William Shenstone's blank-verse "rhapsody," posthumously published in 1764. Edmund Spenser, "the modest bard of learn'd ELIZA'S reign," appears with Cowley and Butler in a catalogue of neglected poets; William Shenstone quotes the famous lines on patronage from Mother Hubberds Tale: "to ride, to run, | To spend, to give, to want, to be undone" 1:292. The first part of Oeconomy warns youthful persons of taste against the double snare of Poverty and Luxury; the second advises the rural bard to live within his simple means; the third part describes the personal economy of an impecunious wight in a Spenserian "House of Poverty."
The attack on Luxury and Avarice in Oeconomy contributes to the Patriot critique of Walpole and the City Whigs which had preoccupied several Spenserian poets; many of Shenstone's topics occur, for instance, in William Thomson's Castle of Indolence. While the models of this Horatian satire include Philips's Spendid Shilling and Pope's moral epistles, Shenstone invokes Elizabethan sources as well in his use of archaisms, characters, and bits of allegory. The blank-verse rhapsody was a form also employed by Joseph Warton in The Enthusiast (1744) and Thomas Warton in The Pleasures of Melancholy (1747).
Richard Graves: "I have said thus much on the trite subject of blank verse, to vindicate from the contempt thrown on all Mr. Shenstone's poems of that kind, particularly that on Oeconomy, addressed to young poets; which I would have ventured to pronounce not inferior to Philips's Splendid Shilling, if Mr. Shenstone had lived to correct h is own manuscripts, and to prune off some few excrescences and luxuriances of youth, when this poem was partly written; though not brought to its present state, till he began to experience the futility of that youthful rant, 'that oeconomy was beneath the care of a rational creature.' He afterwards expressed himself in a different style: — 'May I always have a heart superior, with oeconomy suitable to my fortune.' Vol. ii. p. 154" Recollections of some Particulars in the Life of the late William Shenstone (1788) 111-12.
The Portico [Baltimore]: "Economy, a Rhapsody, addressed to young Poets, is a piece in three parts, written in blank verse, with all the vigorous spirit of Thomson's Muse. It is particularly distinguished by a vein of bitter sarcasm, and plaintive lamentation, sometimes intermingled with burlesque sorrow for the absence of riches; he paints the wretchedness of the Miser with great skill, in faithful colours; and warns the adventurous youth against forsaking the path of mechanick affluence and comfort, for the beggarly occupation of an author. Yet he destroys the influence of his advice, by the fascinating colours in which he delineates the nobler qualities of the writer and the poet; and arrays the character of the latter in such irresistible charms, that there are few aspiring youths, who would not prefer glory and want, to obscure and plodding opulence; who would not rather obtain the honour and renown of a poet, with his garret, his rags, his fastings, and his debts, than riot in the luxuries of the rich but humble citizen; so strong and unconquerable, is that last infirmity of noble minds, to which the world is indebted for all the ennobles the mind, expands the knowledge, or refines the passions" "Remarks on the Writings of Shenstone" 5 (January 1818) 54-55.
George Gilfillan: "Mr. Graves has praised his Economy as a superior poem. It seems to us a clumsy and cacophonous imitation of the Splendid Shilling, without its rich burlesque. We cannot put up with a second-rate parody, any more than with a mediocre pun" Memoir in Shenstone, Poetical Works (1854) xxi.
PART THE FIRST.
To you, ye bards! whose lavish breast requires
This monitory lay, the strains belong;
Nor think some miser vents his sapient saw,
Or some dull cit unfeeling of the charms
That tempt profusion, sings; while friendly zeal,
To guard from fatal ills the tribe he loves,
Inspires the meanest of the muse's train!
Like you I loath the groveling progeny,
Whose wily arts, by creeping time matur'd,
Advance them high on pow'r's tyrannic throne:
To lord it there in gorgeous uselessness,
And spurn successless worth that pines below!
See the rich churl, amid the social sons
Of wine and wit, regaling! hark he joins
In the free jest delighted! seems to shew
A meliorated heart! he laughs! he sings!
