The Poetry Corner

The Dunciad: Book The Third.

By Alexander Pope

ARGUMENT. After the other persons are disposed in their proper places of rest, the goddess transports the king to her temple, and there lays him to slumber with his head on her lap; a position of marvellous virtue, which causes all the visions of wild enthusiasts, projectors, politicians, inamoratos, castle-builders, chemists, and poets. He is immediately carried on the wings of Fancy, and led by a mad poetical Sibyl, to the Elysian shade; where, on the banks of Lethe, the souls of the dull are dipped by Bavius, before their entrance into this world. There he is met by the ghost of Settle, and by him made acquainted with the wonders of the place, and with those which he himself is destined to perform. He takes him to a mount of vision, from whence he shows him the past triumphs of the empire of Dulness, then the present, and lastly the future: how small a part of the world was ever conquered by science, how soon those conquests were stopped, and those very nations again reduced to her dominion: then distinguishing the island of Great Britain, shows by what aids, by what persons, and by what degrees it shall be brought to her empire. Some of the persons he causes to pass in review before his eyes, describing each by his proper figure, character, and qualifications. On a sudden the scene shifts, and a vast number of miracles and prodigies appear, utterly surprising and unknown to the king himself, till they are explained to be the wonders of his own reign now commencing. On this subject Settle breaks into a congratulation, yet not unmixed with concern, that his own times were but the types of these. He prophesies how first the nation shall be overrun with farces, operas, and shows; how the throne of Dulness shall be advanced over the theatres, and set up even at Court; then how her sons shall preside in the seats of arts and sciences; giving a glimpse, or Pisgah-sight, of the future fulness of her glory, the accomplishment whereof is the subject of the fourth and last book. But in her temple's last recess enclosed, On Dulness' lap the anointed head reposed. Him close the curtains round with vapours blue, And soft besprinkles with Cimmerian dew. Then raptures high the seat of sense o'erflow, Which only heads refined from reason know. Hence, from the straw where Bedlam's prophet nods, He hears loud oracles, and talks with gods: Hence the fool's Paradise, the statesman's scheme, The air-built castle, and the golden dream, The maid's romantic wish, the chemist's flame, And poet's vision of eternal fame. And now, on Fancy's easy wing convey'd, The king descending, views the Elysian shade, A slip-shod sibyl led his steps along, In lofty madness meditating song; Her tresses staring from poetic dreams, And never wash'd, but in Castalia's streams. Taylor,[348] their better Charon, lends an oar, (Once swan of Thames, though now he sings no more.) Benlowes,[349] propitious still to blockheads, bows; And Shadwell nods the poppy[350] on his brows. Here, in a dusky vale where Lethe rolls, Old Bavius sits,[351] to dip poetic souls, And blunt the sense, and fit it for a skull Of solid proof, impenetrably dull: Instant, when dipp'd, away they wing their flight, Where Brown and Mears[352] unbar the gates of light, Demand new bodies, and in calf's array Rush to the world, impatient for the day. Millions and millions on these banks he views, Thick as the stars of night, or morning dews, As thick as bees o'er vernal blossoms fly, As thick as eggs at Ward in pillory.[353] Wond'ring he gazed: when, lo! a sage appears, By his broad shoulders known, and length of ears, Known by the band and suit which Settle[354] wore (His only suit) for twice three years before: All as the vest appear'd the wearer's frame, Old in new state--another, yet the same. Bland and familiar as in life, begun Thus the great father to the greater son: 'Oh born to see what none can see awake! Behold the wonders of the oblivious lake. Thou, yet unborn, hast touch'd this sacred shore; The hand of Bavius drench'd thee o'er and o'er. But blind to former as to future fate, What mortal knows his pre-existent state? Who knows how long thy transmigrating soul Might from Boeotian to Boeotian roll? How many Dutchmen she vouchsafed to thrid? How many stages through old monks she rid? And all who since, in mild benighted days, Mix'd the owl's ivy with the poet's bays. As man's meanders to the vital spring Roll all their tides, then back their circles bring; Or whirligigs, twirl'd round by skilful swain, Suck the thread in, then yield it out again: All nonsense thus, of old or modern date, Shall in thee centre, from thee circulate. For this our queen unfolds to vision true Thy mental eye, for thou hast much to view: Old scenes of glory, times long cast behind, Shall, first recall'd, rush forward to thy mind: Then stretch thy sight o'er all thy rising reign, And let the past and future fire thy brain. 