Happy the bard (though few such bards we find)
Who, 'bove controlment, dares to speak his mind;
Dares, unabash'd, in every place appear,
And nothing fears, but what he ought to fear:
Him Fashion cannot tempt, him abject Need
Cannot compel, him Pride cannot mislead
To be the slave of Greatness, to strike sail
When, sweeping onward with her peacock's tail,
Quality in full plumage passes by;
He views her with a fix'd, contemptuous eye,
And mocks the puppet, keeps his own due state,
And is above conversing with the great.
Perish those slaves, those minions of the quill,
Who have conspired to seize that sacred hill
Where the Nine Sisters pour a genuine strain,
And sunk the mountain level with the plain;
Who, with mean, private views, and servile art,
No spark of virtue living in their heart,
Have basely turn'd apostates; have debased
Their dignity of office; have disgraced,
Like Eli's sons, the altars where they stand,
And caused their name to stink through all the land;
Have stoop'd to prostitute their venal pen
For the support of great, but guilty men;
Have made the bard, of their own vile accord,
Inferior to that thing we call a lord.
What is a lord? Doth that plain simple word
Contain some magic spell? As soon as heard,
Like an alarum bell on Night's dull ear,
Doth it strike louder, and more strong appear
Than other words? Whether we will or no,
Through Reason's court doth it unquestion'd go
E'en on the mention, and of course transmit
Notions of something excellent; of wit
Pleasing, though keen; of humour free, though chaste;
Of sterling genius, with sound judgment graced;
Of virtue far above temptation's reach,
And honour, which not malice can impeach?
Believe it not--'twas Nature's first intent,
Before their rank became their punishment,
They should have pass'd for men, nor blush'd to prize
The blessings she bestow'd; she gave them eyes,
And they could see; she gave them ears--they heard;
The instruments of stirring, and they stirr'd;
Like us, they were design'd to eat, to drink,
To talk, and (every now and then) to think;
Till they, by Pride corrupted, for the sake
Of singularity, disclaim'd that make;
Till they, disdaining Nature's vulgar mode,
Flew off, and struck into another road,
More fitting Quality, and to our view
Came forth a species altogether new,
Something we had not known, and could not know,
Like nothing of God's making here below;
Nature exclaim'd with wonder--'Lords are things,
Which, never made by me, were made by kings.'
A lord (nor let the honest and the brave,
The true old noble, with the fool and knave
Here mix his fame; cursed be that thought of mine,
Which with a B---- and E---- should Grafton join),
A lord (nor here let Censure rashly call
My just contempt of some, abuse of all,
And, as of late, when Sodom was my theme,
Slander my purpose, and my Muse blaspheme,
Because she stops not, rapid in her song,
To make exceptions as she goes along,
Though well she hopes to find, another year,
A whole minority exceptions here),
A mere, mere lord, with nothing but the name,
Wealth all his worth, and title all his fame,
Lives on another man, himself a blank,
Thankless he lives, or must some grandsire thank
For smuggled honours, and ill-gotten pelf;
A bard owes all to Nature, and himself.
Gods! how my soul is burnt up with disdain,
When I see men, whom Phoebus in his train
Might view with pride, lackey the heels of those
Whom Genius ranks among her greatest foes!
And what's the cause? Why, these same sons of Scorn,
No thanks to them, were to a title born,
And could not help it; by chance hither sent,
And only deities by accident.
Had Fortune on our getting chanced to shine,
Their birthright honours had been yours or mine,
'Twas a mere random stroke; and should the Throne
Eye thee with favour, proud and lordly grown,
Thou, though a bard, might'st be their fellow yet:
But Felix never can be made a wit.
No, in good faith--that's one of those few things
Which Fate hath placed beyond the reach of kings:
Bards may be lords, but 'tis not in the cards,
Play how we will, to turn lords into bards.
A bard!--a lord!--why, let them, hand in hand,
Go forth as friends, and travel through the land;
Observe which word the people can digest
Most readily, which goes to market best,
Which gets most credit, whether men will trust
A bard, because they think he may be just,
Or on a lord will chose to risk their gains,
Though privilege in that point still remains.
A bard!--a lord!--let Reason take her scales,
And fairly weigh those words, see which prevails,
Which in the balance lightly kicks the beam,
And which, by sinking, we the victor deem.
'Tis done, and Hermes, by command of Jove,
Summons a synod in the sacred grove,
Gods throng with gods to take their chairs on high,
And sit in state, the senate of the sky,
Whilst, in a kind of parliament below,
Men stare at those above, and want to know
What they're transacting: Reason takes her stand
Just in the midst, a balance in her hand,
Which o'er and o'er she tries, and finds it true:
From either side, conducted full in view,
A man comes forth, of figure strange and queer;
We now and then see something like them here.
The first was meagre, flimsy, void of strength,
But Nature kindly had made up in length
What she in breadth denied; erect and proud,
A head and shoulders taller than the crowd,
He deem'd them pigmies all; loose hung his skin
O'er his bare bones; his face so very thin,
So very narrow, and so much beat out,
That physiognomists have made a doubt,
Proportion lost, expression quite forgot,
Whether it could be call'd a face or not;
At end of it, howe'er, unbless'd with beard,
Some twenty fathom length of chin appear'd;
With legs, which we might well conceive that Fate
Meant only to support a spider's weight,
Firmly he strove to tread, and with a stride,
Which show'd at once his weakness and his pride,
Shaking himself to pieces, seem'd to cry,
'Observe, good people, how I shake the sky.'
In his right hand a paper did he hold,
On which, at large, in characters of gold,
Distinct, and plain for those who run to see,
Saint Archibald had wrote L, O, R, D.
This, with an air of scorn, he from afar
Twirl'd into Reason's scales, and on that bar,
Which from his soul he hated, yet admired,
Quick turn'd his back, and, as he came, retired.
The judge to all around his name declared;
Each goddess titter'd, each god laugh'd, Jove stared,
And the whole people cried, with one accord,
'Good Heaven bless us all, is that a Lord!'
Such was the first--the second was a man
Whom Nature built on quite a different plan;
A bear, whom, from the moment he was born,
His dam despised, and left unlick'd in scorn;
A Babel, which, the power of Art outdone,
She could not finish when she had begun;
An utter Chaos, out of which no might,
But that of God, could strike one spark of light.
Broad were his shoulders, and from blade to blade
A H---- might at full length have laid;
Vast were his bones, his muscles twisted strong;
His face was short, but broader than 'twas long;
His features, though by Nature they were large,
Contentment had contrived to overcharge,
And bury meaning, save that we might spy
Sense lowering on the penthouse of his eye;
His arms were two twin oaks; his legs so stout
That they might bear a Mansion-house about;
Nor were they, look but at his body there,
Design'd by Fate a much less weight to bear.
O'er a brown cassock, which had once been black,
Which hung in tatters on his brawny back,
A sight most strange, and awkward to behold,
He threw a covering of blue and gold.
Just at that time of life, when man, by rule,
The fop laid down, takes up the graver fool,
He started up a fop, and, fond of show,
Look'd like another Hercules turn'd beau,
A subject met with only now and then,
Much fitter for the pencil than the pen;
Hogarth would dr