Of PATIENCE. An EPISTLE to The Right Honourable Samuel Lord Masham.
1 Patience, my Lord, a virtue rare, I grant;
2 And what, I fear, the wisest of us want:
3 Easy the task in Action to excell,
4 The soul's last trial lies in suff'ring well.
5 From fear, or shame what specious acts proceed!
6 And worldly aims oft prompt the shining deed.
7 Look but on half the boasted things we do,
8 And praise, or profit is the point in view.
9 From these, what crops of virtue bless the land!
10 With these, how oft the mower fills his hand!
11 Prompted by these the knave we oft regard,
12 While suff'ring virtue is her own reward;
13 Silent and meek she passes unobserv'd,
14 Nor prais'd by whom she's over-reach'd or starv'd.
15 But granting nobler motives to the few,
16 And same or int'rest not the point in view;[Page 11]
17 Grant of the wretched's suff'rings we partake,
18 And praise, or pity ev'n for virtue's sake;
19 Yet that soft temper of the gen'rous mind,
20 That very breast, benevolent and kind,
21 That noble sense, which feels what others feel,
22 Which you, my Lord, who know it, best can tell;
23 Itself opprest, can least resistance show,
24 But pines, or sinks beneath its proper woe.
25 What tho' in Action brave, unaw'd by fear,
26 Resolv'd as*
* Lieut. General Clayton; who, after a life spent in the service of his King and Country, into which he enter'd at 17 years old, was at last kill'd by a random ball at the Battle of Dettingen, in his 68th year; after the defeat of the Enemy, and as he was riding thro' the ranks to encourage the pursuit. He was buried at Hanau, under a triple discharge of cannon, with other military honours due to his distinguish'd merit and character. His personal bravery under the reigns of King William, Queen Anne, and the present Royal Family, is too well known to need a remark; and his domestic character was so amiable in all its several relations, that I can only express my sense of it in the words of Hamlet, "He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again." Clayton, or as Swift severe;
27 In diff'rent views their trials, tempers scan,
28 Ev'n Swift can weep, and Clayton is a man. [Page 12]
29 Superior faculties avail not here,
30 Wit points the shaft, and valour pours the tear.
31 The same nice nerve which vibrates to the brain
32 Its sense of pleasure, gives as quick its pain:
33 And all the diff'rence 'twixt the fool and wise,
34 In their sensations, and perceptions lies.
35 The Man of Wit in many parts is sore,
36 Touch but a Genius, and he smarts all o'er.
37 The wife his Wisdom to†
† This word is generally us'd to express Anger, or a Sense of Injury; but comes from the French Ressentiment, and originally means no more than a sensible Apprehension, or true Feeling: as, Il avoit quelque Ressentiment de Goute. Je ne perdrai jamais le Ressentiment des Bontez que vous m'avez temoignèes. (See Miege's Dict.) In which sense it is here us'd. Resentment owes,
