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Nam neque me tantum venientis sibilus austri,
VIRG. Ecl. 5.
THOUGH nature weigh our talents, and dispense To ev'ry man his modicum of sense, And Conversation in its better part May be esteem'd a gift, and not an art, Yet much depends, as in the tiller's toil,
5 On culture and the sowing of the soil. Words learn’d by rote a parrot, may rehearse, But talking is not always to converse ; Not more distinct from harmony divine, The constant creaking of a country sign.
10 As Alphabets in ivory employ, Hour after hour, the yet unletter'd boy, Sorting and puzzling with a deal of glee Those seeds of science, called his A B C; So language in the mouths of the adult, Witness its insignificant result, Too often proves an implement of play, A toy to sport with, and pass time away. Collect at evening what the day brought forth, Compress the sum into its solid worth,
And if it weigh the importance of a fly,
There is a prurience in the speech of some, Wrath stays him, or else God would strike them dumb : His wise forbearance has their end in view, They fill their measure, and receive their due. The heathen lawgivers of ancient days,
35 Names almost worthy of a Christian's praise, Would drive them forth from the resort of men, And shut up ev'ry satyr in his den. O come not ye near innocence and truth, Ye worms that eat into the bud of youth ;
40 Infectious as impure, your blighting pow'r Taints in its rudiments the promis'd flow'r; Its odour perish’d, and its charming hue, Thenceforth 'tis hateful, for it smells of you. Not e'en the vigorous and headlong rage
45 Of adolescence, or a firmer age, Affords a plea allowable or just, For making speech the pamperer of lust ; But when the breath of age commits the fault, 'Tis nauseous as the vapour of a vault.
50 So withcr'd stumps disgrace the sylvan scene, No longer fruitful, and no longer green; The sapless wood divested of the bark, Grows fungous, and takes fire at ev'ry spark.
Oaths terminate, as Paul observes, all strife- 55 Some men have surely then a peaceful life : Whatever subject occupy discourse, The feats of Vestris, or the naval force,
Asseveration blustering in your face
70 Suppos'd the man a bishop, or at least, God's name so much upon his lips, a priest ! Bow'd at the close with all his graceful airs, And begg’d an int'rest in his frequent pray’rs.
Go quit the rank to which ye stood preferr'd, 75 Henceforth associate in one common herd; Religion, virtue, reason, common sense, Pronounce your human form a false pretence; A mere disguise, in which a devil lurks, Who yet betrays his secret by his works.
80 Ye pow'rs who rule the tongue, if such there are, And make colloquial happiness your care, Preserve me from the thing I dread and hate, A duel in the form of a debate, The clash of arguments and jar of words,
83 Worse than the mortal brunt of rival swords, Decide no question with their tedious length, (For opposition gives opinion strength) Divert the champions prodigal of breath, And put the peaceably dispos'd to death.
90 O thwart me not, Sir Soph, at ev'ry turn, Nor carp at ev'ry flaw you may discern; Though syllogisms hang not on my tongue, I am not surely always in the wrong : 'Tis hard if all is false that I advance,
95 A fool must now and then be right by chance.
Not all that freedom of dissent I blame;
Yet, though he tease and balk your list’ning ear,
135 He makes one useful point exceeding clear ; Howe'er ingenious on his darling theme A sceptick in philosophy may seem, Reduc'd to practice, his beloved rule Would only prove him a consummate fool: 140 Useless in him alike both brain and speech, Fate having plac'd all truth above his reach, His ambiguities his total sum, He might as well be blind, and deaf, and dumb. Where men of judgment creep and feel their way, 145 The positive pronounce without dismay ; Their want of light and intellect supplied By sparks absurdity strikes out of pride. Without the means of knowing right from wrong, They always are decisive, clear, and strong;
150 Where others toil with philosophick force, Their nimble nonsense takes a shorter course; Flings at your head conviction in the lump, And gains remote conclusions at a jump: Their own defect invisible to them
155 Seen in another, they at once condemn ; And, though self-idolized in ev'ry case, Hate their own likeness in a brother's face. The cause is plain, and not to be denied, The proud are always most provok'd by pride, 160 Few competitions but engender spite ; And those the most, where neither has a right.
The point of honour has been deem'd of use, To teach good manners and to curb abuse ; Admit it true, the consequence is clear,
165 Our polish'd manners are a mask we wear, And, at the bottom barb'rous still and rude, We are restrain'd, indeed, but not subdud. The very remedy, however sure, Springs from the mischief it intends to cure, 170 And savage in its principle appears, Tried as it should be, hy the fruit it bears