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Safe, where no critics damn, nor duns molest,
And thou! his aid-de-camp, lead on my sons,
O! when shall rise a monarch all our own,
Ver. 296. Withers,] See on ver. 146.
Ibid. Gildon-] Charles Gildon, a writer of criticisms' and libels in the last age, bred at St. Omer's with the Jesuits; but renouncing popery, he published Blount's books against the divinity of Christ, the Oracles of Reason, &c. He signalized himself as a critic, having written some very bad plays; abused Mr. P. very scandalously in an anonymous pamphlet of the Life of Mr. Wycherley, printed by Curfl; in another, called the New Rehearsal, printed in 1714; in a third, entitled the Complete Art of English Poetry, in two volumes; and others.
Ver. 297.-Howard,] Hon. Edward Howard, author of the Bri. tish Princes, and a great number of wonderful pieces, celebrated by the late Earls of Dorset and Rochester, Duke of Buckingham, Mr. Waller, &c.
Ver. 309, 310.-under Archer's wing,-Gaming, &c.] When the statute against gaming was drawn up, it was represented, that the king, by ancient custom, plays at hazard one night in the year; and therefore a clause was inserted, with an exemption as to that particular. Under this pretence, the groom-porter had a room appropriated to gaming all the summer the court was at Kensington, which his majesty accidentally being acquainted with, with a just indignation, prohibited. It is reported the same practice is yet continued wherever the court resides, and the hazard table there open to all the professed gamesters in town.
"Greatest and justest sovereign! know you this?
Fatten the courtier, starve the learned band,
And all be sleep, as at an ode of thine?"
She ceased. Then swells the chapel-royal throat: God save King Cibber! mounts in every note. Familiar White's, God save King Colley! cries; God save King Colley! Drury-lane replies: To Needham's quick the voice triumphal rode, But pious Needham dropp'd the name of God; Back to the Devil the last echoes roll, And Coll! each butcher roars at Hockley-hole. So when Jove's block descended from on high (As sings thy great forefather Ogilby) Loud thunder to its bottom shook the bog, And the hoarse nation croak'd, God save King Log!'
Ver. 319.-chapel-royal-] The voices and instruments used in the service of the chapel-royal being also employed in the performance of the birth-day and new-year odes.
Ver. 324. But pious Needham-] A matron of great fame, and very religious in her way; whose constant prayer it was, that she might get enough by her profession to leave it off in time, and make her peace with God. But her fate was not so happy; for being convicted, and set in the pillory, she was (to the lasting shame of all her great friends and,votaries) so ill used by the populace, that it put an end to her days.
Ver. 325. Back to the Devil-] The Devil Tavern in Fleet-street, where these odes are usually rehearsed before they are performed at court. Upon which a wit of those times makes this epigram:
"When laureats make odes, do you ask of what sort?
You may judge-from the Devil they come to the court,
Ver. 328.-Ogilby)-God save King Log!] See Ogilby's Esop's Fables, where, in the story of the Frogs and their King, this excellent hemistich is to be found.
Our author manifests here, and elsewhere, a prodigious tenderness for the bad writers. We see he selects the only good passage, perhaps, in all that ever Ogilby writ! which shews how candid and patient a reader he must have been. What can be more kind and affectionate than the words in the preface to his poems, where he labours to call upon all our humanity and forgiveness towards these unlucky men, by the most moderate representation of their case that has ever been given by any author! But how much all indulgence is lost upon these people may appear from the just reflection made on their constant conduct and constant fate, in the following epigram:
Ye little wits, that gleam'd awhile,
BOOK THE SECOND.
The king being proclaimed, the solemnity is graced with public games and sports of various kinds; not instituted by the hero, as by Æneas in Virgil, but for greater honour by the goddess in person (in like manner as the games Pythia, Isthmia, &c. were anciently said to be ordained by the gods, and as Thetis herself appearing, according to Homer, Odyss. xxiv. proposed the prizes in honour of her son Achilles). Hither flock the poets and critics, attended, as is but just, with their patrons and booksellers. The goddess is first pleased, for her disport, to propose games to the booksellers, and setteth up the phantom of a poet, which they contend to overtake. The races described, with their divers accidents. Next, the game for a poetess. Then follow the exercises for the poets, of tickling, vociferating, diving. The first holds forth the arts and practices of dedicators, the second of disputants and fustian poets, the third of profound, dark, and dirty party-writers. Lastly, for the critics, the goddess proposes (with great propriety) an exercise, not of their parts, but their tience in hearing the works of two voluminous authors, one in verse, and the other in prose, deliberately read, without sleeping: the various effects of which, with the several degrees and manners of their operation, are here set forth; till the whole number not of critics only, but of spectators, actors, and all present, fall fast asleep; which naturally and necessarily ends the games.
HIGH on a gorgeous seat, that far outshone
To compass Phoebus' car about,
Thus empty vapours rise,
Each lends his cloud to put him out
That rear'd him to the skies.
