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And thou at best, and in thy sob’rest mood,
A trifler vain, and empty of all good;
Though mercy for thyself thou canst have none,
Hear nature plead, show mercy to thy son.
Sav'd from his home, where ev'ry day brings forth
Some mischief fatal to his future worth,
Find him a better in a distant spot,
Within some pious pastor's humble cot,
Where vile example (yours I chiefly mean,
The most seducing and the oftnest seen)
May never more be stamp'd upon his breast,
Where early rest makes early rising sure,
Disease or comes not, or finds easy cure,
Or, if it enter, soon starv'd out again :-
Where all th' attention of his faithful host,
Discreetly limited to two at most,
May raise such fruits as shall reward his care,
And not at last evaporate in air :-
Where, stillness aiding study, and his mind
Serene, and to his duties much inclin'd,
Not occupied in day-dreams, as at home,
Of pleasures past, or follies yet to come,
His virtuous toil may terminate at last
In settled habit and decided taste.---
But whom do I advise ? the fashion-led,
Th’incorrigibly wrong, the deaf, the dead!
Whom care and cool deliberation suit
Not better much than spectacles a brute ;
Who, if their sons some slight tuition share,
Deem it of no great moment whose, or where ;
Too proud t adopt the thoughts of one unknown,
And much too gay t' have any of their own.
Mankind are various, and the world is wide :
The ostrich, silliest of the feather'd kind,
And form'd of God without a parent's mind,
Commits her eggs, incautious, to the dust,
Forgetful that the foot may crush the trust;
And, while on public nurs’ries they rely,
Not knowing, and too oft not caring, why,
Irrational in what they thus prefer,
No few, that would seem wise, resemble her.
But all are not alike. Thy warning voice
May here and there prevent erroneous choice ;
And some, perhaps, who, busy as they are,
Yet make their progeny their dearest care,
Their offspring, left upon so wild a beach)
Will need no stress of argument t enforce
Th' expedience of a less advent'rous course :
The rest will slight thy counsel, or condemn;
But they have human feelings—turn to them.
To you, then, tenants of life's middle state,
Securely plac'd between the small and great,
Whose character, yet undebauch’d, retains
Two thirds of all the virtue that remains,
Who, wise yourselves, desire your sons should learn
Your wisdom and your ways to you I turn..
Look round you on a world perversely blind;
See what contempt is fall’n on human kind;
See wealth abus’d, and dignities misplac'd,
Great titles, offices, and trusts disgrac'd,
Long lines of ancestry, renown'd of old,
Their noble qualities all quench'd and cold; .
See Bedlam's closetted and hand-cuff'd charge
Surpass’d in frenzy by the mad at large ;
See great commanders making war a trade,
Great lawyers, lawyers without study made;
Churchmen, in whose esteem their blest employ
Is odious, and their wages all their joy,
Who, far enough from furnishing their shelves
With gospel lore, turn infidels themselves ;
See womanhood despis’d, and manhood sham'd
With infamy too nauseous to be nam’d,
Fops at all corners, lady-like in mien,
Civeted fellows, smelt ere they are seen,
On fire with curses, and with nonsense hung,
Now flush'd with drunk’ness, now with whoredom
Their breath a sample of last night's regale ;
See volunteers in all the vilest arts,
Men well endow'd, of honourable parts,
Design'd by nature wise, but self-made fools ;
All these, and more like these, were bred at schools !
And, if it chance, as sometimes chance it will,
That, though school-bred, the boy be virtuous still ;
Such rare exceptions, shining in the dark,
Prove, rather than impeach, the just remark :
As here and there a twinkling star descried,
Serves but to show how black is all beside.
Now look on him, whose very voice in tone
Just echoes thine, whose features are thine own,
And stroke his polish'd cheek of purest red,
And lay thine hand upon his flaxen head,
And say—my boy, th' unwelcome hour is come,
When thou, transplanted from thy genial home,
Must find a colder soil and bleaker air,
And trust for safety to a stranger's care ;
What character, what turn thou wilt assume
From constant converse with I know not whom; '
Who there will court thy friendship, with what views,
And, artless as thou art, whom thou wilt choose ;
Though much depends on what thy choice shall be,
Is all chance-medley, and unknown to me.-
Canst thou, the tear just trembling on thy lids,
And while the dreadful risk foreseen forbids;
Free, too, and under no constraining force,
Unless the sway of custom warp thy course ;
Lay such a stake upon the losing side,
Merely to gratify so blind a guide ?
Thou canst not ! Nature, pulling at thine heart,
Condemns th' unfatherly, th' imprudent part.
Thou would'st not, deaf to nature's tend'rest plea,
Turn him adrift upon a rolling sea,
Nor say, Go thither, conscious that there lay
A brood of asps, or quicksands in his way;
Then, only govern’d by the self-same rule
Of natral pity, send him not to school.
No-guard him better. Is he not thine own,
Thyself in miniature, thy flesh, thy bone ?
And hop'st thou not ('tis ev'ry father's hope)
That, since thy strength must with thy years elope,
And thou wilt need some comfort to assuage
Health's last farewel, a staff of thine old age,
That then, in recompense of all thy cares,
Thy child shall show respect to thy gray hairs,
Befriend thee, of all other friends bereft,
Aware then how much danger intervenes,
To compass that good end, forecast the means.
His heart, now passive, yields to thy command ;
Secure it thine, its key is in thine hand.
If thou desert thy charge, and throw it wide,
Nor heed what guests there enter and abide,
Complain not if attachments lewd and base
Supplant thee in it, and usurp thy place.
Either his gratitude shall hold him fast,
And keep him warm and filial to the last;
Or, if he prove unkind (as who can say,
But, being man, and therefore frail, he may ?)
One comfort yet shall cheer thine aged heart-
Howe'er he slight thee, thou hast done thy part.