Thursday, October 21, 2010


Leave Mouldy Authors to the Reading Fools

John Oldham (1653-1683), from The Eighth Satire of Monsieur Boileau, Imitated:
Answer me only this, what man is there
In this vile thankless age, wherein we are,
Who does by sense and learning value bear?

'Wouldst thou get honour, and a fair estate,
And have the looks and favours of the great?'
Cries an old father to his blooming son;
'Take the right course, be ruled by me, 'tis done.
Leave mouldy authors to the reading fools,
The poring crowds in colleges and schools:
How much is threescore nobles?' Twenty pound.

'Well said, my son, the answer's most profound:
Go, thou knowest all that's requisite to know;
What wealth on thee, what honours haste to flow!
In these high sciences thyself employ,
Instead of Plato, take thy Hodder, boy;
Learn there the art to audit an account,
To what the King's revenue does amount;
How much the Customs and Excise bring in,
And what the managers each year purloin.

Get a case-hardened conscience, Irish proof,
Which nought of pity, sense, or shame can move;
Turn Algerine, Barbarian, Turk, or Jew,
Unjust, inhuman, treacherous, base, untrue;
Ne'er stick at wrong; hang widows' sighs and tears,
The cant of priests to frighten usurers;
Boggle at nothing to increase thy store,
Nor orphans' spoils, nor plunder of the poor;
And scorning paltry rules of honesty,
By surer methods raise thy fortune high.

Then, shoals of poets, pedants, orators,
Doctors, divines, astrologers, and lawyers,
Authors of every sort, and every size,
To thee their works, and labours shall address,
With pompous lines their dedications fill,
And learnedly in Greek and Latin tell
Lies to thy face, that thou hast deep insight,
And art a mighty judge of what they write.

He that is rich, is everything that is,
Without one grain of wisdom he is wise,
And knowing nought, knows all the sciences;
He's witty, gallant, virtuous, generous, stout,
Well-born, well-bred, well-shaped, well-dressed, what not?
Loved by the great, and courted by the fair,
For none that e'er had riches found despair;
Gold to the loathsomest object gives a grace,
And sets it off, and makes even Bovey please;
But tattered poverty they all despise,
Love stands aloof, and from the scarecrow flies.'

Thus a staunch miser to his hopeful brat
Chalks out the way that leads to an estate;
Whose knowledge oft with utmost stretch of brain
No higher than this vast secret can attain,
Five and four's nine, take two, and seven remain.
Robert Dighton, Stock-Jobbers Extraordinary

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