1758
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Essay on Genius.

Dramatic and other Poems, Letters, Essays, &c.

Rev. William Hawkins of Oxford


Edmund Spenser appears in a catalogue of English poets ("Who reads but must see, with feeling must admire | Bright Spencer's Fancy, and bold Milton's Fire" p. 231). William Hawkins's Essay is modeled throughout on Pope's didactic poems, and the sentiments expressed are likewise those of Pope's generation. The poem is therefore a useful illustration of the conception of genius Hawkins's contemporaries, such as William Collins, were reacting against. Genius is here construed as a differentiating character, and while character is given at birth it is not conceived in terms of originality or inspiration. Rather, genius is a general character inherent in persons or nations that can be improved by means of education and social and moral refinement. Hawkins talks at times as if material causes are chiefly responsible for the kinds and degrees of genius.

William Hawkins had been Poetry Professor at Oxford in 1751-56, and the Essay on Genius may have been composed in that capacity. As an undergraduate he had been a contemporary of Johnson and Shenstone at Pembroke College.

William Kenrick: "The next performance in this miscellany is, a philosophical Essay on Genius; which, tho' it be, on the whole, poetical and sensible enough, does not distinguish our Author as a Master either of Numbers or Philosophy.... Homer, Pope, and other great Poets, have been celebrated for uniting sense to sound, in many parts of their writings. Perhaps none, however, have done it so compleatly as our Author, in this line: 'Tis plain the Muses sometimes speak in prose.' If there can be any who dispute the truth of this assertion, they may be abundantly convinced of it, by perusing this Essay; for we presume there can be no doubt of a Professor of Poesy being inspired by the Muses" Monthly Review 21 (October 1759) 316-17.

Critical Review: "Be it enough to say in general, that Mr. Hawkins was not born a poet, or that imitation has spoiled him" 8 (August 1759)103.

The treatise opens with a consideration of genius as the source of individual character, with differences arising from the imperfect harmony between spirit and body: "Hence Notes peculiar or to Young, or Old, | Phlegmatic, sanguine, amorous, or cold! | And hence from Constitution, such or such, | Wit may take Modes, and Genius op'rate much" p. 226. He next takes up degrees of genius within its several kinds, comparing Homer to Virgil, and Queen Elizabeth to "pretty Lispers." National character is next considered; it is the character of Britain to be mutable: "In England Oh! how manifold our Rhyme! | Where Genius is uncertain as the Clime" p. 231. This proposition is illustrated by a catalogue of canonical English poets, with Spenser placed between Chaucer and Milton. Different kinds of genius are also variously manifested in the acts and writings of statesmen, chiefs, philosophers, and divines.

Differing by degrees, genius can approach perfection within its kinds, though perfection can only be achieved after death: "Ideots by nat'ral Organs ill supplied, | Untutor'd Louts, whose parts were never tried, | Hereafter hidden Excellence may shew" p. 239. This leads to a consideration of how genius might be improved through education, which likewise differs with individuals: "Some Minds rich-natur'd, like a fruitful Field, | To little Culture ample Harvests yield; | Others assiduous Labour must secure; | They owe their goodly Produce to Manure" pp. 240-41. To be useful, reading must involve reflection, and should be pursued selectively: "Your Models chuse from Authors of first Rate, | He cannot write, who dares not emulate; | To Father Homer's sovereign Poetry | Rome owes her Virgil, and our Milton we" p. p. 243.

Conviviality, wine, and exercise all strengthen natural genius, but it is damped in degenerate, novel-reading times like the present: "No longer dares to noble Heights advance, | But chimes in Song, or trifles in Romance" p. 244. Wit also suffers through prejudice, of which Oxford writers have been particular victims. Poverty and personal failings are likewise impediments. Hawkins concludes with a patriotic profession: "O may I wield an independent Pen, | A Friend to Virtue, not a Tool to Men; | In Perseverance placing all my Glory, | While Tories, Whigs, and all Men call be TORY!" p. 249.



