The Dunciad, by Alexander Pope

Book the Fourth.


The poet being, in this book, to declare the completion of the prophecies mentioned at the end of the former, makes a new invocation; as the greater poets are wont, when some high and worthy matter is to be sung. He shows the goddess coming in her majesty to destroy order and science, and to substitute the kingdom of the Dull upon earth; how she leads captive the Sciences, and silenceth the Muses; and what they be who succeed in their stead. All her children, by a wonderful attraction, are drawn about her; and bear along with them divers others, who promote her empire by connivance, weak resistance, or discouragement of Arts; such as half-wits, tasteless admirers, vain pretenders, the flatterers of Dunces, or the patrons of them. All these crowd round her; one of them offering to approach her, is driven back by a rival, but she commends and encourages both. The first who speak in form are the geniuses of the schools, who assure her of their care to advance her cause, by confining youth to words, and keeping them out of the way of real knowledge. Their address, and her gracious answer; with her charge to them and the Universities. The Universities appear by their proper deputies, and assure her that the same method is observed in the progress of education. The speech of Aristarchus on this subject. They are driven off by a band of young gentlemen returned from travel with their tutors; one of whom delivers to the goddess, in a polite oration, an account of the whole conduct and fruits of their travels; presenting to her at the same time a young nobleman perfectly accomplished. She receives him graciously, and indues him with the happy quality of want of shame. She sees loitering about her a number of indolent persons abandoning all business and duty, and dying with laziness: to these approaches the antiquary Annius, entreating her to make them virtuosos, and assign them over to him; but Mummius, another antiquary, complaining of his fraudulent proceeding, she finds a method to reconcile their difference. Then enter a troop of people fantastically adorned, offering her strange and exotic presents: amongst them, one stands forth and demands justice on another, who had deprived him of one of the greatest curiosities in nature; but he justifies himself so well, that the goddess gives them both her approbation. She recommends to them to find proper employment for the indolents before-mentioned, in the study of butterflies, shells, birds’ nests, moss, &c., but with particular caution not to proceed beyond trifles, to any useful or extensive views of nature, or of the Author of nature. Against the last of these apprehensions, she is secured by a hearty address from the minute philosophers and freethinkers, one of whom speaks in the name of the rest. The youth thus instructed and principled, are delivered to her in a body, by the hands of Silenus; and then admitted to taste the cup of the Magus her high-priest, which causes a total oblivion of all obligations, divine, civil, moral, or rational. To these her adepts she sends priests, attendants, and comforters, of various kinds; confers on them orders and degrees; and then dismissing them with a speech, confirming to each his privileges, and telling what she expects from each, concludes with a yawn of extraordinary virtue: the progress and effects whereof on all orders of men, and the consummation of all, in the restoration of Night and Chaos, conclude the poem.

Yet, yet a moment, one dim ray of light

Indulge, dread Chaos, and eternal Night!

Of darkness visible so much be lent,

As half to show, half veil the deep intent.

Ye Powers! whose mysteries restored I sing,

To whom Time bears me on his rapid wing,

Suspend a while your force inertly strong,

Then take at once the poet and the song.

Now flamed the dog-star’s unpropitious ray,

Smote every brain, and wither’d every bay;

Sick was the sun, the owl forsook his bower,

The moon-struck prophet felt the madding hour:

Then rose the seed of Chaos, and of Night,

To blot out order, and extinguish light,

Of dull and venal a new world to mould,

And bring Saturnian days of lead and gold.

She mounts the throne: her head a cloud conceal’d,

In broad effulgence all below reveal’d,

(’Tis thus aspiring Dulness ever shines),

Soft on her lap her laureate son reclines.

Beneath her foot-stool, Science groans in chains,

And Wit dreads exile, penalties and pains.

There foam’d rebellious Logic, gagg’d and bound,

There, stripp’d, fair Rhetoric languish’d on the ground;

His blunted arms by Sophistry are borne,

And shameless Billingsgate her robes adorn.

Morality, by her false guardians drawn.

Chicane in furs, and Casuistry in lawn,

Gasps, as they straiten at each end the cord,

And dies, when Dulness gives her page the word.

Mad Máthesis1 alone was unconfined,

Too mad for mere material chains to bind,

Now to pure space2 lifts her ecstatic stare,

Now running round the circle, finds it square.3

But held in tenfold bonds the Muses lie,

Watch’d both by Envy’s and by Flattery’s eye:

There to her heart sad Tragedy address’d

The dagger wont to pierce the tyrant’s breast;

But sober History restrain’d her rage,

And promised vengeance on a barbarous age.

There sunk Thalia, nerveless, cold, and dead,

Had not her sister Satire held her head:

Nor could’st thou, Chesterfield!4 a tear refuse,

Thou wept’st, and with thee wept each gentle Muse.

When, lo! a harlot form5 soft sliding by,

With mincing step, small voice, and languid eye:

Foreign her air, her robe’s discordant pride

In patchwork fluttering, and her head aside:

By singing peers upheld on either hand,

She tripp’d and laugh’d, too pretty much to stand;

Cast on the prostrate Nine a scornful look,

Then thus in quaint recitative spoke:

‘O Cara! Cara! silence all that train:

Joy to great Chaos! let division reign:6

Chromatic7 tortures soon shall drive them hence,

Break all their nerves, and fritter all their sense:

One trill shall harmonise joy, grief, and rage,

Wake the dull church, and lull the ranting stage;8

To the same notes thy sons shall hum, or snore,

And all thy yawning daughters cry, Encore!

Another Phoebus, thy own Phoebus, reigns,

Joys in my jigs, and dances in my chains.

But soon, ah soon, rebellion will commence,

If music meanly borrows aid from sense:

Strong in new arms, lo! giant Handel stands,

Like bold Briareus, with a hundred hands;

To stir, to rouse, to shake the soul he comes,

And Jove’s own thunders follow Mars’s drums.

Arrest him, empress; or you sleep no more’—

She heard, and drove him to the Hibernian shore.

And now had Fame’s posterior trumpet blown,

And all the nations summon’d to the throne.

The young, the old, who feel her inward sway,

One instinct seizes, and transports away.

