« ZurückWeiter »
observed in the progress of education. The speech of Aristarchus on this subject. They are driven off by a band of young gentlemen returned from travel with their tutors ; one of whom delivers to the goddess, in a polite oration, an account of the whole conduct and fruits of their travels : presenting to her at the same time a young nobleman perfectly accomplished. She receives him graciously, and endues him with the happy quality of want of shame. She sees loitering about her a number of indolent persons abandoning all busipess and duty, and dying with laziness : to these approaches the antiquary Annius, entreating her to make them virtuosos, and assign them over to him: but Mummius, another antiquary, complaining of his fraudulent proceeding, she finds a method to reconcile their difference. Then enter a troop of people fantastically adorned, offering her strange and exotic presents: amongst them, one stands forth and demands justice on another, who had deprived him of one of the greatest curiosities in nature: but he justifies himself so well. that the goddess gives them both her approbation. She recommends to them to find proper employment for the indolents before mentioned, in the study of butterflies, shells, birds-nests, moss, &c. but with particular caution, not to proceed beyond trifles, to any useful or extensive views of nature, or of the Author of nature. Against the last of these apprehensions, she is secured by a hearty address from the minute philosophers and free-thinkers, one of whom speaks in the name of the rest. The youth, thus instructed and principled, are delivered to her in a body, by the hands of Silenus; and then admitted to taste the cup of the Magus, her high priest, which causes a total oblivion of all obligations, divine, civil, mo. ral, or rational. To these, her adepts, she sends priests, attendants, and comforters, of various kinds; confers on them orders and degrees; and
then dismissing them with a speech, confirming to each his privileges, and telling what she expects from each, concludes with a yawn of extraordinary virtue: the progress and effects whereof on all orders of men, and the consummation of all, in the restoration of night and chaos, conclude the poem.
I Indulge, dread Chaos, and eternal Night!
REMARKS. This Book may properly be distinguished from the former, by the name of the Greater Dunciad, not so, indeed, in size, but in subject; and so far contrary to the distinction anciently made of the Greater and Lesser Iliad. But much are they mistaken who imagine this work in anywise inferior to the former, or of any other hand than of our poet; of which I am much more certain than that the Iliad itself was the work of Solomon, or the Batrachomuomachia of Homer, as Barnes hath affirmed. BENTL.
Ver. 1, &c.] This is an invocation of much piety. The poet, willing to approve himself a genuine son. beginneth by showing (what is ever agreeable to Dulness) his high respect for antiquity and a great family, how dead or dark soever: next declareth his passion for explaining mysteries; and lastly his impatience to be reunited to her.
SCRIBL. Ver. 2. dread Chaos, and eternal Night!) Invoked, as the restoration of their empire is the action of the poem.
Ye pow'rs! whose mysteries restor'd I sing. | To whom Time bears me on his rapid wing,
Suspend a while your force inertiy strong,
Then take at once the poet and the song.
Smote ev'ry brain, and wither'd ev'ry bay;
She mounts the throne: her head a cloud conceal’d,
REMARKS. Ver. 14. To blot out order, and extinguish light,} The two great ends of her mission; the one in quality of daughter of Chaos, the other as daughter of Night. Order here is to be understood extensively, both as civil and moral ; the distinction be. tween high and low in society, and true and false in individuals : light as intellectual only, wit, science, arts.
Ver. 15. Of dull and venal] The allegory continued; dull referring to the extinction of light or science; venal to the destruction of order, and the truth of things.
Ibid. A new world] In allusion to the Epicurean opinion, that from the dissolution of the natural world into Night and Chaos, a new one should arise: this the poet alluding to, in the production of a new moral world, makes it partake of its original princi. ples.
Ver. 16. Lead and gold.) i. e. dull and venal.
Ver. 20. her laureate son reclines.] With great judgeinent it is imagined by the poet, that such a
Beneath her footstool, science groans in chains, And wit dreads exile, penalties, and pains.
REMARKS. colleague as Dulness had elected, should sleep on the throne, and have very little share in the action of the poem. Accordingly he hath done little or nothing from the day of his anointing ; having past through the second book without taking part in any thing that was transacted about him ; and through the third in profound sleep. Nor ought this, well considered, to seem strange in our days, when so many king.consorts have done the like. SCRIBL.
This verse our excellent laureate took so to heart, that he appealed to all mankind, if he was not as seldom asleep as any fool ! But it is hoped the poet hath not injured him, but rather verified his prophecy (p. 243 of his own Life, 8vo. ch. ix.) where he says, the reader will be as much pleased to find me a dunce in my old age, as he was to prove me a brisk blockbead in my youth.' Wherever there was any room for briskness, or alacrity of any sort, even in sinking, he hath had it allowed; but here. where there is nothing for him to do but to take his natural rest, he must permit his historian to be silent. It is from their actions only that princes have their character, and poets from their works : and if in those he be as much asleep as any fool, the poet must leave him and them to sleep to all eternity.
BENTL. Ibid. her laureate] : When I find my name in the satirical works of this poet, I never look upon it as any malice meant to me, but profit to himself. For he considers that my face is more known than most in the nation; and therefore a lick at the laureate will be a sure bait ad captandum vulgus, to catch little readers.' Life of Colley Cibber, ch. ii.
Now if it be certain, that the works of our poet have owed their success to this ingenious expedie
There foam'd rebellious logic, gagg'd and bound;
REMARKS. ent, we hence derive an unanswerable argument, that this fourth Dunciad, as well as the former three, hath had the author's last hand, and was by him intended for the press: or else to what purpose hath he crowned it, as we see, by this finishing stroke, the profitable lick at the laureate? BENTL.
Ver. 21, 22. Beneath her footstool, &c.] We are next presented with the pictures of those whom the goddess leads in captivity. Science is only depressed and confined so as to be rendered useless ; but wit or genius, as a more dangerous and active enemy, punished, or driven away: Dulness being often reconciled in some degree with learning, but never upon any terms with wit. And accordingly it will be seen that she admits something like each science, as casuistry, sophistry, &c. but nothing like wit, opera alone supplying its place.
Ver. 30. gives her Page the word.] There was a judge of this name, always ready to hang any man that came before him, of which he was suffered to give a hundred miserable examples, during a long life, even to his dotage. Though the candid Scriblerus imagined page here to mean no more than a page or mute, and to allude to the custom of strangling state criminals in Turkey by mutes or pages. A practice more decent than that of our Page, who, before he hanged any ope, loaded him with reproach ful language.