All write at London; shall the rage abate
Here, where it most should shine, the muses' seat?
Where, mortal or immortal, as they please,
The learn'd may choose eternity, or ease?
Has not a (66)royal patron wisely strove
To woo the muse in her Athenian grove?
Added new strings to her harmonious shell,
And given new tongues to those who spoke so well?
Let these instruct, with truth's illustrious ray,
Awake the world, and scare our owls away.
Meanwhile, O friend! indulge me, if I give
Some needful precepts how to write, and live!
Serious should be an author's final views;
Who write for pure amusement, ne'er amuse.
An author! 'tis a venerable name!
How few deserve it, and what numbers claim!
Unblest with sense above their peers refin'd,
Who shall stand up, dictators to mankind?
Nay, who dare shine, if not in virtue's cause?
That sole proprietor of just applause.
Ye restless men, who pant for letter'd praise,
With whom would you consult to gain the bays?--
With those great authors whose fam'd works you read?
'Tis well: go, then, consult the laurell'd shade.
What answer will the laurell'd shade return?
Hear it, and tremble! he commands you burn
The noblest works his envied genius writ,
That boast of nought more excellent than wit.
If this be true, as 'tis a truth most dread,
Woe to the page which has not that to plead!
Fontaine and Chaucer, dying, wish'd unwrote,
The sprightliest efforts of their wanton thought:
Sidney and Waller, brightest sons of fame,
Condemn the charm of ages to the flame:
And in one point is all true wisdom cast,
To think that early we must think at last.
Immortal wits, ev'n dead, break nature's laws,
Injurious still to virtue's sacred cause;
And their guilt growing, as their bodies rot,
(Revers'd ambition!) pant to be forgot.
Thus ends your courted fame: does lucre then,
The sacred thirst of gold, betray your pen?
In prose 'tis blameable, in verse 'tis worse,
Provokes the muse, extorts Apollo's curse:
His sacred influence never should be sold:
'Tis arrant simony to sing for gold:
'Tis immortality should fire your mind;
Scorn a less paymaster than all mankind.
If bribes you seek, know this, ye writing tribe!
Who writes for virtue has the largest bribe:
All's on the party of the virtuous man;
The good will surely serve him, if they can;
The bad, when interest, or ambition guide,
And 'tis at once their interest and their pride:
But should both fail to take him to their care,
He boasts a greater friend, and both may spare.
Letters to man uncommon light dispense;
And what is virtue, but superior sense?
In parts and learning you who place your pride,
Your faults are crimes, your crimes are double dyed.
What is a scandal of the first renown,
But letter'd knaves, and atheists in a gown?
'Tis harder far to please than give offence;
The least misconduct damns the brightest sense;
Each shallow pate, that cannot read your name,
Can read your life, and will be proud to blame.
Flagitious manners make impressions deep
On those, that o'er a page of Milton sleep:
Nor in their dulness think to save your shame,
True, these are fools; but wise men say the same.
Wits are a despicable race of men,
If they confine their talents to the pen;
When the man shocks us, while the writer shines,
Our scorn in life, our envy in his lines.
Yet, proud of parts, with prudence some dispense,
And play the fool, because they're men of sense.
What instances bleed recent in each thought,
Of men to ruin by their genius brought!
Against their wills what numbers ruin shun,
Purely through want of wit to be undone!
Nature has shown, by making it so rare,
That wit's a jewel which we need not wear.
Of plain sound sense life's current coin is made;
With that we drive the most substantial trade.
Prudence protects and guides us; wit betrays;
A splendid source of ill ten thousand ways;
A certain snare to miseries immense;
A gay prerogative from common sense;
Unless strong judgment that wild thing can tame,
And break to paths of virtue and of fame.
But grant your judgment equal to the best,
Sense fills your head, and genius fires your breast;
Yet still forbear: your wit (consider well)
'Tis great to show, but greater to conceal;
As it is great to seize the golden prize
Of place or power; but greater to despise.
If still you languish for an author's name,
Think private merit less than public fame,
And fancy not to write is not to live;
Deserve, and take, the great prerogative.
But ponder what it is; how dear 'twill cost,
To write one page which you may justly boast.
Sense may be good, yet not deserve the press;
Who write, an awful character profess;
The world as pupil of their wisdom claim,
And for their stipend an immortal fame:
Nothing but what is solid or refin'd,
Should dare ask public audience of mankind.
Severely weigh your learning, and your wit:
Keep down your pride by what is nobly writ:
No writer, fam'd in your own way, pass o'er;
Much trust example, but reflection more:
More had the ancients writ, they more had taught;
Which shows some work is left for modern thought.
This weigh'd, perfection know; and known, adore;
Toil, burn for that; but do not aim at more;
Above, beneath it, the just limits fix;
And zealously prefer four lines to six.
Write, and re-write, blot out, and write again,
And for its swiftness ne'er applaud your pen.
Leave to the jockeys that Newmarket praise,
Slow runs the Pegasus that wins the bays.
Much time for immortality to pay,
Is just and wise; for less is thrown away.
