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And how agreeably surprised
Are you to see it advertised !
The hawker shows you one in print,
As fresh as farthings from the mint.
Be sure at Will's the following day,
Lie snug, and hear what critics say;
And if you find the general vogue
Pronounces you a stupid rogue,
Be silent as a politician,
For talking may beget suspicion:
Or praise the judgment of the town,
And help yourself to run it down.
Give up your fond paternal pride,
Nor argue on the weaker side:
For poems read without a name
We justly praise or justly blame;
And critics have no partial views,
Except they know whom they abuse;
And, since you ne'er provoke their spite,
Depend upon 't, their judgment's right.
But if you blab you are undone :
Consider what a risk you run :
You lose your credit all at once,
The town will mark you for a dunce;
The vilest doggrel Grub-street sends,
with foes and friends; And you must bear the whole disgrace, Till some fresh blockhead takes your place.
Your secret kept, your poem sunk,
And sent in quires to line a trunk,
If still you be disposed to rhyme,
Go try your hand a second time.
Again you fail : yet Safe 's the word ;
Take courage, and attempt a third.
But first with care employ your thoughts
Where critics mark'd your former faults ;
The trivial turns, the borrow'd wit,
The similes that nothing fit;
The cant which every fool repeats,
Town jests and coffee-house conceits ;
Descriptions tedious, flat, and dry,
And introduced the Lord knows why:
Or where we find your fury set
Against the harmless alphabet;
And A's and B's your malice vent,
While readers wonder whom you meant ;
A public or a private robber,
A statesman or a South Sea jobber;
A. prelate who no God believes,
A parliament or den of thieves;
A pick-purse at the bar or bench,
A duchess, or a suburb wench;
Or oft, when epithets you link,
In gaping lines to fill a chink,
Like stepping-stones to save a stride,
In streets where kennels are too wide;
Or like a heel-piece, to support
A cripple with one foot too short;
Or like a bridge, that joins a marish
To moorland of a different parish.
So have I seen ill-coupled hounds
Drag different ways in miry grounds.
So geographers in Afric maps
With savage pictures fill their gaps,
And o'er unhabitable downs
Place elephants for want of towns.
But, though you miss your third essay,
You need not throw your pen away.
Lay now aside all thoughts of fame,
To spring more profitable game.
From party-merit seek support ;
The vilest verse thrives best at court.
A pamphlet in Sir Bob's defence
Will never fail to bring in pence:
Nor be concern'd about the sale,
He pays his workmen on the nail.
A prince, the moment he is crown'd,
Inherits every virtue round,
As emblems of the sovereign power,
Like other bawbles in the Tower;
Is generous, valiant, just, and wise,
And so continues till he dies:
His humble senate this professes,
In all their speeches, votes, addresses.
But once you fix him in a tomb,
His virtues fade, his vices bloom;
And each perfection, wrong imputed,
Is fully at his death confuted.
The loads of poems in his praise,
Ascending, make one funeral blaze:
As soon as you can hear his knell,
This god on earth turns devil in hell;
And lo! his ministers of state,
Transform’d to imps, his levee wait;
Where, in the scenes of endless wo,
They ply their former arts below;
And, as they sail in Charon's boat,
Contrive to bribe the judge's vote;
To Cerberus they give a sop,
His triple-barking mouth to stop;
Or in the ivory gate of dreams
Project excise and South Sea schemes;
Or hire their party pamphleteers
To set Elysium by the ears.
Then, poet, if you mean to thrive,
Employ your Muse on kings alive;
With prudence gathering up a cluster
Of all the virtues you can muster,
Which, form'd into a garland sweet,
Lay humbly at your monarch's feet;
Who, as the odours reach his throne,
Will smile, and think them all his own;
For law and gospel both determine
All virtues lodge in royal ermine
(I mean the oracles of both,
Who shall depose it upon oath).
Your garland in the following reign,
Change but the names, will do again.
But, if you think this trade too base (Which seldom is the dunce's case),
Put on the critic's brow, and sit
At Will's the puny judge of wit.
A nod, a shrug, a scornful smile,
With caution used, may serve a while.
Proceed no farther in your part
Before you learn the terms of art;
For you can never be too far gone
In all our modern critics' jargon:
Then talk with more authentic face
Of unities in time and place;
Get scraps of Horace from your friends,
And have them at your fingers' ends;
Learn Aristotle's rules by rote,
And at all hazards boldly quote;
Judicious Rymer oft review,
Wise Dennis, and profound Bossu;
Read all the prefaces of Dryden,
For these our critics much confide in
(Though merely writ at first for filling,
To raise the volume's price a shilling).
A forward critic often dupes us
With sham quotations peri hupsous ;
And if we have not read Longinus,
Will magisterially outshine us.
Then, lest with Greek he overrun ye,
Procure the book for love or money,
Translated from Boileau's translation,
And quote quotation on quotation.
At Will's you hear a poem read, Where Battus from the table-head, Reclining on his elbow-chair, Gives judgment with decisive air ; To whom the tribe of circling wits As to an oracle submits. He gives directions to the town, To cry it up, or run it down ; Like courtiers, when they send a note, Instructing members how to vote.
He sets the stamp of bad and good,
Though not a word be understood.
Your lesson learn'd, you'll be secure
To get the name of connoisseur:
And, when your merits once are known,
Procure disciples of your own.
For poets (you can never want 'em)
Spread through Augusta Trinobantum,
Computing by their pecks of coals,
Amount to just nine thousand souls :
These o'er their proper districts govern,
Of wit and humour judges sovereign.
In every street a city bard
Rules, like an alderman, his ward ;
His undisputed rights extend
Through all the lane, from end to end ;
The neighbours round admire his shrewdness
For songs of loyalty and lewdness;
Outdone by none in rhyming well,
Although he never learn’d to spell.
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 famed for numbers soft and smooth,
By lover's spoke in Punch's booth;
And some as justly fame extols
For losty lines in Smithfield drolls.
Bavius in Wapping gains renown,
And Mævius reigns o'er Kentish town:
Tigellius, placed in Phæbus' car,
From Ludgate shines to Temple-bar :
Harmonious Cibber entertains
The court with annual birthday 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,