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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 you not 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.
Seized 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 power 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!" he cries, who high in Drury-lane,
Lull'd by soft zephyrs through the broken pane,
Rhymes ere he wakes, and prints before term enda
Obliged 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: 66
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.
Fired that the house reject 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 forced 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 things,
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 amid a bursting world.
Who shames a scribbler? Break one cobweb
He spins the slight, self-pleasing thread anew:
Destroy his fib or sophistry, in vain,
The creature's at his dirty work again;
Throned in 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 Colly still his lord and bore?
His butchers Henley, his freemasons 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
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 disgraced 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 served 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 preserved, to bear.
But why then publish? Granville the polite, And knowing Walsh, would tell me I could write; Well-natured Garth inflamed with early praise, And Congreve loved, and Swift endured my lays; The courtly Talbot, Somers, Sheffield read, Ev'n mitred Rochester would nod the head, And St. John's self (great Dryden's friends before) With open arms received one poet more. Happy my studies when by these approved! Happier their author when by these beloved! 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 provoked, or madness made them print, I waged no war with bedlam or the mint.
Did some more sober critic come abroad;
If wrong, I smiled; 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 graced these ribalds,
From slashing Bentley down to peddling 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,
Preserved 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 excused 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 turns 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.
Peace to all such! but were there one whose fires
True genius kindles and fair fame inspires;
Bless'd with each talent and each art to please,
And born to write, converse, and live with ease:
Should such a man, too fond to rule alone,
Bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne,
View him with scornful, yet with jealous eyes,
And hate for arts that caused himself to rise;
Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And, without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike;
Alike reserved to blame or to commend,
A timorous foe and a suspicious friend;
Dreading ev'n fools, by flatterers besieged,
And so obliging that he ne'er obliged;
Like Cato, give his little senate laws,
And sit attentive to his own applause;