None need a guide, by sure attraction led,

And strong impulsive gravity of head;

None want a place, for all their centre found,

Hung to the goddess, and cohered around.

Not closer, orb in orb, conglobed are seen

The buzzing bees about their dusky queen.

The gathering number, as it moves along,

Involves a vast involuntary throng,

Who, gently drawn, and struggling less and less,

Roll in her vortex, and her power confess.

Not those alone who passive own her laws,

But who, weak rebels, more advance her cause.

Whate’er of dunce in college or in town

Sneers at another, in toupée or gown;

Whate’er of mongrel no one class admits,

A wit with dunces, and a dunce with wits.

Nor absent they, no members of her state,

Who pay her homage in her sons, the great;

Who, false to Phoebus, bow the knee to Baal;

Or, impious, preach his word without a call.

Patrons, who sneak from living worth to dead,

Withhold the pension, and set up the head;

Or vest dull flattery in the sacred gown;

Or give from fool to fool the laurel crown.

And (last and worst) with all the cant of wit,

Without the soul, the Muse’s hypocrite.

There march’d the bard and blockhead, side by side,

Who rhymed for hire, and patronised for pride.

Narcissus,9 praised with all a parson’s power,

Look’d a white lily sunk beneath a shower.

There moved Montalto with superior air;

His stretch’d-out arm display’d a volume fair;

Courtiers and patriots in two ranks divide,

Through both he pass’d, and bow’d from side to side;

But as in graceful act, with awful eye

Composed he stood, bold Benson10 thrust him by:

On two unequal crutches propp’d he came,

Milton’s on this, on that one Johnston’s name.

The decent knight11 retired with sober rage,

Withdrew his hand, and closed the pompous page.

But (happy for him as the times went then)

Appear’d Apollo’s mayor and aldermen,

On whom three hundred gold-capp’d youths await,

To lug the ponderous volume off in state.

When Dulness, smiling — ‘Thus revive the wits!

But murder first, and mince them all to bits;

As erst Medea (cruel, so to save!)

A new edition of old Aeson gave;

Let standard authors, thus, like trophies borne,

Appear more glorious as more hack’d and torn.

And you, my critics! in the chequer’d shade,

Admire new light through holes yourselves have made.

Leave not a foot of verse, a foot of stone,

A page, a grave, that they can call their own;

But spread, my sons, your glory thin or thick,

On passive paper, or on solid brick.

So by each bard an alderman12 shall sit,

A heavy lord shall hang at every wit,

And while on Fame’s triumphal car they ride,

Some slave of mine be pinion’d to their side.’

Now crowds on crowds around the goddess press,

Each eager to present the first address.

Dunce scorning dunce beholds the next advance,

But fop shows fop superior complaisance.

When, lo! a spectre rose, whose index-hand

Held forth the virtue of the dreadful wand;

His beaver’d brow a birchen garland wears,

Dropping with infants’ blood and mothers’ tears.

O’er every rein a shuddering horror runs;

Eton and Winton shake through all their sons.

All flesh is humbled, Westminster’s bold race

Shrink, and confess the genius of the place:

The pale boy-senator yet tingling stands,

And holds his breeches close with both his hands.

Then thus: ‘Since man from beast by words is known,

Words are man’s province, words we teach alone,

When reason doubtful, like the Samian letter,13

Points him two ways, the narrower is the better.

Placed at the door of Learning, youth to guide,

We never suffer it to stand too wide.

To ask, to guess, to know, as they commence,

As fancy opens the quick springs of sense,

We ply the memory, we load the brain,

Bind rebel wit, and double chain on chain,

Confine the thought, to exercise the breath,

And keep them in the pale of words till death.

Whate’er the talents, or howe’er design’d,

We hang one jingling padlock on the mind:

A poet the first day he dips his quill;

And what the last? a very poet still.

Pity! the charm works only in our wall,

Lost, lost too soon in yonder House or Hall.14

There truant Wyndham every Muse gave o’er,

There Talbot sunk, and was a wit no more!

How sweet an Ovid, Murray was our boast!

How many Martials were in Pulteney lost!

Else sure some bard, to our eternal praise,

In twice ten thousand rhyming nights and days,

Had reach’d the work, the all that mortal can,

And South beheld that master-piece of man.’15

‘Oh (cried the goddess) for some pedant reign!

Some gentle James,16 to bless the land again;

To stick the doctor’s chair into the throne,

Give law to words, or war with words alone,

Senates and courts with Greek and Latin rule,

And turn the council to a grammar school!

For sure, if Dulness sees a grateful day,

’Tis in the shade of arbitrary sway.

Oh! if my sons may learn one earthly thing,

Teach but that one, sufficient for a king;

That which my priests, and mine alone, maintain,

Which as it dies or lives, we fall or reign:

May you, may Cam and Isis, preach it long!

“The right divine of kings to govern wrong.”’

Prompt at the call, around the goddess roll

Broad hats, and hoods, and caps, a sable shoal:

Thick and more thick the black blockade extends,

A hundred head of Aristotle’s friends.

Nor wert thou, Isis! wanting to the day,

Though Christ-church long kept prudishly away.

Each stanch polemic, stubborn as a rock,

Each fierce logician, still expelling Locke,17

Came whip and spur, and dash’d through thin and thick

On German Crousaz,18 and Dutch Burgersdyck.

As many quit the streams19 that murmuring fall

To lull the sons of Margaret and Clare-hall,

Where Bentley late tempestuous wont to sport

In troubled waters, but now sleeps in port.20

Before them march’d that awful Aristarch!

Plough’d was his front with many a deep remark:

His hat, which never vail’d to human pride,

Walker with reverence took, and laid aside.

Low bow’d the rest: he, kingly, did but nod;

So upright Quakers please both man and God.

‘Mistress! dismiss that rabble from your throne:

Avaunt! is Aristarchus yet unknown?

Thy mighty scholiast, whose unwearied pains

Made Horace dull, and humbled Milton’s strains.

Turn what they will to verse, their toil is vain,

Critics like me shall make it prose again.

