Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. III. Addison to Blake
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. III. The Eighteenth Century: Addison to Blake
 
Extracts from The Spleen
By Matthew Green (1696–1737)
 
  TO cure the mind’s wrong bias, Spleen,
Some recommend the bowling-green;
Some, hilly walks; all, exercise;
Fling but a stone, the giant dies.
Laugh and be well. Monkeys have been        5
Extreme good doctors for the Spleen;
And kitten, if the humour hit,
Has harlequined away the fit.
  Since mirth is good in this behalf,
At some particulars let us laugh.        10
Witlings, brisk fools, cursed with half-sense,
That stimulates their impotence;
Who buzz in rhyme, and, like blind flies,
Err with their wings for want of eyes;
Poor authors worshipping a calf,        15
Deep tragedies that make us laugh,
A strict dissenter saying grace,
A lecturer preaching for a place,
Folks, things prophetic to dispense,
Making the past the future tense,        20
The popish dubbing of a priest,
Fine epitaphs on knaves deceased,
Green-aproned Pythonissa’s rage,
Great Æsculapius on his stage,
A miser starving to be rich,        25
The prior of Newgate’s dying speech,
A jointured widow’s ritual state,
Two Jews disputing tête-à-tête,
New almanacs composed by seers,
Experiments on felons’ ears,        30
Disdainful prudes, who ceaseless ply
The superb muscle of the eye,
A coquette’s April-weather face,
A Queenborough mayor behind his mace,
And fops in military shew,        35
Are sovereign for the case in view.
*        *        *        *        *
In rainy days keep double guard,
Or Spleen will surely be too hard;
Which, like those fish by sailors met,
Fly highest, while their wings are wet.        40
In such dull weather, so unfit
To enterprise a work of wit,
When clouds one yard of azure sky,
That ’s fit for simile, deny,
I dress my face with studious looks,        45
And shorten tedious hours with books.
But if dull fogs invade the head,
That memory minds not what is read,
I sit in window dry as ark,
And on the drowning world remark:        50
Or to some coffee-house I stray
For news, the manna of a day,
And from the hipped discourses gather,
That politics go by the weather:
Then seek good-humoured tavern chums,        55
And play at cards, but for small sums;
Or with the merry fellows quaff,
And laugh aloud with them that laugh;
Or drink a joco-serious cup
With souls who ’ve took their freedom up,        60
And let my mind, beguiled by talk,
In Epicurus’ garden walk,
Who thought it heaven to be serene;
Pain, hell; and purgatory, spleen.
*        *        *        *        *
  Now, if untired, consider, friend,        65
What I avoid to gain my end.
  I never am at Meeting seen,
Meeting, that region of the Spleen;
The broken heart, the busy fiend,
The inward call, on Spleen depend.        70
  Law, licensed breaking of the peace,
To which vacation is disease;
A gypsy diction scarce known well
By th’ magi, who law-fortunes tell,
I shun; nor let it breed within        75
Anxiety, and that the Spleen;
Law, grown a forest, where perplex
The mazes, and the brambles vex;
Where its twelve verderers every day
Are changing still the public way:        80
Yet if we miss our path and err,
We grievous penalties incur;
And wanderers tire, and tear their skin,
And then get out where they went in.
*        *        *        *        *
  I rail not with mock-patriot grace        85
At folks, because they are in place;
Nor, hir’d to praise with stallion pen,
Serve the ear-lechery of men;
But to avoid religious jars
The laws are my expositors,        90
Which in my doubting mind create
Conformity to church and state.
I go, pursuant to my plan,
To Mecca with the Caravan;
And think it right in common sense        95
Both for diversion and defence.
  Reforming schemes are none of mine;
To mend the world ’s a vast design:
Like theirs, who tug in little boat,
To pull to them the ship afloat,        100
While to defeat their labour’d end,
At once both wind and stream contend:
Success herein is seldom seen,
And zeal, when baffled, turns to Spleen.
  Happy the man, who, innocent,        105
Grieves not at ills he can’t prevent;
His skiff does with the current glide,
Not puffing pulled against the tide.
He, paddling by the scuffling crowd,
Sees unconcerned life’s wager rowed,        110
And when he can’t prevent foul play,
Enjoys the folly of the fray.
  By these reflections I repeal
Each hasty promise made in zeal.
When gospel propagators say,        115
We’re bound our great light to display,
And Indian darkness drive away,
Yet none but drunken watchmen send
And scoundrel link-boys for that end;
When they cry up this holy war,        120
Which every christian should be for,
