Category Archives: Poetry

Item of the Day: Akenside’s Poems (1772)

Full Title:

The Poems of Mark Akenside, M. D.  London, Printed by W. Bowyer and J Nichols: And Sold by J. Dodsley, In Pall Mall.  MDCCLXXII.

The Pleasures of the Imagination: Book the Second.

Introduction to this more difficult part of the subject.  Of truth and its three classes, matter of fact, experimental or scientifical truth, (contradistinguished from opinion) and universal truth: which last is either metaphysical or geometrical, either purely intellectual or purely abstracted.  On the power of discerning truth depends that of acting with the view of an end; a cicumstance essential to virtue.  Of virtue, considered in the divine mind as a perpetual and universal beneficence.  Of human virtue, considered as a system of particular sentiments and actions, suitable to the design of providence and the condition of man; to whom it constitutes the chief good and the first beauty.  Of vice and its origin.  Of ridicule: its general nature and first cause.  Of the passions; particularly of those which relate to evil natural or moral, and which are generally accounted painful, though not always unattended with pleasure.   

Thus far of beauty and the pleasing forms

Which man’s untutor’d fancy, from the scenes

Imperfect of this ever-changing world,

Creates; and views, inamor’d. Now my song

Severer themes demand: mysterious truth;

And virtue, sovran good: the spells, the trains,

The progeny of error: the dread sway

Of passion; and whatever hidden stores

From her own lofty deeds and from herself

The mind acquires.  Severer argument:

Not less attractive; nor deserving less

A constant ear.  For what are all the forms

Educ’d by fancy from corporeal things,

Greatness, or pomp, or symmetry of parts?

Not tending to the heart, soon feeble grows,

As the blunt arrow ’gainst the knotty trunk,

Their impulse on the sense: while the pall’d eye

Expects in vain its tribute; asks in vain,

Where are the ornaments it once admir’d?

Not so the moral species, nor the powers

Of passion and of thought.  The ambitious mind

With objects boundless as her own desires

Can there converse: by these unfading forms

Touch’d and awaken’d still, with eager act

She bends each nerve, and meditates well-pleas’d

Her gifts, her godlike fortune.  Such the scenes

Now opening round us.  May the destin’d verse

Maintain its equal tenor, though in tracts

Obscure and arduous.  May the source of light

All-present, all sufficient, guide our steps

Through every maze: and whom in childish years

From the loud throng, the beaten paths of wealth

And power, thou did’st apart send forth to speak

In tuneful words concerning highest things,

Him still do thou, o father, at those hours

Of pensive freedom, when the human soul

Shuts out the rumour of the world, him still

Touch thou with secret lessons: call thou back

Each erring thought; and let the yielding strains

From his full bosom, like a welcome rill

Spontaneous from its healthy fountain, flow […]

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Filed under 1770's, Eighteenth century, Literature, Philosophy, Poetry, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: Young’s Night Thoughts (1812)

Full Title:  The Complaint; or, Night Thoughts, on Life, Death, and Immortality.  By Edward Young, L.L.D. With the Life of the Author.  London:  Printed for Thomas Tegg, 111, Cheapside.  1812.  [Originally, 1742-1746].

PREFACE.

As the occasion of this Poem was real, not fictitious ; so the method persued in it was rather imposed, by what spontaneously arose in the Author’s mind, on that occasion, than meditated, or designed.  Which will apppear very probable from the nature of it.  For it differs from the common mode of poetry, which is, from long narrations to draw short morals.  Here, on the contrary, the narrative is short, and the morality arising from it makes the bulk of the Poem.  The reason of it is, that the facts mentioned did naturally pour these moral reflections on the thought of the writer.

The Complaint.

Night I.

On Life, Death, and Immortality.

Humbly inscribed to the Right Honourable Arthur Onslow, Esq; Speaker of the House of Commons.

Tir’d Nature’s sweet Restorer, balmy Sleep !

He, like the world, his ready visit pays

Where Fortune smiles ;  the wretched he forsakes;

Swift on his downy pinion flies from woe,

And lights on lids unsully’d with a tear.

From short (as usual) and disturb’d repose,

I wake :  How happy they, who wake no more !

Yet that were vain, if dreams infest the grave.

I wake, emerging from a sea of dreams

Tumultuous ; where my wreck’d desponding thought,

From wave to wave of fancy’d misery,

At random drove, her helm of reason lost.

