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Indignant Hymen veils his hallow'd fires,
And white-rob'd Chastity with tears retires :
When rank Adult'ry on the genial bed,
Hot from Cocytus, rears her baleful head;
When private faith and public trust are sold,
And traitors barter liberty for gold;
When fell Corruption, dark and deep, like Fate,
Saps the foundation of a sinking state;
When giant Vice and Irreligion rise
On mountain'd falsehoods to invade the skies;
Then warmer numbers glow thro' Satire's page,
And all her smiles are darken'd into rage;
On eagle wings she gains Parnassus' height,
Not lofty Epic soars a nobler flight:
Then keener indignation fires her eye;
Then flash her lightnings and her thunders fly :
Wide and more wide her flaming bolts are hurl'd,
Till all her wrath involves the guilty world.
Yet Satire oft assumes a gentler mien,
And beams on Virtue's friends a smile serene :
She wounds reluctant, pours her balm with joy,
Glad to commend where worth attracts her eye:
But chief when virtue, learning, arts, decline,
She joys to see unconquer'd Merit shine;
Where bursting glorious with departing ray,
True genius gilds the close of Britain's day:
With joy she sees the stream of Roman art
From Murray's tongue flow purer to the heart;
Sees Yorke to fame e'er yet to manhood known, 325
And just to ev'ry virtue but his own;
Hears unstain'd Cam with gen'rous pride proclaim
A sage's, critic's, and a poet's name;
Behold where Widcombe's happy hills ascend,
Each orphan'd art and virtue find a friend;
To Hagley's honour'd shade directs her view,
And culls each flower to form a wreath for you.
But tread with cautious step this dang'rous ground,
Beset with faithless precipices round:
Truth be your guide; disdain Ambition's call; 335
And if you fall with Truth you greatly fall.
'Tis Virtue's native lustre that must shine;
The poet can but set it in his line:
And who, unmov'd with laughter, can behold
A sordid pebble meanly grac'd with gold?
Let real merit then adorn your lays,
For shame attends on prostituted praise;
And all your wit, your most distinguish'd art,
But makes us grieve you want an honest heart.
Nor think the Muse by Satire's law confin'd; 345
She yields description of the noblest kind.
Inferior art the landscape may design,
And paint the purple ev'ning in the line:
Her daring thought essays a higher plan;
Her hand delineates passion, pictures man.
And great the toil the latent soul to trace,
To paint the heart, and catch internal grace;
By turns bid Vice or Virtue strike our eyes,
Now bid a Wolsey or a Cromwell rise;
Now with a touch more sacred and refin'd,
Call forth a Chesterfield's or Lonsdale's mind.
Here sweet or strong may ev'ry colour flow,
Here let the pencil warm, the canvas glow;
Of light and shade provoke the noble strife,
And wake each striking feature into life.
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,
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:
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; 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:
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,
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:
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,
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,
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.