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author's wit is remarkably more bare and barrel: whenever it would fall foul on Cibber, than upon any other person whatever.'
The descriptions are singular, the comparisons very quaint, the narration various, yet of one colour; the purity and chastity of diction is so pre served, that, in the places most suspicious, not thfl words but only the images I;ave been censured, and yet are those images no other than have been sanctified by ancient and classical authority (though, as was the manner of those good times, not so curiously wrapped up), yea, and commented upon by the most grave doctors, and aoproved critics.
As it beareth the name of epic, it is thereby subject to such severe indispensable rules as are laid on all neoterics, a strict imitation of the ancients; insomuch that any deviation, accompanied with whatever poetic beauties, hath always beeo-censured by the sound critic . How exact that limitation hath been in this piece, appeareth not only by its general structure, but by particular allusions infinite, many whereof have escaped both the commentator and poet himself; yea, divers by his exceeding diligence are so altered and interwoven with the rest, that several have already been, and more will be, by tbt ignorant abused, as altogether and originally his own.
In a word, the whole poem proveth itself to he the work of our author, when his faculties were ia full vigour aud perfection; at that exact time when years have ripened the judgement, without diminishing the imagination: which, by good critics, is held to be punctually at forty. For at that season it was that Virgil finished his Georgics; and sir Richard Black more, at the like age, composing his Arthurs, declared the same to be the very acme and pitch of life for epic poesy: though since he hath altered it to sixty, the year in which he published his Alfred*. True it is, that the talents for criticism,
* See his Essays.
i namely, smartness, quick censure, vivacity of remark, certainty of asseveration, indeed all but acerbity, seem rather the gifts of youth, than of riper age: but it is far otherwise in poetry; witness the works of Mr. Ryrtrer and Mr. Dennis, who, beginning with criticism, became afterwards such poets as no age hath paralleled. With good reason, therefore, did our anthor choose to write his essay on that subject at twenty, and reserve for his maturer years this great and wonderful work of the Duociad.
Of the Hero of the Poem.
OF the nature of Dunciad in general, whence derived, and on what authority founded, as we as of the art and conduct of this our poem in parbcular, the learned and laborious Scriblerus hath, according to hia manner, and with tolerable share of judgement, dissertated. But when he cometh w apeak of the person of the hero fitted for such poem, in truth he miserably halts and hallucinate*: tor, misled by one Monsienr Bossn, a Gallic critic, he praieth of I cannot tell what phantom of a hero, only raised up to support the fable. A putid conceit! as if Homer and Virgil, like modern undertakers, who first build their house and then seek out for a tenant, had contrived the story of a war and a wandering, before they once thought either of Achilles or JEneas. We shall, therefore, set our good brother and the world also right in this particular, by assuring them, that, in the greater epic, the prime intention of the muse is to exalt heroic virtue, in order to propagate the love of it among the child ren of men; and consequently that the poet's first thought must needs be turned upon a real subject meet for laud and celebration; not one whom he u to make, but oue whom he may find, truly illustrious. This is the primum mobile of his poetic world, whence every thing is to receive life acd motion. For, this subject being found, he is immediately ordained, or rather acknowledged, a bero, and put upon such action as be lutein the dignity of his character.
But the muse ceaseth not here her eagle flight. For sometimes, satiated with the contemplation of these suns of glory, she turneth downward on her wing, and darts with Jove's lightning on the goose and serpent kind. For we may apply to the muse in her various moods, what an ancient master of wis* dom amrmeth of the gods in general: St Dii mm irascuntur impiis et iryustis, ncc pirn utiquejus* tosqut diligunt. In rebus enim divcrsis, aut in ntramque partem moveri necesse est, ant in newtram. league qui bonos diligit, et malm odit; et qui malos non odit, nee bonos diligit. Quia et diligcre bonos ex odio malorvm venit; ct malos odisst ex honor it m earitate descendit. Which in our vernacular idiom maybe thus interpreted: 'If the gods be not provoked at evil men, neither are they delighted with the good and just. For contrary objects must either excite contrary affections, or no affections at all. So that he who lovcth good men, must at the same time hate the bad; and he who bateth not bad men, cannot love the good; because to love good men proceeded) from an aversion to evil, and to hate evil men from a tenderness to the good.' From this delicacy of the muse arose the little epic (more lively and choleric than her elder sister, whose bulk and complexion incline her to the phlegmatic); and for this, some notorious vehicle of vice and folly was sought out, to make thereof an example. An early instance of which (nor could it escape the accurate Scriblerus) the father of epic poem himself afTordeth us. From him the practice descended to the Greek dramatic poets, his offspring; who, in tlie composition of their tetralogy, or set of fbur pieces, were wont to make the last a satiric tragedy. Happily, one of these ancient Dunciads (as we may well term it) is comedown unto us, amongst the tragedies of the poet Euripides. And what doth the reader suppose may be the subject thereof? Why in truth, and it is worthy observation, the unequal contest of an-old, dull, debauched bufiooai. Cyclops, with the heaven-directed favourite of Minerva; who, after having quietly borne all the monster's obscene and impious ribaldry, endeth the farce in punishing him with the mark of an indelible brand in his forehead. May we not then be excused, if, for the fnture, we consider the epics of Homer, Virgil, and Milton, together with this our poem, as a complete tetralogy; in which the last worthily holdeth the place or station of the satiric piece?
Proceed we, therefore, in our subject. It hath been long, and, alas for pity! still remaineth a question, whether the hero of the greater epic should be an honest man; or as the French critics express it, un honnete hwnme?: but it never admitted of a doubt, but that the hero of the little should be just the contrary. Hence, to the advantage of ourDunciad, we may observe, how much juster the moral of that poem must needs be, where so important a question is previously decided.
But then it is not every knave, nor (let me add) every fool, that is a fit subject for a Dunciad. There must still exist some analogy, if not resemblance of qualities, between the heroes of the two poems; and this, in order to admit what neoteric critics call the parody, one of the liveliest graces of the little epic. Thus it being agreed that the constituent qualities of the greater epic hero, are wisdom, bravery, and love, from whence springeth heroic virtue; it foiloweth, that those of the lesser epic hero should be vanity, assurance, and debanchery, from which assemblage resulteth heroic duluess, the never-dying subject of this our poem.
This being settled, come we now to particulars. It is the character of true wisdom to seek its chief support and confidence within itself; and to place that support in the resources which proceed from a
* Si un heros poetique doit etre un honnete hommc. Bossu, du Poeme Epique, liv. v. cb. 5,