« PreviousContinue »
And when he doeth battle in a man, he is leagued with traitorous Self-love;
Strange things have I noted, and opposite to common fancy ;
We leave the open surface, and would plumb the secret depths.
For he will magnify a lover even to disparaging his mistress ;
So much wisdom, goodness, grace,—and all to be enslaved ?
Till the Narcissus, self-enamoured, whelmed in floods of flattery,
Is cheated from the constancy and fervency of love by friendship’s' subtle
Moreover, he will glorify a parent, even to the censure of his child,-
O degenerate scion, of a stock so excellent and noble !
Scant will be in well-earned praise of a son before his father;
And rarely commendeth to a mother her daughter's budding beauty :
Yet shall he extol the daughter to her father, and be warm about the son
before his mother; Knowing that self-love entereth not, to resist applause with jealousies. Wisely is he sparing of hyperbole where vehemence of praise would
humble, For many a father liketh ill to be counted second to his son: And shrewdly the flatterer hath reckoned on a self still lurking in the
mother, When his tongue was slow to speak of graces in the daughter. But if he descend a generation, to the grandsire his talk is of the grandson, Because in such high praise he hideth the honours of the son ; And the daughter of a daughter may well exceed, in beauty, love, and
learning, For unconsciously old age perceived—she cannot be my rival. These are of the deep things of flattery: and many a shallow sycophant Hath marvelled ill that praise of children seldom won their parents. This therefore note, unto detection ; flattery can sneer as well as smile; And a master in the craft wotteth well that his oblique thrust is surest.
Flattery sticketh like a burr, holding to the soil with anchors,
A vital, natural, subtle seed, every where hardy and indigenous.
Go to the storehouse of thy memory, and take what is readiest to thy hand,-
The noble deed, the clever phrase, for which thy pride was flattered:
Oh, it hath been dwelt upon in solitude, and comforted thy heart in crowds,
It hath made thee walk as in a dream, and lifted the head above thy fellows;
It hath compensated months of gloom, that minute of sweet sunshine,
Drying up the pools of apathy, and kindling the fire of ambition :
Yea, the flavour of that spice, mingled in the cup of life,
Shall linger even to the dregs, and still be tasted with a welcome;
The dame shall tell her grandchild of her coy and courted youth,
And the graybeard prateth of a stranger, that praised his task at school.
Osttimes to the sluggard and the dull, flattery hath done good service,
Quickening the mind to emulation, and encouraging the heart that failed.
Even so, a stimulating poison, wisely tendered by the leech,
Shall speed the pulse, and rally life, and cheat astonished death.
For, as a timid swimmer ventureth afloat with bladders,
Until self-confidence and growth of skill have made him spurn their aid,
Thus commendation may be prudent, where a child hath ill deserved it ;
But praise anmerited is flattery, and the cure will bring its cares :
For thy son may find thee out, and thou shalt rue the remedy:
Yea rather, where thou canst not praise, be honest in rebuke.
I have seen the objects of a flatterer mirrored clearly on the surface,
Where self-love scattereth praise to gather praise again.
This is a commodity of merchandise, words put out at interest ;
A scheme for canvassing opinions, and tinging them all with partiality.
He is but a harmless fool ; humour him with pitiful good-nature :
If a poetaster quote thy song, be thou tender to his poem :
Did the painter praise thy sketch ? be kind, commend his picture,
He looketh for a like return; then thank him with thy praise.
In these small things, with these small minds, count thou the sycophant
And pay back, as blindly as ye may, the too transparent honour.
Also, where the flattery is delicate, coming unobtrusive and in season,
Though thou be suspicious of its truth, be generous at least to its gentility.
The skilful thief of Lacedæmon had praise before his judges,
As many caitiffs win applause for genius in their calling.
Moreover, his meaning may be kind,—and thou art a debtor to his tongue;
Hasten well to pay the debt, with charity and shrewdness :
He must not think thee caught, nor feel himself discovered,
Nor find thine answering compliment as hollow as his own.
Though he be a smiling enemy, let him heed thee as the fearless and the
A searching look, a poignant word, may prove thou art aware :
Still, with compassion to the frail, though keen to see his soul,
Let him not fear for thy discretion : see thou keep his secret, and thine
However, where the flattery is gross, a falsehood clear and fulsome,
Crush the venomous toad, and spare not for a jewel in his head.
Tell the presumptuous in flattery, that or ever he bespatter thee with praise,
It might be well to stop and ask how little it were worth :
Thou hast not solicited his suffrage,—let him not force thee to refuse it;
Look to it, man, thy fence is foiled,—and thus we spoil the plot.
Self-knowledge goeth armed, girt with many waapons,
But carrieth whip for flattery, to lash it like a slave:
But the dunce in that great science goeth as a greedy tunny,
To gorge both bait and hook, unheeding all but appetite:
He smelleth praise and swalloweth,-yea, though it be palpable and plain;
Say unto him, Folly thou art Wisdom,-he will bless thee for thy lie.
