1735 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bp. Robert Lowth

Christopher Pitt, "An Epistle to Mr. Robert Lowth" 1735 ca.; Magazine of Magazines 1 (November 1750) 456.



'Tis said, dear sir, no poets please the town,
Who drink mere water, tho' from Helicon:
For in cold blood they seldom boldly think;
Their rhymes are more insipid than their drink.
Not great APOLLO could the train inspire,
'Till generous BACCHUS help'd to fan the fire.
Warm'd by two Gods at once, they drink and write,
Rhyme all the day, and fuddle all the night.
HOMER, says HORACE, nods in many a place,
But hints, he nodded oftner o'er the glass.
Inspir'd with wine, old ENNIUS sung and thought
With the same spirit, that his heroes fought:
And we from JOHNSON'S tavern-laws divine,
That bard was no great enemy to wine,
'Twas from the bottle KING deriv'd his wit,
Drank till he could not talk, and then he writ.
Let no coif'd serjeant touch the sacred juice,
But leave it to the bards for better use:
Let the grave judge too the glass forbear,
Who never sing and dance but once a year.
This truth once known, our poets take the hint,
Get drunk or mad, and then get into print;
To raise their flames indulge the mellow fit,
And lose their senses in the search of wit:
And when with claret fir'd they take the pen,
Swear they can write, because they drink, like BEN.
Such mimick SWIFT or PRIOR to their cost,
For in the rash attempt the fools are lost.
When once a genius breaks thro' common rules,
He leads an herd of imitating fools.
If POPE, the prince of poets, sick a-bed,
O'er steaming coffee bends his aching head,
The fools in public o'er the fragrant draught
Incline those heads, that never ach'd or thought.
This must provoke his mirth or his disdain,
Cure his complaint, — or make him sick again.
I too, like them, the poet's path pursue,
And keep great FLACCUS ever in my view;
But in a distant view — yet when I write,
In these loose sheets must never see the light;
Epistles, odes, and twenty trifles more,
Things that are born and die in half an hour.
What! you must dedicate, says smiling SPENCE,
This year some new performance to the prince:
Tho' money is your scorn, no doubt in time,
You hope to gain some vacant stall by rhyme;
Like other poets, were the truth but known,
You too admire whatever is your own.
These wise remarks my modesty confound,
While the laugh rises, and the mirth goes round;
Vext at the jest, yet glad to shun a fray,
I whisk into my coach, and drive away.