Though now restor’d, ‘tis only change of pain,

(A bitter change!) severer for severe.

The Day too short for my distress ; and Night,

Ev’n in the zenith of her dark domain,

Is sunshine to the colour of my fate.

 

Night, sable goddess ! from her ebon throne,

In rayless majesty, now stretches forth

Her leaden scepter o’er a slumb’ring world.

Silence, how dead; and darkness, how profoud !

Nor eye, nor list’ning ear, an object finds ;

Creation sleeps.  ‘Tis as the general pulse

Of Life still stood, and Nature made a pause ;

And let her prophecy be soon fulfill’d :

Fate, drop the curtain ; I can lose no more.

 

Silence and Darkness !  solemn sisters !  twins

From ancient Night, who nurse the tender thought

To Reason, and on Reason build Resolve,

(That column of true majesty in man)

Assist me :  I will thank you in the grave ;

The grave, your kingdom :  there this frame shall fall

A victim sacred to your dreary shrine.

But what are ye ?—

 

THOU, who didst put to flight

Primeval silence, when the morning stars,

Exulting, shouted o’er the rising ball ;

O THOU, whose word from solid darkness struck

That spark, the sun, strike wisdom from my soul ;

My soul, which flies to Thee, her trust, her treasure,

As misers to their gold, while others rest.

 

Through this opaque of Nature and of Soul,

This double night, transmit one pitying ray,

To lighten and to cheer.  O lead my mind,

(A mind that fain would wander from its woe)

Lead it through various scenes of life and death;

And, from each scene, the noblest truths inspire.

Nor less inspire my Conduct, than my Song :

Teach my best reason, reason ; my best will

Teach rectitude ; and fix my firm resolve

Wisdom to wed, and pay her long arrear :

Nor let the phial of thy vengeance, pour’d

On this devoted head, be pour’d in vain.

The bell strikes One.  We take no note of time

But from its loss.  To give it, then, a tongue,

Is wise in man.  As if an angel spoke,

I feel the solemn sound.  If heard aright,

It is the knell of my departed hours :

Where are they ?  With the years beyond the flood.

It is the signal that demands dispatch :

How much is to be done ?  My hopes and fears

Start up alarm’d, and o’er life’s narrow verge

Look down.—On what ?  a fathomless abyss !

A dread eternity !  how surely mine !

And can eternity belong to me,

Poor pensioner on the bounties of an hour ?

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Filed under 1740's, 1810's, Literature, Poetry, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: Dryden’s Juvenal (1693)

Item of the Day: The Satires of Decimus Junius Juvenalis. Translated into English Verse. By Mr. Dryden, and Several other Eminent Hands. Together with the Satires of Aulus Persius Flaccus. Made English by Mr. Dryden. With Explanatory Notes at the end of Each Satire. To which is prefix’d a Discourse concerning the Original and Progress of Satire. Dedicated to the Right Honourable Charles Earl of Dorset, &c., By Mr. Dryden. London, Printed for Jacob Tonson at the Judge’s-Head in Chancery-Lane, near Fleetstreet. M DC XCIII. Where you may have Compleat Sets of Mr. Dryden’s Works, in Four Volumes in Quarto, the Plays being put in the order they were Written.

The Third Satyr of Juvenal, Translated into English Verse by Mr. Dryden.

Argument of the Third Satyr.

The Story of this Satyr speaks it self. Umbritius, the suppos’d Friend of Juvenal, and himself a Poet, is leaving Rome; and retiring to Cumae. Our Author accompanies him out of Town. Before they take leave of each other, Umbritius tells his Friend the Reasons which oblige him to lead a private life in an obscure place. He complains that an honest man cannot get his bread at Rome. That none but Flatterers make their Fortunes there: That Grecians and other Foreigners, raise themselves by those sordid Arts which he describes, and against which he bitterly inveighs. He reckons up the several Inconveniencies which arise from City life; and the many Dangers which attend it. Upbraids the Noblemen with Covetousness, for not Rewarding good Poets; and arraigns the Government for starving them. The great Art of this Satyr is particularly shown, in Common Places; and drawing in as many Vices, as cou’d naturally fall into the compass of it.  

The THIRD SATYR.

