« ForrigeFortsett »
EPISTLE TO DR. ARBUTHNOT.
SHUT, shut the door, good John!' fatigued,
'Tie up the knocker, say I'm sick, I'm dead."
The dog-star rages! nay, 'tis past a doubt
All Bedlam or Parnassus is let out:
Fire in each eye, and papers in each hand,
They rave, recite, and madden round the land.
What walls can guard me, or what shades can hide?
They pierce my thickets, through my grot they glide,
By land, by water, they renew the charge,
They stop the chariot, and they board the barge.
No place is sacred, not the church is free,
Ev'n Sunday shines no sabbath-day to me:
Then from the mint walks forth the man of rhyme,
Happy to catch me just at dinner-time.
Is there a parson much be-mus'd in beer,
A maudlin poetess, a rhyming peer,
A clerk foredoom'd his father's soul to cross,
Who pens a stanza when he should engross?
Is there who, lock'd from ink and paper, scrawls
With desperate charcoal round his darken'd walls?
All fly to Twit'nam, and in humble strain
Apply to me to keep them mad or vain.
Arthur, whose giddy son neglects the laws,
Imputes to me and my damn'd works the cause:
Poor Cornus sees his frantic wife elope,
And curses wit, and poetry, and Pope.
Friend to my life! (which did not you prolong,
The world had wanted many an idle song)
What drop or nostrum can this plague remove?
Or which must end me, a fool's wrath or love?
A dire dilemma! either way I'm sped;
If foes, they write; if friends, they read me dead.
Seiz'd and tied down to judge, how wretched I!
Who can't be silent, and who will not lie.
To laugh were want of goodness and of grace,
And to be grave exceeds all pow'r of face.
I sit with sad civility, I read
With honest anguish and an aching head,
And drop at last, but in unwilling ears,
This saving counsel, 'Keep your piece nine years.'
'Nine years!' cries he, who, high in Drury-lane,
Lull'd by soft zephyrs through the broken pane,
Rhymes ere he wakes, and prints before term ends,
Oblig'd by hunger and request of friends:
'The piece, you think, is incorrect? why take it,
I'm all submission; what you'd have it-make it.'
Three things another's modest wishes bound;-
'My friendship, and a prologue, and ten pound.'
Pitholeon sends to me: 'You know his grace,
I want a patron; ask him for a place.'
Pitholeon libell'd me- But here's a letter
Informs you, Sir, 'twas when he knew no better.
Dare you refuse him? Curll invites to dine,
He'll write a journal, or he'll turn divine.'
Bless me! a packet.-"Tis a stranger sues,
A virgin tragedy, an orphan Muse.'
If I dislike it, 'Furies, death, and rage!'
If I approve, Commend it to the stage."
There (thank my stars) my whole commission ends, The players and I are, luckily, no friends.
Fir'd that the house rejects him, "Sdeath, I'll print it, And shame the fools-your interest, Sir, with Lintot.' Lintot, dull rogue, will think your price too much : 'Not, Sir, if you revise it, and retouch.' All my demurs but double his attacks; At last he whispers, 'Do, and we go snacks.' Glad of a quarrel, straight I clap the door; 'Sir, let me see your works and you no more.' "Tis sung, when Midas' ears began to spring, (Midas, a sacred person and a king)
His very minister who spied them first
(Some say his queen) was forc'd to speak or burst, And is not mine, my friend, a sorer case, When every coxcomb perks them in my face?
A. Good friend, forbear! you deal in dangerous
I'd never name queens, ministers, or kings;
Keep close to ears, and those let asses prick,
"Tis nothing.-P. Nothing! if they bite and kick?
Out with it, Dunciad! let the secret pass,
That secret to each fool, that he's an ass:
The truth once told (and wherefore should we lie ?)
The queen of Midas slept, and so may I.
You think this cruel? take it for a rule
No creature smarts so little as a fool.
Let peals of laughter, Codrus, round thee break,
Thou unconcern'd canst hear the mighty crack:
Pit, box, and gallery, in convulsions hurl'd,
Thou stand'st unshook amidst a bursting world.
Who shames a scribbler? break one cobweb through,
He spins the slight self-pleasing thread anew:
Destroy his fib, or sophistry, in vain;
The creature's at his dirty work again,
Thron'd on the centre of his thin designs,
Proud of a vast extent of flimsy lines!
