صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

But, high above, more solid learning shone, The classics of an age that heard of none; There Caxton slept, with Wynkyn at his side, 119 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 there a dreadful front extends, And here the groaning shelves Philemon bends.

REMARKS. the city instead of the court; but equally famous for unin telligible flights in his poems on public occasions, such as shows, birth-days, &c. 2. Banks was his rival in tragedy

though inore successful in one of his tragedies, the Earl of Essex, which is yet alive: Anna Boleyn, the Quoen of Scots, and Cyrus the Great, are dead and gone. These he dressed in a sort of beggar's velvet, or a happy mixture of the thick fustian and thin prosaic; exactly imitated in Perolla and Isidora, Cæsar in Egypt, and the Heroic Daughter 3. Broome was a serving man of Ben Jonson, who once picked up a comedy from his letters, or from some cast scenes of his master, not entirely contemptiblc.

Ver. 147. More solid learning.] Some have objected, that books of this sort suit not so well the library of our Bays, which they imagined consisted of novels, plays, and obscene books; but they are to consider that he furnished nis shelves only for ornament, and read these books no more than the dry bodies of divinity, which, no doubt, were purchased by his father when he designed him for the gown. See the note on ver. 200.

Ver. 149. Caxton] A printer in the time of Edw. IV Richard III. and Hen. VII.; Wynkyn de Word, his successor, in that of Hen. VII. and VIII. The former translated into prose Virgil's Æneis, as a history; of which he speaks, in his proeme, in a very singular manner, as of a book hardly known. Tibbald quotes a rare passage from him in Mist's Journal of March 16, 1728, concerning a straunge and marvallous beaste, called Sagittayre, which ho would have Shakspeare to mean rather than Teucer, tho archer celebrated by Homer.

Ver. 153. Nich de Lyra, or Harpsfield, a very volumi. nous commentator, whose works, in five vast folios, were printed in 1472.

Ver. 154. Philemon Holland, doctor in physic. ' He trans lated so many books, that a man would think he had done nothing else; insomuch that he might be called translator general of his age. The books alone of his turning into English are sufficient to make a country gentleman a com Plete library.

Winstanlcn.

Of these, twelve volumes, twelve of amplest size, Redeem'd from tapers and defrauded pies, Inspired he seizes : these an altar raise : A hecatomb of pure unsullied lays That altar crowns : a folio common-place Founds the whole pile, of all, his works the base: 160 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 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,

170 Which, as more ponderous, made its aim more true, Obliquely waddling to the mark in view : 0! ever gracious to perplex'd 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 ;

REMARKS. Ver. 167. E'er since sir Fopling's periwig.' The first visible cause of the passion of the town for our hero, was a fair flaxen full-bottomed periwig, which, he tells us, he wore in his first play of the Fool in Fashion. It attracted, in a particular manner, the friendship of Col. Brett, who wanted to purchase it. Whatever contempt,' says he, "pbilosophers may have for a fine periwig, my friend, who was not to despise the world, but to live in it, knew very well, that Bo maierial an article of dress upon ibo head of a man of gense, if it became him, could never fail of drawing to him a more partial regard and benevolence, than could possibly bo hoped for in an ill-made one. This, perhaps, may soften the grave censure which so youthful a purchase might otherwise have laid upon him. In a word, he made his attack upon this periwig, as your young fellows generally do upon a lady of pleasure, first by a few familiar praises of ner person, and ihen a civil inquiry into the price of it; and Vol. II.

14

Or quite unravel all the reasoning thread,
And hang some curious cobweb in its stead! 180
As forced from wind-guns, lead itself can fly,
And ponderous slugs cut swiftly through the sky;
As clocks to weight their nimble motions 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 betray à me into common sense :
Else all my prose and verse were much the same;
This, prose on stilts; that, poetry fall’n lame. 190
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 ? 200

REMARKS. we finished our bargain that night over a bottle.' See Life,

10. p. 303. This remarkable periwig usually made its entrance upon the stage in a sedan, brought in by two chair. men, with infinite approbation of the audience.

Ver. 178, 179. Guard the sure barrier-Or quite unravel, &c.] For wit or reasoning are never greatly hurtful to duls ness, but when the first is founded in truth, and the other in Usefulness,

Ver. 181. As, forced from wind-guns, &c.] The thought of these four verses is founded in a poem of our authors of a very early date (namely, written at fourteen years old, and soon after printed,) to the author of a poem called Successio.

