A poetical epistle from the late Lord Melcombe to the Earl of Bute: with corrections, by the author of the Night thoughts



LONDON: Printed for T. BECKET, Corner of the Adelphi, in the Strand. MDCCLXXVI.



THE diſtinguiſhed NAMES on the Title-page can excite no Expectations in the Public which the Poetical Merit of the following Epiſtle is not capable of gratifying. It bears Date the 26th of October 1761. To preclude every Doubt, concerning it's Authenticity, the Original Manuſcript, in LORD MELCOMBE's Hand-writing, with the Corrections, in THAT of Dr. YOUNG, is left for Inſpection at the Shop of the Publiſher.


POLLIO, to Thee, my Patron and my Friend,
The ſecret counſels of my ſoul I ſend:
Long ſince thy godlike Uncle* held me dear
(Fate gave me early to thy Houſe's care);
He dy'd, and left me unattach'd and free,
Left me a legacy from Him to Thee.
Mem'ry, rare gift! but giv'n us to our coſt,
Thou faithful Regiſter of Good, when loſt!
1 Trace ev'ry feature of the fav'rite piece,
Revive his Grace, his Dignity, and Eaſe;
[Page 2] His Courage cool, his Wiſdom void of art,
The gentleſt Manners, and the warmeſt Heart;
His Soul with ev'ry 1 nobleſt paſſion fraught,
And 2 carrying Friendſhip ſometimes to a fault;
In Arts or Arms, in Battle, or Debate,
He guarded, grac'd, and dignify'd the State;
Deſerv'd the Laurel and the Bay that crown
The 3 blended honours of the Sword and Gown;
His Country's Bulwark, her Delight and Pride,
In War he conquer'd, and in Peace he dy'd:
His Mem'ry ſhall to lateſt times deſcend.
Such was the Man 4 that bade me call him Friend.
And now let Envy all his actions ſcan,
5 Then let her call me Flatt'rer, if ſhe can:
The vain reproach I ſhall with ſcorn receive;
I wanted no diſtinction He could give,
[Page 3] Save one, 1 to all ſuperior and ſupreme,
His Friendſhip, his Affection, his Eſteem.
Oh! long and much belov'd, 2 Oh! dearly mourn'd,
How often has my throbbing boſom burn'd
3 Th' effuſions of a grateful heart to pour
O'er ſacred Friendſhip—4 now, alas! no more.
Ere long, my gentle Friend, will come thy turn
5 To drop a pious tear on my poor urn;
Thy feeling heart will not the taſk decline—
The virtues of Humanity are thine:
But tho' from Friendſhip's ſource the Paſſions riſe
6 That flood the Soul, and ſwell into the Eyes,
Th' effect will differ, tho' the ſource the ſame;
7 My tear is Gratitude, but Thine is Fame.
[Page 4]
Farewel, illuſtrious Shade! for ever reſt
Diſtinguiſh'd in the Manſions of the Bleſt!
1 From thence, while, darkling, we thy Star ſurvey,
Thy bright Example marks and lights the way.
'Tis well.—The throbbing of the heart ſubſides,
The blood begins to flow in ſprightlier tides:
2 From Thee, my Friend, the ſoul with joy ſurveys
The Page of Mem'ry mark'd with brighter days;
3 From Thee—thy Mien, thy Manners, and thy Smile
Recall the gen'rous, graceful, brave ARGYLL.
4 Thus own'd by Thee, thus Client of thy Race,
Where could I elſe, with Dignity or Grace,
From ev'ry Prejudice and Paſſion free,
Lay bare the Mind's Receſſes, 5 but to Thee?
[Page 5] Often, as from the pomp thy ſtate requires,
To Contemplation's cell thy Friend retires,
Faſt by the banks of Thames, his active mind
Dwells on the motley maſk he left behind:
So far the wide Society extends,
So num'rous thoſe 1 we call from Cuſtom Friends;
Yet, num'rous as they are, ſo very few
Wiſh what they ought, or as they ought purſue,
He ſcarce can tell what the 2 whole Drama means,
3 Can fix the Plan, or ſeparate the Scenes;
All would be great, but who with Care attends
Whence Greatneſs ſprings, it's Progreſs, and it's Ends?
How to direct their wand'ring footſteps right,
Or place their Errors in a ſtronger light,
And mark the Failings that miſlead the Throng
Thro' Life, ſhall be the Subject of my Song.
