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Shall stand recorded and adınired,
That virtue sunk what wit inspired.
But let the lettered, and the fair,
And chiefly, let the wit beware;
You, whose warm spirits never fail,
Forgive the hint which ends my tale.
O shun the perils which attend
On wit, on warmth, and heed your friend :
Though science nursed you in her bowers,
Though fancy crown your brow with flowers,
Each thought though bright invention fill,
Though Attic bees each word distil;
Yet, if one gracious power refuse
Her gentle influence to infuse;
If she withhold her magic spell,
Nor in the social circle dwell;
In vain shall listening crowds approve;
They'll praise you, but they will not love.
What is this power, you're loth to mention,
This charm, this witchcraft ? 'tis attention :
Mute angel, yes; thy looks dispense
The silence of intelligence;
Thy graceful form I well discern,
In act to listen and to learn ;
'Tis thou for talents shalt obtain
That pardon wit would hope in vain;
Thy wondrous power, thy secret charm,
Shall envy of her sting disarm;
Thy silent flattery soothes our spirit,
And we forgive eclipsing merit;
Our jealous souls no longer burn,
Nor hate thee, though thou shine in turn;
The sweet atonement screens the fault,
And love and praise are cheaply bought.
With some complacency to hear,
Though somewhat long the tale appear,
The dull relation to attend,
Which mars the story you could mend;
'Tis more than wit, 'tis moral beauty,
'Tis pleasure rising out of duty.
Nor vainly think, the time you waste,
When temper triumphs over taste.
TO THE HONORABLE MRS. BOSCAWEN."
[Printed first with the Sacred Dramas, in 1782.]
ACCEPT, Boscawen! these unpolished lays, Nor blame too much the verse you cannot praise., For you, far other bards have waked the string, Far other bards for you were wont to sing ; Yet on the gale their parting music steals, Yet your charmed ear the loved impression feels : You heard the lyres of Lyttelton and Young, And that a grace, and this a seraph strung. These are no more! but not with these decline The Attic chasteness or the vigorous line. Still sad Elfrida's poett shall complain, Still either Warton breathe his classic strain : While, for the wonders of the Gothie page, Otranto's fame shall vindicate the age. Nor tremble lest the tuneful art expire, While Beattie strikes anew old Spenser's lyre; He, best to paint the genuine minstrel knew, Who from himself the living portrait drew.
Though Latian bards had gloried in his name, When in full brightness burned the Latian flame; Yet, fired with loftier hopes than transient bays, See Lowthf despise the meed of mortal praise ;
Spurn the cheap wreath by human science won,
Borne on the wing sublime of Amos' son !
He seized the mantle as the prophet flew,
And with his mantle caught his spirit too.
To snatch bright beauty from devouring fate,
And lengthen nature's transitory date;
At once the critic's and the painter's art,
With Fresnoy's skill and Guido's grace impart
To form with code correct the graphic school,
And lawless fancy curb by sober rule;
To show how genius fires, how taste restrains,
While, what both are, his pencil best explains,
Have we not Reynolds ?* lives not Jenyns yet,
To prove his lowest title was a wit ?t
Though purer flames thy hallowed zeal inspire
Than e'er were kindled at the muse's fire;
Thee, mitred Chester !f all the Nine shall boast;
And is not Johnson ours ? himself a host!
Yes, still for you your gentle stars dispense
The charm of friendship and the feast of sense :
Yours is the bliss, and Heaven no dearer sends,
To call the wisest, brightest, best, your friends.
And while to these I raise the votive line,
O let me grateful own these friends are mine;
With Carter trace the wit to Athens known,
Or view in Montagu that wit our own :
Or mark, well pleased, Chapone's|| instructive page,
Intent to raise the morals of the age :
Or boast, in Walsingham, the various power
To cheer the lonely, grace the lettered hour :
Delany,s too, is ours, serenely bright,
Wisdom's strong ray, and virtue's milder light: * See Sir Joshua Reynolds's very able notes to Du Fresnoy's poem on the " Art of Painting,” translated by Mr. Mason. Also, his series of * Discourses to the Academy," which, though written professedly on the subject of painting, . contain the principles of general art, and are delivered with so much perspicuous good sense, as to be admirably calculated to assist in forming the taste of the general reader.
+ Mr. Soame Jenyns had just published his work “ On the Internal Evidence of the Christian Religion."
| Dr. Beilby Porteus, then bishop of Chester. See his admirable poem on death.
Elizabeth Carter, the translator of Epictetus. She died in 1806, at the age of 88.-ED.
|| Hester Chapone, author of “Letters on the Improvement of the Mind," and other works. Her maiden name was Mulso. She died in 1801, at the age of 74.-ED.
1 The widow of the Rev. Dr. Delany, and celebrated for her exact imitations
And she who blessed the friend, and graced the lays
Of poignant Swift, still gilds our social days;
Long, long protract thy light, O star benign!
Whose setting beams with milder lustre shine.
Nor, Barbauld, shall my glowing heart refuse
Its tribute to thy virtues, or thy muse;
This humble merit shall at least be mine,
The poet's chaplet for thy brow to twine;
My verse thy talents to the world shall teach,
And praise the genius it despairs to reach.
Yet what is wit, and what the poet's art ?
Can genius shield the vulnerable heart ?
Ah, no! where bright imagination reigns,
The fine-wrought spirit feels acuter pains;
Where glow exalted sense and taste refined,
There keener anguish rankles in the mind ;
There, feeling is diffused through every part,
Thrills in each nerve, and lives in all the heart;
And those whose generous souls each tear would keep
From others' eyes, are born themselves to weep.
Can all the boasted powers of wit and song,
Of life one pang remove, one hour prolong?
Fallacious hope ! which daily truths deride ;
For you, alas! have wept, and Garrick died !
O shades of Hampton! witness, as I mourn,
Could wit or song elude your favorite's urn ?
Though living virtue still your haunts endears,
Yet buried worth shall justify my tears.
Who now with spirit keen, yet judgment cool,
The errors of my orphan muse shall rule?
With keen acumen how his piercing eye
The fault concealed from vulgar view would spy!
While with a generous warmth he strove to hide,
Nay, vindicate the fault his taste had spied ;
So pleased could he detect a happy line,
That he would fancy merit e'en in mine.
His wit so pointed it ne'er missed its end,
And so well tempered it ne'er lost a friend;
How his keen eye, quick mind, and ardent heart,
Impoverished nature, and exhausted art,