wind's i'th' East?
104 But all have Failings, not the best are free,
105 Or in a greater or a less Degree.
106 What follows then? — Forgive, or unforgiven
107 Expect no Passage at the Gate of Heav'n.
108 Kind Nature gave, in Pity to Mankind,
109 This social Virtue to the human Mind:
110 This gives our Pleasures a more easy Flow,
111 And helps to blunt the Edge of smarting Woe:[Page 80]
112 The Soul's Relief, with Grief or Cares opprest,
113 Is to disclose them to a faithful Breast;
114 And then how lovely in a Friend appear,
115 The mournful Sigh and sympathizing Tear.
116 When changing Fortune with propitious Ray,
117 Gilds the brown Ev'ning or the smiling Day;
118 The pleas'd Companion shares the welcome Tide,
119 And wrap'd in Joy the happy Minutes glide.
120 Grave Authors differ — Men of Sense incline
121 This Way or that — Opinions rarely join:
122 Their Thoughts will vary. Why? Because they're free,
123 But most in this and only this agree;
124 That our chief Task is seldom to offend,
125 And Life's great Blessing a well-chosen Friend.