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The birch they declare is the true tree of knowledge,
Rever'd at each school, and remember'd at college;
Tho' Virgil's fam'd tree might produce as its fruit,
A crop of vain dreams, and strange whims from each root;
Yet the birch on each bough, on the top of each switch,
Bears the essence of grammar, the eight parts of speech.
'Mongst the leaves are conceal'd more than mem'ry can
All cases, all genders, all forms of declension;
Nine branches, when cropt by the hands of the nine, And duly arranged in a parallel line;
Ty'd up in nine folds of a mystical string,
Then soak'd for nine days in cold Helicon's spring;
A sceptre compose for a pedagogues hand,
Like the fasces of Rome, a true badge of command.
This sceptre when thus form'd, like Moses's rod,
From flint can draw tears, and give life to a clod;
Shou'd darkness Egyptian, or ignorance spread,
Their clouds o'er the mind, or envelope the head;
This rod, thrice apply'd, puts the darkness to flight,
Disperses the clouds, and restores us to light:
Like the virga divina, 'twill find out the vein,
Where lurks the rich metal, the gold of the brain.
Shou'd genius a captive by sloth be confin'd,
Or the witchcraft of pleasure, prevail o'er the mind;
This magical wand but apply with a stroke,
The spell is dissolv'd, the enchantment is broke.
Like Hermes's rod, these few switches inspire,
Rhetorical thunder, and poetry's fire;
If Morpheus our temples in lethe shou'd steep,
These switches untie all the fetters of sleep.
Here dwells strong conviction, of logic the glory,
When 'tis used with precision, a posteriore ;
If nature be slow, 'tis the birch must assist her,
For science works upwards, when giv'n as a clyster.
I've known a short lecture most strongly prevail,
When duly apply'd to the head thro' the tail:
Like the electrical shock in an instant 'tis spread,
And flies with a jerk from the tail to the head;
Promotes circulation, and thrills thro' each vein,
The faculties quickens, and purges the brain:
By sympathy thus, and consent of the parts,
We're taught fundamentally-classics and arts.
The birch a priore apply'd to the palm,
Will settle disputes, or a passion becalm;
Whatever disorders prevail in the blood,
The birch can correct them, like guaiacum-wood;
It sweetens the juices, corrects our ill humours,
Bad habits removes, and disperses foul tumours.
When apply'd to the hand, it can cure with a switch,
Like the salve of old Molyneux us'd in the itch.
As the fam'd rod of Circe to brutes could change men,
So the twigs of the birch can unbrute them again.
Like the rod of the sybil, that branch of true gold,
These twigs can the gate of elysium unfold;
That elysium of learning, where pleasure's abound,
Those sweets which still flourish on classical ground.
Prometheus's rod, which mythologist's say,
Fetch'd fire from the sun, and gave life to his clay,
Was a birch well apply'd, his new men to inspire
With a taste for the arts, and their genius to fire.
This bundle of rods may suggest this reflection,
That the arts with each other maintain a connexion:
Another good moral this bundle of switches
Points out to our notice, and silently teaches;
For as twigs well united can scarcely be broken,
Of peace, and good neighbourhood, these are a token;
Then if such are its virtues, we'll bow to the tree,
And the BIRCH, like the Mulb'ry, immortal shall be.
By a Schoolboy.
Mr. Sheridan meeting Miss Linley, now Mrs. Sheridan, at the entrance of a grotto, in the vicinity of Bath, took the liberty of offering her some advice; with which apprehending she was displeased, he left the following lines in the grotto next day:
UNCOUTH is this moss-cover'd grotto of stone,
And damp is the shade of this dew dripping tree; Yet I this rude grotto with rapture will own,
And, willow, thy damps are refreshing to me.
For this is the grotto where Delia reclin'd,
As late I in secret her confidence sought;
And this is the tree kept her safe from the wind,
As blushing she heard the grave lesson I taught.
Then tell me, thou grotto of moss-cover'd stone,
And tell me, thou willow, with leaves dripping dew,
Did Delia seem vex'd when Horatio was gone?
And did she confess her resentment to you?
Methinks now each bough, as you're waving it, tries
To whisper a cause for the sorrow I feel;
To hint as she frown'd when I dar'd to advise,
And sigh when she saw that I did it with zeal.
True, true, silly leaves, so she did, I allow;
She frown'd, but no rage in her looks could I see; She frown'd, but reflection had clouded her brow; She sigh'd, but, perhaps, 'twas in pity to me.
Then wave thy leaves brisker, thou willow of woe;
I tell thee no rage in her looks could I see;
I cannot, I will not believe it was so;
She was not, she could not be
For well did she know that my heart meant no wrong,
It sunk at the thought of but giving her pain;
But trusted its task to a faultering tongue,
Which err'd from the feelings it could not explain.
Yet, oh! if indeed I've offended the maid,
And Delia my humble monition refuse; ' Sweet willow, the next time she visits thy shade, Fan gently her bosom, and plead my excuse.
And thou, stony grot, in thy arch may'st preserve
Two lingering drops of the night-fallen dew;
And just let them fall at her feet, and they'll serve
As tears of my sorrow entrusted to you.
Or lest they unheeded should fall at her feet,
Let them fall on her bosom of snow,
and I swear,
The next time I visit thy moss-cover'd seat,
I'll pay each drop with a genuine tear.
So may'st thou, green willow, for ages thus toss
Thy branches so lank o'er the slow winding stream;
And thou, stony grotto, retain all thy moss,
While yet there's a poet to make thee his theme.
Nay more-may my Delia still give you her charms Each ev'ning, and sometimes the whole ev'ning long; Then, grotto, be proud to support her white arms; Then, willow, wave all thy green tops to her song. Festival of Wit.