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ON THE LIBELS WRITTEN AGAINST HIM,
Tanti tibi non sit opaci
Omnis arena Tagi.
As some raw youth in country bred, To arms by thirst of honour led, When at a skirmish first he hears The bullets whistling round his ears, Will duck bis head aside, will start, And feel a trembling at his heart, Till scaping oft without a wound Lessens the terror of the sound; Fly bullets now as thick as hops, He runs into a cannon's chops : An author thus, who pants for fame, Begins the world with fear and shame: When first in print you see him dread Each popgun level'd at his head : The lead yon critic's quill contains Is destined to beat out his brains : As if he heard loud thunders roll, Cries, Lord, have mercy on his soul! Concluding that another shot Will strike him dead upon the spot: But when with squibbing, flashing, popping, He cannot see one creature dropping, That missing fire, or missing aim, His life is safe, I mean his fame,
The danger pass'd, takes heart of grace, And looks a critic in the face.
Though splendour gives the fairest mark To poison'd arrows from the dark, Yet in yourself when smooth and round They glance aside without a wound.
'Tis said the gods tried all their art
How Pain they might from Pleasure part;
But little could their strength avail;
Both still are fasten'd by the tail :
Thus Fame and Censure with a tether
By Fate are always link'd together.
Why will you aim to be preferr'd
In wit before the common herd,
And yet grow mortified and vex'd
To pay the penalty annex'd ?
'Tis eminence makes envy rise,
As fairest fruits attract the flies.
Should stupid libels grieve your mind,
You soon a remedy may find;
Lie down obscure, like other folks,
Below the lash of snarlers' jokes:
Their faction is five hundred odds,
For every coxcomb lends them rods,
And sneers as learnedly as they,
Like females o'er their morning tea.
You say the Muse will not contain,
And write you must, or break a vein.
Then if you find the terms too hard,
No longer my advice regard,
But raise your fancy on the wing;
The Irish senate's praises sing ;
* In seipso tolus teres atque rotundus.
How jealous of the nation's freedom!
And for corruptions, how they weed 'em!
How each the public good pursues,
How far their hearts from private views !
Make all true patriots, up to shoe-boys,
Huzza their brethren at the Blue-boys *.
Thus grown a member of the club,
No longer dread the rage of Grub.
How oft am I for rhyme to seek !
To dress a thought I toil a week;
And then how thankful to the town,
If all my pains will earn a crown!
Whilst every critic can devour
My work and me in half an hour.
Would men of genius cease to write,
The rogues must die for want and spite ;
Must die for want of food and raiment,
If scandal did not find them payment.
How cheerfully the hawkers cry
A Satire! and the gentry buy;
While my hard labour'd poem pines
Unsold upon the printer's lines.
A genius in the reverend gown
Must ever keep its owner down;
"Tis an unnatural conjunction,
And spoils the credit of the function.
Round all your brethren cast your eyes;
Point out the surest men to rise ;
That club of candidates in black,
The least deserving of the pack,
Aspiring, factious, fierce, and loud,
With grace and learning unendowed,
• The Irish parliament sat at the Blue-boy's Hospital while the new parliament-house was building.
Can turn their hands to every job,
The fittest tools to work for Bob *:
Will sooner coin a thousand lies
Than suffer men of parts to rise ;
They crowd about Preferment's gate,
And press you down with all their weight;
For as of old mathematicians
Were by the vulgar thought magicians,
So academic dull ale-drinkers
Pronounce all men of wit Freethinkers.
Wit, as the chief of Virtue's friends,
Disdains to serve ignoble ends;
Observe what loads of stupid rhymes
Oppress us in corrupted times;
What pamphlets in a court's defence
Show reason, grammar, truth, or sense?
For though the Muse delights in fiction,
She ne'er inspires against conviction,
Then keep your virtue still unmix'd,
And let not faction come betwixt;
By party-steps no grandeur climb at,
Though it would make you England's primate :
First learn the science to be dull,
You then may soon your conseience lull;
If not, however seated high,
Your genius in your face will fly.
When Jove was from his teeming head
Of Wit's fair goddess brought to bed,
There follow'd at his lying-in,
For afterbirth, a sooterkin,
Which, as the nurse pursued to kill,
Attain’d by flight the Muses' hill,
* Sir Robert Walpole, afterwards Earl of Orford.
There in the soil began to root,
And litter'd at Parnassus' foot.
From hence the critic-vermin sprung,
With harpy claws and poisonous tongue,
Who fatten on poetic scraps,
Too cunning to be caught in traps.
Dame Nature, as the learned show,
Provides each animal its foe;
Hounds hunt the hare, the wily fox
Devours your geese, the wolf your flocks :
Thus Envy pleads a natural claim
To persecute the Muses' fame,
On poets in all times abusive,
From Homer down to Pope inclusive.
Yet what avails it to complain?
You try to take revenge in vain.
A rat your utmost rage defies,
That safe behind the wainscot lies.
Say, did you ever know by sight
In cheese an individual mite ?
Show me the same numeric flea
That bit your neck but yesterday ;
You then may boldly go in quest
To find the Grub-street poets' nest;
What spunging-house, in dread of jail,
Receives them while they wait for bail ;
What alley are they nestled in,
To flourish o'er a cup of gin;
Find the last garret where they lay,
Or cellar where they starve to-day,
Suppose you had them all trepann'd,
With each a libel in his hand,
What punishment would you inflict !
Or call them rogues, or get them kick'd ?