On Wit

Seducing wit, thou soul-enlivening ray,
Deceptive fire, that shines but to betray;
Meteor, whose blaze infatuates the sight
With brilliant but unprofitable light.
Thou rare, but fatal gift! invidious art,
The subtle poison that corrupts the heart;
Perfidious inmate even to the breast,
Where thou’rt most fondly cherish’d and caress’d:
In thee what various qualities combine,
And who thy protean nature can define?
Condemn’d tho’ courted — hated tho’ admir’d;
Dreaded in others, by ourselves desir’d;
Shunned by the dull, by wisdom disapprov’d,
By most applauded, but by few belov’d.
’Tis thine to aim the sharp envenom’d dart,
With skill unerring, at a kindred heart,
To raise, unmindful of discretion’s laws,
An host of foes, to gain — one fool’s applause.
Thine the keen sarcasm and the quick retort,
The playful malice — that can wound in sport.
Aw’d by the piercing glances of thine eyes,
Offsighted love expands his wings and flies;
And as a flower that shrinks beneath the blight,
Insulted friendship sickens at the sight;
Yet when with all the gay and sportive grace
Thou com’st to light up joy in every face,
And bring’st frank pleasantry and fancy wild,
With humour quaint, thy mirth-inspiring child;
When calm forbearance cheeks they rapid tide.
And judgment deigns thy erring steps to guide;
While mild good-humour tempers every dart,
And bids thee throw they scorpion task apart.
Who but must yield to thy bewitching power,
And rather brave the thorn — than lose the flower,
Resentment soften’d by thy smile disarms,
And e’en relenting wisdom owns they charms.
Oh winning mischief, fertile source of ill,
While I condemn thee — I must love thee still
By reason prompt’d I would break they chain,
But one bright look would lure me back again.