ADDRESSED TO THE CRITICAL REVIEWERS.
1 LAUGHS not the heart, when Giants, big with pride,
2 Assume the pompous port, the martial stride;
3 O'er arm Herculean heave th' enormous shield,
4 Vast as a weaver's beam the javelin wield;
5 With the loud voice of thund'ring JOVE defy,
6 And dare to single combat — What? — A Fly.
7 AND laugh we less, when Giant names, which shine
8 Establish'd as it were by right divine;
9 Critics whom ev'ry captive art adores,
10 To whom glad Science pours forth all her stores;
11 Who high in letter'd reputation sit,
12 And hold, ASTRAEA like, the scales of Wit;
13 With partial rage rush forth, — Oh! shame to tell! —
14 To crush a bard just bursting from the shell?
15 GREAT are his perils in this stormy time
16 Who rashly ventures on a sea of Rhime.
17 Around vast surges roll, winds envious blow,
18 And jealous rocks and quicksands lurk below.
19 Greatly his foes he dreads, but more his friends;
20 He hurts me most who lavishly commends.
21 LOOK thro' the world — in ev'ry other trade
22 The same employment's cause of kindness made;
23 At least appearance of good will creates;
24 And ev'ry fool puffs off the fool he hates:
25 Cobblers with cobblers smoke away the night,
26 And in the common cause e'en play'rs unite.
27 Authors, alone, with more than savage rage,
28 Unnat'ral war with brother authors wage. [Page 3]
29 The pride of Nature would as soon admit
30 Competitors in empire as in wit.
31 Onward they rush at Fame's imperious call,
32 And, less than greatest, would not be at all.
33 SMIT with the love of Honour, — or the Pence,
34 O'er-run with wit, and destitute of sense,
35 If any novice in the rhiming trade,
36 With lawless pen the realms of verse invade;
37 Forth from the court, where scepter'd sages sit,
38 Abus'd with praise, and flatter'd into wit;
39 Where in lethargic majesty they reign,
40 And what they won by dullness still maintain;
41 Legions of factious authors throng at once;
42 Fool beckons fool, and dunce awakens dunce.
43 To H—M—LT—N's the Ready Lies repair; —
44 Ne'er was Lie made which was not welcome there. —
45 Thence, on maturer judgment's anvil wrought,
46 The polish'd falshood's into public brought.
47 Quick circulating slanders mirth afford,
48 And reputation bleeds in ev'ry word.
49 A CRITIC was of old a glorious name,
50 Whose sanction handed merit up to fame:[Page 4]
51 Beauties as well as faults he brought to view:
52 His Judgment great, and great his Candour too.
53 No servile rules drew sickly taste aside;
54 Secure he walk'd, for Nature was his guide.
55 But now, Oh strange reverse! our Critics bawl
56 In praise of Candour with a Heart of Gall.
57 Conscious of guilt, and fearful of the light,
58 They lurk enshrouded in the veil of night:
59 Safe from detraction, seize the unwary prey,
60 And stab, like bravoes, all who come that way.
61 WHEN first my Muse, perhaps more bold than wise,
62 Bad the rude trifle into light arise,
63 Little she thought such tempests would ensue,
64 Less, that those tempests would be rais'd by you.
65 The thunder's fury rends the tow'ring oak,
66 Rosciads, like shrubs, might 'scape the fatal stroke.
67 Vain thought! A Critic's fury knows no bound;
68 Drawcansir like, he deals destruction round;
69 Nor can we hope he will a stranger spare
70 Who gives no quarter to his friend VOLTAIRE.
