And then he had good looks; — that point was carried
Nem. con. amongst the women, which I grieve
To say leads oft to crim. con. with the married —
A case which to the juries we may leave,
Since with digressions we too long have tarried.
Now though we know of old that looks deceive,
And always have done, somehow these good looks
Make more impression than the best of books.
Aurora, who look'd more on books than faces,
Was very young, although so very sage,
Admiring more Minerva than the Graces,
Especially upon a printed page.
But Virtue's self, with all her tightest laces,
Has not the natural stays of strict old age;
And Socrates, that model of all duty,
Own'd to a penchant, though discreet, for beauty.
And girls of sixteen are thus far Socratic,
But innocently so, as Socrates;
And really, if the sage sublime and Attic
At seventy years had phantasies like these,
Which Plato in his dialogues dramatic
Has shown, I know not why they should displease
In virgins — always in a modest way,
Observe; for that with me 's a 'sine qua.'
Also observe, that, like the great Lord Coke
(See Littleton), whene'er I have express'd
Opinions two, which at first sight may look
Twin opposites, the second is the best.
Perhaps I have a third, too, in a nook,
Or none at all — which seems a sorry jest:
But if a writer should be quite consistent,
How could he possibly show things existent?
If people contradict themselves, can
Help contradicting them, and every body,
Even my veracious self? — But that 's a lie:
I never did so, never will — how should I?
He who doubts all things nothing can deny:
Truth's fountains may be clear — her streams are muddy,
And cut through such canals of contradiction,
That she must often navigate o'er fiction.
Apologue, fable, poesy, and parable,
Are false, but may he render'd also true,
By those who sow them in a land that 's arable.
'T is wonderful what fable will not do!
'T is said it makes reality more bearable:
But what 's reality? Who has its clue?
Philosophy? No: she too much rejects.
Religion? Yes; but which of all her sects?
Some millions must be wrong, that 's pretty dear;
Perhaps it may turn out that all were right.
God help us! Since we have need on our career
To keep our holy beacons always bright,
'T is time that some new prophet should appear,
Or old indulge man with a second sight.
Opinions wear out in some thousand years,
Without a small refreshment from the spheres.
But here again, why will I thus entangle
Myself with metaphysics? None can hate
So much as I do any kind of wrangle;
And yet, such is my folly, or my fate,
I always knock my head against some angle
About the present, past, or future state.
Yet I wish well to Trojan and to Tyrian,
For I was bred a moderate Presbyterian.
But though I am a temperate theologian,
And also meek as a metaphysician,
Impartial between Tyrian and Trojan,
As Eldon on a lunatic commission —
In politics my duty is to show John
Bull something of the lower world's condition.
It makes my blood boil like the springs of Hecla,
To see men let these scoundrel sovereigns break law.
But politics, and policy, and piety,
Are topics which I sometimes introduce,
Not only for the sake of their variety,
But as subservient to a moral use;
Because my business is to dress society,
And stuff with sage that very verdant goose.
And now, that we may furnish with some matter all
Tastes, we are going to try the supernatural.
And now I will give up all argument;
And positively henceforth no temptation
Shall 'fool me to the top up of my bent:'-
Yes, I' ll begin a thorough reformation.
Indeed, I never knew what people meant
By deeming that my Muse's conversation
Was dangerous; — I think she is as harmless
As some who labour more and yet may charm less.
Grim reader! did you ever see a ghost?
No; but you have heard — I understand — be dumb!
And don't regret the time you may have lost,
For you have got that pleasure still to come:
And do not think I mean to sneer at most
Of these things, or by ridicule benumb
That source of the sublime and the mysterious: —
For certain reasons my belief is serious.