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Succeeds much better than the shallow verse
And chiming trifles of more studious pens.
Greece had a genius, Greece had eloquence,
For her ambition and her end was fame.
Our Roman youth is diligently taught
The deep mysterious art of growing rich,
And the first words that children learn to speak
Are of the value of the names of coin.
Can a penurious wretch, that with his milk
Hath suck'd the basest dregs of usury,
Pretend to generous and heroic thoughts?
Can rust and avarice write lasting lines :
But you, brave youth, wise Numa's worthy heir,
Remember of what weight your judgment is,
And never venture to commend a book,
That has not pass'd all judges and all tests.
A poet should instruct, or please, or both. Let all your precepts be succinct and clear, That ready wits may comprehend them soon, And faithful memories retain them long. All superfluities are soon forgot. Never be so conceited of your parts, To think you may persuade us what you please, (or venture to bring in a child alive, That cannibals have murder'd and devour’d. Old age explodes all but morality; Austerity offends aspiring youths; But he that joins instruction with delight, Profit with pleasure, carries all the votes. These are the volumes that enrich the shops, These pass with admiration through the world, And bring their author to eternal fame.
Be not too rigidly censorious, A string may jar in the best master's hand, And the most skilful archer miss his aim; But in a poem elegantly writ, I would not quarrel with a slight mistaker Such as our nature's frailty may excuse; But he that hath been often told his fault, And still persists, is as impertinent As a musician that will always play, And yet is always out at the same note: When such a positive abandon'd fop (Among his numerous absurdities) Stumbles upon some tolerable line, lfret to see them in such company, And wonder by what magic they came there. But in long works sleep will sometimes surprise; Homer himself hath been observ'd to nod. Poems, like pictures, are of different sorts, Some better at a distance, others near, Some love the dark, some choose the clearest light, And boldly challenge the most piercing eye; Some please for once, some will for ever please. But, Piso. (though your knowledge of the world, Join'd with your father's precepts, make you wise) Remember this as an important truth, Some things admit of mediocrity; A counsellor, or pleader at the bar, May want Messala's powerful eloquence, 9, be less read than deep Cascellius; **this indifferent lawyer is esteem'd;
But no authority of gods nor men
Allow of any mean in poesy.
As an ill concert, and a coarse perfume, -
Disgrace the delicacy of a feast,
And might with more discretion have been spar'd;
So poesy, whose end is to delight,
Admits of no degrees, but must be still
Sublimely good, or despicably ill.
In other things men have some reason left,
And one that cannot dance, or fence, or run,
Despai ring of success, forbears to try;
But all (without consideration) write; -
Some thinking that th' omnipotence of wealth
Can turn them into poets when they please.
But, Piso, you are of too quick a sight
Not to discern which way your talent lies,
Or vainly with your genius to contend;
Yet if it ever be your fate to write,
Let your productions pass the strictest hands,
Mine and your father's, and not see the light
Till time and care have ripen'd every line.
What you keep by you, you may change and mend;
But words once spoke can never be recall’d.
Orpheus, inspir’d by more than human power,
Did not, as poets feign, tame savage beasts,
But men as lawless and as wild as they,
And first dissuaded them from rage and blood.
Thus, when Amphion built the Theban wall,
They feign'd the stones obey'd his magic lute:
Poets, the first insouctors of mankind,
Brought all things to their proper, native use;
Some they appropriated to the Gods,
And some to public, some to private ends:
Promiscuous love by marriage was restrain'd,
Cities were built, and useful laws were made:
So great was the divinity of verse,
And such observance to a poet paid.
Then Homer's and Tyrtaeus' martial Muse
Waken'd the world, and sounded loud alarms.
To verse we owe the sacred oracles,
And our best precepts of morality:
Some have by verse obtain'd the love of kings,
(Who with the Muses ease their weary'd minds.)
Then blush not, noble Piso, to protect
What Gods inspire, and kings delight to hear.
Some think that poets may be form'd by art;
Others maintain that Nature makes them so:
I neither see what art without a vein,
Nor wit without the help of art can do;
But mutually they crave each other's aid.
He that intends to gain th’ Olympic prize,
Must use himself to hunger, heat, and cold,
Take leave of wine and the soft joys of love;
And no musician dares pretend to skill,
Without a great expense of time and pains:
But every little busy scribbler now
Swells with the praises which he gives himself,
And, taking sanctuary in the crowd,
Brags of his impudence, and scorns to mend.
