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For ancient Decker prophesied long since
That in this pile should reign a mighty prince,
Born for a scourge of wit and flail of sense,
To whom true dulness should some "Psyches" owe,
But worlds of "Misers" from his pen should flow;
Humourists" and Hypocrites it should produce,
Whole Raymond families and tribes of Bruce.
Now empress Fame had published the renown
Of Shadwell's coronation through the town.
Roused by report of fame, the nations meet
From near Bunhill and distant Watling Street.
No Persian carpets spread th' imperial way,
But scattered limbs of mangled poets lay;
From dusty shops neglected authors come; .
Much Heywood, Shirley, Ogleby there lay,
But loads of Shadwell almost choked the way.
Bilked stationers for yeomen stood prepared,
And Herringman was captain of the guard.
The hoary prince in majesty appeared,
High on a throne of his own labours reared.
At his right hand our young Ascanius sate,
Rome's other hope and pillar of the state;
His brows thick fogs instead of glories grace,
And lambent dulness played around his face.
As Hannibal did to the altars come,
Sworn by his sire a mortal foe to Rome,
So Shadwell swore, nor should his vow be vain,
That he till death true dulness would maintain,
And in his father's right and realm's defence
Ne'er to have peace with wit nor truce with sense.
The king himself the sacred unction made,
As king by office and as priest by trade.
In his sinister hand, instead of ball,
He placed a mighty mug of potent ale;
"Love's Kingdom" to his right he did convey,
At once his sceptre and his rule of sway,
Whose righteous lore the prince had practised young,
And from whose loins recorded "Psyche" sprung;
His temples, last, with poppies were o'erspread,
That, nodding, seemed to consecrate his head.
Just at that point of time, if fame not lie,
On his left hand twelve reverend owls did fly:
So Romulus, 't is sung, by Tiber's brook,
Presage of sway from twice six vultures took.
Th' admiring throng loud acclamations make,
And omens of his future empire take.
The sire then shook the honours of his head,
And from his brows damps of oblivion shed
Full on the filial dulness: long he stood,
Repelling from his breast the raging god;
At length burst out in this prophetic mood:
"Heavens bless my son! from Ireland let him reign,
To far Barbadoes on the western main;
Of his dominion may no end be known,
And greater than his father's be his throne;
Beyond 'Love's Kingdom' let him stretch his pen!"
He paused, and all the people cried, "Amen!"
Then thus continued he: "My son, advance
Still in new impudence, new ignorance.
Success let others teach; learn thou from me
Pangs without birth, and fruitless industry.
Let 'Virtuosos' in five years be writ,
Yet not one thought accuse thy toil of wit;
Let gentle George in triumph tread the stage,
Make Dorimant betray and Loveit rage;
Let Cully, Cockwood, Fopling, charm the pit,
And in their folly show the writer's wit:
Yet still thy fools shall stand in thy defence,
And justify their author's want of sense.
Let 'em be all by thy own model made
Of dulness, and desire no foreign aid,
That they to future ages may be known,
Not copies drawn, but issue of thy own.
Nay, let thy men of wit, too, be the same,
All full of thee, and differing but in name.
But let no alien Sedley interpose,
To lard with wit thy hungry Epsom prose.
And when false flowers of rhetoric thou wouldst cull, 165
Trust nature: do not labour to be dull,
But write thy best, and top; and in each line
Sir Formal's oratory will be thine.
Sir Formal, though unsought, attends thy quill,
And does thy northern dedications fill.
Nor let false friends seduce thy mind to fame
By arrogating Jonson's hostile name;
Let father Flecknoe fire thy mind with praise,
And uncle Ogleby thy envy raise.
Thou art my blood, where Jonson has no part:
What share have we in nature or in art?
Where did his wit on learning fix a brand,
And rail at arts he did not understand?
Where made he love in Prince Nicander's vein,
Or swept the dust in Psyche's humble strain? ....
When did his Muse from Fletcher scenes purloin,
As thou whole Eth'ridge dost transfuse to thine?—
But so transfused oil on waters flow:
His always floats above, thine sinks below.
