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The Poetical Works of the late Christopher Anstey

With Some Account of the Life and Writings of the Author, By his son, John Anstey

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Gratias tibi ago, Fortuna, quæ me sinis ridere, et speculari. INC. AUCT.


Ah me! what spleen, revenge, and hate
Those reprobated bards await,
Who seek by laughter to disgrace
The follies of the human race!
Howe'er by nature they're inclin'd
To pity and to love mankind,
And fain by every gentle art,
Which ridicule and mirth impart,
Their minds to virtue would entice,
And shame the harden'd front of vice,


How cautiously soe'er they aim,
Make manners, and not men, their game,
The only meed the world bestows,
Are civil friends, and latent foes.
And wilt thou then, dear Muse, once more
Adventure near that dangerous shore,
Once more, alas! be doom'd to hear
The scribbler's jest, and coxcomb's sneer?
It must be so, for be it known
Thou art a harden'd sinner grown,
Nor all the criticising race,
Can move one muscle of thy face.
But if some man for taste renown'd,
Of knowledge deep, and judgment sound,
One whom the monarchy of wit,
Has deem'd for every science fit,
And letters patent has assign'd
To stamp th' opinions of mankind,
One, who if chance he find thee trip,
Will seize at once his critic whip,


As pleas'd as Scaliger or Bentley,
And flog thee pretty near as gently,
If such a man for once should smile,
(And long to damn thee all the while)
And ask thee why, “'mid every flower
That blooms around th' Aonian bower,
And every painted bud that blows
To deck th' enraptur'd Poet's brows,
Some devious path thou should'st explore,
For garlands never worn before,
And descant on a theme so long
Ill suited to melodious song?”
Do thou rejoin—“'twas injur'd worth
That call'd thine indignation forth;
A phrase, which all mankind degrade.
Sought refuge in thy friendly aid;
For injur'd words, like injur'd men,
Claim succour from an author's pen,
And all as justly may command
The poet's lyre, as critic's wand;
Say, that of all th' ill-fated words
Great Johnson's Dictionary affords,


Or ever from the fruitful store
Of Roman and Athenian lore
Were gather'd by that grand importer,
And pounded in an English mortar,
Of all th' unfortunate expressions
Abus'd by wights of all professions,
Hack'd at the bar, in pulpit tortur'd,
Or chapel of St. Stephen slaughter'd,
Not one was e'er so basely treated,
Of spirit, sense, and meaning cheated,
Or e'er deserv'd commiseration,
Like this poor word, call'd—Speculation.
If right I ween, in times of yore,
This abstract term express'd no more
Than ocular, or mental view,
Or thoughts that from the same accrue:
He thus was held in great esteem,
And meets with much respect, I deem,
Where'er we find him in the pages
Of learned and exalted sages,


Such as have studied Nature's laws,
And taught us to adore their cause,
Or those whose precepts have refin'd,
Enlighten'd, and adorn'd mankind;
But since our wiser system teaches
New modes of actions, thoughts, and speeches,
Since language every day submits
To some new phrase from modern wits,
And like its speaker, or its writer,
Grows richer, chaster, and politer,
Whatever wild fantastic dreams
Give birth to man's outrageous schemes,
Pursued without the least pretence
To virtue, honesty, or sense,
Whate'er the wretched basely dare
From pride, ambition, or despair,
Fraud, luxury or dissipation,
Assumes the name of—Speculation.
By life's tempestuous billows torn,
At once luxurious, and forlorn,


The swindling Jew, the gambling peer,
The ruin'd 'squire turn'd auctioneer,
The pimp, the quack, the broken banker,
Unknowing where to cast their anchor,
Their fortune's shatter'd fragments rally,
And fix their stations in the Alley;
There at the Pandemonium meet
Of J*hn*th*n's infernal seat,
Where Fortune oft with specious show
Of fair advantages that flow
From industry, with flattering hopes
Beguiles her votaries, and opes
A fouler and more dangerous field,
Than all her gambling arts can yield.
Lo! where around the pois'nous dung,
Or carrion on the shambles hung,
The flies their quivering pennons cast,
And batten o'er their foul repast!
E'en so, on some new loan intent,
With interest at seven per cent.