Alas! those skies are not your sphere;
There he shall ever burn:
Weep, weep, and fall! for earth ye were,
And must to earth return.
Two things there are, upon the supposition of which the very basis of all verbal criticism is founded and supported: The first, that an author could never fail to use the best word on every occasion; the second, that a critic cannot choose but know which that is. This being granted, whenever any word doth not fully content us, we take upon us to conclude, first, that the author could never have used it; and, secondly, that he must have used that very one, which we conjecture, in its stead.
We cannot, therefore, enough admire the learned Scriblerus, for his alteration of the text in the last two verses of the preceding book, which in all the former editions stood thus:
Hoarse thunder to its bottom shook the bog,
And the loud nation croak'd, 'God save king Log!'
He has, with great judgment, transposed these two epithets;
Great Cibber sat: the proud Parnassian sneer,
putting hoarse to the nation, and loud to the thunder; and this being evidently the true reading, he vouchsafed not so much as to mention the former; for which assertion of the just right of a critic he merits the acknowledgment of all sound commentators. Ver. 2. Henley's gilt tub,] The pulpit of a dissenter is usually calied a tub; but that of M:. Orator Henley was covered with velvet, and adorned with gold. He had also a fair altar, and over it this extraordinary inscription: The primitive Eucharist.' See the history of this person, book iii,
Ibid.or Fleckno's Irish throne,] Richard Fleckno was an Irish priest, but had laid aside (as himself expressed it) the mechanic part of priesthood. He printed some plays, poems, letters, and travels. I doubt not, our author took occasion to mention him in respect to the poem of Mr. Dryden, to which this bears some resemblance, though of a character more different from it than that of the Eneid from the Iliad, or the Lutrin of Boileau from the Defait de Bouts rimées of Sárazin.
It may be just worth mentioning, that the eminence from whence the ancient sophists entertained their auditors, was called by the pompous name of a throne. Themistius, Orat. i.
Ver. 3. Or that whereon her Curlls the public pours,] Edmund Curll stood in the pillory at Charing-cross, in March 1727-8. "This,' saith Edmund Curll, is a false assertion. I had, indeed, the corporal punishment of what the gentlemen of the long robe are pleased jocosely to call mounting the rostrum for one hour: but that scene of action was not in the month of March, but in February.' (Curliad, 12mo. p. 19.) And of the history of his being tossed in a blanket, he saith, Here, Scriblerus! thou leesest in what thou assertest concerning the blanket: it was not a blanket, but a rug.' p. 25. Much in the same manner Mr. Cibber remonstrated, that his brothers, at Bedlam, mentioned Book i. were not brazen, but blocks; yet our author let it pass unaltered, as a trifle that no way altered the relationship.
We should think, gentle reader, that we but ill performed our part, if we corrected not as well our own errors now, as formerly those of the printer: since what moved us to this work, was solely the love of truth, not in the least any vain glory, or desire to contend with great authors. And farther, our mistakes, we conceive, will the rather be pardoned, as scarce possible to be avoided in writing of such persons and works as do ever shun the light. However, that we may not any way soften or extenuate the same, we give them thee in the very words of our antagonists; not defending, but retracting them from our heart, and craving excuse of the parties offended: for surely in this work, it hath been above all things our desire to provoke no man.-Scribl.
Not with more glee, by hands pontific crown'd, With scarlet hats wide-waving circled round, Rome in her Capitol saw Querno sit,
Throned on seven hills, the Antichrist of wit.
A church collects the saints of Drury-lane.
With authors, stationers obey'd the call (The field of glory is a field for all). Glory and gain th' industrious tribe provoke ; And gentle Dulness ever loves a joke. A poet's form she placed before their eyes, And bade the nimblest racer seize the prize; No meager, muse-rid mope, adust and thin, In a dun night-gown of his own loose skin, But such a bulk as no twelve bards could raise, Twelve starveling bards of these degenerate days. 40
Ver. 15. Rome in her Capitol saw Querno sit,] Camillo Querno was of Apulia, who hearing the great encouragement which Leo X. gave to poets, travelled to Rome with a harp in his hand, and sung to it twenty thousand verses of a poem called Alexias. He was introduced as a buffoon to Leo, and promoted to the honour of the laurel; a jest which the court of Rome and the pope himself entered into so far, as to cause him to ride on an elephant to the Capitol, and to hold a solemn festival on his coronation; at which it is recorded the poet himself was so transported as to weep for joy. He was ever after a constant frequenter of the pope's table, drank abundantly, and poured forth verses without number. Paulus Jovius, Elog. Vir. doct. cap. lxxxiii. Some idea of his poetry is given by Fam. Strada, in his Prolusions.
Ver. 34. And gentle Dulness ever loves a joke.] This species of mirth, called a joke, arising from a mal-entendu, may be well supposed to be the delight of Dulness.
See Life of C. C. chap. vi. p. 149.