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FLORIO, a youth of gay renown, Who figur'd much about the town, Had pass’d, with general approbation, The modish forms of education ; Knew what was proper to be known, Th' establish'd jargon of Bon-ton; Had learnt, with very moderate reading, The whole new system of good breeding: He studied to be cold and rude, Though native feeling would intrude : Unlucky sense and sympathy, Spoilt the vain thing he strove to be. For Florio was not meant by nature, A silly, or a worthless creature: He had a heart dispos’d to feel, Had life and spirit, taste and zeal ; Was handsome, generous; but, by fate, Predestin’d to a large estate ! Hence, all that grac'd his op'ning days, Was marr’d by pleasure, spoilt by praise. The Destiny, who wove the thread Of Florio's being, sigh’d, and said, “ Poor Youth ! this cumbrous twist of gold, “ More than my shuttle well can hold,
“ For which thy anxious fathers toil'd,
66 Thy white and even thread has spoild:
66 'Tis this shall warp thy pliant youth
“ From sense, simplicity, and truth ;
“ Thy erring fire, by wealth misled, .
“ Shall scatter pleasures round thy head,
" When wholesome discipline's control
“ Should brace the sinews of thy soul;
“ Coldly thou'lt toil for learning's prize,
“ For why should he that's rich be wise ? ”
The gracious Master of mankind,
Who knew us vain, corrupt, and blind,
In mercy, though in anger, said,
That man should earn his daily bread,
His lot inaction renders worse,
While labour mitigates the curse,
The idle, life's worst burdens bear,
And meet, what toil escapes, despair !
Forgive, nor lay the fault on me,
This mixture of mythology;
The Muse of Paradise has deign’d
With truth to mingle fables feign’d;
And though the Bard who would attain
The glories, Milton, of thy strain,
Will never reach thy style or thoughts,
He may be like thee -- in thy faults !
Exhausted Florio, at the age
When youth should rush on glory's stage,
When life should open fresh and new,
And ardent hope her schemes pursue;
Of youthful gaiety bereft,
Had scarce an unbroach'd pleasure left;
He found already to his cost,
The shining gloss of life was lost;
And pleasure was so coy a prude,
She fled the more, the more pursued;
Or if o'ertaken and caress’d,
He loath'd and left her when possess'd.
But Florio knew the World; that science
Sets sense and learning at defiance;
He thought the World to him was known,
Whereas he only knew the Town ;
In men this blunder still you find,
All think their little set – Mankind.
Though high renown the youth had gain'd,
No flagrant crimes his life had stain'd,
No tool of falsehood, slave of passion,
But spoilt by Custom, and the Fashion.
Though known among a certain set,
He did not like to be in debt;
He shudder'd at the dicer's box,
Nor thought it very heterodox
That tradesmen should be sometimes paid,
And bargains kept as well as made.
His growing credit, as a sinner,
Was that he lik’d to spoil a dinner;
Made pleasure and made business wait,
And still, by system, came too late ;
Yet 'twas a hopeful indication,
On which to found a reputation :
Small habits, well pursued, betimes
May reach the dignity of crimes ;
And who a juster claim preferr’d,
Than one who always broke his word ?
His mornings were not spent in vice, 'Twas lounging, sauntering, eating ice; Walk up and down St. James's Street, Full fifty times the youth you'd meet : He hated cards, detested drinking, But stroll'd to shun the toil of thinking ; 'Twas doing nothing was his curse, Is there a vice can plague us worse? The wretch who digs the mine for bread, Or ploughs, that others may be fed, Feels less fatigue than that decreed To him who cannot think, or read. Not all the peril of temptations, Not all the conflict of the passions, Can quench the spark of glory's flame, Or quite extinguish Virtue's name, Like the true taste for genuine saunter, Like sloth, the soul's most dire enchanter. The active fires that stir the breast, Her poppies charm to fatal rest; They rule in short and quick succession, But Sloth keeps one long, fast possession : Ambition's reign is quickly clos'd, Th' usurper rage is soon depos’d ; Intemperance, where there's no temptation, Makes voluntary abdication ; Of other tyrants short the strife, But INDOLENCE is king for life : The despot twists, with soft control, Eternal fetters round the soul.
Yet though so polish'd Florio's breeding, Think him not ignorant of reading:
For he, to keep him from the vapours,
Subscrib’d at Hookham's, saw the papers ;
Was deep in poet's corner wit ;
Knew what was in italics writ;
Explain’d fictitious names at will ;
Each gutted syllable could fill.
There oft, in paragraphs, his name
Gave symptom sweet of growing fame ;
Though yet they only serv'd to hint
That Florio lov'd to see in print,
His ample buckles' * alter'd shape,
His buttons chang’d, his varying cape;
And many a standard phrase was his
Might rival bore, or banish quiz.
The man who grasps this young renown,
And early starts for fashion's crown,
In time that glorious prize may wield,
Which clubs and ev'n Newmarket yield.
He studied while he dress’d, for true 'tis,
He read Compendiums, Extracts, Beauties,
Abrégés, Dictionnaires, Recueils,
Mercures, Journaux, Extraits, and Feuilles :
No work in substance now is follow'd,
The Chemic Extract only's swallow’d.
He lik'd those literary cooks
Who skim the cream of others' books ;
And ruin half an Author's graces,
By plucking bon-mots from their places.
He wonders any writing sells,
But these spic'd mushrooms and morells.
* Buckles of an enormous size, which nearly covered the shoe,
were at this time worn.