Alexander Pope (1688–1744). Complete Poetical Works. 1903.

The Dunciad

Book II

  • Argument
  • The King being proclaimed, the solemnity is graced with public games and sports of various kinds; not instituted by the Hero, as by Æneas in Virgil, but for greater honour by the Goddess in person (in like manner as the games Pythia, Isthmia, &c. were anciently said to be ordained by the Gods, and as Thetis herself appearing, according to Homer, Odyssey xxiv. proposed the prizes in honour of her son Achilles). Hither flock the Poets and Critics, attended, as is but just, with their Patrons and Booksellers. The Goddess is first pleased, for her disport, to propose games to the Booksellers, and setteth up the phantom of a Poet, which they contend to overtake. The Races described, with their divers accidents. Next, the game for a Poetess. Then follow the exercises for the Poets, of tickling, vociferating, diving; the first holds forth the arts and practices of Dedicators, the second of Disputants and fustian Poets, the third of profound, dark, and dirty Party-writers. Lastly, for the Critics the Goddess proposes (with great propriety) an exercise, not of their parts, but their patience, in hearing the works of two voluminous authors, the one in verse and the other in prose, deliberately read, without sleeping; the various effects of which, with the several degrees and manners of their operation, are here set forth, till the whole number, not of Critics only, but of spectators, actors, and all present, fall fast asleep; which naturally and necessarily ends the games.

  • HIGH on a gorgeous seat, that far outshone

    Henley’s gilt tub or Fleckno’s Irish throne,

    Or that whereon her Curlls the public pours,

    All bounteous, fragrant grains and golden showers,

    Great Cibber sate; the proud Parnassian sneer,

    The conscious simper, and the jealous leer,

    Mix on his look: all eyes direct their rays

    On him, and crowds turn coxcombs as they gaze.

    His peers shine round him with reflected grace,

    New-edge their dulness, and new-bronze their face.

    So from the sun’s broad beam, in shallow urns,

    Heav’n’s twinkling sparks draw light, and point their horns.

    Not with more glee, by hands pontific crown’d,

    With scarlet hats wide-waving circled round,

    Rome, in her capitol saw Querno sit,

    Throned on sev’n hills, the Antichrist of wit.

    And now the Queen, to glad her sons, proclaims

    By herald hawkers, high heroic games.

    They summon all her race: an endless band

    Pours forth, and leaves unpeopled half the land;

    A motley mixture! in long wigs, in bags,

    In silks, in crapes, in Garters, and in Rags,

    From drawing rooms, from colleges, from garrets,

    On horse, on foot, in hacks, and gilded chariots;

    All who true Dunces in her cause appear’d,

    And all who knew those Dunces to reward.

    Amid that area wide they took their stand,

    Where the tall Maypole once o’erlook’d the Strand,

    But now (so ANNE and Piety ordain)

    A Church collects the saints of Drury-lane.

    With Authors, Stationers obey’d the call

    (The field of glory is a field for all);

    Glory and gain th’ industrious tribe provoke,

    And gentle Dulness ever loves a joke.

    A poet’s form she placed before their eyes,

    And bade the nimblest racer seize the prize;

    No meagre, Muse-rid Mope, adust and thin,

    In a dun nightgown of his own loose skin,

    But such a bulk as no twelve bards could raise,

    Twelve starveling bards of these degen’rate days.

    All as a partridge plump, full fed and fair,

    She form’d this image of well-bodied air;

    With pert flat eyes she window’d well its head,

    A brain of Feathers, and a heart of Lead;

    And empty words she gave, and sounding strain,

    But senseless, lifeless! idol void and vain!

    Never was dash’d out, at one lucky hit,

    A Fool so just a copy of a Wit;

    So like, that Critics said, and Courtiers swore,

    A Wit it was, and call’d the phantom Moore.

    All gaze with ardour: some a poet’s name,

    Others a swordknot and laced suit inflame.

    But lofty Lintot in the circle rose:

    ‘This prize is mine, who tempt it are my foes;

    With me began this genius, and shall end.’

    He spoke; and who with Lintot shall contend?

    Fear held them mute. Alone untaught to fear,

    Stood dauntless Curll: ‘Behold that rival here!

    The race by vigour, not by vaunts, is won;

    So take the hindmost, Hell,’ he said, and run.

    Swift as a bard the bailiff leaves behind,

    He left huge Lintot, and outstript the wind.