Inquire, dispute, and all you can,
Say, what is Genius but the Soul of Man?
Beam of that Light which animates our Frame,
Alike in many, but in none the same.
'Tis with our Minds, as with our Bodies, none
In Essence differ, yet each knows his own.
Marks of specific Character we see,
That stamp on ev'ry Mortal, THIS IS HE.
Nor varies more our present outward Shape,
(This Man half-Angel, and the next half-Ape)
Than do the mental Pow'rs: What Odds we find
Between a —'s, and a Newton's Mind?
Ask you the Cause? First take it for a Rule,
Whate'er the Man, the Soul is not a Fool.
She came in due Perfection from the Skies,
And all Defect in grosser Body lies.
Body and Soul at best but ill agree,
'Tis Spirit wedded to Infirmity:
A disporportion'd Match, from whence proceeds
The Soul's Inaction thro' the Body's Needs.
This Truth once stated, and the Soul, 'tis plain,
Much on the filmy Texture of the Brain,
Much on Formations that escape our Eyes,
On nice Connections, and Coherencies,
And on corporeal Organs must depend,
For her own Function's Exercise, and End.
Hence then the Cause of all Defects is seen,
For one wrong Movement spoils the whole Machine.
'Tis hence the sev'ral Passions take their Rise,
The Seeds of Virtue, and the Roots of Vice;
Hence Notes peculiar or to Young, or Old,
Phlegmatic, sanguine, amorous, or cold!
And hence from Constitution, such or such,
Wit may take Modes, and Genius op'rate much.
The youthful Bard, a sprightly, sanguine Swain,
Like Ovid warbles in a Lovesick strain:
With weaker Passions, but with Sense more strong,
The melancholy Young pursues his Song.
Mixture of Humours motley Genius shews;
'Tis seen methinks in Hervey's dancing Prose.
Why wonder then to mark the Sons of Rhyme,
Gay, serious, turgid, easy, or sublime?
The Soul and Body closely thus allied,
Vile is the Folly, as the Sin of Pride;
And one great Truth the first of Men will sit,
That Nothing more precarious is than Wit.

Behold yon Wretch, that o'er the Parish strays,
A Baby-Man, a Driv'ler all his Days!
With Tongue out-lolling, and round-rolling Eyes
He grins against the Sun, and catches Flies;
But for some secret Flaws we cannot read,
That check her Motions, and her Flights impede,
His Soul perchance enrich'd with happiest Thought,
Had spoke like Tully, or like Virgil wrote.

Alas! All Souls are subject to like Fate,
All sympathizing with the Body's State;
Let the fierce Fever burn thro' ev'ry Vein,
And drive the madding Fury to the Brain,
Nought can the Fervour of his Frenzy cool,
But Aristotle's self's a Parish Fool!
Nay in Proportion lighter Ails controul
The mental Virtue, and infect the Soul.
Ease is best Convoy in our Voyage to Truth;
What Man e're reason'd with a raging Tooth?
A Poet with a Genius, and without,
Are the same Creatures in the Pangs of Gout.

Hence then we guess, nor vain is the Surmise,
Why some are Fools, and none are always wise;
Why Genius differs in Life's ev'ry Stage,
Runs wild with Youth, and creeps with hobling Age.
The Soul uncumber'd with the mortal Clay
Knows no increase of Strength, nor fears Decay.
A little Art this Secret may unfold,
That what can never die, is never old.
By present Pow'rs Perfection cease to Scan,
For we may daily mourn the Fall of Man!
Ah! how bright Wit possest of ev'ry Gift
Dwindled to Folly, and went made in Swift.

The mighty Malb'rough, whose great Soul was prov'd
Upon the Plains of Blenheim, where unmov'd,
"Amidst Confusion, Horrour and Despair
He view'd around the dreadful Scenes of War,
In peaceful Thought the Field of Death survey'd,
To fainting Squadrons sent the timely Aid,
Inspir'd repuls'd Battalions to engage,
And taught the doubtful Battle where to rage;"
Ev'n He, the Springs of Nature in Decay,
And all the vital Functions worn away,
Unable now to conquer Realms, or buy,
With ideot Gesture, and unmeaning Eye,
Sits a Spectatour in the foremost Row,
And gapes at Heroes in a Puppet-Shew!

