Henry James Pye
Madness - Poem by Henry James Pye
Yes, yes, my friend, I quit the fond pretence
To cool reflection, and unbiass'd sense;
Your hands have torn away the thin disguise
Which hid my follies from my partial eyes.
Mad since I am, why should conceited pride,
Deny that weakness which it cannot hide?
Why blush to own the follies of my mind,
When kept in countenance by half mankind?
Who from the paths of Truth and Sense will stray
Where Reason lights, and Virtue guards the way,
After those meteors treacherous beams to rove,
Ambition, Avarice, Vanity, or Love.
Nor while the soul contending passions goad
E'er once regret they left the safer road,
Proud of their shame, and happy in their woe,
Will foil the skill of Battie and Monro.
Mistaken Curio, form'd alone to please
In the calm circle of domestic ease,
Must quit the placid joys of private life
For public honors won in public strife:
No listening Senate's plausive notes attend
The gay companion, and the faithful friend.
He'll shew the world combin'd with Stanhope's wit
The flow of Townshend, and the fire of Pitt.
Now with success he gets the Election o'er
And gives St. Stephen's one pert blockhead more;
Pretends with schemes of Wisdom fraught to rise,
Declaims on libels, pensions, and excise,
And, while loud laughter bursts on every side,
Pours forth his nonsense with a patriot pride,
Till mark'd at length by public ridicule
A brainless Coxcomb, and a babbling fool,
To all mankind poor Curio stands confess'd
The senate's scandal, and the nation's jest.
Mark yon starv'd wretch who views with eager eye
The heaps of useless gold that round him lie!—
That man when Fortune less profusely gave
Enjoy'd her scanty gifts, nor wish'd to save,
What she bestow'd with chearful hand he spent,
Nor wanted millions while he had content;
His pleasures lessen as her smiles increase,
Till wealth immense completely blasts his peace;
Now to himself each comfort he denies
That public care to poverty supplies,
Lets his drear mansion totter o'er his head,
And 'mid profusion dies for want of bread.
Lo Sylvius! once beyond description blest,
Calm were his joys, and peaceful was his breast,
His youth he spent remote from Camps and Courts
In rural labors, and in rural sports,
High forests rose obedient to his hand,
And waving plenty crown'd his fertile land,
With good old Port his social vaults were stor'd,
And frequent sirloins smoak'd upon his board.
But ah! when fifty winters should have shed
A wiser influence o'er his hoary head,
What time Britannia bade her happy plains
Pour forth in arm'd array their native swains,
His heart began with childish zeal to doat
On the bright honors of a scarlet coat;
The homely garb he wore must now give place
To the silk sash, and regimental lace,
The queue adorns his back with pendent pride,
And the broad falchion dangles by his side.
When thus equip'd, a Country Squire no more,
Sylvius must learn to dance, and game, and whore,
In every vice, with every rake he vies,
Scorn'd by the gay, and pitied by the wise,
Plung'd in excess, and deaf to prudence' call,
His lands are mortgag'd, and his forests fall,
Till seiz'd at last by penury and shame,
A jail rewards him for his martial flame.
Oh Hammond! form'd by Nature to dispense
The charms of courtly ease, and manly sense,
Each Grace that bursts spontaneous from the mind
By learning temper'd, and by taste refin'd,
Though many a tedious year has roll'd away
Since Death's stern mandate stopp'd thy plaintive lay,
Though many a tuneful Bard to Britain dear,
Has paid thy shrine the tribute of a tear,
Let not thy shade this votive verse disdain
Though late I sing, and humbly flows my strain.
In vain for thee contending Muses wove
The choicest garlands of the Aonian grove,
In vain thy heart, by ancient lore inspir'd,
With holy Freedom's purest flame was fir'd,
On one disdainful maid for ever hung
The Poet's fancy, and the Patriot's tongue,
And talents form'd a troubled state to guide,
Fell a sad sacrifice to female pride.
Since in such garbs of horror often dress'd
The Fury Passions rend the human breast,
Since now by Vice, and now by Folly led,
To some vain Idol still we bow the head,
O blame not, if my vagrant Fancy chuse
The sweet delirium of the harmless Muse.
Though far below proud Glory's towering height
Humbly she wing her unambitious flight,
Yet oft her friendly voice with placid lay
Has cheer'd the sad, and charm'd the tedious day,
Driven every dark idea from my breast,
And sooth'd my troubled soul to peaceful rest.
Oft has she stopp'd her own discordant lyre
To mark how real Genius wak'd the wire,
When Greece and Rome resistless pour'd along
The fervid energy of glowing song,
Or Albion's Bards the genuine laurel claim,
And more than emulate their masters' fame.
Then as the lines in varied measures flow,
I melt with sorrow, or with transport glow:
Now if the lay some mournful theme rehearse,
I sigh responsive to the plaintive verse,
Now, wak'd to fury by the martial strain,
My active Fancy views the tented plain,
Hears shouting squadrons join with eager force,
Arms clash with arms, and horse encounter horse,
Till fir'd with ardent rage and fierce delight,
She breaks from reason's rein, and joins the ideal fight.
Here some grave Man whose head with prudence fraught
Was ne'er disturb'd by one eccentric thought,
Who without meaning rolls his leaden eyes,
And being stupid, fancies he is wise,
May with sagacious sneers my case deplore,
And urge the use of rest, and Hellebore.
When in my heart contending passions roll,
When rage, or malice, swell my guilty soul,
If e'er I prostitute my venal lays
To pour in Folly's ears the balm of praise,
If ever party zeal should warp my youth
From the strict rules of Justice, and of Truth,
And urge me with intemperance of rage
To stain the boasted candor of my page,
Here let my friend! your keenest censures fall,
And strike with Reason if you strike at all;
To censure's honest scourge my faults I'll trust,
Nor deem you cruel, while I know you just.
But if you too severely deem a crime
The love of numbers, and a thirst for rhime,
(Happy beyond the race of man is he
Who boasts a heart from greater foibles free,)
O let me still the sweet delusion prove,
Still keep the Folly which so much I love,
Nor ever try, with useless Wisdom, kind,
To tear this favorite Error from my mind.
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