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The Muse of old her native freedom knew, And wild in air the sportive wand'rer flew : On worth alone her bays eternal strow'd, And found the hero, ere she hymn'd the god. Nor less the chief his kind support return'd, No drooping Muse her slighted labors mourn'd; But stretch'd at ease she prun'd her growing wings, By sages honor'd and rever'd by kings. Ev'n knowing Greece confess'd her early claim, And warlike Latium caught the gen'rous flame. Not so our age regards the tuneful tongue, 'Tis senseless rapture all, and empty song: No Pollio sheds his genial influence round, No Varus listens whilst the groves resound. Ev'n those, the knowing and the virtuous few, Who noblest ends by noblest means pursue, Forget the poet's use; the powerful spell Of magic verse, which SIDNEY paints so well. Forget that Homer wak'd the Grecian flame, That Pindar rous'd inglorious Thebes to fame, That every age has great examples giv'n
Of virtue taught in verse, and verse inspir'd by
But I forbear-these dreams no longer last,
Ev'n in these gainful unambitious days,
But should the meanest swan that cuts the stream Consign'd to Phoebus, catch the favor'd name, Safe in her mouth she bears the sacred prize To where bright Fame's eternal altars rise. 'Tis there the Muse's friends true laurels wear, There Egypt's monarch reigns, and great Augustus
Patrons of arts must live 'till arts decay, Sacred to verse in every poet's lay.
Thus grateful France does Richlieu's worth proclaim, Thus grateful Britain doats on Somers' name.
And, spite of party rage, and human flaws,
And British liberty and British laws,
Times yet to come shall sing of ANNA's reign,
And bards, who blame the measures, love the men.
But why round patrons climb th' ambitious bays? Is interest then the sordid spur to praise ?
Shall the same cause, which prompts the chatt'ring jay
To aim at words, inspire the poet's lay?
Illustrious all! but sure to merit these, Demands at least the poet's learned ease. Say, can the bard attempt what's truly great, Who pants in secret for his future fate? Him serious toils, and humbler arts engage, To make youth easy, and provide for age; While lost in silence hangs his useless lyre, And though from heaven it came, fast dies the sacred fire.
Or grant true genius with superior force
Well pleas'd to shine, through each recording page, The hapless Dryden of a shameless age?
Ill fated bard! where-e'er thy name appears,
'Tis true the man of verse, though born to ills,
He, only he, should haunt the Muse's grove, Whom youth might reverence and grey hairs approve; Whose heav'n-taught numbers, now, in thunder
Might rouse the virtuous and appal the bold.
Curs'd be their verse, and blasted all their bays, Whose sensual lure th' unconscious ear betrays; Wounds the young breast, ere virtue spreads her shield,
And takes, not wins, the scarce disputed field,
Should some MACHAON, whose sagacious soul
And arm with poisons every baleful breeze:
Forgive me, Sir, that thus the moral strain,