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Now all is changed! We fume, and fret, poor elves,
Less to display our subject, than ourselves:
Whate'er we paint-a grot, a flower, a bird,
Heavens, how we sweat! laboriously absurd!
Words of gigantic bulk, and uncouth sound,
In rattling triads the long sentence bound;
While points with points, with periods periods jar,
And the whole work seems one continued war!
Is not this sad?
F. ""Tis pitiful," Heaven knows,
""Tis wondrous pitiful." E'en take the prose; But for the poetry-oh, that, my friend,
I still aspire-nay, smile not-to defend.
You praise our sires, but, though they wrote with force, Their rhymes were vicious, and their diction coarse;
We want their strength; agreed: but we atone
For that, and more, by sweetness all our own.
For instance-"Hasten to the lawny vale,
Where yellow morning breathes her saffron gale,
And bathes the landscape-"
P. Pshaw; I have it here.
"A voice seraphic grasps my listening ear:
Wond'ring I gaze; when lo! methought afar,
More bright than dauntless day's imperial star,
A godlike form advances."
These lines, perhaps, too turgid; what of those? "THE MIGHTY MOTHER
P. Now 'tis plain you sneer,
For Weston's self could find no semblance here:
Weston! who slunk from truth's imperious light,
Swells, like a filthy toad, with secret spite,
And, envying the fane he cannot hope,
Spits his black venom at the dust of Pope.
-Reptile accursed!-O memorable long,
If there be force in virtue or in song,
O injured bard! accept the grateful strain,
Which I, the humblest of the tuneful train,
With glowing heart, yet trembling hand, repay,
For many a pensive, many a sprightly, lay!
So may thy varied verse, from age to age,
Inform the simple, and delight the sage;
While canker'd Weston, and his loathsome rhymes,
Stink in the nose of all succeeding times!
Enough. But where (for these, you seem to say,
Are samples of the high, heroic lay)
Where are the soft, the tender strains, which call
For the moist eye, bow'd head, and lengthen'd drawl?
Lo! here" Canst thou, Matilda, urge my fate,
And bid me mourn thee?-yes, and mourn too late!
O rash, severe decree! my maddening brain
Cannot the ponderous agony sustain;
But forth I rush, from vale to mountain run,
And with my mind's thick gloom obscure the sun."
Heavens! if our ancient vigour were not fled,
Could verse like this be written? or be read?
Verse! that's the mellow fruit of toil intense,
Inspired by genius, and inform'd by sense;
This, the abortive progeny of Pride,
And Dulness, gentle pair, for aye allied;
Begotten without thought, born without pains,
The ropy drivel of rheumatic brains.
F. So let it be: and yet, methinks, my friend,
Silence were wise, where satire will not mend.
Why wound the feelings of our noble youth,
And grate their tender ears with odious truth?
They cherish Arno and his flux of song,
And hate the man who tells 'em they are wrong.
Your fate already I foresee. My Lord,
With cold respect, will freeze you from his board,
And His Grace cry, "Hence with that sapient sneer!
Hence! we desire no currish critic here."
ON THE FRIVOLOUS THEMES OF POETASTERS.
P. Nay, then, I'll dig a pit, and bury there The dreadful truth which so alarms thy fears:
THE TOWN, THE TOWN, GOOD PIT, HAS ASSES' EARS! Thou think'st, perhaps, this wayward fancy strange;
So think thou still: yet would not I exchange
The secret humour of this simple hit
For all the Albums that were ever writ.
Of this, no more.-O thou (if yet there be,
One bosom from this vile infection free),
Thou who canst thrill with joy, or glow with ire,
As the great masters of the song inspire;
Canst bend enraptured o'er the magic page,
Where desperate ladies desperate lords engage;
Gnomes, Sylphs, and Gods, the fierce contention share,
And heaven and earth hang trembling on a hair:
Canst quake with horror, when Emelia's charms
Against a brother point a brother's arms;
And trace the fortune of the varying fray,
While hour on hour flits unperceived away-
Approach: 'twixt hope and fear I wait. O deign,
To cast a glance on this incondite strain:
Here, if thou find one thought but well exprest,
One sentence, higher finish'd than the rest,
Such as may win thee to proceed awhile,
And smooth thy forehead with a gracious smile,
I ask no more. But far from me the throng,
Who fancy fire in Laura's vapid song;
Who Anna's bedlam-rant for sense can take,
And over Edwin's mewlings keep awake;
Yes, far from me, whate'er their birth or place,
These long-ear'd judges of the Phrygian race;
Their censure and their praise alike I scorn,
And hate the laurel by their followers worn!
