Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
Mac Flecknoe;
Or, a Satyr on the True-Blew-Protestant Poet, T. S.
ALL 1 humane things are subject to decay,
And, when Fate summons, Monarchs must obey:
This Fleckno found, who, like Augustus, young
Was call’d to Empire and had govern’d long:
In Prose and Verse was own’d, without dispute        5
Through all the realms of Non-sense, absolute.
This aged Prince now flourishing in Peace,
And blest with issue of a large increase,
Worn out with business, did at length debate
To settle the Succession of the State;        10
And pond’ring which of all his Sons was fit
To Reign, and wage immortal War with Wit,
Cry’d, ’tis resolv’d; for Nature pleads that He
Should onely rule, who most resembles me:
Sh—— 2 alone my perfect image bears,        15
Mature in dullness from his tender years;
Sh—— alone of all my Sons is he
Who stands confirm’d in full stupidity.
The rest to some faint meaning make pretence,
But Sh—— never deviates into sense.        20
Some Beams of Wit on other souls may fall,
Strike through and make a lucid intervall;
But Sh——’s genuine night admits no ray,
His rising Fogs prevail upon the Day:
Besides, his goodly Fabrick fills the eye        25
And seems design’d for thoughtless Majesty:
Thoughtless as Monarch Oakes that shade the plain,
And, spread in solemn state, supinely reign.
Heywood and Shirley were but Types of thee,
Thou last great Prophet of Tautology:        30
Even I, a dunce of more renown than they,
Was sent before but to prepare thy way:
And coarsely clad in Norwich Drugget came
To teach the Nations in thy greater name.
My warbling Lute, the Lute I whilom strung,        35
When to King John of Portugal I sung,
Was but the prelude to that glorious day,
When thou on silver Thames did’st cut thy way,
With well tim’d oars before the Royal Barge,
Swelled with the Pride of thy Celestial charge;        40
And, big with Hymn, Commander of an Host,
The like was ne’er in Epsom blankets tost.
Methinks I see the new Arion Sail,
The Lute still trembling underneath thy nail.
At thy well sharpned thumb from Shore to Shore        45
The Treble squeaks for fear, the Bases roar:
Echoes from Pissing-Ally, Sh—— call,
And Sh—— they resound from A—— 3 Hall.
About thy boat the little Fishes throng,
As at the Morning Toast that Floats along. 4        50
Sometimes, as Prince of thy Harmonious band,
Thou wield’st thy Papers in thy threshing hand.
St. Andrés feet ne’er kept more equal time,
Not ev’n the feet of thy own Psyche’s rhime:
Though they in number as in sense excell,        55
So just, so like tautology they fell
That, pale with envy, Singleton forswore
The Lute and Sword which he in Triumph bore,
And vow’d he ne’er would act Villerius more.
Here stopt the good old Syre; and wept for joy,        60
In silent raptures of the hopefull boy.
All Arguments, but most his Plays, perswade
That for anointed dulness he was made
Close to the Walls which fair Augusta bind,
(The fair Augusta much to fears inclin’d)        65
An ancient fabrick raised t’ inform the sight,
There stood of yore, and Barbican it hight:
A watch Tower once, but now, so Fate ordains,
Of all the Pile an empty name remains.
From its old Ruins Brothel-houses rise,        70
Scenes of lewd loves, and of polluted joys,
Where their vast Courts the Mother-Strumpets keep,
And, undisturb’d by Watch, in silence sleep.
Near these a Nursery erects its head,
Where Queens are formed, and future Hero’s bred;        75
Where unfledged Actors learn to laugh and cry,
Where infant Punks their tender voices try,
And little Maximins the Gods defy.
Great Fletcher never treads in Buskins here,
Nor greater Johnson dares in Socks appear.        80
But gentle Simkin just reception finds
Amidst this Monument of vanisht minds;
Pure Clinches, the suburbian Muse affords;
And Panton waging harmless war with words.
Here Flecknoe, as a place to Fame well known,        85
Ambitiously design’d his Sh——’s throne.
For ancient Decker prophesi’d long since,
That in this Pile should Reign a mighty Prince,
Born for a scourge of Wit, and flayle of Sense,
To whom true dulness should some Psyches owe,        90
But Worlds of Misers from his pen should flow;
Humorists and Hypocrites it should produce,
Whole Raymond Families and Tribes of Bruce.
  Now Empress Fame had publisht the renown
Of Sh——’s Coronation through the Town.        95
Rows’d by report of Fame, the Nations meet,
From near Bun-Hill and distant Watling-street.
No Persian Carpets spread th’ imperial way,
But scatter’d Limbs of mangled Poets lay;
From dusty shops neglected Authors come,        100
Martyrs of Pies and Reliques of the Bum.
Much Heywood, Shirley, Ogleby there lay,
But loads of Sh—— almost choakt the way.
Bilk’t Stationers for Yeomen stood prepar’d
And H—— 5 was Captain of the Guard.        105
The hoary Prince in Majesty appear’d,
High on a Throne of his own Labours rear’d.
At his right hand our young Ascanius sat
Rome’s other hope and Pillar of the State.
His Brows thick fogs, instead of glories, grace,        110
And lambent dullness plaid around his face.