Griev’d tho I am, an Ancient Friend to lose,

I like the Solitary Seat he chose:

In quiet Cumae fixing his Repose:

Where, far from Noisy Rome secure he Lives,

And one more Citizen to Sybil Gives.

The Road to Bajae, and that soft Recess

Which all the Gods with all their Bounty bless.

Tho I in Prochyta which greater ease

Cou’d live, than in a Street of Palaces.

What Scene so Desart, or s full of Fright,

As tow’ring Houses tumbling in the Night,

And Rome on Fire beheld by its own Blazing Light?

But worse than all, the clatt’ring Tiles; and worse

Than thousand Padders, is the Poet’s Curse.

Rogues that in Dog-days cannot Rhime forbear;

But without Mercy read, and make you hear.

 

Now while my Friend just ready to depart,

Was packing all his Goods in one poor Cart;

He stopp’d a little at the Conduit-Gate,

Where Numa modell’d one the Roman State,

In Mighty Councels with his Nymphs retir’d:

Though now the Sacred Shades and Founts are hir’d

By Banish’d Jews, who their whole Wealth can lay

In a small Basket, on a Wisp of Hay;

Yet such our Avarice is, that every Tree

Pays for his Head; not Sleep it self is free:

Nor Place, nor Persons now are Sacred held,

From their own Grove the Muses are expell’d.

Into this lonely Vale our Steps we bend,

I and my sullen discontented Friend:

The Marble Caves, and Aquaeducts we view;

But how Adult’rate now, and different from the true!

How much more Beauteous had the Fountain been

Embellish’t with her first Created Green,

Where Crystal Streams through living Turf had run,

Contented with an Urn of Native Stone!

 

Then thus Umbricius, (with an Angry Frown,

And looking back on this degen’rate Town,)

Since Noble Arts in Rome have no support,

And ragged Virtue not a Friend at Court,

No Profit rises from th’ungrateful Stage,

My Poverty encreasing with my Age,

’Tis time to give my just Disdain a vent,

And, Cursing, leave so base a Government.

Where Dedalus his borrow’d Wings laid by,

To that obscure Retreat I chuse to fly:

While yet few furrows on my Face are seen,

While I walk upright, and Old Age is green,

And Lachesis has somewhat left to spin.

Now, now ’tis time to quit this cursed place;

And hide from Villains my too honest Face:

Here let Arturius live, and such as he;

Such Manners will with such a Town agree.

Knaves who in full Assemblies have the knack

Of turning Truth to Lies, and White to Black:

Can hire large Houses, and oppress the Poor

By farm’d Excise, and cleanse the Common-shoare;

And rent the Fishery; can bear the dead;

And teach their Eyes dissembled Tears to shed:

All this for Gain; for Gain they sell their very Head,

These Fellows (see what Fortune’s pow’r can do)

Were once the Minstrels of a Country Show:

Follow’d the Prizes through each paltry Town,

By Trumpet-Cheeks, and Bloated Faces known.

But now, grown rich, on drunken Holy-days,

At their own Costs exhibit Publick Plays;

Where influenc’d by the Rabble’s bloody will,

With Thumbs bent back, they popularly kill.

From thence return’d, their sordid Avarice rakes

In Excrements again, and hires the Jakes.

Why hire they not the Town, not ev’ry thing,

Since such as they have Fortune in a String?

Who, for her pleasure, can her Fools advance;

And toss ’em topmost on the Wheel of Chance.

What’s Rome to me, what bus’ness have I there,

I who can neither Lye nor falsly Swear?

Nor Praise my Patron’s underserving Rhimes,

Nor yet comply with him, nor with his Times;

Unskill’d in Schemes by Planets to foreshow

Like Canting Rascals, how the Wars will go:

I neither will, nor can Prognosticate

To the young gaping Heir, his Father’s Fate:

Nor in the Entrails of a Toad have pry’d,

Nor carry’d Bawdy Presents to a Bride:

For want of these Town Virtues, thus, alone,

I go conducted on my way by none:

Like a dead Member from the Body rent;

Maim’d and unuseful to the Government.

Who now is lov’d, but he who loves the Times,

Conscious of close Intrigues, and dipt in Crimes:

Lab’ring with Secrets which his Bosom burn,

Yet never must to publick light return;

They get Reward alone who can Betray:

For keeping honest Counsels none will pay.