A wealthy poet takes more pains to hire
A flattering audience, than poor tradesmen do
To persuade customers to buy their goods.
'Tis hard to find a man of great estate,
That can distinguish flatterers from friends.
Never delude yourself, nor read your book
Before a brib'd and fawning auditor;
For he'll commend and feign an extasy,
Grow pale or weep, do any thing to please.
True friends appear less mov'd than counterfeit ;
As men that truly grieve at funerals,
Are not so loud as those that cry for hire.
wise were the kings who never chose a friend,
Till with full cups they had unmask'd his soul,
And seen the bottom of his deepest thoughts.
You cannot arm yourself with too much care
Against the smiles of a designing knave.
Quintilius (if his advice were ask'd)
would freely tell you what you should correct,
Or, if you could not, bid you blot it out,
And with more care supply the vacancy 5
But if he found you fond and obstinate
(And apter to defend than mend your faults),
With silence leave you to admire yourself,
And without rival hug your darling book.
The prudent care of an impartial friend
Will give you notice of each idle line,
Shew what sounds harsh, and what wants orna-
Or where it is too lavishly bestow'd;
Make you explain all that he finds obscure,
And with a strict inquiry mark your faults;
Nor for these trifles fear to lose your love.
Those things which now seem frivolous and slight,
Will be of a most serious consequence,
When they have made you once ridiculous.
' A poetaster, in his raging fit,
(Follow'd and pointed at by fools and boys)
Is dreaded and proscrib'd by men of sense:
They make a lane for the polluted thing,
And fly as from th' infection of the plague,
Or from a man whom, for a just revenge,
Fanatic phrenzy sent by Heaven pursues.
If (in the raving of a frantic Muse)
And minding more his verses than his way,
Any of these should drop into a well,
Though he might burst his lungs to call for help,
No creature would assist or pity him,
But seem to think he fell on purpose in.
Hear how an old Sicilian poet dy'd :
Empedocles, mad to be thought a god,
In a cold fit leap'd into AEtna's flames.
Give poets leave to make themselves away;
Why should it be a greater sin to kill,
Than to keep men alive against their will 2
Nor was this chance, but a deliberate choice;
For if Empedocles were now reviv'd,
He would be at his frolic once again,
And his pretensions to divinity.
'Tis hard to say, whether for sacrilege,
Or incest, or some more unheard-of crime,
The rhyming fiend is sent into these men:
But they are all most visibly possest,
And, like a baited bear when he breaks loose,
Without distinction seize on all they meet:
None ever 'scap'd that came within their reach,
Sticking like leeches, till they burst with blood;
Without remorse insatiably they read,
And never leave till they have read men dead.
THE CHOICE. If Heaven the grateful liberty would give, That I might choose my method how to live; And all those hours propitious Fate should lend, In blissful ease and satisfaction spend ; Near some fair town I’d have a private seat, Built uniform, not little, nor too great; Better, if on a rising ground it stood; On this side fields, on that a neighbouring wood. I should within no other things contain But what are useful, necessary, plain: Methinks 'tis nauseous; and I'd ne'er endure The needless pomp of gaudy furniture. A little garden, grateful to the eye; And a cool rivulet run murmuring by: On whose delicious banks a stately row Of shady limes, or sycamores, should grow. At th' end of which a silent study plac'd, Should be with all the noblest authors grac'd: Horace and Virgil, in whose mighty lines Immortal wit, and solid learning, shines; Sharp Juvenal, and amorous Ovid too, Who all the turns of love's soft passion knew: He that with judgment reads his charming lines, In which strong art with stronger nature joins, Must grant his fancy does the best excel; His thoughts so tender, and express'd so well. With all those moderns, men of steady sense, Esteem'd for learning, and for eloquence. In some of these, as fancy should advise, I'd always take my morning exercise: For sure no minutes bring us more content, Than those in pleasing, useful studies spent. Td have a clear and competent estate, That I might live genteelly, but not great: As much as I could moderately spend; A little more, sometimes to oblige a friend. Nor should the sons of poverty repine Too much at fortune, they should taste of mine; And all that objects of true pity were, Should be reliev'd with what my wants could spare; For that our Maker has too largely given, Should be return’d in gratitude to Heaven. A frugal plenty should my table spread; With healthy, not luxurious, dishes spread; Enough to satisfy, and something more, To seed the stranger, and the neighbouring poor. Strong meat indulges vice, and pampering food Creates diseases, and inflames the blood. But what's sufficient to make nature strong, And the bright lamp of life continue long, I'd freely take; and, as I did possess, The bounteous Author of my plenty bless. Td have a little vault, but always stor'd
With the best wines each vintage could afford.