Songs of gay import, madrigals of glee,
And drunken anthems set agape the board.
Like DEMEA, in the play, benign and mild,
And pouring forth benevolence of soul,
'Till MICIO wonders: or, in SHAKESPEAR'S line,
Obstrep'rous Silence; drowning SHALLOW'S voice,
And startling FALSTAFF, and his mad compeers.
He owns 'tis prudence, ever and anon,
To smooth his careful brow; to let his purse
Ope to a sixpence's diameter!
He likes our ways; he owns the ways of wit
Are ways of pleasaunce, and deserve regard.
True, we are dainty good society,
But what art thou? alas! consider well,
Thou bane of social pleasure, know thyself.
Thy fell approach, like some invasive damp
Breath'd thro' the pores of earth from Stygian caves,
Destroys the lamp of mirth; the lamp which we
Its flamens boast to guard: we know not how,
But at thy sight the fading flame assumes
A ghastly blue, and in a stench expires.
True, thou seem'st chang'd; all sainted, all ensky'd;
The trembling tears that charge thy melting eyes
Say thou art honest; and of gentle kind,
But all is false! an intermitting sigh,
Condemns each hour, each moment giv'n to smiles,
And deems those only lost, thou dost not lose.
Ev'n for a demi-groat, this open'd soul,
This boon companion, this elastic breast
Revibrates quick; and sends the tuneful tongue
To lavish music on the rugged walls
Of some dark dungeon. Hence thou caitiff, fly!
Touch not my glass, nor drain my sacred bowl,
Monster, ingrate! beneath one common sky
Why shoud'st thou breathe; beneath one common roof
Thou ne'er shalt harbour; nor my little boat
Receive a soul with crimes to press it down.
Go to thy bags, thou recreant! hourly go,
And gazing there, bid them be wit, be mirth,
Be conversation. Not a face that smiles
Admit thy presence! not a soul that glows
With social purport, bid or ev'n or morn
Invest thee happy! but when life declines,
May thy sure heirs stand titt'ring round thy bed,
And ush'ring in their fav'rites, burst thy locks,
And fill their laps with gold; 'till want and care
With joy depart, and cry, "We ask no more."
Ah never never may th' harmonious mind
Endure the worldly! poets ever kind,—
Guileless, distrustless, scorn the treasur'd gold,
And spurn the miser, spurn his deity.
Ballanc'd with friendship, in the poet's eye
The rival scale of interest kicks the beam,
Than lightning swifter. From his cavern'd store
The sordid soul, with self-applause, remarks
The kind propensity; remarks and smiles,
And hies with impious haste to spread the snare.
Him we deride, and in our comic scenes
Contemn the niggard form MOLIERE has drawn.
We loath with justice; but alas the pain
To bow the knee before this calf of gold;
Implore his envious aid, and meet his frown!
But 'tis not GOMEZ, 'tis not he whose heart
Is crusted o'er with dross, whose callous mind
Is senseless as his gold, the slighted muse
Intensely loaths. 'Tis sure no equal task
To pardon him, who lavishes his wealth
On racer, fox-hound, hawk or spaniel, all
But human merit; who with gold essays
All, but the noblest pleasure, to remove
The wants of genius, and its smiles enjoy.
But you, ye titled youths! whose nobler zeal
Would burnish o'er your coronets with fame;
Who listen pleas'd when poet tunes his lay;
Permit him not, in distant solitudes,
To pine, to languish out the fleeting hours
Of active youth! then virtue pants for praise,
That season unadorn'd, the careless bard
Quits your worn threshold, and like honest GAY
Contemns the niggard boon ye time so ill.
Your favours then, like trophies giv'n the tomb,
Th' enfranchis'd spirit soaring not perceives,
Or scorns perceiv'd; and execrates the smile
Which bade his vig'rous bloom, to treacherous hopes
And servile cares a prey, expire in vain!—
Two lawless pow'rs, engag'd by mutual hate
In endless war, beneath their flags enroll
The vassal world. This avarice is nam'd,
That luxury; 'tis true their partial friends
Assign them softer names; usurpers both!
