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That courts make rogues is my belief,
As 'tis the mill that makes the thief.
But 'cause one limb is none o' th' best,
Shall I for that cut off the rest?
Sure it may be with safety said,
A parson's promise, duly made
Beneath a prelate's holy roof,
Must stand 'gainst all assaults a proof.
Yet he, who thinks the church unshaken,
May find himself in time mistaken.
I know the man, and grieve to say't,
Who so did fail-and that was STRAIGHT.
And can we then no more depend on
Our good forgetful friend at Findon,
Than on a courtier promiseful,
Or a whore's oath to cheat her cull?
Can STRAIGHT no better promise keep
If that were rue-I e'en should weep.
In Sarum's town when last we met,
I told you 'amongst much other prate,
That my design was to withdraw,
And leave the craggy paths of law:
And as the skilful pilot steers
Wide of the dreadful rocks he fears,
And in the safer ocean rides,
Nor fears his vessel's bulging sides,
So I from Coke's and Croke's reports,
And special pleadings of the courts,
Had veer'd about to bury dead,
And 'gainst a pulpit run my head.
Didst thou not promise then and there,
(But promises are china-ware)
Didst thou not promise, as I spoke,
That you'd ere long your Muse invoke,
And cloath'd in strong harmonious line,
Send counsel to the young divine?
Where of thy word then is the troth,
Which I thought good as any oath ?
Or where that strong harmonious line,
Bless'd by each sister of the Nine?
That whore we speak of i' th' beginning, Hath some excuse to make for sinning: Her tongue and tail are taught deceit From her not knowing where to eat. The courtier too hath some excuse To think word-breaking small abuse: And 'midst the hurry, noise, and bustle, Of crowds, that at his levée jostle, No man can be in such a taking To see a little promise-breaking.
But what indulgence, what excuse, Can plead for thee, or for thy Muse? For thee, on whom the sisters wait, Pleas'd with the task impos'd by STRAIGHT;
Whom at his christ'ning they did dip
O'er head and ears in Aganip;
For thee, at mention of whose strain
Their winged courser courts the rein,
Bounds e'en through Sussex-roads along,
Proud of the burthen of thy song?
TO THE FOREGOING, 1731.
-My dearest boy,
Apollo's and the Prelate's joy;
Your sharp rebuke came safe to hand,
And speedy answer does demand.
You charge me home-our conscious Muse
Would fain say, something in excuse.
The promise made must be confess'd,
But here, Sir-distinguendum est.
A promise broke, and one delay'd,
Differ as much as light and shade.
By this distinction all your whores
And courtiers I turn out of doors,
And, by induction logical,
Prove, they affect not me at all.
But if my logic be not good,
I'll prove it from the word of God,
Which serves to clear all sorts of cases,
And wears a masquerade of faces.
When bloody-minded Jephtha swore,
If he return'd a conqueror,
He'd offer up in sacrifice
What from his house first met his eyes;
And when his girl and only child
Hasten'd to welcome from the field
With pious joy her prosp❜rous sire,
Gaily dancing to the lyre;
The holy butcher understood
His promise's performance good,
Though for a year the virgin stray'd,
And wept her unlost maidenhead.
Thus, Sir, you see we men of letters Can, like Jack Shepherd, cut our fetters; When pinch'd, we file scholastic saw, And iron is no more than straw: The man is thought to have no brains Who can't break loose, or bind in chains. Your Sykeses and your Waterlands Have nothing else upon their hands: They stand prepar'd with double tackle To fix or to remove the shackle.
But, my dear boy, we'll only tye The silken bands of amity; Or such as hock-tide boys and misses With laughter bind, and harmless kisses; Indulge the free poetic measure, And mimic discord for more pleasure.