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MATTHEW* met Richard,† when or where
From story is not mighty clear:
Of many knotty points they spoke,
And pro and con by turns they took.
Rats half the manuscript have eat:
Dire hunger! which we still regret.
O! may they ne'er again digest
The horrors of so sad a feast!
Yet less our grief, if what remains,
Dear Jacob, by thy care and pains
Shall be to future times convey'd.
It thus begins:
Here Matthew said, "Alma in verse, in prose the Mind, By Aristotle's pen defin'd,
Throughout the body, squat or tall,
Is, bonâ fide, all in all.
And yet, slap-dash, is all again
In every sinew, nerve, and vein:
Runs here and there, like Hamlet's ghost;
While everywhere she rules the roast.
This system, Richard, we are told,
The men of Oxford firmly hold.
The Cambridge wits, you know, deny
With ipse dixit to comply.
They say, (for in good truth they speak
With small respect of that old Greek,)
That, putting all his words together,
"Tis three blue beans in one blue bladder.
"Alma, they strenuously maintain,
Sits cock-horse on her throne, the brain;
And from that seat of thought dispenses
Her sovereign pleasure to the senses.
Two optic nerves, they say, she ties,
Like spectacles, across the eyes;
By which the spirits bring her word,
Whene'er the balls are fix'd or stirr'd,
How quick at park and play they strike;
The duke they court; the toast they like;
And at St. James's turn their grace
From former friends, now out of place.
"Without these aids, to be more serious,
Her power, they hold, had been precarious:
The eyes might have conspir'd her ruin,
And she not known what they were doing.
Foolish it had been, and unkind,
That they should see, and she be blind.
"Wise Nature likewise, they suppose,
Has drawn two conduits down our nose:
Could Alma else with judgment tell
When cabbage stinks, or roses smell?
Or who would ask for her opinion
Between an oyster and an onion?
For from most bodies, Dick, you know,
Some little bits ask leave to flow;
And, as through these canals they roll,
Bring up a sample of the whole;
Like footmen running before coaches,
To tell the inn what lord approaches.
"By nerves about our palate plac'd,
She likewise judges of the taste.
Else (dismal thought!) our warlike men
Might drink thick port for fine champagne;
And our ill-judging wives and daughters
Mistake small-beer for citron-waters.
Hence, too, that she might better hear,
She sets a drum at either ear:
And, loud or gentle, harsh or sweet,
Are but th' alarums which they beat.
"Last, to enjoy her sense of feeling,
(A thing she much delights to deal in,)
A thousand little nerves she sends
Quite to our toes and fingers' ends;
And these, in gratitude, again
Return their spirits to the brain;
In which their figure being printed,
(As just before, I think, I hinted,)
Alma, inform'd, can try the case,
As she had been upon the place.
"Thus, while the judge gives different journeys To country counsel and attorneys,
He on the bench in quiet sits,
Deciding, as they bring the writs.
The pope thus prays and sleeps at Rome,
And very seldom stirs from home :
Yet, sending forth his holy spies,
And having heard what they advise,
He rules the church's blest dominions,
And sets men's faith by his opinions.
"The scholars of the Stagyrite,
Who for the old opinion fight,
Would make their modern friends confess
The difference but from more to less.
The Mind, say they, while you sustain
To hold her station in the brain;
You grant, at least, she is extended:
Ergo the whole dispute is ended.
For, till to-morrow should you plead,
From form and structure to the head,
The Mind as visibly is seen
Extended through the whole machine.
Why should all honor then be ta'en
From lower parts to load the brain,
When other limbs, we plainly see,
Each in his way as brisk as he?
For music, grant the head receive it,
It is the artist's hand that gave it;
And, though the skull may wear the laurel,
The soldier's arm sustains the quarrel.
Besides, the nostrils, ears, and eyes,
Are not his parts, but his allies;
Ev'n what you hear the tongue proclaim
Comes ab origine from them.
What could the head perform alone, If all their friendly aids were gone? A foolish figure he must make;
Do nothing else but sleep and ache.
Nor matters it, that you can show
How to the head the spirits go;
Those spirits started from some goal,
Before they through the veins could roll.
Now, we should hold them much to blame,
If they went back, before they came.
"If, therefore, as we must suppose, They came from fingers, and from toes; Or teeth, or fingers, in this case,
Of Numskull's self should take the place:
Disputing fair, you grant thus much,
That all sensation is but touch.
