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The carriage bowls along, and all are pleas'd
If Tom be sober, and the wheels well greas'd;
But if the rogue have gone a cup too far,
Left out his linchpin, or forgot his tar,
It suffers interruption and delay,
And meets with hindrance in the smoothest way.
When some hypothesis, absurd and vain,
Has fill’d with all its fumes a critic's brain,
The text that sorts not with his darling whim,
Though plain to others, is obscure to him,
The will made subject to a lawless force,
All is irregular and out of course;
And Judgment drunk, and brib'd to lose his way
Winks hard, and talks of darkness at noonday.
A critic on the sacred book should be
Candid and learn’d, dispassionate and free ;
Free from the wayward bias bigots feel,
From fancy's influence, and intemp’rate zeal:
But above all, (or let the wretch refrain,
Nor touch the page he cannot but profane,)
Free from the domineering pow'r of lust;
A lewd interpreter is never just.
How shall I speak thee, or thy pow'r address,
Thou god of our idolatry, the Press ?
By thee religion, liberty, and laws,
Exert their influence, and advance their cause :
By thee worse plagues than Pharaoh's land befel,
Diffus’d, make Earth the vestibule of Hell;
Thou fountain, at which drink the good and wise ;
Thou ever-bubbling.spring of endless lies;
Like Eden's dread probationary tree,
Knowledge of good and evil is from thee.
No wild enthusiast ever yet could rest,
Till half mankind were like himself possess’d.
Philosophers, who darken and put out
Eternal truth by everlasting doubt;
Church quacks, with passions under no command,
Who fill the world with doctrines contraband,
Discov’rers of they know not what, confin'd
Within no bounds--the blind that lead the blind;
To streams of popular opinion drawn,
Deposite in those shallows all their spawn.
The wriggling fry soon fill the creaks around,
Pois’ning the waters where their swarms abound.
Scorn'd by the nobler tenants of the flood,
Minnows and gudgeons gorge th’unwholesome food.
The propagated myriads spread so fast,
E'en Lewenhoeck himself would stand aghast,
Employ'd to calculate th' enormous sum,
And own his crab-computing pow'rs o'ercome.
Is this hyperbole? The world well known,
Your sober thoughts will hardly find it one.
Fresh confidence the speculatist takes
From ev'ry hair-brain'd proselyte he makes;
And therefore prints. Himself but half deceiv'd,
Till others have the soothing tale believ’d.
Hence comment after comment, spun as fine
As bloated spiders draw the flimsy line:
Hence the same word, that bids our lusts obey,
Is misapplied to sanctify their sway.
If stubborn Greek refuse to be his friend,
Hebrew or Syriac shall be forc'd to bend:
If languages and copies all cry, No-
it centuries ago. Like trout pursu'd, the critic in despair Darts to the mud, and finds his safety there. Woman, whom custom has forbid to fly The scholar's pitch (the scholar best knows why,) With all the simple and unletter'd poor, Admire his learning, and almost adore. Whoever errs, the priest can ne'er be wrong, With such fine words familiar to his tongue.
Ye ladies! (for indiff'rent in your cause, I should deserve to forfeit all applause,) Whatever shocks or gives the least offence To virtue, delicacy, truth, or sense,
(Try the criterion, 'tis a faithful guide,)
Nor has, nor can have, Scripture on its side.
None but an author knows an author's cares,
Or Fancy's fondness for the child she bears.
Committed once into the public arms,
The baby seems to smile with added charms.
Like something precious ventur'd far from shore,
"T'is valued for the danger's sake the more.
He views it with complacency supreme,
Solicits kind attention to his dream;
And daily more enamour'd of the cheat,
Kneels, and asks Heav'n to bless the dear deceit.
So one, whose story serves at least to show
Men lov'd their own productions long ago,
Woo'd an unfeeling statue for his wife,
Nor rested till the gods had giv’n it life.
