Address to the Critics, An
Ye scrutinizing band, whose powerful sway
Each trembling Author tamely must obey;
Who o'er each scribbler exercise the rod,
And make them yield submissive to your nod;
To you my muse no servile homage owns,
I ask not for your smiles, nor dread your frowns;
I cringe not, fawn not, all my suit demands
Is but impartial justice from your hands,
Free from all formal and pedantic rules,
The cause of faction in the wrangling schools,
With artless ease I pen my humble verse,
Beneath a Critic's judgment to rehearse;
Yet if your judgment condescend so low,
Don't crush these sparks of genius at one blow,
But when with solemn face my page you read,
Let youth and inexperience for me plead.
I feel my own demerits and confess,
I humbly with my errors had been less —
" None of your arts (a surly Critic cries)
" You think to soothe us till we close our eyes;
" You value not our praise, but dread the evil,
" And worship us as Indians do the devil. "
Pray, Mr Sneer , don't fly in such a rage,
I'm conscious of the faults that stain my page;
Why need I flatter, when I make no claim
To that uncertain, empty thing call'd fame.
" Make no pretence to fame! that's odd indeed!
" Why then the road to Mount Parnassus tread? "
Believe me, Sir, ambition's not my aim,
I stand no daring candidate for fame;
No lofty hopes my poor pretensions prop,
To gain the bays on Mount Parnassus' top;
Fame is an empty, unsubstantial breath,
The poet's portion only after death;
Nor can her loudest plaudits e'er impart
One pure, unmingled pleasure to the heart.
" What do you write for then? " Because from heav'n
Unsought, unlook'd for, was this talent given.
No partial merit to myself I claim,
E'en should you deign to celebrate my name;
Be mine the pleasing task, from censure freed,
With honest warmth in virtue's cause to plead;
For thence a heart-felt satisfaction springs,
Disarms envenom'd satire of her stings,
Desies proud envy's most malicious arts,
Blunts all her arrows, and eludes her darts.
May the judicious few support my cause,
I ask not for the multitude's applause;
May those, alone, who really understand,
Correct my errors with a tender hand;
With caution judge me, and with candour blame;
Their approbation is my only aim.
Thus would I steal along the silent vale,
And tell to every tree my heart-felt tale;
Or thro' the winding wood or gloomy grove,
With solitude and contemplation rove;
From the gay world conceal my humble name,
And live unknown to fortune and to fame.
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