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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Georgian Verse. 1909.

Epistle to Sir Robert Walpole

Henry Fielding (1707–1754)

WHILE at the helm of state you ride,

Our nation’s envy, and its pride;

While foreign courts with wonder gaze,

And curse those councils which they praise;

Would you not wonder, sir, to view

Your bard a greater man than you?

Which that he is, you cannot doubt,

When you have read the sequel out.

You know, great sir, that ancient fellows,

Philosophers, and such folks, tell us,

No great analogy between

Greatness and happiness is seen.

If then, as it might follow straight,

Wretched to be, is to be great.

Forbid it, Gods, that you should try

What ’tis to be so great as I.

The family that dines the latest,

Is in our street esteem’d the greatest;

But latest hours must surely fall

Before him who ne’er dines at all.

Your taste in architect, you know,

Hath been admir’d by friend and foe:

But can your earthly domes compare

To all my castles—in the air?

We’re often taught it doth behove us

To think those greater who’re above us.

Another instance of my glory,

Who live above you twice two story,

And from my garret can look down

On the whole street of Arlington.

Greatness by poets still is painted

With many followers acquainted;

This too doth in my favour speak,

Your levée is but twice a week;

From mine I can exclude but one day,

My door is quiet on a Sunday.

Nor in the manner of attendance

Doth your great bard claim less ascendance.

Familiar you to admiration,

May be approach’d by all the nation:

While I, like the Mogul in Indo,

Am never seen but at my window.

If with my greatness you’re offended,

The fault is easily amended,

For I’ll come down with wondrous ease,

Into whatever place you please.

I’m not ambitious; little matters

Will serve us great, but humble creatures.

Suppose a secretary o’ this isle,

Just to be doing with a while;

Admired, gen’ral, judge, or bishop;

Or I can foreign treaties dish up.

If the good genius of the nation

Should call me to negotiation;

Tuscan and French are in my head;

Latin I write, and Greek I—read.

If you should ask, what pleases best?

To get the most, and do the least;

What fittest for?—you know, I’m sure,

I’m fittest for a—sinecure.