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The Vanity Of Human Wishes
by [?]


IN IMITATION OF THE TENTH SATIRE OF JUVENAL.

Let[a] 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 tread 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.
[b]But, scarce observ’d, the knowing and the bold
Fall in the gen’ral massacre of gold;
Wide wasting pest! that rages unconfin’d,
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 sculks the hind beneath the rage of power,
And leaves the wealthy traitor in the Tower[c],
Untouch’d his cottage, and his slumbers sound,
Though confiscation’s vultures hover round[d].
The needy traveller, serene and gay,
Walks the wild heath, and sings his toil away.
Does envy seize thee? crush th’ upbraiding joy;
Increase his riches, and his peace destroy;
[e]Now fears, in dire vicissitude, invade,
The rustling brake alarms, and quiv’ring shade;
Nor light nor darkness bring his pain relief,
One shows the plunder, and one hides the thief.
[f] Yet still one gen’ral cry[g] the skies assails,
And gain and grandeur load the tainted gales:
Few know the toiling statesman’s fear or care,
Th’ insidious rival, and the gaping heir.
[h]Once more, Democritus, arise on earth,
With cheerful wisdom and instructive mirth,
See motley life in modern trappings dress’d,
And feed with varied fools th’ eternal jest:
Thou, who could’st laugh where want enchain’d caprice,
Toil crush’d conceit, and man was of a piece;
Where wealth, unlov’d, without a mourner died;
And scarce a sycophant was fed by pride;
Where ne’er was known the form of mock debate,
Or seen a new-made mayor’s unwieldy state;
Where change of fav’rites made no change of laws,
And senates heard, before they judg’d a cause;
How would’st thou shake at Britain’s modish tribe,
Dart the quick taunt, and edge the piercing gibe?
Attentive truth and nature to descry,
And pierce each scene with philosophick eye;
To thee were solemn toys, or empty show,
The robes of pleasure, and the veils of woe:
All aid the farce, and all thy mirth maintain,
Whose joys are causeless, or whose griefs are vain.
Such was the scorn that fill’d the sage’s mind,
Renew’d at ev’ry glance on human kind;
How just that scorn, ere yet thy voice declare,
Search ev’ry state, and canvass ev’ry pray’r.
[i]Unnumber’d suppliants crowd preferment’s gate,
Athirst for wealth, and burning to be great;
Delusive fortune hears th’ incessant call,
They mount, they shine, evaporate, and fall.
On ev’ry stage the foes of peace attend,
Hate dogs their flight, and insult mocks their end.
Love ends with hope, the sinking statesman’s door
Pours in the morning worshipper no more;
For growing names the weekly scribbler lies,
To growing wealth the dedicator flies;
From ev’ry room descends the painted face,
That hung the bright palladium of the place;
And, smok’d in kitchens, or in auctions sold,
To better features yields the frame of gold;
For now no more we trace in ev’ry line
Heroick worth, benevolence divine:
The form, distorted, justifies the fall,
And detestation rids th’ indignant wall.
But will not Britain hear the last appeal,
Sign her foes’ doom, or guard her fav’rites’ zeal?
Through freedom’s sons no more remonstrance rings,
Degrading nobles and controling kings;
Our supple tribes repress their patriot throats,
And ask no questions but the price of votes;
With weekly libels and septennial ale,
Their wish is full to riot and to rail.
In full-blown 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, ceas’d 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 glitt’ring plate,
The regal palace, the luxurious board,
The liv’ried army, and the menial lord.
With age, with cares, with maladies oppress’d,
He seeks the refuge of monastick rest:
Grief aids disease, remember’d folly stings,
And his last sighs reproach the faith of kings.
Speak thou, whose thoughts at humble peace repine,
Shall Wolsey’s wealth, with Wolsey’s end, be thine?
Or liv’st thou now, with safer pride content,
[k]The wisest justice on the banks of Trent?
For, why did Wolsey, near the steeps of fate,
On weak foundations raise th’ enormous weight?
Why but to sink beneath misfortune’s blow,
With louder ruin to the gulfs below?
[l]What gave great Villiers to th’ assassin’s knife,
And fix’d disease on Harley’s closing life?
What murder’d Wentworth, and what exil’d Hyde,
By kings protected, and to kings allied?
What but their wish indulg’d in courts to shine,
And pow’r too great to keep, or to resign?
[m]When first the college rolls receive his name,
The young enthusiast quits his ease for fame;
[n]Through all his veins the fever of renown
Spreads from the strong contagion of the gown;
O’er Bodley’s dome his future labours spread,
And [o]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 her 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,
[p]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 melancholy’s phantoms haunt thy shade;
Yet hope not life, from grief or danger free,
Nor think the doom of man revers’d for thee:
Deign on the passing world to turn thine eyes,
And pause awhile from letters, to be wise;
There mark what ills the scholar’s life assail,
Toil, envy, want, the patron, and the gaol[q].
See nations, slowly wise and meanly just,
To buried merit raise the tardy bust.

