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ENGLISH BARDS

AND

SCOTCH REVIEWERS:

A SATIRE

I had rather be a kitten, and cry mew!

Than one of these same metre ballad-mongers."-SAAKSPEARE. “ Such shameless bards we have; and yet 'tis true,

There are as mad, abandon'd critics too."-POPE

PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION. All my friends, learned and unlearned, have urged me not to publish this satire with my name. If I were to be “turn'd. from the career of my hnmour by quibbles quick, and paper bullets of the brain," I should have complied with their counsel; but I am not to be terrified by abuse, or bullied by reviewers, with or without arms. I can safely say that I have attacked none personally who did not commence on the offensive. An anthor's works are public property: he who purchases may judge, and publish his opinion if he pleases; and the authors I have endeavoured to commemorate may do by me as I have done by them: I dare say they will succeed better in condemning my scribblings, than in mending their own. But my object is not to prove that I can write well, but, if possible, to make others write better.

As the poem has met with far more success than I expected, I have endeavoured in this edition to make some additions and alterations to render it more worthy of public perusal.

In the first edition of this satire, published anonymously, fourteen lines on the subject of Bowles's Pope were written and inserted at the request of an ingenious friend of mine, who has now in the press a volume of poetry. In the present edition they are erased, and some of my own substituted in their stead; my only reason for this being, that, which I conceive would operate with any other person in the same manner-a determination not to publish with my name any production which was not entirely and exclusively my own composition.

With regard to the real talents of many of the poetical persons whose performances are mentioned, or alluded to, in the following pages, it is presumed by the author that there can be little difference of opinion in the public at large; though, like other sectaries, each has his separate tabernacle of proselytes, by whom his abilities are overrated, his faults overlooked, and his metrical canons received without scruple and without consideration. But the unquestionable possession of considerable genius by several of the writers here censured, renders their mental prostitution more to be regretted. Imbecility may be pitied, or, at worst, laughed at and forgotten; perverted powers demand the most decided reprehension. No one can wish more than the author that some known and able writer had undertaken their exposure ; but Mr. Gifford has devoted himself to Massinger, and in the absence of the regular physician, a country practic, tioner may, in cases of absolute necessity, be allowed to prescribe his nostrum to prevent the extension of so deplorable an epidemic, provided there be no quackery in his treatment of the malady. A canstic is here offered, as it is to be feared nothing short of actual cautery can recover the numerous patients afflicted with the present prevalent and distressing rabies for rhyming.

As to the Edinburgh Reviewers, it would, indeed, require a Hercules to crush the Hydra; but if the author succeeds in merely “ bruising one of the heads of the serpent,” though his own hand should suffer in the encounter, he will be amply satisfied.

ENGLISH BARDS AND SCOTCH REVIEWERS.*

STILL must I hear ?—shall hoarse Fitzgerald+ bawl
His creaking couplets in a tavern hall,
And I not sing, lest, haply, Scotch reviews
Should dub me scribbler, and denounce my muse?
Prepare for rhyme—I'll publish, right or wrong ;
Fools are my theme, let satire be my song.

Oh! nature's noblest gift-my gray goose-quill !
Slave of my thoughts, obedient to my will,
Torn from thy parent bird to form a pen,
That mighty instrument of little men!
The pen ! foredoom'd to aid the mental throes
Of brains that labour, big with verse or prose,
Though nymphs forsake, and critics may deride,
The lover's solace, and the author's pride.
What wits, what poets, dost thou daily raise !
How frequent is thy use, how small thy praise !
Condemn'd at length to be forgotten quite,
With all the pages which 'twas thine to write.
But thou, at least, mine own especial pen !
Once laid but now assumed again,
Our task complete, like Hamet's shall be free;
Though spurn'd by others, yet beloved by me:
Then let us soar to-day, no common theme,
No eastern vision, no distemper'd dream
Inspires--our path, though full of thorns, is plain ;
Smooth be the verse, and easy be the strain.

