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Before my view appear'd a structure fair, 420
A thousand hoels and well mo,
Ne never rest is in that place.” Ver. 428. As flames by nature to the, &c.] This thought is transferred hither out of the third book of Fame, where it takes up no less than one hundred and twenty verses, beginning thus :
“ Geffrey, thou wottest well this,” etc. P.
Thus ev'ry voice and sound, when first they break,
There various news I heard of love and strife, Of peace and war, health, sickness, death, and life, Of loss and gain, of famine and of store,
450 Of storms at sea, and travels on the shore, Of prodigies and portents seen in air, Of fires and plagues, and stars with blazing hair, Of turns of fortune, changes in the state, The falls of fav’rites, projects of the great, 455 Of old mismanagements, taxations new : All neither wholly false, nor wholly true.
Above, below, without, within, around, Confus'd, unnumber'd multitudes are found,
“ Of werres, of peace, of marriages,
Of fire, and of divers accident.”
“ But such a grete congregation
Who pass, repass, advance, and glide away; 460
tale was sooner heard than told ;
grew. Thus flying east and west, and north and south, News travellid with increase from mouth to mouth; So from a spark, that kindled first by chance, 475 With gath’ring force the quick’ning flames advance ; Till to the clouds their curling heads aspire, And tow’rs and temples sink in floods of fire.
And every wight that I saw there
Thus north and south
When thus ripe lies are to perfection sprung, Full grown, and fit to grace a mortal tongue, 480 Through thousand vents, impatient, forth they flow, And rush in millions on the world below. Fame sits aloft, and points them out their course, Their date determines, and prescribes their force : Some to remain, and some to perish soon; 485 Or wane and wax alternate like the moon. Around, a thousand winged wonders fly, Born by the trumpet's blast, and scatter'd through
There, at one passage, oft you might survey, A lie and truth contending for the way;
490 And long 'twas doubtful, both so closely pent, Which first should issue through the narrow vent: At last agreed, together out they fly, Inseparable now, the truth and lie ; The strict companions are for ever join'd, 495 And this or that unmix’d, no mortal e'er shall find,
Ver. 496. And this or that unmir'd] The President Montesquieu observes (in his Grandeur of the Romans), that the rank or place which posterity bestows is subject, like all others, to the whim and caprice of fortune. Woolaston said, in his own epitaph, that he retired early from the world, propter iniqua hominum judicia.
Ver. 489. There, at one passage, &c.]
“ And sometime I saw there at once,
While thus. I stood, intent to see and hear, One came, methought, and whisper'd in my ear : What could thus high thy rash ambition raise? Art thou, fond youth, a candidate for praise ? 500
'Tis true, said I, not void of hopes I came, For who so fond as youthful bards of Fame? But few, alas! the casual blessing boast, So hard to gain, so easy to be lost. How vain that second life in others' breath, 505 Th' estate which wits inherit after death! Ease, health, and life, for this they must resign, (Unsure the tenure, but how vast the fine !) The great man's curse, without the gains, endure, Be envy'd, wretched, and be flatter'd, poor; 510 All luckless wits their enemies profest, And all successful, jealous friends at best. Nor Fame I slight, nor for her favours call; She comes unlook'd for, if she comes at all. But if the purchase cost so dear a price,
515 As soothing Folly, or exalting Vice: Oh! if the Muse must flatter lawless sway, And follow still where fortune leads the way; Or if no basis bear my rising name, But the fall'n ruins of another's fame;
520 Then teach me, Heav'n! to scorn the guilty bays, Drive from my breast that wretched lust of praise;
Ver. 497. While thus I stood, &c.] The hint is taken from a passage in another part of the third book, but here more naturally made the conclusion, with the addition of a moral to the whole. In Chaucer he only answers," he came to see the place;" and the book ends abruptly, with his being surprised at the sight of a Man of great Authority, and awakening in a fright.