Dip but your toes into cold water,
Their correspondent teeth will chatter:
And, strike the bottom of your feet,
You set your head into a heat.
The bully beat, and happy lover,
Confess that feeling lies all over.
"Note here, Lucretius dares to teach
(As all our youth may learn from Creech)
That eyes were made, but could not view,
Nor hands embrace, nor feet pursue:
But heedless Nature did produce
The members first, and then the use.
What each must act was yet unknown,
Till all is mov'd by Chance alone.
"A man first builds a country-seat,
Then finds the walls not good to eat.
Another plants, and wondering sees
Nor books nor medals on his trees.
Yet poet and philosopher
Was he, who durst such whims aver.
Blest, for his sake, be human reason,
That came at all, though late in season.
But no man, sure, e'er left his house,
And saddled Ball, with thoughts so wild, To bring a midwife to his spouse,
Before he knew she was with child. And no man ever reapt his corn,
Or from the oven drew his bread, Ere hinds and bakers yet were born,
That taught them both to sow and knead. Before they're ask'd, can maids refuse? Can"-" Pray," says Dick, “hold in your Muse. While you Pindaric truths rehearse, She hobbles in alternate verse."— "Verse," Mat replied; "is that my care?"— "Go on," quoth Richard, "soft and fair."
"This looks, friend Dick, as Nature had
But exercis'd the salesman's trade;
As if she haply had sat down,
And cut out clothes for all the town;
Then sent them out to Monmouth-street,
To try what persons they would fit.
But every free and licens'd tailor
Would in this thesis find a failure.
Should whims like these his head perplex,
How could he work for either sex?
His clothes, as atoms might prevail,
Might fit a pismire, or a whale.
No, no he views with studious pleasure
Your shape, before he takes your measure.
For real Kate he made the bodice,
And not for an ideal goddess.
No error near his shop-board lurk'd;
He knew the folks for whom he work'd:
Still to their size he aim'd his skill:
Else, pr'ythee, who would pay his bill?
"Next, Dick, if Chance herself should vary,
Observe, how matters would miscarry :
Across your eyes, friend, place your shoes;
Your spectacles upon your toes:
Then you and Memmius shall agree
How nicely men would walk, or see.
But Wisdom, peevish and cross-grain'd,
Must be oppos'd, to be sustain'd;
And still your knowledge will increase,
As you make other people's less.
In arms and science 'tis the same;
Our rival's hurts create our fame.
At Faubert's, if disputes arise
Among the champions for the prize,
To prove who gave the fairer butt,
John shows the chalk on Robert's coat.
So, for the honor of your book,
It tells where other folks mistook:
And, as their notions you confound,
Those you invent get farther ground.
"The commentators on old Ari-
stotle ('tis urg'd) in judgment vary:
They to their own conceits have brought
The image of his general thought;
Just as the melancholic eye
Sees fleets and armies in the sky;
And to the poor apprentice' ear
The bells sound, Whittington, lord-mayor.'
The conjurer thus explains his scheme;
Thus spirits walk, and prophets dream;
North Britons thus have second-sight;
And Germans, free from gun-shot, fight.
Theodoret and Origen,
And fifty other learned men,
Attest, that, if their comments find
The traces of their master's mind,
Alma can ne'er decay nor die:
This flatly t' other sect deny;
Simplicius, Theophrast, Durand,
Great names, but hard in verse to stand.
They wonder men should have mistook
The tenets of their master's book,
And hold, that Alma yields her breath,
O'ercome by age, and seiz'd by death.
Now which were wise? and which were fools?
Poor Alma sits between two stools:
The more she reads, the more perplext;
The comment ruining the text:
Now fears, now hopes, her doubtful fate:
But, Richard, let her look to that-
Whilst we our own affairs pursue.
"These different systems, old or new,
A man with half an eye may see,
Were only form'd to disagree.
Now, to bring things to fair conclusion,
And save much Christian ink's effusion,
Let me propose an healing scheme,
And sail along the middle stream;
For, Dick, if we could reconcile
Old Aristotle with Gassendus,
How many would admire our toil!
And yet how few would comprehend us!
"Here, Richard, let my scheme commence;
Oh! may my words be lost in sense!
While pleas'd Thalia deigns to write
The slips and bounds of Alma's flight.
That then she mounts by just degrees
Up to the ancles, legs, and knees;
Next, as the sap of life does rise,
She lends her vigor to the thighs;
And all these under-regions past,
She nestles somewhere near the waist;
Gives pain or pleasure, grief or laughter,
As we shall show at large hereafter.