'Ascend this hill, whose cloudy point commands Her boundless empire over seas and lands. See, round the poles where keener spangles shine, Where spices smoke beneath the burning line, (Earth's wide extremes), her sable flag display'd, And all the nations cover'd in her shade! 'Far eastward cast thine eye, from whence the sun And orient science their bright course begun; One god-like monarch[355] all that pride confounds, He whose long wall the wandering Tartar bounds; Heavens! what a pile! whole ages perish there, And one bright blaze turns learning into air. 'Thence to the south extend thy gladden'd eyes; There rival flames with equal glory rise, From shelves to shelves see greedy Vulcan roll, And lick up all their physic of the soul.[356] 'How little, mark! that portion of the ball, Where, faint at best, the beams of science fall: Soon as they dawn, from Hyperborean skies Embodied dark, what clouds of Vandals rise! Lo! where Maeotis sleeps, and hardly flows The freezing Tanais through a waste of snows, The North by myriads pours her mighty sons, Great nurse of Goths, of Alans, and of Huns! See Alaric's stern port! the martial frame Of Genseric! and Attila's dread name! See the bold Ostrogoths on Latium fall; See the fierce Visigoths on Spain and Gaul! See, where the morning gilds the palmy shore, (The soil that arts and infant letters bore,) His conquering tribes the Arabian prophet draws, And saving ignorance enthrones by laws. See Christians, Jews, one heavy sabbath keep, And all the western world believe and sleep. 'Lo! Rome herself, proud mistress now no more Of arts, but thundering against heathen lore; Her gray-hair'd synods damning books unread, And Bacon trembling for his brazen head. Padua, with sighs, beholds her Livy burn, And ev'n the Antipodes Virgilius mourn. See, the cirque falls, the unpillar'd temple nods, Streets paved with heroes, Tiber choked with gods: Till Peter's keys some christen'd Jove adorn, And Pan to Moses lends his pagan horn; See graceless Venus to a virgin turn'd, Or Phidias broken, and Apelles burn'd. 'Behold yon isle, by palmers, pilgrims trod, Men bearded, bald, cowl'd, uncowl'd, shod, unshod, Peel'd, patch'd, and piebald, linsey-woolsey brothers, Grave mummers! sleeveless some, and shirtless others. That once was Britain--happy! had she seen No fiercer sons, had Easter never been.[357] In peace, great goddess, ever be adored; How keen the war, if Dulness draw the sword! Thus visit not thy own! on this bless'd age Oh spread thy influence, but restrain thy rage. 'And see, my son! the hour is on its way That lifts our goddess to imperial sway; This favourite isle, long sever'd from her reign, Dove-like she gathers to her wings again. Now look through Fate! behold the scene she draws! What aids, what armies to assert her cause! See all her progeny, illustrious sight! Behold, and count them, as they rise to light. As Berecynthia, while her offspring vie In homage to the mother of the sky, Surveys around her, in the bless'd abode, An hundred sons, and every son a god; Not with less glory mighty Dulness crown'd, Shall take through Grub Street her triumphant round; And her Parnassus glancing o'er at once, Behold an hundred sons, and each a dunce. 'Mark first that youth who takes the foremost place, And thrusts his person full into your face. With all thy father's virtues bless'd, be born! And a new Cibber shall the stage adorn. 'A second see, by meeker manners known, And modest as the maid that sips alone; From the strong fate of drams if thou get free, Another D'Urfey, Ward! shall sing in thee. Thee shall each ale-house, thee each gill-house mourn, And answering gin-shops sourer sighs return. 'Jacob, the scourge of grammar, mark with awe,[358] Nor less revere him, blunderbuss of law. Lo Popple's brow, tremendous to the town, Horneck's fierce eye, and Roome's[359] funereal frown. Lo, sneering Goode,[360] half-malice and half-whim, A fiend in glee, ridiculously grim. Each cygnet sweet, of Bath and Tunbridge race, Whose tuneful whistling makes the waters pass: Each songster, riddler, every nameless name, All crowd, who foremost shall be damn'd to fame. Some strain in rhyme; the Muses, on their racks, Scream like the winding of ten thousand jacks; Some, free from rhyme or reason, rule or check, Break Priscian's head and Pegasus's neck; Down, down the 'larum, with impetuous whirl, The Pindars, and the Miltons of a Curll. 