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Poem by Richard Savage
An Epistle of the Right Honourable Sir Robert Walpole
Still let low wits, who sense nor honour prize, Sneer at all gratitude, all truth disguise; At living worth, because alive, exclaim, Insult the exil'd, and the dead defame! Such paint what pity veils in private woes, And what we see with grief, with mirth expose; Studious to urge--(whom will mean authors spare?) The child's, the parent's, and the consort's tear: Unconscious of what pangs the heart may rend, To lose what they have ne'er deserv'd--a friend. Such, ignorant of facts, invent, relate, Expos'd persist, and answer'd still debate: Such, but by foils, the clearest lustre see, And deem aspersing others praising thee. Far from these tracks my honest lays aspire, And greet a gen'rous heart with gen'rous fire. Truth be my guide! Truth, which thy virtue claims! This, nor the poet, nor the patron shames! When party-minds shall lose contracted views, And hist'ry question the recording Muse; 'Tis this alone to after-times must shine, And stamp the poet and his theme divine. Long has my Muse, from many a mournful cause, Sung with small pow'r, nor sought sublime applause; From that great point she now shall urge her scope; On that fair promise rest her future hope; Where policy, from state-illusion clear, Can through an open aspect shine sincere; Where Science, Law, and Liberty depend, And own the patron, patriot, and the friend; (That breast to feel, that eye on worth to gaze, That smile to cherish, and that hand to raise!) Whose best of hearts her best of thoughts inflame, Whose joy is bounty, and whose gift is fame. Where, for relief, flees innocence distress'd? To you, who chase oppression from th' oppress'd: Who, when complaint to you alone belongs, Forgive your own, tho' not a people's wrongs: Who still make public property your care, And thence bid private griefs no more despair. Ask they what state your shelt'ring care shall own? 'Tis youth, 'tis age, the cottage, and the throne: Nor can the prison 'scape your searching eye, 'You ear still opening to the captive's cry. Nor less was promis'd from thy early skill, Ere power enforc'd benevolence of will! To friends refin'd, thy private life adher'd By thee improving, ere by thee prefer'd. Well hadst thou weigh'd what truth such friends afford, With thee resigning, and with thee restor'd. Thou taught'st them all extensive love to bear, And now mankind with thee their friendship share. As the rich cloud by due degrees expands, And show'rs down plenty thick on sundry lands, Thy spreading worth in various bounty fell, Made genius flourish, and made art excel. How many, yet deceiv'd, all pow'r oppose? Their fears increasing, as decrease their woes; Jealous of bondage, while they freedom gain, And most oblig'd, most eager to complain. But well we count our bliss, if well we view, When pow'r oppression, not protection grew; View present ills that punish distant climes; Or bleed in mem'ry here from ancient times. Mark first the robe abus'd Religion wore, Story'd with griefs, and stain'd with human gore? What various tortures, engines, fires, reveal, Study'd, empower'd, and sanctify'd by zeal? Stop here, my Muse!--Peculiar woes descry! Bid 'em in sad succession strike thy eye! Lo, to her eye the sad succession springs! She looks, she weeps, and, as she weeps, she sings. See the doom'd Hebrew of his stores bereft! See holy murder justify the theft! His ravag'd gold some useless shrine shall raise, His gems on superstitious idols blaze His wife, his babe, deny'd their little home, Strip'd, starv'd, unfriended, and unpity'd roam. Lo, the priest's hand the Wafer-God supplies!-- A king by consecrated poison dies! See learning range yon broad ethereal plain, From world to world, and god-like Science gain! Ah! what avails the curious search sustain'd, The finish'd toil, the god-like Science gain'd? Sentenc'd to flames th' expensive wisdom fell, And truth from heav'n was sorcery from hell. See Reason bid each mystic wile retire, Strike out new light! and mark!--the wise admire! Zeal shall such heresy, like Learning, hate; The same their glory, and the same their fate. Lo, from sought mercy, one his life receives! Life, worse than death, that cruel mercy gives: The man, perchance, who wealth and honours bore, Slaves in the mine, or ceaseless strains the oar. So dom'd are these, and such perhaps, our doom, Own'd we a Prince, avert it heaven! from Rome. Nor private worth alone false Zeal assails; Whole nations bleed when bigotry prevails. What are sworn friendships? What are kindred ties? What's faith with heresy? (the zealot cries.) See, when war sinks the thund'ring cannon's roar; When wounds, and death, and discord are no more; When music bids undreading joys advance, Swell the soft hour, and turn the swimming dance: When to crown these, the social sparkling bowl Lifts the cheer'd sense, and pours out all the soul; Sudden he sends red massacre abroad; Faithless to man, to prove his faith to God. What pure persuasive eloquence denies, All-drunk with blood, the arguing sword supplies; The sword, which to th' assassin's hand is given! Th' assassin's hand!