Epistle to Mr. John Dyer, An


In answer to his from the country.

Now various birds in melting concert sing,
And hail the beauty of the op'ning spring;
Now to thy dreams the nightingale complains,
Till the lark wakes thee with her cheerful strains;
Wakes, in thy verse and friendship, ever kind!
Melodious comfort to my jarring mind.
Oh! could my soul thro' depths of knowledge see
Could I read Nature and mankind like thee,
I should o'ercome or bear the shocks of Fate,
And ev'n draw envy to the humblest state.
Thou canst raise honour from each ill event,
From shocks gain vigour, and from want content.
Think not light poetry my life's chief care;
The Muse's mansion is at best but air;
But if more solid works my meaning forms,
Th' unfinish'd structures fall by Fortune's storms!

Oft' have I said we falsely those accuse
Whose godlike souls life's middle state refuse.
Self-love, I cry'd, there seeks ignoble rest;
Care sleeps not calm when millions wake unblest;
Mean let me shrink, or spread sweet shade o'er all,
Low as the shrub, or as the cedar tall! —
'Twas vain! 'twas wild! — I sought the middle state,
And found the good, and found the truly great.
Tho' verse can never give my soul her aim,
Tho' action only claims substantial fame;
Tho' Fate denies what my proud wants require,
Yet grant me, Heav'n! by knowledge to aspire.
Thus to inquiry let me prompt the mind,
Thus clear dimm'd Truth, and bid her bless mankind;
From the pierc'd orphan thus draw shafts of grief,
Arm Want with patience, and teach Wealth relief!
To serve lov'd Liberty inspire my breath!
Or, if my life be useless, grant me death;
For he who useless is in life survey'd,
Burthens that world his duty bids him aid.
Say, what have honours to allure the mind,
Which he gains most who least has serv'd mankind?
Titles, when worn by fools, I dare despise,
Yet they claim homage when they crown the wise.
When high distinction marks deserving heirs,
Desert still dignifies the mark it wears.
But who to birth alone would honours owe?
Honours, if true, from seeds of merit grow:
Those trees with sweetest charms invite our eyes,
Which from our own ingraftment fruitful rise.
Still we love best what we with labour gain,
As the child's dearer for the mother's pain.
The great I would not envy nor deride,
Nor stoop to swell a vain superior's pride,
Nor view an equal's hope with jealous eyes,
Nor crush the wretch beneath who wailing lies.
My sympathizing breast his grief can feel,
And my eye weep the wound I cannot heal.
Ne'er among friendships let me sow debate,
Nor by another's fall advance my state;
Nor misuse wit against an absent friend:
Let me the virtues of a foe defend!
In wealth and want true minds preserve their weight;
Meek tho exalted, tho' disgrac'd elate;
Gen'rous and grateful, wrong'd or help'd they live;
Grateful to serve, and gen'rous to forgive.
This may they learn who close thy life attend,
Which, dear in mem'ry, still instructs thy friend.
Tho' cruel distance bars my grosser eye,
My soul, clear sighted, draws thy virtue nigh;
Thro' her deep woe that quick'ning comfort gleams,
And lights up fortitude with friendship's beams.
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