That share by dint of arms the legal throne
Of just oeconomy; yet both betray'd
By fraudful ministers. The niggard chief
List'ning to want, all faithless, and prepar'd
To join each moment in his rival's train,
His conduct models by the needless fears
The slave inspires; while luxury, a chief
Of amplest faith, to plenty's rule resigns
His whole campaign. 'Tis plenty's flatt'ring sounds
Engross his ear; 'tis plenty's smiling form
Moves still before his eyes. Discretion strives,
But strives in vain to banish from the throne
The perjur'd minion. He, secure of trust,
With latent malice to the hostile camp
Day, night, and hour, his monarch's wealth conveys.
Ye tow'ring minds! ye sublimated souls!
Who careless of your fortunes, seal and sign,
Set, let, contract, acquit, with easier mien
Than fops take snuff! whose oeconomic care
Your green-silk purse engrosses! easy, pleas'd,
To see gold sparkle thro' the subtle folds;
Lovely, as when th' Hesperian fruitage smil'd
Amid the verd'rous grove! who fondly hope
Spontaneous harvests! harvests all the year!
Who scatter wealth, as tho' the radiant crop
Glitter'd on ev'ry bough; and ev'ry bough
Like that the Trojan gather'd, once avuls'd
Were by a splendid successor supply'd
Instant, spontaneous! listen to my lays.
For 'tis not fools, whate'er proverbial phrase
Have long decreed, that quit with greatest ease
The treasur'd gold. Of words indeed profuse,
Of gold tenacious, their torpescent soul
Clenches their coin, and what electral fire
Shall solve the frosty gripe, and bid it flow?
'Tis genius, fancy, that to wild expence
Of health! of treasure! stimulates the soul:
These, with officious care, and fatal art,
Improve the vinous flavour; these the smile
Of CLOE soften; these the glare of dress
Illume; the glitt'ring chariot gild anew,
And add strange wisdom to the furs of pow'r.
Alas! that he, amid the race of men,
That he, who thinks of purest gold with scorn,
Shou'd with unsated appetite demand;
And vainly court the pleasure it procures!
When fancy's vivid spark impels the soul
To scorn quotidian scenes, to spurn the bliss
Of vulgar minds, what nostrum shall compose
Its fatal tension? in what lonely vale
Of balmy med'cine's various field, aspires
The blest refrigerant? Vain, ah vain the hope
Of future peace, this orgasm uncontroul'd!
Impatient, hence, of all, the frugal mind
Requires; to eat, to drink, to sleep, to fill
A chest with gold, the sprightly breast demands
Incessant rapture; life, a tedious load
Deny'd its continuity of joy.
But whence obtain? philosophy requires
No lavish cost; to crown its utmost pray'r
Suffice the root-built-cell, the simple fleece,
The juicy viand, and the crystal stream.
Ev'n mild stupidity rewards her train
With cheap contentment. Taste alone requires
Entire profusion! Days and nights, and hours
Thy voice, hydropic fancy! calls aloud
For costly draughts, inundant bowls of joy,
Rivers of rich regalement! seas of bliss!
Seas without shore! infinity of sweets!
And yet, unless sage reason join her hand
In pleasure's purchase, pleasure is unsure:
And yet, unless oeconomy's consent
Legitimate expence, some graceless mark,
Some symptom ill-conceal'd, shall, soon or late,
Burst like a pimple from the vicious tide
Of acid blood, proclaiming want's disease,
Amidst the bloom of shew. The scanty stream
Slow-loitering in its channel, seems to vie
With VAGA'S depth; but should the sedgy pow'r
Vain-glorious empty his penurious urn
O'er the rough rock, how must his fellow streams
Deride the tinklings of the boastive rill!
I not aspire to mark the dubious path
That leads to wealth, to poets mark'd in vain!
But ere self-flattery soothe the vivid breast
With dreams of fortune near ally'd to fame,
Reflect how few, who charm'd the list'ning ear
Of satrap or of king, her smiles enjoy'd!