As Hannibal did to the Altars come,
Swore 6 by his Syre a mortal Foe to Rome;
So Sh—— swore, nor should his Vow bee vain,
That he till Death true dullness would maintain;        115
And, in his father’s Right, and Realms defence,
Ne’er to have Peace with Wit, nor truce with Sense. 7
The King himself the sacred Unction made,
As King by Office, and as Priest by Trade:
In his sinister hand, instead of Ball,        120
He placed a mighty Mug of potent Ale;
Love’s Kingdom to his right he did convey,
At once his Sceptre and his rule of Sway;
Whose righteous Lore the Prince had practis’d young
And from whose Loyns recorded Psyche sprung.        125
His temples, last, with Poppies were o’erspread,
That nodding seem’d to consecrate his head:
Just at that point of time, if Fame not lye,
On his left hand twelve reverend Owls did fly.
So Romulus, ’tis sung, by Tyber’s Brook,        130
Presage of Sway from twice six Vultures took.
Th’ admiring throng loud acclamations make
And Omens of his future Empire take.
The Syre then shook the honours of his head,
And from his brows damps of oblivion shed        135
Full on the filial dullness: long he stood,
Repelling from his Breast the raging God;
At length burst out in this prophetick mood:
  Heavens bless my Son, from Ireland let him reign
To far Barbadoes on the Western main;        140
Of his Dominion may no end be known,
And greater than his Father’s be his Throne.
Beyond loves Kingdom let him stretch his Pen;
He paused, and all the people cry’d Amen.
Then thus continued he, my son, advance        145
Still in new Impudence, new Ignorance.
Success let others teach, learn thou from me
Pangs without birth, and fruitless Industry.
Let Virtuoso’s in five years be Writ;
Yet not one thought accuse thy toyl of Wit.        150
Let gentle George in triumph tread the stage,
Make Dorimant betray, and Loveit rage;
Let Cully, Cockwood, Fopling, charm the Pit,
And in their folly show the Writers wit.
Yet still thy fools shall stand in thy defence        155
And justifie their Author’s want of sense.
Let ’em be all by thy own model made
Of dulness and desire no foreign aid,
That they to future ages may be known,
Not Copies drawn, but Issue of thy own.        160
Nay let thy men of wit too be the same,
All full of thee, and differing but in name;
But let no alien S—dl—y 8 interpose
To lard with wit thy hungry Epsom prose.
And when false flowers of Rhetorick thou would’st cull,        165
Trust Nature, do not labour to be dull;
But write thy best, and top; and in each line
Sir Formal’s oratory will be thine.
Sir Formal, though unsought, attends thy quill,
And does thy Northern Dedications fill.        170
Nor let false friends seduce thy mind to fame,
By arrogating Johnson’s Hostile name.
Let Father Flecknoe fire thy mind with praise
And Uncle Ogleby thy envy raise.
Thou art my blood, where Johnson has no part:        175
What share have we in Nature or in Art?
Where did his wit on learning fix a brand
And rail at Arts he did not understand?
Where made he love in Prince Nicander’s vein,
Or swept the dust in Psyche’s humble strain?        180
Where sold he Bargains, Whip-stich, kiss my Arse.
Promis’d a Play and dwindled to a Farce?
When did his Muse from Fletcher scenes purloin,
As thou whole Eth’ridg dost transfuse to thine?
But so transfused as Oyls 9 on waters flow,        185
His always floats above, thine sinks below.
This is thy Province, this thy wondrous way,
New Humours to invent for each new Play:
This is that boasted Byas of thy mind,
By which one way, to dullness, ’tis inclined,        190
Which makes thy writings lean on one side still,
And, in all changes, that way bends thy will.
Nor let thy mountain belly make pretence
Of likeness; thine’s a tympany of sense.
A Tun of Man in thy large Bulk is writ,        195
But sure thou ’rt but a Kilderkin of wit.
Like mine thy gentle numbers feebly creep;
Thy Tragick Muse gives smiles, thy Comick sleep.
With whate’er gall thou settst thy self to write,
Thy inoffensive Satyrs never bite.        200
In thy fellonious heart though Venom lies,
It does but touch thy Irish pen, and dyes.
Thy Genius calls thee not to purchase fame
In keen Iambicks, but mild Anagram:
Leave writing Plays, and chuse for thy command        205
Some peaceful Province in Acrostick Land.
There thou maist wings display, and Altars raise,
And torture one poor word Ten thousand ways;
Or, if thou would’st thy diff’rent talents suit,
Set thy own Songs, and sing them to thy lute.        210
He said, but his last words were scarcely heard,
For Bruce and Longvil had a Trap prepar’d,
And down they sent the yet declaiming Bard.
Sinking he left his Drugget robe behind,
Borne upwards by a 10 subterranean wind.        215
The Mantle fell to the young Prophet’s part
With double portion of his Father’s Art.
Note 1. Text from the second and corrected edition, 1684. The first, 1682, has several errors of the press. There is at Lambeth Palace a manuscript of the poem, which Todd collated. It is of no authority and most of its variants are manifestly wrong. One of them has by inadvertence been admitted into the texts of Scott, Christie, and Saintsbury. [back]
Note 2. Sh—] Here and throughout the editors print Shadwell; Shad1682. [back]
Note 3. A—] Aston 1682. [back]
Note 4. And gently waft the over all along. 1682. [back]
Note 5. H—] Herringman 1682. [back]
Note 6. Swore] The Lambeth MS. gives Sworn, but swore is here a participle. [back]
Note 7. Would bid Defiance unto Wit and Sense. 1682. [back]
Note 8. S—dl—y] The editors print Sedley. [back]
Note 9. Oyls] 1682. Oyl 1684 and editors. [back]
Note 10. a] A 1684. [back]

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