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Waller was smooth ; but Dryden taught to join
The varying verse, the full resounding line,
The long majestic march, and energy divine :
Though still some traces of our rustic vein
And splayfoot verse remain'd, and will remain.
Late, very late, correctness grew our care,
When the tired nation breathed from civil war,
Exact Racine, and Corneille's noble fire,
Show'd us that France had something to admire.
Not but the tragic spirit was our own,
And full in Shakspeare, fair in Otway, shone :
But Otway fail'd to polish or refine,
And fluent Shakspeare scarce effaced a line.
E'en copious Dryden wanted, or forgot,
The last and greatest art, the art to blot.
Some doubt, if equal pains, or equal fire,
The humbler muse of comedy require.
But in known images of life, I guess
The labour greater, as the indulgence less.
Observe how seldom e'en the best succeed :
Tell me if Congreve's fools are fools indeed ?
What pert low dialogue has Farquhar writ!
How Van wants grace, who never wanted wit!
The stage how loosely does Astræa tread,
Who fairly puts all characters to bed!
And idle Cibber, how he breaks the laws,
To make poor Pinkey eat with vast applause !
But fill their purse, our poets' work is done,
Alike to them, by pathos or by pun.
O you! whom vanity's light bark conveys On fame's mad voyage by the wind of praise, With what a shifting gale your course you ply, For ever sunk too low, or borne too high; Who pants for glory finds but short repose; A breath revives him, or a breath o'erthrows Farewell the stage! if, just as thrives the play, The silly bard grows fat, or falls away.
There still remains, to mortify a wit, The many-headed monster of tho pit :
A senseless, worthless, and unhonour'd crowd :
Who, to disturb their betters mighty proud,
Clattering their sticks before ten lines are spoke,
Call for the farce, the bear, or the black-joke.
What dear delight to Britons farce affords !
Ever the taste of mobs, but now of lords !
(Taste, that eternal wanderer, which flies
From heads to ears, and now from ears to eyes :)
The play stands still; damn action and discourse,
Back fly the scenes, and enter foot and horse;
Pageants on pageants, in long order drawn,
Peers, heralds, bishops, ermine, gold, and lawn;
The champion too! and to complete the jest,
Old Edward's armour beams on Cibber's breast.
With laughter sure Democritus had died,
Had he beheld an audience gape so wide.
Let bear or elephant be e'er so white,
The people sure, the people are the sight!
Ah luckless poet! stretch thy lungs and roar,
That bear or elephant shall heed thee more ;
While all its throats the gallery extends,
And all the thunder of the pit ascends!
Loud as the wolves, on Orca's stormy steep,
Howl to the roarings of the northern deep.
Such is the shout, the long-applauding note,
At Quin's high plume, or Oldfield's petticoat;
Or when from court a birthday suit bestow'd,
Sinks the lost actor in the tawdry load.
Booth enters-hark! the universal peal!
• But has he spoken ?' Not a syllable.
What shook the stage, and made the people stare;
Cato's long wig, flower'd gown, and lacquer'd chair.
Yet, lest you think I rally more than teach,
Or praise malignly arts I cannot reach,
Let me for once presume to instruct the times
To know the poet from the man of rhymes :
'Tis he who gives my breast a thousand pains,
Can make me feel each passion that he feigns ;
Enrage, compose, with more than magic art
With pity, and with terror, tear my heart,
And snatch me o'er the earth, or through the air
To Thebes, to Athens, when he will, and where.
But not this part of the poetic state
Alone, deserves the favour of the great :
Think of those authors, sir, who would rely
More on a reader's sense than gazer's eye.
Or who shall wander where the Muses sing?
Who climb their mountain, or who taste their spring ?
How shall we fill a library with wit,
When Merlin's cave is half unfurnish'd yet?
