To Robt Graham of Fintry Esqr., with a request for an Excise Division------
Ellisland--------Sept. 8th 1788
WHEN Nature her great Masterpiece designed,
And framed her last, best Work, The Human Mind,
Her eye intent on all the mazy Plan,
She forms of useful stuff the various Man.---
The USEFUL MANY first, she calls them forth,
Plain plodding Industry, and sober Worth:
Thence Peasants, Farmers, native sons of earth,
And Merchandise' whole genus take their birth:
Each prudent Cit a warm existence finds,
And all Mechanics' many-aproned kinds.----
Some other, rarer Sorts are wanted yet,
The lead and buoy are needful to the net:----
The caput mortuum of Gross Desires,
Makes a material for mere knights and squires:
The Martial Phosphorus is taught to flow;
She kneads the lumpish Philosophic dough;
Then marks th' unyielding mass with grave Designs,
Law, Physics, Politics and deep Divines:
Last, she sublimes th' Aurora of the Poles,
The flashing elements of Female Souls.------

The ordered System fair before her stood,
Nature, well-pleased, pronounced it very good;
But ere she gave creating labor o'er,
Half-jest, she tried one curious labour more.------
Some spumy, fiery, ignisfatuus matter,
Such as the slightest breath of air might scatter,
With arch-alacrity and conscious glee,
(Nature may have her whim as well as we;
Her Hogarth-art perhaps she meant to show it),
She forms the Thing and christens it------a POET.------
Creature, tho' oft the prey of Care and Sorrow,
When blest today, unmindful of to-morrow;
A being formed t' amuse his graver friends,
Admir'd and prais'd------and there the wages ends;
A mortal quite unfit for Fortune's strife,
Yet oft the sport of all the ills of life;
Prone to enjoy each pleasure riches give,
Yet haply wanting wherewithal to live;
Longing to wipe each tear, to heal each groan,
Yet frequent all-unheeded in his own.------

But honest Nature is not quite a Turk;
She laught at, first, then felt for her poor Work;
Viewing the propless Climber of mankind,
She cast about a Standard-tree to find;
In pity for his helpless woodbine-state,
She slasp’d hid tendrils round THE TRULY GREAT:
A title, and the only one I claim,
To lay strong hold for help on generous GRAHAM.

Pity the tuneful Muses' hapless train,
Weak, timid Landsmen on life's stormy main!
Their hearts no selfish, stern, absorbent stuff,
That never gives------tho' humbly takes enough;
The little Fate allows they share as soon,
Unlike sage, proverbed Wisdom's hard-wrung boon:
The world were blest, did bliss on them depend,
Ah, that the FRIENDLY e'er should want a FRIEND!

Let Prudence number o'er each sturdy son,
Who life and wisdom at one race begun,
Who feel by reason and who give by rule,
(Instinct 's a brute, and Sentiment a fool!)
Who make poor "will do" wait upon "I should"-
We own they're prudent------but who owns they 're good?
Ye Wise Ones, hence! ye hurt the social eye;
God's image rudely etch'd on base alloy!
But come, ye who the godlike pleasure know,
Heaven's attribute distinguished,------to bestow,
Whose arms of love would grasp the human-race;
Come, thou who giv'st with all a courtier's grace,
Friend of my life! (true Patron of my rhymes)
Prop of my dearest hopes for future times.--

Why shrinks my soul, half-blushing, half-afraid,
Backward, abashed, to ask thy friendly aid?
I know my need, I know thy giving hand,
I tax thy friendship at thy kind command:
But, there are such, who court the tuneful Nine,
Heavens, should the branded character be mine!
Whose verse in manhood's pride sublimely flows,
Yet vilest reptiles in their begging prose.
Mark, how their lofty independent spirit
Soars on the spurning wing of injured Merit!
Seek you the proofs in private life to find?---
Pity, the best of words should be but wind!
So to heaven's gates the lark's shrill song ascends,
But grovelling on the earth the carol ends.---
In all the clamorous cry of starving Want,
They dun Benevolence with shameless front:
Oblidge them, patronise their tinsel lays,
They persecute you all your future days.----

E’er my poor soul such deep damnation stain,
My horny fist, assume the Plough again;
The pie-bald jacket, let me patch once more;
On eighteenpence a week I 've lived before.------
Tho', thanks to Heaven! I dare even that last shift,
I trust, meantime, my boon is in thy gift:
That, placed by thee upon the wished-for height,
Where Man and Nature fairer in her sight,
My Muse may imp her wing for some sublimer flight.