Consider well, what meagre arms repay'd
The great Maeonian, sire of tuneful song,
And prototype of all that soar'd sublime,
And left dull cares below; what griefs impell'd
The modest bard of learn'd ELIZA'S reign
To swell with tears his MULLA'S parent stream,
And mourn aloud the pang "to ride, to run,
To spend, to give, to want, to be undone."
Why shou'd I tell of COWLEY'S pensive muse
Belov'd in vain? too copious is my theme?
Which of your boasted race might hope reward
Like loyal BUTLER, when the lib'ral CHARLES,
The judge of wit, perus'd the sprightly page
Triumphant o'er his foes? Believe not hope,
The poet's parasite; but learn alone
To spare the scanty boon the fates decree.
Poet and rich! 'tis solecism extreme!
'Tis heighten'd contradiction! in his frame,
In ev'ry nerve and fibre of his soul,
The latent seeds and principles of want
Has nature wove; and fate confirm'd the clue.
Nor yet despair to shun the ruder gripe
Of penury; with nice precision learn
A dollar's value. Foremost in the page
That marks th' expence of each revolving year,
Place inattention. When the lust of praise,
Or honour's false idea, tempts thy soul
To slight frugality, assure thine heart
That danger's near. This perishable coin
Is no vain ore. It is thy liberty,
It fetters misers, but it must alone
Enfranchise thee. The world, the cit-like world
Bids thee beware; thy little craft essay;
Nor, pidling with a tea-spoon's slender form,
See with soup-ladles devils gourmandize.
Oeconomy! thou good old-aunt! whose mien
Furrow'd with age and care the wise adore,
The wits contemn! reserving still thy stores
To chear thy friends at last! why with the cit,
Or bookless churl, with each ignoble name,
Each earthly nature, deign'st thou to reside?
And shunning all, who by thy favours crown'd
Might glad the world, to seek some vulgar mind
Inspiring pride, and selfish shapes of ill?
Why with the old, infirm, and impotent,
And childless, love to dwell, yet leave the breast
Of youth, unwarn'd, unguided, uninform'd?
Of youth, to whom thy monitory voice
Were doubly kind? for sure to youthful eyes,
(How short soe'er it prove) the road of life
Appears protracted; fair on either side
The loves, the graces play, on fortune's child
Profusely smiling; well might youth essay
The frugal plan, the lucrative employ,
Source of their favour all the live-long day,
But fate assents not. Age alone contracts
His meagre palm, to clench the tempting bane
Of all his peace, the glitt'ring seeds of care!
O that the muse's voice might pierce the ear
Of gen'rous youth! for youth deserves her song,
Youth is fair virtue's season, virtue then
Requires the pruner's hand; the sequent stage,
It barely vegetates; nor long the space
Ere robb'd of warmth its arid trunk display
Fell winter's total reign. O lovely source
Of gen'rous foibles, youth! when op'ning minds
Are honest as the light, lucid as air,
As fost'ring breezes kind, as linnets gay,
Tender as buds, and lavish as the spring!
Yet hapless state of man! his earliest youth
Cozens itself; his age defrauds mankind.
Nor deem it strange that rolling years abrade
The social biass. Life's extensive page
What does it but unfold repeated proofs
Of gold's omnipotence? With patriots, friends,
Sick'ning beneath its ray, enervate some,
And others dead, whose putrid name exhales
A noisome scent, the bulky volume teems.
With kinsmen, brothers, sons, moist'ning the shroud,
Or honouring the grave, with specious grief
Of short duration; soon in fortune's beams
Alert, and wond'ring at the tears they shed.
But who shall save by tame prosaic strain
That glowing breast, where wit with youth conspires
To sweeten luxury? The fearful muse
Shall yet proceed, tho' by the faintest gleam
Of hope inspir'd, to warn the train she loves.
PART THE SECOND.
In some dark season, when the misty show'r
Obscures the sun, and saddens all the sky;
When linnets drop the wing, nor grove nor stream
Invites thee forth, to sport thy drooping muse;
Seize the dull hour, nor with regret assign
To worldly prudence. She nor nice nor coy
Accepts the tribute of a joyless day;
She smiles well-pleas'd, when wit and mirth recede,
And not a grace, and not a muse will hear.
