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There is in truth another objection of greater weight, namely,lt That this hero still existeth, and hath not yet finished his earthly course. For if Solon said well, that 4 no man could be called happy till his death,'surely much less can any one, .till then, be pronounced a hero; this species of men being far more subject than others to the caprices of fortune and humour." But to this also we have an answer, that will be deemed (we hope) decisive. It cometh from himself, who, to cut this dispute short, hath solemnly protested that he will never change or amend.
With regard to his vanity, he declare th that nothing shall ever part them. "Nature," saith he, "hath amply supplied me in vanity; a pleasure which neither the pertness of wit nor the gravity of wisdom will ever persuade me to part with." Our poet had charitably endeavoured to administer a cure to it, but he telleth us plainly, " My superiors perhaps may be mended by him, but for my part I own myself incorrigible. I look upon my follies as the best part of my fortune." And with good reason.—We see to what they have brought him!
Secondly, as to buffoonery. "Is it," saith he, "a time of day for me to leave off these fooleries, and set up a new character? I can no more put off my follies than my skin; I have often tried, but they stick too close to me; nor am I sure my friends are displeased with them, for in this light I afford them frequent matter of mirth," &c. &c. Having then so publicly declared himself incorrigible, he is become dead in law, (I mean the law Epopoeian) and descendeth to the poet as his property, who may take him, and deal with him, as if he had been dead as long as an old Egyptian hero; that is to say, embowel and embalm him for posterity.
Nothing therefore, we conceive, remains to hinder his own prophecy of himself from taking immediate effect. A rare felicity! and what few prophets have had the satisfaction to see alive! Nor can we conclude better than with that extraordinary one of his, which is conceived in these oraculpus words, My Dulness Will Find Somebody To Do
fO BE. JONATHAN SWIFT.
BOOK THE FIRST
The Proposition, the Invocation, and the Inscription. Then the original of the great empire of JDulness, and cause of the continuance thereof. The College of the Goddess in the City, with her private Academy for poets in particular; the governors of it, and the four Cardinal Virtues. Then the Poem hastes into the midst of things, presenting her, on the evening of a Lord Mayor's day, revolving the long succession of her sons, and the glories past and to come. She fixes her eye on Bays to be the instrument of that great event which is the subject of the poem. He is described pensive among his books, giving up the cause, and apprehending the period of her empire: after debating whether to betake himself to the Church, or to Gaming, or to Partywriting, he raises an altar of proper books, and (making first his solemn prayer and declaration) purposes thereon to sacrifice all his unsuccessful writings. As the pile is kindled, the Goddess, beholding the flame from her seat, flies and puts it out by casting upon it the poem of Thule. She forthwith reveals herself to him, transports him to her temple, unfolds her arts, and initiates him into her mysteries; then announcing the death of Eusden, the Poet Laureate, anoints him, carries him to court, and proclaims him successor.
The mighty mother, and her son who brings
1 Smithfield is the place where Bartholomew Fair was kept, whose shows, machines, and dramatical entertainments, formerly agreeable only to the taste of the rabble, were, by the hero of this poem and Dthers of equal genius, brought to the theatres of Covent-Garden, Lincoln's-Inn-fields, and the Haymarket, to be the reigning pleasures of the court and town. This happened in the reigns of King George I. and II.
In eldest time, ere mortals writ or read,
Still her old empire to restore she tries,
O thou! whatever title please thine ear, Dean, Drapier, Bickerstaff, or Gulliver! Whether thou choose Cervantes' serious air, Or laugh and shake in Rabelais' easy chair, Or praise the court, or magnify mankind, Or thy grieved country's copper chains unbind; From thy Bceotia though her power retires, Mourn not, my Swift, at aught our realm acquires, Here pleased behold her mighty wings outspread To hatch a new Saturnian age of lead.
