1778 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Oliver Goldsmith

M. Macgreggor, Esq., in "The Battle of the Busts" Hibernian Magazine 8 (April 1778) 194.



In the dead of the night, when your ghosts rise and walk,
And the figures, on tomb-stones, find tongues with to talk,
The bards in the Abbey, like birds of a feather,
At roost, with their coxcombs all nodding together;
A goose of a gander, ne'er plum'd by the Graces
His head popping in, pok'd his nose in their faces.

"Who, the deuce, have we here?" cried they, strait, in amaze,
As they all started back at the goose-cap to gaze.
Then round him they gather'd, and ask'd whence he came
His country, condition, and what was his name?—
"How! what! don't you know, then," he cried, in a rage,
"The poet, philosopher, wit of the age.
Th' historian, the critic, physician, what-not,
Had not those James's powders soon sent me to pot?
I'm Oliver Goldsmith! — Why look you so queer?
As much as to say, What the devil do you here?
That you all are curs'd envious, I see by your look,
And grudge me so lofty a place in your nook.
But no matter for that; Nol cares not a damn;
You may scowl as you please; by the Lord, here I am.
To shine thus among you, when living, 'tis true,
I expected as little as any of you;
A drudge at all work, when, from morning to night,
Carnan and George Kearsley compell'd me to write,
God knows, about things which, a body may say,
I knew, though a Doctor, no more of than they.
But, whate'er I was, I would have you to know
That I'm now one of you, and am here statu quo.
My figure was plac'd by the bricklayer and mason,
For children, and fools, and old women to gaze on;
With a head-piece of stone, that, as good as the best,
Is as hard, and will last me, as long as the rest;
Exalted on high in a rare central niche;
Where you now, if you like it, may all kiss my breech.
Johnny Gay, who beneath me, here, lies at his ease,
It is plain I could piss on, if so I should please,
And as for James Thomson, and Nicholas Rowe,
In the corner they're thrust, as at best but so, so.
Nay, even for you, sir, who strut there so big,
Will. Shakespeare, I value you not of a fig.
At comedy, tragedy, pastoral, play,
Your comb I could cut any hour of the day.
Old Falstaff's eclips'd by my young Tony Lumpkin,
And your clowns all outwitted by my country bumpkin.
Next for you, Master Milton, that stand there behind,
In your ear I could whisper a piece of my mind;
And tho' cyder-Philips, your bully, stand nigh you,
At versification I boldly defy you.
Your blank-verse inditers are generally those,
Who cannot write rhyme, and so scribble in prose,
Likewise Monsieur Jordain, that provident cit,
Who left off his trade to set up for a wit.
A thousand such lines as such poets indite,
While I stand on one leg, like a crane, I could write.
For you Chaucer, Spenser, and Drayton, and Cowley,
You are match'd and o'ermatch'd by our modern old Rowley:
And as for your Priors, your Shadwells and Butlers;
Let 'em go and write posies for goldsmiths and cutlers."

"Impertinent puppy!" quoth proud Matthew Prior,
Who, piqu'd at his insolence, instant took fire,
"Were my night-cap but loose I would throw't in your phiz—
Do, Dryden, do, crack that vain coxcomb of his."