If dreams yet flatter, once again attend,
Hear Lydiat’s life, and Galileo’s end[r].
Nor deem, when learning her last prize bestows,
The glitt’ring eminence exempt from woes;
See, when the vulgar scape[s], despis’d or aw’d,
Rebellion’s vengeful talons seize on Laud.
From meaner minds though smaller fines content,
The plunder’d palace, or sequester’d rent;
Mark’d out by dang’rous parts, he meets the shock,
And fatal learning leads him to the block:
Around his tomb let art and genius weep,
But hear his death, ye blockheads, hear and sleep.
[t]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 whirl’d;
For such the steady Romans 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 mortgag’d states, their grandsires’ wreaths regret.
From age to age in everlasting debt;
Wreaths which, at last, the dear-bought right convey
To rust on medals, or on stones decay.
[u]On what foundation stands the warriour’s pride,
How just his hopes, let Swedish Charles decide;
A frame of adamant, a soul of fire,
No dangers fright him, and no labours tire;
[x]O’er love, o’er fear, extends his wide domain,
Unconquer’d lord of pleasure and of pain;
No joys to him pacifick sceptres yield,
War sounds the trump, he rushes to the field;
Behold surrounding kings their pow’rs combine,
And one capitulate, and one resign;
Peace courts his hand, but spreads her charms in vain;
“Think nothing gain’d,” he cries, “till nought remain,
On Moscow’s walls till Gothick standards fly,
And all be mine beneath the polar sky.”
The march begins in military state,
And nations on his eye suspended wait;
Stern famine guards the solitary coast,
And winter barricades the realm of frost;
He comes, nor want nor cold his course delay;–
Hide, blushing glory, hide Pultowa’s day:
The vanquish’d hero leaves his broken bands,
And shows his miseries in distant lands;
Condemn’d a needy supplicant to wait,
While ladies interpose, and slaves debate.
But did not chance, at length, her errour mend?
Did no subverted empire mark his end?
Did rival monarchs give the fatal wound?
Or hostile millions press him to the ground?
His fall was destin’d to a barren strand,
A petty fortress, and a dubious hand;
He left the name, at which the world grew pale,
To point a moral, or adorn a tale.
[y]All times their scenes of pompous woes afford,
From Persia’s tyrant to Bavaria’s lord.
In gay hostility and barb’rous pride,
With half mankind embattl’d at his side,
Great Xerxes comes to seize the certain prey,
And starves exhausted regions in his way;
Attendant flatt’ry counts his myriads o’er,
Till counted myriads sooth his pride no more;
Fresh praise is try’d till madness fires his mind,
The waves he lashes, and enchains the wind,
New pow’rs are claim’d, new pow’rs are still bestow’d,
Till rude resistance lops the spreading god;
The daring Greeks deride the martial show,
And heap their valleys with the gaudy foe;
Th’ insulted sea, with humbler thoughts, he gains;
A single skiff to speed his flight remains;
Th’ incumber’d oar scarce leaves the dreaded coast
Through purple billows and a floating host.
The bold Bavarian, in a luckless hour,
Tries the dread summits of Caesarean pow’r,
With unexpected legions bursts away,
And sees defenceless realms receive his sway;–
Short sway! fair Austria spreads her mournful charms,
The queen, the beauty, sets the world in arms;
From hill to hill the beacon’s rousing blaze
Spreads wide the hope of plunder and of praise;
The fierce Croatian, and the wild Hussar,
[z]With all the sons of ravage, crowd the war;
The baffled prince, in honour’s flatt’ring bloom
Of hasty greatness, finds the fatal doom,
His foes’ derision, and his subjects’ blame,
And steals to death from anguish and from shame.
[aa]Enlarge my life with multitude of days!
In health, in sickness, thus the suppliant prays;
Hides from himself his state, and shuns to know,
That life protracted is protracted woe.
Time hovers o’er, impatient to destroy,
And shuts up all the passages of joy;
In vain their gifts the bounteous seasons pour,
The fruit autumnal, and the vernal flow’r;
With listless eyes the dotard views the store,
He views, and wonders that they please no more;
Now pall the tasteless meats, and joyless wines,
And luxury with sighs her slave resigns.
Approach, ye minstrels, try the soothing strain,
[bb]Diffuse the tuneful lenitives of pain:
No sounds, alas! would touch th’ impervious ear,
