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Charles Churchill 1731 (Westminster) – 1764 (Boulogne-sur-Mer)
How much mistaken are the men who think
That all who will, without restraint may drink,
May largely drink, e'en till their bowels burst,
Pleading no right but merely that of thirst,
At the pure waters of the living well,
Beside whose streams the Muses love to dwell!
Verse is with them a knack, an idle toy,
A rattle gilded o'er, on which a boy
May play untaught, whilst, without art or force,
Make it but jingle, music comes of course.
Little do such men know the toil, the pains,
The daily, nightly racking of the brains,
To range the thoughts, the matter to digest,
To cull fit phrases, and reject the rest;
To know the times when Humour on the cheek
Of Mirth may hold her sports; when Wit should speak,
And when be silent; when to use the powers
Of ornament, and how to place the flowers,
So that they neither give a tawdry glare,
'Nor waste their sweetness in the desert air;'
To form, (which few can do, and scarcely one,
One critic in an age, can find when done)
To form a plan, to strike a grand outline,
To fill it up, and make the picture shine
A full and perfect piece; to make coy Rhyme
Renounce her follies, and with Sense keep time;
To make proud Sense against her nature bend,
And wear the chains of Rhyme, yet call her friend.
Some fops there are, amongst the scribbling tribe,
Who make it all their business to describe,
No matter whether in or out of place;
Studious of finery, and fond of lace,
Alike they trim, as coxcomb Fancy brings,
The rags of beggars, and the robes of kings.
Let dull Propriety in state preside
O'er her dull children, Nature is their guide;
Wild Nature, who at random breaks the fence
Of those tame drudges, Judgment, Taste, and Sense,
Nor would forgive herself the mighty crime
Of keeping terms with Person, Place, and Time.
Let liquid gold emblaze the sun at noon,
With borrow'd beams let silver pale the moon;
Let surges hoarse lash the resounding shore,
Let streams meander, and let torrents roar;
Let them breed up the melancholy breeze,
To sigh with sighing, sob with sobbing trees;
Let vales embroidery wear; let flowers be tinged
With various tints; let clouds be laced or fringed,
They have their wish; like idle monarch boys,
Neglecting things of weight, they sigh for toys;
Give them the crown, the sceptre, and the robe,
Who will may take the power, and rule the globe.
Others there are, who, in one solemn pace,
With as much zeal as Quakers rail at lace,
Railing at needful ornament, depend
On Sense to bring them to their journey's end:
They would not (Heaven forbid!) their course delay,
Nor for a moment step out of the way,
To make the barren road those graces wear
Which Nature would, if pleased, have planted there.
Vain men! who, blindly thwarting Nature's plan,
Ne'er find a passage to the heart of man;
Who, bred 'mongst fogs in academic land,
Scorn every thing they do not understand;
Who, destitute of humour, wit, and taste,
Let all their little knowledge run to waste,
And frustrate each good purpose, whilst they wear
The robes of Learning with a sloven's air.
Though solid reasoning arms each sterling line,
Though Truth declares aloud, 'This work is mine,'
Vice, whilst from page to page dull morals creep,
Throws by the book, and Virtue falls asleep.
Sense, mere dull, formal Sense, in this gay town,
Must have some vehicle to pass her down;
Nor can she for an hour insure her reign,
Unless she brings fair Pleasure in her train.
Let her from day to day, from year to year,
In all her grave solemnities appear,
And with the voice of trumpets, through the streets,
Deal lectures out to every one she meets;
Half who pass by are deaf, and t' other half
Can hear indeed, but only hear to laugh.
Quit then, ye graver sons of letter'd Pride!
Taking for once Experience as a guide,
Quit this grand error, this dull college mode;
Be your pursuits the same, but change the road;
Write, or at least appear to write, with ease,
'And if you mean to profit, learn to please.'
In vain for such mistakes they pardon claim,
Because they wield the pen in Virtue's name:
Thrice sacred is that name, thrice bless'd the man
Who thinks, speaks, writes, and lives on such a plan!
This, in himself, himself of course must bless,
But cannot with the world promote success.
