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

The Dunciad

Book III

  • Argument
  • After the other persons are disposed in their proper places of rest, the Goddess transports the King to her Temple, and there lays him to slumber with his head on her lap; a position of marvellous virtue, which causes all the visions of wild enthusiasts, projectors, politicians, inamoratos, castle-builders, chymists, and poets. He is immediately carried on the wings of Fancy, and led by a mad poetical Sibyl, to the Elysian shade; where, on the banks of Lethe, the souls of the dull are dipped by Bavius, before their entrance into this world. There he is met by the ghost of Settle, and by him made acquainted with the wonders of the place, and with those which he himself is destined to perform. He takes him to a Mount of Vision, from whence he shows him the past triumphs of the Empire of Dulness; then, the present; and, lastly, the future: how small a part of the world was ever conquered by Science, how soon those conquests were stopped, and these very nations again reduced to her dominion. Then distinguishing the island of Great Britain, shows by what aids, by what persons, and by what degrees, it shall be brought to her empire. Some of the persons he causes to pass in review before his eyes, describing each by his proper figure, character, and qualifications. On a sudden the scene shifts, and a vast number of miracles and prodigies appear, utterly surprising and unknown to the King himself, till they are explained to be the wonders of his own reign now commencing. On this subject Settle breaks into a congratulation, yet not unmixed with concern, that his own times were but the types of these. He prophesies how first the nation shall be overrun with Farces, Operas, and Shows; how the throne of Dulness shall be advanced over the Theatres, and set up even at Court; then how her sons shall preside in the seats of Arts and Sciences; giving a glimpse, or Pisgah-sight, of the future fulness of her glory, the accomplishment whereof is the subject of the fourth and last book.

  • BUT in her temple’s last recess inclosed,

    On Dulness’ lap th’ anointed head reposed.

    Him close she curtains round with vapours blue,

    And soft besprinkles with Cimmerian dew:

    Then raptures high the seat of Sense o’erflow,

    Which only heads refin’d from Reason know.

    Hence from the straw where Bedlam’s prophet nods,

    He hears loud oracles, and talks with Gods;

    Hence the fool’s paradise, the statesman’s scheme,

    The air-built castle, and the golden dream,

    The maid’s romantic wish, the chymist’s flame,

    And poet’s vision of eternal Fame.

    And now, on Fancy’s easy wing convey’d,

    The king descending views th’ Elysian shade.

    A slipshod Sibyl led his steps along,

    In lofty madness meditating song;

    Her tresses staring from poetic dreams,

    And never wash’d but in Castalia’s streams.

    Taylor, their better Charon, lends an oar

    (Once swan of Thames, tho’ now he sings no more);

    Benlowes, propitious still to blockheads, bows;

    And Shadwell nods, the poppy on his brows.

    Here in a dusky vale, where Lethe rolls,

    Old Bavius sits to dip poetic souls,

    And blunt the sense, and fit it for a skull

    Of solid proof, impenetrably dull.

    Instant, when dipt, away they wing their flight,

    Where Browne and Mears unbar the gates of light,

    Demand new bodies, and in calf’s array

    Rush to the world, impatient for the day.

    Millions and millions on these banks he views,

    Thick as the stars of night or morning dews,

    As thick as bees o’er vernal blossoms fly,

    As thick as eggs at Ward in pillory.

    Wond’ring he gazed: when, lo! a Sage appears,

    By his broad shoulders known, and length of ears,

    Known by the band and suit which Settle wore

    (His only suit) for twice three years before:

    All as the vest, appear’d the wearer’s frame,

    Old in new state—another, yet the same.

    Bland and familiar, as in life, begun

    Thus the great father to the greater son:

    ‘Oh! born to see what none can see awake,

    Behold the wonders of th’ oblivious lake!

    Thou, yet unborn, hast touch’d this sacred shore;

    The hand of Bavius drench’d thee o’er and o’er.

    But blind to former as to future fate,

    What mortal knows his preëxistent state?

    Who knows how long thy transmigrating soul

    Might from Bœotian to Bœotian roll?

    How many Dutchmen she vouchsafed to thrid?

    How many stages thro’ old monks she rid?

    And all who since, in mild benighted days,

    Mix’d the Owl’s ivy with the Poet’s bays?

    As man’s mæanders to the vital spring

    Roll all their tides, then back their circles bring;

    Or whirligigs, twirl’d round by skilful swain,

    Suck the thread in, then yield it out again;

    All nonsense thus, of old or modern date,

    Shall in thee centre, from thee circulate.

