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Had met her in a public place,
Without distinguishing her face:
Much less could his declining age
Vanessa's earliest thoughts engage;
And, if her youth indifference met,
His person must contempt beget:
Or, grant her passion be sincere,
How shall his innocence be clear?
Appearances were all so strong,
The world must think him in the wrong;
Would say, he made a treacherous use
Of wit, to flatter and seduce:
The town would swear, he had betray'd
By magic spells the harmless maid :
And every beau would have his jokes,
That scholars were like other folks;
And, when Platonic flights were over,
The tutor turn'd a mortal lover!
So tender of the young and fair!
It show'd a true paternal care —
Five thousand guineas in her purse!
The doctor might have fancied worse.
Hardly at length he silence broke,
And faulter'd every word he spoke;
Interpreting her complaisance,
Just as a man sans conséquence.
She rallied well, he always knew:
Her manner now was something new ;
And what she spoke was in an air
As serious as a tragic player.
But those who aim at ridicule
Should fix upon some certain rule,
Which fairly hints they are in jest,
Else he must enter his protest:
For, let a man be ne'er so wise,
He may be caught with sober lies;
A science which he never taught,
And, to be free, was dearly bought;
For, take it in its proper light,
'Tis just what coxcombs call a bite.
But, not to dwell on things minute,
Vanessa finish'd the dispute,
Brought weighty arguments to prove
That reason was her guide in love.
She thought he had himself describ'd
His doctrines when she first imbib'd:
What he had planted now was grown ;
His virtues she might call her own;
As he approves, as he dislikes,
Love or contempt her fancy strikes.
Self-love, in nature rooted fast,
Attends us first, and leaves us last:
Why she likes him, admire not at her;
She loves herself, and that 's the matter.
How was her tutor wont to praise
The geniuses of ancient days!
(Those authors he so oft had nam'd,
For learning, wit, and wisdom fam'd,)
Was struck with love, esteem, and awe,
For persons whom he never saw.
Suppose Cadenus flourish'd then,
He must adore such godlike men.
If one short volume could comprise
All that was witty, learn'd, and wise,
How would it be esteem'd and read,
Although the writer long were dead'
If such an author were alive,
How all would for his friendship strive,
And come in crowds to see his face!
And this she takes to be her case.
Cadenus answers every end,
The book, the author, and the friend;
The utmost her desires will reach,
Is but to learn what he can teach :
His converse is a system fit
Alone to fill up all her wit;
While every passion of her mind
In him is center'd and confin'd.
Love can with speech inspire a mute,
And taught Vanessa to dispute.
This topic, never touch'd before,
Display'd her eloquence the more:
Her knowledge, with such pains acquir'd,
By this new passion grew inspir'd;
Through this she made all objects pass,
Which gave a tincture o'er the mass;
As rivers, though they bend and twine,
Still to the sea their course incline;
Or, as philosophers, who find
Some favourite system to their mind,
In every point to make it fit,
Will force all nature to submit.
Cadenus, who could ne'er suspect
His lessons would have such effect,
Or be so artfully apply'd,
Insensibly came on her side.
It was an unforeseen event;
Things took a turn he never meant.
Whoe'er excels in what we prize,
Appears a hero in our eyes:
Each girl, when pleas'd with what is taught,
Will have the teacher in her thought.
When Miss delights in her spinnet,
A fiddler may a fortune get;
A blockhead, with melodious voice,
In boarding-schools may have his choice;
And oft' the dancing-master's art
Climbs from the toe to touch the heart.
In learning let a nymph delight,
The pedant gets a mistress by 't.
Cadenus, to his grief and shame,
Could scarce oppose Vanessa's flame;
And, though her arguments were strong,
At least could hardly wish them wrong.
Howe'er it came, he could not tell,
But sure she never talk'd so well.
His pride began to interpose;
Preferr'd before a crowd of beaux!
So bright a nymph to come unsought!
Such wonder by his merit wrought!
'Tis merit must with her prevail !
He never knew her judgment fail!
She noted all she ever read!
And had a most discerning head!
'Tis an old maxim in the schools,
That flattery 's the food of fools,
Yet now and then your men of wit
Will condescend to take a bit.
So, when Cadenus could not hide,
He chose to justify, his pride;
Construing the passion she had shown,
Much to her praise, more to his own.
Nature in him had merit plac'd,
In her a most judicious taste.
Love, hitherto a transient guest,
Ne'er held possession of his breast;
So long attending at the gate,
Disdain'd to enter in so late.
Love why do we one passion call,
When 'tis a compound of them all?
Where hot and cold, where sharp and sweet,
In all their equipages meet;
Where pleasures mix'd with pains appear,
Sorrow with joy, and hope with fear;
Wherein his dignity and age
Forbid Cadenus to engage.
But friendship, in its greatest height,
A constant, rational delight,
On virtue's basis fix'd to last,
When love allurements long are past,
Which gently warms, but cannot burn,
He gladly offers in return;
His want of passion will redeem
With gratitude, respect, esteem;
With that devotion we bestow,
When goddesses appear below.
While thus Cadenus entertains
Vanessa in exalted strains,
The nymph in sober words entreats
A truce with all sublime conceits: