1778 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Dodd

Charles Graham, "A Soliloquy on the late Dr. William Dodd" Graham, Miscellaneous Pieces in Prose and Verse (1778) 37-40.



And is he gone? has unrelenting death
Snatch'd from our eyes, the soother of our woes?
Ah! too rigid justice! could nought avail
Or move thy heart to mitigate the sentence?
And thou our sovereign, wast not thou severe?
Could not the prayer of thousands urge thy hand
His doom to cancel and his life to spare?
Ah! no! the irrevocable sentence
Now has pass'd — the stern voice of justice
For public good, outweigh'd the voice of thousands.
But hold — perhaps the sentence was but just;
Weak nature's feelings often make us partial.
Was not the man whose fate thou seem'st to mourn
Endu'd by heav'n with intellectual light,
To make researches thro' the laws of nature,
And teach to others, moral rectitude?
He knew full well the consequence of guilt,
He knew the punishment to forg'ry due,
And from a recent instance might have known
That this one crime no pardon does obtain.
Might not that knowledge which inform'd his mind,
Ev'n love of gratitude deter'd his hand,
And sav'd the victim from impending woe?
Alas! how weak is human fortitude
When unassisted by some aid divine.
Like PETER, he presumptuously rely'd
On the exertion of his nat'ral powers.
Deep trials did assail, pride urg'd him sore,
Necessity usurp'd the seat of justice,
And with her sophistry she wrought his fall.

Thus sings the bard — "whatever is, is right."
But don't mistake the muse — wrong can't be right,
Can vice be virtue? that were strange indeed:
But 'tis not strange that he whose name is love,
Should, from the secret workings of his power,
From seeming evils real goods deduce.
Is there a doubt, but the omniscient God
Dispences justice with impartial hand?
Had not the man, the subject of my theme,
Who fell a victim to his country's laws,
Mark'd for himself a smoother road to heav'n,
And left humility's unerring path?
He bask'd amid the smiles of adulation;
His name was pop'lar, but the man was lost—
His heart estranged from fair virtue's shrine—
'Twas pride usurp'd the empire of his mind,
And (HEROD-like) he gave not GOD the praise.
Men thus exalted thro' the praise of men,
To vice too often fall an easy prey.
'Twas then the grand deceiver play'd his bait,
And thus he whisper'd in the doctor's ear.
"Art thou in want? what then! thy name is great,
Therefore thou must thy penury conceal,
All men believe thee honest and sincere.
Take my advice, practice a trifling fraud.
Thou know'st thy pupil noble CHESTERFIELD?
Take what thou want'st on credit of his name."
"'Tis forgery — O! I dread the dire event!"
"What! words affright thee? where's thy boasted knowledge,
Is this then he who charm'd th' attentive throng,
And sooth'd the ear with elegance of stile?
Know, 'tis th' intent that constitutes a crime,
That makes us culpable, or sets us free.
Thou hast no base designs — thou wilt, I know,
Escape detection, and the sum repay;
Thus by this simple trifling artifice,
Thou'lt save thy honour from the public scorn."
The scheme seem'd plausible, it sooth'd his pride;
A while he paus'd, but did not long demur,
And wrote down CHESTERFIELD with trembling hand,
'Tis done —presented, and the sum receiv'd.
But ah! e'er long the culprit was pursu'd,
Detected, and by law "condemn'd to die."
Think, O my soul! "whatever is, is right."
What GOD permits, tho' sinful in itself,
May, in the sequel, work for gen'ral good;
He sinn'd, 'tis true, but sinn'd against conviction;
If pre-ordain'd, where is free agency?
He might have stood but rather chose to fall.
But mark th' event, see GOD'S eternal love
Shines forth conspicuous to the fervent soul.
Depress'd with grief, immers'd in shame and guilt;
Insulted by the thoughtless and the gay;
Like him of old, who fell among the thieves,
While modern LEVITES past regardless by;
Our good SAMARITAN (Christ typify'd)
With lenient hand apply'd the healing balm.

Thus he, whom love of praise had render'd vain,
Was taught to see the emptiness of self;
To make attonement for his flagrant crime;
And tho' he dy'd an ignominious death,
He now, I trust, enjoys the light of heaven.