    For this our Queen unfolds to vision true

    Thy mental eye, for thou hast much to view:

    Old scenes of glory, times long cast behind,

    Shall, first recall’d, rush forward to thy mind:

    Then stretch thy sight o’er all her rising reign,

    And let the past and future fire thy brain.

    ‘Ascend this hill, whose cloudy point commands

    Her boundless empire over seas and lands.

    See, round the poles where keener spangles shine,

    Where spices smoke beneath the burning Line

    (Earth’s wide extremes), her sable flag display’d,

    And all the nations cover’d in her shade!

    ‘Far eastward cast thine eye, from whence the sun

    And orient Science their bright course begun:

    One godlike monarch all that pride confounds,

    He whose long wall the wand’ring Tartar bounds:

    Heav’ns! what a pile! whole ages perish there,

    And one bright blaze turns learning into air.

    ‘Thence to the south extend thy gladden’d eyes;

    There rival flames with equal glory rise;

    From shelves to shelves see greedy Vulcan roll,

    And lick up all their physic of the soul.

    ‘How little, mark! that portion of the ball,

    Where, faint at best, the beams of Science fall:

    Soon as they dawn, from hyperborean skies

    Embodied dark, what clouds of Vandals rise!

    Lo! where Mæotis sleeps, and hardly flows

    The freezing Tanais thro’ a waste of snows,

    The North by myriads pours her mighty sons,

    Great nurse of Goths, of Alans, and of Huns!

    See Alaric’s stern port! the martial frame

    Of Genseric! and Attila’s dread name!

    See the bold Ostrogoths on Latium fall!

    See the fierce Visigoths on Spain and Gaul!

    See where the morning gilds the palmy shore

    (The soil that arts and infant letters bore),

    His conqu’ring tribes th’ Arabian prophet draws,

    And saving Ignorance enthrones by laws!

    See Christians, Jews, one heavy sabbath keep,

    And all the western world believe and sleep!

    ‘Lo! Rome herself, proud mistress now no more

    Of arts, but thund’ring against heathen lore;

    Her gray-hair’d synods damning books unread,

    And Bacon trembling for his brazen head.

    Padua, with sighs, beholds her Livy burn,

    And ev’n th’ Antipodes Virgilius mourn.

    See the Cirque falls, th’ unpillar’d Temple nods,

    Streets paved with Heroes, Tiber choked with Gods;

    Till Peter’s keys some christen’d Jove adorn,

    And Pan to Moses lends his Pagan horn.

    See graceless Venus to a virgin turn’d,

    Or Phidias broken, and Apelles burn’d!

    ‘Behold yon isle, by Palmers, Pilgrims trod,

    Men bearded, bald, cowl’d, uncowl’d, shod, unshod,

    Peel’d, patch’d, and piebald, linsey-woolsey brothers,

    Grave Mummers! sleeveless some and shirtless others.

    That once was Britain—Happy! had she seen

    No fiercer sons, had Easter never been.

    In peace, great Goddess, ever be ador’d;

    How keen the war, if Dulness draw the sword!

    Thus visit not thy own! on this bless’d age

    O spread thy influence, but restrain thy rage.

    ‘And see, my son! the hour is on its way

    That lifts our Goddess to imperial sway;

    This fav’rite isle, long sever’d from her reign,

    Dove-like, she gathers to her wings again.

    Now look thro’ Fate! behold the scene she draws!

    What aids, what armies, to assert her cause!

    See all her progeny, illustrious sight!

    Behold, and count them, as they rise to light.

    As Berecynthia, while her offspring vie

    In homage to the mother of the sky,

    Surveys around her, in the bless’d abode,

    A hundred sons, and every son a God,

    Not with less glory mighty Dulness crown’d,

    Shall take thro’ Grub-street her triumphant round,

    And her Parnassus glancing o’er at once,

    Behold a hundred sons, and each a Dunce.

    ‘Mark first that youth who takes the foremost place,

    And thrusts his person full into your face.

    With all thy father’s virtues bless’d, be born!

    And a new Cibber shall the stage adorn.

    ‘A second see, by meeker manners known,

    And modest as the maid that sips alone;

    From the strong fate of drams if thou get free,

    Another Durfey, Ward! shall sing in thee.

    Thee shall each alehouse, thee each gill-house mourn,

    And answering ginshops sourer sighs return.

    ‘Jacob, the scourge of grammar, mark with awe;

    Nor less revere him, blunderbuss of law.

    Lo Popple’s brow, tremendous to the town,

    Horneck’s fierce eye, and Roome’s funereal frown.

    Lo sneering Goode, half malice and half whim,

    A fiend in glee, ridiculously grim.

