Go forth my book into the open day;
Happy, if made so by its garish eye.
O'er earth's wide surface take thy vagrant way,
To imitate thy master's genius try.
The Graces three, the Muses nine salute,
Should those who love them try to con thy lore.
The country, city seek, grand thrones to boot,
With gentle courtesy humbly bow before.
Should nobles gallant, soldiers frank and brave
Seek thy acquaintance, hail their first advance:
From twitch of care thy pleasant vein may save,
May laughter cause or wisdom give perchance.
Some surly Cato, Senator austere,
Haply may wish to peep into thy book:
Seem very nothing — tremble and revere:
No forceful eagles, butterflies e'er look.
They love not thee: of them then little seek,
And wish for readers triflers like thyself.
Of ludeful matron watchful catch the beck,
Or gorgeous countess full of pride and pelf.
They may say “pish!” and frown, and yet read on:
Cry odd, and silly, coarse, and yet amusing.
Should dainty damsels seek thy page to con,
Spread thy best stores: to them be ne'er refusing:
Say, fair one, master loves thee dear as life;
Would he were here to gaze on thy sweet look.
Should known or unknown student, freed from strife
Of logic and the schools, explore my book:
Cry mercy critic, and thy book withhold:
Be some few errors pardon'd though observ'd:
An humble author to implore makes bold.
Thy kind indulgence, even undeserv'd,
Should melancholy wight or pensive lover,
Courtier, snug cit, or carpet knight so trim
Our blossoms cull, he'll find himself in clover,
Gain sense from precept, laughter from our whim.
Should learned leech with solemn air unfold
Thy leaves, beware, be civil, and be wise:
Thy volume many precepts sage may hold,
His well fraught head may find no trifling prize.
Should crafty lawyer trespass on our ground,
Caitiffs avaunt! disturbing tribe away!
Unless (white crow) an honest one be found;
He'll better, wiser go for what we say.
Should some ripe scholar, gentle and benign,
With candour, care, and judgment thee peruse:
Thy faults to kind oblivion he'll consign;
Nor to thy merit will his praise refuse.
Thou may'st be searched for polish'd words and verse
By flippant spouter, emptiest of praters:
Tell him to seek them in some mawkish verse:
My periods all are rough as nutmeg graters.
The doggerel poet, wishing thee to read,
Reject not; let him glean thy jests and stories.
His brother I, of lowly sembling breed:
Apollo grants to few Parnassian glories.
Menac'd by critic with sour furrowed brow,
Momus or Troilus or Scotch reviewer:
Ruffle your heckle, grin and growl and vow:
Ill-natured foes you thus will find the fewer,
When foul-mouth'd senseless railers cry thee down,
Reply not: fly, and show the rogues thy stern;
They are not worthy even of a frown:
Good taste or breeding they can never learn;
Or let them clamour, turn a callous ear,
As though in dread of some harsh donkey's bray.
If chid by censor, friendly though severe,
To such explain and turn thee not away.
Thy vein, says he perchance, is all too free;
Thy smutty language suits not learned pen:
Reply, Good Sir, throughout, the context see;
Thought chastens thought; so prithee judge again.
Besides, although my master's pen may wander
Through devious paths, by which it ought not stray,
His life is pure, beyond the breath of slander:
So pardon grant; 'tis merely but his way.
Some rugged ruffian makes a hideous rout —
Brandish thy cudgel, threaten him to baste;
The filthy fungus far from thee cast out;
Such noxious banquets never suit my taste.
Yet, calm and cautious moderate thy ire,
Be ever courteous should the case allow —
Sweet malt is ever made by gentle fire:
Warm to thy friends, give all a civil bow.
Even censure sometimes teaches to improve,
Slight frosts have often cured too rank a crop,
So, candid blame my spleen shall never move,
For skilful gard'ners wayward branches lop.
Go then, my book, and bear my words in mind;
Guides safe at once, and pleasant them you'll find.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:06