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Came simp'ring on; to ascertain whose sex
Twelve sage, impanell’d matrons would perplex.
Nor male, nor female ; neither, and yet both;
Of neuter gender, though of Irish growth;
A six-foot suckling, mincing in its gait;
Affected, peevish, prim, and delicate;
Fearful it seem'd, though of athletic make,
Lest brutal breezes should too roughly shake
Its tender form, and savage motion spread,
O'er its pale cheeks, the horrid manly red.
Much did it talk, in its own pretty phrase,
Of genius and of taste, of play’rs and plays;
Much too of writings, which itself had wrote,
Of special merit, though of little note;
For Fate, in a strange humour, had decreed
That what it wrote, none but itself should read;
Much too it chatter'd of dramatic laws,
Misjudging critics, and misplac'd applause ;
Then, with a self-complacent jutting air,
It smild, it smirk'd, it wriggled to the chair ;
And, with an awkward briskness not its own,
Looking around, and perking on the throne,
Triumphant seem'd, when that strange savage dame,
Known but to few, or only known by name,
Plain Common Sense appear'd, by Nature there
Appointed, with plain Truth, to guard the chair.
The pageant saw, and blasted with her frown,
To its first state of nothing melted down.
Nor shall the Muse (for even there the pride Of this vain nothing shall be mortified) Nor shall the Muse (should Fate ordain her rhymes Fond, pleasing thought! to live in after-times)
With such a trifler's name her pages blot ;
Known be the character, the thing forgot;
Let it, to disappoint each future aim,
Live without sex, and die without a name!
Cold-blooded critics, by enervate sires
Scarce hammer'd out, when Nature's feeble fires
Glimmer'd their last; whose sluggish blood, half
froze, Creeps lab’ring through the veins ; whose heart
With fancy-kindled heat ;-a servile race,
Who in mere want of fault, all merit place;
Who blind obedience pay to ancient schools,
Bigots to Greece, and slaves to musty rules ;
With solemn consequence declar'd that none
Could judge that cause but Sophocles alone.
Dupes to their fancied excellence, the crowd,
Obsequious to the sacred dictate, bow'd.
When, from amidst the throng, a youth stood forth,
Unknown his person, not unknown his worth ;
His look bespoke applause ; alone he stood,
Alone he stemm'd the mighty critic flood.
He talk'd of ancients, as the man became
Who priz'd our own, but envied not their fame;
With noble rev'rence spoke of Greece and Rome,
And scorn'd to tear the laurel from the tomb.
“ But more than just to other countries grown, Must we turn base apostates to our own? Where do these words of Greece and Rome excel, That England may not please the ear as well ? What mighty magic's in the place or air, That all perfection needs must centre there?
In states, let strangers blindly be preferr'd;
In state of letters, merit should be heard.
Genius is of no country, her pure ray
Spreads all abroad, as gen’ral as the day;
Foe to restraint, from place to place she flies,
And may hereafter e'en in Holland rise.
May not (to give a pleasing fancy scope,
And cheer a patriot heart with patriot hope)
May not some great extensive genius raise
The name of Britain 'bove Athenian praise ;
And, whilst brave thirst of fame his bosom warms,
Make England great in letters as in arnis ?
There may - there hath — and Shakspeare's Muse
Beyond the reach of Greece: with natives fires
Mounting aloft, he wings his daring flight,
Whilst Sophocles below stands trembling at his
height. “ Why should we then abroad for judges roam, When abler judges we may find at home? Happy in tragic and in comic pow’rs, Have we not Shakspeare? - Is not Jonson ours? For them, your nat'ral judges, Britons, vote; They'll judge like Britons, who like Britons wrote."
He said, and conquer'd - Sense resum'd her sway, And disappointed pedants stalk'd away. Shakspeare and Jonson, with deserv'd applause, Joint-judges were ordain'd to try the cause. Meantime the stranger ev'ry voice employ'd, To ask or tell his name - Who is it?—Lloyd.
Thus, when the aged friends of Job stood mute, And, tamely prudent, gave up the dispute,
Elihu, with the decent warmth of youth,
Boldly stood forth the advocate of Truth;
Confuted Falsehood, and disabled Pride,
Whilst baffled Age stood snarling at his side.
The day of trial 's fix'd, nor any fear
Lest day of trial should be put off here.
Causes but seldom for delay can call
In courts where forms are few, fees none at all.
The morning came, nor find I that the Sun,
As he on other great events hath done,
Put on a brighter robe than what he wore
To go his journey in the day before.
Full in the centre of a spacious plain,
On plan entirely new, where nothing vain,
Nothing magnificent appear’d, but Art
With decent modesty perform’d her part,
Rose a tribunal: from no other court
It borrow'd ornament, or sought support:
No juries here were pack'd to kill or clear,
No bribes were taken, nor oaths broken here;
No gownmen, partial to a client's cause,
To their own purpose tun'd the pliant laws,
Each judge was true and steady to his trust,
As Mansfield wise, and as old Foster * just.
In the first seat, in robe of various dyes,
A noble wildness flashing from his eyes,
Sat Shakspeare. In one hand a wand he bore,
For mighty wonders fam'd in days of yore;
The other held a globe, which to his will
Obedient turn'd, and own'd the master's skill :
* Sir Michael Foster, one of the judges of the King's Bench.
Things of the noblest kind his genius drew,
And look'd through Nature at a single view:
A loose he gave to his unbounded soul,
And taught new lands to rise, new seas to roll;
Call’d into being scenes unknown before,
And, passing Nature's bounds, was something more.
Next Jonson sat, in ancient learning train’d,
His rigid judgment Fancy's flights restrain'd,
Correctly prun'd each wild luxuriant thought,
Mark'd out her course, nor spar'd a glorious fault.
The book of man he read with nicest art,
And ransack'd all the secrets of the heart;
Exerted penetration's utmost force,
And trac'd each passion to its proper source;
Then strongly mark’d, in liveliest colours drew,
And brought each foible forth to public view,
The coxcomb felt a lash in ev'ry word,
And fools, hung out, their brother fools deterr’d.
His comic humour kept the world in awe,
And Laughter frighten'd Folly more than Law.
But, hark !—The trumpet sounds, the crowd gives
And the procession comes in just array.
Now should I, in some sweet poetic line,
Offer up incense at Apollo's shrine ;
Invoke the Muse to quit her calm abode,
And waken mem'ry with a sleeping ode.
For liow should mortal man, in mortal verse,
Their titles, merits, or their names rehearse ?
But give, kind Dullness, memory and rhyme,
We 'll put off Genius till another time.