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His noble negligences teach
What others' toils despair to reach.
He, perfect dancer, climbs the rope,
And balances your fear and hope:
If, after some distinguish'd leap,
He drops his pole, and seems to slip,
Straight gathering all his active strength,
He rises higher half his length.
With wonder you approve his sleight,
And owe your pleasure to your fright:
But like poor Andrew I advance,
False mimic of my master's dance.
Around the cord awhile I sprawl,
And thence, though low, in earnest fall.
"My preface tells you, I digress'd:
He's half absolv'd who has confess'd."
"I like," quoth Dick, "your simile,
And, in return, take two from me.
As masters in the clare obscure
With various light your eyes allure,
A flaming yellow here they spread,
Draw off in blue, or charge in red;
Yet, from these colors oddly mix'd,
Your sight upon the whole is fix'd:
Or as, again, your courtly dames
(Whose clothes returning birth-day claims)
By arts improve the stuffs they vary,
And things are best as most contrary;
The gown, with stiff embroidery shining,
Looks charming with a slighter lining;
The out-, if Indian figure stain,
The in-side must be rich and plain.
So you great authors have thought fit
To make digression temper wit:
When arguments too fiercely glare,
You calm them with a milder air:
To break their points, you turn their force,
And furbelow the plain discourse."
"Richard," quoth Mat, "these words of thine
Speak something sly, and something fine :
But I shall e'en resume my theme,
However thou may'st praise or blame.
"As people marry now, and settle,
Fierce Love abates his usual mettle:
Worldly desires, and household cares,
Disturb the godhead's soft affairs:
So now, as health or temper changes,
In larger compass Alma ranges.
This day below, the next above,
As light or solid whimsies move.
So merchant has his house in town,
And country-seat near Bansted-down:
From one he dates his foreign letters,
Sends out his goods, and duns his debtors:
In t'other, at his hours of leisure,
He smokes his pipe, and takes his pleasure.
And now your matrimonial Cupid,
Lash'd on by Time, grows tir'd and stupid.
For story and experience tell us
That man grows old, and woman jealous.
Both would their little ends secure;
He sighs for freedom, she for power:
His wishes tend abroad to roam,
And hers to domineer at home.
Thus passion flags by slow degrees,
And, ruffled more, delighted less,
The busy mind does seldom go
To those once-charming seats below;
But, in the breast encamp'd, prepares
For well-bred feints and future wars.
The man suspects his lady's crying (When he last autumn lay a-dying) Was but to gain him to appoint her By codicil a larger jointure.
The woman finds it all a trick,
That he could swoon when she was sick;
And knows, that in that grief he reckon'd
On black-ey'd Susan for his second.
Thus having strove some tedious years
With feign'd desires, and real fears;
And, tir'd with answers and replies
Of John affirms, and Martha lies,
Leaving this endless altercation,
The Mind affects a higher station.
"Poltis, that generous king of Thrace, I think, was in this very case. All Asia now was by the ears, And gods beat up for volunteers To Greece and Troy; while Poltis sat In quiet governing his state.
And whence,' said the pacific king, Does all this noise and discord spring?" 'Why, Paris took Atrides' wife.''With ease I could compose this strife: The injur'd hero should not lose, Nor the young lover want a spouse. But Helen chang'd her first condition, Without her husband's just permission. What from the dame can Paris hope? She may as well from him elope. Again, how can her old good man, With honor, take her back again? From hence I logically gather, The woman cannot live with either. Now, I have two right honest wives, For whose possession no man strives: One to Atrides I will send, And t'other to my Trojan friend. Each prince shall thus with honor have What both so warmly seem to crave: The wrath of gods and man shall cease, And Poltis live and die in peace.'
"Dick, if this story pleaseth thee, Pray thank Dan Pope, who told it me. "Howe'er swift Alma's flight may vary, (Take this by way of corollary) Some limbs she finds the very same, In place, in dignity, in name: These dwell at such convenient distance, That each may give his friend assistance. Thus he who runs or dances begs The equal vigor of two legs; So much to both does Alma trust,
She ne'er regards which goes the first.
