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Etching Moralised
by [?]

But whatever the subject, your exquisite taste
Will ensure a design very charming and chaste,
Like yourself, full of nature and beauty–
Yet besides the good points you already reveal,
You will need a few others–of well-temper’d steel,
And especially form’d for the duty.

For suppose that the tool be imperfectly set,
Over many weak lengths in your line you will fret,
Like a pupil of Walton and Cotton,
Who remains by the brink of the water, agape,
While the jack, trout, or barbel effects its escape
Thro’ the gut or silk line being rotten.

Therefore, let the steel point be set truly and round,
That the finest of strokes may be even and sound,
Flowing glibly where fancy would lead ’em.
But alas! for the needle that fetters the hand,
And forbids even sketches of Liberty’s land
To be drawn with the requisite freedom!

Oh! the botches I’ve seen by a tool of the sort,
Rather hitching than etching, and making, in short,
Such stiff, crabbed, and angular scratches,
That the figures seem’d statues or mummies from tombs,
While the trees were as rigid as bundles of brooms,
And the herbage like bunches of matches!

The stiff clouds as if carefully iron’d and starch’d,
While a cast-iron bridge, meant for wooden, o’er-arch’d
Something more like a road than a river.
Prythee, who in such characteristics could see
Any trace of the beautiful land of the free–
The Free-Mason–Free-Trader–Free-Liver!

But prepared by a hand that is skilful and nice,
The fine point glides along like a skate on the ice,
At the will of the Gentle Designer,
Who impelling the needle just presses so much,
That each line of her labor the copper may touch,
As if done by a penny-a-liner.

And behold! how the fast-growing images gleam!
Like the sparkles of gold in a sunshiny stream,
Till perplex’d by the glittering issue,
You repine for a light of a tenderer kind–
And in choosing a substance for making a blind,
Do not sneeze at the paper call’d tissue.

For, subdued by the sheet so transparent and white,
Your design will appear in a soberer light,
And reveal its defects on inspection,
Just as Glory achieved, or political scheme,
And some more of our dazzling performances seem,
Not so bright on a cooler reflection.

So the juvenile Poet with ecstasy views
His first verses, and dreams that the songs of his Muse
Are as brilliant as Moore’s and as tender–
Till some critical sheet scans the faulty design,
And alas! takes the shine out of every line
That had form’d such a vision of splendor;

Certain objects, however, may come in your sketch,
Which, design’d by a hand unaccustom’d to etch,
With a luckless result may be branded;
Wherefore add this particular rule to your code,
Let all vehicles take the wrong side of the road,
And man, woman, and child, be left-handed.

Yet regard not the awkward appearance with doubt,
But remember how often mere blessings fall out,
That at first seem’d no better than curses;
So, till things take a turn, live in hope, and depend
That whatever is wrong will come right in the end,
And console you for all your reverses.

But of errors why speak, when for beauty and truth
Your free, spirited Etching is worthy, in sooth,
Of that Club (may all honor betide it!)
Which, tho’ dealing in copper, by genius and taste,
Has accomplish’d a service of plate not disgraced
By the work of a Goldsmith beside it.[A]

So your sketch superficially drawn on the plate,
It becomes you to fix in a permanent state,
Which involves a precise operation,
With a keen biting fluid, which eating its way
As in other professions is common they say–
Has attain’d an artistical station.