Roman and Greek grammarians! know your better,

Author of something yet more great than letter;21

While towering o’er your alphabet, like Saul,

Stands our digamma,22 and o’ertops them all.

”Tis true, on words is still our whole debate,

Disputes of me or te, of aut or at,

To sound or sink in cano, O or A,

Or give up Cicero23 to C or K.

Let Freind24 affect to speak as Terence spoke,

And Alsop never but like Horace joke:

For me, what Virgil, Pliny, may deny,

Manilius or Solinus25 shall supply:

For Attic phrase in Plato let them seek,

I poach in Suidas26 for unlicensed Greek.

In ancient sense if any needs will deal,

Be sure I give them fragments, not a meal;

What Gellius or Stobaeus hash’d before,

Or chew’d by blind old scholiasts o’er and o’er,

The critic eye, that microscope of wit,

Sees hairs and pores, examines bit by bit:

How parts relate to parts, or they to whole,

The body’s harmony, the beaming soul,

Are things which Kuster, Burman, Wasse shall see,

When Man’s whole frame is obvious to a flea.

‘Ah, think not, mistress! more true Dulness lies

In Folly’s cap, than Wisdom’s grave disguise;

Like buoys, that never sink into the flood,

On Learning’s surface we but lie and nod.

Thine is the genuine head of many a house,

And much divinity27 without a [Greek: Nous].

Nor could a Barrow work on every block,

Nor has one Atterbury spoil’d the flock.

See! still thy own, the heavy cannon roll,

And metaphysic smokes involve the pole.

For thee we dim the eyes, and stuff the head

With all such reading as was never read:

For thee explain a thing till all men doubt it,

And write about it, goddess, and about it:

So spins the silk-worm small its slender store,

And labours till it clouds itself all o’er.

‘What though we let some better sort of fool

Thrid every science, run through every school?

Never by tumbler through the hoops was shown

Such skill in passing all, and touching none.

He may indeed (if sober all this time)

Plague with dispute, or persecute with rhyme.

We only furnish what he cannot use,

Or wed to what he must divorce, a Muse:

Full in the midst of Euclid dip at once,

And petrify a genius to a dunce;28

Or, set on metaphysic ground to prance,

Show all his paces, not a step advance.

With the same cement, ever sure to bind,

We bring to one dead level every mind.

Then take him to develop, if you can,

And hew the block off,29 and get out the man.

But wherefore waste I words? I see advance

Whore, pupil, and laced governor from France.

Walker! our hat,’— nor more he deign’d to say,

But, stern as Ajax’ spectre,30 strode away.

In flow’d at once a gay embroider’d race,

And tittering push’d the pedants off the place:

Some would have spoken, but the voice was drown’d

By the French horn, or by the opening hound.

The first came forwards,31 with an easy mien,

As if he saw St James’s32 and the queen;

When thus the attendant orator begun:

‘Receive, great empress! thy accomplish’d son:

Thine from the birth, and sacred from the rod,

A dauntless infant! never scared with God.

The sire saw, one by one, his virtues wake:

The mother begg’d the blessing of a rake.

Thou gav’st that ripeness which so soon began,

And ceased so soon — he ne’er was boy nor man;

Through school and college, thy kind cloud o’ercast,

Safe and unseen the young Æneas pass’d:

Thence bursting glorious, all at once let down,

Stunn’d with his giddy ‘larum half the town.

Intrepid then, o’er seas and lands he flew:

Europe he saw, and Europe saw him too.

There all thy gifts and graces we display,

Thou, only thou, directing all our way,

To where the Seine, obsequious as she runs,

Pours at great Bourbon’s feet her silken sons;

Or Tiber, now no longer Roman, rolls,

Vain of Italian arts, Italian souls:

To happy convents, bosom’d deep in vines,

Where slumber abbots, purple as their wines:

To isles of fragrance, lily-silver’d vales,33

Diffusing languor in the panting gales:

To lands of singing or of dancing slaves,

Love-whispering woods, and lute-resounding waves.

But chief her shrine where naked Venus keeps,

And Cupids ride the lion of the deeps;34

Where, eased of fleets, the Adriatic main

Wafts the smooth eunuch and enamour’d swain,

Led by my hand, he saunter’d Europe round,

And gather’d every vice on Christian ground;

Saw every court, heard every king declare

His royal sense of operas or the fair;

The stews and palace equally explored,

Intrigued with glory, and with spirit whored;

Tried all hors-d’oeuvres, all liqueurs defined,

Judicious drank, and greatly-daring dined;35

Dropp’d the dull lumber of the Latin store,

Spoil’d his own language, and acquired no more;

All classic learning lost on classic ground;

And last turned air, the echo of a sound!

See now, half-cured, and perfectly well-bred,

With nothing but a solo in his head;

As much estate, and principle, and wit,

As Jansen, Fleetwood, Cibber36 shall think fit;

Stolen from a duel, follow’d by a nun,

And, if a borough choose him, not undone;

See, to my country happy I restore

This glorious youth, and add one Venus more.

Her too receive (for her my soul adores),

So may the sons of sons of sons of whores

Prop thine, O empress! like each neighbour throne,

And make a long posterity thy own.’

Pleased, she accepts the hero, and the dame

Wraps in her veil, and frees from sense of shame.

Then look’d, and saw a lazy, lolling sort,

Unseen at church, at senate, or at court,

Of ever-listless loiterers that attend

No cause, no trust, no duty, and no friend.

Thee, too, my Paridel!37 she marked thee there,

Stretch’d on the rack of a too easy chair,

And heard thy everlasting yawn confess

The pains and penalties of idleness.

She pitied! but her pity only shed

Benigner influence on thy nodding head.

But Annius,38 crafty seer, with ebon wand,

And well-dissembled emerald on his hand,

False as his gems, and canker’d as his coins,

Came, cramm’d with capon, from where Pollio dines.

Soft, as the wily fox is seen to creep,

Where bask on sunny banks the simple sheep,

Walk round and round, now prying here, now there,

So he; but pious, whisper’d first his prayer.

‘Grant, gracious goddess! grant me still to cheat,39

Oh may thy cloud still cover the deceit!

Thy choicer mists on this assembly shed,

But pour them thickest on the noble head.

