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EPISTLE TO J. B. ESQ.

1757.

AGAIN I urge my old objection,
That modern rules obstruct perfection,
And the severity of Taste
Has laid the walk of genius waste.
Fancy's a flight we deal no more in,
Our authors creep instead of soaring,
And all the brave imaginatio
Is dwindled into declamation.

But still you cry in sober sadness,
“ There is discretion e'en in madness.”
A pithy sentence, which wants credit !
Because I find a poet said it:
Their verdict makes but small impression,
Who are known lyars by profession.
Rise what exalted flights it will,
True genius will be genius still;
And say, that horse wou'd you prefer,
Which wants a bridle or a spur?

The mettled steed may lose his tricks;
The jade grows callous to your kicks.

Had Shakespeare crept by modern rules,
We'd lost his Witches, Fairies, Fools :
Instead of all that wild creation,
He'd form’d a regular plantation,
A garden trim, and all inclos'd,
In nicest symmetry dispos'd,
The hedges cut in proper order,
Nor e'en a branch beyond the border:
Now like a forest he appears,
The growth of twice three hundred years;
Where

many a tree aspiring shrouds
It's airy summit in the clouds,
While round it's root still love to twine
The ivy or wild eglantine.

“ But Shakespeare's all creative faney “ Made others love extravagancy; “ While cloud-capt nonsense was their aim, 6 Like Hurlothrumbo's mad lord Flame.” True, who can stop dull imitators? Those younger brothers of translators ; Those insects, which from genius rise, And buzz about, in swarms, like fies?

Fashion, that sets the modes of dress,
Sheds too her influence o'er the press :
As formerly the sons of rhyme
Sought Shakespeare's fancy and sublime ;
By cool correctness now they hope
To emulate the praise of Pope.
But Pope and Shakespeare both disclaim
These low retainers to their fame.

What task can dulness e'er affect
So easy, as to write correct?
Poets, 'tis said, are sure to split

too much or too little wit;
So, to avoid th' extremes of either,
They miss their mark and follow neither;
They so exactly poise the scale
That neither measure will prevail,
And mediocrity the Muse
Did never in her sons excuse.
'Tis true their tawdry works are grac'd.
With all the charms of modern taste,
And every senseless line is drest
In quaint expression's tinsel vest.
Say, did you never chance to meet
A Monsieur-barber in the street,

Whose ruffle, as it lank depends,
And dangles o'er his fingers' ends,
His olive-tann'd complexion graces
With little dabs of Dresden laces,
While for the body Monsieur Puff,
Wou'd think e'en dowlas fine enough?
So fares it with our men of rhymes,
Sweet tinklers of poetic chimes.
For lace, and fringe, and tawdry cloaths,
Sure never yet were greater beaux ;
But fairly strip them to the shirt,
They're all made up of rags and dirt.

And shall these wretches bards commence, Without or spirit, taste, or sense? And when they bring no other treasure, Shall I admire them for their measure? Or do I scorn the critic's rules Because I will not learn of fools? Although Longinus' full-mouth'd prose With all the force of genius glows; Though Dionysius' learned taste Is ever manly, just, and chaste, Who, like a skilful wise physician, Dissects each part of composition,

And shews how beauty strikes the soul
From a just compact of the whole;
Though judgment, in Quintillian's page,
Holds forth her lamp for ev'ry age;
Yet Hypercritics I disdain,
A race of blockheads dull and vain,
And laugh at all those empty fools,
Who cramp'a genius with dull rules,
And what their narrow science mocks
Damn with the name of Hetrodox.

These butchers of a poet's fame, While they usurp the critic's name, Cry-" This is taste--that's my opinion." And poets dread their mock dominion.

So have you seen with dire affright,
The petty monarch of the night,
Seated aloft in elbow chair,
Command the prisoners to appear,
Harangue an hour on watchmen's praise,
And on the dire effect of frays;
They cry, “ You'll suffer for your daring,
" And d-n you, you

pay for swearing." Then turning, tell th' astonish'd ring, I sit to represent the King."

shall

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