Wine whets the wit, improves its native force,
And gives a pleasant flavour to discourse;
By making all our spirits debonair,
Throws off the lees, the sediment of care.
But as the greatest blessing Heaven lends
May be debauch'd, and serve ignoble ends;
So, but too oft, the grape's refreshing juice
Does many mischievous effects produce.
My house should no such rude disorders know,
As from high drinking consequently flow;
Nor would I use what was so kindly given,
To the dishonour of indulgent Heaven.
If any neighbour came, he should be free,
Us'd with respect, and not uneasy be,
In my retreat, or to himself or me.
What freedom, prudence, and right reason gave,
All men may, with impunity, receive:
But the least swerving from their rule's too much;
For what's forbidden us, 'tis death to touch.
That life may be more comfortable yet,
And all my joys refin'd, sincere, and great;
I’d choose two friends, whose company would be
A great advance to my felicity:
Well-born, of humours suited to my own,
Discreet, and men as well as books have known:
Brave, generous, witty, and exactly free
From loose behaviour, or formality:
Airy and prudent; merry, but not light;
Quick in discerning, and in judging right:
Secret they should be, faithful to their trust;
In reasoning cool, strong, temperate, and just;
Obliging, open; without huffing, brave;
Brisk in gay talking, and in sober grave:
Close in dispute, but not tenacious; try’d
By solid reason, and let that decide:
Not prone to lust, revenge, or envious hate;
Nor busy medlers with intrigues of state:
Strangers to slander, and sworn foes to spite ;
Not quarrelsome, but stout enough to fight;
Loyal, and pious, friends to Caesar; true,
As dying Martyrs, to their Maker too.
In their society I could not miss
A permanent, sincere, substantial bliss. [choose
Would bounteous Heaven once more indulge, I'd
(For who would so much satisfaction lose,
As witty nymphs, in conversation, give)
Near some obliging modest fair to live:
For there's that sweetness in a female mind,
Which in a man's we cannot hope to find ;
That, by a secret, but a powerful art,
Winds up the spring of life, and does impart
Fresh vital heat to the transported heart.
I'd have her reason all her passion sway:
Easy in company, in private gay;
Coy to a fop, to the deserving free;
Still constant to herself, and just to me.
A soul she should have for great actions fit;
Prudence and wisdom to direct her wit:
Courage to look bold danger in the face;
No fear, but only to be proud, or base :
Quick to advise, by an emergence prest,
To give good counsel, or to take the best.
I'd have th' expression of her thoughts be such,
She might not seem reserv'd, nor talk too much:
That shews a want of judgment, and of sense;
More than enough is but impertinence.
Her conduct regular, her mirth refin'd;
Civil to strangers, to her neighbours kind;
Averse to vanity, revenge, and pride;
In all the methods of deceit untry'd :
So faithful to her friend, and good to all,
No censure might upon her actions fall:
Then would ev’n envy be compell'd to say,
She goes the least of womankind astray.
To this fair creature I’d sometimes retire;
Her conversation would new joys inspire;
Give life an edge so keen, no surly care
Would venture to assault my soul, or dare,
Near my retreat, to hide one secret snare.
But so divine, so noble a repast
I’d seldom, and with moderation, taste:
For highest cordials all their virtue lose,
By a too frequent and too bold a use;
And what would cheer the spirits in distress, Ruins our health, when taken to excess. I'd be concern'd in no litigious jar; Belov’d by all, not vainly popular. Whate'er assistance I had power to bring, To oblige my country, or to serve my king, Whene'er they call, I’d readily afford My tongue, my pen, my counsel, or my sword. Law-suits I'd shun with as much studious care As I would dens where hungry lions are; And rather put up injuries, than be A plague to him, who'd be a plague to me. I value quiet at a price too great, To give for my revenge so dear a rate: For what do we by all our bustle gain, But counterfeit delight for real pain If Heaven a date of many years would give, Thus I’d in pleasure, ease, and plenty live. And as I near approach'd the verge of life, Some kind relation (for I'd have no wife) Should take upon him all my worldly care, Whilst I did for a better state prepare. Then I'd not be with any trouble vex'd, Nor have the evening of my days perplex'd; But by a silent and a peaceful death, Without a sigh, resign my aged breath. And when committed to the dust, I'd have Few tears, but friendly, dropt into my grave; Then would my exit so propitious be, All men would wish to live and die like me.