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And, since you ne'er provoke their spite,
Depend upon 't their judgment's right.
But if you blab, you are undone :
Consider what a risk you run :
You lose your credit all at once;
The town will mark you for a dunce;
The vilest doggrel Grub-street sends,
Will pass for yours with foes and friends;
And you must bear the whole disgrace,
Till some fresh blockhead takes your place:
Your secret kept, your poem sunk,
And sent in quires to line a trunk,
If still you be dispos'd to rhyme,
Go try your hand a second time,
Again you fail: yet Safe's the word;
Take courage, and attempt a third.
But first with care employ your thoughts
Where critics mark'd your former faults;'
The trivial turns, the borrow'd wit,
The similes that nothing fit;
The cant which every fool repeats,
Town jests and coffee-house conceits;
Descriptions tedious, flat and dry,
And introduc'd the Lord knows why:
Or where we find your fury set
Against the harmless alphabet;
On A's and B's your malice vent,
While readers wonder whom you meant;
A public or a private robber,
A statesman, or a South-sea jobber;
A prelate who no God believes;
A parliament, or den of thieves;
A pick-purse at the bar or bench;
A duchess, or a suburb-wench:
Or oft', when epithets you link
In gaping lines to fill a chink ;*
Like stepping-stones to save a stride,
In streets where kennels are too wide;
Or like a heel-piece, to support
A cripple with one foot too short;
Or like a bridge, that joins a marish
To moorlands of a different parish:
So have I seen ill-coupled hounds
Drag different ways in miry grounds.
So geographers in Afric maps
With savage pictures fill their gaps,
And o'er unhabitable downs
Place elephants for want of towns.
But, though you miss your third essay, You need not throw your pen away: Lay now aside all thoughts of fame, To spring more profitable game. From party-merit seek support; The vilest verse thrives best at court. A pamphlet in Sir Bob's defence Will never fail to bring in pence : Nor be concern'd about the sale, He pays his workmen on the nail.
A prince, the moment he is crown'd, Inherits every virtue round, As emblems of the sovereign power, Like other baubles in the Tower; Is generous, valiant, just, and wise, And so continues till he dies:
His humble senate this professes,
In all their speeches, votes, addresses
But once you fix him in a tomb,
His virtues fade, his vices bloom;
And each perfection wrong imputed,
Is fully at his death confuted.
The loads of poems in his praise,
Ascending, make one funeral blaze :
As soon as you can hear his knell,
This god on Earth turns devil in Hell:
And lo! his ministers of state,
Transform'd to imps, his levee wait;
Where, in the scenes of endless woe,
They ply their former arts below;
And, as they sail in Charon's boat,
Contrive to bribe the judge's vote;
To Cerberus they give a sop,
His triple-barking mouth to stop;
Or in the ivory gate of dreams
Project excise and South-sea schemes;
Or hire the party pamphleteers
To set Elysium by the ears.
Then, poet, if you mean to thrive, Employ your Muse on kings alive : With prudence gathering up a cluster Of all the virtues you can muster, Which, form'd into a garland sweet, Lay humbly at your monarch's feet; Who, as the odours reach his throne, Will smile, and think them all his own; For law and gospel both determine All virtues lodge in royal ermine :
(I mean the oracles of both,
Who shall depose it upon oath.)
Your garland in the following reign,
Change but the names, will do again.
But, if you think this trade too base,
(Which seldom is the dunce's case,)
Put on the critic's brow, and sit
At Will's the puny judge of wit.
A nod, a shrug, a scornful smile,
With caution us'd, may serve awhile.
Proceed no further in your part,
Before you learn the terms of art;
For you can never be too far gone
In all our modern critic's jargon :
Then talk with more authentic face
Of unities, in time and place;
Get scraps of Horace from your friends,
And have them at your fingers' ends;
Learn Aristotle's rules by rote,
And at all hazards boldly quote;
Judicious Rymer oft' review,
Wise Dennis, and profound Bossu;
Read all the prefaces of Dryden,
For these our critics much confide in,
(Though merely writ at first for filling,
To raise the volume's price a shilling.)
A forward critic often dupes us
With sham quotations peri hupsous;
And if we have not read Longinus,
Will magisterially outshine us.
Then, lest with Greek he overrun ye,
Procure the book for love or money,
Translated from Boileau's translation,
And quote quotation on quotation.
At Will's you hear a poem read,
Where Battus, from the table head,
Reclining on his elbow-chair,
Gives judgment with decisive air;
To whom the tribe of circling wits
As to an oracle submits.
He gives directions to the town,
To cry it up or run it down;
Like courtiers, when they send a note,
Instructing members how to vote.
He sets the stamp of bad and good,
Though not a word be understood.
Your lesson learn'd, you 'll be secure
To get the name of connoisseur :
And, when your merits once are known,
Procure disciples of your own.
For poets (you can never want 'em)
Spread through Augusta Trinobantum,
Computing by their pecks of coals,
Amount to just nine thousand souls :
These o'er their proper districts govern,
Of wit and humour judges sovereign.
In every street a city-bard
Rules, like an alderman, his ward;
His indisputed rights extend
Through all the lane, from end to end;
The neighbours round admire his shrewdness
For songs of loyalty and lewdness;
Outdone by none in rhyming well,
Although he never learn'd to spell.