Advice to a Lady, 1731

The counsels of a friend Belinda! hear,
Too roughly kind to please a lady's ear,
Unlike the flatt'ries of a lover's pen,
Such truths as women seldom learn from men;
Nor think I praise you ill when thus I show
What female vanity might fear to know.
Some merit is mine to dare to be sincere,
But greater your's sincerity to bear.
Hard is the fortune that your sex attends;
Women like princes find few real friends;
All who approach them their own ends pursue:
Lovers and ministers are seldom true:
Hence oft' from reason heedless Beauty strays,
And the most trusted guide the most betrays;
Hence by fond dreams of fancy'd pow'r amus'd
When most ye tyrannize you 're most abus'd.
What is your sex's earliest latest care,
Your heart's supreme ambition? — To be fair.
For this the toilet ev'ry thought employs,
Hence all the toils of dress and all the joys;
For this hands, lips, and eyes, are put to school,
And each instructed feature has its rule;
And yet how few have learnt when this is giv'n
Not to disgrace the partial boon of Heav'n!
How few with all their pride of form can move!
How few are lovely that are made for love!
Do you, my Fair! endeavour to possess
An elegance of mind as well as dress;
Be that your ornament, and know to please
By graceful Nature's unaffected ease.
Nor make to dang'rous wit a vain pretence,
But wisely rest content with modest sense,
For wit like wine intoxicates the brain,
Too strong for feeble woman to sustain;
Of those who claim it more than half have none,
And half of those who have it are undone.
Be still superiour to your sex's arts,
Nor think dishonesty a proof of parts:
For you the plainest is the wisest rule,
" A cunning woman is a knavish fool. "
Be good yourself, nor think another's shame
Can raise your merit or adorn your fame.
Prudes rail at whores, as statesmen in disgrace
At ministers, because they wish their place.
Virtue is amiable, mild, serene,
Without all beauty, and all peace within:
The honour of a prude is rage and storm;
'Tis ugliness in its most frightful form;
Fiercely it stands defying gods and men,
As fiery monsters guard a giant's den.
Seek to be good, but aim not to be great;
A woman's noblest station is retreat;
Her fairest virtues fly from publick sight,
Domestick worth, that shuns too strong a light.
To rougher man Ambition's talk resign;
'Tis ours in senates or in courts to shine,
To labour for a sunk corrupted state,
Or dare the rage of Envy, and be great.
One only care your gentle breasts should move;
Th' important bus'ness of your life is love:
To this great point direct your constant aim,
This makes your happiness, and this your fame.
Be never cool reserve with passion join'd;
With caution chuse, but then be fondly kind.
The selfish heart that but by halves is giv'n
Shall find no place in Love's delightful heav'n;
Here sweet extremes alone can truly bless:
The virtue of a lover is excess.
A maid unask'd may own a well-plac'd flame;
Not loving first but loving wrong is shame.
Contemn the little pride of giving pain,
Nor think that conquest justifies disdain:
Short is the period of insulting Pow'r;
Offended Cupid finds his vengeful hour,
Soon will resume the empire which he gave,
And soon the tyrant shall become the slave,
Blest is the maid and worthy to be blest
Whose soul entire by him she loves possest
Feels ev'ry vanity in fondness lost,
And asks no pow'r but that of pleasing most:
Her's is the bliss in just return to prove
The honest warmth of undissembled love;
For her inconstant man might cease to range,
And gratitude forbid desire to change.
But lest harsh care the lover's peace destroy,
And roughly blight the tender buds of joy,
Let reason teach what passion fain would hide,
That Hymen's bands by Prudence should be ty'd.
Venus in vain the wedded pair would crown
If angry Fortune on their union frown;
Soon will the flatt'ring dream of bliss be o'er,
And cloy'd imagination cheat no more:
Then waking to the sense of lasting pain
With mutual tears the nuptial couch they stain,
And that fond love which should afford relief
Does but increase the anguish of their grief,
While both could easier their own sorrows bear
Than the sad knowledge of each other's care.
Yet may you rather feel that virtuous pain
Than fell your violated charms for gain,
Than wed the wretch whom you despise or hate
For the vain glare of useless wealth or state.
The most abandon'd prostitutes are they
Who not to love but av'rice fall a prey:
Nor aught avails the specious name of wise;
A maid so wedded is a whore for life.
Ev'n in the happiest choice, where fav'ring Heav'n
Has equal love and easy fortune giv'n,
Think not the husband gain'd that all is done;
The prize of happiness must still be won;
And oft' the careless find it to their cost
The lover in the husband may be lost:
The Graces might alone his heart allure;
They and the Virtues meeting must secure.
Let ev'n your prudence wear the pleasing dress
Of care for him and anxious tenderness.
From kind concern about his weal or wo
Let each domestick duty seem to flow.
The household sceptre if he bids you bear
Make it your pride his servant to appear:
Endearing thus the common acts of life
The mistress still shall charm him in the wife,
And wrinkled age shall unobserv'd come on
Before his eye perceives one beauty gone;
Ev'n o'er your cold your ever-sacred urn
His constant flame shall unextinguish'd burn.
Thus I, Belinda! would your charms improve,
And form your heart to all the arts of love:
The task were harder to secure my own
Against the pow'r of those already known,
For well you twist the secret chains that bind
With gentle force the captivated mind,
Skill'd ev'ry soft attraction to employ,
Each flatt'ring hope and each alluring joy.
I own your genius, and from you receive
The rules of pleasing which to you I give.
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