1800 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. John Wolcot

William Gifford, in Epistle to Peter Pindar, 1800; True Briton (9 July 1800).



A bloated mass, a gross, unkneaded clod,
A foe to man, a renegade from God,
From noxious childhood to pernicious age,
Sacred to infamy, through every stage.

Cornwall remembers yet his first employ,
And shuddering tells with what infernal joy,
His little tongue in blasphemies was loos'd,
His little hands in deeds of horror us'd:
While mangled insects strew'd his cradle o'er,
And limbs of birds distained his bib with gore.

Anon, on stronger animals he flew
(For with his growth his savage passions grew);
And oft, what time his violence fail'd to kill,
He form'd the insidious drug with wicked skill;
Saw with wild joy, in pangs till then untry'd,
Cats, dogs, expire; and curs'd them as they died!

With riper years a different scene began,
And his hate turn'd from animals to man:
Then letters, libels, flew on secret wings,
And wide around infix'd their venom'd stings;
All fear'd, where none could ward, the coming blow,
And each man ey'd his neighbour as his foe;
Till dragg'd to day, the lurking caitiff stood,
(Th' accursed cause of many a fatal feud),
And begg'd for mercy in so sad a strain,
So wept, so trembled, that the injur'd train
Who, cowring at their feet, a miscreant saw,
Too mean for punishment, too poor for law,
O'erlook'd ('twas all they could) his numerous crimes,
And shipp'd him off "to ape and monkey climes."

There, while the Negroes view'd with new disgust
This prodigy of drunkenness and lust,
Explore the darkest cells, the dirtiest styes,
And roll in filth at which their gorge would rise;
He play'd one master-trick to crown the whole,
And took, O Heavens! the sacerdotal stole!
How shook the altar when he first drew near,
Hot from debauch, and with a shameless leer,
Pour'd stammering forth the yet unhallow'd prayers,
Mix'd with convulsive sobs, and noisome airs!—
Then rose the people, passive now no more,
And from his limbs the sacred vestments tore;
Dragg'd him with groans, shouts, hisses, to the main,
And sent him to annoy these realms again.