Flatterer, thou shalt rue thy trade, though it hath many present gains ;
Those varnished wares may sell apace, yet shall they spoil thy credit.
Thine is the intoxicating cup, which whoso drinketh it shall nauseate;
Thine is trickery and cheating; but deception never pleased for long.
And though, while fresh, thy fragrance seemed even as the dews of charity,
Yet afterward it fouled thy censer, as with savour of stale smoke.
For the great mind detected thee at once, answering thine emptiness with
He saw thy self-interested zeal, and was not cozened by vain-glory:
And the little mind is bloated with the praise, scorning him who gave it,
A fool shall turn to be thy tyrant, if thou hast dubbed him great :
And the medium mind of common men, loving first thy music,
After, when the harmonies are done, shall feel small comfort in their
echoes; For either he shall know thee false, conscious of contrary deservings, · And, hating thee for falsehood, soon will scorn himself for truth; Or, if in aught to toilsome merit honest praise be due, Though for a season, belike, his weakness hath been raptured at thy
Shall he not speedily perceive, to the vexing of his disappointed spirit,
That thine exaggerative tongue had robbed him of fair fame?
Thou hast paid in forger's coins, and he hath earned true money :
For the substance of just praise thou hast put him off with shadows of the
sycophant. Thou art all things to all men, for ends false and selfish, Therefore shalt be nothing unto any one, when those thine ends are seen.
Turn aside, young scholar, turn from the song of Flattery!
She hath the Siren's musical voice, to ravish and betray.
Her tongue droppeth honey, but it is the honey of Anticyra;
Her face is a mask of facination, but there hideth deformity behind;
Her coming is the presence of a queen, heralded by courtesy, and beauty,
But, going away, her train is held by the hideous dwarf, Disgust.
Know thyself, thy evil as thy good, and flattery shall not harm thee :
Yea, her speech shall be a warning, a humbling, and a guide.
For wherein thou lackest most, there chiefly will the sycophant commend
And then most warmly will congratulate, when a man hath least deserved.
Behold, she is doubly a traitor; and will underrate her victim's best,
That, to the comforting of conscience, she may plead his worse for better.
Therefore is she dangerous,-as every lie is dangerous :
Believe her tales, and perish; if thou act upon such counsel.
Her aims are thine, not thee; thy wealth, and not thy welfare ;
Thy suffrage, not thy safety ; thine aid, and not thine honour.
Moreover, with those aims insured, ceaseth all her glozing;
She hath used thee as a handle,—but her hand was wise to turn it:
Thus will she glorify her skill, that it deftly caught thy kindness,
Thus will she scorn thy kindness, so pliable and easy to her skill.
And then, the flatterer will turn to be thy foe, the bitterest and hottest,
Because he oweth thée much hate to pay off many humblings.
Thinkest thou now that he is high, he loveth the remembrance of his low-
The servile manner, the dependent smile, the conscience self-abased ?
No, this hour is his own, and the flatterer will be found a busy mocker;
He that hath salved thee with his tongue shall now gnash upon thee with
his teeth, Yea, he will be leader in the laugh,—silly one, to listen to thy loss, We scarce had hoped to lime and take another of the fools of flattery.
At the last; have charity, young scholar,-yea, to the sycophant convicted;
Be not a Brutus to thyself, nor stern in thine own cause.
Pardon exaggerated praise ; for there is a natural impulse
Spurring on the nobler mind, to colour facts by feelings :
Take an indulgent view of each man's interest in self,
Be large and liberal in excuses; is not that infirmity thine own?
Search thy soul and be humble ; and mercy abideth with humility;
So that, yea, the insincere, may find the pitiful, and love thee.
Mildly put aside, without rudeness of repulse, the pampering hand of flat-
tery, For courtesy and kindness have gone beneath its guise, and ill shouldst
thou rebuke them.
Thou art incapable of theft: but flowers in the garden of a friend
Are thine to pluck with confidence, and it were unfriendliness to hesitate ;
Thou abhorrest flattery: but a generous excess in praise
Is thine to yield with honest heart, and false were the charity to doubt it;
The difference lieth in thine aim; kindliness and good are of charity,
But selfish, harmful, vile, and bad, is flattery’s evil end.
GENEROUS and righteous is thy grief, slighted child of sensibility ;
For kindliness enkindleth love, but the waters of indifference quench it ;
Thy soul is athrist for sympathy, and hungereth to find affection.
The tender scions of thy heart yearn for the sunshine of good feeling ;
And it is an evil thing and bitter, when the cheerful face of Charity,
Going forth gayly in the morning to woo the world with smiles,
Is met by those wayfaring men with coldness, suspicion, and repulse,
And turneth into hard dead stone at the Gorgon visage of Neglect.
O brother, warm and young, covetous of others' favour,
I see thee checked and chilled, sorrowing for censure or forgetfulness.
Let coarse and common minds despise that wounding of thy vanity,
Alas, I note a sorer cause, the blighting of thy love;
Let the callous sensual deride thee,disappointed of thy praise,