Then, from majestic MARO'S aweful strain,
Or tow'ring HOMER, let thine eye descend
To trace, with patient industry, the page
Of income and expence. And oh! beware,
Thy breast, self-flatt'ring, place no courtly smile,
No golden promise of your faithless muse,
Nor latent mine which fortune's hand may shew,
Amid thy solid store. The siren's song
Wrecks not the list'ning sailor, half so sure.
See by what avenues, what devious paths,
The foot of want, detested, steals along,
And bars each fatal pass. Some few short hours
Of punctual care, the refuse of thy year
On frugal schemes employ'd, shall give the muse
To sing intrepid many a chearful day.
But if too soon before the tepid gales
Thy resolution melt; and ardent vows
In wary hours preferr'd or dye forgot,
Or seem'd the forc'd effect of hazy skies;
Then, ere surprize, by whose impetuous rage
The massy fort, with which thy gentler breast
I not compare, is won, the song proceeds.
Know too by nature's undiminish'd law,
Throughout her realms obey'd, the various parts
Of deep creation, atoms, systems, all!
Attract and are attracted; nor prevails the law
Alone in matter; soul alike with soul
Aspires to join; nor yet in souls alone,
In each idea it imbibes, is found
The kind propensity. And when they meet,
And grow familiar, various tho' their tribe,
Their tempers various, vow perpetual faith:
That, shou'd the world's disjointed frame once more
To chaos yield the sway, amid the wreck
Their union shou'd survive; with Roman warmth,
By sacred hospitable laws endear'd,
Shou'd each idea recollect its friend.
Here then we fix; on this perennial base
Erect thy safety, and defy the storm.
Let soft profusion's fair idea join
Her hand with poverty; nor here desist,
'Till, o'er the groupe that forms their various train
Thou sing loud hymeneals. Let the pride
Of outward shew in lasting leagues combine
With shame thread-bare; the gay vermilion face
Of rash intemp'rance, be discreetly pair'd
With sallow hunger; the licentious joy,
With mean dependence; ev'n the dear delight
Of sculpture, paint, intaglios, books, and coins,
Thy breast, sagacious prudence! shall connect
With filth and beggary; nor disdain to link
With black insolvency. Thy soul alarm'd
Shall shun the siren's voice; nor boldly dare
To bid the soft enchantress share thy breast,
With such a train of horrid fiends conjoin'd.
Nor think, ye sordid race! ye groveling minds!
I frame the song for you! for you, the muse
Cou'd other rules impart. The friendly strain
For gentler bosoms plan'd, to yours wou'd prove
The juice of lurid aconite, exceed
Whatever COLCHOS bore; and in your breast
Compassion, love, and friendship all destroy!
It greatly shall avail, if e'er thy stores
Increase apace, by periodic days
Of annual payment, or thy patron's boon,
The lean reward of gross unbounded praise!
It much avails, to seize the present hour,
And, undeliberating, call around
Thy hungry creditors; their horrid rage
When once appeas'd, the small remaining store
Shall rise in weight tenfold, in lustre rise,
As gold improv'd by many a fierce assay.
'Tis thus the frugal husbandman directs
His narrow stream, if o'er its wonted banks
By sudden rains impell'd, it proudly swell;
His timely hand thro' better tracks conveys
The quick-decreasing tide; ere borne along
Or thro' the wild morass, or cultur'd field,
Or bladed grass mature, or barren sands,
It flow destructive, or it flow in vain!
But happiest he who sanctifies expence
By present pay! who subjects not his fame
To tradesmen's varlets, nor bequeaths his name,
His honour'd name, to deck the vulgar page
Of base mechanic, sordid, unsincere!
There haply, while thy muse sublimely soars
Beyond this earthly sphere, in heav'n's abodes,
And dreams of nectar and ambrosial sweets,
Thy growing debt steals unregarded o'er
The punctual record; 'till nor PHOEBUS self—
Nor sage MINERVA'S art can aught avail
To soothe the ruthless dun's detested rage.