He who can Verres, when he will, accuse,

The Purse of Verres may at Pleasure use:

But let not all the Gold which Tagus hides,

And pays the Sea in Tributary Tides,

Be Bribe sufficient to corrupt thy Breast;

Or violate with Dreams thy peaceful rest.

Great Men with jealous Eyes the Freind behold,

Whose secrecy they purchase with their Gold.

I haste to tell thee, nor shall some oppose,

What Confidents our Wealthy Romans chose:

And whom I most abhor: To speak my Mind,

I hate, in Rome, a Grecian Town to find:

To see the Scum of Greece transplanted here,

Receiv’d like Gods, is what I cannot bear.

Nor Greeks alone, but Syrians here abound,

Obscene Orontes diving under Ground,

Conveys his Wealth to Tyber’s hungry Shoars,

And fattens Italy with Foreign Whores:

Hether their crooked Harps and Customs come;

All find Receipt in Hospitable Rome.

The Barbarous Harlots croud the Publick Place:

Go Fools, and purchase the unclean Embrace;

The painted Mitre court, and the more painted Face.

Old Romulus, and Father Mars look down,

Your Herdsman Primitive, your homely Clown

Is turn’s a Beau in a loose tawdry Gown.

His once unkem’d, and horrid Locks, behold

Stilling sweet Oul; his Neck inchain’d with Gold:

Aping the Foreigners, in ev’ry Dress;

Which, bought at greater cost, becomes him less.

Mean time they wisely leave their Native Land,

From Sycion, Samos, and from Alaband,

And Amydon, to Rome they Swarm in Shoals:

So Sweet and Easie is the Gain from Fools.

Poor Refugies at first, they purchase here:

Ans, soon as Denizen’d, they domineer.

Grow to the Great, a flatt’ring Servile Rout:

Work themselves inward, and their Patrons out.

Quick Witted, Brazen-fac’d, with fluent Tongues,

Patient of Labours, and dissembling Wrongs.

Riddle me this, and guess him if you can,

Who bears a Nation in a single Man?

A Cook, a Conjurer, a Rhetorician,

A Painter, Pedant, a Geometrician,

A Dancer on the Ropes, and a Physician.

All things the hungry Greek exactly knows:

And bid him go to Heav’n, to Heav’n he goes.

In short, no Scythian, Moor, or Thracian Born,

But in that Town which Arms and Arts adorn.

Shall he be plac’d above me at the Board,

In Purple Cloath’d, and lolling like a Lord?

Shall he before me sign, whom t’other Day

A small-craft Vessel hither did convey;

Where, stow’d with Prunes, and rotten Figs, he lay?

How little is the Priviledge become

Of being born a Citizen of Rome! […]

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Filed under 1690's, Literature, Poetry, Posted by Matthew Williams, Satire, Translation

Item of the Day: Gay’s Fables [1733]

Full Title: Fables by the late Mr. Gay. In Two Volumes. Glasgow: Printed for Alexander M’ckenzie, [1733].

INTRODUCTION TO THE FABLES.

VOLUME THE FIRST.

The SHEPHERD and the PHILOSOPHER.

Remote from cities liv’d a Swain,

Unvex’d with all the cares of gain;

His head was silver’d o’er with age,

And long experience made him sage;

In summer’s heat and winter’s cold

He fed his flock, and penn’d the fold;

His hours in cheerful labour flew,

Nor envy nor ambition knew;

His wisdom and his honest fame

Through all the country rais’d his name. 

           A deep Philosopher (whose rules

Of moral life were drawn from schools)

The Shepherd’s homely cottage sought,

And thus explore’d his reach of thought.

            Whence is thy learning? Hath thy toil

O’er books consum’d the midnight-oil?

Hast thou old Greece and Rome survey’d,

And the vast sense of Plato weigh’d?

Hath Socrates thy soul refin’d,

And hath thou fathom’d Tully’s mind?

Or, like the wise Ulysses thrown

By various fates on realms unknown,

Hast thou through many cities stray’d,

Their customs, laws, and manners weigh’d?

            The Shepherd modestly repley’d.

I ne’er the paths of learning try’d;

Nor have I roam’d in foreign parts

To read mankind, their laws and arts;

For man is practis’d in disguise,

He cheats the most discerning eyes:

Who by that search shall wiser grow,

When we ourselves can never know?

