1728
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Oak, and the Dunghill. A Fable.

The Oak, and the Dunghill. A Fable.

Rev. William Broome


William Broome, writing anonymously, recasts the narrative of Spenser's Februarie as a fable for the times: the Oak is Robert Walpole, the "patriot Dunghill" the opposition party, who anticipate the day when the man "beyond the Alps" (the Pretender) "shall fell such Traytor Trees." "Ill to the Man, who Evil thought" translates the motto of the Order of the Garter. The sense of The Oak and the Dunghill is made more plain when it is compared to an anonymous answering poem, A Sequel to Fable of the Oak and the Dunghill, published in The Craftsman (9 November 1728). A second "continuation" appeared in Fog's Weekly Journal (23 November 1728) and a third, supporting Broome, in the London Journal (23 November 1728). A fourth continuation, "The Oak and the Dunghill, a Dialogue" was published in Robin's Panegyrick, or the Norfolk Miscellany (1729).

"The Oak and the Dunghill" was reprinted in the Weekly Magazine or Edinburgh Amusement as late as 1769; it does not appear in the poet's collected works.

Born in Chesire, Broome made his way up from poverty by dint of his classical scholarship, a good marriage, and his relationship with Alexander Pope, whom he assisted in translating the Odyssey. Broome's support for the ministry apparently did not go unregarded; he was awarded a rectory in the gift of the crown in August 1728. Broome eventually enjoyed the revenue from four church livings, three rectories and a vicarage.

Elijah Fenton to William Broome: "Long live and flourish the Rector of Pulham. Is not this upon every account preferable to a long pilgrimage, or rather banishment into Devonshire? I would not have thee to be either anxious in your expectations, or troublesome to your patrons, without which I think you may hold your eye fixed on Norwich whenever a prebend is vacant" 15 September 1728; Works of Pope, ed. Elwin and Courthope (1871-1889) 8:152.

Samuel Johnson: "in his original works, recollection seems to have been his business more than invention. His imitations are so apparent that it is part of his reader's employment to recall the verses of some former poet. Sometimes he copies the most popular writers, for he seems scarcely to endeavour at concealment; and sometimes he picks up fragments in obscure corners" "Life of Broome" in Lives of the English Poets (1779-81); ed. Hill (1905) 3:80.

Samuel Austin Allibone: "William Broome, d. 1745, a native of Cheshire, England, was educated at Eton, and at St. John's College. He was for some time rector in Suffolk. In conjunction with Ozell and Oldisworth, he translated the Illiad into prose.... Pope engaged Fenton and Broome to aid him in the translation of the Odyssey" Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 1:253.



On a fair Mead a Dunghill lay,
That rotting smoakt, and stunk away;
To an excessive Bigness grown,
By Night-men's Labours on him thrown.
Ten thousand Nettles from him sprung;
Who ever came but near, was stung.
Nor ever fail'd He, to produce
The baneful Hemlock's deadly Juice:
Such as of old at Athens grew,
When Patriots thought it Phocion's Due;
And for the Man its Poison prest,
Whose Merit shone above the rest.

Not far from hence, strong-rooted stood
A sturdy Oak; it self a Wood!
With friendly Height, o'ertopt the Grove,
And look'd, the Fav'rite Tree of Jove.
Beneath his hospitable Shade,
The Shepherds all, at Leisure, plaid;
They fear'd no Storms of Hail, or Rain;
His Boughs protected all the Plain:
Gave Verdure to the Grass around,
And beautify'd the neighb'ring Ground.
The Gracious Landlord joy'd to see
The prosp'rous Vigour of his Tree;
And often sought, when in Distress,
This Oak's oracular Redress:
Sprung from the old Dodonian Grove,
Which told to Men the Will of Jove.
His Boughs He oft with Chaplets crown'd,
With azure Ribbons bound them round;
And there, in Golden Letters wrought,
Ill to the Man, who Evil thought.

With envious Rage, the Dunghill view'd
Merit, with Honour, thus pursued.
Th' Injustice of the Times, he moan'd;
With inward Jealousy, he groan'd.
A Voice at length, pierc'd thro' the Smoke,
And thus, the Patriot Dunghill spoke.

If a proud Look forerun a Fall,
And Insolence for Vengeance call;
Dost Thou not fear, insulting Oak!
The just, th' impending Hatchet's Stroke?
When all the Farmers of the Town,
Shall come with Joy, to pull Thee down;
And wear thy Leaves, all blythe, and gay,
Some happy RESTORATION DAY.
For 'tis reserv'd to those good Times,
To punish all thy matchless Crimes.
Beyond the Alps, my Mind now sees
The Man, shall fell such Traytor Trees.
To Heav'n, 'tis true, thy Branches grow;
But thy Roots stretch to Hell below.
Oh! that my Utt'rance cou'd keep pace,
In cursing Thee, and all thy Race!
Thou Plunderer! grown rich by Crimes:
Thou Woolsey of these modern Times!
Thou curst Sejanus of the Plain!
Thou Slave, of a Tiberian Reign!
Empson and Dudley! — Star and Garter!—
A Knez! — a Menzicoff! — a Tartar!

Th' astonish'd Farmers all around
Stood gaping, at th' impetuous Sound;
The Dunghill in high Triumph lay,
And swore the Oak had nought to say.
His Work was done; — the Farmers All
Might gather round, and see him fall.
Not so th' Event. — the Oak was seen
To flourish more, in fresher green.
By Scandal unprovok'd He stood;
And answer'd thus, the Heap of Mudd.

When Folly, Noise, and Slander rage,
And Calumny reforms the Age;
They, in the Wise no Passions raise;
Their Clamours turn to real Praise.
Yet sure, hard-fated is the Tree,
Reduc'd to spatter Dirt, with Thee.
Soon should a Branch, from off my Side,
Chastise thine Insolence, and Pride,
Did not the Wise obtain their Ends,
As well from Enemies, as Friends.
Thus, some Increase thy Heap receives,
Ev'n from the falling of my Leaves;
Which, like false Friends, when dropt from Me,
Assimilate, and turn to Thee.
But be they thine. — New Seasons spread
New Honours, o'er my rising Head.

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