So shall each youth, assisted by our eyes,

See other Caesars, other Homers rise;

Through twilight ages hunt the Athenian fowl,40

Which Chalcis gods, and mortals call an owl,

Now see an Attys, now a Cecrops41 clear,

Nay, Mahomet! the pigeon at thine ear;

Be rich in ancient brass, though not in gold,

And keep his Lares, though his house be sold;

To headless Phoebe his fair bride postpone,

Honour a Syrian prince above his own;

Lord of an Otho, if I vouch it true;

Bless’d in one Niger, till he knows of two.’

Mummius42 o’erheard him; Mummius, fool-renown’d,

Who like his Cheops43 stinks above the ground,

Fierce as a startled adder, swell’d, and said,

Rattling an ancient sistrum at his head;

‘Speak’st thou of Syrian prince?44 Traitor base!

Mine, goddess! mine is all the hornèd race.

True, he had wit to make their value rise;

From foolish Greeks to steal them was as wise;

More glorious yet, from barbarous hands to keep,

When Sallee rovers chased him on the deep.

Then, taught by Hermes, and divinely bold,

Down his own throat he risk’d the Grecian gold,

Received each demi-god, with pious care,

Deep in his entrails — I revered them there,

I bought them, shrouded in that Irving shrine,

And, at their second birth, they issue mine.’

‘Witness, great Ammon!45 by whose horns I swore,

(Replied soft Annius) this our paunch before

Still bears them, faithful; and that thus I eat,

Is to refund the medals with the meat.

To prove me, goddess! clear of all design,

Bid me with Pollio sup, as well as dine:

There all the learn’d shall at the labour stand,

And Douglas46 lend his soft, obstetric hand.’

The goddess smiling seem’d to give consent;

So back to Pollio, hand in hand, they went.

Then thick as locusts blackening all the ground,

A tribe, with weeds and shells fantastic crown’d,

Each with some wondrous gift approach’d the power,

A nest, a toad, a fungus, or a flower.

But far the foremost, two, with earnest zeal,

And aspect ardent, to the throne appeal.

The first thus open’d: ‘Hear thy suppliant’s call,

Great queen, and common mother of us all!

Fair from its humble bed I rear’d this flower,

Suckled, and cheer’d, with air, and sun, and shower;

Soft on the paper ruff its leaves I spread,

Bright with the gilded button tipp’d its head;

Then throned in glass, and named it Caroline:47

Each maid cried, charming! and each youth, divine!

Did Nature’s pencil ever blend such rays,

Such varied light in one promiscuous blaze?

Now prostrate! dead! behold that Caroline:

No maid cries, charming! and no youth, divine!

And lo, the wretch! whose vile, whose insect lust

Laid this gay daughter of the spring in dust.

Oh, punish him, or to th’ Elysian shades

Dismiss my soul, where no carnation fades.’

He ceased, and wept. With innocence of mien,

Th’ accused stood forth, and thus address’d the queen:

‘Of all th’ enamell’d race, whose silvery wing

Waves to the tepid zephyrs of the spring,

Or swims along the fluid atmosphere,

Once brightest shined this child of heat and air.

I saw, and started, from its vernal bower,

The rising game, and chased from flower to flower;

It fled, I follow’d; now in hope, now pain;

It stopp’d, I stopp’d; it moved, I moved again.

At last it fix’d; ’twas on what plant it pleased,

And where it fix’d, the beauteous bird I seized:

Rose or carnation was below my care;

I meddle, goddess! only in my sphere.

I tell the naked fact without disguise,

And, to excuse it, need but show the prize;

Whose spoils this paper offers to your eye,

Fair ev’n in death! this peerless butterfly.’

‘My sons! (she answer’d) both have done your parts:

Live happy both, and long promote our arts.

But hear a mother, when she recommends

To your fraternal care our sleeping friends.

The common soul, of Heaven’s more frugal make,

Serves but to keep fools pert and knaves awake:

A drowsy watchman, that just gives a knock,

And breaks our rest, to tell us what’s a clock.

Yet by some object every brain is stirr’d;

The dull may waken to a humming-bird;

The most recluse, discreetly open’d, find

Congenial matter in the cockle-kind;

The mind in metaphysics at a loss,

May wander in a wilderness of moss;48

The head that turns at super-lunar things,

Poised with a tail, may steer on Wilkins’ wings.49

‘Oh! would the sons of men once think their eyes

And reason given them but to study flies!

See nature in some partial narrow shape,

And let the Author of the whole escape:

Learn but to trifle; or, who most observe,

To wonder at their Maker, not to serve.’

‘Be that my task’ (replies a gloomy clerk,

Sworn foe to mystery, yet divinely dark;

Whose pious hope aspires to see the day

When moral evidence50 shall quite decay,

And damns implicit faith, and holy lies,

Prompt to impose, and fond to dogmatise:)

‘Let others creep by timid steps and slow,

On plain experience lay foundations low,

By common sense to common knowledge bred,

And last, to Nature’s cause through Nature led:

All-seeing in thy mists, we want no guide,

Mother of arrogance, and source of pride!

We nobly take the high priori road,51

And reason downward, till we doubt of God:

Make Nature still52 encroach upon his plan;

And shove him off as far as e’er we can:

Thrust some mechanic cause into his place;

Or bind in matter, or diffuse in space.53

Or, at one bound o’erleaping all his laws,

Make God man’s image, man the final cause,

Find virtue local, all relation scorn,

See all in self, and but for self be born:

Of nought so certain as our reason still,

Of nought so doubtful as of soul and will.

O! hide the God still more! and make us see,

Such as Lucretius drew, a God like thee:

Wrapt up in self, a God without a thought,

Regardless of our merit or default.

Or that bright image54 to our fancy draw,

Which Theocles55 in raptured vision saw,

While through poetic scenes the genius roves,

Or wanders wild in academic groves;

That Nature our society adores,56

Where Tindal dictates, and Silenus57 snores.’

Roused at his name, up rose the bousy sire,

And shook from out his pipe the seeds of fire;

Then snapt his box, and stroked his belly down:

Rosy and reverend, though without a gown.