Eschew Presumption ev'ry half-learn'd Elf;
The noblest Writer does not know himself;
Turn over mighty Milton's raptur'd Page,
Observe his Strength, is Majesty, his Rage;
His Numbers like th' Almighty's Thunders roll,
And strike an awful Pleasure to the Soul;
We joy in Ruin, and are almost pain'd
To see the (late lost) Paradise regain'd.
This Work himself judg'd best; tell me who read,
Was not the mighty Milton blind indeed?

Genius again, by Inf'rence apt we see,
The same in Species differs in Degree;
Propensities are strong, and few Men yet
But have a Relish for some kind of Wit;
Homer is Monarch of the Epic Choir,
Yet Virgil snatch'd a Brand of Homer's Fire;
The daring Homer's all-impetuous Strain
Like a hot Courser bore him o'er the Plain.
The Muse of Virgil that affected State
Speeds not so swiftly, but she keeps her Rate;
To those tho' meet to yield the Glory due,
Lucan, and Statius have their Merits too.
Each Writer is distinguish'd in his Way,
Grand Sophocles, or trifling Seneca!
All to their fav'rite Art will lay Pretence,
'Tis Inclination, or 'tis Excellence;
'Midst Clouds of Dulness Gleams of Wit have shone,
Like the faint Burstings of an April Sun.

Grant what you what's past, and it will less perplex
To ask, why Woman is the weaker Sex?
Why the Extremes of female Wits are such,
They mostly say too little, or too much?
Beauty's soft Frame, for other Ends design'd,
Faints under Toil of Body, or of Mind.
Kind Heav'n that gave them Beauty, all things gave;
The soundest Scholar is a Woman's Slave.
Glibly their Tongues the pretty Lispers move,
"And Nonsense will be Eloquence in Love."
Yet have we known superiour Nymphs that can
Assert an equal Pow'r, and rival Man!
Born Nature's Wonders, in all Shapes to please,
To speak with Eloquence, to write with Ease,
To model Laws, and rule a factious Realm:
Witness ELIZA at Old ENGLAND'S Helm!

Nay diff'rent Countries diff'rent Genius make;
Souls Modes peculiar to their Climate take:
Boetia's foggy Air was mark'd of old,
Athenian Wits were bright, and Theban cold.
Just view near Home the Surface of the Ball;
In Holland, Genius is mechanical:
In France, the Muses breath a livelier Strain;
They skip in Italy, and strut in Spain!
In England Oh! how manifold our Rhyme!
Where Genius is uncertain as the Clime.
We shew (consult the Press, the Stage, the Schools)
All Sorts of Wise Men, and all Sorts of Fools!
We count our Numbers of illustrious Name,
That climb'd by diff'rent Paths the Hill of Fame.

Ye Bards of Britain that have shin'd in Song,
Oh, let the Muse survey your tuneful Throng.
Chaucer, who notes not with a merry Glee,
Thy Genius full of quaint Festivity?
Who reads but must see, with feeling must admire
Bright Spencer's Fancy, and bold Milton's Fire.
Genius was studied Wit in Artful Ben,
But flow'd spontaneous, Dryden, from thy Pen:
'Twas thine in manly Richness to excel,
With twice thy Labour few write half so well.
Fletcher had copious Energy of Mind;
Cowley's was Wit let loose, and Wycherly's confin'd.
Who but applauds soft Otway's melting Lay,
The negligent Simplicity of Gay,
The genuine Mirth that tickled Butler's Vein,
Waller's terse Sonnet, and Garth's nervous Strain?
Such various Forms does Genius take to please;
In Rowe 'tis Elegance, in Prior Ease;
In Lee 'tis Flame, that lays half Nature waste,
And in the Courtly Addison 'tis Taste.
'Tis comic Grace in Steele, that shunn'd Offence;
In Pope 'tis Sweetness, Purity, and Sense.
'Tis Humour in the DEAN unequall'd yet,
And Congreve, who could stand thy two-edg'd Wit?

