The Progress of Discontent by T. Warton (Written at Oxford in 1746)
When, now mature in classic knowledge, The joyfull youth is sent to college, His father comes, a vicar plain, At Oxford bred - in Anna's reign, And thus, in form of humble suitor, Bowing accosts a reverend tutor: "Sir, I'm a Glo'stershire divine, And this my eldest son of nine; My wife's ambition and my own Was that this child should wear a gown; I'll warrant that his good behaviour Will justify your future favour; And for his parts, to tell the truth, My son's a very forward youth; Has Horace all by heart - you'd wonder - And mouths out Homer's Greek like thunder. If you'd examine - and admit him: A scholarship would nicely fit him: That he succeeds 'tis ten to one; Your vote and interest, sir!" - 'Tis done.
Our pupil's hopes, though twice defeated Are with a scholarship completed; A scolarship but half maintains, And college rules are heavy chains: In garret dark he smokes and puns, A prey to discipline and duns; And now intent on new designs, Sighs for a fellowship - and fines.
When nine full tedious winters pass'd, That utmost wish is crowned at last: But the rich prize no sooner got, Again he quarrels with his lot; "These fellowships are pretty things, We live indeed like petty kings; But who can bear to waste his whole age Amid the dulness of a college, Debarr'd the common joys of life, And that prime bliss - a loving wife! Oh! what's a table richly spread Without a woman at its head? Would some snug benefice but fall, Ye feasts, ye dinners! farewell all! To offices I'd bid adieu, Of Dean, Vice-Pres. - of Bursar too; Come joys, that rural quiet yields, Come tithes, and house, and fruitful fields!"
Too fond of freedom and of ease, A patron's vanity to please, Long time he watches, and by stealth, Each frail incumbent's doubtful health; At length - and in his fortieth year, A living drops - two hundred clear: With breast elate beyond expression, He hurries down to take possession, With rapture views the sweet retreat - What a convenient house! how neat! For fuel here's sufficient wood: Pray God the cellars may be good! The garden - that must be new plann'd - Shall these old-fashioned yew-trees stand? O'er yonder vacant plot shall rise The flowery shrub of thousand dyes:- Yon wall that feels the southern ray, Shall blush with ruddy fruitage gay: While thick beneath its aspect warm O'er well-ranged hives the bees shall swarm, From which, ere long, of golden gleam, Metheglin's luscious juice shall stream. Up yon green slope, of hazels trim, An avenue so cool and dim, Shall to an arbour, at the end, In spite of gout, entice a friend. My prdecessor loved devotion - But of a garden had no notion.
Continuing this fantastic farce on, He now commences country parson. To make his charater entire, He weds - a cousin of the 'squire; Not over weighty in the purse, But many doctors have done worse: And though she boasts no charms divine, Yet she can carve and make birch wine.
Thus fixt, content he taps his barrel, Exhorts his neighbours not to quarrel; Finds his churchwardens have discerning Both in liquor and good learning. With tithes his barns replete he sees, And chuckles o'er his surplice fees; Studies to find out latent dues, And regulates the state of pews; Rides a sleek mare with purple housing, To share the monthly club's carousing; Of Oxford pranks facetious tells, And - but on Sunday - hears no bells; Sends presents of his choicest fruit, And prunes himself each sapless shoot; Plants cauliflowers, and boasts to rear The earliest melons of the year; Thinks alteration charming work is, Keeps Bantam cocks, and feeds his turkeys; Builds in his copse a fav'rite bench, And stores the pond with carp and tench.
But ah! too soon his thoughtless breast By cares domestic is opprest; And a third butcher's bill, and brewing, Threaten inevitable ruin: For children fresh expenses yet, And Dicky now for school is fit. "Why did I sell my college life (He cries) for benefice and wife? Return ye days! when endless pleasure I found in reading, or in leisure; When calm around the common room I puff'd my daily pipe's perfume! Rode for a stomach, and inspected At annual bottlings, corks selected; And dined untax'd, untroubled, under The portrait of our pious founder! When impositions were supplied To light my pipe - or soothe my pride. No cares were then for forward peas A yearly-longing wife to please; My thoughts no christening-dinners cross'd No children cried for butter'd toast, And every night I went to bed Without a modus in my head!"
Oh! trifling head and fickle heart, Chagrin'd at whatsoe'er thou art, A dupe to follies yet untried, And sick of pleasures, scarce enjoy'd! Each prize possess'd, thy transport ceases. And in pursuit alone it pleases.