His Lordship's Chaplain
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, 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. 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 tow'ring thoughts have flocked to town,
But to their cost soon found themselves undone,
Now to repent, and starve at leisure left,
Of misery's last comfort, hope, bereft?
'These failed for want of good advice,' you cry, 'Because at first they fixed on no employ.' Well then, let's draw the prospect, and the scene To all advantage possibly we can. The world lies now before you, let me hear What course your judgment counsels you to steer; Always considered, that your whole estate, And all your fortune lies beneath your hat. Were you the son of some rich usurer, That starved and damned himself to make his heir, Left nought to do, but to inter the sot, And spend with ease what he with pains had got; 'Twere easy to advise how you might live, Nor would there need instruction then to give. But you, that boast of no inheritance, Save that small stock, which lies within your brains, Learning must be your trade, and therefore weigh With heed, how you your game the best may play; Bethink yourself awhile, and then propose What way of life is fitt'st for you to choose.
If you for orders and a gown design, Consider only this, dear friend of mine, The church is grown so overstocked of late, That if you walk abroad, you'll hardly meet More porters now than parsons in the street. At every corner they are forced to ply For jobs of hawkering divinity; And half the number of the sacred herd Are fain to stroll, and wander unpreferred.
If this, or thoughts of such a weighty charge Make you resolve to keep yourself at large, For want of better opportunity, 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; But who would be to the vile drudg'ry 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, To dung, and cultivate a barren brain, A dancing master shall be better paid, Though he instructs the heels, and you the head. To such indulgence are kind parents grown, That nought costs less in breeding than a son; Nor is it hard to find a father now, Shall more upon a setting-dog allow, And with a freer hand reward the care Of training up his spaniel, than his heir.
Some think themselves exalted to the sky, If they light in some noble family; Diet, an horse, and thirty pounds a year, Besides the advantage of his lordship's ear, The credit of the business, and the state, Are things that in a youngster's sense sound great. Little the inexperienced wretch does know, What slavery he oft must undergo, Who, though in silken scarf and cassock dressed, Wears but a gayer livery at best; When dinner calls, the implement must wait, With holy words to consecrate the meat, But hold it for a favour seldom known, If he be deigned the honour to sit down. Soon as the tarts appear, Sir Crape, withdraw! Those dainties are not for a spiritual maw; Observe your distance, and be sure to stand Hard by the cistern with your cap in hand; There for diversion you may pick your teeth, Till the kind voider comes for your relief. For mere board wages such their freedom sell, Slaves to an hour, and vassals to a bell; And if th' enjoyment of one day be stole,
Busby] Richard Busby (1606—95) severe headmaster of Westminster School Gill] Alexander Gill (1597-1642) friend of Milton and high master of St. Paul's School, sacked for excessive flogging voider] servant carrying round the voider or receptacle for left-over food
They are but prisoners out upon parole;
Always the marks of slavery remain,
And they, though loose, still drag about their chain.
And where's the mighty prospect after all, A chaplainship served up, and seven years' thrall? The menial thing perhaps for a reward, Is to some slender benefice preferred, With this proviso bound, that he must wed My lady's antiquated waiting maid, In dressing only skilled, and marmalade.
Let others, who such meannesses can brook, Strike countenance to every great man's look; Let those that have a mind, turn slaves to eat, And live contented by another's plate; I rate my freedom higher, nor will I For food and raiment truck my liberty. But, if I must to my last shifts be put, To fill a bladder, and twelve yards of gut, Rather with counterfeited wooden leg, And my right arm tied up, I'll choose to beg; I'll rather choose to starve at large, than be The gaudiest vassal to dependency.
'T has ever been the top of my desires, The utmost height to which my wish aspires, That Heav'n 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, 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 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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