Mature, if not improv'd by time,
Up to the heart she loves to climb;
From thence, compell'd by craft and age,
She makes the head her latest stage.
"From the feet upward to the head"'Pithy and short," says Dick, "proceed." Dick, this is not an idle notion: Observe the progress of the motion. First, I demonstratively prove, That feet were only made to move; And legs desire to come and go, For they have nothing else to do.
"Hence, long before the child can crawl, He learns to kick, and wince, and sprawl: To hinder which, your midwife knows To bind those parts extremely close; Lest Alma, newly enter'd in,
And stunn'd at her own christening's din,
Fearful of future grief and pain,
Should silently sneak out again.
Full piteous seems young Alma's case;
As in a luckless gamester's place,
She would not play, yet must not pass.
"Again; as she grows something stronger,
And master's feet are swath'd no longer,
If in the night too oft he kicks,
Or shows his locomotive tricks;
These first assaults fat Kate repays him;
When half asleep, she overlays him.
Now mark, dear Richard, from the age
That children tread this worldly stage,
Broom-staff or poker they bestride,
And round the parlor love to ride;
Till thoughtful father's pious care
Provides his brood, next Smithfield Fair,
With supplemental hobby-horses:
And happy be their infant courses!
"Hence for some years they ne'er stand still:
Their legs, you see, direct their will;
From opening morn till setting sun,
Around the fields and woods they run;
They frisk, and dance, and leap, and play,
Nor heed what Freind or Snape can say.
"To her next stage as Alma flies,
And likes, as I have said, the thighs,
With sympathetic power she warms
Their good allies and friends, the arms;
While Betty dances on the green,
And Susan is at stool-ball seen;
While John for nine-pins does declare,
And Roger loves to pitch the bar:
Both legs and arms spontaneous move;
Which was the thing I meant to prove.
"Another motion now she makes:
O, need I name the seat she takes?
His thought quite chang'd the stripling finds;
The sport and race no more he minds;
Neglected Tray and pointer lie,
And covies unmolested fly.
Sudden the jocund plain he leaves,
And for the nymph in secret grieves.
In dying accents he complains
Of cruel fires, and raging pains.
The nymph too longs to be alone,
Leaves all the swains, and sighs for one.
The nymph is warm'd with young desire,
And feels, and dies to quench his fire.
They meet each evening in the grove;
Their parley but augments their love:
So to the priest their case they tell :
He ties the knot; and all goes well.
"But, O my Muse, just distance keep;
Thou art a maid, and must not peep.
In nine months' time, the bodice loose,
And petticoats too short, disclose
That at this age the active mind
About the waist lies most confin'd;
And that young life and quickening sense
Spring from his influence darted thence
So from the middle of the world
The Sun's prolific rays are hurl'd:
"Tis from that seat he darts those beams,
Which quicken Earth with genial flames.”
Dick, who thus long had passive sat,
Here strok'd his chin, and cock'd his hat;
Then slapp'd his hand upon the board,
And thus the youth put in his word.
"Love's advocates, sweet sir, would find him
A higher place than you assign'd him.”
"Love's advocates! Dick, who are those?"— "The poets, you may well suppose.
I'm sorry, sir, you have discarded
The men with whom till now you herded.
Prose-men alone, for private ends,
I thought, forsook their ancient friends.
In cor stillavit, cries Lucretius;
If he may be allow'd to teach us.
The self-same thing soft Ovid says,
(A proper judge in such a case,)
Horace's phrase is, torret jecur;
And happy was that curious speaker.
Here Virgil too has plac'd this passion.
What signifies too long quotation?
In ode and epic, plain the case is,
That Love holds one of these two places."
Dick, without passion or reflection,
I'll straight demolish this objection.
First, poets, all the world agrees,
Write half to profit, half to please.
Matter and figure they produce;
For garnish this, and that for use:
And in the structure of their feasts,
They seek to feed and please their guests:
But one may balk this good intent,
And take things otherwise than meant.
Thus, if you dine with my lord-mayor,
Roast-beef and venison is your fare;
Thence you proceed to swan and bustard,
And persevere in tart and custard :
But tulip-leaves and lemon-peel
Help only to adorn the meal;
And painted flags, superb and neat,
Proclaim you welcome to the treat.
The man of sense his meat devours,
But only smells the peel and flowers;
And he must be an idle dreamer,
Who leaves the pie, and gnaws the streamer.