The little knowledge I have gain’d,

Was all from simple nature drain’d;

Hence my life’s maxims took their rise,

Hence grew my settled hate to vice.

            The daily labours of the bee

Awake my soul to industry

Who can observe the careful ant,

And not provide for future want?

My dog (the trustiest of his kind)

With gratitude inflames my mind:

I mark his true, his faithful way,

And in my service copy Tray.

In constancy, and nuptial love,

I learn my duty from the dove.

The hen, who from the chilly air

With pious wing protects her care;

And every fowl that flies at large,

Instructs me in a parent’s charge.

            From nature too I take my rule,

To shun contempt and ridicule.

I never with important air

In conversation over bear.

Can grave and formal pass for wise,

When men the solemn owl despise?

My tongue within my lips I rein;

For who talks much, must talk in vain.

We from the wordy torrent fly:

Who listen to the chatt’ring pye?

Nor would I, with felonious flight,

By stealth invade my neighbor’s right.

Rapacious animals we hate:

Kites, hawks, and wolves deserve their fate.

Do not we just abhorrence find

Against the toad and serpent kind:

But envy, calumny, and spite,

Bear stronger venom in their bite.

Thus every object of creation

Can furnish hints to contemplation:

And from the most minute and mean

A virtuous mind can morals gleam.

            Thy fame is just, the sage replies;

Thy virtue proves thee truly wise.

Pride often guides the author’s pen,

Books as affected are as men:

But he who studies nature’s laws,

From certain truth his maxims draws;

And those, without our schools suffice

To make men moral, good, and wise.

 

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Filed under 1730's, Literature, Poetry, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: The Art of Sinking in Poetry (1751)

Full Title: Miscellanies.  The Second Volume. By D. Swift, Dr. Arbuthnot, and Mr. Pope.  London, Printed for Charles Bathurst, and sold by T. Woodward, C. Davis, C. Hitch, R. Dosley, and W. Bowyer.  MDCCLI.

Martinus Scriblerus,

П Е Р І   В А Θ О Υ Σ:

or, Of the Art of Sinking in Poetry.

[by Alexander Pope] 

CHAP. V.

Of the true Genius for the Profound, and by what it is constituted.

AND I will venture to lay it down, as the first Maxim and Corner-stone of this our Art; that whosoever would excel therein, must studiously avoid, detest, and turn his head from all the ideas, ways, and workings of that pestilent Foe to Wit, and Destroyer of fine Figures, which is known by the name of Common Sense. His business must be to contract the true Gout de travers; and to acquire a most happy, uncommon, unaccountable Way of Thinking. 

He is to consider himself as a Grotesque Painter, whose works would be spoil’d by an imitation of nature or uniformity of design. He is to mingle bits of the most various, or discordant kinds of landscape, history, portraits, animals, and connect them with a great deal of flourishing, by head or by tail, as it shall please his imagination, and contribute to his principal end, which is to glare by strong oppositions of colours, and surprize by contrariety of images.

Serpentes avibus geminentur, trigibus agni.  HOR.

His design ought to be like a labyrinth, out of which no body can get clear by himself. And since the great Art of all Poetry is to mix Truth with Fiction, in order to join the Credible with the Surprizing; our author shall produce the Credible, by painting nature in her lowest simplicity; and the Surprizing, by contradicting common opinion. In the very Manners he will affect the Marvellous; he will draw Achilles with the patience of a Job; a prince talking like a Jack-pudding; a Maid of honour selling bargains; a footman speaking like a philosopher; and a fine gentleman like a scholar.  Whoever is conversant in modern Plays, may make a most noble collection of this kind, and at the same time, form a complete body of modern Ethics and Morality

Nothing seem’d more plain to our great authors, than that the world had long been weary of natural things. How much the contrary are form’d to please, is evident from the universal applause daily given to the admirable entertainments of Harlequins and Magicians on our stage. When an audience behold a couch turn’d into a wheelbarrow, a conjurer into an old woman, or a man’s head where his heels should be; how are they struck with transport and delight? Which can only be imputed to this cause, that each object is chang’d into that which hath been suggested to them by their own ideas before.

He ought therefore to render himself master of this happy and anti-natural way of thinking to such a degree, as to be able, on the appearance of any object, to furnish his imagination with ideas infinitely below it.  And his eyes should be like unto the wrong end of a perpective glass, by which all the objects of nature are lessen’d.

