To the Right Hon. Sir ROBERT WALPOLE.
— Quod censet amiculus, ut si
Caecus iter monstrare velit. —
1 THO' strength of genius, by experience taught,
2 Gives thee to sound the depth of human thought,
3 To trace the various workings of the mind,
4 And rule the secret springs that rule mankind;
5 Rare gift! yet, Walpole, wilt thou condescend
6 To listen, if thy unexperienc'd friend
7 Can aught of use impart, tho' void of skill,
8 And raise attention by sincere good will:[Page 130]
9 For friendship sometimes want of parts supplies,
10 The heart may furnish what the head denies.
11 As, when the rapid Rhine o'er swelling tides,
12 To grace old Ocean's coast, in triumph rides,
13 Tho' rich in source, he drains a thousand springs,
14 Nor scorns the tribute each small riv'let brings:
15 So thou shalt hence absorb each feeble ray,
16 Each dawn of meaning in thy brighter day;
17 Shalt like, or where thou canst not like, excuse,
18 Since no mean interest shall prophane the Muse;
19 No malice wrapt in truth's disguise offend,
20 No flattery taint the freedom of a friend.
21 When first a generous mind surveys the great,
22 And views the crowds that on their fortune wait,
23 Pleas'd with the shew, (though little understood,)
24 He only seeks the pow'r, to do the good:
25 Thinks, till he tries, 'tis godlike to dispose,
26 And gratitude still springs when bounty flows;
27 That ev'ry grant sincere affection wins,
28 And where our wants have end, our love begins.
29 But they who long the paths of state have trod,
30 Learn from the clamours of the murm'ring crowd,
31 Which cramm'd, yet craving, still their gates besiege,
32 'Tis easier far to give, than to oblige.
33 This of thy conduct seems the nicest part,
34 The chief perfection of the statesman's art,
35 To give to fair assent a fairer face,
36 Or soften a refusal into grace.[Page 131]
37 But few there are, that can be freely kind,
38 Or know to fix the favours on the mind;
39 Hence some whene'er they wou'd oblige, offend,
40 And while they make the fortune, lose the friend:
41 Still give unthank'd; still squander, not bestow;
42 For great men want not what to give, but how.
43 The race of men that follow courts, 'tis true,
44 Think all they get, and more than all, their due;
45 Still ask, but ne'er consult their own deserts,
46 And measure by their interest, not their parts.
47 From this mistake so many men we see
48 But ill become the thing they wish to be:
49 Hence discontent and fresh demands arise,
50 More power, more favour in the great man's eyes
51 All feel a want, tho' none the cause suspects,
52 But hate their patron for their own defects.
53 Such none can please, but who reforms their hearts,
54 And when he gives them places, gives them parts.
55 As these o'erprize their worth, so sure the great
56 May sell their favours at too dear a rate.
57 When merit pines while clamour is prefer'd,
58 And long attachment waits among the herd;
59 When no distinction, where distinction's due,
60 Marks from the many the superior few;
61 When strong cabal constrains them to be just,
62 And makes them give at last, because they must;
63 What hopes that men of real worth should prize
64 What neither friendship gives, nor merit buys.[Page 132]
65 The man who justly o'er the whole presides,
66 His well-weigh'd choice with wise affection guides:
67 Knows when to stop with grace, and when advance,
68 Nor gives from importunity, or chance;
69 But thinks how little gratitude is ow'd,
70 When favours are extorted, not bestow'd.
71 When safe on shore ourselves, we see the crowd
72 Surround the great, importunate and loud,
73 Thro' such a tumult 'tis no easy task,
74 To drive the man of real worth to ask;
75 Surrounded thus, and giddy with the shew,
76 'Tis hard for great men rightly to bestow;
