1764 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Woty

Robert Lloyd, "The Whim. An Epistle to Mr. W. Woty" St. James's Chronicle (27 October 1764).



The Praise of Genius will offend
A Foe no doubt, sometimes a Friend;
But curse on Genius, Wit, and Parts,
The Thirst of Science, Love of Arts,
If inconsistent with the Plan
Of social Good from Man to Man.
For me, who will may wear the Bays,
I value not such idle Praise:
Let wrangling Wits abuse, defame,
And quarrel for an empty Name.
What's in this shuffling Pace of Rhime,
Or grand pas Stride of stiff Sublime,
That Vanity her Trump should blow,
And look with Scorn on Folks below?
Are Wit and Folly close ally'd,
And match'd, like Poverty, with Pride?
When rival Bards for Fame content,
The Poet often spoils the Friend;
Genius Self center'd feels alone
That Merit he esteems his own,
And cold, o'er-jealous, and severe
Hates, like a Turk, a Brother near;
Malice steps in, Good-Nature flies,
Folly prevails, and Friendship dies.
Peace to all such, if Peace can dwell
With those who bear about a Hell,
Who blast all Worth with Envy's Breath,
By their own Feelings stung to Death.
None but a weak and breathless Fool,
Undisciplin'd in Fortune's School,
Can hope for Favours from the Wit:
He pleads Prescription to forget,
Unnotic'd let him live, or rot,
And, as forgetful, be forgot.
Most Wags, whose Pleasure is to smoke,
Would rather lose their Friend, than Joke;
A Man in Rags looks something queer,
And there's vast Humour in a Sneer;
That Jest, alike all Witlings suits,
Which lies no further than the Boots.
Give me the Man whose open Mind
Means social Good to all Mankind;
Who when his Friend, from Fortune's Round,
Is toppled headlong to the Ground,
Can meet him with a warm Embrace,
And wipe the Tear from Sorrow's Face;
Who, not self-taught and proudly wise,
Seeks more to comfort than advise,
Who less intent to shine than please,
Wears his own Mirth with native Ease,
And is from Sense, from Nature's Plan,
The jovial Guest, the honest Man;
In short, whose Picture, painted true,
In ev'ry Point resembles you.

And will my Friend for once excuse
This Off'ring of a lazy Muse?
Most lazy, — lest you think her not,
I'll draw her Picture on the Spt:
A Parson's Ease the Dame enjoys;
Three Chairs her Indolence employs:
On one she squats her cushion'd Bum,
Which would not rise, tho' Kings should come;
An Arm lolls dangling o'er another,
Both Legs lie couchant on its Brother.
To make her look supremely wise,
At least like Wisdom in Disguise,
The Weed, which first by Raleigh brought,
Gives thinking Looks instead of Thought,
She smokes, and smokes, without all Feeling,
Save as the Eddies climb the Ceiling,
And waft about their mild Perfume,
She marks their Passage round the Room.
When Pipe forsakes the vacant Mouth,
A Pot of Beer prevents her Drowth,
Which with Potations Pottle deep
Lulls the poor Maudlin Muse to sleep.
Her Books, of which sh' as wond'rous Need,
But neither Pow'r nor Will to read,
In scatter'd Tomes lie all around
Upon the lowest Shelf — the Ground.

Such Ease, no Doubt, suits easy Rhime;
Folks walk about who write sublime,
While Recitation's pompous Sound
Drawls Words sonorous all around,
And Action waves her Hand and Head,
As those who Bread and Butter spread.

You Bards, who feel not Fancy's Dearth,
Who strike the Roof, and kick the Earth,
Whose Muse, superlatively high!
Takes Lodgings always near the Sky,
And, like the Lark, with daring Flight,
Still soars and sings beyond our Sight,
May trumpet forth your grand Sublime,
And scorn our lazy lounging Rhime.
Yet though the Lark in Aether floats,
And trills, no Doubt, diviner Notes,
Carelessly perch'd on yonder Spray,
The Linnet sings a pretty Lay.

What horrid, what tremendous Sight
Shakes all my Fabric with Affright!
With Argus' hundred Eyes he marks,
With triple Mouth the Monster barks,
And while he scatters flaming Brands,
Briarius lends him all his Hands.

Hist! 'tis a Critic — Yes, 'tis he!—
What wou'd your graceless Form with me?
Is it t' upbraid me with the Crime
Of spinning unlaborious Rhime,
Of stringing various Thoughts together
In Verse, or Prose, or both, or ne'ther?
A Vein, which though it must offend
You, lofty Sirs, who can't descend,
To Fame has often made its Way,
From Butler, Prior, Swift, and Gay;
Is it for this your Brow austere
Frowns me to Stone for very Fear?
Hear my just Reason first, and then
Approve me right, or split my Pen.

I seek not by more labour'd lays
To catch the slipp'ry tail of praise,
Nor will I run a mad career
'Gainst genius which I most revere;
When Phoebus bursts with genuine fire,
The little stars at once retire;
Who cares a farthing for those lays
Which you can neither blame, nor praise?
I cannot match a Churchill's skill,
But may be Langhorne when I will.

Let the mere Mimio, for each Season bears
Your mimic Bards as well as mimic Play'rs,
Creep servilely along, and with dull Pains
Lash his slow Steed, in whose enfeebled Veins
The cold Blood lags, let him with fruitless aim
By borrow'd Plumes assume a borrow'd fame.
With study'd Forms th' incautious Ear beguile,
And ape the Numbers of a Churchill's Style.
Slaves may some Fame from Imitation hope;
Who'd be Paul Whitehead, tho' he honours Pope.
If clinking Couplets in one endless Chime
Be the sole Beauty, and the Praise of Rhime;
If Sound alone an easy Triumph gains,
While Fancy bleeds, and Sense is hung in Chains,
Ye happy Triflers, hail the rising Mode!
See, all Parnassus is a Turnpike Road!
Where each may travel in the highway Track
On true-bred Hunter, or on common Hack.
For me, who labour with poetick Sin,
Who often woo the Muse I cannot win,
Whom Pleasure first a willing Poet made,
And Folly spoilt by taking up the Trade,
Pleas'd I behold superior Genius shine,
Nor ting'd with Envy wish that Genius mine,
To Churchill's Muse can bow with decent Awe,
Admire his Mode, nor make that Mode my Law.
Both may, perhaps, have various Pow'rs to please;
Be his the Strength of Numbers, mine the Ease.
Ease that rejects not, but betrays no Care;
Less of the Coxcomb than the Sloven's Air.

Your Taste, as mine, all Metre must offend,
When Imitation is its only End.
I could, perhaps, that servile Task pursue,
And copy Churchill as I'd copy you,
But that my flippant Muse, too saucy grown,
Prefers that Manner she can call her own.