# Written at Newstead in 1808. + IMITATION

Semper ego auditor tantum ? nunquamne reponam,

Vexatus toties rauci Theseide Codri ?-JUVENAL, Satire 1. Mr. Fitzgerald, facetiously termed by Cobbett the " Small Beer Poet," inflicts his annual tribute of verse on the “ Literary Fund :" not content with writing, he spouts in person, after the company have imbibed a reasonable quantity of bad port, to enable them to sustain the operation.

Cid Hamet Benengeli promises repose to his pen in the last chapter of “ Don Quixote." Oh! that our voluminous gentry would follow the example of Cid Hamet Benengeli,

When Vice triumphant holds her sov'reign sway,
And men, through life her willing slaves, obey;
When Folly, frequent harbinger of crime,
Unfolds her motley store to suit the time;
When knaves and fools combined o'er all prevail,
When Justice halts, and Right begins to fail;
Een then the boldest start from public sneers,
Afraid of shame, unknown to other fears,
More darkly sin, by satire kept in awe,
And shrink from ridicule, though not from law.

Such is the force of wit! but not belong
To me the arrows of satiric song ;
The royal vices of our age demand
A keener weapon, and a mightier hand.
Still there are follies, e'en for me to chase,
And yield at least amusement in the race:
Laugh when I laugh, I seek no other fame;
The cry is up,

and scribblers are my ganie.
Speed, Pegasus !-ye strains of great and small,
Ode, epic, elegy, have at you all!
I, too, can scrawl, and once upon a time
I pour d along the town a flood of rhyme,
A schoolboy freak, unworthy praise or blame;
I printed-older children do the same.
'Tis pleasant, sure, to see one's name in print ;
A book 's a book, although there's nothing in't.
Not that a title's sounding charm can save
Or scrawl or scribbler from an equal grave :
This Lambe must own, since his patrician name
Fail'd to preserve the spurious farce from shame. *
No matter, George continues still to write,t
Though now the name is veil'd from public sight.
Moved by the great example, I pursue
The self-same road, but make my own review;
Not seek great Jeffrey's, yet like him will be
Self-constituted judge of poesy.

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A man must serve his time to every trade
Save censure-critics all are ready made.
Take hackney'd jokes from Miller, got by rote,
With just enough of learning to misquote;
A mind well skill'd to find or forge a fault;
A turn for punning,-call it Attic salt;
To Jeffrey go ; be silent and discreet,
His pay is just ten sterling pounds per sheet.
Fear not to lie, 'twill seem a lucky hit;
Shrink not from blasphemy, 'twill pass for wit;
Care not for feeling-pass your proper jest,
And stand a critic, hated yet caress'd.

• This ingenious youth is mentioned more particularly, with his production, in auother place.

# In the “ Edinburgh Review."

And shall we own such judgment ? No-as soon
Seek roses in December-ice in June;
Hope constancy in wind, or corn in chaff ;
Believe a woman, or an epitaph,
Or any other thing that's false, before
You trust in critics, who themselves are sore;
Or yield one single thought to be misled
By Jeffrey's heart, or Lambe's Baotian head. *
To these young tyrants, by themselves misplaced,
Combined usurpers on the throne of taste;
To these, when authors bend in humble awet
And hail their voice as truth, their word as law-
While these are censors, 'twould be sin to spare;
While such are critics, why should I forbear?
But yet, so near all modern worthies run,
'Tis doubtful whom to seek, or whom to shun;
Nor know we when to spare, or where to strike,
Our bards and censors are so much alike.

Then should you ask me, why, I venture o'er I
The path that Pope and Gifford trod before ;
If not yet sicken'd, you can still proceed :
Go on; my rhyme will tell you as you read.