Mid dirt, and noise, and odious fume
The crowds assemble, and assume
As many shapes as Proteus wore,
As many wily arts explore:
Ne'er did the Samian Sage of old
Such wondrous mysteries unfold
Of men relinquishing their nature,
To animate some monstrous creature,
Nor all the sweet poetic tribe
Such metamorphoses describe,
(Though oft they sing, how mighty Jove
Was brutaliz'd by wanton Love,
And how by Circe's goblet warm'd
The Grecian heroes were transform'd)
As now the Muse, from vulgar eyes,
High tow'ring to her native skies,
Aloft on Pegasean wing
Advent'rous would attempt to sing,
But that the theme to sordid gain
Confin'd (that mars the lofty strain,)


And incompatible retards
The flight of speculative bards)
Arrests her in th'ethereal way,
And pins her to this earthly clay—
Yet will I tell in humble lays
Of men transform'd in modern days
To shapes as strange as Cupid's bow
Or Circe's cup could e'er bestow,
Such as the God of Riches lends
To many of his chosen friends,
Who conscience, faith, and fame resign,
To worship at his filthy shrine.
Oh! how Pythagoras would wonder!
And Jupiter prepare his thunder!
Think with what fury he would rush
The brokers and the Bank to crush,
Could he behold, what oft the case is,
A man who sells old clothes and laces,
Such as the reader may conceive I
Have seen among the tribe of Levi,


For goodness now and worth renown'd,
Contract for fifty thousand pound,
Buy scrip, bank, omnium, or long ann.
Or lottery tick.—If such a man
The hasty spouse of Juno saw
With beard prolix, and famish'd jaw,
Dare to transmigrate, and become
A bull, for that enormous sum,
Would not the jealous God appal
The wretch in some new shape, or call
The herald Mercury at once
To serve him like that Phrygian dunce,
That jobber in the stocks of old
Whose touch'd turn'd every thing to gold?
And would not Mercury himself
Look sharp, and tremble for his pelf,
Soon as the Israelite he found
With solemn pace go lowing round,
Contriving every base device
To raise the stocks, and mend their price,
Could hear how oft the monster tries
To furnish us with new allies,


With peace how often to regale us—
And victories can never fail us—
How oft a sinking state he saves,
By friendly aid of winds and waves?
Oh! treacherous Bull, from hell deriv'd,
Worse than e'er Phalaris contriv'd,
Thou, that for cursed gold canst find
Such methods to distress mankind,
And feed a nation's hopes in vain,
To sell thy bargain out again!
A form more horrid still remains,
As yet unsung by mortal strains;
Reverse the glass—that shape explore—
Behold the Israelite once more!—
But why, O! why (good heav'ns defend us)
That shaggy coat, those paws tremendous?
Why in that horrid guise appear?
Methinks I see the grisly bear!—
'Tis true—his scrip. this morning sold,
He with that figure now makes bold,


And every artifice is trying
To pave the way some more to buy in;
But ere the purchase he commences,
Must first impose upon your senses;
By every method in his power
Must strive to make the markets lower;
Will growl and grumble, and confound
With terror every soul around,
Oft forge a letter from the Hague,
Paul Jones, a shipwreck, or a plague;
Oft will th' unconscionable brute
Reverse the Litany to boot,
His avaricious schemes to further,
And pray for sudden death and murther;
All that a nation can disgrace,
Her credit and her fame debase,
Foul calumnies, and pois'nous hints
He gathers from the public prints:
If that won't answer his intention,
He harasses his own invention
Some new calamity to bring
From Falsehood's never failing spring:


Yet surely, if the wretch could view
Our melancholy state, and knew
This bleeding country's heart-felt dole,
'Twould save him some expence of soul,
And much fatigue of brains in trying
To heighten her distress by lying;
But men sometimes, as I have seen it,
Will speak the truth, who never mean it,
Of whom, as casuists agree,
In foro conscientiæ,
If lies and falshood be their aim,
Though truth they speak, the crime's the same;
Such is in part the case with Bruin,
Who now is every trick pursuing
With every terrour to compel
Th'affrighted Bulls their stock to sell,
Which haply by his dreadful warning,
He'll make them do to morrow morning,
And buying it himself, endeavour
To gain the balance in his favour;
See where he stands with looks dejected,
Like her who Troy's sad fate predicted,


