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THE OPTIMIST. An Epistle to Robert Augustus Johnson, Esq.
Onnibus esse dedit, si quis cognoverit uti.
Resolved to snatch the present hour
Sacred to Chearfulness and you,
Tho' dull November skies yet lour,
From trivial converse I retire,
From joys on which the crowd attends ;
And seated by a blazing fire,
With distant admiration view,
What borrow'd attitudes express
The rage of modish emptiness.
Lectur'd by those considerate friends,
Whose vows are pour'd at Wisdom's shrine.
More fervently than your's or mine,
From idly tracing up and down
Each folly that besets the town,
Or haunts the cottage, I desist,
And, duely weighing in my thought
Each maxira honest * Pangloss taught,
Commence an errant Optimist.
Let the worn Beau of Anna's reign
Repeat what pleas'd in days of yore,
And act the Lover at fourscore,
All tottering and convuls'd with pain.
In Voltaire's Candido,
Let cards (ordain’d to break the fence
Which kept insipid ugliness
Apart from beauty and from sense)
Intrude on meditation's gloom,
Banish the Matron's sober dress,
And, paradox till now unbeard !
Make hoary age no more rever'd,
Sink unregarded to the tomb.
Of old, as godly writers tell,
When her unwelcome looking-glass
Informed the antiquated Belle
The triumphs of her charms were o'er,
And every lover fled the door,
Conscious how swift life's minutes pass,
She order'd up her gravest pinners,
Exchanged brocade for decent furs,
And mixed with penitential sinners :
But now at Flavia's toilet, grac'd
With such refin'd display of taste
As might become her grand-daughters,
Midst Naples washes and carmine,
Spadille, great potentate, is seen,
With pomp to take his nightly stand;
Each eve, this idol to appease,
She dashes from her palsied hand,
Unread Devotion's fervent strain,
Penn'd by old * Jeremy, Romaine,
Or any greater Saint you please.
Meanwhile at Fortune's spacious table I take whatever seat I find, Accommodating still my mind, To feed as well as I am able, Fond to persuade each grumbling guest, The fare, which from her
This Queen of sightless equity
Chances at any time to turn,
Is undeniably the best.
Haply your candour inay incline
To bid me the faint notes prolong,
Since, scorning meanly to repine,
Tho' the coy nymphs of Pindus' hill
Their much-requested aid deny,
Self-soothed, with accents harsh and shrill,
I breathe an unambitious
Could my invention soar on high
With yours, together would we rove,
And gleaning each neglected sweet,
From that imaginary grove
Where Beauty and where Virtue meet,
With blooming myrtle, Gallia's pride,
Braid laurels from Ilyssus' side,
And strew the wreath at Plato's feet;
Or tread Leucate's haughty brow
Where, moved with energy divine,
In days of more heroic mold,
Hopeless, yet resolutely bold,
The Lover pour'd at Phæbus' shrine
A last irrevocable vow,
Nor fear'd to tempt the raging tide;
Thence, while the big tears down her cheek
Steals copiously, bid Nature speak,
And near the gulph where Sappho died,
O’er the huge cliffs exposed and bare,
Erect the trophies of Despair.
Such were the themes your voice approvd; Nor should fastidious Fancy ask A scope more large, a nobler task, When, by each prejudice unmov'd;
She dares to shatek from public hate, V.
From the high Vulgar's empty scorn,
Actions irregularly great,
Or sentiments that might adorn
Lyceum's archives, ere in dust,
With brutal shouts, an impious band
The towers of fam'd Erectheus laid;
2 And where the Patriot's awful bust
Had dignified the palmy shade,
The Turkish crescent flam’d. To close
My baffled soul's aspiring views,
See Boreas comes with frozen hand,
And while you altar of the Muse
With kindled incense blazes, throws,
To damp it, Winter's sickly dews.
Yet tho' unbraced, my torpid lyre
Denies to breathe one tuneful note,
Tho' in these leafless shades the throat
Of Philomel, with all the quire
Of feather'd harmonists, is mute,
And tempests rage, 'tis you alone,
I ask no other aid, can suit
My spirits to some livelier tone:
Come then, and, to induce you more,
Melissa will with smiles attend
To welcome ber expected friend;
And haply from Italia's shore
Returning, virtù's choicest store
Will- import; or He, whose soul
With letter'd elegance refin'd
Brings Aristippus to our mind,
While the swift hours unheeded fly
Mix with the circulating bowl
His unconstrain'd festivity.
While thus to our obscure recess
The social Pleasures wing their way
In calm tranquillity, I bless
These howling blasts and fleecy snows,
hclement Winter's dread array,
Convinc'd that all is for the best:
Since Friendship's stream unfrozen flows,
Unlike the giddy throngs we find,
Whose wishes float with
Gladly can I those pleasures spare
With which tumultuous cities ring,
And much prefer this chilling air
To all the vaunted flowers of Spring. 1767.
When forc'd from thee, my soul's delight,
What cares distract my throbbing breast!
My anxious day, my anxious night,
Strangers alike to rest :
For though I know thee still sincere,
Yet love is full of doubt and fear.
How vain the joys that tempt the eye,
And music melting on the ear!
Indifferent to each sight am I,
Aud every sound I hear: A body only's lett with me, For still
soul attends on thee. As, when the Sun withdraws his ray,
Clos’d is the snow-drop's lilied cup;
So shuts my heart, when thou’rt away,
And locks thy image up.
How long shall then this night remain,
Till thou unlock my heart again?
R. FENTON, ESQ.