The Balance. To Thomas Brand Hollis. - Poem by George Dyer
Ancient and modern story both proclaim,
How poor the poet's trade, though proud the name;
Shew proud advent'rers, hurl'd from regions bright,
Absorb'd and blasted by excess of light.
Did mighty Homer traffic with his lay?
He sometimes earn'd a dinner for his pay.
Thus liv'd the bard; and how the muse has sigh'd,
When she recorded how the poet died!
In Italy each high-born songster gay
Trimm'd the spruce sonnet, and light roundelay.
Tasso was learn'd, and labour'd much and long,
And Ariosto traded with his song;
Yet, ah! their learned toil how ill repaid!
How mean their earnings from the tuneful trade!
Nor couldst thou, Portugal! thy Camoens save
From pinching want, and an untimely grave.
And did not Chatterton, that child of care,
Still plough in hope, and only reap despair?
And Butler, piper to that laughing age,
Starve before kings, and curse his merry page?
And how in secret Pity droop'd the head,
As pining Otway rested with the dead!
What boots the gentleman, who deigns to write,
Your squire of epigram, and rhyming knight,
Such as with am'rous hearts, and lucky vein,
Penn'd the light song in Charles's merry reign?
Of such could I with ease collect a score,
And throw you in some lords, as many more.
But what mere poetry in trade will do,
Let Spenser tell, and learned Milton too.
Lo! in the BALANCE then of common sense
I weigh the claims of poetry and pence:
And thus the matter stands: whoe'er shall choose,
Clover'd in riches, to invoke his muse,
No hazard runs; perhaps he gains some end;
Pleases himself, his mistress, or his friend;
Still unperplex'd about the cares of life,
Unscar'd by duns, uncraz'd with child or wife,
Verse is a play-thing; houses, monies, lands,
All well secur'd in some right trusty hands;
Half through the day, half through the night may sit,
Play his snug game at chess, or game at wit;
Flaunt with the gay, and revel with the great,
Call Boileau dunce, and laugh at POET'S FATE.
Different his lot, a fortune yet unmade,
Who, as apprentic'd, calls his verse a trade,
Thinking, good easy man, to serve his time
To duteous sentiment, and plodding rhyme;
Then flourish, a bold master-bard, and then,
Reck'ning the honest earnings of his pen,
Fondly expects, his learned labour past,
To sit down snug, and live in peace at last;
As some sat city-squire, releas'd from care,
Steals from the counter to his easy chair.
And thus between extremes I take my stand,
And hold the BALANCE with impartial hand:
The scale, in which the weight's prepond'rance lies,
Wants not my humble mite of sympathies.
The scale that mounts aloft, and kicks the beam,
Claims the poor tribute of my soothing theme;
Counsels, that sad experience can dispense,
And all my little stock of common sense.
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