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An EPISTLE to a LADY.

1 CLarinda, dearly lov'd, attend
2 The counsels of a faithful friend;
3 Who with the warmest wishes fraught,
4 Feels all, at least, that friendship ought.
5 But since by ruling heav'n's design,
6 Another's fate shall influence thine;
7 O! may these lines for him prepare
8 A bliss, which I wou'd die to share!
9 Man may for wealth or glory roam,
10 But woman must be blest at home;
11 To this shou'd all her studies tend,
12 This her great object and her end.
13 Distaste unmingled pleasures bring,
14 And use can blunt affliction's sting;
15 Hence perfect bliss no mortals know,
16 And few are plung'd in utter woe;
17 While nature arm'd against despair,
18 Gives pow'r to mend, or strength to bear;
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19 And half the thought content may gain,
20 Which spleen employs to purchase pain.
21 Trace not the fair domestick plan,
22 From what you wou'd, but what you can!
23 Nor, peevish, spurn the scanty score,
24 Because you think you merit more!
25 Bliss ever differs in degree,
26 Thy share alone is meant for thee;
27 And thou should'st think, however small,
28 That share enough, for 'tis thy all:
29 Vain scorn will aggravate distress,
30 And only make that little less.
31 Admit whatever trifles come,
32 Units compose the largest sum:
33 O! tell them o'er, and say how vain
34 Are those which form ambition's train:
35 Which swell the monarch's gorgeous state,
36 And bribe to ill the guilty great!
37 But thou more blest, more wise than these,
38 Shalt build up happiness on ease.
39 Hail sweet Content! where joy serene
40 Gilds the mild soul's unruffled scene:
41 And with blith fancy's pencil wrought,
42 Spreads the white web of flowing thought;
43 Shines lovely in the cheerful face,
44 And cloaths each charm with native grace;
45 Effusion pure of bliss sincere,
46 A vestment for a god to wear.
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47 Far other ornaments compose
48 The garb that shrouds dissembled woes,
49 Piec'd out with motley dies and sorts,
50 Freaks, whimsies, festivals and sports;
51 The troubled mind's fantastick dress,
52 Which madness titles happiness.
53 While the gay wretch to revel bears
54 The pale remains of sighs and tears;
55 And seeks in crowds, like her undone,
56 What only can be found in one.
57 But, chief, my gentle friend! remove
58 Far from thy couch seducing love!
59 O! shun the false magician's art,
60 Nor trust thy yet unguarded heart!
61 Charm'd by his spells fair honour flies,
62 And thousand treach'rous phantoms rise
63 Where guilt in beauty's ray beguiles,
64 And ruin lurks in friendship's smiles.
65 Lo! where th' enchanted captive dreams
66 Of warbling groves, and purling streams;
67 Of painted meads, of flowers that shed
68 Their odours round her fragrant bed.
69 Quick shifts the scene, the charm is lost,
70 She wakes upon a desert coast!
71 No friendly hand to lend its aid,
72 No guardian bow'r to spread its shade;
73 Expos'd to ev'ry chilling blast,
74 She treads th' inhospitable waste;
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75 And down the drear decline of life,
76 Sinks a forlorn, dishonour'd wife.
77 Neglect not thou the voice of Fame,
78 But clear from crime, be free from blame!
79 Tho' all were innocence within,
80 'Tis guilt to wear the garb of sin.
81 Virtue rejects the foul disguise:
82 None merit praise who praise despise.
83 Slight not, in supercilious strain,
84 Long practis'd modes, as low or vain!
85 The world will vindicate their cause,
86 And claim blind faith in custom's laws.
87 Safer with multitudes to stray,
88 Than tread alone a fairer way;
89 To mingle with the erring throng,
90 Than boldly speak ten millions wrong.
91 Beware of the relentless train
92 Who forms adore, whom forms maintain!
93 Lest prudes demure, or coxcombs loud,
94 Accuse thee to the partial crowd;
95 Foes who the laws of honour slight,
96 A judge who measures guilt by spite.
97 Behold the sage Aurelia stand,
98 Disgrace and fame at her command!
99 As if heaven's delegate design'd,
100 Sole arbiter of all her kind.
101 Whether she try some favour'd piece,
102 By rules devis'd in ancient Greece;
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103 Or whether modern in her flight,
104 She tells what Paris thinks polite.
105 For much her talents to advance,
106 She study'd Greece, and travell'd France.