'Silence, ye wolves! while Ralph[361] to Cynthia howls, And makes night hideous--answer him, ye owls! 'Sense, speech, and measure, living tongues and dead, Let all give way--and Morris may be read. Flow, Welsted, flow! like thine inspirer, beer; Though stale, not ripe; though thin, yet never clear; So sweetly mawkish, and so smoothly dull; Heady, not strong; o'erflowing, though not full. 'Ah Dennis! Gildon ah! what ill-starr'd rage Divides a friendship long confirm'd by age? Blockheads with reason wicked wits abhor, But fool with fool is barbarous civil war. Embrace, embrace, my sons! be foes no more! Nor glad vile poets with true critics' gore. 'Behold yon pair,[362] in strict embraces join'd; How like in manners, and how like in mind! Equal in wit, and equally polite, Shall this a Pasquin, that a Grumbler write? Like are their merits, like rewards they share, That shines a consul, this commissioner. 'But who is he, in closet close y-pent, Of sober face, with learned dust besprent? Right well mine eyes arede the myster wight, On parchment scraps y-fed, and Wormius hight.[363] To future ages may thy dulness last, As thou preserv'st the dulness of the past! 'There, dim in clouds, the poring scholiasts mark, Wits, who, like owls, see only in the dark, A lumberhouse of books in every head, For ever reading, never to be read! 'But where each science lifts its modern type, History her pot, divinity her pipe, While proud philosophy repines to show, Dishonest sight! his breeches rent below; Embrown'd with native bronze, lo! Henley[364] stands, Tuning his voice, and balancing his hands. How fluent nonsense trickles from his tongue! How sweet the periods, neither said nor sung! Still break the benches, Henley! with thy strain, While Sherlock, Hare, and Gibson[365] preach in vain. O great restorer of the good old stage, Preacher at once, and zany of thy age! O worthy thou of Egypt's wise abodes, A decent priest, where monkeys were the gods! But fate with butchers placed thy priestly stall, Meek modern faith to murder, hack, and maul; And bade thee live to crown Britannia's praise, In Toland's, Tindal's, and in Woolston's days.[366] 'Yet O! my sons, a father's words attend (So may the fates preserve the ears you lend): 'Tis yours a Bacon or a Locke to blame, A Newton's genius, or a Milton's flame: But O! with One, immortal One dispense, The source of Newton's light, of Bacon's sense. Content, each emanation of his fires That beams on earth, each virtue he inspires, Each art he prompts, each charm he can create, Whate'er he gives, are given for you to hate. Persist, by all divine in man unawed, But, "Learn, ye Dunces! not to scorn your God."' Thus he, for then a ray of reason stole Half through the solid darkness of his soul; But soon the cloud return'd--and thus the sire: 'See now, what Dulness and her sons admire! See what the charms that smite the simple heart Not touch'd by Nature, and not reach'd by art.' His never-blushing head he turn'd aside, (Not half so pleased when Goodman prophesied), And looked, and saw a sable sorcerer[367] rise, Swift to whose hand a winged volume flies: All sudden, Gorgons hiss, and dragons glare, And ten-horn'd fiends and giants rush to war. Hell rises, heaven descends, and dance on earth:[368] Gods, imps, and monsters, music, rage, and mirth, A fire, a jig, a battle, and a ball, Till one wide conflagration swallows all. Thence a new world to Nature's laws unknown Breaks out refulgent, with a heaven its own: Another Cynthia her new journey runs, And other planets circle other suns. The forests dance, the rivers upward rise, Whales sport in woods, and dolphins in the skies; And last, to give the whole creation grace, Lo! one vast egg produces human race.[369] Joy fills his soul, joy innocent of thought: 'What power,' he cries, 'what power these wonders wrought?' 'Son, what thou seek'st is in thee! Look, and find Each monster meets his likeness in thy mind. Yet would'st thou more? In yonder cloud behold, Whose sarsenet skirts are edged with flamy gold, A matchless youth! his nod these worlds controls, Wings the red lightning, and the thunder rolls. Angel of Dulness, sent to scatter round Her magic charms o'er all unclassic ground Yon stars, yon suns, he rears at pleasure higher, Illumes their light, and sets their flames on fire. Immortal Rich![370] how calm he sits at ease 'Mid snows of paper, and fierce hail of pease; And proud his mistress' orders to perform, Rides in the whirlwind, and directs the storm. 