Such is the force of Wit! but not belong
To me the arrows of satiric song;
The royal vices of our age demand
A keener weapon, and a mightier hand. 40
Still there are follies, e’en for me to chase,
And yield at least amusement in the race:
Laugh when I laugh, I seek no other fame,
The cry is up, and scribblers are my game:
Speed, Pegasus! ––ye strains of great and small,
Ode! Epic! Elegy! ––have at you all!
I, too, can scrawl, and once upon a time
I poured along the town a flood of rhyme,
A schoolboy freak, unworthy praise or blame;
I printed ––older children do the same. 50
‘Tis pleasant, sure, to see one’s name in print;
A Book’s a Book, altho’ there’s nothing in’t.
Not that a Title’s sounding charm can save
Or scrawl or scribbler from an equal grave:
This Lamb must own, since his Patrician name
Failed to preserve the spurious Farce from shame.
No matter, George continues still to write,
Tho’ now the name is veiled from public sight.
Moved by the great example I pursue
The self-same road, but make my own review: 60
Not seek great ’s, yet like him will be
Self-constituted Judge of Poesy.
A man must serve his time to ev’ry trade
Save Censure, Critics all are ready-made.
Take hackneyed jokes from Miller, got by rote,
With just enough of learning to misquote;
A mind well skilled to find, or forge a fault;
A turn for punning ––call it Attic salt;
To go, be silent and discreet,
His pay is just ten sterling pounds per sheet: 70
Fear not to lie, ’twill seem a ‘sharper’ hit;
Shrink not from blasphemy, ’twill pass for wit;
Care not for feeling ––pass your proper jest,
And stand a Critic, hated yet caressed.
And shall we own such judgment? no ––as soon
Seek roses in December ––ice in June;
Hope constancy in wind, or corn in chaff,
Believe a woman, or an epitaph,
Or any other thing that’s false, before
You trust in Critics who themselves are sore; 80
Or yield one single thought to be misled
By ’s heart, or Lamb’s Bœotian head.
To these young tyrants, by themselves misplaced
Combined usurpers on the Throne of Taste;
To these when Authors bend in humble awe
And hail their voice as Truth, their word as Law;
While these are Censors, ‘twould be sin to spare;
While such are Critics, why should I forbear?
But yet so near all modern worthies run,
‘Tis doubtful whom to seek, or whom to shun; 90
Nor know we when to spare, or where to strike,
Our Bards and Censors are so much alike.
Health to immortal Jeffrey! once, in name,
England could boast a judge almost the same;
In soul so like, so merciful, yet just,
Some think that Satan has resigned his trust,
And given the Spirit to the world again,
To sentence Letters, as he sentenced men.
With hand less mighty, but with heart as black,
With voice as willing to decree the rack;
Bred in the Courts betimes, though all that law
As yet hath taught him is to find a flaw,
Since well instructed in the patriot school
To rail at party, though a party tool,
Who knows? if chance his patrons should restore
Back to the sway they forfeited before,
His scribbling toils some recompense may meet,
And raise this Daniel to the Judgment-Seat.
Let Jeffrey’s shade indulge the pious hope,
And greeting thus, present him with a rope:
“Heir to my virtues! man of equal mind! 450
Skilled to condemn as to traduce mankind,
This cord receive! for thee reserved with care,
To wield in judgment, and at length to wear.”
Health to great Jeffrey! Heaven preserve his life,
To flourish on the fertile shores of Fife,
And guard it sacred in its future wars,
Since authors sometimes seek the field of Mars!
Can none remember that eventful day,
That ever-glorious, almost fatal fray,
When Little’s leadless pistol met his eye, 460
And Bow-street Myrmidons stood laughing by?
Oh, day disastrous! on her firm-set rock,
Dunedin’s castle felt a secret shock;
Dark rolled the sympathetic waves of Forth,
Low groaned the startled whirlwinds of the north;
Tweed ruffled half his waves to form a tear,
The other half pursued his calm career;
Arthur’s steep summit nodded to its base,
The surly Tolbooth scarcely kept her place.
The Tolbooth felt ––for marble sometimes can, 470
On such occasions, feel as much as man––
The Tolbooth felt defrauded of his charms,
If Jeffrey died, except within her arms:
Nay last, not least, on that portentous morn,
The sixteenth story, where himself was born,
His patrimonial garret, fell to ground,
And pale Edina shuddered at the sound:
Strewed were the streets around with milk-white reams,
Flowed all the Canongate with inky streams;
This of his candour seemed the sable dew, 480
That of his valour showed the bloodless hue;
And all with justice deemed the two combined
The mingled emblems of his mighty mind.
But Caledonia’s goddess hovered o’er
The field, and saved him from the wrath of Moore;
From either pistol snatched the vengeful lead,
And straight restored it to her favourite’s head;
That head, with greater than magnetic power,
Caught it, as Danae caught the golden shower,
And, though the thickening dross will scarce refine, 490
Augments its ore, and is itself a mine.
“My son,” she cried, “ne’er thirst for gore again,
Resign the pistol and resume the pen;
O’er politics and poesy preside,
Boast of thy country, and Britannia’s guide!
For long as Albion’s heedless sons submit,
Or Scottish taste decides on English wit,
So long shall last thine unmolested reign,
Nor any dare to take thy name in vain.
Behold, a chosen band shall aid thy plan, 500
And own thee chieftain of the critic clan.
First in the oat-fed phalanx shall be seen
The travelled Thane, Athenian Aberdeen.
Herbert shall wield Thor’s hammer, and sometimes
In gratitude, thou’lt praise his rugged rhymes.
Smug Sydney too thy bitter page shall seek,
And classic Hallam, much renowned for Greek;
Scott may perchance his name and influence lend,
And paltry Pillans shall traduce his friend;
While gay Thalia’s luckless votary, Lamb 510
Damned like the Devil –– Devil-like will damn.
Known be thy name! unbounded be thy sway!
Thy Holland’s banquets shall each toil repay!
While grateful Britain yields the praise she owes
To Holland’s hirelings and to Learning’s foes.
Yet mark one caution ere thy next Review
Spread its light wings of Saffron and of Blue,
Beware lest blundering Brougham destroy the sale,
Turn Beef to Bannocks, Cauliflowers to Kail.”
Thus having said, the kilted Goddess kist 520
Her son, and vanished in a Scottish mist.
Illustrious Holland! hard would be his lot,
His hirelings mentioned, and himself forgot!
Holland, with Henry Petty at his back,
The whipper-in and huntsman of the pack.
Blest be the banquets spread at Holland House,
Where Scotchmen feed, and Critics may carouse!
Long, long beneath that hospitable roof
Shall Grub-street dine, while duns are kept aloof.
See honest Hallam lay aside his fork, 530
Resume his pen, review his Lordship’s work,
And, grateful for the dainties on his plate,
Declare his landlord can at least translate!
Dunedin! view thy children with delight,
They write for food––and feed because they write:
And lest, when heated with the unusual grape,
Some glowing thoughts should to the press escape,
And tinge with red the female reader’s cheek,
My lady skims the cream of each critique;
Breathes o’er the page her purity of soul, 540
Reforms each error, and refines the whole.