« PreviousContinue »
Put on the critic's brow, and sit
At Will's the puny judge of wit.
A nod, a shrug, a scornful smile,
With caution used, may serve a while.
Proceed no farther in your part
Before you learn the terms of art;
For you can never be too far gone
In all our modern critics' jargon:
Then talk with more authentic face
Of unities in time and place;
Get scraps of Horace from your friends,
And have them at your fingers' ends;
Learn Aristotle's rules by rote,
And at all hazards boldly quote;
Judicious Rymer oft review,
Wise Dennis, and profound Bossu;
Read all the prefaces of Dryden,
For these our critics much confide in
(Though merely writ at first for filling,
To raise the volume's price a shilling).
A forward critic often dupes us
With sham quotations peri hupsous ;
And if we have not read Longinus,
Will magisterially outshine us.
Then, lest with Greek he overrun ye,
Procure the book for love or money,
Translated from Boileau's translation,
And quote quotation on quotation.
At Will's you hear a poem read,
Where Battus from the table-head,
Reclining on his elbow-chair,
Gives judgment with decisive air;
the tribe of circling wits
As to an oracle submits.
He gives directions to the town,
To cry it up, or run it down;
Like courtiers, when they send a note,
Instructing members how to vote.
He sets the stamp of bad and good,
Though not a word be understood.
Your lesson learn d, you'll be secure
To get the name of connoisseur:
And, when your merits once are known,
Procure disciples of your own.
For poets (you can never want 'em)
Spread through Augusta Trinobantum,
Computing by their pecks of coals,
Amount to just nine thousand souls:
These o'er their proper districts govern,
Of wit and humour judges sovereign.
In every street a city bard
Rules, like an alderman, his ward;
His undisputed rights extend
Through all the lane, from end to end;
The neighbours round admire his shrewdness
For songs of loyalty and lewdness;
Outdone by none in rhyming well,
Although he never learn’d to spell.
Two bordering wits contend for glory,
And one is Whig and one is Tory:
And this for epics claims the bays,
And that for elegiac lays:
Some famed for numbers soft and smooth,
By lover's spoke in Punch's booth;
And some as justly fame extols
For lofty lines in Smithfield drolls.
Bavius in Wapping gains renown,
And Mævius reigns o'er Kentish town:
Tigellius, placed in Phæbus' car,
From Ludgate shines to Temple-bar:
Harmonious Cibber entertains
The court with annual birthday strains ;
Whence Gay was banish'd in disgrace;
Where Pope will never show his face;
Where Young must torture his invention
To flatter knaves, or lose his pension.
But these are not a thousandth part
Of jobbers in the poet's art,
Attending each his proper station,
And all in due subordination,
Through every alley to be found,
In garrets high or under ground;
And when they join their pericranies,
Out skips a book of miscellanies.
Hobbes clearly proves that every creature
Lives in a state of war by nature.
The greater for the smallest watch,
But meddle seldom with their match.
A whale of moderate size will draw
A shoal of herrings down his maw;
A fox with geese his belly crams,
A wolf destroys a thousand lambs :
But search among the rhyming race,
The brave are worried by the base.
If on Parnassus' top you sit,
You rarely bite, are always bit.
Each poet of inferior size
On you shall rail and criticise,
And strive to tear you limb from limb,
While others do as much for him.
Oh Grub-street! how do I bemoan thee,
Whose graceless children scorn to own thee!
Their filial piety forgot,
Deny their country like a Scot;
Though, by their idiom and grimace,
They soon betray their native place:
Yet thou hast greater cause to be
Ashamed of them than they of thee,
Degenerate from their ancient brood,
Since first the court allow'd them food.
Remains a difficulty still, To purchase fame by writing ill. From Flecknoe down to Howard's time, How few have reach'd the low sublime ! For when our high-born Howard died, Blackmore alone his place supplied : And, lest a chasm should intervene, When death had finished Blackmore's reign,
The leaden crown devolved to thee,
Great poet of the hollow tree.
But ah! how unsecure thy throne !
A thousand bards thy right disown:
They plot to turn, in factious zeal,
Duncenia to a common weal;
And with rebellious arms pretend
An equal privilege to descend.
In bulk there are not more degrees,
From elephants to mites in cheese,
Than what a curious eye may trace
In creatures of the rhyming race.
From bad to worse, and worse, they fall,
But who can reach the worst of all?
For though, in nature, depth and height
Are equally held infinite;
In poetry, the height we know,
'Tis only infinite below.
For instance, when you rashly think
No rhymer can like Welsted sink,
His merits balanced, you shall find
The laureate leaves him far behind.
Concannen, more aspiring bard,
Soars downward deeper by a yard.
Smart Jemmy Moor with vigour drops,
The rest pursue as thick as hops.
With heads to points the gulf they enter,
Link'd perpendicular to the centre ;
And as their heels elated rise,
Their heads attempt the nether skies.
Oh, what indignity and shame, To prostitute the Muse's name! By flattering kings, whom heaven design'd The plagues and scourges of mankind; Bred up in ignorance and sloth, And every vice that nurses both.
Fair Britain, in thy monarch bless'd Whose virtues bear the strictest test; Whom never faction could bespatter, Nor minister nor poet flatter;
What justice in rewarding merit!
What magnanimity of spirit !
What lineaments divine we trace
Through all his figure, mien, and face !
Though peace with olive bind his hands,
Confess'd the conquering hero stands.
Hydaspes, Indus, and the Ganges,
Dread from his hand impending changes.
From hin the Tartar and Chinese,
Short by the knees, entreat for peace.
The consort of his throne and bed,
A perfect goddess born and bred,
Appointed sovereign judge to sit
On learning, eloquence, and wit.
Our eldest hope, divine lülus
(Late, very late, oh may he rule us !),
What early manhood has he shown,
Before his downy beard was grown!
Then think, what wonders will be done
By going on as he begun,
And heir for Britain to secure
As long as sun and moon endure.
The remnant of the royal blood
Comes pouring on me like a flood:
Bright goddesses, in number five;
Duke William, sweetest prince alive,
Now sing the minister of state,
Who shines alone without a mate.
Observe with what majestic port
This Atlas stands to prop the court ;
Intent the public debts to pay,
Like prudent Fabius, by delay.
Thou great vicegerent of the king,
Thy praises every Muse shall sing!
In all affairs thou sole director,
Of wit and learning chief protector;
Though small the time thou hast to spare,
The church is thy peculiar care,
Of pious prelates what a stock
You choose to rule the sable flock!