Charles Churchill

(February, 1731 - 4 November 1764 / Westminster)

The Journey - Poem by Charles Churchill

Some of my friends (for friends I must suppose
All, who, not daring to appear my foes,
Feign great good-will, and not more full of spite
Than full of craft, under false colours fight)
Some of my friends (so lavishly I print)
As more in sorrow than in anger, hint
(Tho' that indeed will scarce admit a doubt)
That I shall run my stock of genius out,
My no great stock, and, publishing so fast,
Must needs become a bankrupt at the last.
Recover'd from the vanity of youth,
I feel, alas! this melancholy truth,
Thanks to each cordial, each advising friend,
And am, if not too late, resolv'd to mend,
Resolv'd to give some respite to my pen,
Apply myself once more to books and men,
View what is present, what is past review,
And my old stock exhausted, lay in new.
For twice six moons (let winds, turn'd porters, bear
This oath to Heav'n), for twice six moons, I swear,
No Muse shall tempt me with her siren lay,
Nor draw me from Improvement's thorny way;
Verse I abjure, nor will forgive that friend,
Who in my hearing shall a rhyme commend.
It cannot be--Whether I will, or no,
Such as they are, my thoughts in measure flow.
Convinc'd, determin'd, I in prose begin,
But ere I write one sentence, verse creeps in,
And taints me thro' and thro': by this good light,
In verse I talk by day, I dream by night;
If now and then I curse, my curses chime,
Nor can I pray, unless I pray in rhyme,
E'en now I err, in spite of common-sense,
And my confession doubles my offence.
Here is no lie, no gall, no art, no force;
Mean are the words, and such as come of course,
The subject not less simple than the lay;
A plain, unlabour'd Journey of a day.
Far from me now be ev'ry tuneful Maid,
I neither ask, nor can receive their aid.
Pegasus turn'd into a common hack,
Alone I jog, and keep the beaten track,
Nor would I have the Sisters of the Hill
Behold their bard in such a dishabille.
Absent, but only absent for a time,
Let them caress some dearer son of rhyme;
Let them, as far as decency permits,
Without suspicion, play the fool with wits,
'Gainst fools be guarded; 'tis a certain rule,
Wits are false things, there's danger in a fool.
Let them, tho' modest, Gray more modest woo;
Let them with Mason bleat, and bray, and coo;
Let them with Franklin, proud of some small Greek,
Make Sophocles disguis'd, in English speak;
Let them with Glover o'er Medea doze;
Let them with Dodsley wail Cleone's woes,
Whilst he, fine feeling creature, all in tears,
Melts, as they melt, and weeps with weeping peers;
Let them with simple Whitehead, taught to creep
Silent and soft, lay Fontenelle asleep;
Let them with Browne contrive, to vulgar trick,
To cure the dead, and make the living sick;
Let them in charity to Murphy give
Some old French piece, that he may steal and live;
Let them with antic Foote subscriptions get,
And advertise a Summer-house of Wit.
Thus, or in any better way they please,
With these great men, or with great men like these,
Let them their appetite for laughter feed;
I on my Journey all alone proceed.
If fashionable grown, and fond of pow'r,
With hum'rous Scots let them disport their hour:
Let them dance, fairy-like, round Ossian's tomb;
Let them forge lies, and histories for Hume;
Let them with Home, the very prince of verse,
Make something like a Tragedy in Erse;
Under dark Allegory's flimsy veil
Let them with Ogilvie spin out a tale
Of rueful length; Let them plain things obscure,
Debase what's truly rich, and what is poor
Make poorer still by jargon most uncouth;
With ev'ry pert, prim prettiness of youth
Born of false Taste, with Fancy (like a child
Not knowing what it cries for) running wild,
With bloated style, by affectation taught,
With much false colouring, and little thought,
With phrases strange, and dialect decreed
By reason never to have pass'd the Tweed,
With words which Nature meant each other's foe,
Forc'd to compound whether they will or no;
With such materials let them, if they will,
To prove at once their pleasantry and skill,
Build up a bard to war 'gainst Common-Sense,
By way of compliment to Providence;
Let them with Armstrong, taking leave of Sense,
Read musty lectures on Benevolence,
Or con the pages of his gaping Day,
Where all his former fame was thrown away,
Where all but barren labour was forgot,
And the vain stiffness of a letter'd Scot;
Let them with Armstrong pass the term of light,
But not one hour of darkness; when the night
Suspends this mortal coil, when Memory wakes,
When for our past misdoings Conscience takes
A deep revenge, when by Reflection led,
She draws his curtain, and looks Comfort dead,
Let ev'ry Muse be gone; in vain he turns
And tries to pray for sleep; an Etna burns,
A more than Etna in his coward breast,
And Guilt, with vengeance arm'd, forbids him rest:
Tho' soft as plumage from young zephyr's wing,
His couch seems hard, and no relief can bring.
Ingratitude hath planted daggers there,
No good man can deserve, no brave man bear.
Thus, or in any better way they please,
With these great men, or with great men like these,
Let them their appetite for laughter feed
I on my Journey all alone proceed.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, April 19, 2010

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