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
 
Thales’ Reasons for Leaving London (from London)
By Samuel Johnson (1709–1784)
 
  A TRANSIENT calm the happy scenes bestow
And for a moment lull the sense of woe.
At length awaking, with contemptuous frown
Indignant Thales eyes the neighb’ring town.
  Since worth, he cries, in these degenerate days        5
Wants even the cheap reward of empty praise;
In those cursed walls, devote to vice and gain,
Since unrewarded science toils in vain;
Since hope but soothes to double my distress,
And every moment leaves my little less;        10
While yet my steady steps no staff sustains,
And life still vigorous revels in my veins;
Grant me, kind Heaven, to find some happier place,
Where honesty and sense are no disgrace;
Some pleasing bank where verdant osiers play,        15
Some peaceful vale with Nature’s paintings gay;
Where once the harass’d Briton found repose,
And safe in poverty defied his foes;
Some secret cell, ye powers indulgent give,
Let —— live here, for ——— has learned to live.        20
Here let those reign, whom pensions can incite
To vote a patriot black, a courtier white;
Explain their country’s dear-bought rights away
And plead for pirates in the face of day;
With slavish tenets taint our poisoned youth        25
And lend a lie the confidence of truth.
*        *        *        *        *
  Ah! what avails it that, from slavery far,
I drew the breath of life in English air,
Was early taught a Briton’s right to prize,
And lisp the tale of Henry’s victories;        30
If the gulled conqueror receives the chain,
And flattery prevails when arms are vain?
*        *        *        *        *
  By numbers here from shame or censure free,
All crimes are safe but hated poverty.
This, only this, the rigid law pursues,        35
This, only this, provokes the snarling Muse.
The sober trader at a tatter’d cloak
Wakes from his dream and labours for a joke;
With brisker air the silken courtiers gaze
And turn the varied taunt a thousand ways.        40
  Of all the griefs that harass the distressed,
Sure the most bitter is a scornful jest;
Fate never wounds more deep the generous heart,
Than when a blockhead’s insult points the dart.
  Has Heaven reserv’d in pity to the poor,        45
No pathless waste or undiscovered shore?
No secret island in the boundless main?
No peaceful desert yet unclaimed by Spain?
Quick let us rise, the happy seats explore
And bear oppression’s insolence no more.        50
This mournful truth is everywhere confessed,
Slow rises worth by poverty depressed;
But here more slow where all are slaves to gold,
Where looks are merchandise and smiles are sold,
Where, won by bribes, by flatteries implored,        55
The groom retails the favours of his lord.
 
 
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