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Fulfil the purpose, and appear design'd
Proofs of the wisdom of th' all-seeing mind,
"Tis plain the creature, whom he chose t' invest
With kingship and dominion o'er the rest,
Receiv'd his nobler nature, and was made
Fit for the pow'r, in which he stands array'd;
That first, or last, hereafter, if not here,
He too might make his author's wisdom clear,
Praise him on Earth, or, obstinately dumb,
Suffer his justice in a world to come.
This once believ'd, 'twere logic misapplied,
To prove a consequence by none denied,
That we are bound to cast the minds of youth
Betimes into the mould of heav'nly truth,
That taught of God they may indeed be wise,
Nor ignorantly wand'ring miss the skies.
In early days the conscience has in most
A quickness, which in later life is lost;
Preserv'd from guilt by salutary fears,
Or, guilty, soon relenting into tears.
Too careless often, as our years proceed,
What friends we sort with, or what books we read,
Our parents yet exert a prudent care,
To feed our infant minds with proper fare;
And wisely store the nurs'ry by degrees
With wholesome learning, yet acquir'd with ease.
Neatly secur'd from being soil'd or torn
Beneath a pane of thin translucent horn,
A book (to please us at a tender age
"Tis call'd a book, though but a single page)
Presents the pray'r the Saviour deign'd to teach,
Which children use, and parsons-when they preach.
Lisping our syllables, we scramble next
Through moral narrative or sacred text;
And learn with wonder how this world began,
Who made, who marr'd, and who has ransom'd, man:
Points, which unless the Scripture made them plain,
The wisest beads might agitate in vain,
O, thou, whom, borne on fancy's eager wing
Back to the season of life's happy spring,
I pleas'd remember, and, while mem'ry yet
Holds fast her office here, can ne'er forget;
Ingenious dreamer, in whose well-told tale
Sweet fiction, and sweet truth alike prevail;
Whose hum'rous vein, strong sense, and simple style,
May teach the gayest, make the gravest smile
Witty, and well employ'd, and, like thy Lord,
Speaking in parables his slighted word:
I name thee not, lest so despis'd a name
Should move a sneer at thy deserved fame;
Yet e'en in transitory life's late day,
That mingles all my brown with sober gray,
Revere the man, whose pilgrim marks the road,
And guides the progress of the soul to God.
'Twere well with most, if books, that could engage
Their childhood, pleas'd them at a riper age;
The man, approving what had charm'd the boy,
Would die at last in comfort, peace and joy;
And not with curses on his heart, who stole
The gem of truth from his unguarded soul.
The stamp of artless piety impress'd
By kind tuition on his yielding breast,
The youth now bearded, and yet pert and raw,
Regards with scorn, though once receiv'd with awe;
And, warp'd into the labyrinth of lies,
That babblers, call'd philosophers, devise,
Blasphemes his creed, as founded on a plan
Replete with dreams, unworthy of a man.
Touch but his nature in its ailing part,
Assert the native evil of his heart,
His pride resents the charge, although the proof*
Rise in his forehead, and seem rank enough:
Point to the cure, describe the Saviour's cross
As God's expedient to retrieve his loss,
* See II. Chron. ch. xxvi. ver. 19.
The young apostate sickens at the view,
And hates it with the malice of a Jew.
How weak the barrier of mere Nature proves,
Oppos'd against the pleasures Nature loves!
While self-betray'd, and wilfully undone,
She longs to yield, no sooner woo'd than won.
Try now the merits of this bless'd exchange
Of modest truth for wits eccentric range.
Time was, he clos'd as he began the day
With decent duty, not asham'd to pray;
The practice was a bond upon his heart,
A pledge he gave for a consistent part;
Nor could he dare presumptuously displease
A pow'r, confess'd so lately on his knees.
But now, farewell all legendary tales,
The shadows fly, philosophy prevails;
Pray'r to the winds, and caution to the waves;
Religion makes the free, by nature slaves.