    As when a dabchick waddles thro’ the copse

    On feet and wings, and flies, and wades, and hops;

    So lab’ring on, with shoulders, hands, and head,

    Wide as a windmill all his figure spread,

    With arms expanded Bernard rows his state,

    And left-legg’d Jacob seems to emulate.

    Full in the middle way there stood a lake,

    Which Curll’s Corinna chanced that morn to make

    (Such was her wont, at early dawn to drop

    Her ev’ning cates before his neighbour’s shop):

    Here fortuned Curll to slide; loud shout the band,

    And ‘Bernard! Bernard!’ rings thro’ all the Strand.

    Obscene with filth the miscreant lies bewray’d,

    Fall’n in the plash his wickedness had laid:

    Then first (if Poets aught of truth declare)

    The caitiff Vaticide conceiv’d a prayer.

    ‘Hear, Jove! whose name my bards and I adore,

    As much at least as any God’s, or more;

    And him and his, if more devotion warms,

    Down with the Bible, up with the Pope’s Arms.’

    A place there is betwixt earth, air, and seas,

    Where, from ambrosia, Jove retires for ease.

    There in his seat two spacious vents appear,

    On this he sits, to that he leans his ear,

    And hears the various vows of fond Mankind;

    Some beg an eastern, some a western wind:

    All vain petitions, mounting to the sky,

    With reams abundant this abode supply:

    Amused he reads, and then returns the bills,

    Sign’d with that ichor which from Gods distils.

    In office here fair Cloacina stands,

    And ministers to Jove with purest hands.

    Forth from the heap she pick’d her vot’ry’s prayer,

    And placed it next him, a distinction rare!

    Oft had the Goddess heard her servant’s call,

    From her black grottos near the temple wall,

    List’ning delighted to the jest unclean

    Of linkboys vile, and watermen obscene;

    Where as he fish’d her nether realms for wit,

    She oft had favour’d him, and favours yet.

    Renew’d by ordure’s sympathetic force,

    As oil’d with magic juices for the course,

    Vig’rous he rises; from th’ effluvia strong;

    Imbibes new life, and scours and stinks along;

    Repasses Lintot, vindicates the race,

    Nor heeds the brown dishonours of his face.

    And now the victor stretch’d his eager hand

    Where the tall Nothing stood, or seem’d to stand;

    A shapeless shade, it melted from his sight,

    Like forms in clouds, or visions of the night.

    To seize his papers, Curll, was next thy care;

    His papers light, fly diverse, toss’d in air;

    Songs, Sonnets, Epigrams, the winds uplift,

    And whisk ’em back to Evans, Young, and Swift.

    Th’ embroider’d suit at least he deem’d his prey;

    That suit an unpaid tailor snatch’d away.

    No rag, no scrap, of all the Beau or Wit,

    That once so flutter’d and that once so writ.

    Heav’n rings with laughter: of the laughter vain,

    Dulness, good Queen, repeats the jest again.

    Three wicked imps of her own Grub-street choir,

    She deck’d like Congreve, Addison, and Prior;

    Mears, Warner, Wilkins, run; delusive thought!

    Breval, Bond, Bezaleel, the varlets caught.

    Curll stretches after Gay, but Gay is gone,

    He grasps an empty Joseph for a John:

    So Proteus, hunted in a nobler shape,

    Became, when seized, a puppy or an ape.

    To him the Goddess: ‘Son! thy grief lay down,

    And turn this whole illusion on the town.

    As the sage dame, experienced in her trade,

    By names of toasts retails each batter’d jade

    (Whence hapless Monsieur much complains at Paris

    Of wrongs from Duchesses and Lady Maries);

    Be thine, my stationer! this magic gift;

    Cook shall be Prior; and Concanen Swift;

    So shall each hostile name become our own,

    And we, too, boast our Garth and Addison.’

    With that she gave him (piteous of his case,

    Yet smiling at his rueful length of face)

    A shaggy tap’stry, worthy to be spread

    On Codrus’ old, or Dunton’s modern bed;

    Instructive work! whose wry-mouth’d portraiture

    Display’d the fates her confessors endure.

    Earless on high stood unabash’d De Foe,

    And Tutchin flagrant from the scourge below:

    There Ridpath, Roper, cudgell’d might ye view,

    The very worsted still look’d black and blue:

    Himself among the storied chiefs he spies,

    As, from the blanket, high in air he flies,

    And, ‘Oh! (he cried) what street, what lane but knows

    Our purgings, pumpings, blanketings and blows?

