The Poetry Corner

The Dunciad:[234] Book The First.

By Alexander Pope

TO DR JONATHAN SWIFT. ARGUMENT. The proposition, the invocation, and the inscription. Then the original of the great empire of Dulness, and cause of the continuance thereof. The college of the goddess in the city, with her private academy for poets in particular; the governors of it, and the four cardinal virtues. Then the poem hastes into the midst of things, presenting her, on the evening of a Lord Mayor's day, revolving the long succession of her sons, and the glories past and to come. She fixes her eye on Bayes to be the instrument of that great event which is the subject of the poem. He is described pensive among his books, giving up the cause, and apprehending the period of her empire: after debating whether to betake himself to the Church, or to gaming, or to party-writing, he raises an altar of proper books, and (making first his solemn prayer and declaration) purposes thereon to sacrifice all his unsuccessful writings. As the pile is kindled, the goddess, beholding the flame from her seat, flies and puts it out by casting upon it the poem of Thul. She forthwith reveals herself to him, transports him to her temple, unfolds her arts, and initiates him into her mysteries; then announcing the death of Eusden the poet laureate, anoints him, carries him to court, and proclaims him successor. The mighty mother, and her son, who brings[235] The Smithfield Muses[236] to the ear of kings, I sing. Say you, her instruments, the great! Called to this work by Dulness, Jove, and Fate;[237] You by whose care, in vain decried and cursed, Still Dunce the second reigns like Dunce the first: Say, how the goddess[238] bade Britannia sleep, And pour'd her spirit o'er the land and deep. In eldest time, ere mortals writ or read, Ere Pallas issued from the Thunderer's head, Dulness o'er all possess'd her ancient right, Daughter of Chaos[239] and Eternal Night: Fate in their dotage this fair idiot gave, Gross as her sire, and as her mother grave, Laborious, heavy, busy, bold, and blind,[240] She ruled, in native anarchy, the mind. Still her old empire[241] to restore she tries, For, born a goddess, Dulness never dies. O thou! whatever title please thine ear, Dean, Drapier, Bickerstaff, or Gulliver![242] Whether thou choose Cervantes' serious air, Or laugh and shake in Rabelais' easy-chair, Or praise the court, or magnify mankind,[243] Or thy grieved country's copper chains unbind; From thy Boeotia though her power retires, Mourn not, my Swift, at ought our realm acquires. Here pleased behold her mighty wings outspread To hatch a new Saturnian age of lead. Close to those walls where Folly holds her throne, And laughs to think Monro would take her down, Where o'er the gates, by his famed father's hand,[244] Great Cibber's brazen, brainless brothers stand, One cell there is, conceal'd from vulgar eye, The cave of Poverty and Poetry. Keen, hollow winds howl through the bleak recess, Emblem of music caused by emptiness. Hence bards, like Proteus long in vain tied down, Escape in monsters, and amaze the town. Hence Miscellanies spring, the weekly boast Of Curll's chaste press, and Lintot's rubric post:[247] Hence hymning Tyburn's elegiac lines,[248] Hence Journals, Medleys, Merc'ries, Magazines: Sepulchral lies,[249] our holy walls to grace, And new-year odes,[250] and all the Grub Street race. In clouded majesty here Dulness shone; Four guardian Virtues, round, support her throne: Fierce champion Fortitude, that knows no fears Of hisses, blows, or want, or loss of ears: Calm Temperance, whose blessings those partake Who hunger and who thirst for scribbling sake: Prudence, whose glass presents the approaching jail: Poetic Justice, with her lifted scale, 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,[251] or a warm third day, 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, And learn to crawl upon poetic feet. Here one poor word an hundred clenches makes, And ductile Dulness new meanders takes; There motley images her fancy strike, Figures ill pair'd, and similes unlike. She sees a mob of metaphors advance, Pleased with the madness of the mazy dance; How Tragedy and Comedy embrace; How Farce and Epic[252] get a jumbled race; How Time himself stands still at her command, Realms shift their place, and ocean turns to land. Here gay Description Egypt glads with showers, Or gives to Zembla fruits, to Barca flowers; Glittering with ice here hoary hills are seen, There painted valleys of eternal green; In cold December fragrant chaplets blow, And heavy harvests nod beneath the snow. All these, and more, the cloud-compelling queen Beholds through fogs that magnify the scene. She, tinsell'd o'er in robes of varying hues, With self-applause her wild creation views; Sees momentary monsters rise and fall, And with her own fools-colours gilds them all. 