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RICHARD BENTLEY, ESQ.
I've often thought, my Lord, the thing now true,
How came this prime delight of man thus lessen'd From its full orb down to a thumb-nail crescent ? With me the case admits not of a doubt! The fact is, poesy itself's worn out. To you, my Lord, this notion I submit, Who knew and help'd to make this age of wit, Mix'd with those demi-gods in verse and prose, Congreves, and Addisons, and Garths, and Rowes,. Heroes of giant limb, and high renown, Whose deeds we wonder at, and hide our own; Whom but to copy in their idle fits, Would break the backs of puny modern wits.
EPISTLES CRITICAL, &c.
To set this matter in the clearest light, And be myself th' example while I write, Let us, my Lord, if so it
may avail, And you have patience for a long detail, Give the Earl's sentence a poetic turn; Let it run thus : “ See all Parnassus mourn, “ Mute ev'ry muse, see George's praise unsung, 6. Their laurels scatter'd, and their lyres unstrung, “ Apollo veils with mists his beamy head, “ Nay, Aganippe murmars something sad.” Say, will this stile, my Lord, go down or no, Glib as it did two thousand years ago ? I fancy scarce, and favor'd, if it pass From a raw school-boy in the second class: The reason then why no disgust it drew, Was, that it might be Truth, for aught they knew. Those early ages no mistrust had shewn, Ready their faith, their manners roughly hewn, And while both Reason and Suspicion doz’d, Priest, Poet, Prophet, Patriot, impos’d.
With all that either broach'd, the world content, Believ'd still farther than they could invent, All irrealities came forth reveal'd By pow'rful Fancy into fact congeal’d. Then Poetry had elbow-room enough, And not restrain'd, as now, for want of stuff; The great abyss of Fable open stood, And nothing solid rose above the flood.
A new Religion spreading ev'ry where,
But the new doctrines being found too pure, Some able doctors undertook its cure ; It serv'd no purposes but saving sinners, They added that by which themselves were winners; Ghosts, Devil, Witches, Conjurors, in flocks Came, like a new subscription, to the stocks ; And Poetry, enlarg'd with a new range, Began to shew her head again in Change.
The world grown old, its youthful follies past,
A woman now may live, tho'past her prime,
Bankrupt of deities, with all their train,
See, at his beck, all Nouns renouncing sense, Start into
of some consequence.
To bless a nation, see Charlotta come, 'Twas Anson, and not Neptune, brought her home. A single Nereid stirr'd not from below, The duce a conch did e'er one Triton blow ; But, in revenge she plough'd her subject main, With every virtue 'tending in her train. Hark, 'tis a people's universal voice, That bless, while they approve their Sov'reign's
On such a theme, my Lord, might one extend Far as one would, nor strictest Truth offend,
'Twere only proper epithets to find,
Thus from the lunar hills some other Nile, Swoln with new stores from snows that melt the while, Stretches his current on to fiercer suns, And glads a thousand nations as he suns, Till having reach'd, proud of his long career, Those sands which belt the middle of our sphere, Exhal'd, absorb’d, diverted, dry foot cross'd, And, finger'd into rivulets, is lost.
Fall'n cherub ; Simile! who erst divine,
Thus to plain Narrative confin'd alone,