Essay On Satire

In satire too the wise took different ways, To each deserving its peculiar praise.

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But of these two, the last succeeded best, As men aim rightest when they shoot in jest.

20 Yet, if we may presume to blame our guides, And censure those who censure all besides, In other things they justly are preferr'd.

Will any dog that has his teeth and stones, Refinedly leave his bitches and his bones, To turn a wheel, and bark to be employ'd, While Venus is by rival dogs enjoy'd?

Yet this fond man, to get a statesman's name, Forfeits his friends, his freedom, and his fame.

30 'Tis being devout at play, wise at a ball, Or bringing wit and friendship to Whitehall.

But with sharp eyes those nicer faults to find, Which lie obscurely in the wisest mind; That little speck which all the rest does spoil, To wash off that would be a noble toil; Beyond the loose writ libels of this age, Or the forced scenes of our declining stage; Above all censure too, each little wit Will be so glad to see the greater hit; 40 Who, judging better, though concern'd the most, Of such correction, will have cause to boast.First, let's behold the merriest man alive[57] Against his careless genius vainly strive; Quit his dear ease, some deep design to lay, 'Gainst a set time, and then forget the day: Yet he will laugh at his best friends, and be Just as good company as Nokes and Lee.[58] But when he aims at reason or at rule, 90 He turns himself the best to ridicule; Let him at business ne'er so earnest sit, Show him but mirth, and bait that mirth with wit; That shadow of a jest shall be enjoy'd, Though he left all mankind to be destroy'd.So cat transform'd sat gravely and demure, Till mouse appear'd, and thought himself secure; But soon the lady had him in her eye, And from her friend did just as oddly fly.In this alone methinks the ancients err'd,-- Against the grossest follies they declaim; Hard they pursue, but hunt ignoble game.Nothing is easier than such blots to hit, And 'tis the talent of each vulgar wit: Besides, 'tis labour lost; for who would preach Morals to Armstrong,[51] or dull Aston teach?Some other kind of wits must be made known, Whose harmless errors hurt themselves alone; Excess of luxury they think can please, And laziness call loving of their ease: To live dissolved in pleasures still they feign, 170 Though their whole life's but intermitting pain: So much of surfeits, headaches, claps are seen, We scarce perceive the little time between: Well-meaning men who make this gross mistake, And pleasure lose only for pleasure's sake; Each pleasure has its price, and when we pay Too much of pain, we squander life away.Thus Dorset, purring like a thoughtful cat, Married, but wiser puss ne'er thought of that: And first he worried her with railing rhyme, 180 Like Pembroke's mastives at his kindest time; Then for one night sold all his slavish life, A teeming widow, but a barren wife; Swell'd by contact of such a fulsome toad, He lugg'd about the matrimonial load; Till fortune, blindly kind as well as he, Has ill restored him to his liberty; Which he would use in his old sneaking way, Drinking all night, and dozing all the day; Dull as Ned Howard,[61] whom his brisker times 190 Had famed for dulness in malicious rhymes.How dull, and how insensible a beast Is man, who yet would lord it o'er the rest!Philosophers and poets vainly strove In every age the lumpish mass to move: But those were pedants, when compared with these, Who know not only to instruct, but please.Reaching above our nature does no good; 100 We must fall back to our old flesh and blood; As by our little Machiavel we find That nimblest creature of the busy kind, His limbs are crippled, and his body shakes; Yet his hard mind which all this bustle makes, No pity of its poor companion takes.What gravity can hold from laughing out, To see him drag his feeble legs about, Like hounds ill-coupled?


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