Slike strani
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

I shall say the less of Mr. Collier, s because in many things he has taxed me justly; and

lewd way of writing necessary: they pretend the auditors will not be pleased, unless they are thus entertained from the stage ; and to please, they say, is the chief business of the poet. But this is by no means a just apology: it is not true, as was said before, that the poet's chief business is to please. His chief business is to instruct, to make mankind wiser and better; and in order to this, his care should be to please and entertain the audience with all the wit and art he is master of. Aristotle and Horace; and all their criticks and commentators, all men of wit and sense agree, that this is the end of poetry. But they say, it is their profession to write for the stage ; and that poets must starve, if they will not in this way humour the audience: the theatre will be as unfrequented as the churches, and the poet and the parson equally neglected. Let the poet then abandon his profession, and take up some honest, lawful calling, where joining industry to his great wit, he may soon get above the complaints of poverty, so common among these ingenious men, and lie under no necessity of prostituting his wit to any such vile

purposes as are here censured. This will be a course of life more profitable and honourable to himself, and more useful to others. And there are among these writers some, who think they might have risen to the highest dignities in other professions, had they employed their wit in those ways. It is a mighty dishonour and reproach to any man that is capable of being useful to the world in any liberal and virtuous profession, to lavish out his life and wit in propagating vice and corruption of manners, and in battering from the stage the strongest entrenchments and best works of religion and virtue. Whoever makes this his choice, when the other was in his power, may he go off I have pleaded guilty to all thoughts and expressions of mine, which can be truly argued of

the stage unpitied, complaining of neglect and poverty, the just punishments of his irreligion and folly !"

The tenour of Dryden's observations in the text inclines me to think, that this was the passage which he had in view. Instead, says he, of acknowledging me as his benefactor, as he ought to have done in the preface to his ARTHUR, which was founded on a hint of mine, he [there] had the baseness to traduce me in a libel. Blackmore, I believe, took his revenge in the SATIRE AGAINST WIT; and Dryden retaliated in the following admirable lines in the Prologue to the Pilgrim, written by Fletcher, and revived a short time before our author died, for his benefit.

It should be remembered, that in addition to his two poems, the city Knight had early in the year 1700 produced A Paraphrase on the Book of Job, and versified some of the Psalms; and in the Preface to his KING ARTHUR had told his readers, that his former poem was composed in less than two years

by such catches and starts, and in such occasional uncertain hours, as the business of his profession would afford him; the greatest part of it being written in Coffee-houses, and in passing up and down the streets, because he had little leisure elsewhere to apply to it.”

Quack Maurus, though he never took degrees,
In either of our Universities;
Yet to be shown by some kind wit he looks,
Because he played the fool, and writ three books.
But if he would be worth a poet's pen,
He must be more a fool, and write again :
For all the former fustian stuff he wrote,
Was dead-born doggrel, or is quite forgot ;
His man of Uz, stript of his Hebrew robe,
Is just the proverb,—and as poor as Job.

obscenity, profaneness, or immorality, and retract them. If he be my enemy, let him triumph ; if he be my friend, as I have given him no personal occasion to be otherwise, he will be glad of my repentance. It becomes me not to draw my pen

One would have thought he could no longer jog;
But ARTHUR was a level, Job's a bog.
There, though he crept, yet still he kept in sight;
But here, he founders in, and sinks down-right.
Had he prepar'd us, and been dull by rule,
Tobit had first been turn'd to ridicule:
But our bold Briton, without fear or awe,
O'erleaps at once the whole Apocrypha ;
Invades the Psalms with rhymes, and leaves no room
For

any Vandal Hopkins yet to come. But what, if after all, this godly geer Is not so senseless as it would

appear

?
Our Mountebank has laid a deeper train,
His cant, like Merry Andrew's noble vein,
Catcalls the Sects, to draw them in again.
At leisure hours, in epick song he deals,
Writes to the rumbling of his coach's wheels;
Prescribes in haste, and seldom kills by rule,
But rides triumphant between stool and stool.

Well, let him go ; 'tis yet too early day
To get himself a place in farce or play.
We know not by what name we should arraign him,
For no one category can contain him ;
A Pedant, Canting Preacher, and a Quack,
Are load enough to break one ass's back.
At last, grown wanton, he presumed to write,
Traduc'd two Kings, their kindness to requite;
One made the Doctor, and one dubb'd the Knight.'

See p. 596. n. 2.

}

}

THE FABLES.

651 in the defence of a bad cause, when I have so often drawn it for a good one. Yet it were not difficult to prove, that in many places he has perverted my meaning by his glosses; and interpreted my words into blasphemy and bawdry, of which they were not guilty. Besides that, he is too much given to horse-play in his raillery ; and comes to battle like a dictator from the plough, I will not say, “the zeal of God's house has eaten him up;" but I am sure it has devoured some part of his good manners and civility. It might also be doubted, whether it were altogether zcal, which prompted him to this rough manner of proceeding. Perhaps it became not one of his function to rake into the rubbish of ancient and modern plays : a divine might have employed his pains to better purpose, than in the nastiness of Plautus and Aristophanes, whose examples, as they excuse not me, so it might be possibly supposed, that he read them not without some pleasure. They who have written Commentaries on those poets, or on Horace, Juvenal, and Martial, have explained some vices, which, without their interpretation, had been unknown to modern times. Neither has he judged impartially betwixt the former age and us. There is more bawdry in one play of Fletcher's, called THE CUSTOM OF THE COUNTRY, than in all ours together. Yet this has been often acted on the stage in my remembrance. Are the times so much more reformed now, than they were five and twenty years ago? If they are, I congratulate the

amendment of our morals. But I am not to prejudice the cause of my fellow-poets, though I abandon my own defence : they have some of them answered for themselves ;' and neither they nor I can think Mr. Collier so formidable an enemy that we should shun him. He has lost ground at the latter end of the day, by pursuing his point too far, like the Prince of Condé, at the battle of Senef: from immoral plays to no plays, ab abusu ad usum, non valet consequentia. But being a party, I am not to erect myself into a judge. As for the rest of those who have written against me, they are such scoundrels, that they deserve not the least notice to be taken of them. Blackmore and Milbourne are only distinguished from the crowd, by being remembered to their infamy :

Demetri, teque, Tigelli,
Discipularum inter jubeo plorare cathedras.

है

3 Congreve, Vanbrugh, and Dennis.

4 The battle of Senef, in Flanders, in which the Prince of Condé was opposed to the Prince of Orange, was fought on the 11th of August, 1674. Condé, not content with having defeated the rear-guard of the enemy, in attempting to destroy the remainder of the Prince of Orange's army, who had left his flank exposed as he decamped, lost a great number of men. The contest was so bloody, that in a circumference of six miles, twentyseven thousand dead bodies were buried. Each of the Generals claimed the honour of the victory.

TO

« PrejšnjaNaprej »