Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Goddess of Dullness is Addressed on Education
By Alexander Pope (1688–1744)
From the ‘Dunciad

NOW crowds on crowds around the Goddess press,
Each eager to present their first address.
Dunce scorning dunce beholds the next advance,
But fop shows fop superior complaisance.
When lo! a spectre rose, whose index-hand        5
Held forth the virtue of the dreadful wand;
His beavered brow a birchen garland wears,
Dropping with infant’s blood and mother’s tears.
O’er every vein a shuddering horror runs;
Eton and Winton shake through all their sons.        10
All flesh is humbled: Westminster’s bold race
Shrink, and confess the genius of the place;
The pale Boy-Senator yet tingling stands,
And holds his breeches close with both his hands.
Then thus:—“Since man from beast by words is known,        15
Words are man’s province; words we teach alone.
When reason, doubtful like the Samian letter,
Points him two ways, the narrower is the better.
Placed at the door of learning, youth to guide,
We never suffer it to stand too wide.        20
To ask, to guess, to know, as they commence,
As fancy opens the quick springs of sense,—
We ply the memory, we load the brain,
Bind rebel wit and double chain on chain;
Confine the thought, to exercise the breath;        25
And keep them in the pale of words till death.
Whate’er the talents, or howe’er designed,
We hang one jingling padlock on the mind:
A poet the first day he dips his quill;
And what the last? a very poet still.        30
Pity! the charm works only in our wall;
Lost, lost too soon in yonder house or hall.
There truant Wyndham every Muse gave o’er;
There Talbot sunk, and was a wit no more!
How sweet an Ovid, Murray was our boast!        35
How many Martials were in Pulteney lost!
Else sure some bard, to our eternal praise,
In twice ten thousand rhyming nights and days,
Had reached the work, the all that mortal can;
And South beheld that masterpiece of man.”        40
  “Oh” (cried the Goddess) “for some pedant reign!
Some gentle James, to bless the land again;
To stick the doctor’s chair into the throne,
Give law to words, or war with words alone,
Senates and courts with Greek and Latin rule,        45
And turn the Council to a grammar school!
For sure, if Dullness sees a grateful day,
’Tis in the shade of arbitrary sway.
Oh! if my sons may learn one earthly thing,
Teach but that one, sufficient for a king,—        50
That which my priests, and mine alone, maintain,
Which as it dies, or lives, we fall or reign:
May you, may Cam and Isis, preach it long!—
‘The right divine of kings to govern wrong.’”
  Prompt at the call, around the Goddess roll        55
Broad hats, and hoods, and caps, a sable shoal:
Thick and more thick the black blockade extends,
A hundred head of Aristotle’s friends.
Nor wert thou, Isis! wanting to the day,
Though Christ-church long kept prudishly away.        60
Each stanch polemic, stubborn as a rock,
Each fierce logician, still expelling Locke,
Came whip and spur, and dashed through thin and thick
On German Crouzaz and Dutch Burgersdyck.
As many quit the streams that murm’ring fall        65
To lull the sons of Margaret and Clare-hall,
Where Bentley late tempestuous wont to sport
In troubled waters, but now sleeps in port.
Before them marched that awful Aristarch:
Plowed was his front with many a deep remark;        70
His hat, which never vailed to human pride,
Walker with reverence took, and laid aside.
Low bowed the rest; He, kingly, did but nod:
So upright Quakers please both man and God.
“Mistress! dismiss that rabble from your throne:        75
Avaunt—is Aristarchus yet unknown?
Thy mighty scholiast, whose unwearied pains
Made Horace dull, and humbled Milton’s strains.
Turn what they will to verse, their toil is vain,
Critics like me shall make it prose again.        80
Roman and Greek grammarians! know your better,—
Author of something yet more great than letter;
While towering o’er your alphabet, like Saul,
Stands our digamma, and o’ertops them all.
’Tis true, on words is still our whole debate,        85
Disputes of me or te, of aut or at,
To sound or sink in cano, O or A,
Or give up Cicero to C or K.
Let Freind affect to speak as Terence spoke,
And Alsop never but like Horace joke:        90
For me, what Virgil, Pliny may deny,
Manilius or Solinus shall supply;
For Attic phrase in Plato let them seek,
I poach in Suidas for unlicensed Greek.
In ancient sense if any needs will deal,        95
Be sure I give them fragments, not a meal;
What Gellius or Stobæus hashed before,
Or chewed by blind old scholiasts o’er and o’er.
The critic eye, that microscope of wit,
Sees hairs and pores, examines bit by bit;        100
How parts relate to parts, or they to whole,
The body’s harmony, the beaming soul,
Are things which Kuster, Burman, Wasse shall see,
When man’s whole frame is obvious to a flea.
  “Ah, think not, mistress! more true dullness lies        105
In folly’s cap, than wisdom’s grave disguise.
Like buoys that never sink into the flood,
On learning’s surface we but lie and nod.
Thine is the genuine head of many a house,
And much divinity, without a Nous.        110
Nor could a Barrow work on every block,
Nor has one Atterbury spoiled the flock.
See! still thy own, the heavy canon roll,
And metaphysic smokes involve the pole.
For thee we dim the eyes, and stuff the head        115
With all such reading as was never read;
For thee explain a thing till all men doubt it,
And write about it, Goddess, and about it:
So spins the silk-worm small its slender store,
And labors till it clouds itself all o’er.        120
  “What though we let some better sort of fool
Thrid every science, run through every school?…
We only furnish what he cannot use,
Or wed to what he must divorce, a Muse;
Full in the midst of Euclid dip at once,        125
And petrify a genius to a dunce;
Or, set on metaphysic ground to prance,
Show all his paces, not a step advance.
With the same cement ever sure to bind,
We bring to one dead level every mind.        130
Then take him to develop, if you can,
And hew the block off and get out the man.”

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