Or prophet Jeremy foretelling
The downfall of the Jewish dwelling!
See while amid' th' encircling crowd
He thus harangues in accents loud,
The list'ning Bulls forget to low,
The punch and negus cease to flow:
“Oh what disgrace, what evils wait
“This shatter'd, this distracted state?
“Ah! where are truth and virtue fled!
“All mutual confidence is dead:
“Our credit and our fame is gone,
“Our merchants and our trade undone,
“Despair and desolation urge
“Their flight across th' Atlantic surge,
“The islands feel the dire commotion,
“E'en now they tremble on the ocean;
“How late the foe with wrathful pride
“Your navy on your coasts defied?
“E'en now they threaten an invasion,
“And only wait a fair occasion;


“And what so soon can make them come
“As your damn'd quarrelling at home?
“Not one good friend across the water
“That cares one farthing what you're a'ter;
“The Dane, the Russian, and the Swede,
“Won't help you much in time of need,
“The Dutch, who hate such castle-builders,
“Won't budge an inch without the gilders:
“And great the folly and expence is
“Of hiring aid from foreign princes;
“The Irish too are discontented;—
“G---d send that England may'nt repent it;
“No soul to give the least assistance,
“Not one to keep up your existence;
“Not the least prospect of recovering,
“E'en though Morocco's swarthy sovereign
“From Mauritania's coast descends
“With Mahomet and all his friends—
“Curs'd be the hour that made me dip
“So deep into that fatal Scrip!”
The last disgraceful scene that closes
This horrible Metempsychosis


The Muse in pity would conceal,
And gladly draw the friendly veil;
But when at length both Bull and Bear
Their contracts and their faith forswear,
And sooner far the dev'l could raise
Than payment on th'appointed days;
To shape of cursed Duck transmuted,
By Jews blasphem'd, by Christians hooted,
Crippled they make one desp'rate sally,
And out they waddle from the Alley,
By J*hn*th n's detested door
Run quacking, and are seen no more.
Such means to pray upon your fortune
These worthy gentlemen call sporting,
And give each base negotiation
The well-bred term of—Speculation.
Could I, ye gods, in equal strain
Their various fallacies explain,
And all their fiend-like arts rehearse
In faithful and immortal verse,


No more the Bull and Bear should glow
Resplendent in the solar bow,
But banish'd to th'infernal shore
Give Pluto's realms two demons more:
The Duck debarr'd from Lethe's spring,
Whose waters sweet oblivion bring,
In Phlegethon her seat should fix,
And speculate the pools of Styx.
Nor less among th'unletter'd swains
This fashionable word obtains;
(For fashion now alike pervades
The gorgeous roof, and sylvan shades)
Ask the rich clown, whose iron sway
The humble villagers obey,
While penury and hunger wait
Beside the lowly cottage gate,
Why the hard wretch with-holds his grain,
And hears unmov'd the poor complain;
Ask why he cumbers up his ground
With stacks of unthresh'd corn around,


Till wet and mould have spoil'd one half,
Or vermin ground it into chaff;
He'll try to modify his diction,
And tell you, 'twas his own election,
He felt a certain instigation
To keep it all on—Speculation.
Mark where the money-lending crew
Their base usurious trade pursue,
With wily phrase, and treacherous smile
The poor unwary youth beguile,
Oft to his thoughtless wish supply
The means of want and infamy?
All that the anxious father's cares
Have gather'd in his brighter years,
All that the younger offspring craves,
And oft the tender mother saves
From comforts, which her age requires,
In mortgages and bonds expires.
And must his fair paternal lands
All centre in such miscreant hands?
Just heav'n forbid!—


Oh! may the pillory or rope
Prevent them in each distant hope,
And all their golden expectations
Be airy dreams and—Speculations.
But turn, my gentle Muse, nor deign
To dwell with that unhallow'd train;
Thy kindred bards demand thy song,
To them thy grateful notes prolong,
Who quitting Bath's ador'd retreat,
Her frolic sports, and pastimes sweet,
And purer joys which verse inspires,
Suspend their soft harmonious lyres,
To-day all hast'ning to attend
The groaning of their much-lov'd friend,
A lady whose exalted station
Demands their utmost veneration,
For me, I must acknowledge fairly,
I visit at her house but rarely,