--pronounc'd the hand of heaven! Sex bleeds with sex, and infancy with age; No rank, no place, no virtue stops his rage. Shall sword, and flame, and devastation cease, To please with zeal, wild zeal! the God of Peace? Nor less abuse has scourg'd the civil state, When a King's will became a nation's fate. Enormous pow'r! Nor noble, nor serene; Now fierce and cruel; now but wild and mean. See titles sold, to raise th' unjust supply! Compell'd the purchase! or be fin'd, or buy! No public spirit, guarded well by laws, Uncensur'd, censures in his country's cause. See from the merchant forc'd th' unwilling loan! Who dares deny, or deem his wealth his own? Denying, see! where dungeon-damps arise, Diseas'd he pines, and unassisted dies. Far more than massacre that fate accurst! As of all deaths the ling'ring is the worst. New courts of censure griev'd with new offence, Tax'd without power, and fin'd without pretence, Explain'd, at will, each statute's wrested aim, 'Till marks of merit were the marks of shame; So monstrous!--Life was the severest grief, And the worst death seem'd welcome for relief. In vain the subject sought redress from law, No senate liv'd the partial judge to awe: Senates were void, and senators confin'd, For the great cause of Nature and Mankind; Who Kings superior to the people own; Yet prove the law superior to the throne. Who can review, without a gen'rous tear, A Church, a State, so impious, so severe; A land uncultur'd thro' polemic jars, Rich!--but with carnage from intestine wars; The hand of Industry employ'd no more, And Commerce flying to some safer shore; All property reduc'd, to Pow'r a prey, And Sense and Learning chas'd by Zeal away? Who honours not each dear departed ghost, That strove for Liberty so won, so lost: So well regain'd when god-like William rose, And first entail'd the blessing George bestows? May Walpole still the growing triumph raise, And bid these emulate Eliza's days; Still serve a Prince, who o'er his people great, As far transcends in virtue, as in state! The Muse pursues thee to thy rural seat; Ev'n there shall Liberty inspire retreat. When solemn cares in flowing wit are drown'd, And sportive chat and social laughs go round: Ev'n then, when pausing mirth begins to fail, The converse varies to the serious tale. The tale pathetic speaks some wretch that owes To some deficient law reliefless woes. What instant pity warms the gen'rous breast? How all the legislator stands confess'd! Now springs the hint! 'tis now improv'd to thought! Now ripe! and now to public welfare brought! New bills, which regulating means bestow, Justice preserve, yet soft'ning mercy know: Justice shall low vexatious wiles decline, And still thrive most, when lawyers most repine. Justice from jargon shall refin'd appear, To knowledge thro' our native language clear. Hence we may learn, no more deceiv'd by law, Whence wealth and life their best assurance draw. The freed Insolvent, with industrious hand, Strives yet to satisfy the just demand: Thus ruthless men, who wou'd his pow'rs restrain, Oft what severity would lose, obtain. These, and a thousand gifts, thy thought acquires, Which Liberty benevolent inspires. From Liberty the fruits of law increase, Plenty, and joy, and all the arts of peace. Abroad the merchant, while the tempests rave, Advent'rous sails, nor fears the wind and wave; At home untir'd we find th' auspicious hand With flocks, and herds, and harvests, bless the land: While there, the peasant glads the grateful soil, Here mark the shipwright, there the mason toil, Hew, square, and rear magnificent the stone, And give our oaks a glory not their own! What life demands, by this obeys her call, And added elegance consummates all. Thus stately cities statelier navies rise, And spread our grandeur under distant skies, From Liberty each nobler Science sprung, A Bacon brighten'd, and a Spenser sung: A Clarke and Locke new tracts of truth explore, And Newton reaches heights unreach'd before. What Trade sees Property that wealth maintain, Which industry no longer dreads to gain; What tender conscience kneels with fears resign'd, Enjoys her worship, and avows her mind; What genius now from want to fortune climbs, And to safe Science ev'ry thought sublimes; What Royal Pow'r, from his superior state, Sees public happiness his own create; But kens those patriot-souls, to which he owes Of old each source, whence now each blessing flows? And if such spirits from their heav'n descend, And blended flame, to point one glorious end; Flame from one breast, and thence on Britain shine, What love what praise, O Walpole, then is thine?
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