The Library, by George Crabbe

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Title: The Library

Author: George Crabbe

Release Date: February, 2004  [EBook #5198]
[Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule]
[This file was first posted on June 3, 2002]
[Most recently updated: June 3, 2002]

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Transcribed by Mark Sherwood, e-mail



Books afford Consolation to the troubled Mind by substituting a lighter kind of Distress for its own - They are productive of other Advantages - An Author’s Hope of being known in distant times - Arrangement of the Library - Size and Form of the Volumes - The ancient Folio, clasped and chained - Fashion prevalent even in this Place - The Mode of publishing in Numbers, Pamphlets &c. - Subjects of the different Classes - Divinity - Controversy - The Friends of Religion often more dangerous than her Foes - Sceptical Authors - Reason too much rejected by the former Converts; exclusively relied upon by the latter - Philosophy ascending through the Scale of Being to Moral Subjects - Books of Medicine: their Variety, Variance, and Proneness to System: the Evil of this, and the Difficulty it causes - Farewell to this Study - Law: the increasing Number of its Volumes - Supposed happy State of Man without Laws - Progress of Society - Historians: their Subjects - Dramatic Authors, Tragic and Comic - Ancient Romances - The Captive Heroine - Happiness in the perusal of such Books: why - Criticism - Apprehensions of the Author: removed by the Appearance of the Genius of the Place; whose Reasoning and Admonition conclude the subject.

When the sad soul, by care and grief oppress’d,
Looks round the world, but looks in vain for rest;
When every object that appears in view
Partakes her gloom and seems dejected too;
Where shall affliction from itself retire?
Where fade away and placidly expire?
Alas! we fly to silent scenes in vain;
Care blasts the honours of the flow’ry plain:
Care veils in clouds the sun’s meridian beam,
Sighs through the grove, and murmurs in the stream;
For when the soul is labouring in despair,
In vain the body breathes a purer air:
No storm-tost sailor sighs for slumbering seas,-
He dreads the tempest, but invokes the breeze;
On the smooth mirror of the deep resides
Reflected woe, and o’er unruffled tides
The ghost of every former danger glides.
Thus, in the calms of life, we only see
A steadier image of our misery;
But lively gales and gently clouded skies
Disperse the sad reflections as they rise;
And busy thoughts and little cares avail
To ease the mind, when rest and reason fail.
When the dull thought, by no designs employ’d,
Dwells on the past, or suffer’d or enjoy’d,
We bleed anew in every former grief,
And joys departed furnish no relief.
   Not Hope herself, with all her flattering art,
Can cure this stubborn sickness of the heart:
The soul disdains each comfort she prepares,
And anxious searches for congenial cares;
Those lenient cares, which with our own combined,
By mix’d sensations ease th’ afflicted mind,
And steal our grief away, and leave their own behind;
A lighter grief! which feeling hearts endure
Without regret, nor e’en demand a cure.
   But what strange art, what magic can dispose
The troubled mind to change its native woes?
Or lead us willing from ourselves, to see
Others more wretched, more undone than we?
This BOOKS can do; - nor this alone; they give
New views to life, and teach us how to live;
They soothe the grieved, the stubborn they chastise,
Fools they admonish, and confirm the wise:
Their aid they yield to all: they never shun
The man of sorrow, nor the wretch undone:
Unlike the hard, the selfish, and the proud,
They fly not sullen from the suppliant crowd;
Nor tell to various people various things,
But show to subjects what they show to kings.
   Come, Child of Care! to make thy soul serene,
Approach the treasures of this tranquil scene;
Survey the dome, and, as the doors unfold,
The soul’s best cure, in all her cares, behold!
Where mental wealth the poor in thought may find,
And mental physic the diseased in mind;
See here the balms that passion’s wounds assuage;
See coolers here, that damp the fire of rage;
Here alt’ratives, by slow degrees control
The chronic habits of the sickly soul;
And round the heart and o’er the aching head,
Mild opiates here their sober influence shed.
Now bid thy soul man’s busy scenes exclude,
And view composed this silent multitude:-
Silent they are - but though deprived of sound,
Here all the living languages abound;
Here all that live no more; preserved they lie,
In tombs that open to the curious eye.
   Blest be the gracious Power, who taught mankind
To stamp a lasting image of the mind!