"That Cupid goes with bow and arrows,
And Venus keeps her coach and sparrows,
Is all but emblem, to acquaint one,
The son is sharp, the mother wanton.
Yet, free from this poetic madness,
Next page he says, in sober sadness,
That she and all her fellow-gods
Sit idling in their high abodes,
Regardless of this world below,
Our health or hanging, weal or woe;
Nor once disturb their heavenly spirits
With Scapin's cheats, or Caesar's merits.
"Nor e'er can Latin poets prove
Where lies the real seat of Love.
Jecur they burn, and cor they pierce,
As either best supplies their verse;
And, if folks ask the reason for 't,
Say, one was long, and t'other short.
Thus, I presume, the British Muse
May take the freedom strangers use.
In prose our property is greater:
Why should it then be less in metre?
If Cupid throws a single dart,
We make him wound the lover's heart:
But, if he takes his bow and quiver,
"Tis sure he must transfix the liver:
For rhyme with reason may dispense,
And sound has right to govern sense.
"But let your friends in verse suppose,
What ne'er shall be allow'd in prose;
Anatomists can make it clear,
The Liver minds his own affair;
Kindly supplies our public uses,
And parts and strains the vital juices;
Still lays some useful bile aside,
To tinge the chyle's insipid tide:
Else we should want both gibe and satire;
And all be burst with pure good-nature.
Now gall is bitter with a witness,
And love is all delight and sweetness.
My logic then has lost its aim,
If sweet and bitter be the same:
And he, methinks, is no great scholar,
Who can mistake desire for choler.
"The like may of the heart be said;
Courage and terror there are bred.
All those, whose hearts are loose and low,
Start, if they hear but the tattoo:
And mighty physical their fear is;
For, soon as noise of combat near is,
Their heart, descending to their breeches,
Must give their stomach cruel twitches.
But heroes, who o'ercome or die,
Have their hearts hung extremely high,
The strings of which, in battle's heat,
Against their very corslets beat;
Keep time with their own trumpet's measure, And yield them most excessive pleasure.
Now, if 'tis chiefly in the heart
That Courage does itself exert,
"Twill be prodigious hard to prove
That this is eke the throne of Love.
Would Nature make one place the seat
Of fond desire, and fell debate?
Must people only take delight in
Those hours, when they are tir'd of fighting?
And has no man, but who has kill'd
A father, right to get a child?
These notions then I think but idle;
And Love shall still possess the middle.
"This truth more plainly to discover,
Suppose your hero were a lover.
Though he before had gall and rage,
Which death or conquest must assuage,
He grows dispirited and low;
He hates the fight, and shuns the foe.
"In scornful sloth Achilles slept,
And for his wench, like Tall-boy, wept:
Nor would return to war and slaughter,
Till they brought back the parson's daughter.
"Antonius fled from Actium's coast,
Augustus pressing, Asia lost:
His sails by Cupid's hands unfurl'd,
To keep the fair, he gave the world.
Edward our Fourth, rever'd and crown'd,
Vigorous in youth, in arms renown'd,
While England's voice, and Warwick's care,
Design'd him Gallia's beauteous heir,
Chang'd peace and power for rage and wars,
Only to dry one widow's tears-
"France's fourth Henry we may see
A servant to the fair d'Estree;
When, quitting Coutras' prosperous field,
And Fortune taught at length to yield,
He from his guards and midnight tent
Disguis'd o'er hills and valleys went,
To wanton with the sprightly dame,
And in his pleasure lost his fame.
"Bold is the critic who dares prove
These heroes were no friends to love;
And bolder he, who dares aver
That they were enemies to war.
Yet, when their thought should, now or never
Have rais'd their heart, or fir'd their liver,
Fond Alma. to those parts was gone,
Which Love more justly calls his own.
"Examples I could cite you more;
But be contented with these four:
For when one's proofs are aptly chosen,
Four are as valid as four dozen.
One came from Greece, and one from Rome;
The other two grew nearer home.
For some in ancient books delight;
Others prefer what moderns write:
Now I should be extremely loth,
Not to be thought expert in both."
"BUT shall we take the Muse abroad To drop her idly on the road? And leave our subject in the middle, As Butler did his Bear and Fiddle? Yet he, consummate master, knew, When to recede, and where pursue:
His noble negligences teach
What others' toils despair to reach.
He, perfect dancer, climbs the rope,
And balances your fear and hope:
If, after some distinguish'd leap,
He drops his pole, and seems to slip,
Straight gathering all his active strength,
He rises higher half his length.
