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These raise the plot, to have the scandal thrown
Upon the bright successor of the crown,
Whose virtue with such wrongs they had pursu❜d,
As seem'd all hope of pardon to exclude.
Thus, while on private ends their zeal is built,
The cheated crowd applaud and share their guilt.
Such practices as these, too gross to lie
Long unobserv'd by each discerning eye,
The more judicious Israelites unspell'd;
Though still the charm the giddy rabble held:
E'en Absalom, amidst the dazzling beams
Of empire and ambition's flattering dreams,
Perceives the plot, too foul to be excus'd,
To aid designs no less pernicious us'd;
And filial sense yet striving in his breast,
Thus to Achitophel his doubts exprest:
"Why are my thoughts upon a crown employ'd, Which once obtain'd, can be but half enjoy'd? Not so when virtue did my arms require, And to my father's wars I flew entire. My regal power how will my foes resent, When I myself have scarce my own consent? Give me a son's unblemish'd truth again, Or quench the sparks of duty that remain. How slight to force a throne that legions guard! The task to me to prove unjust, how hard! And if the' imagin'd guilt thus wound my thought, What will it, when the tragic scene is wrought? Dire War must first be conjur'd from below, The realm we'd rule we first must overthrow; And when the civil Furies are on wing, That blind and undistinguish'd slaughters fling, Who knows what impious chance may reach the
Oh! rather let me perish in the strife,
Than have my crown the price of David's life!
Or if the tempest of the war he stand,
In peace some vile officious villain's hand
His soul's anointed temple may invade,
Or, press'd by clamorous crowds, myself be made
His murderer; rebellious crowds, whose guilt
Shall dread his vengeance till his blood be spilt;
Which if my filial tenderness oppose,
Since to the empire by their arms I rose,
Those very arms on me shall be employ'd,
A new usurper crown'd, and I destroy'd:
The same pretence of public good will hold,
And new Achitophels he found as bold
To urge the needful change, perhaps the old."
He said. The statesman, with a smile, replies, A smile that did his rising spleen disguise; "My thoughts presum'd our labours at an end, And are we still with conscience to contend! Whose want in kings as needful is allow'd, As 'tis for them to find it in the crowd. Far in the doubtful passage you are gone, And only can be safe, by pressing on. The Crown's true heir, a prince severe and wise, Has view'd your motions long with jealous eyes, Your person's charms, your more prevailing arts, And mark'd your progress in the people's hearts, Whose patience is the' effect of stinted pow'r, But treasures vengeance for the fatal hour; And if remote the peril he can bring, Your present danger's greater from the King.* Let not a parent's name deceive your sense, Nor trust the father in a jealous prince!
Your trivial faults if he could so resent,
To doom you little less than banishment,
What rage must your presumption since inspire,
Against his orders your return from Tyre?
Nor only so, but with a pomp more high,
And open court of popularity,
The factious tribes"-" And this reproof from.
(The prince replies) O statesman's winding skill,
They first condemn that first advis'd the ill!"
"Illustrious youth, (return'd Achitophel)
Misconstrue not the words that mean you well.
The course you steer, I worthy blame conclude;
But 'tis because you leave it unpursued.
A monarch's crown with fate surrounded lies,
Who reach, lay hold on death, that miss the prize.
Did you for this expose yourself to show,
And to the crowd bow popularly low?
For this your glorious progress next ordain,
With chariots, horsemen, and a numerous train,
With Fame before you, like the morning-star,
And shouts of joy saluting from afar?
Oh, from the heights you've reach'd but take a view,
Scarce leading Lucifer could fall like you!
And must I here my shipwreck'd arts bemoan?
Have I for this so oft made Israel groan?
Your single int'rest with the nation weigh'd,
And turn'd the scale where your desires were laid!
E'en when at helm a course so dangerous mov'd,
To land your hopes, as my removal prov'd."
"I not dispute (the royal youth replies)
The known perfection of your policies;
Nor in Achitophel yet grudge or blame
The privilege that statesmen ever claim,
Who private interest never yet pursued,
But still pretended 'twas for other's good:
What politician yet e'er scap'd his fate,
Who, saving his own neck, not sav'd the state?
From hence on every humorous wind that veer'd,
With shifted sails a several course you steer❜d.
What form of sway did David e'er pursue,
That seem'd like absolute, but sprung from you?
Who, at your instance, quash'd each penal law,
That kept dissenting factious Jews in awe;
And who suspends fix'd laws, may abrogate;
That done, form new, and so enslave the state.
E'en property, whose champion now you stand,
And seem for this the idol of the land,
Did ne'er sustain such violence before,
As when your counsel shut the royal store;
Advice, that ruin to whole tribes procur'd,
But secret kept, till your own banks secur'd.
Recount, with this, the triple covenant broke,
And Israel fitted for a foreign yoke;
Nor here your counsels' fatal progress staid,
But sent our levied powers to Pharoah's aid.
Hence Tyre and Israel low in ruins laid,
And Egypt, once their scorn, their common terror
E'en yet of, such a season can we dream, [made.
When royal rights you made your darling theme;
For power unlimited could reasons draw,
And place prerogative above the law;
Which on your fall from office grew unjust,
The laws made king, the king a slave in trust;
Whom with state-craft, to interest only true,
You now accuse of ills contriv'd by you."
To this Hell's agent-" Royal Youth, fix here, Let interest be the star by which you steer.
Hence to repose your trust in me was wise,
Whose interest most in your advancement lies;
A tie so firm as always will avail,
When friendship, nature, and religion fail.
On our's the safety of the crowd depends;
Secure the crowd, and we obtain our ends,
Whom I will cause so far our guilt to share,
Till they are made our champions by their fear.
What opposition can your rival bring,
While Sanhedrims are jealous of the king?
His strength as yet in David's friendship lies,
And what can David's self-without supplies?
Who with exclusive bills must now dispense,
Debar the heir, or starve in his defence:
Conditions which our elders ne'er will quit,
And David's justice never can admit.
Or forc'd by wants his brother to betray,
To your ambition next he clears the way;
For if succession once to nought they bring,
Their next advance removes the present king;
Persisting else his senates to dissolve,
In equal hazard shall his reign involve.
Our Tribes, whom Pharaoh's power so much alarms,
Shall rise, without their prince, to' oppose his arms;
Nor boots it on what cause at first they join,
Their troops, once up, are tools for our design:
At least such subtle covenants shall be made,
Till peace itself is war in masquerade :
Associations of mysterious sense,
Against, but seeming for, the King's defence;
E'en on their courts of justice fetters draw,
And from our agents muzzle up their law;
By which a conquest if we fail to make, [stake."
"Tis a drawn game at worst, and we secure our