For Example; when a true genius looks upon the Sky, he immediately catches the idea of a piece of blue lute-string, or a child’s mantle.

The Skies, whose spreading volumes scarce have room,
Spun thin, and wove in nature’s finest loom,
The new-born world in their soft lap embrac’d,
And all around their starry mantle cast. *

If he looks upon a Tempest, he shall have an image of a tumbled bed, and describe a succeeding calm in this manner;

The Ocean, joy’d to see the tempest fled,
New lays his waves, and smooths his ruffled bed. **
____________________________
* Prince Arthur, p. 41, 42.
** p. 14

NB. In order to do justice to these great Poets, our Citations are taken from the best, the last, and most correct Editions of their Works.  That which we use of Prince Arthur, is in duodecimo, 1714. the fourth Edition revised.

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Filed under 1750's, Common sense, Criticism, Poetry, Posted by Matthew Williams, Satire

Item of the Day: Hudibras (Grey edition, 1772)

Full Title: Hudibras, In Three Parts; Written in the Time of the Late Wars: Corrected and Amended. With large annotations and a preface by Zachary Grey, LL.D.  Adorn’d with a new Set of Cuts.  The third edition. Vol. I. London: Printed for C. Bathurst, W. Strahan, B. White, T. Davies, W. Johnston, L. Hawes and Co. T. Longman, T. Becket, E. Johnson, C. Corbett, T. Caslon, E. and C. Dilly, T. Lowndes, T. Cadell, W. Nichol, B. Tovey, S. Bladon, and R. Baldwin.  MDCCLXXII.

 

HUDIBRAS.  

The Argument of

The First Canto.  Sir Hudibras his passing Worth,

The Manner how he sally’d forth;

His Arms and Equipage are shown;

His Horses Virtues, and his own.

Th’ Adventure of the Bear and Fiddle

Is sung, but breaks off in the middle. 

 

 

Canto I.  

When Civil Dudgeon first grew high,

And Men fell out they knew not why;

When hard Words, Jealousies and Fears

Set Folks together by the ears,

And made them fight like mad or drunk

For Dame Religion, as for Punk,

Whose Honesty they all durst swear for,

Tho’ not a Man of them knew wherefore:

When Gospel-Trumpeter, surrounded

With long-ear’d Rout, to Battle sounded;

And Pulpit, Drum Ecclesiastick,

Was beat with a Fist, instead of a Stick:

Then did Sir Knight abandon Dwelling,

And out he rode a Colonelling.

A Wight he was, whose very sight would

Entitle him, Mirrour of Knighthood;

That never bow’d his stubborn Knee

To any thing but Chivalry;

Nor put up Blow, but that which laid

Right Worshipful on Shoulder-blade:

Chief of Domestick Knights and Errant,

Either for Chartel, or for Warrant:

Great on the Bench, Great in the Saddle,

That cou'd as well bind o'er, as Swaddle:

Mighty he was at both of these,

And styl'd of War as well as Peace.

(So some Rats of amphibious nature,

Are either for the Land or Water.)

But here our Authors make a doubt,

Whether he were more wise or stout.

Some hold the one, and some the other,

But howsoe'er they make a pother,

The Diff'rence was so small, his Brain

Outweigh'd his Rage but half a Grain:

Which made some take him for a Tool

That knaves do work with, called a Fool.

For't has been held by many, that

As Montaigne, playing with his Cat,

Complains she thought him but and Ass,

Much more she wou'd Sir Hudibras;

(For that's the Name our valiant Knight

To all his Challenges did write.)

But they're mistaken very much,

'Tis plain enough he was not such.

We grant, altho' he had much Wit,

H'was very shy of using it;

As being loth to wear it out,

And therefore bore it not about;

Unless on Holy-days, or so,

As Men their best Apparel do.

Beside 'tis known he cou'd speak Greek

As naturally as Pigs squeek:

That Latin was no more difficile,

Than to a Blackbird 'tis to Whistle:

Being rich in both, he never scanted

His bounty unto such as wanted,

But much of either wou'd afford

To many, that had not one Word.

For Hebrew Roots, altho' they are found

To flourish most in barren Ground,

He had such plenty, as suffic'd

To make some think him circumcis'd:

He truly so he was, perhaps,

Not as a Proselyte, but for Claps.