Bland and familiar to the throne he came,

Led up the youth, and call’d the goddess dame.

Then thus: ‘From priestcraft happily set free,

Lo! every finish’d son returns to thee:

First, slave to words,58 then vassal to a name,

Then dupe to party; child and man the same;

Bounded by nature, narrow’d still by art,

A trifling head, and a contracted heart;

Thus bred, thus taught, how many have I seen,

Smiling on all, and smiled on by a queen?59

Mark’d out for honours, honour’d for their birth,

To thee the most rebellious things on earth:

Now to thy gentle shadow all are shrunk,

All melted down in pension or in punk!

So K— — so B—— sneak’d into the grave,

A monarch’s half, and half a harlot’s slave.

Poor W— — 60 nipp’d in folly’s broadest bloom,

Who praises now? his chaplain on his tomb.

Then take them all, oh, take them to thy breast!

Thy Magus, goddess! shall perform the rest.’

With that, a wizard old his cup extends,

Which whoso tastes forgets his former friends,

Sire, ancestors, himself. One casts his eyes

Up to a star, and like Endymion dies:

A feather, shooting from another’s head,

Extracts his brain, and principle is fled;

Lost is his God, his country, everything;

And nothing left but homage to a king!61

The vulgar herd turn off to roll with hogs,

To run with horses, or to hunt with dogs;

But, sad example! never to escape

Their infamy, still keep the human shape.

But she, good goddess, sent to every child

Firm Impudence, or Stupefaction mild;

And strait succeeded, leaving shame no room,

Cibberian forehead, or Cimmerian gloom.

Kind Self-conceit to some her glass applies,

Which no one looks in with another’s eyes:

But as the flatterer or dependant paint,

Beholds himself a patriot, chief, or saint.

On others Interest her gay livery flings,

Interest, that waves on party-colour’d wings:

Turn’d to the sun, she casts a thousand dyes,

And, as she turns, the colours fall or rise.

Others the Syren sisters warble round,

And empty heads console with empty sound.

No more, alas! the voice of fame they hear,

The balm of Dulness62 trickling in their ear.

Great C— — H— — P— — R— — K— —

Why all your toils? your sons have learn’d to sing.

How quick ambition hastes to ridicule!

The sire is made a peer, the son a fool.

On some, a priest succinct in amice white

Attends; all flesh is nothing in his sight!

Beeves, at his touch, at once to jelly turn,

And the huge boar is shrunk into an urn:

The board with specious miracles he loads,63

Turns hares to larks, and pigeons into toads.

Another (for in all what one can shine?)

Explains the séve and verdeur of the vine.64

What cannot copious sacrifice atone?

Thy truffles, Perigord! thy hams, Bayonne!

With French libation, and Italian strain,

Wash Bladen white, and expiate Hays’s stain.65

Knight lifts the head; for what are crowds undone

To three essential partridges in one?

Gone every blush, and silent all reproach,

Contending princes mount them in their coach.

Next bidding all draw near on bended knees,

The queen confers her titles and degrees.

Her children first of more distinguish’d sort,

Who study Shakspeare at the Inns of Court,

Impale a glow-worm, or vertú profess,

Shine in the dignity of F.R.S.

Some, deep freemasons, join the silent race,

Worthy to fill Pythagoras’s place:

Some botanists, or florists at the least,

Or issue members of an annual feast.

Nor pass’d the meanest unregarded; one

Rose a Gregorian, one a Gormogon.66

The last, not least in honour or applause,

Isis and Cam made Doctors of her Laws.

Then, blessing all, ‘Go, children of my care!

To practice now from theory repair.

All my commands are easy, short, and full:

My sons! be proud, be selfish, and be dull.

Guard my prerogative, assert my throne:

This nod confirms each privilege your own.

The cap and switch be sacred to his grace;

With staff and pumps the marquis lead the race;

From stage to stage the licensed earl may run,

Pair’d with his fellow-charioteer the sun;

The learned baron butterflies design,

Or draw to silk Arachne’s subtile line;67

The judge to dance his brother sergeant call;68

The senator at cricket urge the ball;

The bishop stow (pontific luxury!)

An hundred souls of turkeys in a pie;

The sturdy squire to Gallic masters stoop,

And drown his lands and manors in a soup.

Others import yet nobler arts from France,

Teach kings to fiddle, and make senates dance.69

Perhaps more high some daring son may soar,

Proud to my list to add one monarch more;

And nobly conscious, princes are but things

Born for first ministers, as slaves for kings,

Tyrant supreme! shall three estates command,


More she had spoke, but yawn’d — All Nature nods:

What mortal can resist the yawn of gods?

Churches and chapels instantly it reach’d;

(St James’s first, for leaden Gilbert70 preach’d;)

Then catch’d the schools; the Hall scarce kept awake;

The Convocation gaped, but could not speak;

Lost was the nation’s sense, nor could be found,

While the long solemn unison went round:

Wide, and more wide, it spread o’er all the realm;

Even Palinurus nodded at the helm:

The vapour mild o’er each committee crept;

Unfinish’d treaties in each office slept;

And chiefless armies dozed out the campaign;

And navies yawn’d for orders on the main.71

O Muse! relate (for you can tell alone,

Wits have short memories, and dunces none,)

Relate, who first, who last resign’d to rest;

Whose heads she partly, whose completely bless’d;

What charms could faction, what ambition, lull,

The venal quiet, and entrance the dull;

‘Till drown’d was sense, and shame, and right, and wrong —

O sing, and hush the nations with thy song!

In vain, in vain — the all-composing hour

Resistless falls: the Muse obeys the power.

She comes! she comes! the sable throne behold

Of Night primeval, and of Chaos old!

Before her, Fancy’s gilded clouds decay,

And all its varying rainbows die away.

Wit shoots in vain its momentary fires,

The meteor drops, and in a flash expires.

As one by one, at dread Medea’s strain,

The sick’ning stars fade off the ethereal plain;

As Argus’ eyes, by Hermes’ wand oppress’d,

Closed one by one to everlasting rest;

Thus at her felt approach, and secret might,

Art after art goes out, and all is night.

