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'Tis mighty easy o'er a glass of wine
On vain refinements vainly to refine,
To laugh at poverty in plenty's reign,
To boast of apathy when out of pain,
And in each sentence, worthy of the schools,
Varnish'd with sophistry, to deal out rules
Most fit for practice, but for one poor fault
That into practice they can ne'er be brought.
To lash the vices of a guilty age.
Truth! why shall every wretch of letters
Dare to speak truth against his betters!
Let ragged virtue stand aloof,
Nor mutter accents of reproof;
Let ragged wit a mute become,
When wealth and power would have her dumb.
Weak is that throne, and in itself unsound,
Which takes not solid virtue for its ground.
What is this world?--A term which men have got,
To signify not one in ten knows what;
A term, which with no more precision passes
To point out herds of men than herds of asses;
In common use no more it means, we find,
Than many fools in same opinions joined.
What it 't to us, if taxes rise or fall,
Thanks to our fortune, we pay none at all.
Let muckworms who in dirty acres deal,
Lament those hardships which we cannot feel,
His grace who smarts, may bellow if he please,
But must I bellow too, who sit at ease?
By custom safe, the poets' numbers flow,
Free as the light and air some years ago.
No statesman e'er will find it worth his pains
To tax our labours, and excise our brains.
Burthens like these with earthly buildings bear,
No tributes laid on castles in the air.
When satire flies abroad on falsehood's wing,
Short is her life, and impotent her sting;
But when to truth allied, the wound she gives
Sinks deep, and to remotest ages lives.
Who, with tame cowardice familiar grown, would hear my thoughts, but fear to speak their own.
Whom drink made wits, though nature made them fools.
With that dull, rooted, callous impudence,
Which, dead to shame, and ev'ry nicer sense,
Ne'er blushed, unless in spreading vice's snares,
She blunder'd on some virtue unawares.
Within the brain's most secret cells,
A certain lord chief justice dwells,
Of sov'reign power, whom one and all,
With common voice we reason call.
And reputation bleeds in ev'ry word.
- Apology [Reputation]
Fool beckons fool, and dunce awakens dunce.
- Apology (l. 42) [Folly]
Who shall dispute what the Reviewers say?
Their word's sufficient; and to ask a reason,
In such a state as theirs, is downright treason.
- Apology (l. 94) [Criticism]
Friends I have made, whom Envy must commend,
But not one foe whom I would wish a friend.
- Conference (l. 297) [Friends]
Amongst the sons of men how few are known
Who dare be just to merit not their own.
- Epistle to Hogarth (l. 1) [Justice]
The rigid saint, by whom no mercy's shown
To saints whose lives are better than his own.
- Epistle to Hogarth (l. 25) [Religion]
When fiction rises pleasing to the eye,
Men will believe, because they love the lie;
But truth herself, if clouded with a frown,
Must have some solemn proof to pass her down.
- Epistle to Hogarth (l. 291) [Truth]
Constant attention wears the active mind,
Blots out our pow'rs, and leaves a blank behind.
- Epistle to Hogarth (l. 647) [Mind]
With curious art the brain, too finely wrought,
Preys on herself, and is destroyed by thought.
- Epistle to Wm. Hogarth (l. 645) [Thought]
A joke's a very serious thing.
- Ghost (bk. 4) [Jesting]
Why should we fear; and what? The laws?
They all are armed in virtue's cause;
And aiming at the self-same end,
Satire is always virtue's friend.
- Ghost (bk. III, l. 943) [Satire]
The oak, when living, monarch of the wood;
The English oak, which, dead, commands the flood.
- Gotham [Oak]
Nor waste their sweetness in the desert air.
- Gotham (bk. II, l. 20) [Sweetness]
And if you mean to profit, learn to please.
- Gotham (bk. II, l. 88) [Gain]
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