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Of honour, perjury, corruption, frauds
By forgery, by subterfuge of law,
By tricks and lies as num'rous and as keen
As the necessities their authors feel;
Then cast them, closely bundled, ev'ry brat
At the right door. Profusion is the sire.
Profusion unrestrain'd, with all that's base
In character, has litter'd all the land,
And bred, within the mem'ry of no few,
A priesthood such as Baal's was of old,
A people such as never was till now.
It is a hungry vice :-it eats up all
That gives society it beauty, strength,
Convenience, and security, and use :
Makes men mere vermin, worthy to be trapp'd
And gibbeted as fast as catchpoll claws
Can seize the slipp'ry prey : unties the knot
Of union, and converts the sacred band
That holds mankind together to a scourge.
Profusion, deluging a state with lusts
Of grossest nature and of worst effects,
Prepares it for its ruin : hardens, blinds,
And warps, the consciences of public men,
Till they can laugh at virtue ; mock the fools
That trust them; and, in the end, disclose a face
That would have shock'd credulity herself,
Unmask’d, vouchsafing this their sole excuse-
Since all alike are selfish, why not they ?
This does profusion, and th' accursed cause
Of such deep mischief has itself a cause.
In colleges and halls, in ancient days, When learning, virtue, piety, and truth, Were precious, and inculcated with care, There dwelt a sage call'd Discipline. His head, Not yet by time completely silver'd o'er, Bespoke him past the bounds of freakish youth, But strong for service still, and unimpair’d. His eye was meek and gentle, and a smile Play'd on his lips; and in his speech was heard Paternal sweetness, dignity, and love. The occupation dearest to his heart Was to encourage goodness. He would stroke The head of modest and ingenuous worth, That blush'd at its own praise ; and press the youth Close to his side that pleas'd him. Learning grew, Beneath his care, a thriving vig'rous plant ; The mind was well inform’d, the passions held Subordinate, and diligence was choice. . If e'er it chanc'd, as sometimes chance it must, That one among so many overleap'd The limits of control, his gentle eye Grew stern, and darted a severe rebuke : His frown was full of terror, and his voice Shook the delinquent with such fits of awe As left him not, till penitence had won Lost favour back again, and clos'd the breach. But Discipline, a faithful servant long, Declin'd at length into the vale of years : A palsy struck his arm ; his sparkling eye Was quench’d in rheums of age ; his voice, unstrung, VOL. II.
Grew tremulous, and mov'd derision more
Than rev'rence in perverse rebellious youth.
So colleges and halls neglected much
Their good old friend ; and Discipline at length,
O’erlook'd and unemploy'd, fell sick and died.
Then study languish'd, emulation slept,
And virtue fled. The schools became a scene
Of solemn farce, where Ignorance in stilts,
His cap well lin’d with logic not his own,
With parrot tongue perform'd the scholar's part,
Proceeding soon a graduated dunce.
Then compromise had place, and scrutiny
Became stone-blind ; precedence went in truck,
And he was competent whose purse was so.
A dissolution of all bonds ensued ;
The curbs, invented for the mulish mouth
Of head-strong youth, were broken ; bars and bolts
Grew rusty by disuse ; and massy gates
Forgot their office, op’ning with a touch ;
Till gowns at length are found mere masquerade,
The tassel'd cap and the spruce band a jest,
A mock’ry of the world! What need of these
For gamesters, jockeys, brothellers impure,
Spendthrifts, and booted sportsmen, oftner seen
With belted waist and pointers at their heels,
Than in the bounds of duty ? What was learn'd,
If aught was learn’d in childhood, is forgot ;
And such expense as pinches parents blue,
And mortifies the lib'ral hand of love,
Is squander'd in pursuit of idle sports
And vicious pleasures ; buys the boy a name,
That sits a stigma on his father's house,
And cleaves through life inseparably close
To him that wears it. What can after-games
Of riper joys, and commerce with the world,
The lewd vain world, that must receive him soon,
Add to such erudition, thus acquir’d,
Where science and where virtue are profess'd ?
They may confirm his habits, rivet fast
His folly, but to spoil him is a task
That bids defiance to th' united pow'rs
Of fashion, dissipation, taverns, stews.
Now, blame we most the nurslings or the nurse ?
The children, crook’d, and twisted, and deform’d,
Through want of care; or her, whose winking eye
And slumb'ring oscitancy mars the brood?'
The nurse no doubt. Regardless of her charge,
She needs herself correction ; needs to learn,
That it is dang'rous sporting with the world,
With things so sacred as a nation's trust,
The nurture of her youth, her dearest pledge.
Peace to the mem'ry of a man of worth,
A man of letters, and of manners too!
Of manners sweet as virtue always wears,
When gay good-nature dresses her in smiles.
He grac'd a college,* in which order yet
Was sacred ; and was honour'd, lov'd, and wept,
By more than one, themselves conspicuous there.
* Ben’et Coll. Cambridge.
Some minds are temper'd happily, and mix'd
With such ingredients of good sense and taste
Of what is excellent in man, they thirst
With such a zeal to be what they approve,
That no restraints can circumscribe them more
Than they themselves by choice, for wisdom's sake ;
Nor can example hurt them : what they see
Of vice in others but enhancing more
The charms of virtue in their just esteem.
If such escape contagion, and emerge
Pure, from so foul a pool, to shine abroad,
And give the world their talents and themselves,
Small thanks to those whose negligence or sloth
Expos’d their inexperience to the snare,
And left them to an undirected choice.
See, then, the quiver broken and decay'd,
In which are kept our arrows ! rusting there
In wild disorder, and unfit for use,
What wonder, if discharg'd into the world,
They shame their shooters with a random flight,
Their points obtuse, and feathers drunk with wine !
Well may the church wage unsuccessful war,
With such artill’ry arm’d. Vice parries wide
Th' undreaded volley with a sword of straw,
And stands an impudent and fearless mark.
Have we not track'd the felon home, and found
His birth-place and his dam? The country mourns-
Mourns, because ev'ry plague that can infest
Society, and that saps and worms the base
Of th' edifice that policy has rais’d,