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That since the flow'rs of Eden felt the blast,
That after man's defection laid all waste,
Sincerity tow'rds the heart-searching God
Has made the new-born creature her abode,
Nor shall be found in unregen'rate souls,
Till the last fire burn all between the poles.
Sincerity! why 'tis his only pride,
Weak and imperfect in all grace beside,
He knows that God demands his heart entire,
And gives him all his just demands require.
Without it his pretensions were as vain,
As having it he deems the World's disdain;
That great defect would cost him not alone
Man's favourable judgment, but his own;
His birthright shaken, and no longer clear,
Than while his conduct proves his heart sincere.
Retort the charge, and let the World be told
She boasts a confidence she does not hold;
That, conscious of her crimes, she feels instead
A cold misgiving, and a killing dread:
That while in health the ground of her support
Is madly to forget that life is short;
That sick she trembles, knowing she must die,
Her hope presumption, and her faith a lie;
That while she dotes, and dreams that she believes,
She mocks her Maker, and herself deceives,
Her utmost reach, historical assent,
The doctrines warp'd to what they never meant ;
That truth itself is in her head as dull
And useless as a candle in a scull,
And all her love of God a groundless claim,
A trick upon the canvass, painted flame.
Tell her again, the sneer upon her face,
And all her censures of the work of grace,
Are insincere, meant only to conceal
A dread she would not, yet is forc'd to feel;
That in her heart the Christian she reveres,
And while she seems to scorn him, only fears.
A poet does not work by square or line,
As smiths and joiners perfect a design;
At least we moderns, our attention less,
Beyond th' example of our sires digress,
And claim a right to scamper and run wide,
Wherever chance, caprice, or fancy guide.
The World and I fortuitously met;
I ow'd a trifle, and have paid the debt;
She did me wrong, I recompens'd the deed,
And, having struck the balance, now proceed.
Perhaps however as some years have pass’d,
Since she and I convers’d together last,
And I have liv'd recluse in rural shades,
Which seldom a distinct report pervades,
Great changes and new manners have occurr’d,
And blest reforms, that I have never heard,
And she may now be as discreet and wise,
As once absurd in all discerning eyes.
Sobriety perhaps may now be fourd,
Where once Intoxication press'd the ground;
The subtle and injurious may be just,
And he grown chaste, that was the slave of lust;
Arts once esteem'd may be with shame dismiss'd;
Charity may relax the miser's fist;
The gamester may
have cast his cards away,
Forgot to curse, and only kneel to pray.
It has indeed been told me (with what weight,
How credibly, 'tis hard for me to state)
That fables old, that seem'd for ever mute,
Reviv'd are hast’ning into fresh repute,
And gods and goddesses discarded long
Like useless lumber, or a stroller's song,
Are bringing into vogue their heathen train,
And Jupiter bids fair to rule again;
That certain feasts are instituted now, Where Venus hears the lover's tender vow; That all Olympus through the country roves, To consecrate our few remaining groves, And Echo learns politely to repeat The praise of names for ages obsolete; That having prov'd the weakness, it should seem, Of revelation's ineffectual beam, To bring the passions under sober sway, And give the moral springs their proper play, They mean to try what may at last be done, By stout substantial gods of wood and stone, And whether Roman rites may not produce The virtues of old Rome for English use. May such success attend the pious plan, May Mercury once more embellish man, Grace him again with long forgotten arts, Reclaim his taste, and brighten up his parts, Make him athletic as in days of old, Learn'd at the bar, in the palæstra bold, Divest the rougher sex of female airs, And teach the softer not to copy theirs : The change shall please, nor shall it matter aught Who works the wonder, if it be but wrought.
'Tis time, however, if the case stands thus,
For us plain folks, and all who side with us,
To build our altar, confident and bold,
And say as stern Elijah said of old,
The strife now stands upon a fair award,
If Israel's Lord be God, then serve the Lord:
If he be silent, faith is all a whim,
Then Baal is the God, and worship him.
Digression is so much in modern use,
Thought is so rare, and fancy so profuse,
Some never seem so wide of their intent,
As when returning to the theme they nieant;
As mendicants, whose business is to roam,
Make ev'ry parish but their own their home.
Though such continual zigzags in a book,
Such drunken reelings have an awkward look,
And I had rather creep to what is true,
Than rove and stagger with no mark in view;
Yet to consult a little, seem'd no crime,
The freakish humour of the present time:
But now to gather up what seems dispers’d,
And touch the subject I design'd at first,
May prove, though much beside the rules of art,
Best for the public, and my wisest part.