This is thy province, this thy wondrous way,
New humours to invent for each new play;
This is that boasted bias of thy mind,
By which one way to dulness 't is inclined,
Which makes thy writings lean on one side still,
And, in all changes, that way bends thy will.
Nor let thy mountain belly make pretence
Of likeness; thine's a tympany of sense.
A tun of man in thy large bulk is writ,
But sure thou 'rt but a kilderkin of wit.
Like mine, thy gentle numbers feebly creep:
Thy tragic Muse gives smiles; thy comic, sleep.
With whate'er gall thou sett'st thyself to write,
Thy inoffensive satires never bite;
In thy felonious heart though venom lies,
It does but touch thy Irish pen and dies.
Thy genius calls thee not to purchase fame
In keen iambics, but mild anagram.
Leave writing plays, and choose for thy command
Some peaceful province in Acrostic Land:
There thou mayst wings display, and altars raise,
And torture one poor word ten thousand ways;
Or if thou wouldst thy diff'rent talents suit,
Set thy own songs, and sign them to thy lute."
He said; but his last words were scarcely heard;
For Bruce and Longville had a trap prepared,
And down they sent the yet declaiming bard.
Sinking, he left his drugget robe behind,
Borne upwards by a subterranean wind:
The mantle fell to the young prophet's part,
With double portion of his father's art.
Dim as the borrowed beams of moon and stars
To lonely, weary, wand'ring travellers,
Is Reason to the soul; and as on high
Those rolling fires discover but the sky,
Not light us here, so Reason's glimmering ray
Was lent, not to assure our doubtful way,
But guide us upward to a better day.
And as those nightly tapers disappear
When day's bright lord ascends our hemisphere,
So pale grows Reason at Religion's sight,
So dies, and so dissolves in supernatural light.
Some few, whose lamp shone brighter, have been led,
From cause to cause, to Nature's secret head,
And found that one First Principle must be;
But what or who that Universal He-
Whether some soul encompassing this ball,
Unmade, unmoved, yet making, moving all;
Or various atoms' interfering dance
Leapt into form, the noble work of chance;
Or this great All was from eternity,-
Not ev❜n the Stagyrite himself could see,
And Epicurus guessed as well as he.
As blindly groped they for a future state,
As rashly judged of Providence and Fate.
But least of all could their endeavours find
What most concerned the good of human kind;
For happiness was never to be found,
But vanished from 'em like enchanted ground.
One thought Content the good to be enjoyed;
This every little accident destroyed:
The wiser madmen did for Virtue toil,
A thorny or at best a barren soil:
In Pleasure some their glutton souls would steep,
But found their line too short, the well too deep,
And leaky vessels which no bliss could keep.
Thus anxious thoughts in endless circles roll,
Without a center where to fix the soul.
In this wild maze their vain endeavours end:
How can the less the greater comprehend,
Or finite Reason reach Infinity?
For what could fathom God were more than He.
"Oh, but," says one, "Tradition set aside,
Where we hope for an unerring guide?
For since th' original Scripture has been lost,
All copies disagreeing, maimed the most,
Or Christian faith can have no certain ground,
Or truth in Church tradition must be found."
Such an omniscient Church we wish indeed;
'T were worth both Testaments, and cast in the Creed.
But if this mother be a guide so sure
As can all doubts resolve, all truth secure,
Then her infallibility, as well,
Where copies are corrupt or lame can tell,
Restore lost canon with as little pains
As truly explicate what still remains;
Which yet no Council dare pretend to do,
Unless, like Esdras, they could write it new.
Strange confidence, still to interpret true,
Yet not be sure that all they have explained
Is in the blest original contained.
In times o'ergrown with rust and ignorance,
A gainful trade their clergy did advance.
When want of learning kept the laymen low,
And none but priests were authorized to know,
When what small knowledge was in them did dwell, 65
And he a god who could but read or spell,
Then Mother Church did mightily prevail;
She parcelled out the Bible by retail,