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Eager to catch the visionary prize,
In quest of glory plunges deep in vice;
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
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,
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.
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. 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, 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.
The worthy court her, and the worthless fear;
Who shun her piercing eye that eye revere,
Her awful voice the vain and vile obey,
And ev'ry foe to wisdom feels her sway.
Smarts, pedants, as she smiles, no more are vain;
Desponding Fops resign the clouded cane:
Hush'd at her voice, pert Folly's self is still,
And Dulness wonders while she drops her quill.
Like the arm'd bee, with art most subtly true,
From poisonous vice she draws a healing dew.
Weak are the ties that civil arts can find
To quell the ferment of a tainted mind:
Cunning evades, securely wrapt in wiles,
And Force, strong-sinew'd, rend th' unequal toils;
The stream of vice impetuous drives along,
Too deep for Policy, for Pow'r too strong.
Ev'n fair Religion, native of the skies,
Scorn'd by the crowd, seeks refuge with the wise;
The crowd with laughter spurns her awful train,
And Mercy courts, and Justice frowns in vain. 120
But Satire's shaft can pierce the harden'd breast;
She plays a ruling passion on the rest;
Undaunted storms the batt'ry of his pride,
And awes the brave that earth and heav'n defy'd.
When fell Corruption, by her vassals crown'd, 125
Derides fall'n Justice prostrate on the ground,
Swift to redress an injur'd peoples' groan,
Bold Satire shakes the tyrant on her throne;
Pow'rful as Death, defies the sordid train,
And slaves and sycophants surround in vain.
But with the friends of Vice, the foes of Satire,
All truth is spleen, all just reproof ill-nature.
Well may they dread the Muse's fatal skill;
Well may they tremble when she draws her quill:
Her magic quill, that, like Ithuriel's spear,
Reveals the cloven hoof or lengthen'd ear;
Bids Vice and Folly take their natʼral shapes,
Turns duchesses to strumpets, beaus to apes;
Drags the vile whisp'rer from his dark abode,
Till all the dæmon starts up from the toad.
O sordid maxim, form'd to screen the vile,
That true Good-nature still must wear a smile!
In frowns array'd her beauties stronger rise,
When love of virtue wakes her scorn of vice.
Where justice calls 'tis cruelty to save,
And 'tis the law's good-nature hangs the knave.
Who combat's virtue's foe is virtue's friend;
Then judge of Satire's merit by her end:
To guilt alone her vengeance stands confin'd;
The object of her love is all mankind.
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;
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?
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,
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.