1791 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Johnson

Francis Garden, in "Sketches of celebrated Characters" Miscellanies in Prose and Verse (1791) 224-27.



What wit adores not Johnson's taste,
Who wish'd Polybius had been dumb?
To Sallust and his paper-waste
Preferring Bunyan and Tom Thumb.
His wisdom trusted every rogue;
His virtue hated a Whig Dog.

This far-fam'd Sage at all times said,
No man of common sense would write,
Unless he on the nail was paid
For every line that saw the light.
In print, the Doctor did not fail
At hireling garreteers to rail.

He told the Brewer's crazy wife
How well he lov'd a stomach load,
And stay'd but once in all his life
At home, when ask'd to dine abroad;
Nay sometimes reel'd about the cup
Till morning broke the ramble up,
For, 'twas his glory to declare,
The throne of human joy — a tavern chair.

When Hodge, his cat, fell sick and blind,
Nothing but oysters pleas'd the elf,
Black Frank refus'd to be so kind,
He therefore brought them home himself.
Excise commissioners he scorn'd,
As footpads pension'd and suborn'd.

This deep philologer defin'd
That sweet is something else than sour,
That he who wants his eyes is blind,
That thrice and one make always four,
That thunder is a rapid flame,
And beaux and monkies are the same;

That sucking infants are not old,
That chamber-pots were made for cleaning;
That long and short, and hot and cold
Are words of very diff'rent meaning;
That virgins don't begin to breed
Till once you rid them of their maidenhead.

For feats like these, sagacious Bute
Gave him three hundred pounds a-year,
And 'tis a fact beyond dispute,
He bought his wages very dear;
His book is large enough to crack
The strongest Irish chairman's back.

In truth, as Parson Horne observ'd,
His Spelling-Book is such a bore,
As no half-learn'd, half-mad, half-starv'd
Grubaen ever hatch'd before.
Ah! Bozzy, Bozzy, shan't we see
Some wooden vacancy for thee.

How smartly might our school-boys drive
Their eggs about thy lantern jaws?
And toss, if Hodge be yet alive,
At that firm phiz her mangy paws?
While, with clench'd fist, stands Hester by
To stamp the yolks on either eye.

Heav'ns! why has thy degraded name
Provok'd my sweetly temper'd pen?
Are we to blend thy brazen fame
With that of those illustrious men?
Compar'd to thine, thou literary wart,
Iscariot play'd a manly part,
The cord attested shame could touch his heart.