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Poem by William Whitehead

To Mr. Mason


BELIEVE me, MASON, 'tis in vain
Thy fortitude the torrent braves;
Thou too must bear th' inglorious chain;
The world, the world will have its slaves.
The chosen friend, for converse sweet,
The small, yet elegant retreat,
Are peaceful unambitious views
Which early fancy loves to form,
When aided by th' ingenuous Muse,
She turns the philosophic page,
And sees the wise of every age
With Nature's dictates warm.


But ah! to few has Fortune given
The choice, to take or to refuse;
To fewer still indulgent Heaven
Allots the very will to chuse.
And why are varying schemes prefer'd?
Man mixes with the common herd,
By custom guided to pursue
Or wealth, or honors, fame, or ease;
What others wish he wishes too,
Nor, from his own peculiar choice,
'Till strengthen'd by the public voice,
His very pleasures please.


How oft, beneath some hoary shade
Where Cam glides indolently slow,
Hast thou, as indolently laid,
Prefer'd to Heav'n thy fav'rite vow:
"Here, here forever let me stay,
"Here calmly loiter life away,
"Nor all those vain connections know
"Which fetter down the free-born mind
"The slave of interest, or of shew;
"Whilst yon gay tenant of the grove,
"The happier heir of Nature's love,
"Can warble unconfin'd. "


Yet sure, my friend, th' eternal plan
By truth unerring was design'd;
Inferior parts were made for man,
But man himself for all mankind.
Then by th' apparent judge th' unseen;
Behold how rolls this vast machine
To one great end, howe'er withstood,
Directing its impartial course.
All labour for the general good.
Some stem the wave, some till the soil,
By choice the hold, th' ambitious toil,
The indolent by force.


That bird, thy fancy frees from care,
With many a fear, unknown to thee,
Must rove to glean his scanty fare
From field to field, from tree to tree:
His lot, united with his kind,
Has all his little joys confin'd;
The Lover's and the Parent's ties
Alarm by turns his anxious breast;
Yet, bound by fate, by instinct wise,
He hails with songs the rising morn,
And pleas'd at evening's cool return
He sings himself to rest.


And tell me, has not nature made
Some stated void for thee to fill,
Some spring, some wheel which asks thy aid
To move, regardless of thy will?
Go then, go feel with glad surprize
New bliss from new connections rise;
'Till, happier in thy wider sphere,
Thou quit thy darling schemes of ease;
Nay, glowing in the full career
Ev'n wish thy virtuous labours more;
Nor 'till the toilsome day is o'er
Expect the night of peace.

William Whitehead

William Whitehead's other poems:
  1. Nature to Dr. Hoadly
  2. To the Same [Charles Townsend], on the Death of a Relation
  3. To the Honourable [Charles Townsend]
  4. An Hymn to the Nymph of Bristol Spring
  5. Ode for the New Year, 1763

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