Page images
PDF
EPUB

St Andre's * feet ne'er kept more equal time,
Not even the feet of thy own Psyche's rhyme,
Though they in number as in sense excel; †
So just, so like tautology, they fell,
That, pale with envy, Singleton | forswore
The lute and sword, which he in triumph bore,
And vowed he ne'er would act Villerius more.

Here stopt the good old sire, and wept for joy,
In silent raptures of the hopeful boy.
All arguments, but most his plays, persuade,
That for anointed dulness he was made.

Close to the walls which fair Augusta bind, (The fair Augusta much to fears inclined, 5) An ancient fabric raised to inform the sight, There stood of yore, and Barbican it hight; A watch-tower once, but now, so fate ordains, Of all the pile an empty name remains; From its old ruins brothel-houses rise, Scenes of lewd loves, and of polluted joys; Where their vast courts the mother-strumpets keep, And, undisturbed by watch, in silence sleep. || Near these a nursery erects its head, Where queens are formed, and future heroes bred; Where unfledged actors learn to laugh and cry; Where infant punks their tender voices try, And little Maximins the gods defy.

* An eminent dancing-master of the period. + Note VIII.

Note IX. § Alluding to the political apprehensions of the period, so universal in the city.

|| These lines are a parody on a passage in Cowley's Davideis, Book I.:

Beneath the dens where unfledged tempests lie,
And infant winds their tender voices try;
Where their vast court the mother waters keep;
And, undisturbed by moons, in silence sleep.

1

Great Fletcher never treads in buskins here,
Nur greater Jonson dares in socks appear;
But gentle Simkin * just reception finds
Amidst this monument of vanished minds;
Pure clinches the suburbian muse affords,
And Panton † waging harmless war with words.
Here Flecknoe, as a place to fame well known,
Ambitiously designed his Shadwell's throne.
For ancient Decker À prophesied long since,
That in this pile should reign a mighty prince,
Born for a scourge of wit, and flail of sense ;
To whom true dulness should some Psyches owe,
But worlds of Misers from his pen should flow;
Humorists, and Hypocrites, it should produce,
Whole Raymond families, and tribes of Bruce. S

Now empress Fame had published the renown
Of Shadwell's coronation through the town.
Roused by report of fame, the nations meet,
From near Bunhill, and distant Watling-street.
No Persian carpets spread the imperial way,
But scattered limbs of mangled poets lay;
From dusty shops neglected authors come,
Martyrs of pies, and relics of the bum;
Much Heywood, Shirley, Ogleby there lay,
But loads of Shadwell almost choked the way;
Bilked stationers for yeomen stood prepared,
And Herringman || was captain of the guard.
The hoary prince in majesty appeared,
High on a throne of his own labours reared.

► The character of a cobler in an interlude.
+ A celebrated punster, according to Derrick.
I Note X.

s Note XI.
i Henry Herringman, bookseller, published almost all the poems,
plays, and lighter pieces of the day. He was Dryden's original
publisher.

At his right hand our young Ascanius sate,
Rome's other hope, and pillar of the state ;
His brows thick fogs, instead of glories, grace,
And lambent dulness played around his face.
As Hannibal did to the altars come,
Swore by his sire, a mortal foe to Rome,
So Shadwell swore, nor should his vow be vain,
That he till death true dulness would maintain;
And, in his father's right, and realm's defence,
Ne'er to have peace with wit, nor truce with sense.
The king himself the sacred unction made,
As king by office, and as priest by trade.
In his sinister hand, instead of ball,
He placed a mighty mug of potent ale;
“Love's kingdom"* to his right he did convey,
At once his sceptre, and his rule of sway;
Whose righteous lore the prince had practised young,
And from whose loins recorded Psyche sprung.
His temples, last, with poppies were o'erspread, †
That nodding seemed to consecrate his head.
Just at the point of time, if fame not lie,
On his left hand twelve reverend owls did fly;
So Romulus, 'tis sung, by Tyber's brook,
Presage of sway from twice six vultures took.
The admiring throng loud acclamations make,
And omens of his future empire take.
The sire then shook the honours of his head,
And from his brows damps of oblivion shed
Full on the filial dulness : long he stood,
Repelling from his breast the raging god;
At length burst out in this prophetic mood :-

}

A play of Flecknoe's so called. See Note XII. + Perhaps in allusion to Shadwell's frequent use of opium, as well as to his dulness.

5

Heavens bless my son! from Ireland let him reign, To far Barbadoes on the western main; Of his dominion may no end be known, And greater than his father's be his throne; Beyond love's kingdom let him stretch his pen! He paused, and all the people cried, Amen. Then thus continued he: My son, advance Still in new impudence, new ignorance. Success let others teach, learn thou from me Pangs without birth, and fruitless industry, Let Virtuosos in five years be writ, Yet not one thought accuse thy toil of wit. * Let gentle George in triumph tread the stage, Make Dorimant

betray, and Loveit rage ; Let Cully, Cockwood, Fopling, charm the pit, f And in their folly show the writer's wit; Yet still thy fools shall stand in thy defence, And justify their author's want of sense. Let them be all by thy own model made Of dulness, and desire no foreign aid; That they to future ages may be known, Not copies drawn, but issue of thy own: Nay, let thy men of wit too be the same, All full of thee, and differing but in name; But let no alien Sedley interpose, To lard with wit thy hungry Epsom prose. I And when false flowers of rhetoric thou would'st cull, Trust nature; do not labour to be dull, But write thy best, and top; and, in each line, Sir Formal's oratory will be thine: Sir Formal, though unsought, attends tlıy quill, And does thy northern dedications fill. S

* Note XIII. $ Note XVI.

Note XIV.

Note XV.

*

Nor let false friends seduce thy mind to fame,
By arrogating Jonson's hostile name;
Let father Flecknoe fire thy mind with praise,
And uncle Ogleby thy envy raise.
Thou art my blood, where Jonson has no part:
What share have we in nature, or in art?
Where did his wit on learning fix a brand,
And rail at arts he did not understand ?
Where made he love in Prince Nicanders vein,
Or swept the dust in Psyche's humble strain?
Where sold he bargains, “whip-stitch, kiss myarse,” te
Promised a play, and dwindled to a farce?
When did his muse from Fletcher scenes purloin,
As thou whole Etheridge dost transfuse to thine?
But so transfused, as oil and waters flow,
His always floats above, thine sinks below.
This is thy province, this thy wonderous way,
New humours to invent for each new play:$
This is that boasted bias of thy mind,
By which one way to dulness 'tis inclined;
Which makes thy writings lean on one side still,
And, in all changes, that way bends thy will.
Nor let thy mountain-belly make pretence
Of likeness; thine's a tympany of sense.
A tun of man in thy large bulk is writ,
But sure thou’rt but a kilderkin of wit.

* Note XVII.

+ This elegant phrase is the current catch-word of Sir Samuel Hearty in the “ Virtuoso,” described in the dramatis persone as “ a brisk, amorous, adventurous, unfortunate coscomb; one that, by the help of humorous, nonsensical bye-words, takes himself to be a great wit.”

Alluding, probably, to the following vaunt of Shadwell, in the Dedication to the * Virtuoso :" “ Four of the humours are entirely new; and, without vanity, I may say, I ne'er produced a comedy that had not some natural humour in it noc represented before, and I hope I never shall.”

« PreviousContinue »