 

 

He was in Logick a great Critick,

Profoundly skill'd in Analytick;

He cou'd distinguish, and divide

A Hair 'twixt South and South-west side;

On either which he wou'd dispute,

Confute, change Hands, and still confute;

He'd undertake to prove by force

Of Argument a Man's no Horse;

He'd prove a Buzzard is no Fowl,

And that a Lord may be an Owl;

A Calf and Alderman, a Goose a Justice,

And Rooks Committee-men and Trustees.

He'd run in Debt by disputation,

And pay with Ratiocination.

All this by Syllogism, true

In Mood and Figure, he wou'd do.

For Rhetorick, he cou'd not ope

His mouth, but out there flew a Trope:

And when he happen'd to break off

In'th'middle of his Speech, or cough,

H' had hard words ready to shew why,

And tell what Rules he did it by:

Else when with greatest Art he spoke,

You'd think he talk'd like other Folk.

For all a Rhetorician's Rules

Teach nothing but to name his Tools.

But, when he pleas'd to shew's, his Speech

In Loftiness of Sound was rich;

A Babylonish Dialect,

Which learned Pedants much affect;

It was a party-colour'd Dress

Of patch'd and py-ball'd Languages:

'Twas English cut on Greek and Latin,

Like Fustian heretofore on Sattin.

It had an odd promiscuous Tone,

As if h' had talk'd three Parts in one;

Which made some think, when he did gabble,

Th' had heard three Labourers of Babel;

Or Cerberus himself pronounce

A Leash of Languages at once.

This he as volubly would vent

As if his Stock would ne'er be spent;

And truly, to support that Charge,

He had Supplies as vast and large:

For he could coin or counterfeit

New Words, with little or no Wit;

Words so debas'd and hard, no Stone

Was hard enough to touch them on;

And when with hasty noise he spoke 'em,

The Ignorant for current took 'em;

That had the Orator, who once

Did fill his Mouth with Pebble Stones

When he harangu'd, but known his Phrase,

He would have us'd no other Ways.

In Mathematicks he was greater

Than Tycho Brahe, or Erra Pater:

For he, by Geometrick Scale,

Could take the Size of Pots of Ale;

Resolve by Sines and Tangents, straight;

If Bread or Butter wanted weight;

And wisely tell what Hour o' th' Day

The Clock does strike, by Algebra.

Beside, he was a shrewd Philosopher,

And had read ev'ry...

 

 

 

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Filed under 1660's, Poetry, Posted by Matthew Williams, Satire

Item of the Day: The Works of Alexander Pope (1770)

Full Title:  The Works of Alexander Pope Esq. In Nine Volumes, Complete.  With His Last Corrections, Additions, And Improvements:  together With the Commentary and Notes of his Editor.  London:  Printed for C. Bathhurst, W. Strahan, J. and F. Rivington, R. Baldwin, W. Johnston, T. Caslon, T. Longman, B. Law,  Johnson and Davenport, T. Davies, T. Cadell, and W. and J. Richardson.  MDCCLXX.

P R E F A C E.

I am inclined to think that both the writers of books, and the readers of them, are generally not a little unreasonable in their expectations.  The first seem to fancy the world must approve whatever they produce, and the latter to imagine that authors are obliged to please them at any rate.   Methinks, as on the one hand, no single man is born with a right of controuling the opinions of all the rest; so on the other, the world has no title to demand, that the whole care and time of any particular person should be sacrificed to its entertainment.  Therefore I cannot but believe that writers and readers are under equal obligations, for as much fame, or pleasure, as each affords the other.

Every one acknowledges, it would be a wild notion to expect perfection in any work of man:  and yet one would think the contrary was taken for granted, by the judgment commonly past upon Poems.  A Critic supposes he has done his part, if he proves a writer to have failed in an expression, or erred in any particular point:  and can it then be wondered at, if the Poets in general seem resolved not to own themselves in any error?  For as long as one side will make no allowances, the other will be brought to no acknowledgments.

I am afraid this extreme zeal on both sides is ill-placed;  Poetry and Criticism being by no means the universal concern of the world, but only the affair of idle men who write in their closets, and of idle men who read there.