Though dancing mountains witness’d Orpheus near;
Nor lute nor lyre his feeble pow’rs attend,
Nor sweeter musick of a virtuous friend;
But everlasting dictates crowd his tongue,
Perversely grave, or positively wrong.
The still returning tale, and ling’ring jest,
Perplex the fawning niece and pamper’d guest,
While growing hopes scarce awe the gath’ring sneer,
And scarce a legacy can bribe to hear;
The watchful guests still hint the last offence;
The daughter’s petulance, the son’s expense,
Improve his heady rage with treach’rous skill,
And mould his passions till they make his will.
Unnumber’d maladies his joints invade,
Lay siege to life, and press the dire blockade;
But unextinguish’d av’rice still remains,
And dreaded losses aggravate his pains;
He turns, with anxious heart and crippled hands,
His bonds of debt, and mortgages of lands;
Or views his coffers with suspicious eyes,
Unlocks his gold, and counts it till he dies.
But grant, the virtues of a temp’rate prime
Bless with an age exempt from scorn or crime;
[cc]An age that melts with unperceiv’d decay,
And glides in modest innocence away;
Whose peaceful day benevolence endears,
Whose night congratulating conscience cheers;
The gen’ral fav’rite as the gen’ral friend;
Such age there is, and who shall wish its end[dd]?
Yet e’en on this her load misfortune flings,
To press the weary minutes’ flagging wings;
New sorrow rises as the day returns,
A sister sickens, or a daughter mourns.
Now kindred merit fills the sable bier,
Now lacerated friendship claims a tear;
Year chases year, decay pursues decay,
Still drops some joy from with’ring life away;
New forms arise, and diff’rent views engage,
Superfluous lags the vet’ran on the stage,
Till pitying nature signs the last release,
And bids afflicted worth retire to peace.
But few there are whom hours like these await,
Who set unclouded in the gulfs of fate.
From Lydia’s monarch should the search descend,
By Solon caution’d to regard his end,
In life’s last scene what prodigies surprise,
Fears of the brave, and follies of the wise!
From Marlb’rough’s eyes the streams of dotage flow,
And Swift expires a driv’ller and a show.
[ee]The teeming mother, anxious for her race,
Begs for each birth the fortune of a face;
Yet Vane could tell what ills from beauty spring;
And Sedley curs’d the form that pleas’d a king.
Ye nymphs of rosy lips and radiant eyes,
Whom pleasure keeps too busy to be wise;
Whom joys with soft varieties invite,
By day the frolick, and the dance by night;
Who frown with vanity, who smile with art,
And ask the latest fashio
n of the heart;
What care, what rules, your heedless charms shall save,
Each nymph your rival, and each youth your slave?
Against your fame with fondness hate combines,
The rival batters, and the lover mines.
With distant voice neglected virtue calls,
Less heard and less, the faint remonstrance falls;
Tir’d with contempt, she quits the slipp’ry reign,
And pride and prudence take her seat in vain.
In crowd at once, where none the pass defend,
The harmless freedom, and the private friend.
The guardians yield, by force superiour ply’d:
To int’rest, prudence; and to flatt’ry, pride.
Here beauty falls, betray’d, despis’d, distress’d,
And hissing infamy proclaims the rest.
[ff]Where then shall hope and fear their objects find?
Must dull suspense corrupt the stagnant mind?
Must helpless man, in ignorance sedate,
Roll darkling down the torrent of his fate?
Must no dislike alarm, no wishes rise,
No cries invoke the mercies of the skies?
Inquirer, cease; petitions yet remain
Which heav’n may hear; nor deem religion vain.
Still raise for good the supplicating voice,
But leave to heav’n the measure and the choice.
Safe in his pow’r, whose eyes discern afar
The secret ambush of a specious pray’r;
Implore his aid, in his decisions rest,
Secure, whate’er he gives, he gives the best.
Yet, when the sense of sacred presence fires,
And strong devotion to the skies aspires[gg],
Pour forth thy fervours for a healthful mind,
Obedient passions, and a will resign’d;
For love, which scarce collective man can fill;
For patience, sov’reign o’er transmuted ill;
For faith, that, panting for a happier seat,
[hh]Counts death kind nature’s signal of retreat:
These goods for man the laws of heav’n ordain;
These goods he grants, who grants the pow’r to gain;
With these celestial wisdom calms the mind,
And makes the happiness she does not find.