Beasts may convey, and tuneful birds may sing,
Their mutual feelings, in the opening spring ;
But Man alone has skill and power to send
The heart’s warm dictates to the distant friend;
’Tis his alone to please, instruct, advise
Ages remote, and nations yet to rise.
   In sweet repose, when Labour’s children sleep,
When Joy forgets to smile and Care to weep,
When Passion slumbers in the lover’s breast,
And Fear and Guilt partake the balm of rest,
Why then denies the studious man to share
Man’s common good, who feels his common care?
   Because the hope is his, that bids him fly
Night’s soft repose, and sleep’s mild power defy;
That after-ages may repeat his praise,
And fame’s fair meed be his, for length of days.
Delightful prospect! when we leave behind
A worthy offspring of the fruitful mind!
Which, born and nursed through many an anxious day,
Shall all our labour, all our care repay.
   Yet all are not these births of noble kind,
Not all the children of a vigorous mind;
But where the wisest should alone preside,
The weak would rule us, and the blind would guide;
Nay, man’s best efforts taste of man, and show
The poor and troubled source from which they flow;
Where most he triumphs we his wants perceive,
And for his weakness in his wisdom grieve.
But though imperfect all; yet wisdom loves
This seat serene, and virtue’s self approves:-
Here come the grieved, a change of thought to find;
The curious here to feed a craving mind;
Here the devout their peaceful temple choose;
And here the poet meets his favouring Muse.
   With awe, around these silent walks I tread;
These are the lasting mansions of the dead:-
“The dead!” methinks a thousand tongues reply;
“These are the tombs of such as cannot die!”
Crown’d with eternal fame, they sit sublime,
“And laugh at all the little strife of time.”
   Hail, then, immortals! ye who shine above,
Each, in his sphere, the literary Jove;
And ye the common people of these skies,
A humbler crowd of nameless deities;
Whether ‘tis yours to lead the willing mind
Through History’s mazes, and the turnings find;
Or, whether led by Science, ye retire,
Lost and bewilder’d in the vast desire;
Whether the Muse invites you to her bowers,
And crowns your placid brows with living flowers;
Or godlike Wisdom teaches you to show
The noblest road to happiness below;
Or men and manners prompt the easy page
To mark the flying follies of the age:
Whatever good ye boast, that good impart;
Inform the head and rectify the heart.
Lo, all in silence, all in order stand,
And mighty folios first, a lordly band ;
Then quartos their well-order’d ranks maintain,
And light octavos fill a spacious plain:
See yonder, ranged in more frequented rows,
A humbler band of duodecimos;
While undistinguish’d trifles swell the scene,
The last new play and fritter’d magazine.
Thus ‘tis in life, where first the proud, the great,
In leagued assembly keep their cumbrous state;
Heavy and huge, they fill the world with dread,
Are much admired, and are but little read:
The commons next, a middle rank, are found;
Professions fruitful pour their offspring round;
Reasoners and wits are next their place allowed,
And last, of vulgar tribes a countless crowd.
   First, let us view the form, the size, the dress;
For these the manners, nay the mind, express:
That weight of wood, with leathern coat o’erlaid;
Those ample clasps, of solid metal made;
The close-press’d leaves, unclosed for many an age;
The dull red edging of the well-fill’d page;
On the broad back the stubborn ridges roll’d,
Where yet the title stands in tarnish’d gold;
These all a sage and labour’d work proclaim,
A painful candidate for lasting fame:
No idle wit, no trifling verse can lurk
In the deep bosom of that weighty work;
No playful thoughts degrade the solemn style,
Nor one light sentence claims a transient smile.
   Hence, in these times, untouch’d the pages lie,
And slumber out their immortality:
They had their day, when, after after all his toil,
His morning study, and his midnight oil,
At length an author’s ONE great work appeared,
By patient hope, and length of days, endear’d:
Expecting nations hail’d it from the press;
Poetic friends prefix’d each kind address;
Princes and kings received the pond’rous gift,
And ladies read the work they could not lift.
Fashion, though Folly’s child, and guide of fools,
Rules e’en the wisest, and in learning rules;
From crowds and courts to “Wisdom’s seat she goes
And reigns triumphant o’er her mother’s foes.
For lo! these fav’rites of the ancient mode
Lie all neglected like the Birthday Ode.
   Ah! needless now this weight of massy chain; {2}
Safe in themselves, the once-loved works remain;
No readers now invade their still retreat,
None try to steal them from their parent-seat;
Like ancient beauties, they may now discard
Chains, bolts, and locks, and lie without a guard.