POLLIO, to Thee; thy well-conducted youth
Has form'd thy mind to hear and follow Truth;
From Thee the crowds that Wiſdom's laws deſpiſe
May learn that none are happy but the Wiſe;
That Wiſdom blunts the darts Misfortune flings,
And lifts to nobleſt heights Ambition's wings.
What then is Wiſdom?—'Tis what gilds Succeſs,
What makes it ſolid, infelt Happineſs;
What keeps th' enlarg'd purſuit to Virtue true,
And ſinks the ſelfiſh in the ſocial view.
[Page 8]
Say then, bright Guide! ſince thy 1 celeſtial beam
Lights us, thro' Social Happineſs, to Fame;
Say, whence the gen'ral Groan, th' enſanguin'd Plain,
The 2 purple Murd'rer ſtriding o'er the Slain,
Sweeping half Human Kind from Nature's face,
And forging fetters for the riſing race?
3 Whence then, and why, the Venal and the Vile,
The Voice of Honour, 4 and the Heart of Guile,
Harden'd to crimes, and reſolute to riſe
On 5 Love and Friendſhip's violated ties?
The mad Voluptuary? the ſelfiſh Drone,
That ſtifles Merit, 6 ſtruggling to be known?
From CUNNING;—CUNNING, 7 that deforms the mind,
Poiſons the ſoil for nobleſt growths deſign'd;
[Page 9] Blaſts Heroes' Laurels, 1 blights the Stateſman's Bays;
Cunning o'erturns the Throne ſhe means to raiſe,
Corrupts the Heart, contracts the Social Plan,
And 2 narrows to Self-love the Love of Man:
By That the Soul, 3 in prey to mean deſires,
Her flight obſtructed, and impair'd her fires,
Panting for Glory, anxious to be great,
4 Moyls thro' the paths of Baſeneſs and Deceit;
But ſtill, tho' Fortune all her aid ſhould lend,
She finds the Means have overturn'd the end;
5 Shrinks at the ſervile Croud and brib'd Addreſs,
And ſickens in the boſom of Succeſs.
Wouldſt thou, my Friend, ſurvey with 6 ſtricter ken
Theſe Rival Rulers of the Sons of Men?
[Page 10] We'll analyſe their complicated frame,
And ſhow their Pow'rs, their Paſſions, and their Aim;
How they diſpenſe to Mortals Good or Ill,
And how affect the boſom 1 that they fill.
WISDOM's the Health and Vigour of the Mind,
2 That flows from ev'ry talent, juſtly join'd;
3 Where Judgment tempers Wit's enliv'ning blaze,
And Genius quickens what Reflection weighs.
Parent of Peace, and Guardian of the Brave,
And teaching how to conquer and to ſave;
4 She wars on Vice alone, and her decree
Draws not the ſword to fetter, but to free;
Her arms bid ſocial Arts and Science riſe,
And 5 Victory ſhed bleſſings as ſhe flies.
[Page 11] If to a narrower ſphere her cares deſcend,
1 She gives the Father, Citizen, and Friend,
Th' indulgent Huſband, and th' endearing Wife,
And all the tender Charities of Life.
2 Theſe gifts, then, flow from Wiſdom's high command:
She makes the Vanquiſh'd bleſs the Victor's hand;
3 To raiſe, to dignify an humble ſtate,
Or fits the Robes of Greatneſs to the Great:
She leads where Virtue calls, and Fame attends.
CUNNING's the tim'rous Guide to ſordid Ends:
Compos'd of parts which Wiſdom calls Defects,
4 She apes her with the talents ſhe rejects:
Hence one proceeds with Firmneſs, one with Fear;
There manly Caution, low Suſpicion here.
[Page 12] 'Tis like falſe coin, by Cheats invented firſt,
The beſt materials 1 copy'd with the worſt;
Like that, it makes the wealth of Knaves alone,
And brings as ſure deſtruction when 'tis known.
As Lib'ral Arts and Love of Virtue fail
In Courts, the Cunning o'er the Wiſe prevail.
The crowds that Vice and Vanity pour forth,
Whoſe claims are founded on their Wants, not Worth,
Ill brook the manly manners of the Wiſe,
Who ſcorn to flatter what they muſt deſpiſe.
