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Hung silent down his never blushing head,
Thus the soft gifts of sleep conclude the day,
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, inamoratoes, 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 shews 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, shews 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 prophecies how first the nation shall be over-run 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
Burin her temple's last recess inclos'd,
On Dulness' lap th' anointed head repos'd.
Hence the fool's paradise, the statesman's scheme,
And now, on Fancy's easy wing convey'd,
(Once swan of Thames, though now he sings no more) Benlowes, propitious still to blockheads, bows; 21 And Shadwell nods, the poppy on his brows.
Here in a dusky vale where Lethe rolls,
Old Bavius sits to dip poetic souls,
And blunt the sense, and fit it for a skull
Instant, when dipt, away they wing their flight,
v. 19. Taylor.] John Taylor, the Water-poet, an honest man, who owns he learned not so much as the accidence; a rare example of modesty in a poet! He wrote fourscore books in the reign of James I. and Charles I. and afterwards (like Edward Ward) kept an alehouse in Long-acre. He died in 1654.
v. 21. Benlowes.] A country-gentleman, famous for his own bad poetry, and for patronizing bad poets, as may be seen from many dedications of Quarles and others to him. Some of these anagram'd his name Bentowes into Benevolus; to verify which he spent his whole estate upon them.
v. 22. And Shadwell nods, the poppy, &c.] Shadwell took opium for many years, and died of too large a dose, in the year 1692. W.
v. 24. Old Bavius sits.] Bavius was an ancient poet, celebrated by Virgil for the like cause as Bayes by our author, though not in so Christian-like a manner; for heathenishly it is declared by Virgil, of Bavius, that he ought to be hated and detested for his evil works: Qui Bavium non odit? whereas we have often had occasion to observe our poet's great good-nature and mercifulness through the whole course of this poem. Scrib.
v. 28. Browne and Mears ] Booksellers, printers for any body.--The allegory of the souls of the dull coming forth in the form of books dressed in calf's leather, and being let abroad in vast numbers by booksellers, is sufficiently intelligible.
Millions and millions on these banks he views,
Wondering he gaz'd: when, lo! a sage appears, By his broad shoulders known, and length of ears, Known by the band and suit which Settle 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 th' oblivious lake!
Thou, yet unborn, has touch'd this sacred shore; 45
v. 34. Ward in pillory.] John Ward, of Hackney, Esq. member of parliament, being convicted of forgery, was first expelled the House, and then sentenced to the pillory, on the 17th of February, 1727.
v.61, 62. For this our queen unfolds to vision true
Thy mental eye, for thou hast much to view.] This has a resemblance to that passage in Milton, Book XI. where the angel
Old scenes of glory, times long cast behind,
"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 godlike monarch all that pride confounds, He, whose long wall the wandering Tartar bounds; Heav'ns! 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.
"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 Mæotis 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 intant letters bore) His conquering tribes the Arabian prophet draws, And saving ignorance enthrones by laws.
"To noble sights from Adam's eye remov'd
There is a general allusion in what follows to that whole episode.
See Christians, Jews, one heavy sabbath keep,
"Lo! Rome herself, proud mistress now no more Of arts, but thundering against Heathen lore; Her grey-hair'd synods damning books unread, And Bacon trembling for his brazen head. Padua, with sighs, beholds her Livy burn, And ev'n th' Antipodes Virgilius mourn. See the Cirque falls, th' unpillar'd temple nods, Streets pav'd with heroes, Tyber choak'd 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,
How keen the war, if Dulness draw the sword! 120
This favourite isle, long sever'd from her reign, 125
Now look through fate! behold the scene she draws!
Behold and count them, as they rise to light.
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.