1787 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Johnson

George Colman, "A Posthumous Work of Samuel Johnson. An Ode" Morning Herald (10 December 1787).



St. Paul's deep bell, from stately tow'r
Had furnish'd once and twice the hour,
Blue burnt the midnight taper;
Hags their dark spells o'er cauldron brew'd,
While Sons of Ink their work pursu'd,
Printing the Morning Paper.

Say, Herald, Chronicle, or Post,
Which then beheld great Johnson's Ghost,
Grim, horrible, and squalid?
Compositors their letters dropt,
Pressmen, their groaning engine stopt,
And Devils all grew pallid.

Enough! his Spectre cried; Enough!
No more of your fugacious stuff,
Trite Anecdotes and Stories!
Rude martyrs of Sam Johnson's name,
You rob him of his honest fame,
And tarnish all his glories.

First in the futile tribe is seen,
Tom Tyers in the Magazine,
That teazer of Apollo!
With goose quill he, like desperate knife,
Slices, as Vauxhall beef, my life,
And calls the town to swallow.

Next Boswell comes (for 'twas my lot
To find at last one honest Scot)
With constitutional vivacity,
Yet, garrulous, he tells too much,
On fancied-failings prone to touch,
With sedulous loquacity.

At length — Job's patience it would tire—
Brew'd on my lees, comes Thrale's Entire,
Straining to draw my picture;
For she a common-place-book kept,
Johnson at Streatham din'd and slept,
And who shall contradict her?

Thrale, lost 'mongst fidlers and Sopranos,
With them plays Fortes and Pianos,
Adagio and Allegro!
I lov'd Thrale's widow — and Thrale's wife;
But now, believe, to write my life
I'd rather trust my Negro.

I gave the Public works of merit,
Written with vigour, fraught with spirit;
Applause crown'd all my labours.
But thy delusive pages speak
My palsied pow'rs, exhausted, weak,
The scoff of friends and neighbours.

They speak me insolent and rude,
Light, trivial, puerile, and crude,
The child of Pride and Vanity;
Poor Tuscan-like Improvisation
Is but of English sense castration,
And infantine inanity.

Such idle rhymes, like Sybil's leaves,
Kindly the scatt'ring wind receives;
The gath'rer proves a scorner.
But hold! I see the coming day!
—The spectre said, and stalk'd away
To sleep in Poet's Corner.