The Tribulations of an Uneducated Poet in the 1760's

The Tribulations of an Uneducated Poet in the 1760s

'Twas wond'rous, then, a bardling should be found
To twang the lyre on aught but classic ground —
Who dared presume to print poetic page
In such a lettered, such enlightened, age,
Except some critical, some courtly, cook
Formed bill of fare, or dished the dainty book.
Some read with rapture and some drawled with doubt:
'Twas long since Duck had threshed his harvest out —
And since his day no rustic had been seen
Who sung so deftly on the daisied green!
'Twas then supposed no clown could thrum a verse
So soft, smooth, simple, solid, strong and terse,
Fit for sheer fools in male or female shape —
Much less learned critic's keen remarks to 'scape.
None could bind couplets, stanzas twist, and bend
Figures and tropes at tongue's and finger's end,
But those that folios learned would frequent thumb,
Whose titles strike rude English readers dumb.
None without Latin stilts could stalk sublime
In bold blank verse — or more elaborate rhyme.
None chaunt choice strains but Horace' Art must prune,
Confined by modern scale to time and tune;
Or clearly comprehend rhyme's perfect scope
By keen Roscommon or mellifluous Pope —
None gain Parnassus' height with poet's gait,
But Virgil construe and could well translate;
Or Pegasus with whip and rowels ride,
Except old Homer's epics poised each side —
Ne'er sit secure and prance in rapid ode,
Till often trained in rough Pindaric road;
Nor Bacchanalian song or sonnet boast,
Unless Anacreon learn to sing and toast —
In amorous lays ne'er love's clear language claim,
Till fired with Sappho's fond consuming flame;
Nor in her slippery sandals learn to dance,
Till taught her stagg'ring step and glowing glance. ...
When on dull wild such prodigy appears,
Like comets once within long course of years —
Strange! to behold such versifying clown,
Remote from every city, court and town!
A rude, unlettered and unburnished boor,
With court-distinctions at his cottage door!
To see a peer's precursor with dispatch
Ride ambling up and lug his leathern latch!
Note learned lords, in coroneted coach,
His humble hut with complaisance approach,
His lowly lays and virtuous views commend,
And each profess to prove a constant friend —
While numbers more, of different rank and name,
Some led by fancy, some allured by fame,
Some smit by sympathetic pity, some
By bruit of Daphne's beauty, curious come —
Some through mere wanton whim, some chance, some choice,
Some to give guineas, some their sage advice,
For specie is expensive, counsel cheap;
Both wise men wish — but neither blockheads keep! ...
As tutored bears are led from place to place,
Displaying biped gait and burlesque grace,
Their action clumsy and their shape uncouth,
While grunting bagpipe greets the gaping youth,
And, with most solemn phiz and upright air,
Make witlings titter, whilst the ignorant stare —
As dancing dogs make oafs and children swarm,
Dress, mien, demeanour all in human form —
As monkeys, reared erect on paws or breech,
Well mimic man in all but laugh and speech —
Or as from street to street queer camel's shown,
From other beasts by pipe and tabor known,
Though seldom eye perceives a bungling brute
Whose make and motion less with music suit;
So was he sent the twofold city through,
For cits, like swains, are pleased with something new,
That each subscriber's eyes might freely range
O'er clown so clever! spectacle so strange!
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