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Τ Η Ε
D UN CI A
BOOK THE THIRD.
ARGU M E N T.
AFTER the other persons are disposed in their pro
per places of rest, the Goddess transports the King to her Temple, and there lays him to slumber with his head on her lap; a position of marvellous virtue, which causeth all the Visions of wild enthusiasts, projectors, politicians, inamoratos, castle-builders, chemists, and poets. He is immediately carried on the wings of Fancy, and led by a mad Poetical Sibyl, to the Elysian shade ; where, on the banks of Lethe, the souls of the dull are dipped by Bavius, before their entrance into this world. There he is met by the ghost of Settle, and by him made acquainted with the wonders of the place, and with those which he him, self is destined to perform. He takes him to a Mount of Vision, from whence he lhews him the past triumphs of the Empire of Dulness, then the present, and lastly the future : how small a part of the world was ever conquered by Science, how soon those conquests were stopped, and those very nations again
reduced to her dominion. Then distinguishing the Illand of Great Britain, shews by what aids, by what persons, and by what degrees, it shall be brought to her Empire. Some of the persons he causes to pass in review before his eyes, describing each by his proper figure, character, and qualifications. On a sudden the Scene thifts, and a vast number of miracles and prodigies appear, utterly surprizing and unknown to the King himself, till they are explained to be the wonders of his own reign now commencing. On this subject Settle breaks into a congratulation, yet not unmixed with concern, that his own times were but the types of these. He prophesies how first the nation shall be over-run with Farces, Operas, and Shows; how the Throne of Dulness shall be advanced over the Theatres, and set up even at Court: then how her Sons shall preside in the seats of Arts and Sciences : giving a glimpse, or Pisgah fight, of the future Fulness of her Glory, the accomplishment whereof is the subject of the fourth and last Book.
UT in her Temple's last recess inclos’d,
On Dulness' lap th’ Anointed head repos'd.
And now, on Fancy's easy wing convey'd,
Ver. 5, 6, &c.] Hereby is intimated that the following Vision is no more than the chimera of the dreamer's brain, and not a real or intended fatire on the present Age, doubtless more learned, more enlightened, and more abounding with great Geniuses in Divinity, Politics, and whatever arts and sciences, than all the preceding. For fear of any such mistake of our Poet's honest meaning, he hath again, at the end of the Vision, repeated this monition, laying that it all passed through the Ivory gate, which (according to the Ancients) denoteth Fallity.
SCRIBL. How much the good Scriblerus was mistaken, may be seen from the fourth Book, which, it is plain from hence, he had never seen,
A flip-fhod Sibyl led his steps along,
15 In lofty madness meditating fong; Her treffes staring from Poetic dreams, And never wash'd, but in Castalia's streams, Taylor, their better Charon, lends an oar, (Once [wan of Thames, though now he sings no more.)
VARIATION. Ver. 15–22. Not in the first Ed.
REMARKS. Ver. 15. A fiip-thod Sibyl] This allegory is extremely just, no conformation of the mind so much fubjecting it to real Madness, as that which produces real Dulness. Hence we find the religious (as well as the poetical) Enthusiasts of all ages were ever, in their natural state, most heavy and lumpish ; but on the least application of heat, they ran like lead, which of all metals falls quickest into fufion. Whereas fire in a Genius is truly Promethean, it hurts not its constituent parts, but only fits it (as it does well-tempered steel) for the necessary impressions of art. But the common people have been taught (I do not know on what foundation) to regard Lunacy as a mark of Wit, just as the Turks and our modern Methodists do of Holiness. But if the cause of Madness assigned by a great Philosopher be true, it will unavoidably fall upon the dunces. He supposes it to be the dwelling over long on one object or idea : Now as this attention is occafioned either by Grief or Study, it will be fixed by Dulness; which hath not quickness enough to comprehend what it seeks, nor force and vigour enough to divert the imagination from the object it laments.
Ver. 19. 'Taylor] John Taylor the Water-poet, an honest man, who owns he learned not so much as the Accidence: A rare example of modesty in: a Poet!
" I must
Benlowes, propitious still to Blockheads, bows;
"I must confess I do want eloquence,
Accidence : “ For having got from poffum to poffet,
“ I there was gravel'd, could no farther get." He wrote fourscore books in the reign of James I. and Charles I. and afterwards (like Edward Ward) kept an Alehouse in Long-Acre. He died in 1654.
Ver. 21. Benlowes,] A country gentleman, famous for his own bad Poetry, and for patronizing bad Poets, as may be seen from many Dedications of Quarles and others to him. Some of these anagramed his name Benlowes into Benevolus : to verify which, he spent his whole estate upon them.
Ver. 22. And Shadwell nods the Poppy, &c.] Shadwell took Opium for many years; and died of too large a dose, in the year 1692.
Ver. 24. Old Bavius fits,] Bavius was an ancient Poet, celebrated by Virgil for the like causes as Bays by our author, though not in so christian-like a manner : For heathenishly it is declared by Virgil of Bavius, that
IMITATION. Ver. 28. unbar the gates of Light,] An Hemistich of Milton.