    In every loom our labours shall be seen,

    And the fresh vomit run for ever green!’

    See in the circle next Eliza placed,

    Two babes of love close clinging to her waist;

    Fair as before her works she stands confess’d,

    In flowers and pearls by bounteous Kirkall dress’d.

    The Goddess then: ‘Who best can send on high

    The salient spout, far-streaming to the sky,

    His be yon Juno of majestic size,

    With cow-like udders, and with ox-like eyes.

    This China Jordan let the chief o’ercome

    Replenish, not ingloriously, at home.’

    Osborne and Curll accept the glorious strife

    (Tho’ this his son dissuades, and that his wife);

    One on his manly confidence relies,

    One on his vigour and superior size.

    First Osborne lean’d against his letter’d post;

    It rose, and labour’d to a curve at most:

    So Jove’s bright bow displays its wat’ry round

    (Sure sign that no spectator shall be drown’d).

    A second effort brought but new disgrace,

    The wild mæander wash’d the Artist’s face:

    Thus the small jet, which hasty hands unlock,

    Spirts in the gard’ner’s eyes who turns the cock.

    Not so from shameless Curll; impetuous spread

    The stream, and smoking flourish’d o’er his head:

    So (famed like thee for turbulence and horns)

    Eridanus his humble fountain scorns;

    Thro’ half the heav’ns he pours th’ exalted urn;

    His rapid waters in their passage burn.

    Swift as it mounts, all follow with their eyes;

    Still happy Impudence obtains the prize.

    Thou triumph’st, victor of the high-wrought day,

    And the pleas’d dame, soft smiling, lead’st away.

    Osborne, thro’ perfect modesty o’ercome,

    Crown’d with the Jordan, walks contented home.

    But now for Authors nobler palms remain;

    Room for my Lord! three jockeys in his train;

    Six huntsmen with a shout precede his chair:

    He grins, and looks broad nonsense with a stare.

    His honour’s meaning Dulness thus exprest,

    ‘He wins this patron who can tickle best.’

    He chinks his purse, and takes his seat of state;

    With ready quills the dedicators wait;

    Now at his head the dext’rous task commence,

    And, instant, fancy feels th’ imputed sense;

    Now gentle touches wanton o’er his face,

    He struts Adonis, and affects grimace;

    Rolli the feather to his ear conveys,

    Then his nice taste directs our operas;

    Bentley his mouth with classic flatt’ry opes,

    And the puff’d orator bursts out in tropes.

    But Welsted most the poet’s healing balm

    Strives to extract from his soft, giving palm.

    Unlucky Welsted! thy unfeeling master,

    The more thou ticklest, gripes his fist the faster.

    While thus each hand promotes the pleasing pain,

    And quick sensations skip from vein to vein,

    A youth unknown to Phœbus, in despair,

    Puts his last refuge all in Heav’n and prayer.

    What force have pious vows! The Queen of Love

    Her sister sends, her vot’ress from above.

    As taught by Venus, Paris learn’d the art

    To touch Achilles’ only tender part;

    Secure, thro’ her, the noble prize to carry,

    He marches off, his Grace’s Secretary.

    ‘Now turn to diff’rent sports (the Goddess cries),

    And learn, my sons, the wondrous power of Noise.

    To move, to raise, to ravish ev’ry heart,

    With Shakespeare’s nature, or with Jonson’s art,

    Let others aim; ’t is yours to shake the soul

    With thunder rumbling from the mustard bowl;

    With horns and trumpets now to madness swell,

    Now sink in sorrow with a tolling bell!

    Such happy arts attention can command

    When Fancy flags, and Sense is at a stand.

    Improve we these. Three Cat-calls be the bribe

    Of him whose chatt’ring shames the monkey tribe;

    And his this drum, whose hoarse heroic bass

    Drowns the loud clarion of the braying ass.’

    Now thousand tongues are heard in one loud din:

    The monkey mimics rush discordant in;

    ’T was chatt’ring, grinning, mouthing, jabb’ring all,

    And noise and Norton, brangling and Breval,

    Dennis and dissonance, and captious art,

    And snipsnap short, and interruption smart,

    And demonstration thin, and theses thick,

    And Major, Minor, and Conclusion quick.

    ‘Hold (cried the Queen), a Cat-call each shall win;

    Equal your merits! equal is your din!

    But that this well-disputed game may end,

    Sound forth, my Brayers, and the welkin rend.’