38 The Fool feels little, for he little knows.
39 The downright Ass is passive, mild, and tame,
40 By blows or kindness urg'd, is still the same:
41 His stoic breast no kindling passions prove,
42 Kick him you may, but you can never move.
43 O envy'd creature! who nor feels or fears,
44 Who all things suffers, all things bravely bears. [Page 13]
45 Whom neither Hope, or Fear, or Shame can move,
46 Nor kindling mounts to Rage, or melts to Love.
47 His pleasures always equal, flowing, full,
48 For ever patient and for ever dull!
49 If then from Wisdom half our pains arise,
50 Say, Masham, what avails it to be wise?
51 The greatest good proud Science can bestow,
52 But learn'd the latest, is — Our selves to know.
53 Yet after all their search, the wise complain,
54 This very knowledge irritates their pain.
55 In vain you tell me of the stoic train:
56 Where is the man not sensible of pain?
57 All find, all feel it too in some degree;
58 It makes old Zeno fret as well as me.
59 Else why not choose, for contemplation sake,
60 The burning plough-share, or the tort'ring rack?
61 If pain's no ill, why not prefer the stone
62 To velvet cushions, and to beds of down? —
63 I grant he reason'd calmly in the gout,
64 But try him farther, and you'll find him out. [Page 14]
65 Touch but his pride, at once you make him smart:
66 A stoic only, just in such a part;
67 In all the rest susceptible of pain,
68 And feels and reasons much like other men.
69 Among th' intrepid breed I know there are,
70 Who any hardship, any pains can bear.
71 To whom less shocking is th' impending sword,
72 Than to the meek of soul, a slighting word.
73 What hardy 'squires, what soldiers daily feel,
74 A thousand soft Adonises wou'd kill.
75 "Yet whence is this?" — From reason, sir, no doubt.