Teague could make neither of them stay,
When with himself he ran away.
The man who struggles in the fight,
Fatigues left arm as well as right;
For, whilst one hand exalts the blow,
And on the earth extends the foe,
T'other would take it wondrous ill,
If in your pocket it lay still.
And, when you shoot, and shut one eye,
You cannot think he would deny
To lend the other friendly aid,
Or wink as coward, and afraid.
No, sir; whilst he withdraws his flame,
His comrade takes the surer aim:
One moment if his beams recede,
As soon as e'er the bird is dead,
Opening again, he lays his claim
To half the profit, half the fame,
And helps to pocket up the game.
"Tis thus one tradesman slips away,
To give his partner fairer play.
"Some limbs again, in bulk or stature
Unlike, and not akin by nature,
In concert act, like modern friends,
Because one serves the other's ends.
The arm thus waits upon the heart,
So quick to take the bully's part,
That one, though warm, decides more slow
Than t'other executes the blow.
A stander-by may chance to have it,
Ere Hack himself perceives he gave it.
"The amorous eyes thus always go
A-strolling for their friends below;
For, long before the squire and dame
Have tête-à-tête reliev'd their flame,
Ere visits yet are brought about,
The eye by sympathy looks out,
Knows Florimel, and longs to meet her,
And, if he sees, is sure to greet her,
Though at sash-window, on the stairs,
At court, nay (authors say) at prayers.-
"The funeral of some valiant knight May give this thing its proper light. View his two gauntlets; these declare That both his hands were us'd to war. And from his two gilt spurs 'tis learn'd His feet were equally concern'd.
But have you not, with thought, beheld
The sword hang dangling o'er the shield?
Which shows the breast, that plate was us'd to,
Had an ally right arm to trust to:
And, by the peep-holes in his crest,
Is it not virtually confest,
That there his eyes took distant aim,
And glanc'd respect to that bright dame,
In whose delight his hope he center'd,
And for whose glove his life was ventur'd?
"Objections to my general system
May rise, perhaps; and I have mist them;
But I can call to my assistance
Proximity (mark that!) and distance;
Can prove, that all things, on occasion,
Love union, and desire adhesion;
That Alma merely is a scale,
And motives, like the weights, prevail.
If neither side turn down nor up,
With loss or gain, with fear or hope,
The balance always would hang even,
Like Mah'met's tomb, 'twixt Earth and Heaven.
"This, Richard, is a curious case:
Suppose your eyes sent equal rays
Upon two distant pots of ale,
Not knowing which was mild or stale:
In this sad state your doubtful choice
Would never have the casting voice;
Which best or worst you could not think,
And die you must for want of drink;
Unless some chance inclines your sight,
Setting one pot in fairer light;
Then you prefer or A, or B,
As lines and angles best agree:
Your sense resolv'd impels your will:
She guides your hand-so drink your fill.
"Have you not seen a baker's maid Between two equal panniers sway'd?
Her tallies useless lie, and idle,
If plac'd exactly in the middle:
But, forc'd from this unactive state
By virtue of some casual weight,
On either side you hear them clatter,
And judge of right and left hand matter.
Now, Richard, this coercive force,
Without your choice, must take its course;
Great kings to wars are pointed forth,
Like loaded needles to the north.
And thou and I, by power unseen,
Are barely passive, and suck'd-in
To Henault's vaults, or Celia's chamber,
As straw and paper are by amber.
If we sit down to play or set,
(Suppose at ombre or basset,)
Let people call us cheats or fools,
Our cards and we are equal tools.
We sure in vain the cards condemn:
Ourselves both cut and shuffled them.
In vain on Fortune's aid rely:
She only is a stander-by.
Poor men! poor papers! we and they
Do some impulsive force obey:
And are but play'd with-do not play.