'Twas on the day,[253] when Thorold rich and grave, Like Cimon, triumphed both on land and wave: (Pomps without guilt, of bloodless swords and maces, Glad chains,[254] warm furs, broad banners, and broad faces.) Now night descending, the proud scene was o'er, But lived, in Settle's numbers, one day more.[255] Now mayors and shrieves all hushed and satiate lay, Yet eat, in dreams, the custard of the day; 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; Much she revolves their arts, their ancient praise, And sure succession down from Heywood's[256] days. She saw, with joy, the line immortal run, Each sire impress'd and glaring in his son: So watchful Bruin forms, with plastic care, Each growing lump, and brings it to a bear. She saw old Pryn in restless Daniel[257] shine, And Eusden[258] eke out Blackmore's endless line; She saw slow Philips creep like Tate's[259] poor page, And all the mighty mad in Dennis rage.[260] In each she marks her image full express'd, But chief in Bayes's monster-breeding breast; Bayes formed by nature stage and town to bless, And act, and be, a coxcomb with success. Dulness with transport eyes the lively dunce, Remembering she herself was pertness once. Now (shame to Fortune![261]) an ill run at play Blank'd his bold visage, and a thin third day; Swearing and supperless the hero sate, Blasphemed his gods, the dice, and damn'd his fate. Then gnaw'd his pen, then dash'd it on the ground, Sinking from thought to thought, a vast profound! Plunged for his sense, but found no bottom there, Yet wrote and floundered on, in mere despair. Round him much embryo, much abortion lay, Much future ode, and abdicated play; Nonsense precipitate, like running lead, That slipp'd through cracks and zig-zags of the head; All that on Folly Frenzy could beget, Fruits of dull heat, and sooterkins of wit. Next, o'er his books his eyes began to roll, In pleasing memory of all he stole, How here he sipp'd, how there he plunder'd snug, And suck'd all o'er, like an industrious bug. Here lay poor Fletcher's half-eat scenes,[262] and here The frippery of crucified Molire; There hapless Shakspeare, yet of Tibbald[263] sore, Wish'd he had blotted[264] for himself before. The rest on outside merit but presume, Or serve (like other fools) to fill a room; Such with their shelves as due proportion hold, Or their fond parents dress'd in red and gold; Or where the pictures for the page atone, And Quarles is saved by beauties not his own. Here swells the shelf with Ogilby the great;[265] There, stamp'd with arms, Newcastle shines complete:[266] Here all his suffering brotherhood retire, And 'scape the martyrdom of Jakes and fire: A Gothic library! of Greece and Rome Well purged, and worthy Settle, Banks, and Broome.[267] But, high above, more solid learning shone, The classics of an age that heard of none; There Caxton[268] slept, with Wynkyn at his side, One clasp'd in wood, and one in strong cow-hide; There, saved by spice, like mummies, many a year, Dry bodies of divinity appear: De Lyra[269] there a dreadful front extends, And here the groaning shelves Philemon[270] bends. Of these, twelve volumes, twelve of amplest size, Redeem'd from tapers and defrauded pies, Inspired he seizes: these an altar raise: An hecatomb of pure, unsullied lays That altar crowns: a folio common-place Founds the whole pile, of all his works the base: Quartos, octavos, shape the lessening pyre: A twisted birth-day ode completes the spire. Then he: Great tamer of all human art! First in my care, and ever at my heart; Dulness! whose good old cause I yet defend, With whom my Muse began, with whom shall end, E'er since Sir Fopling's periwig[271] was praise, To the last honours of the butt and bays: O thou! of business the directing soul; To this our head, like bias to the bowl, Which, as more ponderous, made its aim more true, Obliquely waddling to the mark in view; Oh, ever gracious to perplexed mankind, Still spread a healing mist before the mind; And, lest we err by wit's wild dancing light, Secure us kindly in our native night. Or, if to wit a coxcomb make pretence, Guard the sure barrier between that and sense; Or quite unravel all the reasoning thread, And hang some curious cobweb in its stead! As, forced from wind-guns, lead itself can fly, And ponderous slugs cut swiftly through the sky; As clocks to weight their nimble motion owe, The wheels above urged by the load below: Me Emptiness and Dulness could inspire, And were my elasticity and fire. Some demon stole my pen (forgive the offence) And once betrayed me into common sense: Else all my prose and verse were much the same; This, prose on stilts; that, poetry fallen lame. Did on the stage my fops appear confined? My life gave ampler lessons to mankind. Did the dead letter unsuccessful prove? The brisk example never fail'd to move. Yet sure, had Heaven decreed to save the state, Heaven had decreed these works a longer date. Could Troy be saved by any single hand, This gray-goose weapon must have made her stand. What can I now my Fletcher cast aside, Take up the Bible, once my better guide? Or tread the path by venturous heroes trod, This box my thunder, this right hand my god? Or chair'd at White's amidst the doctors sit, Teach oaths to gamesters, and to nobles wit? Or bidst thou rather party to embrace? (A friend to party thou, and all her race; 'Tis the same rope at different ends they twist; To Dulness Ridpath is as dear as Mist.