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And reason good; for many a year
Jove never intermeddled here:
Nor, though his priests be duly paid,
Did ever we desire his aid:
We now can better do without him,
Since Woolston gave us arms to rout him.
I have applied to many individuals for information respecting the personal history of this writer, but have not been able to obtain it, even from the quarters where it was most likely to be found. He was born, probably, about the year 1700, was of Christ Church, Oxford, where he took his degree of A. M.; and was finally vicar of Starting, in Sussex. Besides the Man of Taste, he wrote a political satire entitled the Art of Politics, and the Crooked Sixpence, in imitation of Philips's Splendid Shilling.
THE MAN OF TASTE. Whoe'er he be that to a taste aspires, Let him read this, and be what he desires, In men and manners vers'd, from life I write, Not what was once, but what is now polite. Those who of courtly France have made the tour Can scarce our English awkwardness endure.
But honest men who never were abroad,
Like England only, and its taste applaud.
Strife still subsists, which yields the better goût ;
Books or the world, the many or the few.
True taste to me is by this touchstone known,
That's always best that's nearest to my own.
To shew that my pretensions are not vain,
My father was a play'r in Drury-lane.
Pears and pistachio nuts my mother sold,
He a dramatic poet, she a scold.
His tragic Muse could countesses affright,
His wit in boxes was my lord's delight.
No mercenary priest e'er join'd their hands,
Uncramp'd by wedlock's unpoetic bands.
Laws my Pindaric parents matter'd not,
So I was tragi-comically got.
My infant tears a sort of measure kept,
I squall'd in distichs, and in triplets wept.
No youth did I in education waste,
Happy in an hereditary taste.
Writing ne'er cramp'd the sinews of my thumb,
Nor barbarous birch e'er brush'd my tender bum.
My guts ne'er suffer'd from a college cook,
My name ne'er enter'd in a buttery-book.
Grammar in vain the sons of Priscian teach,
Good parts are better than eight parts of speech :
Since these declin'd, those undeclin'd they call,
I thank my stars that I declin'd them all.
To Greek or Latin tongues without pretence,
I trust to mother wit and father sense.
Nature's my guide, all sciences I scorn,
Pains I abhor; I was a poet born.
Yet is my goût for criticism such,
I've got some French, and know a little Dutch.
Huge commentators grace my learned shelves,
books out-do the books themselves,
Critics indeed are valuable men,
But hyper-criticks are as good again.
Though Blackmore's works my soul with rapture fill,
With notes by Bentley they'd be better still.
The Boghouse-Miscellany's well design'd
To ease the body, and improve the mind.
Swift's whims and jokes for my resentment call,
For he displeases me that pleases all.
Verse without rhyme I never could endure,
Uncouth in numbers, and in sense obscure.
To him as nature, when he ceas'd to see,
Milton's an universal blank to me.
Confirm'd and settled by the nation's voice,
Rhyme is the poet's pride, and people's choice.
Always upheld by national support,
Of market, university, and court:
Thomson, write blank; but know that for that reason
These lines shall live when thine are out of season.
Rhyme binds and beautifies the poet's lays,
As London ladies owe their shape to stays.
Had Cibber's self the Careless Husband wrote, He for the laurel ne'er had had my vote; But for his epilogues and other plays, He thoroughly deserves the modern bays,
It pleases me, that Pope unlaurell'd goes, ,
While Cibber wears the bays for play-house prose :
So Britain's monarch once uncover'd sat,
While Bradshaw bully'd in a broad-brimm'd hat.
Long live old Curll ! he ne'er to publish fears,
The speeches, verses, and last wills of peers.
How oft has he a public spirit shown,
And pleas'd our ears, regardless of his own?
But to give merit due, though Curll's the fame,
Are not his brother booksellers the same?
Can statutes keep the British press in awe,
While that sells best that's most against the law ?
Lives of dead play’rs my leisure hours beguile,
And sessions-papers tragedize my style.
'Tis charming reading in Ophelia's life,
So oft a mother, and not once a wife :
She could with just propriety behave,
Alive with peers, with monarchs in her grave:
Her lot how oft have envious harlots wept,
By prebends bury'd, and by generals kept.
T'improve in morals Mandevil I read,
And Tyndal's scruples are my settled creed.
I travelld early, and I soon saw through
Religion all, ere I was twenty-two.
Shame, pain, or poverty shall I endure,
When ropes or opium can my ease procure ?
When money's gone, and I no debts can pay,
Self-murder is an honourable way.
As Pasaran directs I'd end my life,
And kill myself, my daughter, and my wife.
Burn but that Bible which the parson quotes,
And men of spirit all shall cut their throats.
But not to writings I confine my pen,
I have a taste for buildings, music, men.
Young travell'd coxcombs mighty knowledge boast,
With superficial smattering at most.
Not so my mind, unsatisfied with hints,
Knows more than Budgel writes, or Roberts prints.
I know the town, all houses I have seen,
From High-Park corner down to Bednal-Green.
Sure wretched Wren was taught by bungling Jones,
To murder mortar, and disfigure stones!
Who in Whitehall can symmetry discern?
I reckon Covent-Garden church a barn.
Nor hate I less thy vile cathedral, Paul !
The choir's too big, the cupola's too small:
Substantial walls and heavy roofs I like,
'Tis Vanbrugh's structures that my fancy strike:
Such noble ruins every pile would make,
I wish they'd tumble for the prospect's sake.
To lofty Chelsea, or to Greenwich dome,
Soldiers and sailors all are welcom'd home,
Her poor to palaces Britannia brings,
St. James's hospital may serve for kings.
Buildings so happily I understand,
That for one house I'd mortgage
Doric, Ionic, shall not there be found,
But it shall cost me threescore thousand pound.
From out my honest workmen I'll select
A bricklay'r, and proclaim him architect;