Priests have invented, and the world admir'd
What knavish priests promulgate as inspir'd:
Till Reason, now no longer overaw'd,
Resumes her pow'rs, and spurns the clumsy fraud;
And, common-sense diffusing real day,
The meteor of the Gospel dies away.
Such rhapsodies our shrewd discerning youth
Learn from expert inquirers after truth;
Whose only care, might truth presume to speak,
Is not to find what they profess to seek.
And thus, well-tutor'd only while we share
A mother's lectures, and a nurse's care;
And taught at schools much mythologic stuff,*
But sound religion sparingly enough;
Our early notices of truth, disgrac'd,
Soon lose their credit, and are all effac’d.
The author begs leave to explain.-Sensible that, without such knowledge, neither the ancient poets nor historians can be tasted, or indeed understood, he does not mean to censure the pains that are taken to instruct a school-boy in the religion of the Heathen, but merely that neglect of Christian culture which leaves him shamefully ignorant of his own.
Would you your son should be a sot or dunce, Lascivious, headstrong, or all these at once; That in good time the stripling's finish'd taste For loose expense, and fashionable waste, Should prove your ruin, and his own at last; Train him in public with a mob of boys, Childish in mischief only and in noise, Else of a mannish growth, and five in ten In infidelity and lewdness men.
There shall he learn, ere sixteeen winters old, That authors are most useful pawn'd or sold; That pedantry is all that schools impart, But taverns teach the knowledge of the heart; There waiter Dick, with Bacchanalian lays, Shall win his heart, and have his drunken praise, His counsellor and bosom friend shall prove, And some street-pacing harlot his first love. Schools, unless discipline were doubly strong, Detain their adolescent charge too long: The management of tiroes of eighteen Is difficult: their punishment obscene. The stout, tall captain, whose superior size The minor heroes view with envious eyes, Becomes their pattern, upon whom they fix Their whole attention, and ape all his tricks. His pride, that scorns t' obey or to submit, With them is courage; his effront'ry wit. His wild excursions, window-breaking feats, Robb'ry of gardens, quarrels in the streets, His hair-breadth 'scapes, and all his daring schemes, Transport them, and are made their fav'rite themes, In little bosoms, such achievements strike A kindred spark: they burn to do the like. Thus, half-accomplish'd ere he yet begin To show the peeping down upon his chin; And, as maturity of years comes on,
Made just th' adept that you design'd your son;
T'ensure the perseverance of your course,
And give your monstrous project all its force,
Send him to college. If he there be tam'd,
Or in one article of vice reclaim'd,
Where no regard of ord'nances is shown
Or look'd for now, the fault must be his own.
Some sneaking virtue lurks in him, no doubt,
Where neither strumpets' charms, nor drinking-bout,
Nor gambling practices, can find it out.
Such youths of spirit, and that spirit too,
Ye nurs❜ries of our boys, we owe to you:
Though from ourselves the mischief more proceeds,
For public schools 'tis public folly feeds.
The slaves of custom and establish'd mode,
With packhorse constancy we keep the road,
Crooked or straight, through quags or thorny dells,
True to the jingling of our leader's bells.
To follow foolish precedents, and wink
With both our eyes, is easier than to think:
And such an age as ours balks no expense,
Except of caution, and of common sense;
Else sure notorious fact, and proof so plain,
Would turn our steps into a wiser train.
I blame not those, who with what care they can
O'erwatch the num'rous and unruly clan;
Or, if I blame, 'tis only that they dare
Promise a work, of which they must despair.
Have ye, ye sage intendants of the whole,
An ubiquarian presence and control,
Elisha's eye, that, when Gehazi stray'd,
Went with him, and saw all the game he play'd?
Yes-ye are conscious; and on all the shelves
Your pupils strike upon, have struck yourselves.
Or if, by nature sober, ye had then,
Boys as ye were, the gravity of men;
Ye knew at least, by constant proofs address'd To ears and eyes, the vices of the rest.