107 There learn'd the happy art to please,
108 With all the charms of labour'd ease;
109 Thro' looks and nods with meaning fraught,
110 To teach what she was never taught.
111 By her each latent spring is seen,
112 The workings foul of secret spleen;
113 The guilt that sculks in fair pretence,
114 Or folly veil'd in specious sense.
115 And much her righteous spirit grieves,
116 When worthlessness the world deceives;
117 Whether the erring crowd commends
118 Some patriot sway'd by private ends;
119 Or husband trust a faithless wife,
120 Secure in ignorance from strife.
121 Averse she brings their deeds to view,
122 But justice claims the rig'rous due;
123 Humanely anxious to produce
124 At least some possible excuse.
125 O ne'er may virtue's dire disgrace
126 Prepare a triumph for the base!
127 Mere forms the fool implicit sway,
128 Which witlings with contempt survey,
129 Blind folly no defect can see,
130 Half wisdom views but one degree;
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131 The wise remoter uses reach,
132 Which judgment and experience teach.
133 Whoever wou'd be pleas'd and please,
134 Must do what others do with ease.
135 Great precept undefin'd by rule,
136 And only learn'd in custom's school;
137 To no peculiar form confin'd,
138 It spreads thro' all the human kind;
139 Beauty and wit and worth supplies,
140 Yet graceful in the good and wise.
141 Rich with this gift and none beside,
142 In fashion's stream how many glide?
143 Secure from ev'ry mental woe,
144 From treach'rous friend or open foe;
145 From social sympathy that shares
146 The publick loss or private cares;
147 Whether the barb'rous foe invade,
148 Or merit pine in fortune's shade.
149 Hence gentle Anna ever-gay,
150 The same to-morrow as to-day,
151 Save where perchance, when others weep,
152 Her cheek the decent sorrow steep;
153 Save when perhaps a melting tale,
154 O'er ev'ry tender breast prevail.
155 The good, the bad, the great, the small,
156 She likes, she loves, she honours all.
157 And yet if sland'rous malice blame,
158 Patient she yields a sister's fame.
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159 Alike if satire or if praise,
160 She says whate'er the circle says;
161 Implicit does whate'er we do,
162 Without one point or wish in view,
163 Sure test of others, faithful glass
164 Thro' which the various phantoms pass.
165 Wide blank, unfeeling when alone,
166 No care, no joy, no thought her own.
167 Not thus succeeds the peerless dame,
168 Who looks, and talks, and acts for fame;
169 Intent, so wide her cares extend,
170 To make the universe her friend.
171 Now with the gay in frolick shines,
172 Now reasons deep with deep divines.
173 With courtiers now extols the great,
174 With patriots sighs o'er Britain's fate.
175 Now breathes with zealots holy fires,
176 Now melts in less refin'd desires.
177 Doom'd to exceed in each degree,
178 Too wise, too weak, too proud, too free,
179 Too various for one single word,
180 The high sublime of deep absurd.
181 While ev'ry talent nature grants,
182 Just serves to shew how much she wants.
183 Altho' in combine
184 The virtues of our sex and thine:
185 Her hand restrains the widow's tears,
186 Her sense informs, and sooths and cheers;
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187 Yet like an angel in disguise,
188 She shines but to some favour'd eyes;
189 Nor is the distant herd allow'd
190 To view the radiance thro' the cloud.
191 But thine is ev'ry winning art,
192 Thine is the friendly honest heart:
193 And shou'd the gen'rous spirit flow,
194 Beyond where prudence fears to go;
195 Such sallies are of nobler kind,
196 Than virtues of a narrow mind.

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    About this text

    Title (in Source Edition): An EPISTLE to a LADY.
    Themes: advice; moral precepts; women; female character; virtue; vice
    Genres: epistle
    References: DMI 22433

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    A Collection of Poems in Six Volumes. By Several Hands. Vol. II. London: printed by J. Hughs, for R. and J. Dodsley, 1763 [1st ed. 1758], pp. 198-205. 6v.: music; 8⁰. (ESTC T131163; OTA K104099.002) (Page images digitized by the Eighteenth-Century Poetry Archive from a copy in the archive's library.)

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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.