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EXTRACTED FROM THE PROSE WORKS OF GOLDSMITH.
(See Citizen of the World, L. 85.) It is the business of the stage-poet to watch the appearance of every new player at his own house, and so come out next day with a flaunting copy of newspaper verses. In these, nature and the actor may be set to run races, the player always coming off victorious; or nature may mistake him for herself; or old Shakespeare may put on his winding-sheet, and pay him a visit; or the tuneful Nine may strike up their harps in his praise; or, should it happen to be an actress, Venus, the beauteous Queen of Love, and the naked Graces, are ever in waiting. The lady must be herself a goddess bred and born; she must - but you shall have a specimen of one of these poems, which may convey a more precise idea:
ON SEEING MRS. — PERFORM IN THE
For you, bright fair, the Nine address their lays,
She speaks! 'tis rapture all, and nameless bliss,
(V. Citizen of the World, L. 106.) I am amazed that none have yet found out the secret of flattering the worthless, and yet of preserving a safe conscience. I have often wished for some method by which a man might do himself and his deceased patron justice, without being under the hateful reproach of self-conviction. After long lucubration, I have hit upon buch an expedient, and send you the specimen of a poem upon the decease of a great man, in which the flattery is perfectly fine, and yet the poet perfectly innocent.
ON THE DEATH OF THE RIGHT HON. —
YE Muses, pour the pitying tear
For Pollio snatch'd away;
He had not died to-day.
Oh! were he born to bless mankind
In virtuous times of yore,
Whene'er he went before.
How sad the groves and plains appear,
And sympathetic sheep!
If hills could learn to weep.
His bounty, in exalted strain,
Each bard might well display ;
That went reliev'd away.
And hark! I hear the tuneful throng
His obsequies forbid :
As ever dead man did.
These verses seem to have been the first rough sketch, afterwards altered and improved into the Elegy on Mrs. Mary Blaize.
(V. Citizen of the World, L. 113.) The weapon chiefly used in the present contest is epigram, and certainly never was a keener made use of. They have discovered surprising sharpness on both sides. The first that came out upon this occasion was a kind of new composition in this way, and might more properly be called an epigrammatic thesis than an epigram. It consists, first, of an argument in prose; next follows a motto from Roscommon; then comes the epigram; and, lastly, notes serving to explain the epigram. But you shall have it with all its decorations:
ADDRESSED TO THE GENTLEMEN REFLECTED ON IN THE
ROSCIAD, A POEM, BY THE AUTHOR.
Worried with debts, and past all hopes of bail,
LET not the hungry Bavius' angry stroke
The last lines are certainly executed in a very masterly manner: it is of that species of argumentation called the perplexing. It effectually flings the antagonist into a mist; there's no answering it: the laugh is raised against him, while he is endeavouring to find out the jest. At once he shows that the author has a kennel, and that this kennel is putrid, and that this putrid kennel overflows. But why does it overflow? It overflows because the author happens to have low pockets.
There was also another new attempt in this way, a prosaic epigram, which came out upon this occasion. This is so full of matter, that a critic might split it into fifteen epigrams, each properly fitted with its sting. You shall see it:
TO G. C. AND R. L.
'Twas you, or I, or he, or all together, 'Twas one, both, three of them, they know not
whether; This, I believe, between us great or small, You, I, he; wrote it not — 'twas Churchill's all.
There, there is a perplex! I could have wished to have made it quite perfect; the author, as in the case before, had added notes. Almost every word admits a scholium, and a long one too. I, YOU, HE. Suppose a stranger should ask, And who are you? Here are three obscure persons spoken of, that may in a short time be utterly forgotten. Their names should consequently have been written in notes at the bottom; but when the reader comes to the words great and small, the maze is inextricable. Here the stranger may dive for a mystery, without ever reaching the bottom. Let him know, then, that small is a word poorly introduced to make good rhyme, and great was a very proper word to keep small company.
This was denoted against the triumvirate of friends, Churchill, Colman, and Lloyd.