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in those times no other writer, in any kind, of any degree of excellence, save he himself. But as this is not our own sentiment, we shall determine on nothing : but leave thee, gentle Reader, to steer thy judgment equally between various opinions, and to choose whether thou wilt incline to the tes. timonies of authors avowed, or of authors concealed; of those who knew him, or of those who knew
OF THE POEM.
to be ra.
This Poem, as it celebrateth the most grave
and ancient of things, Chaos, Night, and Dullness ; so is it of the most grave and ancient kind. Homer (saith Aristotle) was the first who gave the form, and (saith Horace) who adapted the
poesy. But even before this, may tionally presumed, from what the Ancients have left written, was a piece by Homer, composed of like nature and matter with this of our Poet: for of epic sort it appeareth to have been, yet of matter surely not unpleasant, witness what is reported of it by the learned Archbishop Eustachius
, in Odyssey X. And accordingly Aristotle, in his Poetics,
chap. iv. doth further set forth, that as the Iliad and Odyssey gave example to Tragedy, so did this poem to Comedy its first idea.
From these authors also it should seem that the Hero, or chief personage of it, was no less obscure, and his understanding and sentiments no less quaint and strange (if indeed not more so) than any of the actors of our Poem. Margites was the name of this personage, whom Antiquity recordeth to have been Dunce the first; and surely, from what we hear of him, not unworthy to be the root of so spreading a tree, and so numerous a posterity. The poem, therefore, celebrating liim, was properly and absolutely a Dunciad; which, though now unhappily. lost, yet is its nature sufficiently known by the infallible tokens aforesaid. And thus it doth appear that the first Dunciad was the first epic poem, written by Homer himself, and anterior even to the Iliad, or Odyssey.
Now, forasmuch as our Poet hath translated those two famous works of Homer which are yet left, he did conceive it in some sort his duty to imitate that also which was lost : and was therefore induced to bestow on it the same form which Homer's is reported to have had, namely, that of epic poem, with a title also framed after the an. cient Greek manner, to wit, that of Dunciad.
Wonderful it is that so few of the Moderns have been stimulated to attempt some Dunciad! since in the opinion of the multitude, it might
cost less pain and toil than an imitation of the Greater Epic.' But possible it is also, that, og due reflection, the maker might find it easier io paint a Charlemagne, a Brute, or a Godfrey, with just pomp and dignity heroic, than a Margites, a Codrus, or a Fleckno.
We shall next declare the occasion and the cause which moved our Poet to this particular work. He lived in those days when (after Providence had permitted the invention of Printing as a scourge for the sins of the learned) paper also became so cheap, and printers so numerous, that a deluge of authors covered the land; whereby not only the peace of the honest unwriting subject was daily molested, but unmerciful demands were made of his applause, yea of his money, by such as would neither earn the one nor deserve the other. At the same time the license of the press was such, that it grew dangerous to refuse them either; for they would forthwith publish slanders unpu. nished, the authors being anonymous, and skulk. ing under the wings of publishers, a set of men who never scrupled to vend either calumny, or blasphemy, as long as the Town would call for it.
* Now our Author, living in those times, did conceive it an endeavor well worthy an honest satirist, to dissuade the dull, and punish the wicked! the only way that was left. In that public-spi
* Vide Bossu, Du Poeme Epique, chap. yüi.
rited view he laid the plan of this Poem, as the greatest service he was capable (without much burt, or being slain) to render his dear country. First, taking things from their original, he considereth the causes creative of such authors, paniely dullness and poverty; the one born with them, the other contracted by neglect of their proper talents, through self-conceit of greater abilities, This truth he wrappeth in an allegory * (as the construction of epic poesy requireth) and feigns that one of these goddesses had taken up her abode with the other, and that they jointly inspired all such writers and such works +. He proceedeth 10 shew the qualities they bestow on these authors, and the effects they produce : then the materials, or stock, with which they furnish them ); and (above all) that self-opinion which causeth it to seem to themselves vastly greater than it is, and is the prime motive of their setting up in this sad and sorry merchandise. The great power of these goddesses acting in alliance (whereof as the one is the mother of industry, so is the other of plodding) was to be exemplified in some one, great, and remarkable action * *: and none could be more so than that which our Poet hath chosen, viz. the restoration of the reign of Chaos and Night, by the ministry of Dullness their daughter, in the removal
Bossu, chap. vii. to Book I. ver. 32, &c.
of her imperial seat from the City to the polite World; as the action of the Æneid is the res toration of the empire of Troy, by the removal of the race from thence to Latium. But as Homer singeth only the wrath of Achilles, yet includes in his poem the whole history of the Trojan wat ; in like manner our Author hath drawn into this single action the whole history of Dullness and her children.
A person must next be fixed upon to support this action. This phantom, in the poet's mind, must have a name *. He finds it to be; and he becomes of course the Hero of the Poem.
The fable being chus, according to the best example, one and entire, as contained in the proposition; the machinery is a continued chain of allegories, secting forth the whole power, ministry, and empire of Dullness, extended through her subordinate instruments in all her various operations.
This is branched into episodes, each of which hath its moral apart, though all conducive to the main end. The crowd assembled in the Second Book demonstrates the design to be more extensive than to bad poets only, and that we may expect other cpisodes of the patrons, encouragers, or paymasters, of such authors, as occasion shall bring them forth. And the Third Book, if well
Bossu, chap. viii, Vide Aristot. Poctie. cap ix.