To the Right Hon. Sir Robert Walpole, Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter.

Quësitam meritis.


With invocations some their breasts inflame;
I need no muse, a Walpole is my theme.
Ye mighty dead, ye garter'd sons of praise!
Our morning stars! our boast in former days!
Which hovering o'er, your purple wings display,
Lur'd by the pomp of this distinguish'd day,
Stoop, and attend: by one, the knee be bound;
One, throw the mantle's crimson folds around;
By that, the sword on his proud thigh be plac'd;
This, clasp the diamond girdle round his waist;
His breast, with rays, let just Godolphin spread;
Wise Burleigh plant the plumage on his head;
And Edward own, since first he fix'd the race,
None press'd fair glory with a swifter pace.
When fate would call some mighty genius forth
To wake a drooping age to godlike worth,
Or aid some favourite king's illustrious toil,
It bids his blood with generous ardour boil;
His blood, from virtue's celebrated source,
Pour'd down the steep of time, a lengthen'd course;
That men prepar'd may just attention pay,
Warn'd by the dawn to mark the glorious day,
When all the scatter'd merits of his line
Collected to a point, intensely shine.
See, Britain, see thy Walpole shine from far,
His azure ribbon, and his radiant star;
A star that, with auspicious beams, shall guide
Thy vessel safe, through fortune's roughest tide.
If peace still smiles, by this shall commerce steer
A finish'd course, in triumph round the sphere;
And, gathering tribute from each distant shore,
In Britain's lap the world's abundance pour.
If war's ordain'd, this star shall dart its beams
Through that black cloud which, rising from the Thames,
With thunder, form'd of Brunswick's wrath, is sent
To claim the seas, and awe the continent.
This shall direct it where the bolt to throw,
A star for us, a comet to the foe.
At this the muse shall kindle, and aspire:
My breast, O Walpole, glows with grateful fire.
The streams of royal bounty, turn'd by thee,
Refresh the dry domains of poesy.
My fortune shows, when arts are Walpole's care,
What slender worth forbids us to despair:
Be this thy partial smile from censure free;
'Twas meant for merit, though it fell on me.
Since Brunswick's smile has authoris'd my muse,
Chaste be her conduct, and sublime her views.
False praises are the whoredoms of the pen,
Which prostitute fair fame to worthless men:
This profanation of celestial fire
Makes fools despise, what wise men should admire.
Let those I praise to distant times be known,
Not by their author's merit, but their own.
If others think the task is hard, to weed
From verse rank flattery's vivacious seed,
And rooted deep; one means must set them free,
Patron! and patriot! let them sing of thee.
While vulgar trees ignobler honours wear,
Nor those retain, when winter chills the year;
The generous orange, favourite of the sun,
With vigorous charms can through the seasons run;
Defies the storm with her tenacious green;
And flowers and fruits in rival pomp are seen:
Where blossoms fall, still fairer blossoms spring;
And midst their sweets the feather'd poets sing.
On Walpole, thus, may pleas'd Britannia view
At once her ornament and profit too;
The fruit of service, and the bloom of fame,
Matur'd and gilded by the royal beam.
He, when the nipping blasts of envy rise
Its guilt can pity, and its rage despise;
Lets fall no honours, but, securely great,
Unfaded holds the colour of his fate:
No winter knows, though ruffling factions press;
By wisdom deeply rooted in success;
One glory shed, a brighter is display'd;(61)
And the charm'd muses shelter in his shade.
O how I long, enkindled by the theme,
In deep eternity to launch thy name!
Thy name in view, no rights of verse I plead,
But what chaste truth indites, old time shall read.
"Behold! a man of ancient faith and blood,
Which, soon, beat high for arts, and public good;
Whose glory great, but natural appears,
The genuine growth of services and years;
No sudden exhalation drawn on high,
And fondly gilt by partial majesty:
One bearing greatest toils with greatest ease,
One born to serve us, and yet born to please:
Whom, while our rights in equal scales he lays,
The prince may trust, and yet the people praise;
His genius ardent, yet his judgment clear,
His tongue is flowing, and his heart sincere,
His counsel guides, his temper cheers our isle,
And, smiling, gives three kingdoms cause to smile."
Joy then to Britain, blest with such a son,
To Walpole joy, by whom the prize is won;
Who nobly conscious meets the smiles of fate;
True greatness lies in daring to be great.
Let dastard souls, or affectation, run
To shades, nor wear bright honours fairly won;
Such men prefer, misled by false applause,
The pride of modesty to virtue's cause.
Honours, which make the face of virtue fair,
'Tis great to merit, and 'tis wise to wear;
'Tis holding up the prize to public view,
Confirms grown virtue, and inflames the new;
Heightens the lustre of our age and clime,
And sheds rich seeds of worth for future time.
Proud chiefs alone, in fields of slaughter fam'd,
Of old, this azure bloom of glory claim'd,
As when stern Ajax pour'd a purple flood,
The violet rose, fair daughter of his blood.
Now rival wisdom dares the wreath divide,
And both Minervas rise in equal pride;
Proclaiming loud, a monarch fills the throne,
Who shines illustrious not in wars alone.
Let fame look lovely in Britannia's eyes;
They coldly court desert, who fame despise.
For what's ambition, but fair virtue's sail?
And what applause, but her propitious gale?
When swell'd with that, she fleets before the wind
To glorious aims, as to the port design'd;
When chain'd, without it, to the labouring oar,
She toils! she pants! nor gains the flying shore,
From her sublime pursuits, or turn'd aside
By blasts of envy, or by fortune's tide:
For one that has succeeded ten are lost,
Of equal talents, ere they make the coast.
Then let renown to worth divine incite,
With all her beams, but throw those beams aright.
Then merit droops, and genius downward tends,
When godlike glory, like our land, descends.
Custom the garter long confin'd to few,
And gave to birth, exalted virtue's due:
Walpole has thrown the proud enclosure down;
And high desert embraces fair renown.
Though rival'd, let the peerage smiling see
(Smiling, in justice to their own degree)
This proud reward by majesty bestow'd
On worth like that whence first the peerage flow'd.
From frowns of fate Britannia's bliss'd to guard,
Let subjects merit, and let kings reward.
Gods are most gods by giving to excel,
And kings most like them, by rewarding well.
Though strong the twanging nerve, and drawn aright,
Short is the winged arrow's upward flight;
But if an eagle it transfix on high,
Lodg'd in the wound, it soars into the sky.

Thus while I sing thee with unequal lays,
And wound perhaps that worth I mean to praise;
Yet I transcend myself, I rise in fame,
Not lifted by my genius, but my theme.
No more: for in this dread suspense of fate,
Now kingdoms fluctuate, and in dark debate
Weigh peace and war, now Europe's eyes are bent
On mighty Brunswick, for the great event,
Brunswick of kings the terror or defence!
Who dares detain thee at a world's expense?

61 Knight of the Bath, and then of the Garter.