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To the bright talents of thy youthful state,
In turn shall on thy better lessons wait.
Whence comes it, that in every art we see
Many can rise to a supreme degree;
Yet in this art, for which all seem design'd
By nature, scarcely one complete we find ?
You'll say, perhaps, we think, we speak, we move
By the strong springs alone of selfish love:
Yet among all the species is there one
Whom with more caution than ourselves we shun?
What is it fills a puppet show or court?
Go none but for the profit or the sport?
If so, why comes each soul fatigued away,
And curses the dull puppets' same dull play;
Yet, unconvinced, is tempted still to go?
'Tis that we find at home our greatest foe.
And reason good why solitude we flee,
Can wants with self sufficiency agree?
Yet, such our inconsistency of mind, We court society and hate mankind. With some we quarrel, for they're too sincere: With others, for they're close, reserved, and queer: This is too learn’d, too prudent, or too wise; And that we for his ignorance despise : A voice, perhaps, our ear shall harshly strike, Then straight even wit itself shall raise dislike; Our eye may by some feature be annoy'd, Behold at once a character destroy'd: One's so good-natured, he's beyond all bearing, He'll ridicule no friend, though out of hearing: Another, warm’d with zeal, offends our eyes, Because he holds the mirror up to vice. No wonder then, since fancies wild as these Can move our spleen, that real faults displease.
When Mævius, spite of dulness, will be bright,
And teach Argyle to speak and Swift to write;
When Flavia entertains us with her dreams,
And Macer with his no less airy schemes ;
When peevishness and jealousy and pride
And interest, that can brother hearts divide,
In their imagined forms our eyesight hit,
Of an old maid, a poet, peer, or cit;
Can then, you'll say, philosophy refrain
And check the torrent of each boiling vein ?
Yes, she can still do more; view passion's slave
With mind serene, indulge him, and yet save.
But self-conceit steps in, and with strict eye
Scans every man, and every man awry;
That reigning passion, which through every stage
Of life still haunts us with unceasing rage.
No quality so mean but what can raise
Some drudging, driveling candidate for praise;
Even in the wretch, whom wretches can despise,
Still self-conceit will find a time to rise.
Quintus salutes you with forbidding face,
And thinks he carries his excuse in lace:
You ask, why Clodius bullies all he can?
Clodius will tell you, he's a gentleman:
Myrtylla struts and shudders half the year
With a round cap that shows a fine turn’d ear:
The lowest jest makes Delia laugh to death;
Yet she's no fool, she has only handsome teeth.
Ventoso lolls, and scorns all humankind
From the gilt coach with four laced slaves behind;
Does all this pomp and state proceed from merit?
Mean thought! he deems it nobler to inherit:
While Fopling from some title draws his pride,
Meanless or infamous or misapplied;
Freemason, rake, or wit, 'tis just the same,
The charm is hence, he has gain'd himself a name.
Yet, spite of all the fools that pride has made,
'Tis not on man a useless burthen laid ;
Pride has ennobled some, and some disgraced;
It hurts not in itself, but as 'tis placed ;
When right,its view knows none but virtue's bound;
When wrong, it scarcely looks one inch around.
Mark! with what care the fair one's critic eye
Scans o'er her dress, nor lets a fault slip by;
Each rebel hair must be reduced to place
With tedious skill, and tortured into grace;
Betty must o’er and o’er the pins dispose,
Till into modish folds the drapery flows,
And the whole frame is fitted to express
The charms of decency and nakedness.
Why all this art, this labour'd ornament?
To captivate, you'll cry, no doubt, 'tis meant.
True, but let's wait upon this fair machine
From the lone closet to the social scene;
There view her loud, affected, scornful, sour,
Paining all others, and herself still more.
What means she at one instant to disgrace,
The labour of ten hours, her much loved face?
Why, 'tis the selfsame passion gratified;
The work is ruin'd that was raised by pride.
Yet of all tempers it requires least pain,
Could we but rule ourselves, to rule the vain;
The prudent is by reason only sway'd,
With him each sentence and each word is weigh’d;
The gay and giddy can alone be caught
By the quick lustre of a happy thought;
The miser hates, unless he steals your pelf;
The prodigal, unless you rob yourself;
The lewd will shun you, if yourwife prove chaste;
The jealous, if a smile on his be cast;
The steady or the whimsical will blame,
Either because you're not or are the same;
The peevish, sullen, shrewd, luxurious, rash
Will with your virtue, peace, or interest clash;
But mark the proud man's price, how very low!
'Tis but a civil speech, a smile, or bow.
Ye who, push'd on by noble ardour, aim
In social life to gain immortal fame,
Observe the various passions of mankind,
General, peculiar, single, or combined:
How youth from manhood differs in its views,
And how old age still other paths pursues;
How zeal in Priscus nothing more than heats,
In Codex burns and ruins all it meets;
How freedom now a lovely face shall wear,
Now shock us in the likeness of a bear;
How jealousy in some resembles hate,
In others seems but love grown delicate;
How modesty is often pride refined,
And virtue but the canker of the mind;
How love of riches, grandeur, life, and fame
Wear different shapes, and yet are still the same.
But not our passions only disagree,
In taste is found as great variety :
Sylvius is ravish'd when he hears a hound,
His lady hates to death the odious sound:
Yet both love music, though in different ways;
He in a kennel, she at operas.
A florist shall, perhaps, not grudge some hours
To view the colours in a bed of flowers;
him Titian's workmanship divine, He passes on, and only cries, 'tis fine.
A rusty coin, an old worm-eaten post,
The mouldy fragment of an author lost,
A butterfly, an equipage, a star,
A globe, a fine laced head, a china jar,
A mistress, or a fashion that is new,
Have each their charms, though felt but by a few.
Then study each man's passion and his taste,
The first to soften, and indulge the last :
Not like the wretch who beats down virtue's fence,
And deviates from the paths of common sense ;
Who daubs with fulsome flattery, blind and bold,
The very weakness we with grief behold.
Passions are common to the fool and wise,
And all would hide them under Art's disguise;
For so avow'd in others is their shame,
None hates them more than he who has the same.
But taste seems more peculiarly our own,
And every man is fond to make his known;
Proud of a mark he fancies is design'd
By Nature to advance him o'er his kind;
And where he sees that character impress’d,
With joy he hugs the favourite to his breast.
But the main stress of all our cares must lie
To watch ourselves with strict and constant eye:
To mark the working mind, when passion's course
Begins to swell, and reason still has force;
Or, if she's conquer'd by the stronger tide,
Observe the moments when they first subside ;
For he who hopes a victory to win
O’er other men must with himself begin;
Else, like a town by mutiny oppress'd,
He's ruin'd by the foe within his breast;
And they alone, who in themselves oft view
Man's image, know what method to pursue.