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Eager to catch the visionary prize,
50 Till madly zealous, impotently vain, He forfeits ev'ry praise he pants to gain.
Thus still imperious Nature plies her part, And still her dictates work in ev'ry heart. Each pow'r that sov'reign Nature bids enjoy 55 Man may corrupt, but man can ne'er destroy: Like mighty rivers, with resistless force The passions rage, obstructed in their course; Swell to new heights, forbidden paths explore, And drown those virtues which they fed before. 60
And sure the deadliest foe to virtue's flame, Or worst of evils, is perverted shame: Beneath this load what abject numbers groan, Th’ entangled slaves to folly not their own! Meanly by fashionable fear opprest, We seek our virtues in each other's breast; Blind to ourselves, adopt each foreign vice, Another's weakness, int’rest, or caprice. Each fool to low ambition, poorly great, That pines in splendid wretchedness of state, 70 Tir'd in the treach'rous chase, would nobly yield, And, but for shame, like Sylla, quit the field : The dæmon Shame paints strong the ridicule, And whispers close, “ The world will call you fool."
Behold yon wretch, by impious fashion driv'n, 75 Believes and trembles while he scoffs at heav'n. By weakness strong, and bold thro’ fear alone, He dreads the sneer by shallow coxcombs thrown; Dauntless pursues the path Spinoza trod; To man a coward, and a brave to God.
80 Faith, Justice, heav’n itself, now quit their hold, When to false fame the captiv'd heart is sold : Hence, blind to truth, relentless Cato dy'd; Nought could subdue his virtue but his pride ; Hence chaste Lucretia's innocence betray'd, Fell by that honour which was meant its aid. Thus Virtue sinks beneath unnumber'd woes, When passions, born her friends, revolt her foes.
Hence Satire's pow'r: 'tis her corrective part To calm the wild disorders of the heart.
90 She points the arduous height where glory lies, And teaches mad Ambition to be wise; In the dark bosom wakes the fair desire, Draws good from ill, a brighter flame from fire; Strips black Oppression of a gay disguise, 95 And bids the hag in native horror rise; Strikes tow’ring Pride and lawless Rapine dead, And plants the wreath on Virtue's awful head.
Nor boasts the Muse a vain imagin’d pow'r, Tho' oft she mourns those ills she cannot cure, 100
The worthy court her, and the worthless fear;
Swift to redress an injur'd peoples' groan,
But with the friends of Vice, the foes of Satire,
Well may they dread the Muse's fatal skill;
O sordid maxim, form'd to screen the vile,
150 Scarce more the friend of man, the wise must own, Ev'n Allen's bounteous hand than Satire's frown:
'This to chastise, as that to bless, was giv'n, Alike the faithful ministers of heav'n.
Oft in unfeeling hearts the shaft is spent; 155 Tho' strong th’ example, weak the punishment. They least are paid who merit Satire most; Folly the Laureat’s, vice was Chartres' boast: Then where's the wrong to gibbet high the name Of fools and knaves already dead to shame? 160 Oft Satire acts the faithful Surgeon's part; Gen'rous and kind, tho' painful, is her art: With caution bold, she only strikes to heal, Tho' Folly raves to break the friendly steel : Then sure no fault impartial Satire knows, 165 Kind ev'n in vengeance, kind to Virtue's foes. Whose is the crime the scandal too be theirs : The Knave and Fool are their own libellers.