Yet sure, on the whole, a bad Author deserves better usage than a bad Critic:  for a Writer’s endeavour, for the most part, is to please his Readers, and he fails merely through the misfortune of an ill judgment; but such a critic’s is to put them out of humour; a design he could never go upon without both that and an ill temper.

I think  a good deal may be said to extenuate the fault of bad Poets.  What we call a Genius, is hard to be distinguished by a man himself, from a strong inclination:  and if his genius be ever so great, he cannot at first discover it any other way, than by giving way to that prevalent propensity which renders him the more liable to be mistaken.  The only method he has is to make the experiment by writing, and appealing to the judgment of others:  now if he happens to write ill (which is certainly no sin in itself) he is immediately made an object of ridicule.  I wish we had the humanity to reflect that even the worst authors might, in their endeavour to please us, deserve something at our hands.  We have no cause to quarrel with them but for their obstinacy in persisting to write; and this too may admit of alleviating circumstances.  Their particular friends may be either ignorant, or insincere; and the rest of the world in general is too well-bred to shock them with a truth, which generally their booksellers are the first that inform them of. This happens not till they have have spent too much of their time to apply to any profession which might better fit their talents; and till such talents as they have are so far discredited as to be but of small service to them.  For (what is the hardest case imaginable) the reputation of a man generally depends upon the first steps he makes in the world; and people will establish their opinion of us, from what we do at that season when we have least judgment to direct us.

On the other hand, a good Poet no sooner communicates his works with the same desire of information, but it is imagined he is a vain young creature given up to the ambition of fame; when perhaps the poor man is all the while trembling with the fear of being ridiculous.  If he is made to hope he may please the world, he falls under very unlucky circumstances:  for, from the moment he prints, he must expect to hear no more truth, than if he were a Prince, or a Beauty.  If he has not very good sense (and indeed there are twenty men of wit, for one man of sense) his living thus in a course of flattery may put him in no small danger of becoming a Coxcomb: if he has, he will consequently have so much diffidence as to not to reap any great satisfaction from his praise; since, if it be given to his face, it can scarce be distinguished from flattery, and if in his absence, it is hard to be certain of it.  Were he sure to be commended by the best and most knowing, he is as sure of being envied by the worst and most ignorant, which are the majority; for it is with a fine Genius as with a fine fashion, all those are displeased at it who are not able to follow it:  and it is to be feared that esteem will seldom do any man so much good, as ill-will does him harm.  Then there is a third class of people, who make the largest part of mankind, those of ordinary or indifferent capacities; and these (to a man) will hate, or suspect him:  a hundred honest Gentlemen will dread him as a Wit, and a hundred innocent women as a Satirist.  In a word, whatever be his fate in Poetry, it is ten to one but he must give up all the reasonable aims of life for it.  There are indeed some advantages accruing from a Genius to Poetry, and they are all I can think of:  the agreeable power of self-amusement when a man is idle or alone; the privilege of being admitted into the best company; and the freedom of saying as many careless things as other people, without being so severely remarked upon.

I believe, if any one, early in his life, should contemplate the dangerous fate of authors, he would scarce be of their number on any consideration.  The life of a Wit is a warfare upon earth; and the present spirit of the learned world is such, that to attempt to serve it (any way) one must have the constancy of a martyr, and a resolution to suffer for its sake.  I would wish people would believe, what I am pretty certain they will not, that I have been much less concerned about Fame than I durst declare till this occasion, when methinks I should find more credit than I could heretofore:  since my writings have had their fate already, and it is too late to think of prepossessing the reader in their favour.  I would plead it as some merit in me, that the world has never been prepared for these Trifles by Prefaces, byassed by recommendation, dazzled with the names of great Patrons, wheedled with fine reasons and pretences, or troubled with excuses.   I confess it was want of consideration that made me an author; I writ because it amused me; I corrected because it was as pleasant to me to correct as to write; and I published because I was told, I might please such as it was a credit to please.  To what degree I have done this, I am really ignorant; I had too much fondness for my productions to judge of them at first, and too much judgment to be pleased with them at last.  But I have reason to think they can have no reputation which will continue long, or which deserves to do so:  for they have always fallen short not only of what I read of others, but even of my own ideas of Poetry.

http://www.island-of-freedom.com/POPE.HTM

 

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Filed under 1770's, Criticism, Poetry, Posted by Rebecca Dresser