Frantic and fell, with many a curse profane
He loads the gentle muse; then hurls thee down
To want, remorse, captivity and shame.
Each public place, the glitt'ring haunts of men,
With horror fly. Why loiter near thy bane?—
Why fondly linger on a hostile shore
Disarm'd, defenceless? why require to tread
The precipice? or why alas to breathe
A moment's space, where ev'ry breeze is death?
Death to thy future peace! Away, collect
Thy dissipated mind; contract thy train
Of wild ideas o'er the flow'ry fields
Of shew diffus'd, and speed to safer climes.
Oeconomy presents her glass, accept
The faithful mirror; powerful to disclose
A thousand forms, unseen by careless eyes,
That plot thy fate. Temptation in a robe
Of Tyrian dye, with every sweet perfum'd,
Besets thy sense; extortion follows close
Her wanton step, and ruin brings the rear.
These and the rest shall her mysterious glass
Embody to thy view; like VENUS kind,
When to her lab'ring son, the vengeful pow'rs
That urg'd the fall of ILIUM, she display'd.
He, not imprudent, at the sight declin'd
Th' inequal conflict, and decreed to raise
The Trojan welfare on some happier shore.
For here to drain thy swelling purse await
A thousand arts, a thousand frauds attend,
"The cloud-wrought canes, the gorgeous snuff-boxes,
The twinkling jewels, and the gold etwee,
With all its bright inhabitants, shall waste
Its melting stores, and in the dreary void
Leave not a doit behind." Ere yet exhaust
Its flimsy folds offend thy pensive eye,
Away! embosom'd deep in distant shades,
Nor seen nor seeing, thou may'st vent thy scorn
Of lace, embroidery, purple, gems, and gold!
There of the farded fop, and essenc'd beau,
Ferocious with a stoic's frown disclose
Thy manly scorn, averse to tinsel pomp;
And fluent thine harangue. But can thy soul
Deny thy limbs the radiant grace of dress,
Where dress is merit! where thy graver friend
Shall wish thee burnish'd! where the sprightly fair
Demand embellishment! ev'n DELIA'S eye,
As in a garden, roves, of hues alone
Inquirent, curious? Fly the curst domain;
These are the realms of luxury and shew;
No classic soil, away! the bloomy spring
Attracts thee hence; the waning autumn warns;
Fly to thy native shades, and dread ev'n there,
Lest busy fancy tempt thy narrow state
Beyond its bounds. Observe FLORELIO'S mien.
Why treads my friend with melancholy step
That beauteous lawn? why pensive strays his eye
O'er statues, grottoes, urns by critic art
Proportion'd fair? or from his lofty dome
Bright glitt'ring through the grove, returns his eye
Unpleas'd, disconsolate? And is it love,
Disastrous love, that robs the finish'd scenes
Of all their beauty? cen'tring all in her
His soul adores? or from a blacker cause
Springs this remorseful gloom? is conscious guilt
The latent source of more than love's despair?
It cannot be within that polish'd breast
Where science dwells, that guilt should harbour there.
No! 'tis the sad survey of present want,
And past profusion! Lost to him the sweets
Of yon pavilion, fraught with ev'ry charm
For other eyes; or, if remaining, proofs
Of criminal expence! Sweet interchange
Of river, valley, mountain, woods and plains!
How gladsome once he rang'd your native turf,
Your simple scenes, how raptur'd! ere expence
Had lavish'd thousand ornaments, and taught
Convenience to perplex him, art to pall,
Pomp to deject, and beauty to displease.
Oh! for a soul to all the glare of wealth,
To fortune's wide exhaustless treasury,
Nobly superior! but let caution guide
The coy disposal of the wealth we scorn,
And prudence be our almoner! Alas!
The pilgrim wand'ring o'er some distant clime,
Sworn foe of av'rice! not disdains to learn
Its coin's imputed worth; the destin'd means
To smooth his passage to the favour'd shrine.
Ah let not us, who tread this stranger-world,
Let none who sojourn on the realms of life,
Forget the land is merc'nary; nor waste
His fare, ere landed on no venal shore.
