1719 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Richard Steele

Anonymous, "An Epistle to Sir R—d St—le, occasion'd by the Eclypse" Musapaedia, or Miscellany Poems (1719) 128-32.



Whilst Crazy W[histo]n 'mongst the Wits,
To teach 'em Sense, at Button sits;
I mean in Stars and dire Eclypses,
Which tell our Fortunes well as Gypsies:
First taking Care, his Maw to sate
With good Bohea and Chocolate;
Desperse the Vapours of the Mind,
Whilst Nantz or Burdeaux keep out Wind:
Then, after many Hums and Pauses,
He opens and explains the Causes,
How Bodies 'bove the Atmosphere
Affect our Mortal Bodies here;
As when himself and Brother Flamstead,
With fiery Balls on Hill of Hampstead,
Fathom'd the Air, and thought they cou'd
By that find out the Longitude.
So he, by Syllogisms stated,
Proves that the Stars are all created
As Messengers, to let us know
What things will happen here below.
Skilful as PATRICK, MOOR, or RIDER
He, tho' not as tall as BEN—DER,
Can reach to any Star or Plannet;
And, well as PRIOR, Verses, scan it;
That is, describe its Force and Motions
By Old Copernicus's Notions;
Or forge a System of his own,
To put off which amongst the Town,
He can by Scripture Text defend it,
Invented by himself to mend it:
For he, like any Bellarmine,
Can Legends form for Things Divine,
And make 'em pass for Sacred Writ,
With any Beau, or Button's Wit,
Who, tho' unlearn'd in Nicene Creed,
Can Manuscripts like B[ent]ly read;
Which honest T[o]l[a]nd gets Abroad
From — some Dutch Hogen-Mogen Lord.
For Wits to credit Tales incline,
And love 'em well as Tokay Wine;
Since they, by Transmigration strange,
To Worms (says POPE) from Maggots change;
Which, being sprung from Putrifaction,
In any Carrion find Attraction.
As Weather-Cocks, on High-Church Steeple,
That stand for th' Use of Christian People,
Can't long in any Station last,
But turn about at every Blast:
So their poor weak and feeble Minds
Are subject to all varying Winds
Of Church, or State, of new Invention,
Whether of good or bad Intention,
It matters not to Folk Free-Thinking,
More than to Sots it matters Drinking.
As NAILER JAMES, and DANIEL BURGESS,
With Fear of Firebrands and Scourges,
Stirr'd up the Asses of their Faction
To any vile rebellious Action:
So this Fanatick of the Stars
Stirs People up to Civil Wars
Against the Church, and its Defendants,
With as much Zeal as Independants;
Carp at th' Establish'd Constitution,
Tho' since the Glorious Revolution;
By th' way of Liberty of Conscience
All Sects have leave to reach their Nonsense:
And he by that Permission (bless us!
Why, BICKERSTAFF, don't you redress us)
Sets up strange Forms of new Devotion,
Calm, undisturb'd, without Emotion;
For so in strictest Sense we call
Liturgies never used at all.
Now, good Sir Knight, be pleas'd to view him,
Grave as Professor VANDER BRUIN,
That I recite no Problems, Pardon,
For I'm not skill'd in Starry Jargon.
Perhaps he told by Tellescope,
Who'd 'scape, and who deserv'd the Rope,
And who shou'd live to see the Nation
Freed from each House of Convocation,
Least they shou'd censure Nazarenus,
And raise another Strife between us.