Time only can mature the labouring brain;
Time is the father, and the midwife pain:
The same good sense that makes a man excel,
Still makes him doubt he ne'er has written well.
Downright impossibilities they seek;
What man can be immortal in a week?
Excuse no fault; though beautiful, 'twill harm;
One fault shocks more than twenty beauties charm.
Our age demands correctness; Addison
And you this commendable hurt have done.
Now writers find, as once Achilles found,
The whole is mortal, if a part's unsound.
He that strikes out, and strikes not out the best,
Pours lustre in, and dignifies the rest:
Give e'er so little, if what's right be there,
We praise for what you burn, and what you spare:
The part you burn, smells sweet before the shrine,
And is as incense to the part divine.
Nor frequent write, though you can do it well;
Men may too oft, though not too much, excel.
A few good works gain fame; more sink their price;
Mankind are fickle, and hate paying twice:
They granted you writ well, what can they more,
Unless you let them praise for giving o'er?
Do boldly what you do, and let your page
Smile, if it smiles, and if it rages, rage.
So faintly Lucius censures and commends,
That Lucius has no foes, except his friends.
Let satire less engage you than applause;
It shows a gen'rous mind to wink at flaws:
Is genius yours? be yours a glorious end,
Be your king's, country's, truth's, religion's friend;
The public glory by your own beget;
Run nations, run posterity, in debt.
And since the fam'd alone make others live,
First have that glory you presume to give.
If satire charms, strike faults, but spare the man
'Tis dull to be as witty as you can.
Satire recoils whenever charg'd too high;
Round your own fame the fatal splinters fly.
As the soft plume gives swiftness to the dart,
Good breeding sends the satire to the heart.
Painters and surgeons may the structure scan;
Genius and morals be with you the man:
Defaults in those alone should give offence!
Who strikes the person, pleads his innocence.
My narrow minded satire can't extend
To Codrus' form; I'm not so much his friend:
Himself should publish that (the world agree)
Before his works, or in the pillory.
Let him be black, fair, tall, short, thin, or fat,
Dirty or clean, I find no theme in that.
Is that call'd humour? It has this pretence,
'Tis neither virtue, breeding, wit, or sense.
Unless you boast the genius of a Swift,
Beware of humour, the dull rogue's last shift.
Can others write like you? Your task give o'er,
'Tis printing what was publish'd long before.
If nought peculiar through your labours run,
They're duplicates, and twenty are but one.
Think frequently, think close, read nature, turn
Men's manners o'er, and half your volumes burn;
To nurse with quick reflection be your strife,
Thoughts born from present objects, warm from life:
When most unsought, such inspirations rise,
Slighted by fools, and cherish'd by the wise:
Expect peculiar fame from these alone;
These make an author, these are all your own.
Life, like their Bibles, coolly men turn o'er;
Hence unexperienc'd children of threescore.
True, all men think of course, as all men dream;
And if they slightly think, 'tis much the same.
Letters admit not of a half renown;
They give you nothing, or they give a crown.
No work e'er gain'd true fame, or ever can,
But what did honour to the name of man.
Weighty the subject, cogent the discourse,
Clear be the style, the very sound of force;
Easy the conduct, simple the design,
Striking the moral, and the soul divine:
Let nature art, and judgment wit, exceed;
O'er learning reason reign; o'er that, your creed:
Thus virtue's seeds, at once, and laurel's, grow;
Do thus, and rise a Pope, or a Despreau:
And when your genius exquisitely shines,
Live up to the full lustre of your lines:
Parts but expose those men who virtue quit;
A fallen angel is a fallen wit;
And they plead Lucifer's detested cause,
Who for bare talents challenge our applause.
Would you restore just honours to the pen?
From able writers rise to worthy men.
"Who's this with nonsense, nonsense would restrain?
Who's this (they cry) so vainly schools the vain?
Who damns our trash, with so much trash replete?
As, three ells round, huge Cheyne rails at meat?"
Shall I with Bavius then my voice exalt,
And challenge all mankind to find one fault?
With huge examens overwhelm my page,
And darken reason with dogmatic rage?
As if, one tedious volume writ in rhyme,
In prose a duller could excuse the crime:
Sure, next to writing, the most idle thing
Is gravely to harangue on what we sing.
At that tribunal stands the writing tribe,
Which nothing can intimidate or bribe:
Time is the judge; time has nor friend nor foe;
False fame must wither, and the true will grow.
Arm'd with this truth, all critics I defy;
For if I fall, by my own pen I die;
While snarlers strive with proud but fruitless pain
To wound immortals, or to slay the slain.
Sore prest with danger, and in awful dread
Of twenty pamphlets levell'd at my head,
Thus have I forg'd a buckler in my brain,
Of recent form, to serve me this campaign:
And safely hope to quit the dreadful field
Delug'd with ink, and sleep behind my shield;
Unless dire Codrus rouses to the fray
In all his might, and damns me--for a day.
As turns a flock of geese, and, on the green,
Poke out their foolish necks in awkward spleen,
(Ridiculous in rage!) to hiss, not bite,
So war their quills, when sons of dulness write.