Fable 18. The Painter Who Pleased No Body and Every Body -


Lest men suspect your tale untrue,
Keep probability in view.
The trav'ler leaping o'er those bounds,
The credit of his book confounds;
Who with his tongue hath armies routed
Makes ev'n his real courage doubted.
But flatt'ry never seems absurd,
The flatter'd always takes your word,
Impossibilities seem just,
They take the strongest praise on trust;
Hyperboles, though ne'er so great,
Will still come short of self-conceit.
So very like a Painter drew,
That ev'ry eye the picture knew
He hit complexion, feature, air,
So just, the life itself was there.
No flatt'ry, with his colours laid,
To bloom restor'd the faded maid,
He gave each muscle all its strength,
The mouth, the chin, the nose's length
His honest pencil touch'd with truth,
And mark'd the date of age and youth.
He lost his friends, his practice fail'd,
Truth should not always be reveal'd;
In dusty piles his pictures lay,
For no one sent the second pay.
Two bustos, fraught with ev'ry grace,
A Venus ' and Apollo 's face,
He plac'd in view; resol'vd to please,
Whoever sate, he drew from these,
From these corrected ev'ry feature,
And spirited each aukward creature.
All things were set; the hour was come,
His pallet ready o'er his thumb,
My lord appear'd, and seated right
In proper attitude and light,
The Painter look'd, he sketch'd the piece,
Then dipt his pencil, talk'd of Greece ,
Of Titian 's tints, of Guido 's air;
Those eyes, my lord, the spirit there
Might well a Raphael 's hand require,
To give them all the native fire;
The features fraught with sense and wit
You'll grant are very hard to hit,
But yet with patience you shall view
As much as paint and art can do.
Observe the work. My lord reply'd.
'Till now I thought my mouth was wide,
Besides, my nose is somewhat long,
Dear sir, for me, 'tis far too young.
Oh, pardon me, the artist cry'd,
In this we painters must decide.
The piece ev'n common eyes must strike,
I warrant it extreamly like.
My lord examin'd it anew;
No looking-glass seem'd half so true.
A lady came, with borrow'd grace
He from his Venus form'd her face
Her lover prais'd the painter's art
So like the picture in his heart!
To ev'ry age some charm he lent,
Ev'n Beautys were almost content.
Through all the town his art they prais'd,
His custom grew, his price was rais'd.
Had he the real likeness shown,
Would any man the picture own?
But when thus happily he wrought,
Each found the likeness in his thought.
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