Whom have I hurt? has poet yet or peer
Lost the arch'd eyebrow or Parnassian sneer?
And has not Colley still his lord and whore?
His butchers Henley? his free-masons Moore ?
Does not one table Bavius still admit?
Still to one bishop Philips seem a wit?
Still Sappho.-A. Hold! for God's sake-you'll offend.
No names-be calm-learn prudence of a friend:
I too could write, and I am twice as tall;
But foes like these.-P. One flatterer's worse than all.
Of all mad creatures, if the learn'd are right,
It is the slaver kills and not the bite.
A fool quite angry is quite innocent:
Alas! 'tis ten times worse when they repent.
One dedicates in high heroic prose,
And ridicules beyond a hundred foes:
One from all Grub-street will my fame defend,
And, more abusive, calls himself my friend.
This prints my letters, that expects a bribe,
And others roar aloud, Subscribe, subscribe!"
There are who to my person pay their court:--
I cough like Horace; and, though lean, am short;
Ammon's great son one shoulder had too high,
Such Ovid's nose, and Sir! you have an eye-
Go on, obliging creatures! make me see
All that disgrac'd my betters met in me.
Say, for my comfort, languishing in bed,
'Just so immortal Maro held his head :"
And when I die, be sure you let me know
Great Homer died three thousand years ago.
Why did I write? what sin to me unknown
Dipp'd me in ink, my parents', or my own?
As yet a child, nor yet a fool to fame,
I lisp'd in numbers, for the numbers came :
I left no calling for this idle trade,
No duty broke, no father disobey'd:
The Muse but serv'd to ease some friend, not wife,
To help me through this long disease, my life,
To second, Arbuthnot! thy art and care,
And teach the being you preserv'd to bear.
But why then publish? Granville the polite,
And knowing Walsh, would tell me I could write;
Well-natur'd Garth inflam'd with early praise,
And Congreve lov'd, and Swift endur'd, my lays;
The courtly Talbot, Somers, Sheffield, read,
Ev'n mitred Rochester would nod the head,
And St. John's self (great Dryden's triends before)
With open arms receiv'd one poet more.
Happy my studies, when by these approv'd!
Happier their author, when by these belov'd!
From these the world will judge of men and books,
Not from the Burnets, Oldmixons, and Cooks.
Soft were my numbers; who could take offence
While pure description held the place of sense?
Like gentle Fanny's was my flowery theme,
"A painted mistress, or a purling stream."
Yet then did Gildon draw his venal quill;
I wish'd the man a dinner, and sat still:
Yet then did Dennis rave in furious fret;
I never answer'd; I was not in debt.
If want provok'd, or madness made them print,
I wag'd no war with Bedlam or the Mint.
Did some more sober critic come abroad;
If wrong I smil'd, if right I kiss'd the rod.
Pains, reading, study, are their just pretence,
And all they want is spirit, taste, and sense.
Commas and points they set exactly right,
And 'twere a sin to rob them of their mite,
Yet ne'er one sprig of laurel grac'd these ribalds,
From slashing Bently down to piddling Tibbalds:
Each wight who reads not, and but scans and spells,
Each word-catcher that lives on syllables,
Ev'n such small critics some regard may claim,
Preserv'd in Milton's or in Shakspeare's name.
Pretty in amber to observe the forms
Of hairs, or straws, or dirt, or grubs, or worms! The things, we know, are neither rich nor rare, But wonder how the devil they got there.
Were others angry: I excus'd them too;
Well might they rage, I gave them but their due.
A man's true merit 'tis not hard to find;
But each man's secret standard in his mind,
That casting-weight pride adds to emptiness,
This who can gratify? for who can guess?
The bard whom pilfer'd pastorals renown,
Who turus a Persian tale for half-a-crown,
Just writes to make his barrenness appear,
And strains from hard-bound brains eight lines a year;
He who still wanting, though he lives on theft,
Steals much, spends little, yet has nothing left;
And he who now to sense, now nonsense, leaning,
Means not, but blunders round about a meaning;
And he whose fustian's so sublimely bad,
It is not poetry, but prose run mad:
All these my modest satire bade translate,
And own'd that nine such poets made a Tate.
How did they fume, and stamp, and roar, and chafe!
And swear not Addison himself was safe.