76 But pray, will abstract reason cure the gout?
77 Did ever axioms sooth the nervous ill?
78 Or syllogisms pay the doctor's bill?
79 Too much, I fear, of reason's aid we boast,
80 Where most 'tis wanted, there it fails us most.
81 'Tis not the soldier's reason makes him bear
82 Th' inclement season, and the toilsome war;
83 'Tis not the nice deduction of the 'squire,
84 That keeps him well and warm without a fire:[Page 15]
85 The mind does little; 'tis the body here,
86 That is, in strictness, the philosopher.
87 Those only then are truly said to bear,
88 Who feel the pain, no matter what, or where.
89 Suppose it of th' acute, or lingring kind,
90 Suppose it of the body, or the mind;
91 Suppose it touch the welfare of a friend,
92 Suppose it only at the finger's end;
93 Yet, if you feel the stroke, 'tis pain to you,
94 And if you bear it well, you're patient too.
95 For pain, as such, is neither more or less,
96 But borrows all its sting from passiveness.
97 From those nice touches which from sense arise,
98 Or which when past, reflection oft supplies.
99 In this, I grant, are infinite degrees,
100 But hence results our misery or ease:
101 Not from the stroke, so much as from the smart,
102 Not from the wound, but from the head or heart.
103 Hence Timon's peevish, Dromio mild and tame;
104 But shall we flatter one, the other blame,
105 Because their feelings are not just the same? [Page 16]
106 Yet quite a Wretch who feels and frets we call,
107 And quite a Saint who nothing feels at all.
108 This too, perchance, may serve to reconcile
109 The virgin's panicks, and the stoic's smile.
110 'Tis this makes Charlot at a spider scream —
111 This spite of reason, resolution, fame,
112 May make a soldier shrink, a saint blaspheme.
113 This to a medium every station brings,
114 This levels with their slaves the proudest kings,
115 And reconciles th' unequal face of things.
116 This inward sense, the feeling of the soul,
117 Of pain and pleasure comprehends the whole.
118 In vain soft Conti warbles in my ear,
119 If the lax nerve convey no pleasure there.
120 In vain the picture, and the splendid feast,
121 If this not strike the eye, nor that the taste.
122 Less pleas'd am I with Farinelli's note,
123 Than the rude Cobler in his merry throat:
124 He, who beneath some shatter'd bulk reclin'd,
125 Smiles at the tempest, and derides the wind. [Page 17]
126 Who hunger, dirt, and all but thirst can bear,
127 To spleen a stranger, and a foe to fear.
128 His mind no rude sensations discompose,
129 Nor smells offensive e'er affront his nose;
130 Nor high debates, nor falling stocks he minds,
131 His awful temples, lo! a fillet binds;
132 Patient he eyes the future and the past,
133 And, as a king, is happy to the last.
134 To me it seems, howe'er our lot may fall,
135 That pain and pleasure's dealt alike to all;
136 That ev'ry station has its proper ill,
137 In what we fancy, or in what we feel;
138 That ev'ry worldly pleasure we may gain,
139 Is dropt again in some attendant pain.
140 Thus wisely deals th' impartial hand of Heav'n,
141 To check our pride, and keep the ballance ev'n.
142 Tell me, ye Proud ones! who this world possess,
143 Are not the high and low, the great and less,
144 Born with an equal plea to happiness? [Page 18]
145 True, in your wants and wishes you succeed;
146 But are you better than the slaves you feed?
147 Have you more virtue who of ven'son eat,
148 Than he who thirsts and hungers at your gate?
149 Alas! with plenty, peace is seldom giv'n,
150 Nor Beccaficoes always gifts of Heav'n.
151 Tell me, ye Poor ones! and your state explain,
152 Whose patience Heav'n proportions to your pain,
153 To whom is wanting ev'ry earthly good,
154 But quiet sleeps, and appetites subdu'd;
155 Whose hopes to no wild summit ever prest,
156 No keen sensations to disturb your breast:
157 Say, why were all these wondrous blessings giv'n,
158 But to convince you of the care of Heav'n?
159 To shew how equally its gifts are lent,
160 To some in Gold, to others in Content.
161 Still those are restless, discontented these,
162 The poor for riches sigh, the rich for ease.
163 Thus Curio pines with envy at the great,
164 While you, my Lord, are sick of pomp and state. [Page 19]
165 "My fate is hard, (cries one) o'erlook'd! forgot!
166 Yet all life's comforts are my neighbour's lot.
167 See, he's posless'd of all that Heav'n can grant,
168 But I, unhappy! ev'ry blessing want;
169 His life, tho' vile, is one luxurious treat,
170 Whilst I have virtue, but not bread to eat."
171 Well, but you've friends, in health too pretty sound.
172 "That's not the case; I want — tenthousand pound."