   Our patient fathers trifling themes laid by,
And roll’d, o’er labour’d works, th’ attentive eye:
Page after page the much-enduring men
Explored the deeps and shallows of the pen:
Till, every former note and comment known,
They mark’d the spacious margin with their own;
Minute corrections proved their studious care;
The little index, pointing, told us where;
And many an emendation show’d the age
Look’d far beyond the rubric title-page.
   Our nicer palates lighter labours seek,
Cloy’d with a folio-Number once a week;
Bibles, with cuts and comments, thus go down:
E’en light Voltaire is number’d through the town:
Thus physic flies abroad, and thus the law,
From men of study, and from men of straw;
Abstracts, abridgments, please the fickle times,
Pamphlets and plays, and politics and rhymes:
But though to write be now a task of ease,
The task is hard by manly arts to please,
When all our weakness is exposed to view,
And half our judges are our rivals too.
   Amid these works, on which the eager eye
Delights to fix, or glides reluctant by,
When all combined, their decent pomp display,
Where shall we first our early offering pay?
   To thee, DIVINITY! to thee, the light
And guide of mortals, through their mental night;
By whom we learn our hopes and fears to guide;
To bear with pain, and to contend with pride;
When grieved, to pray; when injured, to forgive;
And with the world in charity to live.
   Not truths like these inspired that numerous race,
Whose pious labours fill this ample space;
But questions nice, where doubt on doubt arose,
Awaked to war the long-contending foes.
For dubious meanings, learned polemics strove,
And wars on faith prevented works of love;
The brands of discord far around were hurl’d,
And holy wrath inflamed a sinful world:-
Dull though impatient, peevish though devout,
With wit disgusting, and despised without;
Saints in design, in execution men,
Peace in their looks, and vengeance in their pen.
   Methinks I see, and sicken at the sight,
Spirits of spleen from yonder pile alight;
Spirits who prompted every damning page,
With pontiff pride and still-increasing rage:
Lo! how they stretch their gloomy wings around,
And lash with furious strokes the trembling ground!
They pray, they fight, they murder, and they weep,-
Wolves in their vengeance, in their manners sheep;
Too well they act the prophet’s fatal part,
Denouncing evil with a zealous heart;
And each, like Jonah, is displeased if God
Repent his anger, or withhold his rod.
   But here the dormant fury rests unsought,
And Zeal sleeps soundly by the foes she fought;
Here all the rage of controversy ends,
And rival zealots rest like bosom-friends:
An Athanasian here, in deep repose,
Sleeps with the fiercest of his Arian foes;
Socinians here with Calvinists abide,
And thin partitions angry chiefs divide;
Here wily Jesuits simple Quakers meet,
And Bellarmine has rest at Luther’s feet.
Great authors, for the church’s glory fired,
Are for the church’s peace to rest retired;
And close beside, a mystic, maudlin race,
Lie “Crumbs of Comfort for the Babes of Grace.”
   Against her foes Religion well defends
Her sacred truths, but often fears her friends:
If learn’d, their pride, if weak, their zeal she dreads,
And their hearts’ weakness, who have soundest heads.
But most she fears the controversial pen,
The holy strife of disputatious men;
Who the blest Gospel’s peaceful page explore,
Only to fight against its precepts more.
   Near to these seats behold yon slender frames,
All closely fill’d and mark’d with modern names;
Where no fair science ever shows her face,
Few sparks of genius, and no spark of grace;
There sceptics rest, a still-increasing throng,
And stretch their widening wings ten thousand strong;
Some in close fight their dubious claims maintain;
Some skirmish lightly, fly, and fight again;
Coldly profane, and impiously gay,
Their end the same, though various in their way.
   When first Religion came to bless the land,
Her friends were then a firm believing band;
To doubt was then to plunge in guilt extreme,
And all was gospel that a monk could dream;
Insulted Reason fled the grov’lling soul,
For Fear to guide, and visions to control:
But now, when Reason has assumed her throne,
She, in her turn, demands to reign alone;
Rejecting all that lies beyond her view,
And, being judge, will be a witness too:
Insulted Faith then leaves the doubtful mind,
To seek for truth, without a power to find:
Ah! when will both in friendly beams unite,
And pour on erring man resistless light?