Let never bard consult PALLADIO'S rules;
Let never bard, O BURLINGTON! survey
Thy learned art, in CHISWICK'S dome display'd;
Dang'rous incentive! nor with ling'ring eye
Survey the window VENICE calls her own.
Better for him, with no ingrateful muse,
To sing a requiem to that gentle soul
Who plan'd the sky-light; which to lavish bards
Conveys alone the pure etherial ray.
For garrets him, and squalid walls await,
Unless, presageful, from this friendly strain,
He glean advice, and shun the scribler's doom.
PART THE THIRD.
Yet once again, and to thy doubtful fate
The trembling muse consigns thee. Ere contempt,
Or want's empoison'd arrow, ridicule,
Transfix thy weak unguarded breast, behold!
The poet's roofs, the careless poet's, his
Who scorns advice, shall close my serious lay.
When GULLIVER, now great, now little deem'd,
The play-thing of comparison, arriv'd
Where learned bosoms their aerial schemes
Projected, studious of the public weal;
'Mid these, one subtler artist he descry'd,
Who cherish'd in his dusty tenement
The spider's web, injurious, to supplant
Fair ALBION'S fleeces! Never, never may
Our monarch on such fatal purpose smile,
And irritate MINERVA'S beggar'd sons
The MELKSHAM weavers! Here in ev'ry nook
Their wefts they spun; here revell'd uncontroul'd,
And, like the flags from WESTMINSTER'S high roof
Dependent, here their fluttering textures wav'd.
Such, so adorn'd, the cell I mean to sing!
Cell ever squalid! where the sneerful maid
Will not fatigue her hand! broom never comes,
That comes to all! o'er whose quiescent walls
ARACHNE'S unmolested care has drawn
Curtains subfusk, and save th' expence of art.
Survey those walls, in fady texture clad,
Where wand'ring snails in many a slimy path,
Free, unrestrain'd, their various journeys crawl;
Peregrinations strange, and labyrinths
Confus'd inextricable! such the clue
Of CRETAN ARIADNE ne'er explain'd!
Hooks! angles! crooks! and involutions wild!
Mean time, thus silver'd with meanders gay
In mimic pride the snail-wrought tissue shines,
Perchance of tabby, or of harrateen,
Not ill expressive! such the pow'r of snails.
Behold his chair, whose fractur'd seat infirm
An aged cushion hides! replete with dust
The foliag'd velvet; pleasing to the eye
Of great ELIZA'S reign, but now the snare
Of weary guest that on the specious bed
Sits down confiding. Ah! disastrous wight!
In evil hour and rashly dost thou trust
The fraudful couch! for tho' in velvet cas'd,
The fated thigh shall kiss the dusty floor.
The trav'ler thus, that o'er Hibernian plains
Hath shap'd his way; on beds profuse of flow'rs,
Cowslip, or primrose, or the circ'lar eye
Of daisie fair, decrees to bask supine.
And see! delighted, down he drops, secure
Of sweet refreshment, ease without annoy,
Or luscious noon-day nap. Ah much deceiv'd,
Much suff'ring pilgrim! thou nor noon-day nap,
Nor sweet repose shalt find; the false morass
In quiv'ring undulations yields beneath
Thy burden, in the miry gulph enclos'd!
And who would trust appearance? cast thine eye
Where 'mid machines of het'rogeneous form
His coat depends; alas! his only coat,
Eldest of things! and napless, as an heath
Of small extent by fleecy myriads graz'd.
Not diff'rent have I seen in dreary vault
Display'd, a coffin; on each sable side
The texture unmolested seems entire.
Fraudful, when touch'd it glides to dust away!
And leaves the wond'ring swain to gape, to stare,
And with expressive shrug, and piteous sigh,
Declare the fatal force of rolling years,
Or dire extent of frail mortality.