My liege! why writers little claim your thought, I guess; and, with your leave, will tell the fault; We poets are (upon a poet's word) Of all mankind, the creatures most absurd : The season when to come, and when to go, To sing, or cease to sing, we never know; And if we will recite nine hours in ten, You lose your patience just like other men. Then too we hurt ourselves, when, to defend A single verse, we quarrel with a friend; Repeat unask'd; lament the wit 's too fine For vulgar eyes, and point out every line ; But most, when, straining with too weak a wing, We needs will write epistles to the king; And from the moment we oblige the town, Expect a place or pension from the crown; Or, dubb’d historians by express command, To enrol your triumphs o'er the seas and land, Be call'd to court to plan some work divine, As once for Louis, Boileau and Racine.
Yet think, great sir! (so many virtues shown) Ah! think what poet best may make them known: Or choose at least some minister of grace, Fit to bestow the laureat's weighty place.
Charles, to late times to be transmitted fair, Assign'd his figure to Bernini e care ;
And great Nassau to Kneller's hand decreed
To fix hin graceful on the bounding steed;
So well in paint and stone they judge of merit :
But kings in wit may want discerning spirit.
The hero William, and the martyr Charles,
One knighted Blackmore, and one pension'd Quarles;
Which made old Ben and surly Dennis swear,
•No Lord's anointed, but a Russian bear.
Not with such majesty, such bold relief,
The forms august, of king, or conquering chief,
E'er swellid on marble, as in verse have shined
(In polish'd verse) the manners and the mind.
O! could I mount on the Mæonian wing,
Your arms, your actions, your repose to sing ;
What seas you traversed, and what fields you fought !
Your country's peace, how oft, how dearly bought!
How barbarous rage subsided at your word,
And nations wonder'd while they dropp'd the gword!
How, when you nodded, o'er the land and deep,
Peace stole her wing, and wrapp'd the world in sleep
Till earth's extremes your meditation own,
And Asia's tyrants tremble at your throne
But verse, alas! your majesty disdains ;
And I'm not used to panegyric strains :
The zeal of fools offends at any time,
But most of all, the zeal of fools in rhyme.
Besides, a fate attends on all I write,
That when I aim at praise they say I bite.
A vile encomium doubly ridicules :
There's noihing blackens like the ink of fools
If true, a woful likeness; and if lies,
· Praise undeserved is scandal in disguise;'
Well may he blush, who gives it or receives ;
And when I fatter, let my dirty leaves
(Like journals, odes, and such forgotten things
As Eusden, Philips, Settle, writ of kings)
Clothe spice, line trunks, or, fluttering in a row,
B.fringe the rails of Bedlam and Soho.
Ludentis speciem dabit, et torquebitur.--Hok. DEAN' eołonel, Cobham's and your country's friends You love a verse, take such as I can send.
A Frenchman comes, presents you with his boy,
Bows, and beging. This lad, sir, is of Blois :
Observe his shape how clean! his locks how curl'd!
My only son; I'd have him see the world :
His French is pure; his voice too-you shall hear;
Sir, he's your slave, for twenty pounds a-year.,
Mere wax as yet, you fashion him with ease,
Your barber, cook, upholsterer, what you please :
A perfect genius at an opera song-
To say too much might do my honour wrong.
Take him with all his virtues, on my word;
His whole arabition was to serve a lord:
But, sir, to you, with what would I not part?
Though, 'faith, I fear, 'twill break his mother's heard
Once (and but once) I caught him in a lie,
And then, unwhipp'd, he had the grace lo ery :
The fault he has I fairly shall reveal,
(Could you o'erlook but that) it is, to steal.'
If, after this, you took the graceless lad,
Could you complain, my friend, he proved so bail?
'Faith, in such case, if you should prosecute,
I think, sir Godfrey should decide the suit ;
Who sent the thief that stole the cash, away,
And punish'd him that put it in his way.
Consider then, and judge me in this light:
I told you when I went, I could not write;
You said the same; and are you discontent
With laws to which you gave your own assent ?
Nay worse, to ask for verse at such a time!
Do ye think me good for nothing but to rhyme ?
In Anna's ware, a soldier poor and old
Had dearly earu'd a little purse of gold;