   Next to the seats, well stored with works divine,
An ample space, PHILOSOPHY! is thine;
Our reason’s guide, by whose assisting light
We trace the moral bounds of wrong and right;
Our guide through nature, from the sterile clay,
To the bright orbs of yon celestial way!
’Tis thine, the great, the golden chain to trace,
Which runs through all, connecting race with race;
Save where those puzzling, stubborn links remain,
Which thy inferior light pursues in vain:-
   How vice and virtue in the soul contend;
How widely differ, yet how nearly blend;
What various passions war on either part,
And now confirm, now melt the yielding heart:
How Fancy loves around the world to stray,
While Judgment slowly picks his sober way;
The stores of memory, and the flights sublime
Of genius, bound by neither space nor time; -
All these divine Philosophy explores,
Till, lost in awe, she wonders and adores.
   From these, descending to the earth, she turns,
And matter, in its various forms, discerns;
She parts the beamy light with skill profound,
Metes the thin air, and weighs the flying sound;
‘Tis hers the lightning from the clouds to call,
And teach the fiery mischief where to fall.
   Yet more her volumes teach, - on these we look
As abstracts drawn from Nature’s larger book:
Here, first described, the torpid earth appears,
And next, the vegetable robe it wears;
Where flow’ry tribes, in valleys, fields, and groves,
Nurse the still flame, and feed the silent loves;
Loves where no grief, nor joy, nor bliss, nor pain,
Warm the glad heart or vex the labouring brain;
But as the green blood moves along the blade,
The bed of Flora on the branch is made;
Where, without passion love instinctive lives,
And gives new life, unconscious that it gives.
Advancing still in Nature’s maze, we trace,
In dens and burning plains, her savage race
With those tame tribes who on their lord attend,
And find in man a master and a friend;
Man crowns the scene, a world of wonders new,
A moral world, that well demands our view.
   This world is here; for, of more lofty kind,
These neighbouring volumes reason on the mind;
They paint the state of man ere yet endued
With knowledge; - man, poor, ignorant, and rude;
Then, as his state improves, their pages swell,
And all its cares, and all its comforts, tell:
Here we behold how inexperience buys,
At little price, the wisdom of the wise;
Without the troubles of an active state,
Without the cares and dangers of the great,
Without the miseries of the poor, we know
What wisdom, wealth, and poverty bestow;
We see how reason calms the raging mind,
And how contending passions urge mankind:
Some, won by virtue, glow with sacred fire;
Some, lured by vice, indulge the low desire;
Whilst others, won by either, now pursue
The guilty chase, now keep the good in view;
For ever wretched, with themselves at strife,
They lead a puzzled, vex’d, uncertain life;
For transient vice bequeaths a lingering pain,
Which transient virtue seeks to cure in vain.
   Whilst thus engaged, high views enlarge the soul,
New interests draw, new principles control:
Nor thus the soul alone resigns her grief,
But here the tortured body finds relief;
For see where yonder sage Arachne shapes
Her subtile gin, that not a fly escapes!
There PHYSIC fills the space, and far around,
Pile above pile her learned works abound:
Glorious their aim- to ease the labouring heart;
To war with death, and stop his flying dart;
To trace the source whence the fierce contest grew,
And life’s short lease on easier terms renew;
To calm the phrensy of the burning brain;
To heal the tortures of imploring pain;
Or, when more powerful ills all efforts brave,
To ease the victim no device can save,
And smooth the stormy passage to the grave.
   But man, who knows no good unmix’d and pure,
Oft finds a poison where he sought a cure;
For grave deceivers lodge their labours here,
And cloud the science they pretend to clear;
Scourges for sin, the solemn tribe are sent;
Like fire and storms, they call us to repent;
But storms subside, and fires forget to rage.
These are eternal scourges of the age:
’Tis not enough that each terrific hand
Spreads desolations round a guilty land;
But train’d to ill, and harden’d by its crimes,
Their pen relentless kills through future times.
   Say, ye, who search these records of the dead-
Who read huge works, to boast what ye have read;
Can all the real knowledge ye possess,
Or those - if such there are - who more than guess,
Atone for each impostor’s wild mistakes,
And mend the blunders pride or folly makes ?
   What thought so wild, what airy dream so light,
That will not prompt a theorist to write?
What art so prevalent, what proof so strong,
That will convince him his attempt is wrong?