But space and matter we should blame;
They palm'd the trick that lost the game.
Thus, to save further contradiction
Against what you may think but fiction,
I for attraction, Dick, declare:
Deny it those bold men that dare.
As well your motion, as your thought,
Is all by hidden impulse wrought:
Ev'n saying that you think or walk,
How like a country squire you talk!
"Mark then;-Where fancy, or desire, Collects the beams of vital fire; Into that limb fair Alma slides, And there, pro tempore, resides. She dwells in Nicolini's tongue, When Pyrrhus chants the heavenly song. When Pedro does the lute command, She guides the cunning artist's hand. Through Macer's gullet she runs down, When the vile glutton dines alone. And, void of modesty and thought, She follows Bibo's endless draught. Through the soft sex again she ranges, As youth, caprice, or fashion, changes. Fair Alma, careless and serene, In Fanny's sprightly eyes is seen; While they diffuse their infant beams, Themselves not conscious of their flames Again fair Alma sits confest On Florimel's experter breast; When she the rising sigh constrains, And, by concealing, speaks her pains. In Cynthia's neck fair Alma glows, When the vain thing her jewels shows: When Jenny's stays are newly lac'd, Fair Alma plays about her waist: And when the swelling hoop sustains The rich brocade, fair Alma deigns Into that lower space to enter, Of the large round herself the centre. "Again: that single limb or feature, (Such is the cogent force of Nature,) Which most did Alma's passion move In the first object of her love,
For ever will be found confest,
And printed on the amorous breast.
"O Abelard! ill-fated youth,
Thy tale will justify this truth:
But well I weet, thy cruel wrong
Adorns a nobler poet's song.
Dan Pope, for thy misfortune griev'd,
With kind concern and skill has weav'd
A silken web; and ne'er shall fade
Its colors; gently has he laid
The mantle o'er thy sad distress,
And Venus shall the texture bless.
He o'er the weeping nun has drawn
Such artful folds of sacred lawn,
That Love, with equal grief and pride,
Shall see the crime he strives to hide,
And, softly drawing back the veil,
The god shall to his votaries tell
Each conscious tear, each blushing grace,
That deck'd dear Eloisa's face.
Happy the poet, blest the lays,
Which Buckingham has deign'd to praise!
Next, Dick, as youth and habit sways,
A hundred gambols Alma plays.
If, whilst a boy, Jack ran from school,
Fond of his hunting-horn and pole;
Though gout and age his speed detain,
Old John halloos his hounds again;
By his fire-side he starts the hare,
And turns her in his wicker-chair;
His feet, however lame, you find,
Have got the better of his Mind.
"If, while the Mind was in her leg, The dance affected nimble Peg; Old Madge, bewitch'd at sixty-one, Calls for Green Sleeves, and Jumping Joan. In public mask, or private ball, From Lincoln's-inn to Goldsmiths'-hall, All Christmas long away she trudges, Trips it with prentices and judges. In vain her children urge her stay, And age or palsy bar the way. But, if those images prevail Which whilom did affect the tail, She still renews the ancient scene, Forgets the forty years between : Awkwardly gay, and oddly merry, Her scarf pale pink, her head-knot cherry; O'er-heated with ideal rage,
She cheats her son, to wed her page.
"If Alma, whilst the man was young, Slipp'd up too soon into his tongue, Pleas'd with his own fantastic skill, He lets that weapon ne'er lie still. On any point if you dispute, Depend upon it, he'll confute : Change sides, and you increase your pain, For he'll confute you back again. For one may speak with Tully's tongue, Yet all the while be in the wrong. And 'tis remarkable, that they Talk most, who have the least to say. Your dainty speakers have the curse, To plead bad causes down to worse: As dames, who native beauty want, Still uglier look, the more they paint. Again: if in the female sex
Alma should on this member fix,
(A cruel and a desperate case, From which Heaven shield my lovely lass!)
For evermore all care is vain,
That would bring Alma down again.
