Too oft forgets its own self-reverence,
And looks on prostitution as a duty.
He who once enters in a Tyrant's hall80
As guest is slave—his thoughts become a booty,
And the first day which sees the chain enthral
A captive, sees his half of Manhood gone—
The Soul's emasculation saddens all
His spirit; thus the Bard too near the throne
Quails from his inspiration, bound to please,—
How servile is the task to please alone!
To smooth the verse to suit his Sovereign's ease
And royal leisure, nor too much prolong
Aught save his eulogy, and find, and seize,90
Or force, or forge fit argument of Song!
Thus trammelled, thus condemned to Flattery's trebles,
He toils through all, still trembling to be wrong:
For fear some noble thoughts, like heavenly rebels,
Should rise up in high treason to his brain,
He sings, as the Athenian spoke, with pebbles
In's mouth, lest Truth should stammer through his strain.
But out of the long file of sonneteers
- [Alfieri, in his Autobiography ... (1845, Period III. chap. viii. p. 92) notes and deprecates the servile manner in which Metastasio went on his knees before Maria Theresa in the Imperial gardens of Schoenbrunnen.]
- And prides itself in prostituted duty.—[MS. Alternative reading.]
- A verse from the Greek tragedians, with which Pompey took leave of Cornelia [daughter of Metellus Scipio, and widow of P. Crassus] on entering the boat in which he was slain. [The verse, or verses, are said to be by Sophocles, and are quoted by Plutarch, in his life of Pompey, c. 78, Vitæ, 1814, vii. 159. They run thus—
Ὅστις γὰρ ὡς τύραννον ἐμπορεύεται
Κείνου ἐστὶ δοῦλος, κὰν ἐλεύθερος μόλῃ.
("Seek'st thou a tyrant's door? then farewell, freedom!
Though free as air before.")
Vide Incert. Fab. Fragm., No. 789, Trag. Græc. Fragm., A. Nauck, 1889, p. 316.]
- The verse and sentiment are taken from Homer.
[Ἥμισυ γάρ τ' ἀρετῆς ἀποαίνυται εὐρύοπα Ζεύς
Ἀνέρος, εὔτ' ἄν μιν κατὰ δούλιον ἦμαρ ἕλῃσιν.
Odyssey, xvii. 322, 323.]