With wonder you approve his sleight,
And owe your pleasure to your fright:
But like poor Andrew I advance,
False mimic of my master's dance.
Around the cord awhile I sprawl,
And thence, though low, in earnest fall.
"My preface tells you, I digress'd:
He's half absolv'd who has confess'd."
"I like," quoth Dick, "your simile, And, in return, take two from me. As masters in the clare obscure With various light your eyes allure, A flaming yellow here they spread, Draw off in blue, or charge in red; Yet, from these colors oddly mix'd, Your sight upon the whole is fix'd: Or as, again, your courtly dames (Whose clothes returning birth-day claims) By arts improve the stuffs they vary, And things are best as most contrary; The gown, with stiff embroidery shining, Looks charming with a slighter lining; The out-, if Indian figure stain, The in-side must be rich and plain. So you great authors have thought fit To make digression temper wit: When arguments too fiercely glare, You calm them with a milder air: To break their points, you turn their force, And furbelow the plain discourse."
Richard," quoth Mat, "these words of thine Speak something sly, and something fine: But I shall e'en resume my theme, However thou may'st praise or blame.
'As people marry now, and settle,
Fierce Love abates his usual mettle:
Worldly desires, and household cares,
Disturb the godhead's soft affairs:
So now, as health or temper changes,
In larger compass Alma ranges.
This day below, the next above,
As light or solid whimsies move.
So merchant has his house in town,
And country-seat near Bansted-down:
From one he dates his foreign letters,
Sends out his goods, and duns his debtors:
In t'other, at his hours of leisure,
He smokes his pipe, and takes his pleasure.
"And now your matrimonial Cupid,
Lash'd on by Time, grows tir'd and stupid.
For story and experience tell us
That man grows old, and woman jealous.
Both would their little ends secure;
He sighs for freedom, she for power:
His wishes tend abroad to roam,
And hers to domineer at home.
Thus passion flags by slow degrees,
And, ruffled more, delighted less,
The busy mind does seldom go
To those once-charming seats below;
But, in the breast encamp'd, prepares
For well-bred feints and future wars.
The man suspects his lady's crying (When he last autumn lay a-dying) Was but to gain him to appoint her By codicil a larger jointure.
The woman finds it all a trick,
That he could swoon when she was sick; And knows, that in that grief he reckon'd On black-ey'd Susan for his second.
"Thus having strove some tedious years
With feign'd desires, and real fears;
And, tir'd with answers and replies
Of John affirms, and Martha lies,
Leaving this endless altercation,
The Mind affects a higher station.
"Poltis, that generous king of Thrace,
I think, was in this very case.
All Asia now was by the ears,
And gods beat up for volunteers
To Greece and Troy; while Poltis sat
In quiet governing his state.
'And whence,' said the pacific king,
'Does all this noise and discord spring?"
"Why, Paris took Atrides' wife.'-
With ease I could compose this strife:
The injur'd hero should not lose,
Nor the young lover want a spouse.
But Helen chang'd her first condition,
Without her husband's just permission.
What from the dame can Paris hope?
She may as well from him elope.
Again, how can her old good man,
With honor, take her back again?
From hence I logically gather,
The woman cannot live with either.
Now, I have two right honest wives,
For whose possession no man strives:
One to Atrides I will send,
And t'other to my Trojan friend.
Each prince shall thus with honor have
What both so warmly seem to crave:
The wrath of gods and man shall cease,
And Poltis live and die in peace.'
"Dick, if this story pleaseth thee,
Pray thank Dan Pope, who told it me.
Howe'er swift Alma's flight may vary, (Take this by way of corollary) Some limbs she finds the very same,
In place, in dignity, in name:
These dwell at such convenient distance,
That each may give his friend assistance.
Thus he who runs or dances begs
The equal vigor of two legs;
So much to both does Alma trust,
She ne'er regards which goes the first.
Teague could make neither of them stay,
When with himself he ran away.
The man who struggles in the fight,
Fatigues left arm as well as right;
For, whilst one hand exalts the blow,
And on the earth extends the foe,
T'other would take it wondrous ill,
If in your pocket it lay still.
And, when you shoot, and shut one eye,
You cannot think he would deny
To lend the other friendly aid,
Or wink as coward, and afraid.
No, sir; whilst he withdraws his flame,
His comrade takes the surer aim:
One moment if his beams recede,
As soon as e'er the bird is dead,