See skulking Truth to her old cavern fled,72

Mountains of casuistry heap’d o’er her head!

Philosophy, that lean’d on heaven before,

Shrinks to her second cause, and is no more.

Physic of Metaphysic begs defence,

And Metaphysic calls for aid on Sense!

See Mystery to Mathematics fly!

In vain! they gaze, turn giddy, rave, and die.

Religion, blushing, veils her sacred fires,

And unawares Morality expires.

Nor public flame, nor private, dares to shine;

Nor human spark is left, nor glimpse divine!

Lo! thy dread empire, Chaos! is restored;

Light dies before thy uncreating word:

Thy hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall;

And universal darkness buries all.


VER. 114 —

‘What! no respect, he cried, for Shakspeare’s page?’

VER. 441. The common soul, &c. In the first edition, thus —

Of souls the greater part, Heaven’s common make,

Serve but to keep fools pert, and knaves awake;

And most but find that sentinel of God,

A drowsy watchman in the land of Nod.

VER. 643. In the former edition, it stood thus —

Philosophy, that reach’d the heavens before,

Shrinks to her hidden cause, and is no more.

1 ‘Mad Máthesis:’ alluding to the strange conclusions some mathematicians have deduced from their principles, concerning the real quantity of matter, the reality of space, &c. — P. W.

2 ‘Pure space:’ i.e. pure and defaecated from matter. ‘Ecstatic stare:’ the action of men who look about with full assurance of seeing what does not exist, such as those who expect to find space a real being. — W.

3 ‘Running round the circle, finds it square:’ regards the wild and fruitless attempts of squaring the circle. — P. W.

4 ‘Nor couldst thou,’ &c.: this noble person in the year 1737, when the act aforesaid was brought into the House of Lords, opposed it in an excellent speech (says Mr Cibber), ‘with a lively spirit, and uncommon eloquence.’ This speech had the honour to be answered by the said Mr Cibber, with a lively spirit also, and in a manner very uncommon, in the 8th chapter of his Life and Manners. — P.

5 ‘Harlot form:’ the attitude given to this phantom represents the nature and genius of the Italian Opera; its affected airs, its effeminate sounds, and the practice of patching up these operas with favourite songs, incoherently put together. These things were supported by the subscriptions of the nobility. This circumstance, that Opera should prepare for the opening of the grand sessions, was prophesied of in book iii. ver. 304,

‘Already Opera prepares the way,

The sure forerunner of her gentle sway.’

P. W.

6 ‘Division reign:’ alluding to the false taste of playing tricks in music with numberless divisions, to the neglect of that harmony which conforms to the sense, and applies to the passions. Mr Handel had introduced a great number of hands, and more variety of instruments into the orchestra, and employed even drums and cannon to make a fuller chorus; which proved so much too manly for the fine gentlemen of his age, that he was obliged to remove his music into Ireland. After which they were reduced, for want of composers, to practise the patch-work above mentioned. — P. W.

7 ‘Chromatic:’ that species of the ancient music called the Chromatic was a variation and embellishment, in odd irregularities, of the diatonic kind. They say it was invented about the time of Alexander, and that the Spartans forbad the use of it, as languid and effeminate. — W.

8 ‘Wake the dull church, and lull the ranting stage:’ i.e. dissipate the devotion of the one by light and wanton airs; and subdue the pathos of the other by recitative and sing-song. — W.

9 ‘Narcissus:’ Lord Hervey.

10 ‘Bold Benson:’ this man endeavoured to raise himself to fame by erecting monuments, striking coins, setting up heads, and procuring translations of Milton; and afterwards by as great passion for Arthur Johnston, a Scotch physician’s version of the Psalms, of which he printed many fine editions. See more of him, book iii. v. 325. — P. W.

11 ‘The decent knight:’ Sir Thomas Hanmer, who was about to publish a very pompous edition of a great author, at his own expense. — P. W.

12 ‘So by each bard an alderman,’ &c.: alluding to the monument of Butler erected by Alderman Barber.

13 ‘The Samian letter:’ the letter Y, used by Pythagoras as an emblem of the different roads of Virtue and Vice.

‘Et tibi quae Samios diduxit litera ramos.’— Pers. P. W.

14 ‘House or Hall:’ Westminster Hall and the House of Commons. — W.

15 ‘Master-piece of man:’ viz., an epigram. The famous Dr South declared a perfect epigram to be as difficult a performance as an epic poem. And the critics say, ‘An epic poem is the greatest work human nature is capable of.’— P. W.

16 ‘Gentle James:’ Wilson tells us that this king, James I., took upon himself to teach the Latin tongue to Carr, Earl of Somerset; and that Gondomar, the Spanish ambassador, would speak false Latin to him, on purpose to give him the pleasure of correcting it, whereby he wrought himself into his good graces. — P. W. See Fortunes of Nigel.

17 ‘Locke:’ in the year 1703 there was a meeting of the heads of the University of Oxford to censure Mr Locke’s Essay on Human Understanding, and to forbid the reading it. See his Letters in the last edit. — P. W.

18 ‘Crousaz:’ see Life.

19 ‘The streams:’ the River Cam, running by the walls of these colleges, which are particularly famous for their skill in disputation. — P. W.

20 ‘Sleeps in port:’ viz., ‘now retired into harbour, after the tempests that had long agitated his society.’ So Scriblerus. But the learned Scipio Maffei understands it of a certain wine called port, from Oporto a city of Portugal, of which this professor invited him to drink abundantly. Scip. Maff., De Compotationibus Academicis. — P. W.

21 ‘Letter:’ alluding to those grammarians, such as Palamedes and Simonides, who invented single letters. But Aristarchus, who had found out a double one, was therefore worthy of double honour. — Scribl. W.

22 ‘Digamma:’ alludes to the boasted restoration of the Aeolic digamma, in his long-projected edition of Homer. He calls it something more than letter, from the enormous figure it would make among the other letters, being one gamma set upon the shoulders of another. — P. W.

23 ‘Cicero:’ grammatical disputes about the manner of pronouncing Cicero’s name in Greek. — W.

24 ‘Freind — Alsop:’ Dr Robert Freind, master of Westminster school, and canon of Christ-church — Dr Anthony Alsop, a happy imitator of the Horatian style. — P. W.

