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THE VANITY OF HUMAN WISHES, IN IMITATION OF THE
TENTH SATIRE OF JUVENAL. Let observation, with extensive view, Survey mankind from China to Peru; Remark each anxious toil, each eager strife, And watch the busy scenes of crowded life; Then say how hope and fear, desire and hate, O’erspread with snares the clouded maze of fate, Where wav'ring man, betray'd by vent'rous pride, To choose the dreary paths without a guide, As treach'rous phantoms in the mist delude, Shuns fancied ills, or chases airy good; How rarely reason guides the stubborn choice, Rules the bold hand, or prompts the suppliant voice; How nations sink by darling schemes oppress’d, When vengeance listens to the fool's request. Fate wings with ev'ry wish th' afflictive dart, Each gift of nature and each grace of art; With fatal heat impetuous courage glows, With fatal sweetness elocution flows, Impeachment stops the speaker's pow'rful breath, And restless fire precipitates on death.
But, scarce observed, the knowing and the bold Fall in the gen’ral massacre of gold; Wide-wasting pest! that rages unconfined, And crowds with crimes the records of mankind; For gold his sword the hireling ruffian draws, For gold the hireling judge distorts the laws; Wealth heap'd on wealth, nor truth nor safety buys, The dangers gather as the treasures rise.
Let hist’ry tell where rival kings command, And dubious title shakes the madded land, When statutes glean the refuse of the sword, How much more safe the vassal than the lord; Low skulks the hind beneath the rage of power, And leaves the wealthy traitor in the Tower, Untouch'd his cottage, and his slumbers sound, Though confiscation's vultures hover round.
The needy traveller serene and gay,
Yet still one gen’ral cry the skies assails,
Such was the scorn that fillid the sage's mind,
Unnumber'd suppliants crowd Preferment's gate, Athirst for wealth, and burning to be great ;
Delusive Fortune hears th' incessant call,
But will not Britain hear the last appeal,
In full-flown dignity see Wolsey stand, Law in his voice, and fortune in his hand : To him the church, the realm, their pow'rs consign, Through him the rays of regal bounty shine ; Turn'd by his nod the stream of honour flows, His smile alone security bestows: Still to new heights his restless wishes tow'r, Claim leads to claim, and pow'r advances pow'r; Till conquest unresisted ceased to please, And rights submitted left him none to seize : At length his sov’reign frowns: the train of state Mark the keen glance, and watch the sign to hate. Where'er he turns, he meets a stranger's eye, His suppliants scorn him, and his followers fly; Now drops at once the pride of awful state, The golden canopy, the glittring plate,
The regal palace, the luxurious board,
What gave great Villiers to th' assassin's knife, And fix'd disease on Harley's closing life? What murder'd Wentworth, and what exiled Hyde, By kings protected, and to kings allied ? What but their wish indulged in courts to shine, And pow'r too great to keep or to resign?
When first the college rolls receive his name, The young enthusiast quits his ease for fame; Resistless burns the fever of renown, Caught from the strong contagion of the gown: O’er Bodley's dome his future labours spread, And Bacon's mansion trembles o'er his head. Are these thy views? Proceed, illustrious youth, And Virtue guard thee to the throne of Truth ! Yet should thy soul indulge the gen'rous heat Till captive Science yields her last retreat; Should reason guide thee with har brightest ray, And pour on misty doubt resistless day; Should no false kindness lure to loose delight, Nor praise relax, nor difficulty fright; Should tempting Novelty thy cell refrain, And Sloth effuse her opiate fumes in vain ; Should Beauty blunt on fops her fatal dart, Nor claim the triumph of a letter'd heart;
Should no disease thy torpid veins invade,
Nor deem, when Learning her last prize bestows,
The festal blazes, the triumphal show, The ravish'd standard, and the captive foe, The senate's thanks, the gazette's pompous tale, With force resistless o'er the brave prevail. Such bribes the rapid Greek o'er Asia whirld, For such the steady Roman shook the world; For such in distant lands the Britons shine, And stain with blood the Danube or the Rhine ; This pow'r has praise, that virtue scarce can warm Till fame supplies the universal charm. Yet Reason frowns on War's unequal game, Where wasted nations raise a single name; And mortgaged states their grandsires' wreaths reFrom age to age in everlasting debt ; [gret, Wreaths which at last the dear-bought right convey To rust on medals, or on stones decay.
On what foundation stands the warrior's pride, How just his hopes, let Swedish Charles decide ;