Ver. 198. Gray-goose weapon.] Alluding to the old English weapon, the arrow of the long-bow, which was iletched with the feathers of the gray-goose.

Ver. 199. My Fletcher) A familiar manner of speaking, used by modern critics, of a favourite author. Bays might as justly speak this of Fletcher, as a French wit did of T'ully, seeing his works in a library, Ah! mon cher Ciceroni

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.)
Shall I, like Curtius, desperate in my zeal,
O'er head and ears plunge for the common weal? 210
Or rob Rome's ancient geese of all their glories,
And cackling save the monarchy of Tories ?

[ocr errors]

REMARKS. je le connois bien : c'est le meme que Marc Tullc. But ho had a better title to call Fletcher his own, having made so free with him.

Ver. 200. Take up the Bible, once my better guide ?] When, according to his father's intention, he had been a clergyman, or (as he thinks himself,) a bishop of the church of England. Hear his own words: 'At the time that the fate of King James, the prince of Orange, and myself, were on the anvil, Providence thought fit to postpone mine, till theirs were determined: but had my father carried me a month sooner to the university, who knows but that purer fountain might have washed my imperfections into a capacity of writing, instead of plays and annual odes, sermons, and pastoral letters ?'-Apology for his Life, chap. iii.

Ver. 203. At White's amidst the doctors] These doctors nad a modest and upright appearance, no air of overbear. ing; but, like true masters of art, were only habited in black and white: they were justly styled subtiles and graves, but not always irrefragabiles, being sometimes examined, and by a nice distinction, divided and laid open.

Scribl. This learned critic is to be understood allegorically. The doctors in this place mean no more than false dico, a cant phrase used among gamesters. So the meaning of these four sonorous lines is only this, 'Shall I play fair or foul ?'

Ver. 208. Ridpath-Mist.) George Ridpath, author of a Whis paper, called the Flying-post ; Nathaniel Mist of a famous Tory journal.

Ver. 211. Or rob Rome's ancient geese of ali their glories,] Relates to the well-known story of the geese tha. baved the Capitol; of which Virgil, Æn. viii.

Atque hic auratis volitans argenteus anser
Porticibus, Gallos in limine adesse canebat.'

[ocr errors]

Hold-to the minister I more incline;
To serve his cause, O queen ! is serving thine.
And see! thy very Gazetteers give o'er;
E’en Ralph repents, and Henley writes no moro.
What then remains ? Ourself. Still, still remain
Cibberian forehead, and Cibberian brain.

REMARKS. A passage I have always suspected. Who sees not the antithesis of auratis and argenteus to be unworthy the Virgilian majesty? And what absurdity to say a goose sings ? canebat. Virgil gives a contrary character of the voice of this silly bird, in Ecl. ix.

argutos inter strepere anser olores.' Read it, therefore, adesse strepebat. And why auratis porticibus ? does not the very verse preceding this inform us,

"Romuleoque recens horrebat regia culmo.' Is this thatch in one line, and gold in another, consistent ? J scruple not (repugnantibus omnibus manuscriptis) to correct it auritis. Horace uses the same epithet in the same sense,

Auritas fidibus canoris

Ducere quercus.' And to say that walls have ears is common even to a proverb.

Scribl. Ver. 212. And cackling save the monarchy of Tories?) Not out of any preference or affection to the Tories. For what Hobbes so ingeniously confesses of himself, is true of all ministerial writers whatsoever: That he defends the supreme powers, as the geese by their cackling defended the Romans, who held the Capitol ; for they favoured them no more than the Gauls, their enemies; but were as ready to have defended the Gauls if they had been possessed of the Capitol.'

Epis. Dedic. to the Lcviathan. Ver. 215. Gazetteers.) A band of ministerial writers, hired at the prices mentioned in the note on book ii. ver. 316, who, on the very day their patron quitted his post, laid down their paper, and declared they would never more meddle in politics.

Ver. 218. Cibberian forehead.] So indeed all the MSS. read; but I make no scruple to pronounce them all wrong the laureate being elsewhere celebrated by our poet for his great modesty-modest Cibber-Read, therefore, at my peril, Cerberian forehead. This is perfectly classical, and, what is more, Honierical; the dog was the ancient, as the bitch is the modern symbol of impudence: (Kuvos op. Je

« السابقةمتابعة »