The Poet's Dependence on a Statesman


Some seem to hint, and others proof will bring,
That from neglect my num'rous hardships spring,
" Seek the great man, " they cry — 'Tis then decreed
In him if I court fortune I succeed.
What friends to second? who for me should sue
Have int'rests partial to themselves in view:
They own my matchless fate compassion draws;
They all wish well, lament, but drop my cause.
There are who ask no pension, want no place,
No title wish, and would accept no grace,
Can I entreat they should for me obtain
The least, who greatest for themselves disdain
A statesman, knowing this, unkind, will cry,
" Those love him; let those serve him — why should
Say, shall I turn where lucre points my views,
At first desert my friends, at length abuse?
But on less terms in promise he complies;
Years bury years, and hopes on hopes arise:
I trust, am trusted, on my fairy gain,
And woes on woes attend, an endless train.
Be posts dispos'd at will — I have for these
No gold to plead, no impudence to tease.
All secret service from my soul I hate,
All dark intrigues of pleasure or of state.
I have no pow'r election-votes to gain,
No will to hackney out polemic strain;
To shape, as time shall serve, my verse or prose
To flatter thence, nor slur, a courtier's foes;
Nor him to daub with praise if I prevail,
Nor shock'd by him with libels to assail:
Where these are not what claim to me belongs,
Tho' mine the Muse and virtue, birth and wrongs:
Where lives the statesman so in honour clear
To give where he has nought to hope nor fear?
No — there to seek is but to find fresh pain;
The promise broke, renew'd, and broke again;
To be, as humour deigns, receiv'd, refus'd,
By turns affronted and by turns amus'd;
To lose that time which worthier thoughts require;
To lose the health which should those thoughts inspire;
To starve on hope, or, like chamelions, fare
On ministerial faith, which means but air.
But still, undrooping, I the crew disdain
Who or by jobs or libels wealth obtain.
Ne'er let me be, thro' those, from want exempt,
In one man's favour, in the world's contempt.
Worse in my own! — Thro' those to posts who rise
Themselves in secret must themselves despise,
Vile, and more vile, till they at length disclaim
Not sense alone of glory but of shame.
What tho' I hourly see the servile herd
For meanness honour'd and for guilt preferr'd;
See selfish passion public virtue seem,
And public virtue an enthusiast dream:
See favour'd falsehood, innocence bely'd,
Meekness depress'd, and pow'r-elated pride?
A scene will shew, all-righteous vision haste!
The meek exalted and the proud debas'd! —
Oh! to be there — to tread that friendly shore
Where Falsehood, Pride, and Statesmen, are no more!
But ere indulg'd — ere Fate my breath shall claim,
A poet still is anxious after fame,
What future fame would my ambition crave?
This were my wish — could ought my mem'ry save;
Say, when in death my sorrows lie repos'd,
That my past life no venal view disclos'd;
Say I well knew, while in a state obscure,
Without the being base the being poor;
Say I had parts too mod'rate to transcend,
Yet sense to mean, and virtue not t' offend,
My heart supplying what my head deny'd:
Say that by Pope esteem'd I liv'd and dy'd,
Whose writings the best rules to write could give,
Whose life the nobler science how to live.
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