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Again you fail; yet safe's the word;
Take courage, and attempt a third :
But first with care employ your thoughts
Where critics mark'd your former faults ;
The trivial turns, the borrow'd wit,
The similes that nothing fit;
The cant which every fool repeats,
Town jests, and coffeehouse conceits;
Descriptions tedious, flat, and dry,
And introduced the Lord knows why;
Or where we find your fury set
Against the harmless alphabet;
On A's and B's your malice vent,
While readers wonder whom you meant;
A public or a private robber,
A statesman, or a South Sea jobber;
A prelate, who no God believes;
A parliament, or den of thieves;
A pickpurse at the bar or bench;
A duchess, or a suburb wench;
A House of Peers, a gaming crew;
A griping lawyer, or a Jew.
Or oft, when epithets you link
In gaping lines to fill a chink,
Like stepping stones to save a stride
In streets where kennels are too wide;
Or like a heelpiece to support
A cripple, with one foot too short;
Or like a bridge that joins a marish
To moorlands of a different parish.
So have I seen ill coupled hounds
Drag different ways in miry grounds ;
So geographers in Afric maps
With savage pictures fill their gaps,
And o'er unhabitable downs
Place elephants for want of towns.
But though you miss your third essay,
You need not throw your pen away.
Lay now aside all thoughts of fame,
To spring more profitable game.
From party-merit seek support;
The vilest verse thrives best at court:
And may you ever have the luck
To rhyme almost as ill as Duck;
And though you never learn’d to scan verse,
Come out with some lampoon on D'Anvers.
A pamphlet in Sir Bob's defence
Will never fail to bring in pence :
Nor be concern'd about the sale,
He pays his workmen on the nail.
Display the blessings of the nation,
And praise the whole administration :
Extol the bench of bishops round;
Who at them rail, bid confound:
To bishop haters answer thus
(The only logic used by us),
What though they don't believe in
Deny them Protestants—thou liest.
A prince, the moment he is crown'd,
Inherits every virtue round,
As emblems of the sovereign power,
Like other baubles in the tower;
Is generous, valiant, just, and wise,
And so continues till he dies :
His humble senate this professes
In all th speeches, votes, addresses;
But once you fix him in a tomb,
His virtues fade, his vices bloom,
And each perfection, wrong imputed,
Is fully at his death confuted.
The loads of poems in his praise,
Ascending, make one funeral blaze;
His panegyrics then are ceased;
He grows a tyrant, dunce, or beast:
As soon as you can hear his knell,
This god on earth turns devil in hell:
And, lo! his ministers of state,
Transform’d to imps, his levee wait,
Where, in the scenes of endless woe,
They ply their former arts below;
And as they sail in Charon's boat,
Contrive to bribe the judge's vote.
To Cerberus they give a sop,
His triple barking mouth to stop ;
Or in the ivory gate of dreams *
Project Excise and South Sea schemes;
Or hire their party-pamphleteers
To set Elysium by the ears.
Then, poet! if you mean to thrive,
Employ your Muse on kings alive,
With prudence gathering up a cluster
Of all the virtues you can muster,
Which, form'd into a garland sweet,
Lay humbly at your monarch's feet,
Who, as the odours reach his throne,
Will smile, and think them all his own;
For law and gospel doth determine
All virtues lodge in royal ermine
(I mean the oracles of both,
Who shall depose it upon oath).
* Sunt geminæ somni portæ, &c.
Altera candenti perfecta nitens elephanto.
Your garland in the following reign, Change but the names, will do again.
But if you think this trade too base (Which seldom is the dunce's case), Put on the critic's brow, and sit At Will's, the puny judge of wit. A'nod, a shrug, a scornful smile, With caution used, may serve a while : Proceed no farther in your part Before you learn the terms of art; For you can never be too far gone In all our modern critics' jargon : Then talk with more authentic face Of unities in time and place; Get scraps of Horace from your friends, And have them at your fingers' ends ; Learn Aristotle's rules by rote, And at all hazards boldly quote; Judicious Rymer oft review, Wise Dennis, and profound Bossu : Read all the prefaces of Dryden, For these our critics much confide in (Though merely writ at first for filling, To raise the volume's price a shilling).
A forward critic often dupes us With sham quotations Peri Hupsous And if we have not read Longinus Will magisterially outshine us. Then, lest with Greek he overrun ye, Procure the book, for love or money, Translated from Boileau's translation t, And quote quotation on quotation.
At Will's you hear a poem read, Where Battus from the table-head, Reclining on his elbow-chair, Gives judgment with decisive air; To whom the tribe of circling wits As to an oracle submits : He gives directions to the town To cry it up, or run it down, Like courtiers when they send a note, Instructing members how to vote; He sets the stamp of bad and good, Though not a word be understood. Your lesson learn’d, you'll be secure To get the name of connoisseur, And when your merits once are known, Procure disciples of your own: For poets (you can never want 'em) Spread through Augusta Trinobantum *, Computing by their pecks of coals, Amount to just nine thousand souls: These o'er their proper districts govern, Of wit and humour judges sovereign, In every street a city bard Rules, like an alderman his ward; His indisputed rights extend Through all the lane from end to end; The neighbours round admire his shrewdness For songs of loyalty and lewdness ; Outdone by none in rhyming well, Although he never learn'd to spell.
Two bordering wits contend for glory, And one is Whig, and one is Tory;
# The ancient name of London.