Where ſolid Worth firſt forms the fair pretence,
Upborne by Probity, enforc'd by Senſe;
Where virtuous Toil muſt earn what can't be ſold,
And Genius pants for Glory, not for Gold;
Where Brib'ry Birth, Cabal, neglected wait,
And Wiſdom's hand unbars Preferment's gate,
[Page 13] This tribe th' unhoſpitable manſions ſhun,
And to th' all-courting dome of Cunning run;
Run to th' important ſhrug, th' unmeaning hint,
1 That Cunning ever coins in Falſhood's mint;
To warm Profeſſions, ſtrangers to the mind;
To Speech, th' Interpreter of Truth deſign'd,
Now taught not to diſcover, but diſguiſe,
While the whole Man, each Look, each Geſture lyes,
With all the train of ineffectual cant,
To ſoothe, not ſatisfy—to lure, not grant.
Here the gay ſcenes with ſmiles perpetual ſtrike,
All ſmooth, all flatt'ring, and all falſe alike;
Inſidious Praiſe extols, while Envy burns,
And feign'd Attachments meet with feign'd Returns;
The garb of Worth diſtreſs'd cloaks Squandring's tribes,
That Int'reſt may ſeem gen'rous when ſhe bribes:
Patron and Client, turn by turn, deceive,
Aſk from falſe motives, from falſe motives give;
[Page 14] Ill-founded all, Pretenſion, Promiſe, Grant,
Nought real, but Profuſion, 1 Brib'ry, Want.
Thus Prudence, Virtue, Parts, crowd Wiſdom's train;
Thus Cunning ſweeps the 2 Squand'rer, Falſe, and Vain:
Juſt to the Tiller's care, the crop ſucceeds,
One binds the ſheaf, and one collects the weeds.
3 By this we ſee how far the diſtance lies,
How wide, that parts the Cunning from the Wiſe.
Hear, then, her Voice, whoſe comprehenſive call
Extends to the Great Vulgar and the Small.
When Men unfit for Greatneſs will be Great,
4 Why don't they truſt to Title and Eſtate?
What Daemon, envious of their Peace and Fame,
Drives them to make the Care of States their aim;
[Page 15] To quit the ſhade of private life, and ſtray
Where ev'ry weakneſs glares in open day?
Whoe'er in life miſtakes his deſtin'd place
Becomes 1 the Author of his own Diſgrace;
For Heav'n beſtows on All ſufficient ſkill
To grace the ſtation which they ought to fill;
And, tho' to All not equally profuſe,
Ordain'd us All for Decency and Uſe.
2 Haſt thou not Wit? be gen'rous and ſincere:
3 Does Learning fail? let Social Love appear;
Let Truth, Good-nature, Virtue, be improv'd,
And, ſince thou canſt not be admir'd, be lov'd.
Had Nature's bounty partially been ſhown,
And barr'd up ev'ry road to Fame but one,
'Twould ſeem leſs ſtrange to ſee th' unequal ſtrife
That drives us all to ſhine in Public Life;
[Page 16] 1 How Thirſt of Pow'r o'er All alike prevails,
And calls in Vice to aid, where Genius fails.
Is Private Life, then, void of graceful aims?
Are Father, Huſband, Friend, 2 ungraceful names?
So far 2 ungraceful that we rather chuſe
Pow'r, we want Genius to become or uſe?
The rule that leads us with unerring pace
To tread the various paths of Life with Grace
(Let Genius fire the blood, or Damps reſtrain)
Confin'd to precepts obvious, eaſy, plain,
Alike thro' ev'ry rank, for practice fit,
To guard the plain good Man, and grace the Wit,
Thro' Court, Camp, Cottage, heard, felt, underſtood,
Conſiſt in this—be honeſt, juſt, and good:
This, well obſerv'd, ſhall ſhield the Weak from blame,
And lend Defects themſelves a ſofter name:
[Page 17] Neglect of this debaſes all our thoughts,
And heightens all our Failings into Faults.
Failings and Faults from diff'rent ſprings proceed;
Faults from the Heart, and Failings from the Head.
Quick to diſcern, and wiſely to purſue,
And tread Life's labyrinth with Judgment's clue,
Are parts that few, indulg'd by Heav'n, can fill;
But all Men may be honeſt—if they will.
This Wiſdom's laws, 1 that firſt taught Virtue, teach,
And place Eſteem and Love in all Men's reach.
Her Guardian Influence then, 2 ſeverely kind,
Which diff'rent pow'rs to diff'rent parts aſſign'd,
And, thro' the whole impartial and exact,
Ne'er deals the part without the pow'rs to act,
Gave Honeſty, her gen'ral gift and beſt,
To guide, ſupport, and dignify the reſt.
