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YET, yet a moment, one dim ray of light
Now flamed the dog-star's unpropitious ray,
She mounts the throne: her head a cloud conceal'd, In broad effulgence all below reveal'd
REMARKS. This book may properly be distinguished from the former, by the name of the Greater Dunciad, not so indeed in size, but in subject; and so far contrary to the distinction anciently made of the Greater and Lesser Iliad. But much are they mistaken who imagine this work in any wise inferior to the former, or of any other hand than of our poet; of which I am much more certain than that the Iliad itself was the work of Solomon, or the Batrachomuomachia of Homer, as Barnes hath affirmed.-Bentl.
Ver. 1, &c.] This is an invocation of much piety. The poet, willing to approve himself a genuine son, beginneth by shewing (what is ever agreeable to Dulness) his high respect for antiquity and a great family, how dead or dark soever : next declareth his passion for explaining mysteries; and lastly his impatience to be reunited to her.-Scribl.
Ver. 2. -dread Chaos, and eternal Night!] Invoked, as the restoration of their empire is the action of the poem.
Ver. 14. To blot out order and extinguish light,) The two great ends of her mission; the one in quality of daughter of Chaos, the other as daughter of Night. Order here is to be understood extensively, both as civil and moral; the distinction between high and low in society, and true and false in individuals: light as intellectual only, wit, science, arts.
Ver. 15. Of dull and venal. The allegory continued; dull referring to the extinction of light or science; venal to the destruction of order, and the truth of things,
Ibid. -a new world-] In allusion to the Epicurean opinion, that from the dissolution of the natural world into Night and Chaos, a new one should arise: this the poet alluding to, in the production of a new moral world, makes it partake of its original principles.
Ver. 16. --lead and gold.) i. e. dull and venal,
('Tis thus aspiring Dulness ever shines),
Beneath her footstool, science groans in chains,
REMARKS. Ver. 20. -her laureat son reclines.) With great judgment it is imagined by the poet, that such a colleague as Dulness had elected, should sleep on the throne, and have very little sbare in the action of the poem. Accordingly, he hath done little or nothing from the day of his anointing; having passed through the second book without taking part in any thing that was transacted about him; and through the third in profound sleep. Nor ought this, well considered, to seem strange in our days, when so many king-consorts have done the like.Scribl.
This verse our excellent laureat took so to beart, that he appealed to all mankind, if he was not as seldom asleep as any fool!' But it is hoped the poet hath not injured him, but rather verified his prophecy (p. 243. of his own Life, 8vo. ch. ix.) where he says, 'the reader will be as much pleased to find me a dunce in my old age, as he was to prove me a brisk blockhead in my youth. Wherever there was any room for briskness, or alacrity of any sort, even in sinking, he hath had it allowed but here, where there is nothing for him to do, but to take his natural rest, he must permit his historian to be silent. It is from their actions only that princes have their character, and poets from their works: and if in those he be as much asleep as any fool, the poet must leave him and them to sleep to all eternity. Bentl.
Ibid. -her laureat-] 'When I find my name in the satirical works of this poet, I never look upon it as any malice meant to me, but profit to himself. For he considers that my face is more known than most in the nation; and therefore a lick at the laureat will be a sure bait ad captandum vulgus, to catch little readers, Life of Colley Cibber, ch. ii.
Now if it be certain, that the works of our poet have owed their success to this ingenious expedient, we hence derive an unanswerable argument, that this fourth Dunciad, as well as the former three, hath had the author's last hand, and was by him intended for the press: or else to what purpose hath he crowned it, as we see, by this finishing stroke, the profitable lick at the laureat!-Bentl.
Ver, 21, 22. Beneath her footstool, &c.) We are next presented with the pictures of those whom the goddess leads in captivity. Science is only depressed and confined so as to be rendered useless; but wit or genius, as a more dangerous and active enemy, punished, or driven away: Dulness being often reconciled in some degree, with learning, but never upon any terms with wit. And accordingly, it will be seen that she
admits something like each science, as casuistry, sophistry, &c. but nothing like wit, opera alone supplying its place.