    As when the long-ear’d milky mothers wait

    At some sick miser’s triple-bolted gate,

    For their defrauded absent foals they make

    A moan so loud, that all the guild awake;

    Sore sighs Sir Gilbert, starting at the bray,

    From dreams of millions, and three groats to pay,

    So swells each windpipe; ass intones to ass,

    Harmonic twang! of leather, horn, and brass;

    Such as from lab’ring lungs th’ Enthusiast blows,

    High sound, attemper’d to the vocal nose;

    Or such as bellow from the deep divine;

    There Webster! peal’d thy voice, and, Whitefield! thine.

    But far o’er all, sonorous Blackmore’s strain;

    Walls, steeples, skies, bray back to him again;

    In Tot’nam Fields the brethren, with amaze,

    Prick all their ears up, and forget to graze!

    Long Chancery Lane retentive rolls the sound,

    And courts to courts return it round and round;

    Thames wafts it thence to Rufus’ roaring hall,

    And Hungerford reëchoes bawl for bawl.

    All hail him victor in both gifts of song,

    Who sings so loudly, and who sings so long.

    This labour past, by Bridewell all descend

    (As morning prayer and flagellation end)

    To where Fleet Ditch, with disemboguing streams,

    Rolls the large tribute of dead dogs to Thames;

    The king of dykes! than whom no sluice of mud

    With deeper sable blots the silver flood.

    ‘Here strip, my children! here at once leap in;

    Here prove who best can dash thro’ thick and thin,

    And who the most in love of dirt excel,

    Or dark dexterity of groping well:

    Who flings most filth, and wide pollutes around

    The stream, be his the Weekly Journals bound;

    A Pig of Lead to him who dives the best;

    A Peck of Coals apiece shall glad the rest.’

    In naked majesty Oldmixon stands,

    And, Milo-like, surveys his arms and hands;

    Then sighing, thus, ‘And am I now threescore?

    Ah, why, ye Gods! should two and two make four?’

    He said, and climb’d a stranded lighter’s height,

    Shot to the black abyss, and plunged downright.

    The senior’s judgment all the crowd admire,

    Who but to sink the deeper rose the higher.

    Next Smedley dived; slow circles dimpled o’er

    The quaking mud, that closed and oped no more.

    All look, all sigh, and call on Smedley lost;

    ‘Smedley!’ in vain resounds thro’ all the coast.

    Then [Hill] essay’d; scarce vanish’d out of sight,

    He buoys up instant, and returns to light;

    He bears no tokens of the sabler streams,

    And mounts far off among the swans of Thames.

    True to the bottom, see Concanen creep,

    A cold, long-winded native of the deep;

    If perseverance gain the diver’s prize,

    Not everlasting Blackmore this denies:

    No noise, no stir, no motion canst thou make;

    Th’ unconscious stream sleeps o’er thee like a lake.

    Next plunged a feeble, but a desp’rate pack,

    With each a sickly brother at his back:

    Sons of a Day! just buoyant on the flood,

    Then number’d with the puppies in the mud.

    Ask ye their names? I could as soon disclose

    The names of these blind puppies as of those.

    Fast by, like Niobe (her children gone),

    Sits mother Osborne, stupefied to stone!

    And monumental brass this record bears,

    ‘These are, ah no! these were the Gazetteers!’

    Not so bold Arnall; with a weight of skull

    Furious he dives, precipitately dull.

    Whirlpools and storms his circling arms invest,

    With all the might of gravitation blest.

    No crab more active in the dirty dance,

    Downward to climb, and backward to advance,

    He brings up half the bottom on his head,

    And loudly claims the Journals and the Lead.

    The plunging Prelate, and his pond’rous Grace,

    With holy envy gave one layman place.

    When lo! a burst of thunder shook the flood,

    Slow rose a form in majesty of mud;

    Shaking the horrors of his sable brows,

    And each ferocious feature grim with ooze.

    Greater he looks, and more than mortal stares;

    Then thus the wonders of the deep declares.

    First he relates how, sinking to the chin,

    Smit with his mien, the mud-nymphs suck’d him in;

    How young Lutetia, softer than the down,

    Nigrina black, and Merdamante brown,

    Vied for his love in jetty bowers below,

    As Hylas fair was ravish’d long ago.

