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Out of the window, whisk, they flew,
The words too eager to unriddle,
So cunning was the Apparatus,
Fancy is here so much blended with the humour, that I beJieve the two stanzas which succeed this line, are among those which are the least relished by the generality. The description of the spell, I know, Iras appeared to many persons absolutely unintelligible; yet if the reader adverts to that peculiar idea which runs through the whole, I imagine the obscurity complained of will be removed. An incident, we see, so slight as the simple matter of fact, required something like machinery to enliven it: Accordingly the author chose, with propriety enough, to employ for that purpose those notions of witchcraft, ghosts, and enchantment, which prevailed at the time when the mansion-house was built. He describes himself as a dæmon of the lowest class, a wicked imp who lumed the deer, &c. against whose malevolent power Lady Cobham (the Gloriana of the piece) employs two superior enchantresses. Congruity of imagery, therefore, required the card they left upon the table to be converted into a spell. Now all the old writers, on these subjects, are very minute in describing the materials of such talismans. Hence, therefore, his grotesque idea of a composition of transparent bird-lime, edged with invisible chains, in order to catch and draw him to the tribunal. Without going further for examples of this kind of imagery than the Poet's own works, let
* Yet on his way (no sign of grace,
The Godhead wou'd have back'd his quarrel;
The court was sate, the Culprit there,
me instance two passages of the serious kind, similar to this ludi
In his Ode, intitled the Bard,
“ Above, below, the rose of snow," &c. And, again, in the Fatal Sisters,
“ See the griesly texture grow." It must, however, be allowed, that no person can fully relish this burlesque, who is not much conversant with the old romance writers, and with the Poets who formed themselves on their model.
* The humour of this and the following stanza is more pure, and consequently more obvious. It might have been written by Prior, and the wit at the end is much in his best manner.
+ Here Fancy is again uppermost, and soars as high on her comic, as on another occasion she does on her lyric wing: For now a Chorus of ghostly old women of quality come to give sentence on the culprit Poet, just as the spirits of Cadwallo, Urien, and Hoel join the Bard in dreadful symphony to denounce vengeance on Edward I. The route of Fancy, we see, is the same both on the humorous and sublime occasion. No wonder, therefore, if either of them should fail of being generally tasted.
Such as in silence of the night
(Styack has often seen the sight)
+ In peaked hoods and mantles tarnish'd,
The Peeress comes. The audience stare,
The Bard, with many an artful fib,
But soon his rhetorick forsook him,
The House-Keeper. G. | The description is here excellent, and I should think would please universally
I Groom of the Chamber. G. $ The Steward. G..
|| A famous highwayman hanged the weck before. G.--This stanza is of the sort where wit rather than fancy prevails, consequently much in Prior's manner.
Yet something he was heard to mutter,
“ He once or twice had pen'd a sonnet;
The ghostly prudes with * hagged face
“ Jesu-Maria! Madam Bridget,
Why, what can the Viscountess mean? (Cried the square-hoods in woeful fidget) “The times are alter'd quite and clean!
* Hagged, i.e. the face of a witch or Hag; the epithet Hagârd has been sometimes mistaken, as conveying the same idea; but it means a very different thing, viz. wild and farouche, and is taken from an unreclaimed hawk, called an Ilagard; in which its proper sense the Poet uses it finely on a sublime occasion :
Cloath'd in the sable garb of woe,
Vide Ode 6th. † Ilere the story finishes; the exclamation of the Ghosts which follows is characteristic of the Spanish manners of the age, when they are supposed to have lived; and the 500 stanzas, said to be lost, may be imagined to contain the remainder of their longwinded expostulation.
« Decorum's turn’d to mere çivility;
[Here 500 Stanzas are lost.]
MR. GRAY TO DR. WHARTON.
Dec. 17, 1760.
Of my house I cannot say much +, I wish i could; but for my heart it is no less yours than it has long been; and the last thing in the world that will throw it into tumults is a fine Lady. The verses, you so kindly try to keep in countenance, were written merely to divert Lady Cobham and her family, and succeeded accordingly; but being shewed about in town are not liked there at all. Mrs. *, a very fashionable per
+ The house he was rebuilding in Cornhill. See Letter VII. of this Section.