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Redeemed from tapers and defrauded pies,
Inspired he seizes. These an altar raise;
A hecatomb of pure, unsullied lays
That altar crowns; a folio Commonplace
Founds the whole pile, of all his works the base;
Quartos, octavos, shape the less'ning pyre;
A twisted birthday ode completes the spire.
Then he: "Great tamer of all human art,
First in my care, and ever at my heart!
Dulness! whose good old cause I yet defend;
With whom my Muse began, with whom shall end,
E'er since Sir Fopling's periwig was praise,
To the last honours of the butt and bays;
O thou, of business the directing soul
To this our head, like bias to the bowl,
Which, as more pond'rous, made its aim more true,
Obliquely waddling to the mark in view;
Oh, ever gracious to perplexed mankind,
Still spread a healing mist before the mind,
And, lest we err by wit's wild dancing light,
Secure us kindly in our native night!
Or if to wit a coxcomb make pretence,
Guard the sure barrier between that and sense;
Or quite unravel all the reas'ning thread,
And hang some curious cobweb in its stead!
As, forced from wind-guns, lead itself can fly,
And pond'rous slugs cut swiftly through the sky;
As clocks to weight their nimble motion owe,
The wheels above urged by the load below;
Me emptiness and dulness could inspire,
And were my elasticity and fire.
Some demon stole my pen (forgive th' offence),
And once betrayed me into common sense;
Else all my prose and verse were much the same:
This, prose on stilts; that, poetry fall'n lame.
Did on the stage my fops appear confined?
My life gave ampler lessons to mankind.
Did the dead letter unsuccessful prove?
The brisk example never failed to move.
Yet sure, had Heav'n decreed to save the state,
Heav'n had decreed these works a longer date.
Could Troy be saved by any single hand,
This grey-goose weapon must have made her stand.
What can I now? My Fletcher cast aside,
Take up the Bible, once my better guide?
Or tread the path by vent'rous heroes trod,
This box my thunder, this right hand my god?
Or, chaired at White's, amidst the doctors sit,
Teach oaths to gamesters, and to nobles wit?
Or bidst thou rather party to embrace?
(A friend to party thou, and all her race;
'Tis the same rope at diff'rent ends they twist.
To Dulness Ridpath is as dear as Mist.)
Shall I, like Curtius, desp'rate in my zeal,
O'er head and ears plunge for the commonweal?
Or rob Rome's ancient geese of all their glories,
And, cackling, save the monarchy of Tories?
Hold! to the minister I more incline;
To serve his cause, O Queen, is serving thine.
And see! thy very gazetteers give o'er;
Ev'n Ralph repents, and Henley writes no more.
What then remains! Ourself! Still, still remain
Cibberian forehead and Cibberian brain.
This brazen brightness, to the squire so dear;
This polished hardness, that reflects the peer;
This arch absurd, that wit and fool delights;
This mess, tossed up of Hockley Hole and White's,
Where dukes and butchers join to wreathe my crown,
At once the bear and fiddle of the town.
"O born in sin, and forth in folly brought!
Works damned or to be damned (your father's fault)!
Go; purified by flames, ascend the sky,
My better and more Christian progeny,
Unstained, untouched, and yet in maiden sheets,
While all your smutty sisters walk the streets.
Ye shall not beg, like gratis-given Bland,
Sent with a pass, and vagrant through the land;
Not sail with Ward, to ape-and-monkey climes,
Where vile Mundungus trucks for viler rhymes;
Not, sulphur-tipt, emblaze an ale-house fire;
Not wrap up oranges, to pelt your sire!
O, pass more innocent, in infant state,
To the mild limbo of our father Tate;
Or, peaceably forgot, at once be blest
In Shadwell's bosom with eternal rest;
Soon to that mass of nonsense to return,
Where things destroyed are swept to things unborn."
With that a tear (portentous sign of grace!)
Stole from the master of the sev'nfold face;
And thrice he lifted high the birthday brand,
And thrice he dropt it from his quiv'ring hand;
Then lights the structure, with averted eyes.
The rolling smoke involves the sacrifice;
The op'ning clouds disclose each work by turns:
Now flames the "Cid," and now "Perolla" burns;
Great "Cæsar" roars and hisses in the fires;
"King John" in silence modestly expires;
No merit now the dear "Nonjuror" claims-
Molière's old stubble in a moment flames.
Tears gushed again, as from pale Priam's eyes
When the last blaze sent Ilion to the skies.
