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Two bordering wits contend for glory;
And one is Whig, and one is Tory:
And this for epics claims the bays,
And that for elegiac lays:
Some fam'd for numbers soft and smooth,
By lovers spoke in Punch's booth;
And some as justly fame extols
For lofty lines in Smithfield drolls.
Bavius in Wapping gains renown,
And Mævius reigns o'er Kentish-town:
Tigellius, plac'd in Phoebus' car,
From Ludgate shines to Temple-bar;
Harmonious Cibber entertains
The court with annual birth-day strains; Whence Gay was banish'd in disgrace; Where Pope will never show his face ; Where Young must torture his invention To flatter knaves, or lose his pension.
But these are not a thousandth part Of jobbers in the poet's art, Attending each his proper station, And all in due subordination, Through every alley to be found, In garrets high, or under ground; And when they join their pericranies, Out skips a book of miscellanies. Hobbes clearly proves that every creature Lives in a state of war by nature. The greater for the smallest watch, But meddle seldom with their match. A whale of moderate size will draw A shoal of herrings down his maw;
A fox with geese his belly crams;
A wolf destroys a thousand lambs:
But search among the rhyming race,
The brave are worry'd by the base.
If on Parnassus' top you sit,
You rarely bite, are always bit.
Each poet of inferior size
On you shall rail and criticise,
And strive to tear you limb from limb;
While others do as much for him.
The vermin only tease and pinch Their foes superior by an inch. So, naturalists observe, a flea Hath smaller fleas that on him prey; And these have smaller still to bite 'em, And so proceed ad infinitum.
Thus every poet in his kind
Is bit by him that comes behind :
Who, though too little to be seen,
Can tease, and gall, and give the spleen;
Call dunces fools and sons of whores,
Lay Grub-street at each other's doors;
Extol the Greek and Roman masters,
And curse our modern poetasters;
Complain, as many an ancient bard did,
How genius is no more rewarded;
How wrong a taste prevails among us ;
How much our ancestors outsung us;
Can personate an awkward scorn
For those who are not poets born;
And all their brother-dunces lash,
Who crowd the press with hourly trash.
O Grub-street! how do I bemoan thee, Whose graceless children scorn to own thee! Their filial piety forgot,
Deny their country, like a Scot;
Though, by their idiom and grimace,
They soon betray their native place.
Yet thou hast greater cause to be
Asham'd of them, than they of thee,
Degenerate from their ancient brood,
Since first the court allow'd them food.
Remains a difficulty still,
To purchase fame by writing ill.
From Flecknoe down to Howard's time,
How few have reach'd the low sublime!
For when our high-born Howard dy'd,
Blackmore alone his place supply'd :
And, lest a chasm should intervene,
When Death had finish'd Blackmore's reign,
The leaden crown devolv'd to thee,
Great poet of the hollow tree.
But ah! how unsecure thy throne !
A thousand bards thy right disown:
They plot to turn, in factious zeal,
Duncenia to a common weal;
And with rebellious arms pretend
An equal privilege to descend.
In bulk there are not more degrees
From elephants to mites in cheese,
Than what a curious eye may trace
In creatures of the rhyming race.
From bad to worse, and worse, they fall;
But who can reach the worst of all?
For though, in nature, depth and height
Are equally held infinite;
In poetry, the height we know ;
'Tis only infinite below.
For instance: when you rashly think,
No rhymer can like Welsted sink,
His merits balanc'd, you shall find
The laureat leaves him far behind.
Concannen, more aspiring bard,
Soars downwards deeper by a yard.
Smart Jemmy Moor with vigour drops:
The rest pursue as thick as hops.
With heads to points the gulph they enter,
Link'd perpendicular to the centre;
And, as their heels elated rise,
Their heads attempt the nether skies.
Oh, what indignity and shame, To prostitute the Muse's name! By flattering kings, whom Heaven design'd The plagues and scourges of mankind; Bred up in ignorance and sloth, And every vice that nurses both.
Fair Britain, in thy monarch blest,
Whose virtues bear the strictest test;
Whom never faction could bespatter,
Nor minister nor poet flatter;
What justice in rewarding merit!
What magnanimity of spirit!
What lineaments divine we trace
Through all his figure, mien, and face!
Though peace with olive bind his hands,
Confess'd the conquering hero stands.
Hydaspes, Indus, and the Ganges,
Dread from his hand impending changes.
From him the Tartar and Chinese,
Short by the knees, entreat for peace.
The consort of his throne and bed,
A perfect goddess born and bred,
Appointed sovereign judge to sit
On learning, eloquence, and wit,
Our eldest hope, divine Iülus,
(Late, very late, oh may he rule us!)
What early manhood has he shown,
Before his downy beard was grown!
Then think, what wonders will be done,
By going on as he begun,
An heir for Britain to secure
As long as Sun and Moon endure.
The remnant of the royal blood Comes pouring on me like a flood: Bright goddesses, in number five; Duke William, sweetest prince alive. Now sing the minister of state, Who shines alone without a mate. Observe with what majestic port This Atlas stands to prop the court: Intent the public debts to pay, Like prudent Fabius, by delay. Thou great vicegerent of the king, Thy praises every Muse shall sing! In all affairs thou sole director, Of wit and learning chief protector; Though small the time thou hast to spare, The church is thy peculiar care.