Page images

Lo! Ambrose Philips is preferr'd for wit! 326
See under Ripley rise a new Whitehall,
While Jones' and Boyle's united labours fall;
While Wren with sorrow to the grave descends,
Gay dies unpension'd with a hundred friends, 330
Hibernian politics, O Swift! thy fate,

And Pope's, ten years to comment and translate! 'Proceed, great days! till learning fly the shore, 838

Till birch shall blush with noble blood no more;


326-Ambrose Philips] 'He was (saith Mr. Jacob) one of the wits at Button's, and a justice of the peace.' But he hath since met with higher preferment in Ireland: and a much greater character we have of him in Mr. Gildon's complete Art of Poetry, vol. i. p. 157. 'Indeed, he confesses, he dares not set him quite on the same foot with Virgil, lest it should seem flattery, but he is much mistaken if posterity does not afford him a greater esteem than he at present enjoys.' He endeavoured to create some misunderstanding between our author and Mr. Addison, whom also soon after he abused as much.


330 Gay dies unpension'd, &c.] See Mr. Gay's fable of the Hare and many Friends. This gentleman was early in the friendship of our author, which continued to his death. wrote several works of humour with great success: The Shepherd's Week, Trivia, The What-d'ye-call it, Fables; and, lastly, that prodigy of fortune, the Beggar's Opera.

338 Proceed, great days! &c.-Till birch shall blush, &c.] Another great prophet of Dulness, on this side Styx, promiseth those days to be near at hand. The devil (saith he) licensed bishops to license masters of schools to instruct youth in the knowledge of the heathen gods, their religion, &c. The schools and universities will soon be tired and ashamed of classics, and such trumpery.' Hutchinson's Use of Reason recovered.


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 dissolv'd in port!'

'Enough! enough!' the raptur'd monarch cries, And through the ivory gate the vision flies.840


840 And through the ivory gate, &c.]

'Sunt geminæ somni portæ; quarum altera fertur
Cornea, qua veris facilis datur exitus umbris;
Altera, candenti perfecta nitens elephanto;
Sed falsa ad cœlum mittunt insomnia manes.'




The poet being, in this book, to declare the completion of the prophecies mentioned at the end of the former, makes a new invocation; as the greater poets are wont, when some high and worthy matter is to be sung. He shows the goddess coming in her majesty to destroy order and science, and to substitute the kingdom of the Dull upon earth: how she leads captive the sciences, and silences the muses; and what they be who succeed in their stead. All her children, by a wonderful attraction, are drawn about her; and bear along with them divers others, who promote her empire by connivance, weak resistance, or discouragement of arts; such as half-wits, tasteless admirers, vain pretenders, the flatterers of dunces, or the patrons of them. All these crowd round her; one of them offering to approach her, is driven back by a rival, but she commends and encourages both. The first who speak in form are the geniuses of the schools, who assure her of their care to advance her cause by confining youth to words, and keeping them out of the way of real knowledge. Their address, and her gracious answer; with her charge to them and the universities. The universities appear by their proper deputies, and assure her that the same method is observed in the progress of education. The speech of Aristarchus on this subject. They are driven off by a band of young gentlemen returned from travel with their tutors; one of whom delivers to the goddess, in a polite oration, an account of the whole conduct and fruits of their travels; presenting to her at the same time a young nobleman perfectly accomplished. She receives him graciously, and endues him with the happy quality of want of shame. She sees loitering about her a number of indolent persons abandoning all business and duty, and dying with laziness: to these approaches the antiquary Annius, entreating her to make them

virtuosos, and assign them over to him; but Mummius, another antiquary, complaining of his fraudulent proceeding, she finds a method to reconcile their difference. Then enter a troop of people fantastically adorned, offering her strange and exotic presents: among them, one stands forth, and demands justice on another who had deprived him of one of the greatest curiosities in nature; but he justifies himself so well, that the goddess gives them both her approbation. She recommends to them to find proper employment for the indolents before mentioned, in the study of butterflies, shells, birds-nests, moss, &c. but with particular caution not to proceed beyond trifles, to any useful or extensive views of nature, or of the Author of nature. Against the last of these apprehensions, she is secured by a hearty address from the Minute Philosophers and Freethinkers, one of whom speaks in the name of the rest. The youth thus instructed and principled, are delivered to her in a body, by the hands of Silenus; and then admitted to taste the cup of the Magus, her high priest, which causes a total oblivion of all obligations, divine, civil, moral, or rational. To these her adepts she sends priests, attendants, and comforters, of various kinds; confers on them orders and degrees; and then dismissing them with a speech, confirming to each his privileges, and telling what she expects from each, concludes with a yawn of extraordinary virtue: the progress and effects whereof on all orders of men, and the consummation of all, in the restoration of Night and Chaos, conclude the poem.

YET, yet a moment, one dim ray of light
Indulge, dread Chaos, and eternal Night!2
Of darkness visible so much be lent,
As half to show, half veil the deep intent.


2 dread Chaos and eternal Night] Invoked, as the restoration of their empire is the action of the poem.

Ye powers! whose mysteries restor❜d I sing,
To whom Time bears me on his rapid wing,
Suspend a while your force inertly strong,
Then take at once the poet and the song.

Now flam'd the dogstar's unpropitious ray, Smote every brain, and wither'd every bay; Sick was the sun, the owl forsook his bower, The moon-struck prophet felt the madding hour: Then rose the seed of Chaos, and of Night, To blot out order, and extinguish light,14 Of dull and venal a new world to mould," And bring Saturnian days of lead and gold. She mounts the throne: her head a cloud



In broad effulgence all below reveal'd
('Tis thus aspiring Dulness ever shines);
Soft on her lap her laureate son reclines.


14 To blot out order, and extinguish light] The two great ends of her mission; the one in quality of daughter of Chaos, the other as daughter of Night. Order here is to be understood extensively, both as civil and moral; the distinctions between high and low in society, and true and false in individuals: light as intellectual only; wit, science, arts.

15 Of dull and venal] The allegory continued; dull referring to the extinction of light or science; venal to the destruction of order and the truth of things.

15-a new world] In allusion to the Epicurean opinion, that from the dissolution of the natural world into night and chaos, a new one should arise; this the poet alluding to, in the production of a new world, makes it partake of its original principles.

« PreviousContinue »