Roused by the light, old Dulness heaved the head,
Then snatch'd a sheet of "Thule" from her bed;
Sudden she flies, and whelms it o'er the pyre;
Down sink the flames, and with a hiss expire.
Her ample presence fills up all the place;
A veil of fogs dilates her awful face;
Great in her charms as when on shrieves and may'rs
She looks and breathes herself into their airs.
She bids him wait her to her sacred dome;
Well pleased he entered, and confessed his home:
So spirits, ending their terrestrial race,
Ascend, and recognize their native place.
This the great mother dearer held than all
The clubs of quidnuncs or her own Guild-hall;
Here stood her opium, here she nursed her owls,
And here she planned th' imperial seat of fools.
Here to her chosen all her works she shows:
Prose swelled to verse, verse loit'ring into prose;
How random thoughts now meaning chance to find,
Now leave all memory of sense behind;
How prologues into prefaces decay,
And these to notes are frittered quite away;
How index-learning turns no student pale,
Yet holds the eel of science by the tail;
How, with less reading than makes felons 'scape,
Less human genius than God gives an ape,
Small thanks to France and none to Rome or Greece,
A vast, vamped, future, old, revived, new piece,
'Twixt Plautus, Fletcher, Shakespear, and Corneille,
Can make a Cibber, Tibbald, or Ozell.
The goddess then, o'er his anointed head,
With mystic words, the sacred opium shed.
And lo! her bird (a monster of a fowl,
Something betwixt a heideggre and owl)
Perched on his crown. "All hail! and hail again,
My son! the promised land expects thy reign.
Know Eusden thirsts no more for sack or praise;
He sleeps among the dull of ancient days;
Safe, where no critics damn, no duns molest,
Where wretched Withers, Ward, and Gildon rest,
And high-born Howard, more majestic sire,
With fool of quality completes the quire.
Thou, Cibber, thou, his laurel shalt support;
Folly, my son, has still a friend at court.
Lift up your gates, ye princes, see him come!
Sound, sound, ye viols; be the cat-call dumb!
Bring, bring the madding bay, the drunken vine;
The creeping, dirty, courtly ivy join!
And thou, his aide-de-camp, lead on my sons,
Light-armed with points, antitheses, and puns.
Let Bawdry, Billingsgate, my daughters dear,
Support his front, and Oaths bring up the rear;
And under his, and under Archer's wing,
Gaming and Grub Street skulk behind the King.
Oh, when shall rise a monarch all our own,
And I, a nursing mother, rock the throne?
'Twixt prince and people close the curtain draw,
Shade him from light, and cover him from law?
Fatten the courtier, starve the learnèd band,
And suckle armies, and dry-nurse the land,
Till senates nod to lullabies divine,
And all be sleep, as at an ode of thine?"
She ceased. Then swells the chapel-royal throat:
"God save King Cibber!" mounts in ev'ry note.
Familiar White's "God save King Colley!" cries;
"God save King Colley!" Drury Lane replies.
To Needham's quick the voice triumphal rode,
But pious Needham dropt the name of God.
Back to the Devil the last echoes roll,
And "Coll!" each butcher roars at Hockley Hole.
So when Jove's block descended from on high
(As sings thy great forefather Ogilby),
Loud thunder to its bottom shook the bog,
And the hoarse nation croaked, "God save King Log!"
EPISTLE TO DR. ARBUTHNOT
P. Shut, shut the door, good John! fatigued, I said.
Tie up the knocker! say I'm sick, I'm dead.
The Dog-star rages! nay, 't is past a doubt
All Bedlam or Parnassus is let out.
Fire in each eye, and papers in each hand,
They rave, recite, and madden round the land.
What walls can guard me, or what shades can hide?
They pierce my thickets, through my grot they glide.
By land, by water, they renew the charge;
They stop the chariot, and they board the barge.
No place is sacred, not the church is free;
Ev'n Sunday shines no Sabbath day to me:
Then from the Mint walks forth the man of rhyme,
Happy to catch me just at dinner time.
Is there a parson much be-mused in beer,
A maudlin poetess, a rhyming peer,
A clerk, foredoomed his father's soul to cross,
Who pens a stanza when he should engross?
Is there who, locked from ink and paper, scrawls
With desp'rate charcoal round his darkened walls?
All fly to Twit'nam, and in humble strain
Apply to me to keep them mad or vain.
Arthur, whose giddy son neglects the laws,
Imputes to me and my damned works the cause.
Poor Cornus sees his frantic wife elope,
And curses wit, and poetry, and Pope.