To sev'ral Bards their sev'ral Virtues fall;
But to immortal SHAKESPEARE, All!
SHAKESPEARE! — O Phoebus, lend thy golden Lyre,
Give me the Beams of thy coelestial Fire!
Avaunt ye Vulgar, Poets listen round,
And all PARNASSUS thunder with the Sound!
While the Muse dwells on SHAKESPEARE'S sacred Name,
And down Time's rapid tide bears his immortal Fame.
—The Rapture's o'er — I pant in vain to sing,
Droops the weak Muse, and flags her languid Wing;
She sinks beneath the Theme, she quits her Lays,
SHAKESPEARE she nam'd, and Silence is her Praise!

Assert we then the Force of Genius lies
In Verse alone? Are Poet's only wise?
We hinted Genius is of various Kind,
And vast the Province of the human Mind.
Who well performs his fate-allotted part,
By Strength of Nature, or by Dint of Art,
Whate'er the Subject of his happy Skill,
The Product is the Work of Genius still.
What honied Dew distill'd from Tully's Tongue!
What soft Persuasion on his Accents hung!
So smoothly strong the sweet Oration flows
'Tis plain the Muses sometimes speak in Prose;
Bid him write Verses; who but will agree?
Cib—r can make as good an Ode as He.

'Tis nought but Genius that in all presides,
Commands in Battle, and in Council guides;
Sad Woes ensu'd, where Fools have Squadrons led:
For what is Caesar's Arm, without his Head?
Nor needs the Muse to distant Regions roam;
Genius appears in ev'ry Shape at home;
A glorious List in British Annals shines
Of Statesmen, Chiefs, Philosophers, Divines.
Long Lucubrations o'er the midnight Oil,
Gave to the World a Newton, and a Boyle!
Each Alma Mater boasts her fav'rite Own,
OXFORD her Bradley, CAMBRIDGE Sanderson!
'Tis not a puny Judg can find a Flaw
In Sherlock's Gospel, on in H—'s Law.
What plenteous Streams in easy Sense we see
In fluent Tillotson's Divinity?
Yet fluent Tillotson had nought to say,
Had not the solid Barrow led the Way!
Others may fright you from the Tempter's Gin,
But South will make a Man asham'd of Sin.
Nay some we know (and knowing we must smile)
Blest with a Talent, but without a Stile.
Hammond stands foremost of this awkward Line,
A rumbling Writer, but a deep Divine!
Who ever knew so strange a Vein as His?
Or so much Learning in Parenthesis?
T' would tire the Muse, and Reader to proceed
From reas'ning Chillingworth to florid Seed;
The Works of Christian Labour to explore
Of Hooker, Pearson, Laud, and Numbers more;
That drew their manly Quills for righteous Ends,
The Church's Champions, and Religion's Friends.

I grieve to think what Souls have been destroy'd,
By Wit perverse, and Genius misemploy'd:
For nought awakes so soon the vengeful Rod,
As Wisdom flying in the Face of God.
The Force of Reason is of finite Length;
This Giant that attempts beyond his Strength,
Our boasted Light of Nature, feeble Spark,
Guides for a while, but leaves us in the Dark.
As glimm'ring Vapours with a pallid Ray
Light us to Quagmires, and to Gulphs betray.
How vain is mortal Man above his Sphere!
Poor, knowing Fool, just wise enough to err!
Go, span the Globe, the World's strong Bounds o'releap,
Empty the yawning Caverns of the Deep,
Count all the Fibres of that Reptile's Thigh,
Catch me the trembling Sun-beams as they fly,
Then take thy Understanding's Cable-Line,
Examine God, and measure Truths divine.
Grant me, kind Heav'n, to see, e're I explain,
Correct the false Ambition of my Brain,
And on my Mind this Maxim printed be,
The Christian Virtue is Humility!
Happier the simple Swain, the rustic Fool,
That never took the Polish of a School,
Than, swell'd with Pride, a Master of all Arts
With Shaftsbury's Cunning, and with St. John's Parts!
Much Wit obscene has crept thro' ev'ry Age,
But Lewdness riots on the modern Stage.
O Shame to Arts! — Our Poets may defie
The Bards of old: with Rome and Athens vie;
May boast Invention, Penetration, Wit,
All Qualities for either Drama fit:
May touch the Passions with enchanting Art,
And take minutest Copies of the Heart:
Yet of past Times the Panegyric be,
That Pagan Wits were better Men than we.