Let such (a task congenial to their powers)
At sales and auctions waste the morning hours,
While the dull noon away in Rumford's fane,
And snore the evening out at Drury-lane.
PERVERSION OF HISTORICAL TRUTH BY POETIC LICENSE.
When Mason leads Elfrida forth to view,
Adorn'd with virtues which she never knew,
I feel for every tear; while, borne along
By the full tide of unresisted song,
I stop not to inquire if all be just;
But take her goodness, as her grief, on trust,
Till calm reflection checks me, and I see
The heroine as she was, and ought to be,
A bold, bad woman, wading to the throne,
Thro' seas of blood, and crimes till then unknown:
Then, then I hate the magic that deceived,
And blush to think how fondly I believed.
Not so, when Edgar, made, in some strange plot,
The hero of a day that knew him not,
Struts from the field his enemy had won,
On stately stilts, exulting and undone!
Here I can only pity, only smile;
Where not one grace, one elegance of style,
Redeems th' audacious folly of the rest,
Truth sacrificed, and history made a jest.
Then let your style be brief, your meaning clear,
Nor, like Lorenzo, tire the labouring ear
With a wild waste of words; sound without sense,
And all the florid glare of impotence.
Still with your characters your language change,
From grave to gay, as nature dictates, range;
Now droop in all the plaintiveness of woe,
Now in glad numbers light and airy flow;
Now shake the stage with guilt's alarming tone,
And make the aching bosom all your own;
Now but I sing in vain; from first to last,
Your joy is fustian, and your grief bombast :
Rhetoric has banish'd reason; kings and queens,
Vent in hyperboles their royal spleens ;
Guardsmen in metaphors express their hopes,
And "maidens, in white linen," howl in tropes.
Reverent I greet the bards of other days:
Blest be your names, and lasting be your praise!
From nature's varied face ye wisely drew,
And following ages own'd the copies true.
O! had our sots, who rhyme with headlong haste,
And think reflection still a foe to taste,
But brains your pregnant scenes to understand,
And give us truth, though but at second hand,
'Twere something yet! But no; they never look-
Shall souls of fire, they cry, a tutor brook?
Forbid it, inspiration! Thus, your pain
Is void, and ye have lived, for them, in vain.
But what is he, that, with a Mohawk's air,
"Cries Havoc, and lets slip the dogs of war?"
A bloated mass, a gross, blood-bolter'd clod,
A foe to man, a renegade from God;
From noxious childhood to pernicious age,
Separate to infamy, in every stage.
CORNWALL remembers yet his first employ,
And shuddering tells, with what infernal joy,
His little tongue in blasphemies was loosed,
His little hands in deeds of horror used;
While mangled insects strew'd his cradle o'er,
And limbs of birds distain'd his bib with gore.
Anon, on stronger animals he flew,
For with his growth his savage passions grew,
And oft, what time his violence fail'd to kill,
He mix'd th' insidious dose with wicked skill;
Saw with wild joy, in pangs till then untried,
Cats, dogs, expire; and cursed them as they died!
With riper years a different scene began, And his hate turn'd from animals to man: Then letters, libels, flew on secret wings, And wide around infix'd their venom'd stings; All fear'd, where none could ward the coming blow, And each man eyed his neighbour as his foe: Till dragg'd to day, the lurking caitiff stood, Th' accursed cause of many a fatal feud, And begg'd for mercy in so sad a strain, So wept, so trembled, that the injured train, Who, crawling at their feet a miscreant saw, Too mean for punishment, too poor for law, O'erlook'd ('twas all they could) his numerous crimes, And shipp'd him off " to ape and monkey climes."
THERE, while the negroes view'd, with strong disgust, This prodigy of drunkenness and lust
Explore the darkest cells, the dirtiest styes,
And roll in filth at which their gorge would rise;
He play'd one master-trick to crown the whole,
And took, O Heavens! the sacerdotal stole !-
How shook the altar when he first drew near,
Hot from debauch, and with a shameless leer,
Pour'd stammering forth the yet unhallow'd prayers,
Mix'd with convulsive sobs, and noisome airs!-
Then rose the people, passive now no more,
And from his limbs the sacred vestments tore;
Dragg'd him with groans, shouts, hisses, to the main,
And sent him-to annoy these realms again.
CORNWALL, that fondly deem'd herself relieved,
Ill-fated land! once more the pest received;
But, wary and forewarn'd, observed his course,
And track'd each libel to its proper source;
Till indignation, wide and wider spread,
Burst in one dreadful tempest on his head.
From Epistle to Peter Pindar.