    Each cygnet sweet, of Bath and Tunbridge race,

    Whose tuneful whistling makes the waters pass:

    Each songster, riddler, ev’ry nameless name,

    All crowd, who foremost shall be damn’d to Fame.

    Some strain in rhyme: the Muses, on their racks,

    Scream like the winding of ten thousand jacks:

    Some free from rhyme or reason, rule or check,

    Break Priscian’s head, and Pegasus’s neck;

    Down, down they larum, with impetuous whirl,

    The Pindars and the Miltons of a Curll.

    ‘Silence, ye wolves! while Ralph to Cynthia howls,

    And makes night hideous—Answer him, ye owls!

    ‘Sense, speech, and measure, living tongues and dead,

    Let all give way—and Morris may be read.

    Flow, Welsted, flow! like thine inspirer, beer,

    Tho’ stale, not ripe, tho’ thin, yet never clear;

    So sweetly mawkish, and so smoothly dull;

    Heady, not strong; o’erflowing, tho’ not full.

    Ah, Dennis! Gildon, ah! what ill-starr’d rage

    Divides a friendship long confirm’d by age?

    Blockheads with reason wicked wits abhor,

    But fool with fool is barb’rous civil war.

    Embrace, embrace, my sons! be foes no more!

    Nor glad vile poets with true critics’ gore.

    ‘Behold yon pair, in strict embraces join’d;

    How like in manners, and how like in mind!

    Equal in wit, and equally polite

    Shall this a Pasquin, that a Grumbler write;

    Like are their merits, like rewards they share,

    That shines a Consul, this Commissioner.’

    ‘But who is he, in closet close y-pent,

    Of sober face, with learned dust besprent?

    Right well mine eyes arede the myster wight,

    On parchment scraps y-fed and Wormius hight.

    To future ages may thy dulness last,

    As thou preserv’st the dulness of the past!

    ‘There, dim in clouds, the poring scholiasts mark,

    Wits, who, like owls, see only in the dark,

    A lumberhouse of books in ev’ry head,

    For ever reading, never to be read!

    ‘But, where each science lifts its modern type,

    Hist’ry her pot, Divinity her pipe,

    While proud Philosophy repines to show,

    Dishonest sight! his breeches rent below,

    Imbrown’d with native bronze, lo! Henley stands,

    Tuning his voice, and balancing his hands.

    How fluent nonsense trickles from his tongue!

    How sweet the periods, neither said nor sung!

    Still break the benches, Henley! with thy strain,

    While Sherlock, Hare, and Gibson preach in vain.

    O great restorer of the good old stage,

    Preacher at once, and Zany of thy age!

    O worthy thou of Egypt’s wise abodes,

    A decent priest where monkeys were the gods!

    But fate with butchers placed thy priestly stall,

    Meek modern faith to murder, hack, and maul;

    And bade thee live, to crown Britannia’s praise,

    In Toland’s, Tindal’s, and in Woolston’s days.

    ‘Yet, oh, my sons! a father’s words attend

    (So may the Fates preserve the ears you lend):

    ’T is yours a Bacon or a Locke to blame,

    A Newton’s genius, or a Milton’s flame:

    But, oh! with One, immortal One, dispense,

    The source of Newton’s light, of Bacon’s sense.

    Content, each emanation of his fires

    That beams on earth, each virtue he inspires,

    Each art he prompts, each charm he can create,

    Whate’er he gives, are giv’n for you to hate.

    Persist, by all divine in man unawed,

    But learn, ye Dunces! not to scorn your God.’

    Thus he, for then a ray of Reason stole

    Half thro’ the solid darkness of his soul;

    But soon the cloud return’d—and thus the sire:

    ‘See now what Dulness and her sons admire!

    See what the charms that smite the simple heart,

    Not touch’d by Nature, and not reach’d by art.’

    His never-blushing head he turn’d aside

    (Not half so pleas’d when Goodman prophesied),

    And look’d, and saw a sable sorcerer rise,

    Swift to whose hand a winged volume flies:

    All sudden, Gorgons hiss, and Dragons glare,

    And ten-horn’d Fiends and Giants rush to war;

    Hell rises, Heav’n descends, and dance on earth;

    Gods, imps, and monsters, music, rage, and mirth,

    A fire, a jig, a battle, and a ball,

    Till one wide conflagration swallows all.

    Thence a new world, to Nature’s laws unknown,

    Breaks out refulgent, with a Heav’n its own:

    Another Cynthia her new journey runs,

    And other planets circle other suns.

    The forests dance, the rivers upward rise,

    Whales sport in woods, and dolphins in the skies:

    And last, to give the whole creation grace,

    Lo! one vast egg produces human race.

