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That half your locks are turn'd to gray?--
I'll ne'er believe a word thy say.
'Tis true, but let it not be known,
My eyes are somewhat dimish grown;
For Nature, always in the right,
To your decays adapts my sight,
And wrinkles undistinguish'd pass,
For I'm asham'd to use a glass;
And till I see them with these eyes,
Whoever says you have them, lies.
No length of time can make you quit
Honour and virtue, sense and wit;
Thus you may still be young to me,
While I can better hear than see:
Oh, ne'er may Fortune show her spite,
To make me deaf and mend my sight!
March 13, 1726. THIS day, whate'er the Fates decree,
Shall still be kept with joy by me: This day, then, let us not be told That you are sick and I grown old, Nor think on our approaching ills, And talk of spectacles and pills : To-morrow will be time enough To hear such mortifying stuff. Yet since from reason may be brought A better and more pleasing thought, Which can, in spite of all decays, Support á few remaining days, From not the gravest of divines Accept, for once, some serious lines.
Although we now can form no more Long schemes of life, as heretofore, Yet you, while time is running fast, Can look with joy on what is past.
Were future happiness and pain
A mere contrivance of the brain,
As Atheists argue, to entice
And fit their proselytes for vice,
(The only comfort they propose,
To have companions in their woes)
Grant this the case ; yet sure 'tis hard
That virtue, styl'd its own reward,
And by all sages understood
To be the chief of human good,
Should acting die, nor leave behind
Some lasting pleasure in the mind,
Which by ren mbrance will assuage
Grief, sickness, poverty, and age;
And strongly shoot a radiant dart
To shine through life's declining part.
Say, Stella, feel you no content,
Reflecting on a life well spent ?
Your skilful hand employ'd to save
Despairing wretches from the grave,
And then supporting with your store
Those whom you dragg'd from death before ?
So Providence on mortals waits,
Preserving what it first creates.
Your generous boldness to defend
An innocent and absent friend;
That courage which can make you just
To merit humbled in the dust;
The detestation you express
For vice, in all its glittering dress;
That patience under torturing pain,
Where stubborn stoics would complain;
Must these like empty shadows pass,
Or forms reflected from a glass?
Or mere chimeras in the mind,
That fly, and leave no marks behind ?
Does not the body thrive and grow
By food of twenty years ago?
And had it not been still supplied,
It must a thousand times have died.
Then who with reason can maintain
That no effects of food remain?
And is not virtue in mankind
The nutriment that feeds the mind,
Upheld by each good action past,
And still continued by the last?
Then who with reason can pretend
That all effects of virtue end?
Believe me, Stella, when you show
That true contempt for things below,
Nor prize your life for other ends
Than merely to oblige your friends,
Your former actions claim their part,
And join to fortify you heart:
For Virtue in her daily race,
Like Janus, bears a double face,
Looks back with joy where she has gone,
And therefore goes with courage on:
She at your sickly couch will wait,
And guide you to a better state.
O then, whatever Heav'n intends,
Take pity on your pitying friends;
Nor let your ills affect your mind,
To fancy they can be unkind.
Me, surely me, you ought to spare,
Who gladly would your sufferings share,
Or give my scrap of life to you,
And think it far beneath your due;
You to whose care so oft I owe
That I'm alive to tell you so.
Visiting me in my Sickness, October 1727.
PALLAS, observing Stella's wit
Was more than for her sex was fit,
And that her beauty, soon or late,
Might breed confusion in the state,
In high concern for human-kind,
Fix'd honour in her infant mind.
But (not in wranglings to engage
With such a stupid vicious age)
If honour I would here define;
It answers faith in things divine.
As natural life the body warms,
And, scholars teach, the soul informs,
So honour animates the whole,
And is the spirit of the soul.
Those numerous virtues which the tribe
Of tedious moralists describe,
And by such various titles call,
True honour comprehends them all.
Let melancholy rule supreme,
Choler preside, or blood, or phlegm,
It makes no difference in the case,
Nor is complexion honour's place.
But lest we should for honour take
The drunken quarrels of a rake,
Or think it seated in a scar,
Or on a proud triumphal car,
Or in the payment of a debt
We lose with sharpers at piquet,
Or when a whore in her vocation
Keeps punctual to an assignation,
Or that on which his Lordship swears,
When vulgar knaves would lose their ears,
Let Stella's fair example preach
A lesson she alone can teach.
In points of honour to be tried,
All passions must be laid aside;
Ask no advice, but think alone;
Suppose the question not your own:
How shall I act? is not the case,
But how would Brutus in my place?
In such a cause would Cato bleed?
And how would Socrates proceed?
Drive all objections from your mind,
Else you relapse to human-kind;
Ambition, avarice, and lust,
And factious rage, and breach of trust,
And flattery tipt with nauseous fleer,
And guilty shame, and servile fear,
Envy, and cruelty, and pride,
Will in your tainted heart preside.
Heroes and heroines of old
By honour only were enroll'd
Among their brethren in the skies,
To which (though late) shall Stella rise.
Ten thousand oaths upon record
Are not so sacred as her word ;
The world shall in its atoms end
Ere Stella can deceive a friend.
By honour seated in her breast
She still determines what is best.
What indignation in her mind
Against enslavers of mankind!
Base kings and ministers of state
Eternal objects of her hate.
She thinks that Nature ne'er design'd
Courage to man alone confin'd.
Can cowardice her sex adorn,
Which most exposes ours to scorn ?
She wonders where the charm appears
In Florimel's affected fears ;
For Stella never learn'd the art
At proper times to scream and start,
Nor calls up all the house at night,
And swears she saw a thing in white.
Doll never flies to cut her lace,
Or throw cold water in her face,
Because she heard a sudden drum,
Or found an earwig in a plum.
Her hearers are amaz'd from whence
Proceeds that fund of wit and sense ;
Which, though her modesty would shroud,
Breaks like the sun behind a cloud,
While gracefulness its art conceals,
And yet through every motion steals.
Say, Stella! was Prometheus blind,
And, forming you, mistook your kind ?