Genius depends then on the Body's Frame—
Tell me, will Genius never be the same?
Or will the Diff'rence we to day espy,
Subsist in Souls to all Eternity?
Such Question put, if Reason may be bold
In humble wise Conjectures to unfold,
She seems to dictate, and she fears not blame,
That Things once diff'ring, never are the same:
Here or hereafter, in what Light you will,
A Man, you know, is Soul and Body still;
And still corporeal Organs, and their Use
Must correspondent Faculties produce:
But Body in that happier State, refin'd,
Shall leave it's old Infirmities behind,
And every Soul be perfect in her Kind.
Consult material Objects, and we see
God's Pow'r declar'd by sweet Variety;
The diff'rent Seasons diff'rent Beauties bring;
'Tis not one Colour paints the jolly Spring.
The Sun, gay Giant, travels in his Might;
Smiles from her Orb the placid Queen of Night.
Each Insect that eludes the nicest Eye,
One of the Myriads floating in the Sky,
His Maker's Praise proclaim as loudly can,
As Ocean's Tyrant King, the Great Leviathan!
Look thro' all Nature, the vast Tracts of Space,
Each Being has it's proper Pow'r and Place.
Th' Angelic Hosts that round the Godhead wait,
And issue forth, the Ministers of Fate,
Have their respective Provinces, and know
What Part to act above, and what below;
Messiah's Sword to Michael's Might is giv'n,
And Gabriel is Embassador of Heav'n!

Hence then from Inf'rence little forc'd, we find
That Souls will differ, and excel in Kind;
But when admitted to the Realms of Joy,
What certain Office, what precise Employ
Shall exercise the sev'ral Pow'rs of each,
Present Conception not presumes to reach.
Enough from gen'ral Principles to shew,
That one great Point of Bliss will be, to know:
To touch Perfection in a fav'rite Art,
And grieve no longer but to know in Part:
To mark where Truth in her Recesses lies,
Pursue her without Toil, and grasp her as she flies!

The sage Logician then shall clearly see,
How all Ideas differ, or agree,
And from her Coverts drive fly Sophistry;
No need to shift, to wrangle, and confute;
For sure the Blessed reason, not dispute.
See! pensive Metaphysics! Science coy!
In Contemplation only knowing Joy!
Sober Recluse, no noisy Stander by,
She sits, anatomizing Entity!
Purg'd of the grosser Particles of Clay,
And all material Obstacles away,
In the full Vigour of eternal Youth,
Oh! How will She adore abstracted Truth!
Physics still fond new Secrets to descry,
And look thro' Nature with a piercing Eye,
Hereafter latent Causes may explore,
When all the present System is no more,
And prove, when Inmate of the blest Abode,
The World an Atom to the Works of God!
The pale Astronomer that kens from far
The station'd Planet, or the wand'ring Star,
When this frail Earth in Ruin shall be hurl'd,
May count the Lamps that light a nobler World;
And subtle Geometry shall lend her Line,
And take Dimensions of the Plan divine.
What Sounds shall flow from Rhetric's silver Tongue!
How sweet her Eloquence, her Voice how strong!
Her wond'rous Talents graceful She displays,
And thunders forth the Heav'nly Monarch's Praise.
Hark! Hark! the raptur'd Bard has struck the Lyre,
Blazes aloft the true Poetic Fire;
Ten thousand vast Ideas swell his Mind;
Imagination ranges unconfin'd;
Now softly trills, now loudly sounds the Strain,
He sings JEHOVAH'S all-triumphant Reign,
And Music fills th' unmeasurable Plain!
He charms the winged Hosts that hover by,
And Spirits shout Applause that rends the sky.

