My Own Character, To a Lady
-----Ridentem dicere verum
Quid vetat?----- HORACE.
THIS once I will alter my old-fashion'd style,
For the rosey reward of a sensible smile,
And betray the wild sketches of Passion, imprest
By Nature's own seal, on that tablet, my breast,
Which, too oft, as 'tis sway'd by the whim of the brain,
A rude Chaos of blunder is forc'd to contain,
Projections absurd, prepossessions unjust,
Tho' Friendship has, still, found it true to its trust,
And it, still, when such blots are expung'd, may be fit
For the splendor of sense, or the sparkle of wit.
Then, first, I confess, least you kindly mistake,
I'm a Compound extreme of the Sage, and the Rake;
Abstracted, licentious, affected, heroic,
A Poet, a Soldier, a Coxcomb, a Stoic;
This moment, abstemious as FAQUIR or BRAMIN;
The next, ARISTIPPUS-like, swinishly cramming;
Now, full of devotion, and loyal dispute;
A Democrat, now, and a Deist to boot;
Now, a frown on my front, and a leer in my eye;
Now, heaving unfeign'd sensibility's sigh;
Now, weighing with care each elaborate word;
Now, the jest of a tavern, as drunk as a lord;
By imminent woes, now, unmov'd as stone;
And, now, tenderly thrill'd by a grief not my own.
Of Love shall I speak? who my bosom still bare
To the arrows, discharg'd from the glance of the fair,
A target, whose verge many shafts may receive,
But whose Centre, as yet, is untouch'd, I believe;
For who to one damsel, could, meanly, confine
That heart, which is ever devoted to Nine?
Shall I speak of Politeness? ah! there I am mute,
For tho' honest in thought, I'm in manners--a brute;
My virtues, indeed, are too shy to be seen,
Tho' my follies are not quite so bashful, I ween.
Not ev'n to a Lady a fine thing I say,
As blunt as the hero of WYCHERLY's Play,
Tho' Ladies, good faith, have been never my game,
For I guess the whole sex are, in secret, the same;
Smooth flatt'ry may lift the dear nymph to the sky;
But her feelings will certainly give it the lie;
And in cases which I, and, most probably, you know,
She had rather be JANE, than DIANA, or JUNO.
Shall I make to grave dowager, Prudence, a claim?
Alas? I have slighted her much, to my shame,
Secur'd no snug office, scrap'd up no estate,
Nay, scarce own a Garret to shelter my pate;
So have nought to consign, when I've finished my mirth,
But my book to the Critics, my body to earth.
Thro' Life's checquer'd changes, in every state,
Hypocrisy, always, has met with my hate,
For, tho' foes may be blinded, or friends may be bam'd,
I very well know, I may chance--to be damn'd.
Should you seek, in my mere conversation, to find
Those sprightly conceits, that illumine my mind,
Your search will be vain, for I candidly vow,
I can ne'er make a compliment, seldom, a bow;
Yet, when VENUS appears, at gay BACCHUS's call,
I can coax her with ever a blood of them all.
Tho' youth's florid blush on my cheek is decay'd,
(Such blooms will soon wither in Study's pale shade,)
Remembrance still pensively hangs on each scene,
That rais'd the sweet raptures of careless Nineteen;
Then, to Transport's fine touch every pulse was alive,
Now, I droop in the year of my age--twenty-five!
This, you'll instantly cry, is a wonderful thing:
But my Summer of Genius arriv'd ere its Spring.
The Orange-tree thus, prematurely, we're told,
Bears its blossoms of green, and its fruitage of gold,
And these talents of mine, now entirely forgotten,
Like the Medlar, soon ripe, were, I fear, as soon rotten.