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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, Deposit in those shallows all their spawn.
The wriggling fry soon fill the creeks around,
Pois'ning the waters where their swarms abound.
Scorn'd by the nobler tenants of the flood,
Minnows and gudgeons gorge th' unwholesome
The propagated myriads spread so fast,
Ev'n 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-
Somebody prow'd it centuries ago.
Like trout pursued, 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 it's 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,
'Tis 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 driy'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
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 foe, Then obstinate Self-will confirms him so. Tell him he wanders; that his errour 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 errours 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,