Close to those walls where Folly holds her throne, And laughs to think Monro would take her down, "Where o'er the gates, by !*is famed fathei-'s hand1 Great Cibber's brazen brainless brothers stand; One cell there is, conceal'd from vulgar eye, The cave of Poverty and Poetry. -Keen hollow winds howl thro' the bleak recess, Emblem of music caus'd by emptiness. Hence bards, like Proteus long in vain tied down, Escape in monsters, and amaze the town. Hence Miscellanies spring, the weekly boast Of Curl's chaste press, and Lintot's rubric post:2 Hence hymning Tyburn's elegiac lines,3 Hence Journals, Medleys, Merc'ries, Magazines,
1 Mr. Caius Gabriel Cibber, father of the poet laureate. The two statues of the lunatics formerly placed over the gates of Bedlam Hospital were done by him, and (as the son justly says of him) are no ill monuments of his fame as an artist.
2 Two booksellers. The former was fined by the Court of King's Bench for publishing obscene books; the latter usually adorned his shop with titles in red letters.
It was an ancient English custom for the malefactors to sing a psalm at their executidfo at Tyburn, and no less customary to print elegies on, their deaths, at the same time, or before.
Sepulchral lies, our holy walls to grace,
And new-year odes, and all the Grub-street race.
In, clouded majesty here Dulness shone; Four guardian Yirtues, round, support her throne: Fierce champion Fortitude, that knows no fears Of hisses, blows, or want, or loss of ears: Calm Temperance, whose blessings those partake Who hunger and who thirst for scribbling sake: Prudence, whose glass presents the approaching gaol;' Poetic Justice, with her lifted scale, Where, in nice balance, truth with gold she weighs, And solid pudding against empty praise.
Here she beholds the chaos dark and deep, Where nameless somethings in their causes sleep, 'Til genial Jacob,1 or a warm third day, Call forth each mass, a poem, or a play: How hints, like spawn, scarce quick in embryo lie, How new-born nonsense first is taught to cry; Maggots half-form'd in rhyme exactly meet, And learn to crawl upon poetic feet. Here one poor word an hundred clenches makes, And ductile Dulness new meanders takes; There motley images her fancy strike, Figures ill pair'd, and similes unlike. She sees a mob of metaphors advance, Pleased with the madness of the mazy dance: How Tragedy and Comedy embrace; How Farce and Epic get a jumbled race; How Time himself stands still at her command, Realms shift their place, and ocean turns to land. Here gay description ^9Egypt glads with showers,3 Or gives to Zembla fruits, to Barca flowers; Glittering with ice here hoary hills are seen, There painted valleys of eternal green, In cold December fragrant chaplets blow, And heavy harvests nod beneath the snow.
All these, and more, the cloud-compelling queen Beholds through fogs, that magnify the scene:
1 Jacob Tonson, the publisher.
2 In the Lower JEgypt rain is of no use, the overflowing of the Nile being sufficient to impregnate the soil.—These six verses represent the inconsistencies in the descriptions of poets, who heap together al glittering and gaudy iaaages, though incompatible in one season, or in one scene.
She, tinsel'd o'er in robes of varying hues,
'Twas on the day, when * * rich and grave,1
1 Viz., a Lord Mayor's day; his name the author had left in blanks, out most certainly could never be that which the editor foisted in formerly, and which no ways agrees with the chronology of the poem.
The procession of a Lord Mayor is made partly by land, and partly by water.—Cimon, the famous Athenian general, obtained a victory by sea, and another by land, on the same day, over the Persians and barbarians.
2 Settle was poet to the city of London. His office was to compose yearly panegyrics upon the Lord Mayors, and verses to be spoken in the pageants; but that part of the show being at length frugally abolished, the employment of city poet ceased, so that upon Settle's demise there was no successor to that place. His productions are carefully preserved in the City library.
3 John Hey wood, whose interludes were printed in the time of Henry VIII.
4 The first edition had it,
She saw in Norton all Ids father shine. A great mistake; for Daniel De Foe had part-, but Norton de Foe was a wretch-ed writer, and never attempted poetry. Much more justly is Daniel himself marie successor to W. Prynne, both of whom wrote verses as well as politics.
5 Laurence Eusden, poet laureate. Mr. Jacob gives a catalogue of 8omo few only of his works, which wrere very numerous.