[272]) Shall I, like Curtins, desperate in my zeal, O'er head and ears plunge for the common weal? Or rob Rome's ancient geese[273] of all their glories, And, cackling, save the monarchy of Tories? Hold--to the minister I more incline; To serve his cause, O queen! is serving thine. And see! thy very gazetteers give o'er, Ev'n Ralph repents, and Henley writes no more. What then remains? Ourself. Still, still remain Cibberian forehead, and Cibberian brain. This brazen brightness, to the squire so dear; This polish'd hardness, that reflects the peer: This arch absurd, that wit and fool delights; This mess, tossed up of Hockley-hole and White's; Where dukes and butchers join to wreathe my crown, At once the bear and fiddle[274] of the town. O born in sin, and forth in folly brought! Works damn'd, or to be damn'd (your father's fault)! Go, purified by flames, ascend the sky, My better and more Christian progeny! Unstain'd, untouch'd, and yet in maiden sheets; While all your smutty sisters walk the streets. Ye shall not beg, like gratis-given Bland,[275] Sent with a pass, and vagrant through the land; Nor sail with Ward[276] to ape-and-monkey climes, Where vile Mundungus trucks for viler rhymes: Not sulphur-tipp'd, emblaze an ale-house fire; Not wrap up oranges, to pelt your sire! Oh, pass more innocent, in infant state, To the mild limbo of our father Tate:[277] Or peaceably forgot, at once be blest In Shadwell's bosom with eternal rest! Soon to that mass of nonsense to return, Where things destroyed are swept to things unborn. With that, a tear (portentous sign of grace!) Stole from the master of the sevenfold face: And thrice he lifted high the birth-day brand, And thrice he dropp'd it from his quivering hand; Then lights the structure with averted eyes: The rolling smoke involves the sacrifice. The opening clouds disclose each work by turns, Now flames the Cid, and now Perolla burns; Great Caesar roars, and hisses in the fires; King John in silence modestly expires: No merit now the dear Nonjuror claims, Moliere's[278] old stubble in a moment flames. Tears gush'd again, as from pale Priam's eyes When the last blaze sent Ilion to the skies. Roused by the light, old Dulness heaved the head, Then snatch'd a sheet of Thul[279] from her bed, Sudden she flies, and whelms it o'er the pyre; Down sink the flames, and with a hiss expire. Her ample presence fills up all the place; A veil of fogs dilates her awful face: Great in her charms! as when on shrieves and mayors She looks, and breathes herself into their airs. She bids him wait her to her sacred dome: Well pleased he enter'd, and confessed his home. So, spirits ending their terrestrial race, Ascend, and recognise their native place. This the great mother dearer held than all The clubs of quidnuncs, or her own Guildhall: Here stood her opium, here she nursed her owls, And here she plann'd the imperial seat of fools. Here to her chosen all her works she shows; Prose swell'd to verse, verse loitering into prose: How random thoughts now meaning chance to find, Now leave all memory of sense behind: How prologues into prefaces decay, And these to notes are fritter'd quite away: How index-learning turns no student pale, Yet holds the eel of science by the tail: How, with less reading than makes felons 'scape, Less human genius than God gives an ape, Small thanks to France, and none to Rome or Greece, A past, vamp'd, future, old, revived, new piece, 'Twixt Plautus, Fletcher, Shakspeare, and Corneille, Can make a Cibber, Tibbald,[280] or Ozell.[281] The goddess then o'er his anointed head, With mystic words, the sacred opium shed. And, lo! her bird (a monster of a fowl, Something betwixt a Heidegger[282] and owl,) Perch'd on his crown. 'All hail! and hail again, My son! the promised land expects thy reign. Know, Eusden thirsts no more for sack or praise; He sleeps among the dull of ancient days; Safe, where no critics damn, no duns molest, Where wretched Withers, Ward, and Gildon[283] rest, And high-born Howard,[284] more majestic sire, With fool of quality completes the quire, Thou, Cibber! thou, his laurel shalt support, Folly, my son, has still a friend at Court. Lift up your gates, ye princes, see him come! Sound, sound, ye viols, be the cat-call dumb! Bring, bring the madding bay, the drunken vine; The creeping, dirty, courtly ivy join. And thou! his aide-de-camp, lead on my sons, Light-arm'd with points, antitheses, and puns. Let Bawdry, Billingsgate, my daughters dear, Support his front, and Oaths bring up the rear: And under his, and under Archer's wing, Gaming[285] and Grub Street, skulk behind the king. Oh! when shall rise a monarch all our own, And I, a nursing mother, rock the throne; 'Twixt prince and people close the curtain draw, Shade him from