FOOTNOTES
[a] Ver. 1–11.

[b] Ver. 12–22.

[c] In the first edition, “the bonny traitor!” an evident allusion to the Scotch lords who suffered for the rebellion in 1745.

[d] Clang around.

[e] New fears.

[f] Ver. 23-37.

[g] Yet still the gen’ral cry.
[
h] Ver. 28-55.

[i] Ver. 56–107.
[Transcriber’s note: There is no Footnote [j]]

[k] The richest landlord.

[l] Ver. 108–113.

[m] Ver. 114–132.

[n]
Resistless burns the fever of renown,
Caught from the strong contagion of the gown.

Mr. Boswell tells us, that when he remarked to Dr. Johnson, that there was an awkward repetition of the word spreads in this passage, he altered it to “Burns from the strong contagion of the gown;” but this expression, it appears, was only resumed from the reading in the first edition.

[o] There is a tradition, that the study of friar Bacon, built on an arch over the bridge, will fall, when a man greater than Bacon shall pass under it. To prevent so shocking an accident, it was pulled down many years since.

[p] And sloth’s bland opiates shed their fumes in vain.

[q] The garret and the gaol.

[r] See Gent. Mag. vol. lxviii. p. 951, 1027.

[s] This was first written, “See, when the vulgar scaped;” but, as the rest of the paragraph was in the present tense, he altered it to scapes; but again recollecting that the word vulgar is never used as a singular substantive, he adopted the reading of the text.

[t] Ver. 133–146.

[u] Ver. 147–167.

[Transcriber’s note: There is no Footnote [v] or Footnote [w]]

[x] O’er love or force.
[y] Ver. 168–187.
[z] And all the sons.
[aa] Ver. 188–288.
[bb] And yield.
[cc] An age that melts in.
[dd] Could wish its end.
[ee] Ver. 289-345.
[ff] Ver. 346-366.
[gg]
Yet, with the sense of sacred presence press’d,
When strong devotion fills thy glowing breast.

[hh] Thinks death.