This aged vesture, scorn of gazing beaux,
And formal cits, (themselves too haply scorn'd)
Both on its sleeve and on its skirt, retains
Full many a pin wide-sparkling: for, if e'er
Their well-known crest met his delighted eye,
Tho' wrapt in thought, commercing with the sky,
He, gently stooping, scorn'd not to upraise,
And on each sleeve, as conscious of their use,
Indenting fix them; nor, when arm'd with these,
The cure of rents and separations dire,
And chasms enormous, did he view dismay'd
Hedge, bramble, thicket, bush, portending fate
To breeches, coat and hose! had any wight
Of vulgar skill, the tender texture own'd;
But gave his mind to form a sonnet quaint
Of SILVIA'S shoe-string, or of CLOE'S fan,
Or sweetly-fashion'd tip of CELIA'S ear.
Alas! by frequent use decays the force
Of mortal art! the refractory robe
Eludes the taylor's art, eludes his own;
How potent once, in union quaint conjoin'd!
See near his bed (his bed too falsely call'd
The place of rest, while it a bard sustains;
Pale, meagre, muse-rid wight! who reads in vain
Narcotic volumes o'er) his candlestick,
Radiant machine, when from the plastic hand
Of MULCIBER, the may'r of BIRMINGHAM,
The engine issu'd; now alas disguis'd
By many an unctuous tide, that wand'ring down
Its sides congeal; what he, perhaps, essays
With humour forc'd, and ill dissembled smile,
Idly to liken to the poplar's trunk
When o'er its bark the lucid amber, wound
In many a pleasing fold, incrusts the tree.
Or suits him more the winter's candy'd thorn,
When from each branch, anneal'd, the works of frost
Pervasive, radiant isicles depend?
How shall I sing the various ill that waits
The careful sonneteer? or who can paint
The shifts enormous, that in vain he forms
To patch his paneless window; to cement
His batter'd tea-pot, ill-retentive vase?
To war with ruin? anxious to conceal
Want's fell appearance, of the real ill
Nor foe, nor fearful. Ruin unforeseen
Invades his chattles; ruin will invade;
Will claim his whole invention to repair,
Nor, of the gift, for tuneful ends design'd,
Allow one part to decorate his song.
While ridicule, with ever-pointing hand
Conscious of ev'ry shift, of ev'ry shift
Indicative, his inmost plot betrays,
Points to the nook, which he his study calls
Pompous and vain! for thus he might esteem
His chest, a wardrobe; purse, a treasury;
And shews, to crown her full display, himself.
One whom the pow'rs above, in place of health,
And wonted vigour; of paternal cot,
Or little farm; of bag, or scrip, or staff,
Cup, dish, spoon, plate, or worldly utensil,
A poet fram'd; yet fram'd not to repine,
And wish the cobler's loftiest site his own;
Nor, partial as they seem, upbraid the fates,
Who to the humbler mechanism, join'd
Goods so superior, such exalted bliss!
See with what seeming ease, what labour'd peace
He, hapless hypocrite! refines his nail,
His chief amusement! then how feign'd, how forc'd,
That care-defying sonnet, which implies
His debts discharg'd, and he of half a crown
In full possession, uncontested right
And property! Yet ah! whoe'er this wight
Admiring view, if such there be, distrust
The vain pretence; the smiles that harbour grief,
As lurks the serpent deep in flow'rs enwreath'd.
Forewarn'd, be frugal; or with prudent rage
Thy pen demolish; chuse the trustier flail,
And bless those labours which the choice inspir'd.
But if thou view'st a vulgar mind, a wight
Of common sense, who seeks no brighter name,
Him envy, him admire, him, from thy breast,
Prescient of future dignities, salute
Sheriff, or may'r, in comfortable furs
Enwrapt, secure: nor yet the laureat's crown
In thought exclude him! He perchance shall rise
To nobler heights than foresight can decree.
When fir'd with wrath, for his intrigues display'd
In many an idle song, Saturnian Jove
Vow'd sure destruction to the tuneful race;
Appeas'd by suppliant PHOEBUS, "Bards, he said,
Henceforth of plenty, wealth, and pomp debarr'd,
But fed by frugal cares, might wear the bay
Secure of thunder." — Low the Delian bow'd,
Nor at th' invidious favour dar'd repine.