71 UNHAPPY Genius! plac'd, by partial Fate,
72 With a free spirit in a slavish state;[Page 5]
73 Where the reluctant Muse, oppress'd by kings,
74 Or droops in silence, or in fetters sings.
75 In vain thy dauntless fortitude hath borne
76 The bigot's furious zeal, and tyrant's scorn.
77 Why did'st thou safe from home-bred dangers steer?
78 Reserv'd to perish more ignobly here.
79 Thus, when the Julian tyrant's pride to swell
80 Rome with her POMPEY at Pharsalia fell,
81 The vanquish'd chief escap'd from CAESAR's hand
82 To die by ruffians in a foreign land.
83 HOW could these self-elected monarchs raise
84 So large an empire on so small a base?
85 In what retreat, inglorious and unknown,
86 Did Genius sleep when Dullness seiz'd the throne?
87 Whence, absolute now grown, and free from awe,
88 She to the subject world dispenses law.
89 Without her licence, not a letter stirs;
90 And all the captive criss cross row is her's.
91 The stagyrite, who rules from Nature drew,
92 Opinions gave, but gave his reasons too.
93 Our great Dictators take a shorter way —
94 Who shall dispute what the Reviewers say? [Page 6]
95 Their word's sufficient; and to ask a reason,
96 In such a state as their's, is downright treason.
97 True judgment, now, with Them alone can dwell;
98 Like church of Rome they're grown infallible.
99 Dull superstitious readers they deceive,
100 Who pin their easy faith on critic's sleeve,
101 And, knowing nothing, ev'ry thing believe!
102 But why repine we, that these Puny Elves
103 Shoot into Giants? — We may thank ourselves.
104 Fools that we are, like Israel's fools of yore,
105 The Calf ourselves have fashion'd we adore.
106 But let true Reason once resume her reign,
107 This God shall dwindle to a Calf again.
108 FOUNDED on arts which shun the face of day,
109 By the same arts they still maintain their sway.
110 Wrapp'd in mysterious secrecy they rise,
111 And, as they are unknown, are safe and wise.
112 At whomsoever aim'd, howe'er severe
113 Th' envenom'd slander flies, no names appear.
114 Prudence forbid that step. — Then all might know,
115 And on more equal terms engage the foe. [Page 7]
116 But now, what Quixote of the age would care
117 To wage a war with dirt, and fight with air?
118 By int'rest join'd, th' expert confed'rates stand,
119 And play the game into each other's hand.
120 The vile abuse, in turn by all deny'd,
121 Is bandy'd up and down from side to side:
122 It flies — hey! — presto! — like a jugler's ball,
123 'Till it belongs to nobody at all.
124 ALL men and things they know, themselves unknown,
125 And publish ev'ry name — except their own.
126 Nor think this strange — secure from vulgar eyes
127 The nameless author passes in disguise.
128 But vet'ran critics are not so deceiv'd,
129 If vet'ran critics are to be believ'd.
130 Once seen they know an author evermore,
131 Nay swear to hands they never saw before.
132 Thus in the ROSCIAD, beyond chance or doubt,
133 They, by the writing, found the writers out.
134 "That's LLOYD's — his manner there you plainly trace,
135 "And all the ACTOR stares you in the face.
136 "By COLMAN that was written. — On my life,
137 "The strongest symptoms of the JEALOUS WIFE. [Page 8]
138 "That little disingenuous piece of spite,
139 "CHURCHILL, a wretch unknown, perhaps might write. "