One in the solids finds each lurking ill,
Nor grants the passive fluids power to kill;
A learned friend some subtler reason brings,
Absolves the channels, but condemns their springs;
The subtile nerves, that shun the doctor’s eye,
Escape no more his subtler theory;
The vital heat, that warms the labouring heart,
Lends a fair system to these sons of art;
The vital air, a pure and subtile stream,
Serves a foundation for an airy scheme,
Assists the doctor, and supports his dream.
Some have their favourite ills, and each disease
Is but a younger branch that kills from these;
One to the gout contracts all human pain;
He views it raging in the frantic brain;
Finds it in fevers all his efforts mar,
And sees it lurking in the cold catarrh:
Bilious by some, by others nervous seen,
Rage the fantastic demons of the spleen;
And every symptom of the strange disease
With every system of the sage agrees.
   Ye frigid tribe, on whom I wasted long
The tedious hours, and ne’er indulged in song;
Ye first seducers of my easy heart,
Who promised knowledge ye could not impart;
Ye dull deluders, truth’s destructive foes;
Ye sons of fiction, clad in stupid prose;
Ye treacherous leaders, who, yourselves in doubt,
Light up false fires, and send us far about;-
Still may yon spider round your pages spin,
Subtile and slow, her emblematic gin!
Buried in dust and lost in silence, dwell,
Most potent, grave, and reverend friends - farewell!
   Near these, and where the setting sun displays,
Through the dim window, his departing rays,
And gilds yon columns, there, on either side,
The huge Abridgments of the LAW abide;
Fruitful as vice the dread correctors stand,
And spread their guardian terrors round the land;
Yet, as the best that human care can do
Is mix’d with error, oft with evil too,
Skill’d in deceit, and practised to evade,
Knaves stand secure, for whom these laws were made,
And justice vainly each expedient tries,
While art eludes it, or while power defies.
“Ah! happy age,” the youthful poet sings,
“When the free nations knew not laws nor kings,
When all were blest to share a common store,
And none were proud of wealth, for none were poor,
No wars nor tumults vex’d each still domain,
No thirst of empire, no desire of gain;
No proud great man, nor one who would be great,
Drove modest merit from its proper state;
Nor into distant climes would Avarice roam,
To fetch delights for Luxury at home:
Bound by no ties which kept the soul in awe,
They dwelt at liberty, and love was law!”
   “Mistaken youth! each nation first was rude,
Each man a cheerless son of solitude,
To whom no joys of social life were known,
None felt a care that was not all his own;
Or in some languid clime his abject soul
Bow’d to a little tyrant’s stern control;
A slave, with slaves his monarch’s throne he raised,
And in rude song his ruder idol praised;
The meaner cares of life were all he knew;
Bounded his pleasures, and his wishes few;
But when by slow degrees the Arts arose,
And Science waken’d from her long repose;
When Commerce, rising from the bed of ease,
Ran round the land, and pointed to the seas;
When Emulation, born with jealous eye,
And Avarice, lent their spurs to industry;
Then one by one the numerous laws were made,
Those to control, and these to succour trade;
To curb the insolence of rude command,
To snatch the victim from the usurer’s hand;
To awe the bold, to yield the wrong’d redress,
And feed the poor with Luxury’s excess.” {3}
   Like some vast flood, unbounded, fierce, and strong,
His nature leads ungovern’d man along;
Like mighty bulwarks made to stem that tide,
The laws are form’d, and placed on ev’ry side;
Whene’er it breaks the bounds by these decreed,
New statutes rise, and stronger laws succeed;
More and more gentle grows the dying stream,
More and more strong the rising bulwarks seem;
Till, like a miner working sure and slow,
Luxury creeps on, and ruins all below;
The basis sinks, the ample piles decay;
The stately fabric, shakes and falls away;
Primeval want and ignorance come on,
But Freedom, that exalts the savage state, is gone.
   Next, HISTORY ranks; - there full in front she lies,
And every nation her dread tale supplies;
Yet History has her doubts, and every age
With sceptic queries marks the passing page;
Records of old nor later date are clear,
Too distant those, and these are placed too near;
There time conceals the objects from our view,
Here our own passions and a writer’s too:
Yet, in these volumes, see how states arose!
Guarded by virtue from surrounding foes;
Their virtue lost, and of their triumphs vain,
Lo! how they sunk to slavery again!
Satiate with power, of fame and wealth possess’d,
A nation grows too glorious to be blest;
Conspicuous made, she stands the mark of all,
And foes join foes to triumph in her fall.