Such then the future Pleasures of the Mind,
So solid, manly, rational, refin'd,
Productive ever of the truest Joy,
And sure to satisfy, but not to cloy,
How vain at once appear all worldly Schemes,
The Tricks of Statesmen, and Ambition's Dreams?
Low the Designs the wisest Mortals lay,
And vile the brutal Pleasures of a Day!
Awake, awake, pursue the proper Plan;
Virtue and Knowledge only make a Man!
Despise the World, a better Fortune try,
And calculate for Immortality.
Ideots by nat'ral Organs ill supplied,
Untutor'd Louts, whose parts were never tried,
Hereafter hidden Excellence may shew,
And rank with Souls that scorn'd them here below:
But for the Sot that sees, yet slights his Rule,
The wilful Novice, the industrious Fool,
That lulls with Sloth, or steeps in Vice his Sense,
The Slave of Pleasure, or of Indolence,
How wretched is his Fate? fears he not Plain,
The gnawing Viper, and the galling Chain?
Still wretched is the Blockhead's Fate — for why?
Eternal Ignorance is Misery.

Who goodly Talents have, should Talents use,
But still with upright, and with virtuous Views;
For Application sometimes less pretence
To Merit has, than barren Ignorance;
Nothing fatigues the Soul, or tires the Brain,
Like Lust of Empire, or the Thirst of Gain:
And these o'er-ruling in an active Mind
Spoil Nations, and make Havock of Mankind:
Ingenious Tyrants only make us Slaves;
Were all Men Fools, sure no Men would be Knaves.

Ambition take the Scepter, and the Robe,
Spread thy huge Greatness over half the Globe;
Lo, the World bursts, 'Tis Nature's dying Day,
The Sun is dark, the Planets melt away!
Now boast thy Genius, exercise thy Parts,
Recount thy Feats, and recognize thy Arts;
Alas! thou cursest thy too pregnant Brain,
And Knowledge is acute to quicken Pain.

The Nature, the Importance, and the End
Of Genius such, be wise then, and attend;
How we may best our nat'ral Pow'rs improve,
And qualify the Soul for Bliss above.
Genius lies hid, like Metal in the Mine,
Till searching Education bids its shine.
'Tis but a glorious Few of deathless Name
Have found, without a Guide, their Road to Fame;
Nor slight their Province, if we justly rate,
Who till the Mind, and Genius cultivate;
Much penetration, and no little Toil
Must try the Strength, and Temper of the Soil;
Some Minds rich-natur'd, like a fruitful Field,
To little Culture ample Harvests yield;
Others assiduous Labour must secure;
They owe their goodly Produce to Manure:
True Judgment too should mark where Talent lies;
And, soon as seen, indulge Propensities:
For diff'rent Objects diff'rent Fancies strike,
Genius, we said before, is not alike.
Pope's forward Muse procur'd him early Fame,
"He lisp'd in Numbers, for the Numbers came;"
Another's unharmonious Taste is such,
Sooner than Poetry he'd learn High Dutch!
Yet he peculiar Talents may display,
And prove a very Wonder in his Way.
Why must all Mortals seek one common Praise?
Is there no Garland but a Wreath of Bays?
To steep Parnassus' Summit most sublime,
'Tis not a short-breath'd Pegasus can climb;
Yet tho' the panting Jade would fain stand still,
The blind Orbilius flogs him up the Hill.

Some seem to think that Genius may be sold,
But Wit is not, like Honour, bought with Gold;
To foreign Regions wealthy Idiots roam,
Tho' Fools of all Men sure should stay at Home.
Another's Heir thro' Markham's Forms must pass,
He goes a Blockhead, and returns an Ass!
He gapes, he strains, he sweats, yet gets no higher;
For Nature put him down a Country 'Squire!
Others of lively Parts, but wretched Fate,
Want Nothing but a Fortune to be great:
Sometimes among the vulgar Herd we find
Strong Marks and Features of a heav'nly Mind;
The Village Swain's a Wit, he knows not how,
And I have seen Philosophy at Plough!
How are our Hopes by present Chances crost?
What Oafs make P—s—ns, and what Wits are lost!