140 How doth it make judicious readers smile,
141 When authors are detected by their stile:
142 Tho' ev'ry one who knows this author, knows
143 He shifts his stile much oftner than his cloaths?
144 WHENCE could arise this mighty critic spleen,
145 The Muse a trifler, and her theme so mean?
146 What had I done, that angry HEAVEN should send
147 The bitt'rest Foe, where most I wish'd a Friend?
148 Oft hath my tongue been wanton at thy name,
149 And hail'd the honours of thy matchless fame.
150 For me let hoary FIELDING bite the ground
151 So nobler PICKLE stand superbly bound.
152 From LIVY's temples tear th' historic crown
153 Which, with more justice blooms upon thine own.
154 Compar'd with thee, be all life-writers dumb,
155 But he who wrote the Life of TOMMY THUMB.
156 Who ever read the REGICIDE but swore
157 The author wrote as man ne'er wrote before?
158 Others for plots and under-plots may call,
159 Here's the right method — have no plot at all. [Page 9]
160 Who can so often in his cause engage,
161 The tiny Pathos of the Grecian stage,
162 Whilst horrors rise, and tears spontaneous flow
163 At tragic Ha! and no less tragic Oh!?
164 His NERVOUS WEAKNESS all to praise agree;
165 And then, for sweetness, who so sweet as he?
166 Too big for utterance when sorrows swell
167 The too big sorrows flowing tears must tell:
168 But when those flowing tears shall cease to flow,
169 Why, — then the voice must speak again you know.
170 RUDE and unskilful in the Poet's trade,
171 I kept no Naiads by me ready-made;
172 Ne'er did I colours high in air advance,
173 Torn from the bleeding fopperies of France:
174 No flimsey linsey-woolsey scenes I wrote
175 With patches here and there like Joseph's coat.
176 Me humbler themes befit: Secure, for me,
177 Let Playwrights smuggle nonsense duty free:
178 Secure, for me, ye lambs, ye lambkins bound,
179 And frisk and frolic o'er the fairy ground:
180 Secure, for me, thou pretty little fawn
181 Lick SYLVIA's hand, and crop the flow'ry lawn:[Page 10]
182 Uncensur'd let the gentle breezes rove,
183 Thro' the green umbrage of th' enchanted grove:
184 Secure, for me, let foppish Nature smile,
185 And play the coxcomb in the DESART ISLE.
186 THE Stage I chose — a subject fair and free —
187 'Tis yours — 'tis mine — 'tis Public Property.
