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Of Roman altars, camps, and urns,
Of Caledonian shields, and churns :
Whether the druid slipp'd or broke
The mistletoe upon the oak?
If Hector's spear was made of ash ?
Or Agamemnon wore a sash ?
If Cleopatra dress'd in blue,
And wore her tresses in a queue ?
At length a Dean who understood
All that had pass'd before the Flood,
And could in half a minute show ye
A pedigree as high as Noah,
Got up, and, with a solemn air
(First humbly, bowing to the chair),
If aught (says he) deserves a name
Immortal as the roll of fame,
This venerable group of sages
Shall flourish in the latest ages,
And wear an amaranthine crown
When kings and empires are unknown.
Perhaps e’en I, whose humbler knowledge
Ranks me the lowest of your college,
May catch from your meridian day
At least a transitory ray:
For I, like you, through every clime
Have traced the step of hoary Time,
And gather'd up his sacred spoils
With more than half a century's toils..
Whatever virtue, deed, or name
Antiquity has left to fame,
In every age, and every zone,
In copper, marble, wood, or stone,
In vases, flowerpots, lamps, and sconces,
Intaglios, cameos, gems, and bronzes,
These eyes have read through many a crust
Of lacker, varnish, grease, and dust:
And now, as glory fondly draws
My soul to win your just applause,
I here exhibit to your view
A medal fairly worth Peru,
Found, as Tradition says, at Rome,
Near the Quirinal catacomb.'
He said, and from a purse of satin,
Wrapp'd in a leaf of monkish Latin,
And taught by many a clasp to join,
Drew out a dirty copper coin.
Still as pale midnight when she throws
On heaven and earth a deep repose,
Lost in a trance too big to speak,
The synod eyed the fine antique;
Examined every point and part
With all the critic skill of art;
Rung it alternate on the ground,
In hopes to know it by the sound;
Applied the tongue's acuter sense
To taste its genuine excellence,
And with an animated gust
Lick'd the consecrated rust:
Nor yet content with what the eye
By its own sunbeams could descry,
To every corner of the brass
They clapp'd a microscopic glass :
And view'd in raptures o'er and o'er
The ruins of the learned ore.
Pythagoras, the learned sage,
As you may read in Pliny's page,
With much of thought and pains and care
Found the proportions of a square;
Which threw him in such frantic fits
As almost robb’d him of his wits,
And made him, awful as his name was,
Run naked through the streets of Samos.
With the same spirits Doctor Romans,
A keen civilian of the Commons,
Fond as Pythagoras to claim
The wreath of literary fame,
Sprung in a frenzy from his place
Across the table and the mace,
And swore by Varro's shade that he
Conceived the medal to a T.
' It rings (says he) so pure and chaste.
And has so classical a taste,
That we may fix its native home
Securely in imperial Rome.
That rascal, Time, whose hand purloins
From science half her kings and coins,
Has eat, you see, one half the tale,
And hid the other in a veil :
But if, through cankers, rust, and fetters,
Misshapen forms, and broken letters,
The critic's eye may dare to trace
An evanescent name and face,
This injured medal will appear,
As midday sunshine, bright and clear.
The female figure, on a throne
Of rustic work in Tibur's stone,
Without a sandal, zone, or bodice,
Is Liberty's immortal goddess;
Whose sacred fingers seem to hold
A taper wand, perhaps of gold:
Which has, if I mistake not, on it
The Pileus or Roman bonnet:
By this the medallist would mean
To paint that fine domestic scene,
When the first Brutus nobly gave
His freedom to the worthy slave.'
When a spectator ’as got the jaundice,
Each object or by sea or land is
Discolour'd by a yellow hue,
Though naturally red or blue.
This was the case with squire Thynne,
A barrister of Lincoln's Inn,
Who never loved to think or speak
Of any thing but ancient Greek.
In all disputes his sacred guide was,
The very venerable Suidas;
And though he never deign’d to look
In Salkeld, Lyttelton, or Coke,
And lived a stranger to the fées
And practice of the Common Pleas;
He studied, with such warmth and awe,
The volumes of Athenian law,
That Solon's self not better knew
The legislative plan he drew;
Nor could Demosthenes withstand
The rhetoric of his wig and band;
When, full of zeal and Aristotle
And fluster'd by a second bottle,
He taught the orator to speak
His periods in correcter Greek.
Methinks (quoth he), this little piece Is certainly a child of Greece: The' ærugo has a tinge of blue Exactly of the Attic hue; And, if the taste's acuter feel May judge of medals as of veal,
I'll take my oath the mould and rust
Are made of Attic dew and dust.
Critics may talk and rave and foam
Of Brutus and imperial Rome;
But Rome, in all her pomp and bliss,
Ne'er struck so fine a coin as this.
Besides, though Time, as is his way,
Has eat the' inscription quite away,
My eye can trace, divinely true,
In this dark curve a little Mu:
And here, you see, there seems to lie
The ruins of a Doric Xi.
Perhaps, as Athens thought and writ
With all the powers of style and wit,
The nymph upon a couch of mallows
Was meant to represent a Pallas;
And the baton upon the ore
Is but the olive-branch she bore.'
He said—but Swinton, full of fire,
Asserted that it came from Tyre :
A most divine antique he thought it,
And with an empire would have bought it.
He swore the head in full profile was
Undoubtedly the head of Belus;
And the reverse, though hid in shade,
Appear'd a young Sidonian maid,
Whose tresses, buskins, shape, and mien
Mark'd her for Dido at sixteen;
Perhaps the very year when she was
First married to the rich Sichæus.
The rod, as he could make it clear,
Was nothing but a
Which all the Tyrian ladies bore,
To guard them when they chased the boar.