light, and cover him from law; Fatten the courtier, starve the learnd band, And suckle armies, and dry-nurse the land: Till senates nod to lullabies divine, And all be sleep, as at an ode of thine.' She ceased. Then swells the chapel-royal[286] throat: God save King Cibber! mounts in every note. Familiar White's, God save King Colley! cries; God save King Colley! Drury lane replies: To Needham's quick the voice triumphal rode, But pious Needham[287] dropp'd the name of God; Back to the Devil[288] the last echoes roll, And Coll! each butcher roars at Hockley-hole. So when Jove's block descended from on high (As sings thy great forefather Ogilby[289]), Loud thunder to its bottom shook the bog, And the hoarse nation croak'd, God save King Log! VARIATIONS. VER. 1. The mighty mother, &c. In the first edition it was thus-- 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, for what cause, in vain decried and cursed, Still--- After VER. 22, in the MS.-- Or in the graver gown instruct mankind, Or silent let thy morals tell thy mind. But this was to be understood, as the poet says, ironic, like the 23d verse. VER. 29. Close to those walls, &c. In the former edition thus-- Where wave the tatter'd ensigns of Rag-fair,[245] A yawning ruin hangs and nods in air;[246] Keen hollow winds howl through the bleak recess, Emblem of music caused by emptiness; Here in one bed two shivering sisters lie, The cave of Poverty and Poetry. VER. 41 in the former lines-- Hence hymning Tyburn's elegiac lay, Hence the soft sing-song on Cecilia's day. VER. 42 alludes to the annual songs composed to music on St Cecilia's Feast. VER. 85 in the former editions-- 'Twas on the day--when Thorald,[290] rich and grave. VER. 108. But chief in Bayes's, &e. In the former edition thus-- But chief, in Tibbald's monster-breeding breast; Sees gods with demons in strange league engage, And earth, and heaven, and hell her battles wage. She eyed the bard, where supperless he sate, And pined, unconscious of his rising fate; Studious he sate, with all his books around, Sinking from thought to thought, &c-- VER. 121. Round him much embryo, &c. In the former editions thus-- He roll'd his eyes, that witness'd huge dismay, 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, The page admires new beauties not its own. Here swells the shelf, &c.-- VER. 146. In the first edition it was-- Well-purged, and worthy W--y, W--s, and Bl---. VER. 162. A twisted, &c. In the former edition-- And last, a little Ajax[291] tips the spire. VER. 177. Or, if to wit, &c. In the former edition-- Ah! still o'er Britain stretch that peaceful wand, Which lulls th' Helvetian and Batavian land; Where rebel to thy throne if science rise, She does but show her coward face, and dies: There thy good scholiasts with unwearied pains Make Horace flat, and humble Maro's strains: Here studious I unlucky moderns save, Nor sleeps one error in its father's grave, Old puns restore, lost blunders nicely seek, And crucify poor Shakspeare once a week. For thee supplying, in the worst of days. Notes to dull books, and prologues to dull plays; Not that my quill to critics was confined, My verse gave ampler lessons to mankind; So gravest precepts may successless prove. But sad examples never fail to move. As, forced from wind-guns, &c. VER. 195. Yet sure had Heaven, &c. In the former edition-- Had Heaven decreed such works a longer date, Heaven had decreed to spare the Grub Street state. But see great Settle to the dust descend, And all thy cause and empire at an end! Could Troy be saved, &c.-- VER. 213. Hold--to the minister. In the former edition-- Yes, to my country I my pen consign Yes, from this moment, mighty Mist! am thine. VER. 225. O born in sin, &c. In the former edition-- Adieu, my children! better thus expire Unstall'd, unsold; thus glorious mount in fire, Fair without spot; than greased by grocer's hands, Or shipp'd with Ward to ape-and-monkey lands, Or wafting ginger, round the streets to run, And visit ale-house, where ye first begun, With that he lifted thrice the sparkling brand, And thrice he dropp'd it, &c.-- VER. 250. Now flames the Cid, &c. In the former edition-- Now flames old Memnon, now Rodrigo burns, In one quick flash see Proserpine expire, And last, his own cold Aeschylus took fire. Then gushed the tears, as from the Trojan's eyes, When the last blaze, &c. After VER. 268, in the former edition, followed these two lines-- Raptured, he gazes round the dear retreat, And in sweet numbers celebrates the seat. VER. 293. Know, Eusden, &c. In the former edition-- Know, Settle, cloy'd with custard and with praise, Is gather'd to the dull of ancient days, Safe where no critics damn, no duns molest, Where Gildon, Banks, and high-born Howard rest. I see a king! who leads my chosen sons To lands that flow with clenches and with puns: Till each famed theatre my empire own; Till Albion, as Hibernia, bless my throne! I see! I see!--Then rapt she spoke no more. God save King Tibbald! Grub Street alleys roar. So when Jove's block, &c.