    Joy fills his soul, joy innocent of thought:

    ‘What Power (he cries), what Power these wonders wrought?’

    ‘Son, what thou seek’st is in thee! look and find

    Each monster meets his likeness in thy mind.

    Yet would’st thou more? in yonder cloud behold,

    Whose sarsenet skirts are edged with flamy gold,

    A matchless youth! his nod these worlds controls,

    Wings the red lightning, and the thunder rolls.

    Angel of Dulness, sent to scatter round

    Her magic charms o’er all unclassic ground,

    Yon stars, yon suns, he rears at pleasure higher,

    Illumes their light, and sets their flames on fire.

    Immortal Rich! how calm he sits at ease,

    Midst snows of paper, and fierce hail of pease!

    And proud his mistress’ orders to perform,

    Rides in the whirlwind, and directs the storm.

    ‘But lo! to dark encounter in mid air

    New wizards rise; I see my Cibber there!

    Booth in his cloudy tabernacle shrined;

    On grinning dragons thou shalt mount the wind.

    Dire is the conflict, dismal is the din,

    Here shouts all Drury, there all Lincoln’s-inn;

    Contending theatres our empire raise,

    Alike their labours, and alike their praise.

    ‘And are these wonders, Son, to thee unknown?

    Unknown to thee! these wonders are thy own.

    These Fate reserv’d to grace thy reign divine,

    Foreseen by me, but ah! withheld from mine.

    In Lud’s old walls tho’ long I ruled renown’d,

    Far as loud Bow’s stupendous bells resound;

    Tho’ my own aldermen conferr’d the bays,

    To me committing their eternal praise,

    Their full-fed heroes, their pacific mayors,

    Their annual trophies, and their monthly wars;

    Tho’ long my party built on me their hopes,

    For writing pamphlets, and for roasting Popes;

    Yet lo! in me what authors have to brag on!

    Reduced at last to hiss in my own dragon.

    Avert it, Heav’n! that thou, my Cibber, e’er

    Shouldst wag a serpent-tail in Smithfield fair!

    Like the vile straw that ’s blown about the streets,

    The needy poet sticks to all he meets,

    Coach’d, carted, trod upon, now loose, now fast,

    And carried off in some dog’s tail at last.

    Happier thy fortunes! like a rolling stone,

    Thy giddy dulness still shall lumber on;

    Safe in its heaviness, shall never stray,

    But lick up every blockhead in the way.

    Thee shall the patriot, thee the courtier taste,

    And ev’ry year be duller than the last;

    Till raised from booths, to theatre, to Court,

    Her seat imperial Dulness shall transport.

    Already Opera prepares the way,

    The sure forerunner of her gentle sway:

    Let her thy heart (next Drabs and Dice) engage,

    The third mad passion of thy doting age.

    Teach thou the warbling Polypheme to roar,

    And scream thyself as none e’er scream’d before!

    To aid our cause, if Heav’n thou canst not bend,

    Hell thou shalt move; for Faustus is our friend:

    Pluto with Cato thou for this shalt join,

    And link the Mourning Bride to Proserpine,

    Grub-street! thy fall should men and Gods conspire,

    Thy stage shall stand, insure it but from fire.

    Another Æschylus appears! prepare

    For new abortions, all ye pregnant fair!

    In flames like Semele’s, be brought to bed,

    While opening Hell spouts wildfire at your head.

    ‘Now, Bavius, take the poppy from thy brow,

    And place it here! here, all ye heroes, bow!

    This, this is he foretold by ancient rhymes,

    Th’ Augustus born to bring Saturnian times.

    Signs foll’wing signs lead on the mighty year!

    See the dull stars roll round and reappear!

    See, see, our own true Phœbus wears the bays!

    Our Midas sits Lord Chancellor of plays!

    On poets’ tombs see Benson’s titles writ!

    Lo! Ambrose Philips is preferr’d for wit!

    See under Ripley rise a new Whitehall,

    While Jones’ and Boyle’s united labours fall;

    While Wren with sorrow to the grave descends,

    Gay dies unpension’d with a hundred friends,

    Hibernian politics, O Swift! thy fate,

    And Pope’s, ten years to comment and translate!

    ‘Proceed, great days! till learning fly the shore,

    Till birch shall blush with noble blood no more;

    Till Thames see Eton’s sons for ever play,

    Till Westminster’s whole year be holiday;

    Till Isis’ elders reel, their pupils’ sport,

    And Alma Mater lie dissolv’d in port!’

    ‘Enough! enough!’ the raptured monarch cries,

    And thro’ the iv’ry gate the vision flies.