'But, lo! to dark encounter in mid air, New wizards rise; I see my Cibber there! Booth[371] in his cloudy tabernacle shrined, On grinning dragons thou shalt mount the wind. Dire is the conflict, dismal is the din, Here shouts all Drury, there all Lincoln's inn; Contending theatres our empire raise, Alike their labours, and alike their praise. 'And are these wonders, son, to thee unknown? Unknown to thee? These wonders are thy own. These Fate reserved to grace thy reign divine, Foreseen by me, but ah! withheld from mine. In Lud's old walls though long I ruled, renown'd Far as loud Bow's stupendous bells resound; Though my own Aldermen conferred the bays, To me committing their eternal praise, Their full-fed heroes, their pacific mayors, Their annual trophies, and their monthly wars; Though long my party[372] built on me their hopes, For writing pamphlets, and for roasting popes; Yet lo! in me what authors have to brag on! Reduced at last to hiss in my own dragon. Avert it, Heaven! that thou, my Cibber, e'er Should'st wag a serpent-tail in Smithfield fair! Like the vile straw that's blown about the streets, The needy poet sticks to all he meets, Coach'd, carted, trod upon, now loose, now fast, And carried off in some dog's tail at last; Happier thy fortunes! like a rolling stone, Thy giddy dulness still shall lumber on, Safe in its heaviness, shall never stray, But lick up every blockhead in 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. Already Opera prepares the way, 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[373] to roar, And scream thyself as none e'er scream'd before! To aid our cause, if Heaven thou can'st not bend, Hell thou shalt move; for Faustus[374] is our friend: Pluto with Cato thou for this shalt join, And link the Mourning Bride to Proserpine. Grub Street! thy fall should men and gods conspire, Thy stage shall stand, ensure it but from fire.[375] Another schylus appears![376] 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: Th' Augustus born to bring Saturnian times. Signs following signs lead on the mighty year! See! the dull stars roll round and re-appear. See, see, our own true Phoebus wears the bays! Our Midas sits Lord Chancellor of Plays! On poets' tombs see Benson's titles writ![377] Lo! Ambrose Philips[378] is preferr'd for wit! See under Ripley rise a new Whitehall, While Jones' and Boyle's united labours fall;[379] While Wren with sorrow to the grave descends, Gay dies unpension'd with a hundred friends; 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, 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. VARIATIONS. VER. 73. In the former edition-- Far eastward cast thine eye, from whence the sun And orient science at a birth begun. VER. 149. In the first edition it was-- Woolston, the scourge of scripture, mark with awe! And mighty Jacob, blunderbuss of law! VER. 151. Lo Popple's brow, &c. In the former edition-- Haywood, Centlivre, glories of their race, Lo Horneck's fierce, and Roome's funereal face. VER. 157. Each songster, riddler, &c. In the former edition-- Lo Bond and Foxton, every nameless name. After VER. 158 in the first edition followed-- How proud, how pale, how earnest all appear! How rhymes eternal jingle in their ear! VER. 197. In the first edition it was-- And proud philosophy with breeches tore, And English music with a dismal score: Fast by in darkness palpable enshrined W---s, B---r, M---n, all the poring kind. After VER. 274 in the former edition followed-- For works like these let deathless journals tell, 'None but thyself can be thy parallel.' VER. 295. Safe in its heaviness, etc. In the former edition-- Too safe in inborn heaviness to stray, And lick up every blockhead in the way. Thy dragons, magistrates and peers shall taste, And from each show rise duller than the last; Till raised from booths, etc. VER. 323. See, see, our own, &c. In the former edition-- Beneath his reign shall Eusden wear the bays. Cibber preside Lord Chancellor of plays, Benson sole Judge of Architecture sit, And Namby Pamby be preferr'd for wit! I see the unfinish'd dormitory wall, I see the Savoy totter to her fall; Hibernian politics, O Swift! thy doom, And Pope's, translating three whole years with Broome. Proceed great days, &c. VER. 331. In the former edition, thus-- ---- O Swift! thy doom, And Pope's, translating ten whole years with Broome. See Life. After VER. 338, in the first edition, were the following lines-- Then when these signs declare the mighty year, When the dull stars roll round and re-appear; Let there be darkness! (the dread Power shall say) All shall be darkness, as it ne'er were day; To their first Chaos wit's vain works shall fall, And universal darkness cover all.