He may be strong, but, with effect to speak,
Should recollect his readers may be weak;
Plain, rigid truths, which saints with comfort bear,
Will make the sinner tremble and despair.
True Virtue acts from love, and the great end
At which she nobly aims is to amend.
How then do those mistake who arm her laws
With rigour not their own, and hurt the cause
They mean to help, whilst with a zealot rage
They make that goddess, whom they'd have engage
Our dearest love, in hideous terror rise!
Such may be honest, but they can't be wise.
In her own full and perfect blaze of light,
Virtue breaks forth too strong for human sight;
The dazzled eye, that nice but weaker sense,
Shuts herself up in darkness for defence:
But to make strong conviction deeper sink,
To make the callous feel, the thoughtless think,
Like God, made man, she lays her glory by,
And beams mild comfort on the ravish'd eye:
In earnest most, when most she seems in jest,
She worms into, and winds around, the breast,
To conquer Vice, of Vice appears the friend,
And seems unlike herself to gain her end.
The sons of Sin, to while away the time
Which lingers on their hands, of each black crime
To hush the painful memory, and keep
The tyrant Conscience in delusive sleep,
Read on at random, nor suspect the dart
Until they find it rooted in their heart.
'Gainst vice they give their vote, nor know at first
That, cursing that, themselves too they have cursed;
They see not, till they fall into the snares,
Deluded into virtue unawares.
Thus the shrewd doctor, in the spleen-struck mind,
When pregnant horror sits, and broods o'er wind,
Discarding drugs, and striving how to please,
Lures on insensibly, by slow degrees,
The patient to those manly sports which bind
The slacken'd sinews, and relieve the mind;
The patient feels a change as wrought by stealth,
And wonders on demand to find it health.
Some few, whom Fate ordain'd to deal in rhymes
In other lands, and here, in other times,
Whom, waiting at their birth, the midwife Muse
Sprinkled all over with Castalian dews,
To whom true Genius gave his magic pen,
Whom Art by just degrees led up to men;
Some few, extremes well shunn'd, have steer'd between
These dangerous rocks, and held the golden mean;
Sense in their works maintains her proper state,
But never sleeps, or labours with her weight;
Grace makes the whole look elegant and gay,
But never dares from Sense to run astray:
So nice the master's touch, so great his care,
The colours boldly glow, not idly glare;
Mutually giving and receiving aid,
They set each other off, like light and shade,
And, as by stealth, with so much softness blend,
'Tis hard to say where they begin or end:
Both give us charms, and neither gives offence;
Sense perfects Grace, and Grace enlivens Sense.
Peace to the men who these high honours claim,
Health to their souls, and to their memories fame!
Be it my task, and no mean task, to teach
A reverence for that worth I cannot reach:
Let me at distance, with a steady eye,
Observe and mark their passage to the sky;
From envy free, applaud such rising worth,
And praise their heaven, though pinion'd down to earth!
Had I the power, I could not have the time,
Whilst spirits flow, and life is in her prime,
Without a sin 'gainst Pleasure, to design
A plan, to methodise each thought, each line
Highly to finish, and make every grace,
In itself charming, take new charms from place.
Nothing of books, and little known of men,
When the mad fit comes on, I seize the pen,
Rough as they run, the rapid thoughts set down.
Rough as they run, discharge them on the town.
Hence rude, unfinish'd brats, before their time,
Are born into this idle world of Rhyme,
And the poor slattern Muse is brought to bed
'With all her imperfections on her head.'
Some, as no life appears, no pulses play
Through the dull dubious mass, no breath makes way,
Doubt, greatly doubt, till for a glass they call,
Whether the child can be baptized at all;
Others, on other grounds, objections frame,
And, granting that the child may have a name,
Doubt, as the sex might well a midwife pose,
Whether they should baptize it Verse or Prose.
E'en what my masters please; bards, mild, meek men,
In love to critics, stumble now and then.
Something I do myself, and something too,
If they can do it, leave for them to do.
In the small compass of my careless page
Critics may find employment for an age:
Without my blunders, they were all undone;
I twenty feed, where Mason can feed one.