188 All Common Exhibitions open lye
189 For Praise or Censure to the Common Eye.
190 Hence are a thousand Hackney-writers fed;
191 Hence Monthly Critics earn their Daily Bread.
192 This is a gen'ral tax which all must pay,
193 From those who scribble, down to those who play.
194 Actors, a venal crew, receive support
195 From public bounty, for the public sport.
196 To clap or hiss, all have an equal claim,
197 The cobbler's and his lordship's right the same.
198 All join for their subsistence; all expect
199 Free leave to praise their worth, their faults correct.
200 When active PICKLE Smithfield stage ascends,
201 The three days wonder of his laughing friends;
202 Each, or as judgment, or as fancy guides,
203 The lively witling praises or derides. [Page 11]
204 And where's the mighty diff'rence, tell me where,
205 Betwixt a Merry Andrew and a Play'r?
206 THE strolling tribe, a despicable race,
207 Like wand'ring Arabs, shift from place to place.
208 Vagrants by law, to justice open laid,
209 They tremble, of the beadle's lash afraid,
210 And fawning cringe, for wretched means of life,
211 To Madam May'ress or his Worship's Wife.
212 The mighty monarch, in theatric sack,
213 Carries his whole regalia at his back;
214 His royal consort heads the female band,
215 And leads the heir-apparent in her hand;
216 The pannier'd ass creeps on with conscious pride,
217 Bearing a future prince on either side.
218 No choice musicians in this troop are found
219 To varnish nonsense with the charms of sound;
220 No swords, no daggers, not one poison'd bowl;
221 No lightning flashes here, no thunders roll;
222 No guards to swell the monarch's train are shewn;
223 The monarch here must be an host ALONE.
224 No solemn pomp, no slow processions here;
225 No Ammon's entry, and no Juliet's bier.
226 BY need compell'd to prostitute his art,
227 The varied actor flies from part to part;
228 And, strange disgrace to all theatric pride,
229 His character is shifted with his side.
230 Question and Answer he by turns must be,
231 Like that small wit in MODERN TRAGEDY;
232 Who, to support his fame, — or fill his purse, —
233 Still pilfers wretched plans, and makes them worse;
234 Like gypsies, least the stolen brat be known,
235 Defacing first, then claiming for his own.
236 In shabby state they strut, and tatter'd robe;
237 The scene a blanket, and a barn the globe.
238 No high conceits their mod'rate wishes raise,
239 Content with humble profit, humble praise.
240 Let dowdies simper, and let bumpkins stare,
241 The strolling pageant heroe treads in air:
242 Pleas'd for his hour he to mankind gives law,
243 And snores the next out on a truss of straw.
244 BUT if kind Fortune, who we sometimes know
245 Can take a heroe from a puppet-shew,
246 In mood propitious should her fav'rite call,
247 On royal stage in royal pomp to bawl,[Page 13]
248 Forgetful of himself he rears the head,
249 And scorns the dunghill where he first was bred:
250 Conversing now with well-dress'd kings and queens,
251 With gods and goddesses behind the scenes,
252 He sweats beneath the terror-nodding plume,
253 Taught by Mock Honours Real Pride t' assume.
254 On this great stage the World, no monarch e'er
255 Was half so haughty as a Monarch-Player.
256 DOTH it more move our anger or our mirth
257 To see these THINGS, the lowest sons of earth,
258 Presume, with self-sufficient knowledge grac'd,
259 To rule in Letters and preside in Taste.
260 The TOWN's decisions they no more admit,
261 Themselves alone the ARBITERS of Wit;
262 And scorn the jurisdiction of that COURT
263 To which they owe their being and support.
264 Actors, like monks of old, now sacred grown,
265 Must be attack'd by no fools but their own.
266 LET the Vain Tyrant sit amidst his guards,
267 His puny GREEN-ROOM Wits and Venal Bards,
268 Who meanly tremble at the Puppet's frown,
269 And, for a Playhouse Freedom lose their own;[Page 14]
270 In spite of new-made Laws, and new-made Kings,
271 The free-born Muse with lib'ral spirit sings,
272 Bow down, ye Slaves; before these Idols fall;
273 Let Genius stoop to them who've none all;
274 Ne'er will I flatter, cringe, or bend the knee
275 To those who, Slaves to ALL, are Slaves to ME.
276 ACTORS, as Actors, are a lawful game;
277 The poet's right; and Who shall bar his claim?
278 And, if o'er-weening of their little skill,
279 When they have left the Stage they're Actors still;
280 If to the subject world they still give laws,
281 With paper crowns, and sceptres made of straws;
282 If they in cellar or in garret roar,
283 And Kings one night, are Kings for evermore;
284 Shall not bold Truth, e'en there, pursue her theme,
285 And wake the Coxcomb from his golden dream?
286 Or if, well worthy of a better fate,
287 They rise superior to their present state;
288 If, with each social virtue grac'd, they blend
289 The gay companion and the faithful friend;
290 If they, like PRITCHARD, join in private life
291 The tender parent and the virtuous wife;[Page 15]
292 Shall not our Verse their praise with pleasure speak,
293 Though Mimics bark and Envy split her cheek?
294 No honest worth's beneath the Muse's praise;
295 No greatness can above her censure raise:
296 Station and wealth, to Her, are trifling things;
297 She stoops to Actors, and she soars to Kings.
298 IS there a man, in vice and folly bred,
299 To sense of honour as to virtue dead;
300 Whom ties nor human, nor divine, can bind;
301 Alien to GOD, and foe to all mankind;
302 Who spares no character; whose ev'ry word,
303 Bitter as gall, and sharper than the sword,
304 Cuts to the quick; whose thoughts with rancour swell:
305 Whose tongue, on earth, performs the work of Hell?
306 If there be such a monster, the REVIEWS
307 Shall find him holding forth against Abuse.
308 "Attack Profession! — 'tis a deadly breach! —
309 "The Christian laws another lesson teach: —
310 "Unto the end should charity endure,
311 "And Candour hide those faults it cannot cure. "