77 From hence so few are skill'd in either case,
78 To ask with dignity, or give with grace.
79 Sometimes the great, seduc'd by love of parts,
80 Consult our genius, but neglect our hearts;
81 Pleas'd with the glittering sparks that genius flings,
82 They lift us tow'ring on the eagle's wings:
83 Mark out the flights by which themselves begun,
84 And teach our dazzled eyes to bear the sun,
85 'Till we forget the hand that makes us great,
86 And grow to envy, not to emulate.
87 To emulate a generous warmth implies,
88 To reach the virtues that make great men rise;
89 But envy wears a mean malignant face,
90 And aims not at their virtues, but their place.
91 Such to oblige, how vain is the pretence!
92 When ev'ry favour is a fresh offence,[Page 133]
93 By which superior power is still imply'd,
94 And while it helps the fortune, hurts the pride.
95 Slight is the hate neglect or hardships breed,
96 But those who hate from envy, hate indeed.
97 Since so perplex'd the choice, whom shall we trust?
98 Methinks, I hear thee cry, the brave, the just;
99 The man by no mean fears or hopes controul'd,
100 Who serves thee from affection, not for gold!
101 We love the honest, and esteem the brave,
102 Despise the coxcomb, but detest the knave.
103 No shew of parts the truly wise seduce,
104 To think that knaves can be of real use.
105 The man who contradicts the public voice,
106 And strives to dignify a worthless choice,
107 Attempts a task that on the choice reflects,
108 And lends us light to point out new defects.
109 One worthless man that gains what he pretends,
110 Disgusts a thousand unpretending friends;
111 And since no art can make a counter pass,
112 Or add the weight of gold to mimic brass,
113 When princes to bad ore their image join,
114 They more debase the stamp than raise the coin;
115 Be thine that care, true merit to reward,
116 And gain that good; nor will the task be hard.
117 Souls found alike so quick by nature blend,
118 An honest man is more than half thy friend.
119 Him no mere views, no haste to rise, shall sway,
120 Thy choice to sully, or thy trust betray.[Page 134]
121 Ambition here shall at due distance stand,
122 Nor is wit dangerous in an honest hand:
123 Besides, if failings at the bottom lie,
124 He views those failings with a lover's eye.
125 Tho' small his genius, let him do his best,
126 Our wishes and belief supply the rest:
127 Let others barter servile faith for gold,
128 His friendship is not to be bought or sold.
129 Fierce opposition he unmov'd shall face,
130 Modest in favour, daring in disgrace;
131 To share thy adverse fate alone pretend,
132 In power a servant, out of power a friend.
133 Here pour thy favours in an ample flood,
134 Indulge thy boundless thirst of doing good.
135 Nor think that good alone to him confin'd;
136 Such to oblige is to oblige mankind.
137 If thus thy mighty master's steps thou trace,
138 The brave to cherish, and the good to grace,
139 Long shalt thou stand from rage and faction free,
140 And teach us long to love the king and thee;
141 Or fall a victim, dangerous to the foe,
142 And make him tremble when he strikes the blow;
143 While honour, gratitude, affection join,
144 To deck thy close, and brighten thy decline.
145 Illustrious doom! the great when thus displac'd,
146 With friendship guarded, and with virtue grac'd,
147 In aweful ruin, like Rome's senate, fall
148 The prey and worship of the wond'ring Gaul.
149 No doubt to genius some reward is due,
150 (Excluding that were satirizing you):
151 But yet believe thy undesigning friend,
152 When truth and genius for thy choice contend,
153 Tho' both have weight, when in the balance cast,
154 Let probity be first, and parts the last.
155 On these foundations if thou dar'st be great,
156 And check the growth of folly and deceit,
157 When party rage shall drop thro' length of days,
158 And calumny be ripen'd into praise,
159 Then future times shall to thy worth allow
160 That fame, which envy wou'd call flattery now.
161 Thus far my zeal, tho' for the task unfit,
162 Has pointed out the rocks where others split:
163 By that inspir'd, tho' stranger to the Nine,
164 And negligent of any fame but thine,
165 I take that friendly, but superfluous part,
166 That acts from nature what I teach from art.
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About this text
Title (in Source Edition): To the Right Hon. Sir ROBERT WALPOLE.
Themes: politics; manners
Genres: heroic couplet; epistle
References: DMI 27836
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