    Then sung, how shown him by the nut-brown maids

    A branch of Styx here rises from the shades,

    That tinctured as it runs with Lethe’s streams,

    And wafting vapours from the land of dreams

    (As under seas Alpheus’ secret sluice

    Bears Pisa’s offering to his Arethuse),

    Pours into Thames; and hence the mingled wave

    Intoxicates the pert, and lulls the grave:

    Here, brisker vapours o’er the Temple creep;

    There, all from Paul’s to Algate drink and sleep.

    Thence to the banks where rev’rend bards repose

    They led him soft; each rev’rend bard arose;

    And Milbourn chief, deputed by the rest,

    Gave him the cassock, surcingle, and vest.

    ‘Receive (he said) these robes which once were mine;

    Dulness is sacred in a sound divine.’

    He ceas’d, and spread the robe; the crowd confess

    The rev’rend flamen in his lengthen’d dress.

    Around him wide a sable army stand,

    A low-born, cell-bred, selfish, servile band,

    Prompt or to guard or stab, or saint or damn,

    Heav’n’s Swiss, who fight for any God or Man.

    Thro’ Lud’s famed gates, along the well-known Fleet,

    Rolls the black troop, and overshades the street,

    Till showers of Sermons, Characters, Essays,

    In circling fleeces whiten all the ways.

    So clouds replenish’d from some bog below,

    Mount in dark volumes, and descend in snow.

    Here stopt the Goddess; and in pomp proclaims

    A gentler exercise to close the games.

    ‘Ye Critics! in whose heads, as equal scales,

    I weigh what author’s heaviness prevails;

    Which most conduce to soothe the soul in slumbers,

    My Henley’s periods, or my Blackmore’s numbers;

    Attend the trial we propose to make:

    If there be man who o’er such works can wake,

    Sleep’s all subduing charms who dares defy,

    And boasts Ulysses’ ear with Argus’ eye;

    To him we grant our amplest powers to sit

    Judge of all present, past, and future wit;

    To cavil, censure, dictate, right or wrong,

    Full and eternal privilege of tongue.’

    Three college Sophs, and three pert Templars came,

    The same their talents, and their tastes the same!

    Each prompt to query, answer, and debate,

    And smit with love of Poesy and Prate.

    The pond’rous books two gentle readers bring;

    The heroes sit, the vulgar form a ring;

    The clam’rous crowd is hush’d with mugs of mum,

    Till all tuned equal send a gen’ral hum.

    Then mount the clerks, and in one lazy tone

    Thro’ the long, heavy, painful page drawl on;

    Soft creeping words on words the sense compose,

    At ev’ry line they stretch, they yawn, they doze.

    As to soft gales top-heavy pines bow low

    Their heads, and lift them as they cease to blow,

    Thus oft they rear, and oft the head decline,

    As breathe, or pause, by fits, the airs divine;

    And now to this side, now to that they nod,

    As verse, or prose, infuse the drowsy God.

    Thrice Budgell aim’d to speak, but thrice supprest

    By potent Arthur, knock’d his chin and breast.

    Toland and Tindal, prompt at priests to jeer,

    Yet silent bow’d to ‘Christ’s no kingdom here.’

    Who sat the nearest, by the words o’ercome,

    Slept first; the distant nodded to the hum,

    Then down are roll’d the books; stretch’d o’er ’em lies

    Each gentle clerk, and mutt’ring seals his eyes.

    As what a Dutchman plumps into the lakes,

    One circle first and then a second makes,

    What Dulness dropt among her sons imprest

    Like motion from one circle to the rest:

    So from the midmost the nutation spreads,

    Round and more round, o’er all the sea of heads.

    At last Centlivre felt her voice to fail;

    Motteux himself unfinish’d left his tale;

    Boyer the state, and Law the stage gave o’er;

    Morgan and Mandeville could prate no more;

    Norton, from Daniel and Ostrœa sprung,

    Bless’d with his father’s front and mother’s tongue,

    Hung silent down his never-blushing head,

    And all was hush’d, as Folly’s self lay dead.

    Thus the soft gifts of sleep conclude the day,

    And stretch’d on bulks, as usual Poets lay.

    Why should I sing what bards the nightly Muse

    Did slumb’ring visit, and convey to stews?

    Who prouder march’d, with magistrates in state,

    To some famed roundhouse, ever-open gate?

    How Henley lay inspired beside a sink,

    And to mere mortals seem’d a priest in drink,

    While others, timely, to the neighb’ring Fleet

    (Haunt of the Muses) made their safe retreat?