1814 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Johnson

Sir George Beaumont, "Epitaph" 1814; P. W. Clayden, Rogers and his Contemporaries (1889) 1:151-52.



Here Johnson reclines in this grave, den, or pit,
The bugbear of folly, the tyrant of wit.
As an ox, overdriven, attacks in the streets,
And gores without mercy each creature he meets,
So this bellowing critic assailed every day
All his friends who had something or nothing to say.
Then he pitched and he rolled with a turbulent motion,
Like a First-rate just after a storm in the ocean
And if modestly silent, his censure to balk,
He exclaimed in a fury — Sir, why don't you talk?
If you said black was black, still his answer was No, Sir,
And thundering arguments followed the blow, Sir.
For though lies he disdained from the days of his youth,
Still, the Doctor loved victory better than truth.

But peace to his shade, if his powerful mind
Would sometimes break loose in expressions unkind,
He himself felt the blow when reflection came in,
For the Doctor had naught of the bear but his skin.
And in streams deep, majestic, o'erwhelming, and strong,
Full tides of morality flowed from his tongue.
Religion in him found a zealous defender,
And he never pretended to garble or mend her.
In his presence profaneness presumed not to dwell,
And sedition and treason shrank back to their hell.