When now your Genius, near to Ripeness grown,
Begins to glow with Raptures all it's own;
Ply it with chosen Books of various Kinds,
For Reading is the Food of hungry Minds:
Mod'rate and wholsom will suffice your Need;
'Tis not how much, but how, and what you read;
To rise with Appetite is always best;
Gluttons devour much more than they digest:
'Tis vain for ever over Books to pore,
Reading does much, but Meditation more:
Mere slavish Plodding never yet prevail'd;
See yon lank Student to his Folio nail'd,
He reads at Home, Abroad, at Meals, in Bed,
And have five thousand Volumes in his Head:
Yet little to Perfection has he brought,
For he has read so much he never thought.
The Youth more sprightly, and the glowing Bard,
That had as lief go dig, as study hard,
Applies by Fits, and at his Fancy's Call
Little he reads, but has that little all;
He sees, and he enjoys his Author's Worth,
Gathers his Flow'rs, and culls his Beauties forth;
He dwells with Transport on a favourite Part,
And clasps each striking Passage to his Heart!

Your Models chuse from Authors of first Rate,
He cannot write, who dares not emulate;
To Father Homer's sovereign Poetry
Rome owes her Virgil, and our Milton we:
High as the tow'ring Strains of Pindar soar,
Great Flaccus was, what Pindar was before.
For present Times to emulate is all;
'Tis not in Wit to be original!
Leave Books — and go to Company; and then
Leave Company, and go to Books again;
The studious Mind 'tis useful to unbend
In pleasing Converse with a social Friend:
For cordial Juices of the generous Vine
Refresh the Weary, and the Dull refine;
O'er flowing Bowls rebounds the sparkling Wit,
And sure no Poet was a Milk-sop yet.
Intemp'rate Revelling alone consumes
The vital Pow'rs, and clouds the Brain in Fumes.
Horace, expertest Handler of the Lyre,
In rich Falernum quaff'd poetic Fire;
A jovial Bard! How pleasant are his Strains!
How much Good-humour in his Writings reigns!
He laughs, tho' angry, and will still delight;
His Verse is Satyr, but it is not Spight.
How does the Muse with free Politeness rail,
While Juvenal's is thrashing with a Flail!

Scholars should know, all Fire in Motion lies,
And whet their Parts with manly Exercise:
Dullness sits slumb'ring in an Elbow chair,
But the gay Muses love to take the Air.
The Shades of Night are fled before the Morn;
The Mountains echoe to the chearful Horn:
Men, Dogs, and Horses, Neighings, Shouts, and Cries,
Shake, with tumultuous Jollity the Skies;
The Chace begins; they pant in every Vein,
Now climb the Hill's steep Brow, then scour along the Plain!

Such Sports as these enliven; they impart
Warmth to the Brain, and Gladness to the Heart.

But if due Aid to Genius may be lent,
Much too it suffers by Impediment.
Unhappy is the Bard that deals in Rhyme,
When Wit is obsolete, and Sense a Crime.
When the weak Muse, in a degen'rate Age,
Crawls from the Press, or lamely treads the Stage;
No longer dares to noble Heights advance,
But chimes in Song, or trifles in Romance.
Infected by false Taste great Souls we see,
Who, R—d—n, can Nature paint like thee?
Yet would a Genius toy as thou hast done,
And spin Morality like Grandison?

How shall the genuine Bard escape from Fools,
That judge by narrow, or by partial Rules?
A thousand Witlings maul his mangled Name,
And yelping Critics hunt him out of Fame.
Nay Censure so perversely plays her Tricks,
That she will Measure Wit by Politicks;
And some with hollow Heads, but Faces big,
Will almost swear APOLLO is a WHIG!
Men of true Genius, and of real Use,
Can Oxford, that vile Nazareth, produce?
And yet impartial Sarum did declare,
Once on a Time there was one Scholar there!
Oxford! my Joy! my Wonder! and my Boast!
My constant Triumph, and my daily Toast!
O let thy Son his willing Duty pay,
And grateful pour the Tributary Lay;
Rescue thy Fame from Slander thrown by Slaves,
And snatch thy Honour from the Gripe of Knaves.
—I spare my Pen, when nought to prove I find;
For who can see the Sun, when all are blind?
Nor Cam repine we at thy equal Praise,
The learned Sisters may divide the Bays.
—But in this wooden Age, these dastard Times,
O'er-run with Follies, and soul-stain'd with Crimes;
When Vice gigantic takes her public Stand,
And bids Corruption deluge all the Land,
Sculks now no more in Holes from Place to Place,
But stares astonish'd Virtue in the Face;
When Chiefs blaspheme the God for whom they fight,
And all Religion is to be polite;
In such a Day as this secure to steer,
With spotless Honour from Contagion clear,
To cherish still the dying patriot Fire,
Unaw'd by Menace, and unbought by Hire,
To own, and to defend the Christian Name,
And fix on Infidels the Mark of Shame,
Is the first Point of Praise; and let the Nine
Sound with their Harps this Praise, fair Oxford, thine.
'Tis not a minor Bard can hope to please,
And struggle thro' Discouragements like these.
For ever sure must damp poetick Rage,
False Taste, loose Manners, and a slavish Age!