[Page 18]
To Genius this ſecures immortal Fame,
And conſecrates Ambition's boldeſt aim;
Without it all the ſparks of heav'nly fire,
Or blaze deſtructive, or in ſmoke, expire,
Giv'n to diſtreſs Mankind, and not to ſave:
Thus the ſame Sword, 1 that, weilded by the Brave,
In Virtue's cauſe, has ſav'd a ſinking Land,
Does Midnight Murder in a Ruffian's hand.
If WISDOM, then, to All thoſe pow'rs imparts
2 That lead alone to Fame thro' Arms or Arts,
And ſows, with bounty free and unconfin'd,
The ſeeds of Honeſty in ev'ry mind,
Which, vary'd by the ſoil, yet muſt produce
Or Private Peace of Mind, or Public Uſe,
(That Uſe which conſecrates the Patriot's duſt,
That Peace of Mind which ever crowns the Juſt):
Then boldly let the Muſe this truth proclaim,
Wiſdom's the ſource, and Honeſty the ſtream,
[Page 19] That wafts us ſafe, thro' Danger and Diſtreſs,
To Public Fame, or Private Happineſs;
While Cunning weaves a maze without a clue,
And, 1 wav'ring, graſps Falſe Greatneſs for the True.
See the foul monſter, of gigantic ſize,
On broken Faith and injur'd Friendſhip riſe,
Fearful and raſh, rapacious and profuſe,
In Temper rigid, and in Morals looſe;
By ſmiling Treach'ry led, with downcaſt eyes,
And prompted by Suſpicion, whiſp'ring lyes;
See Ribald Mirth, and Begg'ry void of ſhame,
Demure Detraction, and loud-bawling Blame,
2 Chos'n Friends! by Int'reſt rank'd, in order ſtand,
And Flatt'ry next, with Falſhood in her hand;
Riot and Guile the wild proceſſion ends,
And what Oppreſſion gains Corruption ſpends.
[Page 20]
Deſcend a moment from this fancy'd height,
And view the treach'rous ſcene by Wiſdom's light;
This pageant Pomp, this Homage of an Hour,
This painted Grandeur, this unweildy Pow'r,
Shall ſhrink, when Truth diſplays her piercing beam,
Like the vain viſions of a fev'riſh dream,
Which promiſe Health and Youth for ever gay,
But yield us back to Death at break of day:
So ſoon ſhall ill-got Greatneſs change it's ſtate,
Turn'd to Reproach, Contempt, and Public Hate.
Proceed, and think what balm can cure the breaſt,
Where Guilt has enter'd once, and baniſh'd Reſt:
If we have Friends, what Friendſhip can we truſt,
That knows us mean, ungen'rous, and unjuſt?
If we have Foes, how grateful to thoſe Foes
To ſee us toil againſt our own repoſe!
Such is the fate of Greatneſs built on Vice,
Remorſe the purchaſe, Innocence the price.
When Wiſdom's eye ſurveys the guilty Great,
They move our Pity, rather than our Hate:
[Page 21] I know they ſcorn the tricks by which they riſe,
And view their ill-got Pow'r with joyleſs eyes;
They ſcorn the Prince on whom that Pow'r depends,
They ſcorn their Slaves, and moſt they ſcorn their Friends.
Friendſhip well choſe, of ev'ry bleſſing chief,
Doubles our Pleaſures, and divides our Grief:
But view their Friendſhips, can we call them Choice?
No; 'tis Neceſſity, impos'd by Vice,
Which, vile and weak itſelf, muſt always ſeek
For ſafety from the Wicked and the Weak:
Vileneſs muſt on the Villain's aid depend,
To plan freſh miſchiefs, and the paſt defend;
And Weakneſs truſts the Weak, thro' jealous care,
As Impotence with Eunuchs guards the Fair.
But let this truth into thy mind deſcend,
The Man that makes a Fool or Knave his Friend,
Whate'er pretence may ſeem his choice to guide,
Has crimes to perpetrate, or crimes to hide.
True Greatneſs, ſure, unfolds a nobler ſcene,
Without majeſtic, and within ſerene;
[Page 22] On Wiſdom's height ſublime, ſecurely plac'd,
She plans new glories, and enjoys the paſt;
And, while the blaſts of Rage and Faction blow,
Hears the Storm rave and Thunder roll below:
There, high enthron'd, with ſilent joy ſurveys
Whole Kingdoms lift their hands in grateful praiſe;
1 Or ſoaring ſtill (tho' pleas'd with deathleſs Fame)
2 Extends, perhaps, beyond one World, her aim.
'Tis her's to plead the ſuff'ring Orphan's cauſe,
And dry the tear that ſtern Oppreſſion draws;
To call each latent ſeed of Virtue forth,
And 3 kindle modeſt Diffidence to Worth.
