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To the Right Honourable the Earl of Litchfield.
LORENZO! to recriminate is just.
Fondness of fame is avarice of air.
I grant the man is vain who writes for praise.
Praise no man e'er deserv'd, who sought no more.
As just thy second charge. grant the muse
Has often blush'd at her degen’rate sons,
Retain'd by sense to plead her filthy cause ;
To raise the low, to magnify the mean,
And subtilize the gross into refin’d:
As if to magic numbers' pow'rful charm
'Twas giv'n, to make a civit of their song
Obscene, and sweeten ordure to perfume.
Wit, a true Pagan, deifies the brute,
And lifts our swine-enjoyments from the mire.
The fact notorious, nor obscure the cause.
We wear the chains of pleasure, and of pride :
These share the man, and these distract him too;
Draw diff'rent ways, and clash in their commands.
Pride, like an Eagle, builds among the stars ;
But pleasure, Lark-like, nests upon the ground.
Joys shar'd by brute-creation, pride resents;
Pleasure embraces : Man would both enjoy,
And both at once : A point how hard to gain !
But what can't wit, when stung by strong desire ?
Wit dares attempt this arduous enterprize.
Since joys of sense can't rise to Reason's taste;
In subtle sophistry's laborious forge.
Wit hammers out a reason new, that stoops
To sordid scenes, and meets them with applause.
Wit calls the graces the chaste zone to loose ;
Nor less than a plump god to fill the bowl:
A thousand phantoms, and a thousand spells,
A thousand opiates scatters, to delude,
To fascinate, inebriate, lay asleep,
And the fool'd mind delightfully confound.
Thus that which shock'd the judgment, shocks no
That which gave pride offence, no more offends.
Pleasure and pride, by nature, mortal foes,
At war eternal, which in man shall reign,
By wit's address, patch up a fatal peace,
And, hand in hand, lead on the rank debauch,
From rank, refin'd to delicate and gay.
Art, cursed art! wipes off th' indebted blush
From Nature's cheek, and bronzes ev'ry shame.
Man smiles in ruin, glories in his guilt,
And infamy stands candidate for praise.
All writ by man in favour of the soul,
These sensual Ethics far, in bulk, transcend.
The flow'rs of eloquence, profusely pour'd
O'er spotted vice, fill half the letter'd world.
Can pow'rs of genius exorcise their page,
And consecrate enormities with song?
But let not these inexpiable strains
Condemn the muse that knows her dignity;
Nor meanly stops at time, but holds the world
As 'tis, in nature's ample field, a point,
A point in her esteem ; from whence to start,
And run the round of universal space,
To visit being universal there,
And being's source, that utmost flight of mind !
Yet, spite of this so vast circumference,
Well knows, but what is moral, nought is great."
Sing Syrens only? Do not angels sing?
There is in Poesy a decent pride,"
Which well becomes her when she speaks to Prose,
Her younger sister ; haply, not more wise.
Think'st thou, LORENZO ! to find pastimes here? No guilty passion blown into a flame, No foible flatter'd, dignity disgrac'd, No fairy field of fiction, all on flow'r, No rainbow colours, here, or silken tale: But solemn counsels, images of awe, Truths, which eternity lets fall on map With double weight, through these revolving spheres, This death-deep silence, and incumbent shade ; Thoughts, such as shall re-visit your last hour ; Visit uncalld, and live when life expires ; And thy dark pencil, midnight! darker still In melancholy dipt, embrowns the whole.
Yet this, ev’n this, my laughter-loving friends! LORENZO! and thy brothers of the smile !
If what imports you most, can most engage,
Shall steal your ear, and chain you to my song.:
Or, if you fail me, know, the wise shall taste
The truths I sing ; the truths I sing shall feel;
And, feeling, give assent; and their assent
Is an ple recompense; is more than praise.
But chiefly thine, O LITCHFIELD! nor mistake; :
Think not unintroduc'd I force my way;
NARCISSA, not unknown, not unally'd,
By virtue, or by blood, illustrious Youth!
To thee, froin blooming Amaranthine bow'rs,
Where all the language harmony, descends
Uncall'd, and asks admittance for the muse :
A muse that will not pain thee with thy praise;
Thy praise she drops, by nobler still inspir’d.
O thou ! blest spirit! whether the supreme,
Great ante-mundane Father! in whose breast
Embryo creation, unborn being, dwelt, .
And all its various revolutions roll'd
Present, though-future; prior to themselves ;
Whose breath can blow it into nought again ;
Or, from his throne some delegated pow'r,
Who, studious of our peace, dost turn the thought
From vain and vile, to solid and sublime !
Unseen, thou lead'st me to delicious draughts
Of inspiration, from a purer stream,
And fuller of the God, than that which burst
From fam'd Castalia : Nor is yet allay'd
My sacred thirst; though long my soul has rang'd.
Through pleasing paths of moral and divine,
By thee sustain'd, and lighted by the STARS.
By them best lighted are the paths of thought; Nights are their days, their most illumin'd hours.