If these are Plagues, still more remain behind,
Wits tell you Fortune frowns upon their Kind.
Alas! What sources of Obstruction lie
In the great common Woe of Poverty!
Whose Case is hardest, 'tis not quickly said,
Or their that work, or their that write for Bread:
The starveling Curate the fat Dean supplies,
One makes Divinity, and t' other buys.—
How sinks the needy Wretch beneath himself,
That sells his Parts to ministerial Pelf!
Yet such for State Necessities are fit,
For nothing helps a Villain out like Wit.
Sure of all Writers Poets should not lack,
'Twill spoil your Pegasus to make him hack;
The Muse expands her Wings before you ask;
She loves Employment, but she hates a Task:
To Dryden the proud Manager could say,
On pain of Thirst and Hunger, bring your Play;
The Play appears in Breach of ev'ry Rule,
And Want makes Dryden sometimes half a Fool.

Such from without the Causes that we find
Obstruct the Operations of the Mind;
Within too, Genius has it's Enemies;
And in ourselves too oft our Hindrance lies:
Our Passions, Vices, Follies, Wit misguide,
Intemp'rance, Anger, Hastiness, and Pride.

We said, Debauches will Oblivion bring,
And mix dull Lethe with the Muses' Spring.

The Mind is then most vig'rous when serene;
Crude are the half-form'd Dictates of the Spleen.
What then inspires the sharp, satiric Page?
Oft, fix'd Ill-nature, seldom, sudden Rage.

Some giddy Fancies ev'ry Object hit,
'Tis Folly to be prodigal of Wit!
The Verse is short-liv'd that is premature;
The Muse tho' never slow, should still be sure:
These are thy Honours, Blackmore, this thy Gain,
That Nonsense came in Vollies from thy Brain!

Conceit with empty Vapours puffs the Mind,
And makes an Author to his Errors blind;
'Tis the first Praise to make, the next to mend;
Go, court the Censure of an able Friend:
Procure the Sanction of a learned Few:
Who knows what Mortals may your Works review?
True Modesty for Wit may sometimes pass;
But ever Coxcomb is, as such, an Ass:
The best Productions some Defects will stain,
And he affronts Mankind, who dares be vain!

—O! that my Muse Assistance could impart,
As far as Nature may be help'd by Art;
Ingenious Art is Nature's truest Friend,
And what God made, 'tis only she can mend.

For me, howe'er I covet lasting Fame,
And pant with Longings for a Poet's Name;
Yet let my Soul confess a nobler Aim!
Give me, kind Heaven, still higher Point to reach,
Give me to practice, what I strive to teach;
My standing Rules of daily Conduct be,
Faith, Honour, Justice, Candour, Charity;
Careless of false Reproach, or vain Applause,
Be Worth my Eulogy, and Truth my Cause;
O may I wield an independent Pen,
A Friend to Virtue, not a Tool to Men;
In Perseverance placing all my Glory,
While Tories, Whigs, and all Men call be TORY!
Warm in my Breast may patriot Passion glow;
Righteous Resentment of my Country's Woe:
With Voice and Heart for ever may I stand
'Gainst Vermin that devour my native Land:
And in one Wish my Wishes center'd be,
That I may live to hail my Country free!
Give me this Fame kind Heav'n, and tho' my Song
Ranks me the meanest of the raptur'd Throng,
I shall enjoy a sweet Content; a Praise
That Shakespear's could not give, or Homer's Bays.

[pp. 225-49]