She always has so large a crowd
Of well-bred men, who talk so loud,
Yet do I feel most truly for her,
And look upon her case with horror,
'Tis now, as she herself has reckon'd,
Five months, and upwards since she quicken'd,
And every moment, as 'tis said,
Is waiting to be brought to bed;
Poor soul! what sorrow and vexation
She suffer'd through the whole gestation!
And now but very ill sustains
The thoughts of her approaching pains;
So many children she has had,
And most of them turn'd out so bad,
Have quarrel'd with her dearest neighbours,
And marr'd her honest tenants labours,
Their darken'd dwellings fill'd with strife,
And grudg'd them every joy of life,
Kept such a prodigal retinue,
Their wages eat up her revenue,
And all at such a shameful rate
Encreas'd the debt on her estate,


The thoughts of adding to the number
Deprive her of her balmy slumber;
The same man-midwife who, I hear,
Attended at her couche last year,
Speaks like a sensible physician,
And shakes his head at her condition;
A stubborn acrimonious humour,
Which daily hastens to consume her,
Corrupts her pancreatic juices,
And choler without end produces,
And when upon her brain 'tis pitch'd,
'Twill make her talk like one bewitch'd,—
What ever good you mean to do her,
To ev'ry Question you put to her,
The only answer she'll bestow
Is—aye, aye, aye, or no, no, no;
Such symptoms make her friends begin
To think there's something wrong within,
That needs must take before the summer
The use of all her members from her,


Which in a broken constitution
Must soon bring on her dissolution.
Then say, Oh! say, ye learned leeches,
Whose fashionable doctrine teaches
That infants bear no mark nor sign
Of things for which their mothers pine,
And evils which afflict the parent,
Are never in the child inherent,
Say, from this lady so affected
What progeny can be expected?
For me, (although 'tis rarely found
That poets are for truth renown'd)
I'll boldly venture to suppose
She'll bring with strong convulsive throes
Some ill-shap'd brat, of mien most horrid,
With marks of blood upon its forehead,
An odious imp, whose bleared sight
Abhors the windows chearful light,
Will squint at every human soul
And long to sconce him on the poll;


Will pine for every thing it sees,
E'en for a bit of dirt will teaze,
And rather than that bit refuse,
Will eat it from a ploughman's shoes;
Long of his half-pence to unload
The meanest traveller on the road;
A horse, a carriage, or a servant
Will tear and shatter every nerve on't,
And sight of every little tit
Will give it a convulsion fit.
Meanwhile some gossips that attend it
Outrageous to the devil would send it,
Will reprobate the odious creature,
And militate 'gainst every feature,
While others eager to partake
The sack, the caudle, and the cake,
Soon as the nurse has cloth'd and fed it,
With pap she borrows on the credit,
Of Doctor Loan, whose famous tickets
Kill gnawing worms, and cure the rickets,


Will take the baby in their arms,
And hit upon some secret charms,
Some latent Je ne sçay quoi, or grace,
Which hitherto they ne'er could trace,
Will kiss it, dandle and caress it,
And try in some new mode to dress it,
Declaring that it looks so smugly
'Twas strange they ever thought it ugly,
Then smile with joy and admiration,
And call the monster—Spequlation.
But though they change its dress and name,
Its nature will remain the same,
Will still defy their best endeavour,
And squint as horribly as ever.
But soft—methinks, my wond'ring eyes
Behold a motley phantom rise,
Of shape grotesque and wild, its hand
Upholds a variegated wand;
It frowns—it smiles—and who can tell
Whether it comes from heav'n or hell,


Whether from country or from court,
Of evil or of good import,
A serio-comic face it wears,
And rudely thus assaults mine ears!
“What are these wild mysterious strains,
“These figments of thy wayward brains,
“That seem to cast some latent stigma
“In parable, and dark enigma?
“But that I never yet could find
“That thou to banter wert inclin'd,
“This uncouth fable would appear
“Some satire in disguise to bear,
“And learned critics might conjecture,
“That thou in this good lady's picture,
“Wouldst ridicule by implication
“The great assembly of the nation,
“And in her hapless child exhibit
“The portrait of its annual tribute;
“But well I know, th'esteem profound
“Thou bearest for that sacred ground,


