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Poem by William Whitehead

To the Honourable [Charles Townsend]

O CHARLES, in absence hear a friend complain,
Who knows thou lov'st him whereso'er he goes,
Yet feels uneasy starts of idle pain,
And often would be told the thing he knows.
Why then, thou loiterer, fleets the silent year,
How dar'st thou give a friend unnecessary fear?

We are not now beside that osier'd stream,
Where erst we wander'd, thoughtless of the way;
We do not now of distant ages dream,
And cheat in converse half the ling'ring day;
No fancied heroes rise at our command,
And no TIMOLEON weeps, and bleeds no THEBAN band.

Yet why complain? thou feel'st no want like these,
From me, 'tis true, but me alone debar'd,
Thou still in GRANTA'S shades enjoy'st at ease
The books we reverenc'd, and the friends we shar'd;
Nor seest without such aids the day decline,
Nor think'st how much their loss has added weight to thine.

Truth's genuine voice, the freely-opening mind,
Are thine, are friendship's, and retirement's lot;
To conversation is the world confin'd,
Friends of an hour, who please and are forgot;
And interest stains, and vanity controuls
The pure unsullied thoughts, and sallies of our souls.

O I remember, and with pride repeat
The rapid progress which our friendship knew!
Even at the first with willing minds we met,
And ere the root was fix'd the branches grew,
In vain had fortune plac'd her weak barrier,
Clear was thy breast from pride, and mine from servile fear.

I saw thee gen'rous, and with joy can say,
My education rose above my birth,
Thanks to those parent shades, on whose cold clay
Fall fast my tears, and lightly lie the earth!
To them I owe whate'er I dare pretend,
Thou saw'st with partial eyes, and bade me call thee friend.

Let others meanly heap the treasur'd store,
And aukward fondness cares on cares employ
To leave a race more exquisitely poor,
Possess'd of riches which they ne'er enjoy:
He's only kind who takes the noble way
T' unbind the springs of thought and give them pow'r to play.

His heirs shall bless him, and look down with scorn
On vulgar pride from vaunted heroes sprung;
Lords of themselves, thank heaven that they were born
Above the sordid miser's glitt'ring dung,
Above the servile grandeur of a throne,
For they are nature's heirs, and all her works their own.

William Whitehead

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

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