As, in habitual gout or stone,
The only thing that can be done,
Is to correct your drink and diet,
And keep the inward foe in quiet;
So, if for any sins of ours,
Or our forefathers', higher powers,
Severe, though just, afflict our life
With that prime ill, a talking wife;
Till Death shall bring the kind relief,
We must be patient, or be deaf.
You know a certain lady, Dick, Who saw me when I last was sick : She kindly talk'd, at least three hours, Of plastic forms, and mental powers; Describ'd our pre-existing station, Before this vile terrene creation; And, lest I should be wearied, madam, To cut things short, came down to Adam; From whence, as fast as she was able, She drowns the world, and builds up Babel Through Syria, Persia, Greece, she goes, And takes the Romans in the close.
"But we'll descant on general nature: This is a system, not a satire.
"Turn we this globe, and let us see
How different nations disagree
In what we wear, or eat and drink;
Nay, Dick, perhaps in what we think.
In water as you smell and taste
The soils through which it rose and past,
In Alma's manners you may read
The place where she was born and bred.
"One people from their swaddling-bands Releas'd their infants' feet and hands; Here Alma to these limbs was brought, And Sparta's offspring kick'd and fought. "Another taught their babes to talk, Ere they could yet in go-carts walk: There Alma settled in the tongue, And orators from Athens sprung.
"Observe but in these neighboring lands
The different use of mouths and hands;
As men repos'd their various hopes,
In battles these, and those in tropes.
"In Britain's isles, as Heylin notes,
The ladies trip in petticoats;
Which, for the honor of their nation,
They quit but on some great occasion.
Men there in breeches clad you view:
They claim that garment as their due.
In Turkey the reverse appears;
Long coats the haughty husband wears,
And greets his wife with angry speeches
If she be seen without her breeches.
"In our fantastic climes, the fair With cleanly powder dry their hair: And round their lovely breast and head Fresh flowers their mingled odors shed. Your nicer Hottentots think meet With guts and tripe to deck their feet: With downcast looks on Totta's legs The ogling youth most humbly begs She would not from his hopes remove At once his breakfast and his love: And, if the skittish nymph should fly, He in a double sense must die.
"We simple toasters take delight To see our women's teeth look white,
After her tea, she slips away,
And what to do, one need not say.
Now see how great Pomonque's queen
Behav'd herself amongst the men:
Pleas'd with her punch, the gallant soul
First drank, then water'd in the bowl;
And sprinkled in the captain's face.
The marks of her peculiar grace.-
"To close this nt, we need not roam
For instances so far from home.
What parts gay France from sober Spain?
A little rising rocky chain.
Of men born south or north o' th' hill,
Those seldom move, these ne'er stand still.
Dick, you love maps, and may perceive
Rome not far distant from Geneve.
If the good pope remains at home,
He's the first prince in Christendom.
Choose then, good pope, at home to stay,
Nor westward curious take thy way:
Thy way unhappy should'st thou take
From Tyber's bank to Leman lake,
Thou art an aged priest no more,
But a young flaring painted whore:
Thy sex is lost, thy town is gone;
No longer Rome, but Babylon.
That some few leagues should make this change.
To men unlearn'd seems mighty strange.
"But need we, friend, insist on this?
Since, in the very Canton Swiss,
All your philosophers agree,
And prove it plain, that one may be
A heretic, or true believer,
On this, or t'other side a river."
"Here," with an artful smile, quoth Dick, "Your proofs come mighty full and thick." The bard, on this extensive chapter Wound up into poetic rapture, Continued: " Richard, cast your eye, By night, upon a winter-sky: Cast it by day-light on the strand, Which compasses fair Albion's land: If you can count the stars that glow Above, or sands that lie below, Into those commonplaces look, Which from great authors I have took, And count the proofs I have collected, To have my writings well protected. These I lay by for time of need, And thou may'st at thy leisure read. For, standing every critic's rage, I safely will to future age My system, as a gift, bequeath, Victorious over Spite and Death."