The Dispensary (7th ed)/Canto 1

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THE

DISPENSARY


CANTO I.

SPEAK, Goddess! since 'tis Thou that best canst tell,
How ancient Leagues to modern Discord fell;
And why Physicians were so cautious grown
Of Others Lives, and lavish of their own;
How by a Journey to th' Elysian Plain
Peace triumph'd, and old Time return'd again.

Not far from that most celebrated Place,
Where angry [1]Justice shews her awful Face;
Where little Villains must submit to Fate,
That great Ones may enjoy the World in state;
There stands a [2]Dome, Majestick to the Sight,
And sumptuous Arches bear its oval Height;

A golden Globe plac'd high with artful Skill,
Seems, to the distant Sight, a gilded Pill:
This Pile was, by the Pious Patron's Aim,
Rais'd for a Use as Noble as its Frame:
Nor did the Learn'd Society decline
The Propagation of that great Design;
In all her Mazes, Nature's Face they view'd,
And as she disappear'd, their Search pursu'd.
Wrapt in the Shades of Night the Goddess lyes,
Yet to the Learn'd unveils her dark Disguise,
But shuns the gross Access of vulgar Eyes.

Now she unfolds the faint, and dawning Strife
Of infant Atoms kindling into Life:
How ductile Matter new Meanders takes,
And slender Trains of twisting Fibres makes.
And how the Viscous seeks a closer Tone,
By just degrees to harden into Bone;
While the more Loose flow from the vital Urn,
And in full Tides of Purple Streams return;
How lambent Flames from Life's bright Lamp arise,
And dart in Emanations through the Eyes;
How from each Sluice a gentle Torrent pours,
To slake a feav'rish Heat with ambient Show'rs.
Whence, their Mechanick Pow'rs, the Spirits claim,
How great their Force, how delicate their Frame:
How the same Nerves are fashion'd to sustain
The greatest Pleasure and the greatest Pain.
Why bileous Juice a Golden Light puts on,
And Floods of Chyle in Silver Currents run.
How the dim Speck of Entity began
T'exert its primogenial Heat and stretch to Man.

To how minute an Origin we owe
Young Ammon, Cæsar, and the Great Nassau.
Why paler Looks impetuous Rage proclaim,
And why chill Virgins redden into Flame.
Why Envy oft transforms with wan Disguise,
And why gay Mirth sits smiling in the Eyes.
All Ice why Lucrece, or Sempronia, Fire,
Why S—— rages to survive Desire.
Whence Milo's Vigour at Olympick's shown,
Whence Tropes to F—— or Impudence to S——
How Matter, by the vary'd shape of Pores,
Or Idiots frames, or solemn Senators.

Hence 'tis we wait the wondrous Cause to find,
How Body acts upon impassive Mind.
How Fumes of Wine the thinking part can fire,
Past Hopes revive, and present Joys inspire:
Why our Complexions oft our Soul declare,
And how the Passions in the Features are.
How Touch and Harmony arise between
Corporeal Figure, and a Form unseen,
How quick their Faculties the Limbs fulfil,
And act at ev'ry Summons of the Will.
With mighty Truths, mysterious to descry,
Which in the Womb of distant Causes lye.

But now no grand Enquiries are descry'd,
Mean Faction reigns, where Knowledge shou'd preside,
Feuds are encreas'd, and Learning laid aside.
Thus Synods oft, Concern for Faith conceal;
And for important Nothings show a Zeal:

The drooping Sciences neglected pine,
And Pæan's Beams with fading Lustre shine.
No Readers here with Hectick Looks are found,
Or Eyes in Rheum, thro' midnight-watching drown'd:
The lonely Edifice in Sweats complains
That nothing there but sullen Silence reigns.

This Place so fit for undisturb'd Repose,
The God of Sloth for his Asylum chose.
Upon a Couch of Down in these Abodes,
Supine with folded Arms he thoughtless nods,
Indulging Dreams his Godhead lull to Ease,
With Murmurs of soft Rills, and whisp'ring Trees.
The Poppy and each numbing Plant dispense
Their drowzy Virtue, and dull Indolence.
No Passions interrupt his easie Reign,
No Problems puzzle his Lethargick Brain,
But dark Oblivion guards his peaceful Bed,
And lazy Fogs hang ling'ring o'er his Head.

As at full length the pamper'd Monarch lay
Batt'ning in Ease, and slumb'ring Life away.
A spiteful Noise his downy Chains unties,
Hastes forward, and encreases as it flies.

First, some to cleave the stubborn [3]Flint engage,
Till urg'd by Blows, it sparkles into Rage,
Some temper Lute, some spacious Vessels move;
These Furnaces erect, and Those approve.

Here Phyals in nice Discipline are set,
There Gally-pots are rang'd in Alphabet.
In this place, Magazines of Pills you spy;
In that, like Forage, Herbs in Bundles lye.
While lifted Pestles brandish'd in the Air
Descend in Peals, and Civil Wars declare.
Loud Streaks, with pounding Spice, the Fabrick rend,
And Aromatick Clouds in Spires ascend.

