Page images
PDF
EPUB

the way,

Thee shall the patriot, thee the courtier taste,
And every year be duller than the last,
Till raised from booths, to theatre, to court,
Her seat imperial Dulness shall transport. 300
Already opera prepares
The sure forerunner of her gentle sway;
Let her thy heart, next drabs and dice, engage,
The third mad passion of thy doting age.
Teach thou the warbling Polypheme to roar,
And scream thyself as none e'er scream'd before!
To aid our cause, if heaven thou canst not bend,
Hell thou shalt move, for Faustus is our friend;
Pluto with Cato thou for this shalt join,
And link the Mourning Bride to Proserpine. 310
Grub-street! thy fall should men and gods conspire,
Thy stage shall stand, insure it but from fire;

REMARKS, Ver. 297. Thee shall the patriot, thee the courtier taste,) It stood in the first edition with blanks, * * and **. Concanen was sure they must needs mean nobody hut King George and Queen Caroline; and said he would insist it was 80, till the poet cleared himself by filling up the blanks otherwise, agrecably to the context, and consistent with his allegiance.' Pref. to a collection of verses, letters, &c. against Mr. P. printed for A. Moore, p. 6.

Ver. 305. Polypheme.) He translated the Italian opera of Polifemo; but unfortunately lost the whole jest of the story. The Cyclop asks Ulysses his oame, who tells him his name is Noman: after his eye is put out, he roars and calls the brother Cyclops to his aid: they inquire who has hurt him ? he answers Noman: whereupon they all go away again. Our ingenious translator made Ulysses answer, I take no name; whereby all that followed became unintelligible. Hence it appears that Mr. Cibber (who values himself on subscribing to the English translation of Homer's Tiad) had not that merit with respect to the Odyssey, or he might have been better instructed in the Greek punnology.

Ver. 308, 309. Faustus, Pluto, &c.] Names of miserable farces which it was the custom to act at the end of the best tragedies, to spoil the digestion of the audience.

Ver. 312. Insure it but from fire;) In Tibbald's farce of Proserpine, a corn field was set on fire; whereupon the other playhouse had a barn burnt down for the recreation

Another Æschylus appears! prepare
For new abortions, all ye pregnant fair!
In flames, like Semele's, be brought to bed,
While opening hell spouts wild-fire at your head.

Now, Bavius, take the poppy from thy brow,
And place it here! here, all ye heroes, bow!

This, this is he, foretold by ancient rhymes : The Augustus born to bring Saturnian times. 320 Signs following signs lead on the mighty year; See! the dull stars roll round and re-appear. See, see, our own true Phæbus wears thy bays ! Our Midas sits lord chancellor of plays ! On poets' tombs see Benson's titles writ! Lo! Ambrose Phillips is preferr’d for wit!

REMARKS. of the spectators. They also rivalled each other in showing the burnings of hell-fire, in Dr. Faustus.

Ver. 313. Another Æschylus appears!) It is reported of Æschylus, that when his tragedy of the Furies was acted, that the audience were so terrified, that the children fell into fits, and the big-bellied wegen miscarried.

Ver. 325. On poets' tombs see Benson's titles writ!) W-m Benson (surveyor of the buildings to his majesty K. George I.) gave in a report to the lords, that their House and Painted-chamber adjoining were in immediale danger of falling. Whereupon the lords met in a commitee to appoint some other place to sit in, while the house should be taken down. But it being proposed to cause some other builders first to inspect it, they found it in very good condition. The lords, upon this, were going upon an address to the king against Benson, for such a misrepresentation; but the earl of Sunderland, then secretary, gave them an assurance that his niajesty would remove him, which was done accordingly. In favour of this man, the famous sir Christopher Wren, who had been architect to the crown for abovefifty years, who had built most of the churches in London, laid the first stone of St. Paul's, and lived to finish it, had been displaced from his employment at the age of near ninety years.

Ver. 326. Ambrose Phillips.] He was,' saith Mr. Jucob, one of the wits at Button's, and a justice of the peace: but he hath since met with higher preferment in Ireland: and a much greater character we have of him in Mr. Gildon's Complete Art of Poetry, vol. i. p. 157. 'Indeed he coníesses, he dares not szt him quite on the same foot witter Vol. II.

18

See under Ripley rise a new Whitehall,
While Jones' and Boyle's united labours fall :
While Wren with sorrow to the grave descends,
Gay dies unpension'd, with a hundred friends; 330

REMARKS.

Virgil, lest it should seem flattery, but he is much mistaken if posterity does not afford him a greater esteem than he at present enjoys.' He endeavoured to create some misunder. standing between our author and Mr. Addison, whom also soon after he abused as much. His constant cry was, that Mr. P. was an enemy to the government; and in particular he was the avowed author of a report very industriously spread, that he had a hand in a party-paper called the Ex aminer: a falsehood well known to those yet living, who had the direction and publication of it.