   Thus speaks the page that paints ambition’s race,
The monarch’s pride, his glory, his disgrace;
The headlong course, that madd’ning heroes run,
How soon triumphant, and how soon undone;
How slaves, turn’d tyrants, offer crowns to sale,
And each fall’n nation’s melancholy tale.
   Lo! where of late the Book of Martyrs stood,
Old pious tracts, and Bibles bound in wood;
There, such the taste of our degenerate age,
Stand the profane delusions of the STAGE:
Yet virtue owns the TRAGIC MUSE a friend,
Fable her means, morality her end;
For this she rules all passions in their turns,
And now the bosom bleeds, and now it burns;
Pity with weeping eye surveys her bowl,
Her anger swells, her terror chills the soul;
She makes the vile to virtue yield applause,
And own her sceptre while they break her laws;
For vice in others is abhorr’d of all,
And villains triumph when the worthless fall.
   Not thus her sister COMEDY prevails,
Who shoots at Folly, for her arrow fails;
Folly, by Dulness arm’d, eludes the wound,
And harmless sees the feather’d shafts rebound;
Unhurt she stands, applauds the archer’s skill,
Laughs at her malice, and is Folly still.
Yet well the Muse portrays, in fancied scenes,
What pride will stoop to, what profession means;
How formal fools the farce of state applaud;
How caution watches at the lips of fraud;
The wordy variance of domestic life;
The tyrant husband, the retorting wife;
The snares for innocence, the lie of trade,
And the smooth tongue’s habitual masquerade.
   With her the Virtues too obtain a place,
Each gentle passion, each becoming grace;
The social joy in life’s securer road,
Its easy pleasure, its substantial good;
The happy thought that conscious virtue gives,
And all that ought to live, and all that lives.
   But who are these? Methinks a noble mien
And awful grandeur in their form are seen,
Now in disgrace: what though by time is spread
Polluting dust o’er every reverend head;
What though beneath yon gilded tribe they lie,
And dull observers pass insulting by:
Forbid it shame, forbid it decent awe,
What seems so grave, should no attention draw!
Come, let us then with reverend step advance,
And greet - the ancient worthies of ROMANCE.
   Hence, ye profane! I feel a former dread,
A thousand visions float around my head:
Hark! hollow blasts through empty courts resound,
And shadowy forms with staring eyes stalk round;
See! moats and bridges, walls and castles rise,
Ghosts, fairies, demons, dance before our eyes;
Lo! magic verse inscribed on golden gate,
And bloody hand that beckons on to fate:-
“And who art thou, thou little page, unfold?
Say, doth thy lord my Claribel withhold?
Go tell him straight, Sir Knight, thou must resign
The captive queen; - for Claribel is mine.”
Away he flies; and now for bloody deeds,
Black suits of armour, masks, and foaming steeds;
The giant falls; his recreant throat I seize,
And from his corslet take the massy keys:-
Dukes, lords, and knights, in long procession move,
Released from bondage with my virgin love:-
She comes! she comes! in all the charms of youth,
Unequall’d love, and unsuspected truth!
Ah! happy he who thus, in magic themes,
O’er worlds bewitch’d, in early rapture dreams,
Where wild Enchantment waves her potent wand,
And Fancy’s beauties fill her fairy land;
Where doubtful objects strange desires excite,
And Fear and Ignorance afford delight.
   But lost, for ever lost, to me these joys,
Which Reason scatters, and which Time destroys;
Too dearly bought: maturer judgment calls
My busied mind from tales and madrigals;
My doughty giants all are slain or fled,
And all my knignts - blue, green, and yellow - dead!
No more the midnight fairy tribe I view,
All in the merry moonshine tippling dew;
E’en the last lingering fiction of the brain,
The churchyard ghost, is now at rest again;
And all these wayward wanderings of my youth
Fly Reason’s power, and shun the light of Truth.
   With Fiction then does real joy reside,
And is our reason the delusive guide?
Is it then right to dream the syrens sing?
Or mount enraptured on the dragon’s wing?
No; ’tis the infant mind, to care unknown,
That makes th’ imagined paradise its own;
Soon as reflections in the bosom rise,
Light slumbers vanish from the clouded eyes:
The tear and smile, that once together rose,
Are then divorced; the head and heart are foes:
Enchantment bows to Wisdom’s serious plan,
And Pain and Prudence make and mar the man.
