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While thus I stood, intent to see and hear, One came, methought, and whisper'd in my ear:
What could thus high thy rash ambition raise? Art thou, fond youth, a candidate for praise ?'
''Tis true,' said I; 'not void of hopes I came; For who so fond as youthful bards of Fame ? But few, alas ! the casual blessing boast, So hard to gain, so easy to be lost. How vain that second life in others' breath, The estate which wits inherit after death! Ease, health, and life, for this they must resign, (Unsure the tenure, but how vast the fine!) The great man's curse, without the gains, endure Be envied, wretched, and be flatter'd, poor; All luckless wits their enemies profess'd, And all successful, jealous friends at best: Nor Fame I slight, nor for her favours call; She comes unlook'd-for, if she comes at all. But if the purchase cost so dear a price As soothing folly, or exalting vice, Oh ! if the muse must flatter lawless sway, And follow still where fortune leads the way; Or if no basis bear my rising name, But the fallen ruins of another's fame; Then, teach me, Heaven! to scorn the guilty bays Drive from my breast that wretched lust of praise Unblemish'd let me live, or die unknown; Oh, grant an honest fame, or grant me none !"
JANUARY AND MAY;
THERE lived in Lombardy, as authors write,
Of gentle manners, as of generous race,
But in due time, when sixty years were o'er,
These thoughts he fortified with reasons still
Though fortune change, his constant spouse remains Augments his joys, or mitigates his pains.
But what so pure, which envious tongues will spare Some wicked wits have libell'd all the fair. With matchless impudence they style a wise The dear-bought curse, and lawful plague of life A bosom-serpent, a domestic evil, A night-invasion, and a mid-day devil. Let not the wise these slanderous words regard, But curse the bones of every lying bard. All other goods by fortune's hand are given; A wife is the peculiar gift of Heaven. Vain fortune's favours, never at a stay, Like empty shadows, pass, and glide away; One solid comfort, our eternal wife, Abundantly supplies us all our life: This blessing lasts (if those who try say true) As long as heart can wish-and longer too.
Our grandsire Adam, ere of Eve possessid, Alone, and e'en in Paradise unblessid, With mournful looks the blissful scenes survey'd, And wanderd in the solitary shade: The Maker saw,
took pity, and bestow'd Woman, the last, the best reserved of God.
A wise! ah gentle deities, can he That has a wife, e'er feel adversity ? Would men but follow what the sex advise, All things would prosper, all the world grow wise 'T'was by Rebecca's aid that Jacob won His father's blessing from an elder son: Abusive Nabal owed his forfeit life To the wise conduct of a prudent wife: Heroic Judith, as old Hebrews show, Preserved the Jews, and slew the Assyrian foe: Al Esther's suit, the persecuting sword Was sheathed, and Israel lived to bless the Lord.
These weighty motives, January the sage Maturely ponder'd in his riper age;
And, charm'd with virtuous joys and sober life,
My friends,' he cried, (and cast a mournful look
Beneath the weight of threescore years I bend,
*One caution yet is needful to be told,
Conceive me, sirs, nor take my sense amiss;
Then should I live in lewd adultery,
And since I speak of wedlock, let me say,
He said ; the rest in different parts divide; The knotty point was urged on either side: Marriage, the there on which they all declaim'd, Some praised with wit, and some with reason blamed Till what with proofs, objections, and replies, Each wondrous positive, and wondrous wise, There fell between his brothers a debate; Placebo this was call'd, and Justin that.
First to the knight Placebo thus begun (Mild were his looks, and pleasing was his tone :) "Such prudence, sir, in all your words appears, As plainly proves, experience dwells with years ! Yet you pursue sage Solomon's advice, To work by counsel when affairs are nice: But, with the wise man's leave, I must protest, So may my soul arrive at ease and rest, As still I hold your own advice the best.