by Tobias Smollett
--Sed podice levi
Caeduntur tumidæ, medico ridente, mariscæ.
O proceres! censore opus est, an haruspice nobis?
Peccandi finem posuit sibi? quando recepit
Ejectum semel atteritâ de fronte ruborem?
Enough, enough; all this we knew before;
'Tis infamous, I grant it, to be poor:
And who, so much to sense and glory lost,
Will hug the curse that not one joy can boast?
From the pale hag, oh! could I once break loose,
Divorced, all hell should not re-tie the noose!
Not with more care shall H- avoid his wife,
Nor Cope fly swifter, lashing for his life,
Than I to leave the meagre fiend behind.
Exert your talents; Nature, ever kind,
Enough for happiness bestows on all;
'Tis Sloth or Pride that finds her gifts too small.
Why sleeps the Muse?-is there no room for praise,
When such bright constellations blaze?
When sage Newcastle, abstinently great,
Neglects his food to cater for the state;
And Grafton, towering Atlas of the throne,
So well rewards a genius like his own:
Granville and Bath illustrious, need I name,
For sober dignity, and spotless fame;
Or Pitt, the unshaken Abdiel yet unsung:
Thy candour, Chomdeley! and thy truth, O Younge!
The advice is good; the question only, whether
These names and virtues ever dwelt together?
But what of that? the more the bard shall claim,
Who can create as well as cherish fame.
But one thing more,-how loud must I repeat,
To rouse the engaged attention of the
great,-Amused, perhaps, with C-'s prolific hum,
Or rapt amidst the transports of a drum;
While the grim porter watches every door,
Stern foe to tradesmen, poets, and the poor,
The Hesperian dragon not more fierce and fell,
Nor the gaunt growling janitor of Hell?
Even Atticus (so wills the voice of Fate)
Enshrines in clouded majesty his state;
Nor to the adoring crowd vouchsafes regard,
Though priests adore, and every priest a bard.
Shall I then follow with the venal tribe,
And on the threshold the base mongrel bribe?
Bribe him to feast my mute imploring eye
With some proud lord, who smiles a gracious lie!
A lie to captivate my heedless youth,
Degrade my talents, and debauch my truth;
While, fool'd with hope, revolves my joyless day,
And friends, and fame, and fortune, fleet away;
Till, scandal, indigence, and scorn my lot,
The dreary jail entombs me, where I rot!
Is there, ye varnish'd ruffians of the state!
Not one among the millions whom ye cheat,
Who, while he totters on the brink of woe,
Dares, ere he falls, attempt the avenging
blow,-A steady blow, his languid soul to feast,
And rid his country of one curse at least?
What! turn assassin?
Let the assassin bleed:
My fearless verse shall justify the deed.
'Tis he who lures the unpractised mind astray,
Then leaves the wretch, to misery a prey;
Perverts the race of Virtue just begun,
And stabs the Public in her ruin'd son.
Heavens! how you rail; the man's consumed by spite!
If Lockman's fate attends you when you write,
Let prudence more propitious arts inspire;
The lower still you crawl, you'll climb the higher.
Go then, with every supple virtue stored,
And thrive, the favour'd valet of my lord.
Is that denied? a boon more humble crave.
And minister to him who serves a slave;
Be sure you fasten on promotion's scale,
Even if you seize some footman by the tail:
The ascent is easy, and the prospect clear,
From the smirch'd scullion to the embroider'd peer.
The ambitious drudge preferr'd, postilion rides,
Advanced again, the chair benighted guides;
Here doom'd, if Nature strung his sinewy frame,
The slave, perhaps, of some insatiate dame;
But if, exempted from the Herculean toil,
A fairer field awaits him, rich with spoil,
There shall he shine, with mingling honours bright,
His master's pathic, pimp, and parasite;
Then strut a captain, if his wish be war,
And grasp, in hope, a truncheon and a star:
Or if the sweets of peace his soul allure,
Bask at his ease, in some warm sinecure;
His fate in consul, clerk, or agent vary,
Or cross the seas, an envoy's secretary;
Composed of falsehood, ignorance, and pride,
A prostrate sycophant shall rise a Lloyd;
And, won from kennels to the impure embrace,
Accomplish'd Warren triumph o'er disgrace.
Eternal infamy his name surround,
Who planted first that vice on British ground!
A vice that, spite of sense and nature, reigns,
And poisons genial love, and manhood stains!
Pollio! the pride of science and its shame,
The Muse weeps o'er thee, while she brands thy name!
Abhorrent views that prostituted groom,
The indecent grotto, or polluted dome!
There only may the spurious passion glow,
Where not one laurel decks the caitiff's brow,
Obscene with crimes avow'd, of every dye,
Corruption, lust, oppression, perjury.
Let Chardin, with a chaplet round his head,
The taste of Maro and Anacreon plead,
'Sir, Flaccus knew to live as well as write,
And kept, like me, two boys array'd in white;'
Worthy to feel that appetence of fame
Which rivals Horace only in his shame!
Let Isis wail in murmurs as she runs,
Her tempting fathers, and her yielding sons;
While dulness screens the failings of the Church,
Nor leaves one sliding Rabbi in the lurch:
Far other raptures let the breast contain,
Where heaven-born taste and emulation reign.
Shall not a thousand virtues, then, atone us
In thy strict censure for the breach of one?