If gentle Slumber o'er her eye-lids creeps,
The Pray'rs of Nations guard her as ſhe ſleeps;
If Cares the fetter'd Senſe from Sleep unbind,
Thoſe Cares enſure the Quiet of Mankind:
[Page 23] She knows no guilty pang, no ſecret ſhame,
No ſtart of horror from the midnight dream;
But, wrapt in pleaſing thought, with raviſh'd eyes
Sees Public Good on proud Oppreſſion riſe;
And, watchful o'er the bleſſings of her hand,
Wakes, like the Guardian Angel of the Land.
Is there a Land, 1 that ſuch a Guard can claim,
2 By Virtue's tut'ring hand, borne up to Fame?
Where ſacred Liberty each breaſt inflames,
And Wealth and Life itſelf are ſecond names;
3 That dares, when Tyrants ſtrike, repel the blow,
And lay the mighty Sons of Ruin low;
4 That once, tho' ſafe herſelf, by Heav'n's decree,
Dar'd fight and conquer, to ſet Europe free;
And, ſtarting at her captive Neighbour's groan,
Stepp'd forth, and made the glorious cauſe her own.
[Page 24]
Is there where Learning may ſecurely ſoar,
Uncurb'd by Churchmen, unconſtrain'd by Pow'r;
Where free Devotion wears an open face,
And Reaſon leads her to the throne of Grace;
1 Sincere, tho' various, and to none a Slave,
But God is worſhip'd by the lights he gave?
Is there a Prince, intrepid, juſt, and wiſe,
Who views his People with a Father's eyes,
And, pleas'd to guard that Right which Nature gave,
Scorns to debaſe a Subject to a Slave?
Should his bright Influence fill the courtly ſphere,
And Courtiers dare be honeſt and ſincere;
Serve, tho' they promis'd; feel, tho' they profeſt;
Nor check the Social Virtues of the Breaſt.
Should Truth 2 uſurp ſuſpicious Falſhood's ſeat,
And Honeſty grow graceful in the Great;
[Page 25] Should Wit preſume to ſpeak, and Learning write,
And Pow'r and Lib'ral Arts at length unite;
Pronounce that Land the fav'rite Land of Fate,
Pronounce the Prince 1 that rules it truly great.
Smit with true Glory's charms, thus far the Muſe
With eager ſteps the ſhining track purſues;
Strains ev'ry nerve to raiſe the fav'rite theme,
And fix fair Glory in the blaze of Fame:
'Tis her's to praiſe True Greatneſs on the Throne,
'Tis thine, O GEORGE! to make that Praiſe thy own.
Each feature of the fav'rite picture trace,
Recall his Eaſe, and Dignity, and Grace;
Then brand me for a Flatt'rer, if ſhe can:
—of all Diſtinctions the ſupreme!
His Friendſhip, and, more precious! his Eſteem.
The fulneſs
—Friendſhip now no more!
To check a tear, or drop it on my urn;
Which melt
My tear paid Gratitude, but Thine gives Fame.
Thence let thy bright Example's brilliant ray
To Wiſdom point, and light us on our way.
By Thee thus own'd, a Client of thy Race,
Where could I with ſuch Dignity or Grace,
—kind Cuſtom calls our Friends;
royal Butcher
Say, whence, and why,
holy Friendſhip's
ſtrangles, or ſmothers
She loaths
From Judgment temp'ring Wit's exceſſive blaze,
And Genius bright'ning what Reflection weighs.
Draws not the ſword to fetter, but to free,
And Vice alone is ſlain by her decree;
Conqueſt ſcatter
Her's is
What rich gifts flow from Wiſdom's high command?
Adorns and dignifies
Bribe, and Want.
By this we ſee, and ſee without ſurprize,
The Cunning far divided from the Wiſe.
Why truſt they not
Is Wit deny'd?
Fails Learning too?
Leſs ſtrange, that Thirſt of Pow'r o'er All prevails,
And calls to Vice for aid, when Genius fails.
to none unkind,
Which lead us on
Theſe Fiends,
Ne'er fails beyond our World to ſtretch her aim.
wind up
Led by fair Virtue to the mount of Fame?
Tho' various, unconfus'd, to none a Slave,
It's God adoring—