Tuesday, August 05, 2014


A Dancing Master Shall Be Better Paid

John Oldham (1653-1683), "A Satire Addressed to a Friend That is About to Leave the University, and Come Abroad in the World," lines 1-18:
If you're so out of love with happiness,
To quit a college life and learned ease,
Convince me first, and some good reasons give,
What methods and designs you'll take to live;
For such resolves are needful in the case,        5
Before you tread the world's mysterious maze.
Without the premises, in vain you'll try
To live by systems of philosophy;
Your Aristotle, Cartes, and Le Grand,
And Euclid too, in little stead will stand.        10

How many men of choice and noted parts,
Well fraught with learning, languages, and arts,
Designing high preferment in their mind,
And little doubting good success to find,
With vast and towering thoughts have flocked to town,        15
But to their cost soon found themselves undone,
Now to repent, and starve at leisure left,
Of misery's last comfort, hope, bereft!
Id., lines 48-63:
If this, or thoughts of such a weighty charge,
Make you resolve to keep yourself at large,
For want of better opportunity,        50
A school must your next sanctuary be.
Go, wed some grammar-bridewell, and a wife,
And there beat Greek and Latin for your life;
With birchen sceptre there command at will,
Greater than Busby's self, or Doctor Gill;        55
But who would be to the vile drudgery bound
Where there so small encouragement is found?
Where you, for recompense of all your pains,
Shall hardly reach a common fiddler's gains?
For when you've toiled, and laboured all you can,        60
To dung and cultivate a barren brain,
A dancing master shall be better paid,
Though he instructs the heels, and you the head.
Id., lines 115-128:
'T has ever been the top of my desires,        115
The utmost height to which my wish aspires,
That Heaven would bless me with a small estate,
Where I might find a close obscure retreat;
There, free from noise and all ambitious ends,
Enjoy a few choice books, and fewer friends,        120
Lord of myself, accountable to none,
But to my conscience, and my God alone:
There live unthought of, and unheard of die,
And grudge mankind my very memory.
But since the blessing is, I find, too great        125
For me to wish for, or expect of fate;
Yet, maugre all the spite of destiny,
My thoughts and actions are, and shall be, free.

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