Praise of Error

H OW dear, how bless'd, was Error's birth,
How sweet her uses upon earth!
Attest, fair Truth, a rival's claim,
Her gifts record, and crown her fame!
She has the notes that win the heart,
Your odious counsels pain impart.
By her assur'd that joy can last,
You tell us 'tis a short repast.
When baffled is the fairest plan,
You lay the fault upon the man;
She whispers hope, that spurns the dust
Which now degrades the good and just,
And whispers that a Summer's day
Will brush the vernal blights away.
Between two mirrours we are plac'd:
In one the cheeks with bloom are grac'd,
The other marks their sombre hue;
Which is the favourite of the two?
The form of Truth, which cannot change,
Offends an eye that loves to range;
But Error, infinitely new,
Accommodates the shifting view,
Conforms to all that we desire,
And fans the complicated fire.
Ambition hopes to reach its aim,
Anticipating rank and fame;
The Miser glories in his trial,
And courts the charm of self-denial;
The Lover dreams that he is bless'd —
We are all dreamers at the best;
Without a guard the senses err —
If you 're the guide no foot can stir.
At home — abroad — perception lies ,
And will is taken by surprize;
The Pupil 's grateful to his College,
Delusion is the sum of knowledge.
Truth 's a dull mass — the objects there
To nothing local we compare;
But Fiction is the Limner's grace,
Where nothing 's in its real place;
One — is instruction's barren treasure,
The other — charms the eye with pleasure.
But Error is more useful yet:
The people fall into her net;
She tells them they are poor and weak,
Because they cannot write and speak.
'Tis Error, simulating fact,
By whom Societies are pack'd —
And Families betray'd or slighted
Are in her policy united:
In all estates, in every age,
This Error is the Giant's Page:
Against her if the Man 's oppos'd,
By her the conflict soon is clos'd.
The Peasants dance in Error's chain, —
The links of Truth are bonds of pain .
Look at enjoyment's playful hour!
Too simple for your chilling power!
The Infant , and the careless Youth ,
Alike estrang'd from paths of Truth;
One has not yet her light perceiv'd,
The other loves to be deceiv'd .
The charm is — " Error in the bill, "
That seasons good, or tempers ill;
Whose purple bed enchants the rich,
Whose cottage fills a welcome niche.
'Tis Error, man's protecting Fairy,
Whose love no incidents can vary:
Her playthings cheat the full-grown Child,
Her visions o'er the Tomb have smil'd:
Remark the little Ideot's bliss;
Its idol is — the Doll to kiss.
The Youth ingenuous, when he errs,
The venal Courtezan prefers;
The Parent's gold has taught and fed
The Child of his Usurper's bed.
The old can dream of passion still;
The dying — plant their naked hill.
If Error could be laid aside,
With doubt the rudder we should guide;
Before us Death would still appear:
But Error hides it in the rear,
And spreads around us fairy bowers,
By telling us, " All Time is ours. "
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