   While thus, of power and fancied empire vain,
With various thoughts my mind I entertain;
While books, my slaves, with tyrant hand I seize,
Pleased with the pride that will not let them please,
Sudden I find terrific thoughts arise,
And sympathetic sorrow fills my eyes;
For, lo! while yet my heart admits the wound,
I see the CRITIC army ranged around.
   Foes to our race! if ever ye have known
A father’s fears for offspring of your own;
If ever, smiling o’er a lucky line,
Ye thought the sudden sentiment divine,
Then paused and doubted, and then, tired of doubt,
With rage as sudden dash’d the stanza out;-
If, after fearing much and pausing long,
Ye ventured on the world your labour’d song,
And from the crusty critics of those days
Implored the feeble tribute of their praise;
Remember now the fears that moved you then,
And, spite of truth, let mercy guide your pen.
   What vent’rous race are ours! what mighty foes
Lie waiting all around them to oppose!
What treacherous friends betray them to the fight!
What dangers threaten them - yet still they write:
A hapless tribe! to every evil born,
Whom villains hate, and fools affect to scorn:
Strangers they come, amid a world of woe,
And taste the largest portion ere they go.
   Pensive I spoke, and cast mine eyes around;
The roof, methought, return’d a solemn sound;
Each column seem’d to shake, and clouds, like smoke,
From dusty piles and ancient volumes broke;
Gathering above, like mists condensed they seem,
Exhaled in summer from the rushy stream;
Like flowing robes they now appear, and twine
Round the large members of a form divine;
His silver beard, that swept his aged breast,
His piercing eye, that inward light express’d,
Were seen, - but clouds and darkness veil’d the rest.
Fear chill’d my heart: to one of mortal race,
How awful seem’d the Genius of the place!
So in Cimmerian shores, Ulysses saw
His parent-shade, and shrunk in pious awe;
Like him I stood, and wrapt in thought profound,
When from the pitying power broke forth a solemn sound:-
“Care lives with all; no rules, no precepts save
The wise from woe, no fortitude the brave;
Grief is to man as certain as the grave:
Tempests and storms in life’s whole progress rise,
And hope shines dimly through o’erclouded skies.
Some drops of comfort on the favour’d fall,
But showers of sorrow are the lot of all:
Partial to talents, then, shall Heav’n withdraw
Th’ afflicting rod, or break the general law?
Shall he who soars, inspired by loftier views,
Life’s little cares and little pains refuse?
Shall he not rather feel a double share
Of mortal woe, when doubly arm’d to bear?
   “Hard is his fate who builds his peace of mind
On the precarious mercy of mankind;
Who hopes for wild and visionary things,
And mounts o’er unknown seas with vent’rous wings;
But as, of various evils that befall
The human race, some portion goes to all;
To him perhaps the milder lot’s assigned
Who feels his consolation in his mind,
And, lock’d within his bosom, bears about
A mental charm for every care without.
E’en in the pangs of each domestic grief,
Or health or vigorous hope affords relief;
And every wound the tortured bosom feels,
Or virtue bears, or some preserver heals;
Some generous friend of ample power possess’d;
Some feeling heart, that bleeds for the distress’d;
Some breast that glows with virtues all divine;
Some noble RUTLAND, misery’s friend and thine.
   “Nor say, the Muse’s song, the Poet’s pen,
Merit the scorn they meet from little men.
With cautious freedom if the numbers flow,
Not wildly high, nor pitifully low;
If vice alone their honest aims oppose,
Why so ashamed their friends, so loud their foes?
Happy for men in every age and clime,
If all the sons of vision dealt in rhyme.
Go on, then, Son of Vision! still pursue
Thy airy dreams; the world is dreaming too.
Ambition’s lofty views, the pomp of state,
The pride of wealth, the splendour of the great,
Stripp’d of their mask, their cares and troubles known,
Are visions far less happy than thy own:
Go on! and, while the sons of care complain,
Be wisely gay and innocently vain;
While serious souls are by their fears undone,
Blow sportive bladders in the beamy sun,
And call them worlds! and bid the greatest show
More radiant colours in their worlds below:
Then, as they break, the slaves of care reprove,
And tell them, Such are all the toys they love.”


{1}  Indentation and punctuation as original.

{2}  In ancient libraries, works of value and importance were fastened to their places by a length of chain; and might so be perused, but not taken away.

{3}  See Blackstone’s Commentaries, i. 131, 359; iv. 432.


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