312 Thus Candour's maxims flow from Rancour's throat,
313 As devils, to serve their purpose, Scripture quote.
314 THE Muse's office was by HEAVEN design'd,
315 To please, improve, instruct, reform mankind;
316 To make dejected Virtue nobly rise
317 Above the tow'ring pitch of splendid Vice;
318 To make pale Vice, abash'd, her head hang down,
319 And trembling crouch at Virtue's awful frown.
320 Now arm'd with wrath, she bids eternal shame;
321 With strictest justice brands the villain's name:
322 Now in the milder garb of Ridicule
323 She sports, and pleases while she wounds the Fool.
324 Her shape is often varied; but her aim,
325 To prop the cause of Virtue, still the same.
326 In praise of Mercy let the guilty bawl,
327 When Vice and Folly for Correction call;
328 Silence the mark of weakness justly bears,
329 And is partaker of the crimes it spares.
330 BUT if the Muse, too cruel in her mirth,
331 With harsh reflexions wound the man of worth;
332 If wantonly she deviate from her plan,
333 And quits the Actor to expose the Man;
334 Asham'd, she marks that passage with a blot,
335 And hates the line where Candour was forgot.
336 BUT what is Candour, what is Humour's vein,
337 Tho' Judgment join to consecrate the strain,
338 If curious numbers will not aid afford,
339 Nor choicest music play in ev'ry word?
340 Verses must run, to charm a modern ear,
341 From all harsh, rugged interruptions clear:
342 Soft let them breathe, as Zephyr's balmy breeze;
343 Smooth let their current flow as summer seas;
344 Perfect then only deem'd when they dispense
345 A happy tuneful vacancy of sense.
346 Italian fathers thus, with barb'rous rage,
347 Fit helpless infants for the squeaking stage;
348 Deaf to the calls of pity, Nature wound,
349 And mangle vigour for the sake of sound.
350 Henceforth farewell then, fev'rish thirst of fame;
351 Farewell the longings for a Poet's name;
352 Perish my Muse; — a wish 'bove all severe
353 To him who ever held the Muses dear,
354 If e'er her labours weaken to refine
355 Th' gen'rous roughness of a nervous line.
356 OTHERS affect the stiff and swelling phrase;
357 Their Muse must walk in stilts and strut in stays:[Page 18]
358 The sense they murder, and the words transpose,
359 Lest Poetry approach too near to Prose.
360 See, tortur'd Reason how they pare and trim,
361 And, like Procrustes, stretch or lop the limb.
362 WALLER, whose praise succeeding bards rehearse,
363 Parent of harmony in English verse,
364 Whose tuneful Muse in sweetest accent flows,
365 In couplets first taught straggling sense to close.
366 IN polish'd numbers, and majestic sound,
367 Where shall thy rival, POPE, be ever found?
368 But whilst each line with equal beauty flows,
369 E'en excellence, unvary'd, tedious grows.
370 Nature, thro' all her works, in great degree,
371 Borrows a blessing from VARIETY.
372 Music itself her needful aid requires
373 To rouze the soul, and wake our dying fires.
374 Still in one key, the Nightingale would teize:
375 Still in one key, not BRENT would always please.
376 HERE let me bend, great DRYDEN, at thy shrine,
377 Thou dearest name to all the tuneful nine. [Page 19]
378 What if some dull lines in cold order creep,
379 And with his theme the poet seems to sleep?
380 Still when his subject rises proud to view,
381 With equal strength the poet rises too.
382 With strong invention, noblest vigour fraught,
383 Thought still springs up and rises out of thought;
384 Numbers, ennobling numbers in their course,
385 In varied sweetness flow, in varied force;
386 The pow'rs of Genius and of Judgment join,
387 And the Whole Art of Poetry is Thine.
388 BUT what are Numbers, what are Bards to me,
389 Forbid to tread the paths of Poesy?
390 "A sacred muse should consecrate her Pen;
391 "Priests must not hear nor see like other Men;
392 "Far higher themes should her ambition claim;
393 "Behold where STERNHOLD points the way to Fame. "
394 WHILST, with mistaken zeal, dull bigots burn,
395 Let REASON for a moment take her turn.
396 When Coffee-sages hold discourse with kings,
397 And blindly walk in Paper Leading-strings,
398 What if a man delight to pass his time
399 In spinning Reason into harmless Rhime;[Page 20]
400 Or sometimes boldly venture to the Play?
401 Say, Where's the Crime? — Great Man of Prudence, say?
402 No two on earth in one thing can agree,
403 All have some darling singularity.
404 Women and men, as well as girls and boys,
405 In Gew-gaws take delight, and sigh for toys.
406 Your sceptres, and your crowns, and such like things,
407 Are but a better kind of toys for kings.
408 In things indiff'rent, REASON bids us chuse,
409 Whether the Whim's a MONKEY or a MUSE.
410 WHAT the grave triflers on this busy scene,
411 When they make use of this word REASON, mean,
412 I know not; but, according to my plan,
413 'TIS LORD-CHEIF-JUSTICE in the COURT OF MAN,
414 Equally form'd to rule in age and youth,
415 The Friend of Virtue and the Guide to Truth.
416 To HER I bow, whose sacred power I feel;
417 To HER decision make my last appeal;
418 Condemn'd by HER, applauding worlds, in vain,
419 Should tempt me to resume the Pen again:
420 By HER absolv'd, my course I'll still pursue:
421 If REASON's for me, GOD is for me too.