Yet such as owe the law their ears,
We find employ’d as engineers:
This view my forward zeal so shocks,
In vain they hold the money-box.        125
At such a conduct, which intends
By vicious means such virtuous ends,
I laugh off Spleen, and keep my pence
From spoiling Indian innocence.
*        *        *        *        *
  You, friend, like me, the trade of rhyme        130
Avoid, elaborate waste of time,
Nor are content to be undone,
To pass for Phœbus’ crazy son.
Poems, the hop-grounds of the brain,
Afford the most uncertain gain;        135
And lotteries never tempt the wise
With blanks so many to a prize.
I only transient visits pay,
Meeting the Muses in my way,
Scarce known to the fastidious dames,        140
Nor skill’d to call them by their names.
Nor can their passports in these days,
Your profit warrant, or your praise.
On Poems by their dictates writ,
Critics, as sworn appraisers, sit,        145
And mere upholsterers in a trice
On gems and painting set a price.
These tailoring artists for our lays
Invent cramped rules, and with strait stays
Striving free Nature’s shape to hit,        150
Emaciate sense, before they fit.
*        *        *        *        *
  Forced by soft violence of prayer,
The blithesome goddess soothes my care,
I feel the deity inspire,
And thus she models my desire.        155
Two hundred pounds half-yearly paid,
Annuity securely made,
A farm some twenty miles from town,
Small, tight, salubrious, and my own;
Two maids, that never saw the town,        160
A serving-man not quite a clown,
A boy to help to tread the mow,
And drive, while t’ other holds the plough;
A chief, of temper formed to please,
Fit to converse, and keep the keys;        165
And better to preserve the peace,
Commission’d by the name of niece;
With understandings of a size
To think their master very wise.
May heav’n (it ’s all I wish for) send        170
One genial room to treat a friend,
Where decent cup-board, little plate,
Display benevolence, not state.
And may my humble dwelling stand
Upon some chosen spot of land:        175
A pond before full to the brim,
Where cows may cool, and geese may swim;
Behind, a green like velvet neat,
Soft to the eye, and to the feet;
Where odorous plants in evening fair        180
Breathe all around ambrosial air;
From Eurus, foe to kitchen ground,
Fenced by a slope with bushes crowned,
Fit dwelling for the feathered throng,
Who pay their quit-rents with a song;        185
With opening views of hill and dale,
Which sense and fancy too regale,
Where the half-cirque, which vision bounds,
Like amphitheatre surrounds:
And woods impervious to the breeze,        190
Thick phalanx of embodied trees,
From hills through plains in dusk array
Extended far, repel the day.
*        *        *        *        *
  Thus sheltered, free from care and strife,
May I enjoy a calm through life;        195
See faction, safe in low degree,
As men at land see storms at sea,
And laugh at miserable elves,
Not kind, so much as to themselves,
Cursed with such souls of base alloy,        200
As can possess, but not enjoy;
Debarred the pleasure to impart
By avarice, sphincter of the heart;
Who wealth, hard earned by guilty cares,
Bequeath untouched to thankless heirs.        205
May I, with look ungloomed by guile,
And wearing Virtue’s livery-smile,
Prone the distressed to relieve,
And little trespasses forgive,
With income not in Fortune’s pow’r,        210
And skill to make a busy hour,
With trips to town life to amuse,
To purchase books, and hear the news,
To see old friends, brush off the clown,
And quicken taste at coming down,        215
Unhurt by sickness’ blasting rage,
And slowly mellowing in age,
When Fate extends its gathering gripe,
Fall off like fruit grown fully ripe,
Quit a worn being without pain,        220
Perhaps to blossom soon again.
*        *        *        *        *
  Thus, thus I steer my bark, and sail
On even keel with gentle gale;
At helm I make my reason sit,
My crew of passions all submit.        225
If dark and blustering prove some nights,
Philosophy puts forth her lights;
Experience holds the cautious glass,
To shun the breakers, as I pass,
And frequent throws the wary lead,        230
To see what dangers may be hid:
And once in seven years I ’m seen
At Bath or Tunbridge, to careen.
Though pleased to see the dolphins play,
I mind my compass and my way.        235
With store sufficient for relief,
And wisely still prepared to reef,
Nor wanting the dispersive bowl
Of cloudy weather in the soul,
I make (may heav’n propitious send        240
Such wind and weather to the end)
Neither becalmed, nor over-blown,
Life’s voyage to the world unknown.
 
 
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