25 ‘Manilius or Solinus:’ some critics having had it in their choice to comment either on Virgil or Manilius, Pliny or Solinus, have chosen the worse author, the more freely to display their critical capacity. — P. W.

26 ‘Suidas, Gellius, Stobaeus:’ the first a dictionary-writer, a collector of impertinent facts and barbarous words; the second a minute critic; the third an author, who gave his common-place book to the public, where we happen to find much mince-meat of old books. — P. W.

27 ‘Divinity:’ a word much affected by the learned Aristarchus in common conversation, to signify genius or natural acumen. But this passage has a further view: [Greek: Nous] was the Platonic term for mind, or the first cause, and that system of divinity is here hinted at which terminates in blind nature without a [Greek: Nous]. — P. W.

28 ‘Petrify a genius:’ those who have no genius, employed in works of imagination; those who have, in abstract sciences. — P. W.

29 ‘And hew the block off:’ a notion of Aristotle, that there was originally in every block of marble a statue, which would appear on the removal of the superfluous parts. — P. W.

30 ‘Ajax’ spectre:’ see Homer Odyss. xi., where the ghost of Ajax turns sullenly from Ulysses the traveller, who had succeeded against him in the dispute for the arms of Achilles. — Scribl. W.

31 ‘The first came forwards:’ this forwardness or pertness is the certain consequence, when the children of Dulness are spoiled by too great fondness of their parent. — W.

32 ‘As if he saw St James’s:’ reflecting on the disrespectful and indecent behaviour of several forward young persons in the presence, so offensive to all serious men, and to none more than the good Scriblerus. — P. W.

33 ‘Lily-silver’d vales:’ Tube roses. — P.

34 ‘Lion of the deeps:’ the winged Lion, the arms of Venice. — P. W.

35 ‘Greatly-daring dined:’ it being, indeed, no small risk to eat through those extraordinary compositions, whose disguised ingredients are generally unknown to the guests, and highly inflammatory and unwholesome. — P. W.

36 ‘Jansen, Fleetwood, Cibber:’ three very eminent persons, all managers of plays; who, though not governors by profession, had, each in his way, concerned themselves in the education of youth, and regulated their wits, their morals, or their finances, at that period of their age which is the most important — their entrance into the polite world. — P. W.

37 ‘Paridel:’ the poet seems to speak of this young gentleman with great affection. The name is taken from Spenser, who gives it to a wandering courtly squire, that travelled about for the same reason for which many young squires are now fond of travelling, and especially to Paris. — P. W.

38 ‘Annius:’ the name taken from Annius the Monk of Viterbo, famous for many impositions and forgeries of ancient manuscripts and inscriptions, which he was prompted to by mere vanity, but our Annius had a more substantial motive. Annius, Sir Andrew Fontaine. — P. W.

39 ‘Still to cheat:’ some read skill, but that is frivolous, for Annius hath that skill already; or if he had not, skill were not wanting to cheat such persons. — Bentl. P. W.

40 ‘Hunt the Athenian fowl:’ the owl stamped on the reverse on the ancient money of Athens. — P. W.

41 ‘Attys and Cecrops:’ the first king of Athens, of whom it is hard to suppose any coins are extant; but not so improbable as what follows, that there should be any of Mahomet, who forbad all images, and the story of whose pigeon was a monkish fable. Nevertheless, one of these Annius’s made a counterfeit medal of that impostor, now in the collection of a learned nobleman. — P. W.

42 ‘Mummius:’ this name is not merely an allusion to the mummies he was so fond of, but probably referred to the Roman General of that name, who burned Corinth, and committed the curious statues to the captain of a ship, assuring him, ‘that if any were lost or broken, he should procure others to be made in their stead,’ by which it should seem (whatever may be pretended) that Mummius was no virtuoso.-P. W.

43 ‘Cheops:’ a king of Egypt, whose body was certainly to be known, as being buried alone in his pyramid, and is therefore more genuine than any of the Cleopatras. This royal mummy, being stolen by a wild Arab, was purchased by the consul of Alexandria, and transmitted to the Museum of Mummius; for proof of which he brings a passage in Sandys’s Travels, where that accurate and learned voyager assures us that he saw the sepulchre empty, which agrees exactly (saith he) with the time of the theft above mentioned. But he omits to observe that Herodotus tells the same thing of it in his time. — P. W.

44 ‘Speak’st thou of Syrian princes:’ the strange story following, which may be taken for a fiction of the poet, is justified by a true relation in Spon’s Voyages. Vaillant (who wrote the History of the Syrian Kings as it is to be found on medals) coming from the Levant, where he had been collecting various coins, and being pursued by a corsair of Sallee, swallowed down twenty gold medals. A sudden bourasque freed him from the rover, and he got to land with them in his belly. On his road to Avignon, he met two physicians, of whom he demanded assistance. One advised purgations, the other vomits. In this uncertainty he took neither, but pursued his way to Lyons, where he found his ancient friend, the famous physician and antiquary Dufour, to whom he related his adventure. Dufour first asked him whether the medals were of the higher empire? He assured him they were. Dufour was ravished with the hope of possessing such a treasure — he bargained with him on the spot for the most curious of them, and was to recover them at his own expense. — P. W.

45 ‘Witness, great Ammon:’ Jupiter Ammon is called to witness, as the father of Alexander, to whom those kings succeeded in the division of the Macedonian Empire, and whose horns they wore on their medals. — P. W.

46 ‘Douglas:’ a physician of great learning and no less taste; above all, curious in what related to Horace, of whom he collected every edition, translation, and comment, to the number of several hundred volumes. — P. W.

47 ‘And named it Caroline:’ it is a compliment which the florists usually pay to princes and great persons, to give their names to the most curious flowers of their raising. Some have been very jealous of vindicating this honour, but none more than that ambitions gardener, at Hammersmith, who caused his favourite to be painted on his sign, with this inscription — ‘This is my Queen Caroline.’— P. W.

48 ‘Moss:’ of which the naturalists count I can’t tell how many hundred species. — P. W.

