Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, EPISTLE, by JAMES HAY BEATTIE

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EPISTLE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Travelling, saith horace, somewhere, in a letter
Last Line: Safe in th' inspiring shade of sweet tranquillity.
Subject(s): Travel; Journeys; Trips

"TRAVELLING," saith Horace, somewhere, in a letter,
"May make our climate, not our manners, better."
And bold are they who dare with folly tax him,
For my experience justifies the maxim.
Why else should I, while pleasure fills the time,
Here, as at home, sit scribbling scurvy rhyme;
And, shameless, still on you the sing-song turn,
Bidding you read what justice bids you burn?
But since, in decency's and breeding's spite,
Impell'd by fate or folly, we must write;
What reading, pray Sir, does your palate crave,
Home news or foreign, merry news or grave?
(For till one know what subject is to follow,
One can't with proper grace invoke Apollo;
And till he hear, and answer at the call,
You know, one never tries to write at all.)
From Pindus' height shall then the heavenly muse
Descending, deign to pore on publick news?
Her haunts, her pleasures, her ambition lost,
For Weekly journals, and the Morning Post?
Shall in sad strain her scull-crown'd page relate
The purse demanded, and the robber's fate;
In lay mellifluent the verdict sign,
And with writ, clerk, judge, jury, pack the line?
Or shall she follow Discord's hoarse alarms,
Where the gruff greasy Dutchman growls—to arms;
Paint the brown cutlass swagging at his side,
His hairy cap with orange tatters tied;
How to his waist the flapping surtout reaches;
How wide, how multitudinous his breeches?—
Or should she go where her dear country summons,
And speed impatient to the House of Commons;
Tell where the speaker sits, his mace how big,
How wise his visage, and how vast his wig!
Or, with the vulgar, should she rather choose,
To prate of Sadler's-wells, White-conduit house,
Lions, balloons, apes, tumblers, dancing dogs,
And waxen dolls that speak, and learned hogs;
Of rich old misers, and of wild young heirs?—
Of, or for, these, she little knows, or cares:
Nor tattle for your ladies she allots ye,
Of caps or tartan, B_____l or Piozzi.
Deaf to town chat, she rather loves to trace
The smiles and awful charms of Nature's face;
Wandering with careless footstep, to survey
The flower-bud opening to the beam of day;
To mark, what mellow wealth the orchard yields,
What harvests undulate on golden fields;
Down the dark rock what sparkling torrents pour,
What blue waves heave along the sounding shore;
How the great sun his rising splendour shrouds
Amid the purple light of circling clouds,
Or rides supreme the fiery waste of heaven,
Or slowly sinks down in the bed of even.
What charms like these can modish art convey,
Or a whole city's childish pomp display!
There let rouge, buckles, diamonds, flambeaus glare,
Shoes crush the feet, and burning irons the hair;
And there let Fashion all her craft bestow,
To form her last, best, noblest work—a beau.
But can her bungling skill one scene impart,
To warm the fancy, or to soothe the heart!
Can she the mountain's stormy front assail,
Snatch the long verdure of the closing vale;
Bid in majestic gloom the grove arise,
Or liquid glory stream from pictured skies!
No, no; where Fashion rules, and she alone,
Truth, virtue, elegance, are all unknown.
O then, while health and leisure are your own,
Flee from the smoke and uproar of the town.
Heavens! shall quadrille the precious hour employ,
When Nature, all in smiles, invites to joy!
Still must those eyes the dull succession see
Of long fat dinners, and eternal tea!
Dare to forego Souchong and roasted geese,
Spadil, Pam, Odd trick—for a life of peace.
The willing muse shall lead your steps along,
And glad your progress with triumphal song;
And hail—(as him who, years of exile past,
Beholds his long-wish'd home appear at last)
Hail you, from contest, noise, and folly free,
Safe in th' inspiring shade of sweet tranquillity.

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