“ But hold !” exclaims a friend,_"here's some neglect:
This-that-and t'other line seem incorrect."
What then? the self-same blunder Pope has got,
And careless Dryden—“Ay, but Pye has not.
Indeed !—'tis granted, faith! but what care I ?
Better to err with Pope, than shine with Pye.
Time

was, e'er yet in these degenerate days Ignoble themes obtain'd mistaken praise, When sense and wit with poesy allied, No fabled graces, flourish'à side by side ; From the same fount their inspiration drew, And, rear'd by taste, bloom'd fairer as they grew. Then, in this happy isle, a Pope's pure strain Sought the wrapt soul to charm, nor sought in vain ; A polish'd nation's praise aspired to claim, And raised the people's, as the poet's fame. Like him great Dryden pour'd the tide of song, In stream less smooth, indeed, yet doubly strong. Then Congreve's || scenes could cheer, or Otway's melt;

For nature then an English audience felt. • Messrs. Jeffrey and Lambe are the Alpha and Omega, the first and last, of the “ Edin. burgh Review ;" the others are mentioned hereafter. | IMITATION

Stulta est Clementia, cum tot ubique

occurras perituræ parcere chartæ.-JUVENAL, Satire l. 1 IMITATION:

Cur tamen hoc libeat potius decurrere campo
Per quem magnus equos Auruncæ flexit alumnus :

Si vacat, et placidi rationem admittitis, edam.-JUVENAL, Satire 1. $ Author of the“ Baviad" and "Mæviad," and first editor of the “Quarterly Review." He became, afterwards, the friend and Aristarchus of Lord Byron. || The great wit of the Augustan age, author of " Love for Love," &c. &c.

The most pathetic of all Engli writers of tragedy: author of “ Venice Preserved," &c. &c,

But why these names, or greater still, retrace,
When all to feebler bards resign their place?
Yet to such times our lingering looks are cast,
When taste and reason with those times are past.
Now look around, and turn each trifling page,
Survey the precious works that please the age;
This truth at least let satire's self allow,
No dearth of bards can be complain'd of now:
The loaded press beneath her labour groans,
And printers' devils shake their weary bones ;
While Southey's epics cram the creaking shelves,
And Little’s* lyrics shine in hot-press'd twelves.
Thus saith the preacher: “Nought beneath the sunt
Is new ;" yet still from change to change we run;
What varied wonders tempt us as they pass!
The cow-pox, tractors, galvanism, and gas,
In turns appear, to make the vulgar stare,
Till the swoln bubble bursts-and all is air !
Nor less new schools of poetry arise,
Where dull pretenders grapple for the prize :
O'er taste awhile these pseudo-bards prevail :
Each country book-club bows the knee to Baal,
And, hurling lawful genius from the throne,
Erects a shrine and idol of its own;
Some leaden calf—but whom it matters not,
From soaring Southey down to grovelling Stott. I

Behold! in various throngs the scribbling crew,
For notice eager, pass in long review :
Each spurs his jaded Pegasus apace,
And rhyme and blank maintain an equal race;
Sonnets on sonnets crowd, and ode on ode;
And tales of terror jostle on the road;
Immeasurable measures move along,
For simpering folly loves a varied song,
To strange mysterious dulness still the friend,
Admires the strain she cannot comprehend.

Thus Lays of Minstrels—may they be the last ! S-
On half-strung harps whine mournful to the blast;

.T. Moore's early amatory poems were published under the name of Thomas Little. Ecclesiastes, cap. 1.

Stott, better known in the “Morning Post" by the name of Hafiz. This person is at present the most profound explorer of the

bathos. I remember, when the reigning family left Portugal, a special ode of Master Stott's, beginning thus:

(Stott loquitur quoad Hibernia.) “ Princely offspring of Braganza,

Erin greets thee with a stanza," &c. &c. Also a sonnet to rats, well worthy of the subject, and a most thundering ode, commencing as follows:

“ Oh ! for a lay ! loud as the surge

That lashes Lapland's sounding shore."
Lord have mercy on us ! the “ Lay of the Last Minstrel " was nothing to this.

& See the “ Lay of the Last Minstrel," passim. Never was any plan so incongruous and absurd as the groundwork of this production. The entrance of Thunder and Lightning prologuizing to Bayes' Tragedy, unfor unately takes away the merit of originality from the dialogue between Messieurs the Spirits of Flood and Fell in the first canto.

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