To Mr. Addison on His Tragedy of Cato
Too long hath love engross'd Britannia's stage,
And sunk to softness all our tragic rage:
By that alone did empires fall or rise,
And fate depended on a fair-one's eyes:
The sweet infection, mixt with dangerous art,
Debas'd our manhood, while it sooth'd the heart.
You scorn to raise a grief thyself must blame,
Nor from our weakness steal a vulgar fame:
A patriot's fall may justly melt the mind,
And tears flow nobly, shed for all mankind.
How do our souls with generous pleasure glow!
Our hearts exulting, while our eyes o'erflow,
When thy firm hero stands beneath the weight
Of all his sufferings venerably great;
Rome's poor remains still sheltering by his side,
With conscious virtue, and becoming pride!
The aged oak thus rears his head in air,
His sap exhausted, and his branches bare;
'Midst storms and earthquakes, he maintains his state,
Fixt deep in earth, and fasten'd by his weight
His naked boughs still lend the shepherds aid,
And his old trunk projects an awful shade.
Amidst the joys triumphant peace bestows,
Our patriots sadden at his glorious woes;
Awhile they let the world's great business wait,
Anxious for Rome, and sigh for Cato's fate.
Here taught how ancient heroes rose to fame,
Our Britons crowd, and catch the Roman flame,
Where states and senates well might lend an ear,
And kings and priests without a blush appear.
France boasts no more, but, fearful to engage,
Now first pays homage to her rival's stage,
Hastes to learn thee, and learning shall submit
Alike to British arms, and British wit:
No more she'll wonder, forc'd to do us right,
Who think like Romans, could like Romans fight.
Thy Oxford smiles this glorious work to see,
And fondly triumphs in a son like thee.
The senates, consuls, and the gods of Rome,
Like old acquaintance at their native home,
In thee we find: each deed, each word exprest,
And every thought that swell'd a Roman breast,
We trace each hint that could thy soul inspire
With Virgil's judgement, and with Lucan's fire;
We know thy worth, and, give us leave to boast,
We most admire, because we know thee most.
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