“Would ne'er permit thee to complain
“Of aught its wise decrees ordain;
“And sure, whatever comic scene
“Might move thy laughter, or thy spleen,
“Thou ne'er couldst deem that virtuous Senate
“A theme to jest, or draw thy pen at;
“That awful dome, where Candor sweet,
“And Modesty have fix'd their seat,
“Where, like the Conscript Sires, we're told,
“Or Areopagites of old,
“Grave senators in council deep
“Their amicable vigils keep;
“Ne'er suffer envy, rage, or hate,
“To trespass on their calm debate,
“But free from faction, noise, and broil,
“Through every doubtful question toil;
“Where youthful orators in diction
“Replete with reason and conviction,
“In Ciceronian style and air
“Such potent truities declare
“E'en at the moment of their entrance,
“They'll pledge themselves in every sentence:


“All with such decency profound
“Their well-digested thoughts propound,
“All with such wise reserve conceal
“The secrets of the public weal,
“That never yet or friend or foe
“Presum'd their sage resolves to know,
“Or dar'd to fathom, or to scan
“The purpose of the deep divan;
“Who to that pinnacle of fame
“Have rais'd a Briton's glorious name,
“With such success their schemes have plann'd,
“Triumphantly they dare command
“Our armies and our fleets to roll
“Their thunder to each distant pole,
“And boldly bid the world defiance—
“Without one friendly power's alliance.
“See then, what prudent ways are tried,
“And means how faithfully applied,
“See with what rapid steps you tend
“To glory, and to wealth ascend!
“And if thou deem'st one tax too hard,
“Thou art the most ungenerous bard


“That ever in audacious strain
“Presum'd his betters to arraign,
“Or e'er consum'd the midnight taper,
“To set his worthless hand to paper.
“And must thou call th' Aonian maids
“From Helicon's enchanting shades,
“Must all to the Exchange descend,
“And Phœbus at the Bank attend,
“In jingling rhyme, and groveling strain
“Those virtuous gentry to arraign,
“Who for no mean, no sordid ends,
“But merely to oblige their friends,
“To purchase stock at their request,
“And pay for't when it suits them best,
“Their interest and good procure,
“Their properties and lives insure,
“All excercise their Speculation,
“All labour in their just vocation,
“In that great seat of useful knowledge,
“Fam'd Johnathan's illustrious college?


“Where from the servitor that stands
“Prepar'd, to run at their commands,
“And pupils who attend their lectures
“Up to the doctors and directors,
“All labour for their country's sake,
“All shew their readiness to make
“By paper currency alone
“Her credit and her glory known;
“What though some vulgar souls may blame
“Such generous ways to wealth and fame,
“And think that Gaming is a science
“On which there is but small reliance,
“Let such impartially look round
“And see how men for sense renown'd,
“Of birth, of character, and fame,
“Its vast utility proclaim,
“And from that fount what blessings flow
“By precept and example shew!
“See those who o'er the state preside,
“And all its secret motions guide,
“With what philanthropy and zeal
“They twirl it round the lottery wheel,


“And give by frequent revolution
“New vigour to your constitution!
“Nor fewer thanks are due to those
“Their tickets who in shares dispose,
“Who every wholesome art explore,
“And from compassion to the poor
“Their generosity display,
“And lend their horses for the day!
“Such useful policies moreover
“By fair arithmetic discover,
“Five shillings, luckily turn'd round,
“Present you with an hundred pound;
“Nor less their faithful cares extend
“To many an enterprising friend,
“By whom some blanks may be foreboded,
“And who with tickets overloaded
“Might chance, without their kind insurance,
“To suffer everlasting durance,
“And like the rash Ixion feel
“The torments of the rolling wheel.
“What though some bankruptcies be made
“From generous contempt of trade,


“Such ills, if rightly understood,
“Are all intended for your good;
“A limb recover'd from a fracture,
“Becomes the firmer and compacter,
“And oft' the world a tradesman sees,
“Like him who fought with Hercules,
“By bankruptcy the richer grown,
“And strength obtain, by tumbling down.
“Who then behind the counter's gloom
“The tedious moments would consume,
“His paltry merchandise retailing,
“And scarcity of cash bewailing,
“When in an instant he might make
“His fortune by one single stake;
“With such facility explore
“The Alley's unexhausted store,
“And to such friends the task assign
“To dig in that Peruvian mine?
“Such are the men thy muse compares
“To Bulls, to crippled Ducks, and Bears,