If some mere driv 'ller suck the sugar'd fib,
One that still needs his leading-string and bib,
And praise his genius, he is soon repaid
In praise applied to the same part-his head:
For 'tis a rule that holds for ever true,
Grant me discernment, and I grant it you.
Patient of contradiction as a child, Affable, humble, diffident, and mild; Such was Sir Isaac, and such Boyle and Locke: Your blund'rer is as sturdy as a rock. The creature is so sure to kick and bite, A muleteer's the man to set him right. First Appetite enlists him Truth's sworn foc, Then obstinate Self-will confirms him so. Tell him he wanders; that his error leads To fatal ills; that, though the path he treads Be flow'ry, and he see no cause of fear, Death and the pains of Hell attend him there: In vain; the slave of arrogance and pride, He has no hearing on the prudent side. His still refuted quirks he still repeats; New rais'd objections with new quibbles meets ;.
Till, sinking in the quicksand he defends,
He dies disputing, and the contest ends.--
But not the mischiefs; they, still left behind,
Like thistle-seeds, are sown by ev'ry wind.
Thus men go wrong with an ingenious skill;
Bend the straight rule to their own crooked will;
And with a clear and shining lamp supplied,
First put it out, then take it for a guide.
Halting on crutches of unequal size,
One leg by truth supported, one by lies ;
They sidle to the goal with awkward pace,
Secure of nothing--but to lose the race.
Faults in the life breed errors in the brain,
And these reciprocally those again.
The mind and conduct mutually imprint
And stamp their image in each other's mint:
Each, sire and dam, of an infernal race,
Begetting and conceiving all that's base.
None sends his arrow to the mark in view,
Whose hand is feeble, or his aim untrue.
For though, ere yet the shaft is on the wing,
Or when it first forsakes th' elastic string,
It err but little from th' intended line,
It falls at last far wide of his design:
So he, who seeks a mansion in the sky,
Must watch his
with a stedfast eye; That prize belongs to none but the sincere; The least obliquity is fatal here.
With caution taste the sweet Circean cup:
He that sips often, at last drinks it up.
Habits are soon assum'd; but when we strive
To strip them off, 'tis being flay'd alive.
Callid to the temple of impure delight,
He that abstains, and he alone, does right.
If a wish wander that way, call it home;
He cannot long be safe whose wishes roam.
But, if you pass the threshold, you are caught;
Die then, if pow'r Almighty save you not.
There, hard'ning by degrees, till double steel'd,
Take leave of nature's God, and God reveal'd;
Then laugh at all you trembled at before ;
And, joining the free-thinkers' brutal roar,
Swallow the two grand nostrums they dispense-
That Scripture lies, and blasphemy is sense:
If clemency, revolted by abuse
Be damnable, then damn’d without excuse.
Some dream that they can silence when they will,
The storm of passion, and say, Peace, be stiil;
But “ Thus far and no farther," when address’d.
To the wild
wave, or wilder human breast, Implies authority that never can, That never ought to be the lot of man.
But muse, forbear; long flights forebode a fall; Strike on the deep-ton'd chord the sum of all.
Hear the just law—the judgment of the skies!
He that hates truth shall be the dupe of lies:
And he that will be cheated to the last,
Delusions strong as Hell shall bind him fast.
But if the wand'rer his mistake discern,
Judge his own ways, and sigh for a return,
Bewilder'd once, must he bewail his loss
For ever and for ever? No—the cross !
There and there only (though the deist rave,
And athiest, if Earth bear so base a slave);
There and there only is the pow'r to save.
There no delusive hope invites despair;
No mock’ry meets you, no deception there.
The spells and charms, that blinded you before,
All vanish there, and fascinate no more.
I am no preacher, let this hint suffice-
The cross, once seen, is death to ev'ry vice:
Else he that hung there suffer'd all his pain,
Bled, groan'd, and agoniz'd, and died, in vain.