1759 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Dodsley

Anonymous, "To Mr. R. Dodsley. A Dialogue betwixt the Poet and the Bookseller" London Chronicle (12 June 1759) 455.



P. Now thrice had Colin shear'd his wooly train,
Thrice in his garner hous'd the golden grain,
Since Hymen, yielding to his ardent vow,
Had eas'd his anxious heart, and smooth'd his brow:
Had giv'n his Lucia to his longing arms,
And bless'd his cottage with her blooming charms.
B. Pretty and soft — P. Enough, my friend, enough,
Morosus mutters, "Sir, your verse is rough."
Ev'n Pollio cries, "Your eclogues want a chain;
This ends abrupt, abrupt the following strain.
The style's too polish'd, and the sense too fine,
Your shepherd reasons like a deep divine."
Yet Varus thinks the poem all complete,
The language rural, and the numbers sweet.
Poems and portraits feel an equal fate,
Both vex'd alike, and endless the debate.
Your eye strong likeness in the piece we trace,
Mine not a feature of the living face.
One critic dashes, what the next approves,
As diff'ring taste the partial judgment moves.
Flatt'ry will praise, and Envy's tongue defame:
'Tis there all excellence, 'tis here all blame.
Thus from opinion to opinion tost,
And in a maze of contradictions tost,
Where must a Poet alter? Where strike out?
What sov'reign arbiter resolves each doubt?
Shall he his piece by his own scale adjust,
Then to the publick voice his fame intrust?
B. Sir, nothing will the publick ear engage,
Unless you hit the humour of the age:
And, to deal plainly, in these iron times
But few are tickled with melodious rhymes.
P. I court the Few, let others please the Throng.
B. But I must eat by readers of the song.
With many a ream my loaded garrets groan
Of Heliconian ware— P. Perhaps my own.
Trash, doubtless, all. Let Mason touch the lyre,
Let the warm impulse Akenside inpsire,
Let tuneful Gray in pensive numbers flow,
Or Dyer's line with rural fancy glow,
What can withstand their music?— B. Asses ears.
P. Hold, lest you tag the coupling verse with — Peers.
B. Keep clear of scandal, tremble at the laws,
'Tis dang'rous playing with a lion's claws.
The Great— P. Set holy water at the door,
Nothing unclean may tread their hallow'd door,
I come not near, who neither throw nor bet;
And, thank my stars, no ribband's in my debt.
The Muse once glory'd in a Sackville's name,
A Somers once was guardian of her fame.
B. Old fashion'd times — new generations rise,
And modes and manners ever change their dyes.
P. What must we write, the modern taste to hit?
B. A Panegyrick or lampoon on Pitt.
P. To libel Virtue would deserve a rope,
To praise such virtue well what pow'rs can hope?
B. Record the Prussian Hero. P. Ay, translate
From Dutch Gazettes and Mercuries out of date,
Then with proposals swell the pompous page,
Subscribe, subscribe — the Wonder of the age!
A novel— B. Turns the stomach of the town,
Those fulsome dishes go no longer down:
Write for the city, Sir, on cent. per cent.
Your pamphlet's safe; I'll answer for its vent.
Thro' the full 'Change my hawker roars his cry,
There's not a Jew or Christian but will buy.
P. These men of lucre, sure, amusement need.
B. A Magazine or Journal does the deed.
P. I hate thee, Avarice, whose infectious breath,
Bane to all Science, to all Virtue death,
Pours a thick fog around the dark'ning land,
Bow, bow to Dulness, ye poetic band.
Dash down our silver harps, nor waste your pains
To charm deaf adders with celestial strains.
Ye Nine, from this ingrateful Isle remove,
Chuse in some savage clime some list'ning grove.
Th' untutor'd Indian, with a raptur'd ear,
All day your voice, your potent voice, will hear:
Verse his unruly passions shall controul,
His fierceness smooth, and humanize his soul:
A new Parnasse 'mong Cabot's hills shall rise,
And a new Athens greet their wond'ring skies.