“By Rhadamanth's infernal laws,
“Chastises first, then hears their cause.
“But ah! what envy hast thou shewn,
“(For envy prompted thee alone)
“Who thus wouldst blacken with thy pen
“Those courteous, those obliging men,
“Who in pecuniary affairs
“For all mankind exert their cares,
“Shew such integrity and zeal,
“Yet modestly their names conceal,
“From pity's generous source alone
“Make every human want their own,
“The poor by scripture rules befriend,
“Are kind, are merciful, and lend,
Good men; whose tender care supplies,
“What oft' the churlish sire denies,
“Who teach th'aspiring youth to try
“The joys of independency,
“No longer to endure the chain
“Of harsh restraint, no more complain


“How tardily each rising sun
“Brings liberty, and twenty one:
“Give him to shew his taste and sense
“By careless and polite expence,
“His puerile delights dismiss,
“And antedate each manly bliss,
“The drudgeries of life despise,
“And all the serious thoughts that rise
“From toilsome business to annoy
“The transports of each circling joy!
“What though the demon of Contrition,
“Remorse, and Shame, and Admonition,
“And Retrospect with frown severe
“Oft check him in his bold career;
“Theirs is the friendly task to screen
“The horrors of their ghastly mien,
“And gild with smiles, and prospects gay
“The morning of his youthful day;
“Oh! friends sincere: whose counsels blast
“The bitter thoughts of errors past,
“Such means for present bliss bestow,
“Such disregard for future woe!


“Fool as thou art, thou ne'er didst read
“That wise, that speculative creed,
“Which some great theorist, no doubt,
“Of nice morality found out,
“And many an able politician
“Has practis'd with exact precision,
“That private vices are the source
Of public benefits; of course
“Fraud, luxury, and pride conspire
“To raise a nation's glory higher;
“And men of parts and educations,
“Your mayors of towns and corporations,
“This creed so well have understood,
“So us'd it for their country's good,
“That seldom they've a member sent
“To speak their sense in parliament,
“But such as claims the best pretence
“From dissipation and expence;
“Talents which all the world confess
“So justly warrant his success,
“That when th'election day comes on,
“He's fairly chosen,—and undone:


“A circumstance which shews no blindness,
“In those to whom he owes the kindness,
“But much of public virtue savours
“And wisdom in conferring favours,
“It whets his wit, his fears removes,
“The firmness of his mind improves,
“And makes him wade through thick and thin
“The very instant he gets in,
“Observe the most exact attendance,
“And crack his jokes on independence,
“Till industry at length procure
“Some pretty little snug douceur,
“Which makes him quietly intrench,
“And squat behind the Treasury Bench,
“As well it may; and who can grudge it
“When, at the opening of the Budget,
“This generous persevering creature
“Is straining every nerve and feature,
“And holds the candle to unlock it—
“Without one farthing in his pocket.
“See how necessity calls forth
“The latent seeds of parts and worth,


“What useful members of a state
“Extravagance and vice create,
“And what to luxury we owe,
“From whence such public blessings flow!
“Dost think unless by Heav'n's decrees
“Such great such generous souls as these
“Had sold the profits of their income,
“Or nobly dar'd in bonds to sink 'em,
“They'd ever with such care and pain
“Their senatorial rights maintain,
“Or worthily have fill'd a station
“Of such importance to the nation?
“No—from depravity and need
“Fame, freedom, wealth, and strength proceed,
“'Tis penury gives resolution,
“And pride supports a constitution,
“And all by just unerring laws
“Conspire to serve the public cause.
“Sure then some gratitude attends
“All who promote such glorious ends,


“And tell me who more justly claim
“The honours due to civic fame,
“Than that disinterested band,
“Whose aid, whose friendship you command,
“Whose gold like ambergrease is us'd,
“And o'er mankind its sweets diffus'd:
“Great philosophic souls! whom you
“With ignominious rhymes pursue,
“And in thy dogg'rel verse exhibit
“As subjects to adorn a gibbet.
“Ye deities who guard the plains
“Where innocence and virtue reigns,
“And make the artless farmer know
“What blessings from contentment flow,
“Far be the rude unhallow'd bard
“That views him with profane regard!
“Far be that infamous report,
“That vices which adorn a court,
“And render modish life complete,
“Invade the peasant's homely seat,