49 ‘Wilkins’ wings:’ one of the first projectors of the Royal Society, who, among many enlarged and useful notions, entertained the extravagant hope of a possibility to fly to the moon; which has put some volatile geniuses upon making wings for that purpose. — P. W.

50 ‘Moral evidence:’ alluding to a ridiculous and absurd way of some mathematicians in calculating the gradual decay of moral evidence by mathematical proportions; according to which calculation, in about fifty years it will be no longer probable that Julius Caesar was in Gaul, or died in the senate-house. — P. W.

51 ‘The high priori road:’ those who, from the effects in this visible world, deduce the eternal power and Godhead of the First Cause, though they cannot attain to an adequate idea of the Deity, yet discover so much of him as enables them to see the end of their creation, and the means of their happiness; whereas they who take this high priori road (such as Hobbes, Spinoza, Descartes, and some better reasoners) for one that goes right, ten lose themselves in mists, or ramble after visions, which deprive them of all right of their end, and mislead them in the choice of the means. — P. W.

52 ‘Make Nature still:’ this relates to such as, being ashamed to assert a mere mechanic cause, and yet unwilling to forsake it entirely, have had recourse to a certain plastic nature, elastic fluid, subtile matter, &c. — P. W.


‘Thrust some mechanic cause into his place, Or bind in matter, or diffuse in space:’

The first of these follies is that of Descartes; the second, of Hobbes; the third, of some succeeding philosophers. — P. W.

54 ‘Bright image:’ bright image was the title given by the later Platonists to that vision of nature which they had formed out of their own fancy, so bright that they called it [Greek: Autopton Agalma], or the self-seen image, i. e., seen by its own light. This ignis fatuus has in these our times appeared again in the north; and the writings of Hutcheson, Geddes, and their followers, are full of its wonders. For in this lux borealis, this self-seen image, these second-sighted philosophers see everything else. — Scribl. W. Let it be either the Chance god of Epicurus, or the Fate of this goddess. — W.

55 ‘Theocles:’ thus this philosopher calls upon his friend, to partake with him in these visions:

‘To-morrow, when the eastern sun With his first beams adorns the front Of yonder hill, if you’re content To wander with me in the woods you see, We will pursue those loves of ours, By favour of the sylvan nymphs:

and invoking, first, the genius of the place, we’ll try to obtain at least some faint and distant view of the sovereign genius and first beauty.’ Charact. vol. ii. p. 245. — P. W.

56 ‘Society adores:’ see the Pantheisticon, with its liturgy and rubrics, composed by Toland. — W.

57 ‘Silenus:’ Silenus was an Epicurean philosopher, as appears from Virgil, Eclog. vi., where he sings the principles of that philosophy in his drink. He is meant for one Thomas Gordon. — P. W.

58 ‘First, slave to words:’ a recapitulation of the whole course of modern education described in this book, which confines youth to the study of words only in schools, subjects them to the authority of systems in the universities, and deludes them with the names of party distinctions in the world — all equally concurring to narrow the understanding, and establish slavery and error in literature, philosophy, and politics. The whole finished in modern free-thinking; the completion of whatever is vain, wrong, and destructive to the happiness of mankind, as it establishes self-love for the sole principle of action. — P. W.

59 ‘Smiled on by a queen:’ i.e. this queen or goddess of Dulness. — P.

60 ‘Mr Philip Wharton, who died abroad and outlawed in 1791.

61 ‘Nothing left but homage to a king:’ so strange as this must seem to a mere English reader, the famous Mons. de la Bruyère declares it to be the character of every good subject in a monarchy; ‘where,’ says he, ‘there is no such thing as love of our country; the interest, the glory, and service of the prince, supply its place.’— De la République, chap. x. — P.

62 ‘The balm of Dulness:’ the true balm of Dulness, called by the Greek physicians [Greek: Kolakeia], is a sovereign remedy against inanity, and has its poetic name from the goddess herself. Its ancient dispensators were her poets; and for that reason our author, book ii. v. 207, calls it the poet’s healing balm; but it is now got into as many hands as Goddard’s Drops or Daffy’s Elixir. — W.

63 ‘The board with specious miracles he loads:’ these were only the miracles of French cookery, and particularly pigeons en crapeau were a common dish. — P. W.

64Séve and verdeur:’ French terms relating to wines, which signify their flavour and poignancy. — P. W.

65 ‘Bladen — Hays:’ names of gamesters. Bladen is a black man. Robert Knight, cashier of the South Sea Company, who fled from England in 1720 (afterwards pardoned in 1742). These lived with the utmost magnificence at Paris, and kept open tables frequented by persons of the first quality of England, and even by princes of the blood of France. — P. W. The former note of ‘Bladen is a black man,’ is very absurd. The manuscript here is partly obliterated, and doubtless could only have been, Wash blackmoors white, alluding to a known proverb. — Scribl. P. W. Bladen was uncle to Collins the poet. See our edition of ‘Collins.’

66 ‘Gregorian, Gormogon:’ a sort of lay-brothers, slips from the root of the freemasons. — P. W.

67 ‘Arachne’s subtile line:’ this is one of the most ingenious employments assigned, and therefore recommended only to peers of learning. Of weaving stockings of the webs of spiders, see the Phil. Trans. — P. W.

68 ‘Sergeant call:’ alluding perhaps to that ancient and solemn dance, entitled, A Call of Sergeants. — P. W.

69 ‘Teach kings to fiddle:’ an ancient amusement of sovereign princes, viz. Achilles, Alexander, Nero; though despised by Themistocles, who was a republican. ‘Make senates dance:’ either after their prince, or to Pontoise, or Siberia. — P. W.

70 ‘Gilbert:’ Archbishop of York, who had attacked Dr King, of Oxford, a friend of Pope’s.

71 Verses 615–618 were written many years ago, and may be found in the state poems of that time. So that Scriblerus is mistaken, or whoever else have imagined this poem of a fresher date. — P. W.

72 ‘Truth to her old cavern fled:’ alluding to the saying of Democritus, that Truth lay at the bottom of a deep well, from whence he had drawn her; though Butler says, he first put her in, before he drew her out. — W.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59