If Bubo keeps a catamite or whore,
His bounty feeds the beggar at his door:
And though no mortal credits Curio's word,
A score of lacqueys fatten at his board:
To Christian meekness sacrifice thy spleen,
And strive thy neighbour's weaknesses to screen.
Scorn'd be the bard, and wither'd all his fame,
Who wounds a brother weeping o'er his shame!
But if an impious wretch, with frantic pride,
Throws honour, truth, and decency aside;
If not by reason awed, nor check'd by fears,
He counts his glories from the stains he bears,
The indignant Muse to Virtue's aid shall rise,
And fix the brand of infamy on vice.
What if, aroused at his imperious call,
An hundred footsteps echo through his hall,
And, on high columns rear'd, his lofty dome
Proclaims the united art of Greece and Rome.
What though whole hecatombs his crew regale,
And each dependant slumbers o'er his ale,
While the remains, through mouths unnumber'd pass'd,
Indulge the beggar and the dogs at last:
Say, friend, is it benevolence of soul,
Or pompous vanity, that prompts the whole?
These sons of sloth, who by profusion thrive,
His pride inveigled from the public hive:
And numbers pine in solitary woe,
Who furnish'd out this phantasy of show.
When silent misery assail'd his eyes,
Did e'er his throbbing bosom sympathise?
Or his extensive charity pervade
To those who languish in the barren shade,
Where oft, by want and modesty suppress'd,
The bootless talent warms the lonely breast?
No! petrified by dulness and disdain,
Beyond the feeling of another's pain,
The tear of pity ne'er bedew d his eye,
Nor his lewd bosom felt the social sigh!
Alike to thee his virtue or his vice,
If his hand liberal owns thy merit's price.
Sooner in hopeless anguish would I mourn,
Than owe my fortune to the man I scorn!
What new resource?
A thousand yet remain,
That bloom with honours, or that teem with gain:
These arts-are they beneath-beyond thy care?
Devote thy studies to the auspicious fair:
Of truth divested, let thy tongue supply
The hinted slander, and the whisper'd lie;
All merit mock, all qualities depress,
Save those that grace the excelling patroness;
Trophies to her on others' follies raise,
And, heard with joy, by defamation praise;
To this collect each faculty of face,
And every feat perform of sly grimace;
Let the grave sneer sarcastic speak thee shrewd;
The smutty joke ridiculously lewd;
And the loud laugh, through all its changes rung,
Applaud the abortive sallies of her tongue;
Enroll'd a member in the sacred list,
Soon shalt thou sharp in company at whist;
Her midnight rites and revels regulate,
Priest of her love, and demon of her hate.
But say, what recompense for all this waste
Of honour, truth, attention, time, and taste?
To shine, confess'd, her zany and her tool,
And fall by what I rose-low ridicule?
Again shall Handel raise his laurell'd brow,
Again shall harmony with rapture glow;
The spells dissolve, the combination breaks,
And Punch no longer Frasi's rival squeaks:
Lo! Russell falls a sacrifice to whim,
And starts amazed, in Newgate, from his dream:
With trembling hands implores their promised aid,
And sees their favour like a vision fade!
Is this, ye faithless Syrens!-this the joy
To which your smiles the unwary wretch decoy?
Naked and shackled, on the pavement prone,
His mangled flesh devouring from the bone;
Rage in his heart, distraction in his eye,
Behold, inhuman hags! your minion lie!
Behold his gay career to ruin run,
By you seduced, abandon'd, and undone!
Rather in garret pent, secure from harm,
My Muse with murders shall the town alarm;
Or plunge in politics with patriot zeal,
And snarl like Guthrie for the public weal,
Than crawl an insect in a beldame's power,
And dread the crush of caprice every hour!
'Tis well; enjoy that petulance of style,
And, like the envious adder, lick the file:
What, though success will not attend on all?
Who bravely dares must sometimes risk a fall.
Behold the bounteous board of Fortune spread;
Each weakness, vice, and folly yields thee bread,
Would'st thou with prudent condescension strive
On the long settled terms of life to thrive.
What! join the crew that pilfer one another,
Betray my friend, and persecute my brother;
Turn usurer, o'er cent. per cent. to brood,
Or quack, to feed like fleas on human blood?
Or if thy soul can brook the gilded curse,
Some changeling heiress steal-
Why not a purse?
Two things I dread-my conscience and the law.
How? dread a mumbling bear without a claw?
Nor this, nor that, is standard right or wrong,
Till minted by the mercenary tongue;
And what is conscience but a fiend of strife,
That chills the joys, and damps the scenes of life,
The wayward child of Vanity and Fear,
The peevish dam of Poverty and Care?
Unnumber'd woes engender in the breast
That entertains the rude, ungrateful guest.
Hail, sacred power! my glory and my guide!
Fair source of mental peace, whate'er betide!
Safe in thy shelter, let disaster roll
Eternal hurricanes around my soul:
My soul serene amidst the storms shall reign,
And smile to see their fury burst in vain!
Too coy to flatter, and too proud to serve,
Thine be the joyless dignity to starve.
No;-thanks to discord, war shall be my friend;
And mortal rage heroic courage lend
To pierce the gleaming squadron of the foe,
And win renown by some distinguish'd blow.
Renown! ay, do-unkennel the whole pack
Of military cowards on thy back.
What difference, say, 'twixt him who bravely stood,
And him who sought the bosom of the wood?
Envenom'd calumny the first shall brand;
The last enjoy a ribbon and command.
If such be life, its wretches I deplore,
And long to quit the inhospitable shore.
Last updated November 03, 2022