Ver. 328. While Jones' and Boyle's united labours fall:] At the time when this poem was written, the banquetinghouse of Whitehall, the church and piazza of Covent-garden, and the palace and chapel of Somerset-house, the works of the famous Inigo Jones, had been for many years so neglected, as to be in danger of ruin. The portico of Covent-garden church had been just then resic:ed and beautified, at the expense of the earl of Burlington; who, at the same time, by his publicatiof the designs of that great master and Palladio, as well as by many noble buildings of his own, revived the true taste of architecture in this king. dom.

Ver. 330. Gay dies unpension'd, &c.) See Mr. Gay's fable of the Hare and many Friends. This gentleman was early in the friendship of our author, which continued to his death. He wrote several works of humour with great suc. cess, the Shepherd's Week, Trivia, the What d'ye call it, Fables, and lastly the celebrated Beggar's Opera; a piece of satire which hit all tastes and degrees of men, from thosa of the highest quality to the very rabble: that verse of Horace,

'Primores populi arripuit, populumque tributim,' could never be so justly applied as to this. The vast success of it was unprecedented, and alnıost incredible: what is related of the wonderful effects of the ancient music or tragedy hardly came up to it: Sophocles and Euripides were less followed and famous. It was acted in London sixty-three days, uninterrupted; and renewed the next season with equal applauses. It spread into all the great towns of England, was played in mary places to the thirtieth and fortieth time, and at Bath and Bristol fifty, &c. It made its ;:rogress inlo Wales, Scotland, and Ireland where

Hibernian politics, O Swift! thy fate;
And Pope's, ten years to comment and translate.

Proceed, great days! till learning fly the shore,
Till birch shall blush with noble blood no more,

REMARKS. it was performed twenty-four days together; it was last acted in Minorca. The fame of it was not confined to the author only; the ladies carried about with them the favourite songs of it in fans; and houses were furnished with it in screens. The person who acted Polly, till then obscure, became at once the favourite of the town: her pictures were engraved, and sold in great numbers, her life written, books of letters and verses to her published; and pamphlets made even of her sayings and jests.

Furthermore, it drove out of England, for that season, the Italian opera, which had carried all before it for ten years. That idol of the nobility and people, which the great critic Mr. Dennis by the labours and outcries of a whole life could not overthrow, was demolished by a single stroke of this gentleman's pen. This happened in the year 1728. Yet so great was his modesty, that he constantly prefixed to all the editions of it this motto: Nos hæc novimus esse nihil.

Ver. 332. And Pope's, ten years to comment and translate.) The author here plainly laments, that he was so long employed in translating and commenting. He began the Iliad in 1713, and finished i: in 1719. The edition of Shak. speare (which he undertook merely because nobody else would) took up near two years more in the drudgery of comparing impressions, rectifying the scenery, &c. and the translation of the Odyssey employed him from that time to 1725.

Ver. 333. Proceed, great days! &c.] It may, perhaps, seem incredible, that so great a revolution in learning as is here prophesied, should be brought about by such weak instruments as have been [hitherto] described in our poem: but do not thou, gentle reader, rest too secure in thy contempt of these instruments. Remember what the Dutch stories somewhere relate, that a great part of their provinces was once overflowed, by a small opening made in one of their dykes by a single water-rat.

However, that such is not seriously the judgment of our poet, but that he conceiveth better hopes from the diligence of our schools, from the regularity of our universities, the discernment of our great men, the accomplishments of our nobility, the encouragement of our patrons, and the genius of our writers of all kinds (notwithstanding some few exceptions in each,) may plainly be seen from his conclusion; where, causing all this vision to pass through the ivory gate, he expressly, in the language of poesy, declares all such im. aginations to be wild, ungrounded, and tictitious. Scribl.

Till Thames see Eton's sons for ever play,
Till Westminster's whole year be holiday,
Till Isis' elders reel, their pupils sport,
And alma mater lie dissolved in port!

*Enough! enough!-the raptured monarch cries, And through the ivory gate the vision flies. 340

BOOK THE FOURTH.

ARGUMENT. The poet being, in this book, to declare the completion

of the prophecies mentioned at the end of the former makes a new invocation; as the greater poets are wort, when some high and worthy matter is to be sung. He shows the goddess coming in her majesty, to destroy order and science, and to substitute the kingdom of the Dull upon earth. How she leads cap. tive the sciences, and silences the muses; and what they be who succeed in their stead. All her children, hy a wonderful attraction, are drawn about her; and bear along with them divers others, who promote her empire by connivance, weak resistance, or discouragement of arts; such as half-wits, tasteless admirers, vain pretenders, the flatterers of dunces, or the patrons of them. All these crowd round her; one of them, offering to approach her, is driven back by a rival, but she commends and encourages both. The first who speak in form are the geniuses of the schools, who as. sure her of their care to advance her cause by confining youth to words, and keeping them out of the way of real knowledge. Their address, and her gracious an. swer; with her charge to them and the universities. The universities appear by their proper deputies, and assure her that the same method is observed in the progress of education. The specch of Aristarchus on this subject. They are driven off by a band of young gentlemen returned from travel with their tutors; one of whom delivers to the goddess, in a polite ora. tion, an account of the whole conduct and fruits of their travels; presenting to her at the same time a

« PreviousContinue »