“And if some man of taste brings down
“The reigning fashions of the town,
“Full many a country coxcomb tries
“To prove as wicked, and as wise,
“Will drink, and cheat, and wh-re, and play,
“And when he comes his rent to pay,
“Will shake his head, and scratch his ear,
“And tell you that your farm's too dear,
“And hopes, as corn's so cheap of late,
“Your honour will his rent abate;
“Curs'd be the envious breath of fame,
“Whose babbling trumpet would proclaim
“That since the country's richer grown,
“And landlords from their seats are flown,
“Proud tenants with rapacious hand
“Engross the produce of their land,
“Usurp the empire of the plains,
“And lord it o'er the humble swains;
“Oh vile report, oh base surmise!
“When prudent men those means devise
“Such plenteous succour to provide,
“'Gainst scarcity and want betide,


“Like Egypt's king their corn withold,
“When sev'n year's famine was foretold.
“I grant 'twere better to cut short
“Monopolies of every sort,
“And much, no doubt, your country boasts
“That those who fill your highest posts,
“Th'Exchequer, Navy, Trade, and War,
“Such mean, such selfish ways abhor,
“And do their best as by the act is
“Prescrib'd, to stop so vile a practice;
“Your Clergy too, their zeal is such,
“Deserve your gratitude as much,
“Who 'mid the toils and cares they find
“In bishoprics to dean'ries join'd,
“Besides the troubles which attend 'em
“In holding livings in commendam,
“Find time for preaching and enforcing
“Their arguments against engrossing;
“Yet sure the men whose faithful toil
“Oft cultivates the barren soil,
“That's wisely taken from the poor,
“And never felt the plough before,


“Make plenty spread her bounteous horn,
“And vallies stand so thick with corn,
“That when their tythes they homeward bring,
“The joyful parsons laugh and sing,
“Surely such men who slave and sweat,
“For all th'advantages they get,
“May keep their grain, their only treasure,
“Without one Christian soul's displeasure;
“Ah! well they know, that if the poor
“Were cloth'd and fed, they'd work no more,
“That nothing makes mankind so good,
“So tractable, as want of food,
“And like those frugal politicians,
“Who take their maxims from physicians,
“Think starving is the best foundation
“Of popular subordination.—
“But on this point you more shall hear,
“And those, you have abus'd, revere,
“When next with terror and dismay
“My awful image you survey;


“Meanwhile no more thy spleen be shewn—
“Hast thou no failings of thine own,
“No ruling passion in thy breast,
“That robs thee of thy balmy rest?”
Yes, yes, I cry—to all mankind
Their frailties are by fate assign'd,
And he's the happiest and the best,
Who with the fewest is opprest;
In me, I must confess my failing,
An itch for scribbling is prevailing,
A vice which many a rhyming elf
Partakes in common with myself,
And since administration tries
Such various means to raise supplies,
I wonder much they ne'er determine
To raise a tax on all such vermin,
And claim a shilling in the pound
Of all who tread poetic ground;
No bard to Helicon should ride,
Unless he first were qualified,
For Pegasus his money pay,
And shew his ticket for the day;


Since ministers find such resources
In men's absurd and vicious courses,
And vanity and ostentation
Are deem'd fit subjects for taxation,
Sure they might fine the brains of those
Who sin no less in filthy prose,
And gold by chymick art distil
From essence of the gray goose quill:
Which though 'twould savour of extorting
From men of very slender fortune,
Such as all meaner arts disown,
And live upon their wits alone,
Must at a moderate computation,
Raise half a million to the nation.
But if the truth I must impart,
And say what passion rules my heart,
No thirst for honours wealth or pow'r
E'er robb'd me of one quiet hour,
No party-zeal, no factious aim
Torment me with their raging flame,


But anxious thoughts for England's sake
Will oft' the slumbring muse awake,
And hopes to please in faithful strain
The wise, the virtuous, and humane,
My soul with strong ambition fir'd,
And these incondite rhymes inspir'd,
Taught me to think no toil severe
Awhile to catch their list'ning ear,
And make their smiles and approbation
The object of my Speculation.

The twenty-fifth of November 1779, at which time this poem was written.