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Books and the Man I sing, the first who brings The Smithfield Muses to the Ear of Kings. Say, great Patricians ! (since yourselves inspire These wondrous works : so Jove and Fate require) Say from what cause, in vain décry'd and curst, 5 Still Dunce the second reigns like Dunce the first.
In eldest time, e'er mortals writ or read, E’er Pallas issu'd from the Thund'rer's head, Dulness o'er all possess'd her ancient right, Daughter of Chaos and eternal Night:
10 Fate in their dotage this fair idiot gave, Gross as her sire, and as her mother grave, Laborious, heavy, busy, bold, and blind, She rul'd in native Anarchy, the mind.
Still her old empire to confirm, she tries, 15 For born a Goddess, Dulness never dies.
O Thou! whatever Title please thine ear, Dean, Drapier, Bickerstaff, or Gulliver, Whether thou choose Cervantes' serious air, Or laugh and shake in Rab’lais easy Chair, 20 Or praise the Court, or magnify Mankind, Or thy griev'd Country's copper chains unbind; From thy Bæotia tho' Her Pow'r retires, Grieve not, my Swift, at ought our realm requires, Here pleas'd behold her mighty wings out-spread, To hatch a new Saturnian Age of Lead.
Where wave the tatter'd ensigns of Rag-fair,
'Twas here in clouded majesty she shone: Four guardian Virtues, round, support her throne; Fierce champion Fortitude, that knows no fears Of hisses, blows, or want, or loss of ears : 46 Calm Temperance, whose blessings those partake Who hunger, and who thirst, for scribbling sake : Prudence, whose glass presents th’approaching jail : Poetic Justice, with her lifted scale;
50 Where, in nice balance, truth with gold she weighs, And solid pudding against empty praise.
Here she beholds the Chaos dark and deep, Where, nameless Somethings in their causes sleep, Till genial Jacob, or a warm Third-day
55 Call forth each mass, a poem, or a play: How hints, like spawn, scarce quick in embryo lie, How new-born nonsense first is taught to cry,
Maggots half-form’d, in rhyme exactly meet,
All these and more, the cloud-compelling Queen Beholds thro’ fogs, that magnify the scene: She, tinsellid o'er in robes of varying hues, With self-applause her wild creation views, 80 Sees momentary monsters rise and fall, And with her own fools-colours gilds them all.
'Twas on the day, when Thorold, rich and grave, Like Cimon triumph'd both on land and wave: 84 (Pomps without guilt, of bloodless swords and maces, Glad chains, warm furs, broad banners, and broad
faces) Now Night descending, the proud scene was o'er, But liv’d, in Settle's numbers, one day more.
Now May’rs and Shrieves all hush'd and satiate
lay, Yet eat, in dreams, the custard of the day; 90 While Pensive Poets painful vigils keep, Sleepless themselves to give their readers sleep. Much to the mindful Queen the feast recalls What City Swans once sung within the walls; 94 Much she revolves their arts, their ancient praise, And sure succession down from Heywood's days. She saw with joy the line immortal run, Each sire imprest and glaring in his son; So watchful Bruin forms with plastic care Each growing lump, and brings it to a Bear. 100 She saw old Pryn in restless Daniel shine, And Eusden eke out Blackmore's endless line; She saw slow Philips creep like Tate's poor page, And all the mighty Mad in Dennis rage.
In each she marks her image full exprest, 105 But chief, in Tibbald's monster-breeding breast: Sees Gods with Demons in strange league engage, And earth, and heav'n, and hell, her battles wage.
She ey'd the Bard, where supperless he sate, And pin’d, unconscious of his rising fate; 110 Studious he sate, with all his books around, Sinking from thought to thought, a vast profound ! Plung'd for his sense, but found no bottom there ; Then writ, and flounder'd on, in mere despair. He rollid his eyes that witness'd huge dismay, 115 Where yet unpawn'd, much learned lumber lay : Volumes, whose size the space exactly fill'd, Or which fond authors were so good to gild,
Or where, by sculpture made for ever known,
125 Wellpurg'd, and worthy Withers, Quarles, and Blome.
But high above, more solid Learning shone, The Classics of an Age that heard of none; There Caxton slept, with Wynkin at his side, 129 One clasp'd in wood, and one in strong cow-hide, There, sav'd by spice, like mummies, many a year, Old Bodies of Philosophy appear: De Lyra there a dreadful front extends, And here, the groaning shelves Philemon bends.
Of these twelve volumes, twelve of amplest size, Redeem'd from tapers and defrauded pies, 136 Inspir’d he seizes : these an altar raise : A hecatomb of
unsullied lays That altar crowns : a folio Common-place Founds the whole pile, of all his works the base ; Quartos, octavos, shape the less’ning pyre;
141 And last, a little Ajax tips the spire.
Then he. Great Tamer of all human art! First in my care, and nearest at my heart : Dulness ! whose good old cause I yet defend, 145 With whom
my Muse began, with whom shall end! O thou, of business the directing soul, To human heads like bias to the bowl, Which as more pond'rous makes their aim more true, Obliquely waddling to the mark in view. 150