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Discourse may want an animated-No,
To brush the surface, and to make it flow;
But still remember, if you mean to please,
To press your point with modesty and ease.
The mark, at which my juster aim I take,
Is contradiction for its own dear sake.
Set your opinion at whatever pitch,
Knots and impediments make something hitch;
Adopt his own, 'tis equally in vain,
Your thread of argument is snapp'd again;
The wrangler, rather than accord with you,
Will judge himself deceiv'd, and prove it too.
Vociferated logic kills me quite,
A noisy man is always in the right:
I twirl my thumbs, fall back into my chair,
Fix on the wainscot a distressful stare,
And, when I hope his blunders are all out,
Reply discreetly-To be sure-no doubt!
Dubius is such a scrupulous good man-
Yes-you may catch him tripping, if you can.
He would not, with a peremptory tone,
Assert the nose upon his face his own;
With hesitation admirably slow,
He humbly hopes-presumes-it may be so.
His evidence, if he were call'd by law
To swear to some enormity he saw,
For want of prominence and just relief,
Would hang an honest man, and save a thief.
Through constant dread of giving truth offence,
He ties up all his hearers in suspense;
Knows what he knows, as if he knew it not;
What he remembers, seems to have forgot;
His sole opinion, whatsoe'er befall,
Cent'ring at last in having none at all.
Yet, though he tease and balk your list'ning ear,
He makes one useful point exceeding clear;
Howe'er ingenious on his darling theme
A sceptic in philosophy may seem,
Reduc'd to practice, his beloved rule
Would only prove him a consummate fool;
Useless in him alike both brain and speech,
Fate having plac'd all truth above his reach,
His ambiguities his total sum,
He might as well be blind, and deaf, and dumb.
Where men of judgment creep and feel their way,
The positive pronounce without dismay;
Their want of light and intellect supplied
By sparks absurdity strikes out of pride.
Without the means of knowing right from wrong,
They always are decisive, clear, and strong;
Where others toil with philosophic force,
Their nimble nonsense takes a shorter course;
Flings at your head conviction in the lump,
And gains remote conclusions at a jump;
Their own defect, invisible to them,
Seen in another, they at once condemn;
And, though self-idoliz'd in ev'ry case,
Hate their own likeness in a brother's face.
The cause is plain, and not to be denied,
The proud are always most provok'd by pride;
Few competitions but engender spite;
And those the most, where neither has a right.
The point of honour has been deem'd of use,
To teach good manners, and to curb abuse;
Admit it true, the consequence is clear,
Our polish'd manners are a mask we wear,
And, at the bottom, barb'rous still and rude,
We are restrained, indeed, but not subdu’d.
The very remedy, however sure,
Springs from the mischief it intends to cure,
And savage in its principle appears,
Tried, as it should be, by the fruit it bears.
'Tis hard, indeed, if nothing will defend
Mankind from quarrels but their fatal end;
That now and then a hero must decease,
That the surviving world may live in peace.
Perhaps at last close scrutiny may show
The practice dastardly, and mean, and low;
That men engage in it compell'd by force,
And fear, not courage, is its proper source;
The fear of tyrant custom, and the fear
Lest fops should censure us, and fools should sneer.
At least to trample on our Maker's laws,
And hazard life for any or no cause,
To rush into a fix'd eternal state
Out of the very flames of rage and hate,
Or send another shiv'ring to the bar
With all the guilt of such unnat❜ral war,
Whatever Use may urge, or honour plead,
On Reason's verdict is a madman's deed.
Am I to set my life upon a throw,
Because a bear is rude and surly? No.-
A moral, sensible, and well-bred man
Will not affront me; and no other can.
Were I empow'r'd to regulate the lists,
They should encounter with well-loaded fists;
A Trojan combat would be something new,
Let Dares beat Entellus black and blue;
Then each might show to his admiring friends
In honourable bumps his rich amends,
And carry, in contusions of his skull,
A satisfactory receipt in full.
A story, in which native humour reigns,
Is often useful, always entertains:
A graver fact, enlisted on your side,
May furnish illustration, well applied;
But sedentary weavers of long tales
Give me the fidgets, and my patience fails.
"Tis the most asinine employ on earth,
To hear them tell of parentage and birth,
And echo conversations, dull and dry,
Embellish'd with-He said, and So said I.
At ev'ry interview their route the same,
The repetition makes attention lame :
We bustle up with unsuccessful speed,
And in the saddest part cry-Droll indeed!
The path of narrative with care pursue,
Still making probability your clew;
On all the vestiges of truth attend,
And let them guide you to a decent end.
Of all ambitious man may entertain,
The worst, that can invade a fickly brain,
Is that, which angles hourly for surprise,
And baits its hook with prodigies and lies.
Credulous infancy, or age as weak,
Are fittest auditors for such to seek,
Who to please others will themselves disgrace,
Yet please not, but affront you to your face.
A great retailer of this curious ware
Having unloaded, and made many stare,
"Can this be true?"—an arch observer cries,
"Yes" (rather moved), "I saw it with these eyes;
"Sir! I believe it on that ground alone;"
"I could not, had I seen it with my own.
A tale should be judicious, clear, succint; The language plain, and incidents well link'd; Tell not as new what ev'ry body knows, And, new or old, still hasten to a close; There cent'ring in a focus round and neat, Let all your rays of information meet. What neither yields us profit nor delight Is like a nurse's lullaby at night; Guy, Earl of Warwick and Fair Eleanore, Or giant-killing Jack, would please me more. The pipe, with solemn, interposing puff, Makes half a sentence at a time enough; The dozing sages drop the drowsy strain, Then pause, and puff and speak, and pause again. Such often, like the tube they so admire, Important triflers! have more smoke than fire. Pernicious weed! whose scent the fair annoys, Unfriendly to society's chief joys,
Thy worst effect is banishing for hours
The sex, whose presence civilizes ours
Thou art indeed the drug a gard❜ner wants,
To poison vermin that infest his plants;
But are we so to wit and beauty blind,
As to despise the glory of our kind,
And show the softest minds and fairest forms
As little mercy, as he grubs and worms?
They dare not wait the riotous abuse,
Thy thirst-creating steams at length produce,
When wine has giv'n indecent language birth,
And forc'd the floodgates of licentious mirth;
For sea-born Venus her attachment shows
Still to that element, from which she rose,
And with a quiet which no fumes disturb,
Sips meek infusions of a milder herb.
Th' emphatic speaker dearly loves t' oppose
In contact inconvenient, nose to nose.
As if the gnomon on his neighbour's phiz,
Touch'd with the magnet, had attracted his,
His whisper'd theme, dilated and at large,
Proves after all a wind-gun's airy charge,
An extract of his diary-no more,
A tasteless journal of the day before.
He walk'd abroad, o'ertaken in the rain,
Called on a friend, drank tea, stepp'd home again,
Resum'd his purpose, had a world of talk
With one he stumbled on, and lost his walk.
I interrupt him with a sudden bow,
"Adieu, dear sir! lest you should lose it now."
I cannot talk with civet in the room,
A fine puss-gentleman that's all perfume;
The sight's enough-no need to smell a beau-.
Who thrusts his nose into a raree-show?
His oderiferous attempts to please
Perhaps might prosper with a swarm of bees;
But we that make no honey, though we sting,
Poets are sometimes apt to maul the thing.