So when the Cyclops o'er their Anvils sweat,
And swelling Sinews ecchoing Blows repeat;
From the Volcano's gross Eruptions rife,
And curling Sheets of Smoke obscure the Skies,

The slumb'ring God amaz'd at this new Din,
Thrice strove to rise, and thrice sunk down agen.
Listless he stretch'd, and gaping rubb'd his Eyes,
Then falter'd thus betwixt half Words and Sighs

How impotent a Deity am I!
With Godhead born, but curs'd, that cannot die!
Thro' my Indulgence, Mortals hourly share
A grateful Negligence, and Ease from Care.
Lull'd in my Arms, how long have I with-held
The Northern Monarchs from the dusty Field.
How have I kept the British Fleet at Ease,
From tempting the rough Dangers of the Seas.
Hibernia owns the Mildness of my Reign,
And my Divinity's ador'd in Spain.
I Swains to Sylvan Solitudes convey,
Where stretch'd on Mossy Beds, they waste away,
In gentle Joys the Night, in Vows the Day.

What Marks of wond'rous Clemency I've shown,
Some Rev'rend Worthies of the Gown can own.
Triumphant Plenty, with a chearful Grace,
Basks in their Eyes, and sparkles in their Face.
How sleek their Looks, how goodly is their Mien,
When big they strut behind a double Chin.
Each Faculty in Blandishments they lull,
Aspiring to be venerably dull.
No learn'd Debates molest their downy Trance,
Or discompose their pompous Ignorance:
But undisturb'd, they loiter Life away,
So wither Green and blossom in Decay.
Deep sunk in Down they by my gentle Care,
Avoid th'Inclemencies of Morning Air.
And leave to tatter'd [4]Crape the Drudgery of Pray'r.

Urim was civil, and not void of Sense,
Had Humour, and a courteous Confidence.
So spruce he moves, so gracefully he cocks;
The hallow'd Rose declares him Orthodox,
He pass'd his easie Hours, instead of Pray'r,
In Madrigals, and Phillising the Fair.
Constant at Feasts, and each Decorum knew;
And soon as the Dessert appear'd, withdrew.
Always obliging and without Offence,
And fancy'd for his gay Impertinence.
But see how ill mistaken Parts succeed;
He threw off my Dominion, and would read;
Engag'd in Controversie, wrangled well;
In Convocation-Language cou'd excel.

In Volumes prov'd the Church without Defence,
By nothing guarded but by Providence:
How Grace and Moderation disagree;
And Violence advances Charity.
Thus writ 'till none would read, becoming soon
A wretched Scribler, of a rare Buffoon.

Mankind my fond propitious Pow'r has try'd,
Too oft to own, too much to be deny'd.
And all I ask are Shades and silent Bow'rs,
To pass in soft Forgetfullness my Hours.
Oft have my Fears some distant Villa chose,
O'er their Quietus where fat Judges dose,
And lull their Cough and Conscience to repose:
Or if some Cloyster's Refuge I implore,
Where holy Drones o'er dying Tapers snore:
The Peals of [5]Nassau Arms these Eyes unclose,
Mine he molests, to give the World Repose.
That Ease I offer with Contempt He flies,
His Couch a Trench, his Canopy the Skies.
Nor Climes nor Seasons his Resolves controul,
Th' Æquator has no Heat, no Ice the Pole.
With Arms resistless o'er the Globe he flies;
And leaves to Jove the Empire o' the Skies.

But as the slothful God to yawn begun,
He shook off the dull Mist, and thus went on.

'Twas in this rev'rend Dome I sought Repose,
These Walls were that Asylum I had chose.

Here have I rul'd long undisturb'd with Broils,
And laugh'd at Heroes, and their glorious Toils.
My Annals are in mouldy Mildews wrought,
With easie Insignificance of Thought.
But now some busie, enterprizing Brain
Invents new Fancies to renew my Pain,
And labours to dissolve my easie Reign.

With that, the God his darling Phantom calls,
And from his falt'ring Lips this Message falls:

Since Mortals will dispute my Pow'r, I'll try
Who has the greatest Empire, they or I.
Find Envy out, some Prince's Court attend,
Most likely there you'll meet the famish'd Fiend.
Or where dull Criticks Author's Fate foretell;
Or where stale Maids or meager Eunuchs dwell.
Tell the Bleak Fury what new Projects reign,
Among the Homicides of Warwick-Lane.
And what th' Event, unless the strait enclines
To blast their Hopes, and baffle their Designs.

More he had spoke, but sudden Vapours rise,
And with their silken Cords tie down his Eyes.

  1. Old Baily.
  2. College of Physicians.
  3. The Building of the Dispensary.
  4. See Boil. Lut.
  5. See Boil. Lut.