The Poetry Corner

Imitations Of English Poets. Earl Of Rochester: On Silence.

By Alexander Pope

1 Silence! coeval with eternity; Thou wert, ere Nature's self began to be, 'Twas one vast Nothing all, and all slept fast in thee. 2 Thine was the sway, ere heaven was form'd, or earth, Ere fruitful Thought conceived Creation's birth, Or midwife Word gave aid, and spoke the infant forth. 3 Then various elements against thee join'd, In one more various animal combined, And framed the clamorous race of busy humankind. 4 The tongue moved gently first, and speech was low, Till wrangling Science taught it noise and show, And wicked Wit arose, thy most abusive foe. 5 But rebel Wit deserts thee oft in vain; Lost in the maze of words he turns again, And seeks a surer state, and courts thy gentle reign. 6 Afflicted Sense thou kindly dost set free, Oppress'd with argumental tyranny, And routed Reason finds a safe retreat in thee. 7 With thee in private modest Dulness lies, And in thy bosom lurks in Thought's disguise; Thou varnisher of fools, and cheat of all the wise! 8 Yet thy indulgence is by both confess'd; Folly by thee lies sleeping in the breast, And 'tis in thee at last that Wisdom seeks for rest. 9 Silence! the knave's repute, the whore's good name, The only honour of the wishing dame; Thy very want of tongue makes thee a kind of fame. 10 But couldst thou seize some tongues that now are free, How Church and State should be obliged to thee! At Senate, and at Bar, how welcome would'st thou be! 11 Yet Speech even there submissively withdraws From rights of subjects, and the poor man's cause: Then pompous Silence reigns, and stills the noisy laws. 12 Past services of friends, good deeds of foes, What favourites gain, and what the nation owes, Fly the forgetful world, and in thy arms repose. 13 The country wit, religion of the town, The courtier's learning, policy o' the gown, Are best by thee express'd, and shine in thee alone. 14 The parson's cant, the lawyer's sophistry, Lord's quibble, critic's jest, all end in thee, All rest in peace at last, and sleep eternally.