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THRO' ages thus has Satire keenly shin'd, The friend to truth, to virtue, and mankind : Yet the bright flame from virtue ne'er had sprung, And man was guilty ere the poet sung. This Muse in silence joy'd each better age,
365 Till glowing crimes had wak'd her into rage : Truth saw her honest spleen with new delight, And bade her wing her shafts and urge their flight. First on the sons of Greece she prov'd her art, And Sparta felt the fierce Iambic dart : 370 To Latium next avenging Satire flew; The flaming falchion rough Lucillus drew, With dauntless warmth in Virtue's cause engag'd, And conscious villains trembled as he rag'd.
Then sportive Horace caught the gen'rous fire, For Satire's bow resign'd the sounding lyre;
376 Each arrow polish'd in his hand was seen, And as it grew more polish'd grew more keen. His art, conceal'd in study'd negligence, Politely sly, cajoll'd the foes of sense:
380 He seem'd to sport and trifle with the dart, But while he sported drove it to the heart. In graver strains majestic Persius wrote, Big with a ripe exuberance of thought;
Greatly sedate, contemn'd a tyrant's reign, 385 And lash'd Corruption with a calm disdain.
More ardent eloquence and boundless rage Inflame bold Juvenal's exalted page; His mighty numbers aw'd corrupted Rome, And swept audacious Greatness to its doom: 390 The headlong torrent thund'ring from on high, Rent the proud rock that lately brav'd the sky.
But, lo! the fatal victor of mankind, Swoln Luxury !....pale Ruin stalks behind! As countless insects from the north-east pour, 395 To blast the spring, and ravage ev'ry flow'r, So barb'rous millions spread contagious death, The sick’ning laurel wither'd at her breath: Deep Superstition's night the skies o'erhung, Beneath whose baleful dews the poppy sprung: 400 No longer Genius woo'd the Nine to love, But Dulness nodded in the Muse's grove; Wit, Spirit, Freedom, were the sole offence, Nor aught was held so dangerous as sense.
At length again fair Science shot her ray, 405 Dawn'd in the skies, and spoke returning day. Now, Satire! triumph o'er thy flying foe, Now load thy quiver, string thy slacken'd bow. 'Tis done.... See! great Erasmus breaks the spell, And wounds triumphant Folly in her cell. 410
(In vain the solemn cowl surrounds her face,
'Twas then plain Donne in honest vengeance rose,
Yet scarce had Satire well relum'd her flame, (With grief the Muse records her country's shame) Ere Britain saw the foul revolt commence, 421 And treach'rous Wit began her war with Sense. Then rose a shameless mercenary train, Whom latest time shall view with just disdain: A race fantastic, in whose gaudy line
425 Untutor'd thought and tinsel beauty shine; Wit's shatter'd mirror lies in fragments bright, Reflects not nature, but confounds the sight. Dry morals the court poet blush'd to sing ; 'Twas all his praise to say “the oddest thing :" 430 Proud for a jest obscene, a patron's nod, To martyr Virtue, or blaspheme his God,
Ill-fated Dryden! who unmov'd can see Th’ extremes of wit and meanness join'd in thee? Flames that could mount, and gain their kindred skies, Low creeping in the patrid sink of Vice;
A Muse whom wisdom woo'd, but woo'd in vain;
More happy France : immortal Boileau there
• But see at length, the British Genius smile, And show'r her bounties o'er her favour'd isle: 450 Behold for Pope she twines the laurel crown, And centres ev'ry poet's pow'r in one! Each Roman's force adorns his various page, Gay smiles, collected strength, and manly rage. Despairing Guilt and Dulness loath the sight, 455 As spectres vanish at approaching light: In this clear mirror with delight we view Each image justly fine and boldly true : Here Vice, dragg'd forth by Truth's supreme decree, Beholds and hates her own deformity :
460 While self-seen Virtue in the faithful line With modest joy surveys her form divine.
But, oh! what thoughts, what numbers shall I find