Morality, by her false guardians drawn,
REMARKS. Ver. 30.---gives her Page the word.) There was a judge of this name, always ready to hang any man that came before him, of which he was suffered to give a hundred miserable examples, during a long life, even to his dotage.--Though the candid Scriblerus imagined Page here to mean no more than a page or mute, and to allude to the custom of strangling state criminals in Turkey by mutes or pages. A practice more decent than that of our page, who, before he hanged any one, loaded him with reproachful language.-Scribl.
Ver. 39. But sober History-) History attends on tragedy, satire on comedy, as their substitutes in the discharge of their distinct functions; the one in high life, recording the crimes and punishments of the great; the other in low, exposing the vices or follies of the common people. But it mav be asked, how came history and satire to be admitted with impunity to minister comfort to the Muses, even in the presence of the goddess, and in the midst of all her triumphs! A question,' says Scriblerus, which we thus resolve: History was brought up in her infancy by Dulness herself; but being afterward espoused into a noble house, she forgot (as is usual), the humility of her birth, and the cares of her early friends. This occasioned a long estrangement between her and Dulness. At length, in process of time, they met together in a monk's cell, were reconciled, and became better friends than ever. After this, they had a second quarrel, but it held not long, and are now again on reasonable terms, and so are likely to continue.' This accounts for the connivancé shewn to history on this occasion. But the boldness of satire springs from a very different cause; for the reader ought to know, that she alone of all the sisters is unconquerable, never to be silenced, when truly inspired and animated (as should seem) from above, for this very purpose, to oppose the kingdom of Dulness to her last breath. Ver. 43. Nor couldst thou, &c.] This noble person, in the year But soon,
When lo! a harlot form soft sliding by,
0 Cara! Cara! silence all that train :
ah soon! rebellion will commence, If music meanly borrows aid from sepse:
REMARKS. 1737, when the act aforesaid was brought into the House of Lords, opposed it in an excellent speech, says Mr. Cibber, 'with a lively spirit, and uncommon eloquence. This speech had the honour to be answered by the said Mr. Cibber, with a lively spirit also, and in a manner very uncommou, in the eighth chapter of his Life and Manners. And here, gentle reader, would I gladly inserti the other speech, whereby thou
mightest judge between them; but I must defer it on account of some differences not yet adjusted between the noble author and myself, concerning the true reading of certain passages.-Bentl.
Ver. 45. When lo! a harlot form-] The attitude given to this phantom represents the nature and genius of the Italian opera; its affected airs, its effeminate sounds, and the practice of patching up these operas with favourite songs, incoherently put together. These things were supported by the subscriptions of the nobility. This circumstance, that opera should prepare for the opening of the grand sessions, was prophesied of in Book üi. ver. 304.
Already Opera prepares the way,
The sure forerunner of her gentle sway.' Ver. 54.- let division reign:] Alluding to the false taste of playing tricks in music with numberless divisions, to the neglect of that harmony which conforms to the sense, and applies to the passions. Mr. Handel had introduced a great number of hands, and more variety of instruments into the orchestra, and employed even drums and cannon to make a fuller chorus, which proved so much too manly for the fine gentlemen of his age, that he was obliged to remove his music into freland. After which they were reduced, for want of composers, to practise the patch-work above-mentioned.
Strong in new arms, lo! giant Handel stands,
And now had Fame's posterior trumpet blown,
90 Nor absent they, no members of her state, Who pay her homage in her sons, the great ; Who, false to Phoebus, bow the knee to Baal; Or impious, preach his word without a call, Patrons, who sneak from living worth to dead, Withhold the pension, and set up the head; Or vest dull flattery in the sacred gown; Or give from fool to fool the laurel crown.
REMARKS. Ver. 76 to 101. It ought to be observed, that here are three classes in this assembly. The first, of men absolutely and avowedly dull, who naturally adhere to the goddess, and are imaged in the simile of the bees about their queen. The second, involuntarily drawn to her, though not caring to own her influence ; from ver. 81 to 90. The third of such as, though not members of her state, yet advance her service by flattering Dulness, cul. uvating mistaken talents, patronizing vile scribblers, discouraging living merít, or setting up for wits, and men of taste, in arts they understand not; from ver. 91 to ioi.