When Satire stoops, unmindful of her state,
To praise the man I love, curse him I hate;
When Sense, in tides of passion borne along,
Sinking to prose, degrades the name of song,
The censor smiles, and, whilst my credit bleeds,
With as high relish on the carrion feeds
As the proud earl fed at a turtle feast,
Who, turn'd by gluttony to worse than beast,
Ate till his bowels gush'd upon the floor,
Yet still ate on, and dying call'd for more.
When loose Digression, like a colt unbroke,
Spurning Connexion and her formal yoke,
Bounds through the forest, wanders far astray
From the known path, and loves to lose her way,
'Tis a full feast to all the mongrel pack
To run the rambler down, and bring her back.
When gay Description, Fancy's fairy child,
Wild without art, and yet with pleasure wild,
Waking with Nature at the morning hour
To the lark's call, walks o'er the opening flower
Which largely drank all night of heaven's fresh dew,
And, like a mountain nymph of Dian's crew,
So lightly walks, she not one mark imprints,
Nor brushes off the dews, nor soils the tints;
When thus Description sports, even at the time
That drums should beat, and cannons roar in rhyme,
Critics can live on such a fault as that
From one month to the other, and grow fat.
Ye mighty Monthly Judges! in a dearth
Of letter'd blockheads, conscious of the worth
Of my materials, which against your will
Oft you've confess'd, and shall confess it still;
Materials rich, though rude, inflamed with thought,
Though more by Fancy than by Judgment wrought
Take, use them as your own, a work begin
Which suits your genius well, and weave them in,
Framed for the critic loom, with critic art,
Till, thread on thread depending, part on part,
Colour with colour mingling, light with shade,
To your dull taste a formal work is made,
And, having wrought them into one grand piece,
Swear it surpasses Rome, and rivals Greece.
Nor think this much, for at one single word,
Soon as the mighty critic fiat's heard,
Science attends their call; their power is own'd;
Order takes place, and Genius is dethroned:
Letters dance into books, defiance hurl'd
At means, as atoms danced into a world.
Me higher business calls, a greater plan,
Worthy man's whole employ, the good of man,
The good of man committed to my charge:
If idle Fancy rambles forth at large,
Careless of such a trust, these harmless lays
May Friendship envy, and may Folly praise.
The crown of Gotham may some Scot assume,
And vagrant Stuarts reign in Churchill's room!
O my poor People! O thou wretched Earth!
To whose dear love, though not engaged by birth,
My heart is fix'd, my service deeply sworn,
How, (by thy father can that thought be borne?--
For monarchs, would they all but think like me,
Are only fathers in the best degree)
How must thy glories fade, in every land
Thy name be laugh'd to scorn, thy mighty hand
Be shorten'd, and thy zeal, by foes confess'd,
Bless'd in thyself, to make thy neighbours bless'd,
Be robb'd of vigour; how must Freedom's pile,
The boast of ages, which adorns the isle
And makes it great and glorious, fear'd abroad,
Happy at home, secure from force and fraud;
How must that pile, by ancient Wisdom raised
On a firm rock, by friends admired and praised,
Envied by foes, and wonder'd at by all,
In one short moment into ruins fall,
Should any slip of Stuart's tyrant race,
Or bastard or legitimate, disgrace
Thy royal seat of empire! But what care,
What sorrow must be mine, what deep despair
And self-reproaches, should that hated line
Admittance gain through any fault of mine!
Cursed be the cause whence Gotham's evils spring,
Though that cursed cause be found in Gotham's king.
Let War, with all his needy ruffian band,
In pomp of horror stalk through Gotham's land
Knee-deep in blood; let all her stately towers
Sink in the dust; that court which now is ours
Become a den, where beasts may, if they can,
A lodging find, nor fear rebuke from man;
Where yellow harvests rise, be brambles found;
Where vines now creep, let thistles curse the ground;
Dry in her thousand valleys be the rills;
Barren the cattle on her thousand hills;
Where Power is placed, let tigers prowl for prey;
Where Justice lodges, let wild asses bray;
Let cormorants in churches make their nest,
And on the sails of Commerce bitterns rest;
Be all, though princes in the earth before,
Her merchants bankrupts, and her marts no more;
Much rather would I, might the will of Fate
Give me to choose, see Gotham's ruin'd state
By ills on ills thus to the earth weigh'd down,
Than live to see a Stuart wear a crown.
