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But fill their purse, our poets' work is done,
O you! whom Vanity's light bark conveys
There still remains, to mortify a wit,
The many-headed monster of the pit;
A senseless, worthless, and unhonour'd crowd;
From heads to ears, and now from ears to eyes).
Old Edward's armour beams on Cibber's breast.21
The people, sure, the people are the sight!
Ah, luckless poet! stretch thy lungs and roar,
21 The coronation of Henry VIII. and Queen Anne Boleyn, in which the playhouses vied with each other to represent all the pomp of a coronation. In this noble contention, the armour of one of the kings of England was borrowed from the Tower to dress the champion.
22 The furthest northern promontory of Scotland, opposite the Orcades.
Such is the shout, the long-applauding note,
Booth enters-hark! the universal peal!
But has he spoken?" Not a syllable.
What shook the stage, and made the people stare?
Cato's long wig, flower'd gown, and lacquer'd chair.
To Thebes, to Athens, when he will, and where.
Alone, deserves the favour of the great:
More on a reader's sense, than gazer's eye.
Or who shall wander where the Muses sing?
Who climb their mountain, or who taste their spring?
My liege! why writers little claim your thought, guess; and, with their leave, will tell the fault:
When Merlin's cave is half unfurnish'd yet?24
We poets are (upon a poet's word)
Of all mankind, the creatures most absurd:
28 Munus Apolline dignum. The Palatine library then building by Augustus.
24 A building in the royal gardens of Richmond, where is a small but choice collection of books.
[The collection was made by Queen Caroline, who appointed Stephen Duck, the thresher poet, librarian, besides advancing the sale of his works. and otherwise benefiting the poor rhymester. Hence Swift's Epigram, beginning,
"The thresher Duck could o'er the queen prevail,
The proverb says, no fence against a flail.
From threshing corn he turns to threshing brains,
For Stephen Duck, see next Epistle, verse 140.]
The season, when to come, and when to go,
And if we will recite nine hours in ten,
We needs will write epistles to the king;
And from the moment we oblige the town,
Yet think, great sir! (so many virtues shown) Ah think, what poet best may make them known?
Or choose, at least, some minister of grace,
Charles, to late times to be transmitted fair,
Assign'd his figure to Bernini's care;
And great Nassau to Kneller's hand decreed
To fix him graceful on the bounding steed;
So well in paint and stone they judged of merit ;
But kings in wit may want discerning spirit.
One knighted Blackmore, and one pension'd Quarles; 25
25 [Quarles held a small sinecure place in the court of James I., but there s no record of his being pensioned by Charles, in support of whose cause he lost his property, books, &c., by which his death (1644) was supposed to be hastened. There may have been some instance of royal favour shown to Quarles which made "Old Ben" swear over his cups; and Dennis was an habitual gambler.]
Which made old Ben, and surly Dennis swear, "No Lord's anointed, but a Russian bear."
Not with such majesty, such bold relief,
And nations wonder'd, while they dropp'd the sword!
Peace stole her wing, and wrapp'd the world in sleep;
Till earth's extremes your mediation own,
And Asia's tyrants tremble at your throne.
But most of all the zeal of fools in rhyme.