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mal list of his poetry. We know he entertained a conscious sense of his dignity in this respect; for, excepting in a slight and passing sarcasm, he never deigned to answer any of his literary adversaries, excepting Settle and Shadwell; and he might possibly think, on reflection, that he had done the latter too much honour in making him the subject of a separate and laboured poem. Mr Malone also conceives, that he might be with-held from inserting this poem in an authoritative list of his works, by delicacy towards Dorset, his recent benefactor, who had thought Shadwell worthy of the laurel of which our poet had been divested at the Revolution. Be it as it may, he was afterwards so far from disowning the poem, that, in the Essay on Satire, he gives it, with "Absalom and Achitophel," as instances of his own attempts at the Varronian satire.
The purpose and scope of " Mac-Flecnoe" was strangely misconstrued by the object of it, and by our poet's editors. Shadwell took it into his head, that Dryden meant seriously to tax him with being an Irishman; a charge which he seems more anxious to refute than seems necessary. Cibber, or whoever wrote Dryden's Life in the collection bearing his name, supposes, that Flecnoe, who died in 1678, had actually succeeded our author in the office of poet-laureat. Derrick, though he corrects this error, has fallen into another, in which he is followed by Dr Johnson, who considers "Mac-Flecnoe" as written in express ridicule of Shadwell's inauguration as court poet. The scarcity of the first edition of" Mac-Flecnoe" might have been some excuse for these errors, had not the piece been printed in the first Miscellany, in 1684, four years before Dryden's being deposed, and Shadwell succeeding him. Certainly the two events tallied strangely; and the friends of Shadwell might have considered the substantial office which he gained by the downfall of Dryden, as a just compensation for the ludicrous and mock dignity with which his foe had invested him.
ALL human things are subject to decay,
And, when fate summons, monarchs must obey.
This Flecknoe found,* who, like Augustus, young
Was called to empire, and had governed long;
In prose and verse was owned, without dispute,
Through all the realms of Nonsense, absolute.
This aged prince, now flourishing in peace,
And blest with issue of a large increase,
Worn out with business, did at length debate
To settle the succession of the state;
And, pondering which of all his sons was fit
To reign, and wage immortal war with wit,
Cried, Tis resolved! for nature pleads, that he
Should only rule, who most resembles me.
Shadwell alone my perfect image bears,
Mature in dulness from his tender years; †
Shadwell alone, of all my sons, is he,
Who stands confirmed in full stupidity.
The rest to some faint meaning make pretence,
But Shadwell never deviates into sense;
Some beams of wit on other souls may fall,
Strike through, and make a lucid interval;
But Shadwell's genuine night admits no ray,
His rising fogs prevail upon the day.
Besides, his goodly fabric fills the eye,
And seems designed for thoughtless majesty ;
Thoughtless as monarch oaks, that shade the plain,
And, spread in solemn state, supinely reign.
Heywood and Shirley* were but types of thee,
Thou last great prophet of tautology!
Even I, a dunce of more renown than they,
Was sent before but to prepare thy way;
And, coarsely clad in Norwich drugget, † came
To teach the nations in thy greater name.
My warbling lute,-the lute I whilom strung,
When to king John of Portugal I sung,-
Was but the prelude to that glorious day,
When thou on silver Thames didst cut thy way,
With well-timed oars, before the royal barge,
Swelled with the pride of thy celestial charge;
And big with hymn, commander of an host,-
The like was ne'er in Epsom blankets tost. §
Methinks I see the new Arion sail,
The lute still trembling underneath thy nail. ||
At thy well-sharpened thumb, from shore to shore,
The trebles squeak for fear, the basses roar;
Echoes, from Pissing-Alley, Shadwell call,
And Shadwell they resound from Aston-Hall.
About thy boat the little fishes throng,
As at the morning toast that floats along.
Sometimes, as prince of thy harmonious band,
Thou weild'st thy papers in thy threshing hand;
St Andre's feet ne'er kept more equal time,
Not even the feet of thy own Psyche's rhyme,
Though they in number as in sense excel; †
So just, so like tautology, they fell,
That, pale with envy, Singleton ‡ forswore
The lute and sword, which he in triumph bore,
And vowed he ne'er would act Villerius more.
Here stopt the good old sire, and wept for joy,
In silent raptures of the hopeful boy.
All arguments, but most his plays, persuade,
That for anointed dulness he was made.
Close to the walls which fair Augusta bind,
(The fair Augusta much to fears inclined, §)
An ancient fabric raised to inform the sight,
There stood of yore, and Barbican it hight;
A watch-tower once, but now, so fate ordains,
Of all the pile an empty name remains ;
From its old ruins brothel-houses rise,
Scenes of lewd loves, and of polluted joys;
Where their vast courts the mother-strumpets keep,
And, undisturbed by watch, in silence sleep. ||
Near these a nursery erects its head,
Where queens are formed, and future heroes bred;
Where unfledged actors learn to laugh and cry;
Where infant punks their tender voices try,
And little Maximins the gods defy.
* An eminent dancing-master of the period.
§ Alluding to the political apprehensions of the period, so universal in the city.
|| These lines are a parody on a passage in Cowley's Davideis, Book I.:
Beneath the dens where unfledged tempests lie,
And infant winds their tender voices try;
Where their vast court the mother waters keep;
And, undisturbed by moons, in silence sleep.
Great Fletcher never treads in buskins here,
Nor greater Jonson dares in socks appear;
But gentle Simkin* just reception finds
Amidst this monument of vanished minds;
Pure clinches the suburbian muse affords,
And Panton† waging harmless war with words.
Here Flecknoe, as a place to fame well known,
Ambitiously designed his Shadwell's throne.
For ancient Decker + prophesied long since,
That in this pile should reign a mighty prince,
Born for a scourge of wit, and flail of sense;
To whom true dulness should some Psyches owe,
But worlds of Misers from his pen should flow;
Humorists, and Hypocrites, it should produce,
Whole Raymond families, and tribes of Bruce. §
Now empress Fame had published the renown
Of Shadwell's coronation through the town.
Roused by report of fame, the nations meet,
From near Bunhill, and distant Watling-street.
No Persian carpets spread the imperial way,
But scattered limbs of mangled poets lay;
From dusty shops neglected authors come,
Martyrs of pies, and relics of the bum;
Much Heywood, Shirley, Ogleby there lay,
But loads of Shadwell almost choked the way;
Bilked stationers for yeomen stood prepared,
And Herringman || was captain of the guard.
The hoary prince in majesty appeared,
High on a throne of his own labours reared.
* The character of a cobler in an interlude.
+ A celebrated punster, according to Derrick.
Henry Herringman, bookseller, published almost all the poems, plays, and lighter pieces of the day. He was Dryden's original publisher.