Let Heaven in vengeance arm all Nature's host,
Those servants who their Maker know, who boast
Obedience as their glory, and fulfil,
Unquestion'd, their great Master's sacred will;
Let raging winds root up the boiling deep,
And, with Destruction big, o'er Gotham sweep;
Let rains rush down, till Faith, with doubtful eye,
Looks for the sign of mercy in the sky;
Let Pestilence in all her horrors rise;
Where'er I turn, let Famine blast my eyes;
Let the earth yawn, and, ere they've time to think,
In the deep gulf let all my subjects sink
Before my eyes, whilst on the verge I reel;
Feeling, but as a monarch ought to feel,
Not for myself, but them, I'll kiss the rod,
And, having own'd the justice of my God,
Myself with firmness to the ruin give,
And die with those for whom I wish to live.
This, (but may Heaven's more merciful decrees
Ne'er tempt his servant with such ills as these!)
This, or my soul deceives me, I could bear;
But that the Stuart race my crown should wear,
That crown, where, highly cherish'd, Freedom shone
Bright as the glories of the midday sun;
Born and bred slaves, that they, with proud misrule,
Should make brave freeborn men, like boys at school,
To the whip crouch and tremble--Oh, that thought!
The labouring brain is e'en to madness brought
By the dread vision; at the mere surmise
The thronging spirits, as in tumult, rise;
My heart, as for a passage, loudly beats,
And, turn me where I will, distraction meets.
O my brave fellows! great in arts and arms,
The wonder of the earth, whom glory warms
To high achievements; can your spirits bend,
Through base control (ye never can descend
So low by choice) to wear a tyrant's chain,
Or let, in Freedom's seat, a Stuart reign?
If Fame, who hath for ages, far and wide,
Spread in all realms the cowardice, the pride,
The tyranny and falsehood of those lords,
Contents you not, search England's fair records;
England, where first the breath of life I drew,
Where, next to Gotham, my best love is due;
There once they ruled, though crush'd by William's hand,
They rule no more, to curse that happy land.
The first, who, from his native soil removed,
Held England's sceptre, a tame tyrant proved:
Virtue he lack'd, cursed with those thoughts which spring
In souls of vulgar stamp, to be a king;
Spirit he had not, though he laugh'd at laws.
To play the bold-faced tyrant with applause;
On practices most mean he raised his pride,
And Craft oft gave what Wisdom oft denied.
Ne'er could he feel how truly man is blest
In blessing those around him; in his breast,
Crowded with follies, Honour found no room;
Mark'd for a coward in his mother's womb,
He was too proud without affronts to live,
Too timorous to punish or forgive.
To gain a crown which had, in course of time,
By fair descent, been his without a crime,
He bore a mother's exile; to secure
A greater crown, he basely could endure
The spilling of her blood by foreign knife,
Nor dared revenge her death who gave him life:
Nay, by fond Pear, and fond Ambition led,
Struck hands with those by whom her blood was shed.
Call'd up to power, scarce warm on England's throne,
He fill'd her court with beggars from his own:
Turn where you would, the eye with Scots was caught,
Or English knaves, who would be Scotsmen thought.
To vain expense unbounded loose he gave,
The dupe of minions, and of slaves the slave;
On false pretences mighty sums he raised,
And damn'd those senates rich, whom poor he praised;
From empire thrown, and doom'd to beg her bread,
On foreign bounty whilst a daughter fed,
He lavish'd sums, for her received, on men
Whose names would fix dishonour on my pen.
Lies were his playthings, parliaments his sport;
Book-worms and catamites engross'd the court:
Vain of the scholar, like all Scotsmen since,
The pedant scholar, he forgot the prince;
And having with some trifles stored his brain,
Ne'er learn'd, nor wish'd to learn, the art to reign.
Enough he knew, to make him vain and proud,
Mock'd by the wise, the wonder of the crowd;
False friend, false son, false father, and false king,
False wit, fals
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"Gotham. Book II." Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 26 Sep. 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/54871/gotham.-book-ii.>.