173 Still you have — "What! no reason to complain?"
174 Perhaps not much. However, think again.
175 As yet but half this envy'd man you've seen,
176 The outside's fair indeed, but look within;
177 Perhaps there's something there corrodes his breast,
178 That cruel something, common to the rest:
179 Some fav'rite wish too wild, or weak to own,
180 Some secret pang, to all besides unknown.
181 Or with his blessings, count his want of health,
182 And to the pleasures, add the plagues of wealth:
183 On ev'ry side the envy'd creature view,
184 Then tell me which is happiest, He or You? [Page 20]
185 Possessing all things, cou'd we all enjoy,
186 Wou'd neither appetites, nor objects cloy,
187 Were ev'ry sense, each pleasing passion keen,
188 Not pall'd by surfeits, nor chastis'd with spleen;
189 How blest the rich! how curst indeed the poor!
190 One to enjoy, the other to endure.
191 But why repine at what to wealth is giv'n?
192 Since gouts and cholics set the matter ev'n.
193 Behold the man of luxury and wine!
194 His station too, it seems, is hard as thine.
195 What, tho' for him our stateliest turbots swim,
196 And France her vines luxuriant prunes for him;
197 Yet he complains, when lab'ring thro' the feast,
198 Of loss of appetite, and want of taste;
199 Envies the very beggar at his gate,
200 Who hardly knows the luxury to eat.
201 But what? your barns are full, your rents increase;
202 Sir Robert too has promis'd you a Place.
203 Have comfort, man! let not your spirits fail!
204 Perhaps to morrow you may relish quail. [Page 21]
205 Think rather of the pleasures which you share,
206 And learn their inconveniencies to bear.
207 Rejoice in cray-fish soup! be glad in trout!
208 But pray have patience, when you feel the gout;
209 Sit down resign'd, when cholics rack your breast,
210 Or rise, like Bethel, from th' intemp'rate feast.
211 Thus each has something to enjoy, and bear;
212 And none may envy much his neighbour's share.
213 Envy! the source of half the wretched feel,
214 And where it strikes, the hardest wound to heal.
215 Yet why repine at what my neighbours taste?
216 Since I in something else am just as blest.
217 To me perhaps kind heav'n indulgent grants
218 The spirits, health, or limbs my neighbour wants;
219 To me has giv'n a quicker sense of shame,
220 While he feels nothing of contempt or blame:
221 To me no acres of paternal ground,
222 To him the spleen and fifty thousand pound.
223 If doom'd severer trials to sustain,
224 Some secret pow'r may blunt the edge of pain:[Page 22]
225 The keen sensation use may reconcile,
226 And added Hope affliction's sting beguile.
227 Wou'd you enquire, why man's to suff'ring born;
228 To feel his frailties, and his nature mourn?
229 Why each has his peculiar ill assign'd,
230 Some pain of body, or some plague of mind;
231 Some lingring malady for years endur'd,
232 Some hopeless passion, never to be cur'd:
233 And why not rather temp'rate, wise, serene,
234 Without all healthful, and all peace within?
235 Know, thankless man! that He, who rules the ball,
236 In goodness infinite permits it all.
237 For nat'ral Evil, rightly understood,
238 Works but the grand design, our moral Good;
239 And he unjustly of his lot complains,
240 Who finds his strength proportion'd to his pains.
241 This life, with pain and pleasure intermixt,
242 Is but a state of trial for the next;
243 A stage, on which amid 'the vary'd scenes,
244 Promiscuous Cesars tread with Harlequins. [Page 23]
245 Where none of all the self-admiring train,
246 May choose his part, or strut his hour again:
247 Our bus'ness only thro' the measur'd span,
248 To act it well, and wisely as we can.
249 Pain was permitted in the various part,
250 To check the manners, and chastise the heart;
251 To blunt the appetite to moral ill;
252 To curb, restrain, and rectify the will;
253 To call us back from ev'ry wild pursuit;
254 To clear the soil for virtue's plants to shoot;
255 To move compassion for our neighbour's ill,
256 And teach us where to weep, from what we feel:
257 To fix, to urge the bus'ness of our span;
258 To raise the hero, and to mend the man.
259 Strong trials must the headstrong temper break,
260 As gentler methods oft reclaim the meek.
261 When lightnings flash, the most obdurate mind
262 Some efforts sure of penitence must find:
263 Ev'n Felix trembles at a gen'ral doom,
264 And owns the terrors of a world to come. [Page 24]
265 These are the ends for which afflictions came,
266 To rouze our reason, and our passions tame;
267 To set fair Virtue in her proper light,
268 And fix the wavering attention right.
269 What tho' your part amid 'the gen'ral scene,
270 Too high or hard appear, too low or mean;
271 Beset with wants, with cares and fears opprest,
272 The sport of fortune, and of men the jest:
273 Yet wait awhile, whatever chance befal,
274 Heav'n's ways are equal, thine unequal all.
275 Here but as strangers journeying for a space,
276 To seek some sure, some distant resting-place;
277 Some perils by the way we must endure,
278 The cruel robber, and the night obscure.
279 Yet, arm'd with Patience, let us boldly dare,
280 The end is certain, and the prospect fair.
281 He, who proportions largely all our gain,
282 Weighs ev'ry loss, and counts out ev'ry pain;
283 Sees all our frailties, measures dust by dust,
284 In all he gives and takes, supremely just:[Page 25]
285 That pow'r eternal will our steps befriend,
286 And guide us safely to our journey's end;
287 Where ev'ry pang, where ev'ry fear shall cease,
288 And each immortal guest subside to peace.
289 To him who suffer'd well, will much be giv'n,
290 And Patience wear the brightest wreath in Heav'n.
291 For you, my Lord, in various conflicts seen,
292 Not spoil'd with peevishness, nor sow'rd with spleen,
293 The best of tempers, and the best of men:
294 For you, alas! one trial yet remains;
295 O suffer righteously these proving strains!
296 And if unmov'd, unruffled you can hear,
297 What Patience 'self perchance could hardly bear;
298 If yet this forer trial you survive,
299 Your Lordship is the patient'st man alive.