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Contemporaries; but will lock themselves up in their studies for a twelvemonth together, to correct, publish, and expound, such trifles of Antiquity as a modern Author would be contemned for. Men of the strictest morals, severest lives, and the gravest professions, will write Volumes upon an idle Sonnet that is originally in Greek or Latin; give Editions of the most immoral Authors, and spin out whole pages upon the various readings of a lewd expression. All that can be said in excuse for them, is, that their works sufficiently show they have no taste of their Authors; and that what they do in this kind, is out of their great learning, and not out of any levity or lasciviousness of temper.
A Pedant of this nature is wonderfully well described in six lines of Boileau, with which I shall conclude his character :
Un Pédant enyuré de sa vaine science,
N° 163. Thursday, April 25.
Idem inficeto est inficetior rure
Will's Coffee-house, April 24.
I yesterday came hither about two hours before the Company generally make their appearance, with a design to read over all the Newspapers ; but upon my sitting down, I wa
accosted by Ned Softly, who saw me from a corner in the 5 other end of the room, where I found he had been writing
something. Mr. Bickerstaffe, says he, I observe by a late
you and I are just of a humour; for you must know, of all impertinencies, there is nothing which I so much hate as News. I never read a Gazette in my life; and never trouble my head about our Armies, whether they win or lose, or in what part of the world they lie encamped. Without giving me time to reply, he drew a Paper of Verses out of his pocket, telling me, that he had something which would
entertain me more agreeably, and that he would desire my 15 judgment upon every line, for that we had time enough before
us till the Company came in.
Ned Softly is a very pretty Poet, and a great admirer of easie lines. Waller is his favourite : And as that admirable writer has the best and worst verses of any among our English Poets, Ned Softly has got all the bad ones without book, which he repeats upon occasion, to show his reading, and garnish his conversation. Ned is indeed a true English Reader, incapable of relishing the great and masterly strokes of this art; but
wonderfully pleased with the little Gothick ornaments of epigrammatical Conceits, Turns, Points, and Quibbles, which are so frequent in the most admired of our English Poets, and practised by those who want genius and strength to represent, after the manner of the ancients, simplicity in its (natural"] beauty and perfection.
Finding my self unavoidably engaged in such a conversation, I was resolved to turn my pain into a pleasure, and to divert my self as well as I could with so very odd a Fellow. You must understand, says Ned, that the Sonnet I am going 10 to read to you was written upon a Lady, who showed me some verses of her own making, and is perhaps the best Poet of our age. But you shall hear it. Upon which he begun to read as follows: To Mira, on her incomparable Poems.
And tune your soft melodious notes,
(Your Song you sing with so much art)
For ah! it wounds me like his Dart.
Why, says I, this is a little Nosegay of conceits, a very lump of Salt : Every verse hath something in it that piques; 25 and then the Dart in the last line is certainly as pretty a sting in the tail of an Epigram (for so I think your Criticks call it) as ever entered into the thought of a Poet. Dear Mr. Bickerstaffe, says he, shaking me by the hand, every body knows you to be a judge of these things; and to tell you truly, 30
1 So S; C and T have “naturally."
I read over Roscommon's translation of Horace's Art of Poetry three several times, before I sat down to write the Sonnet which I have shown you. But you shall hear it again, and pray observe every line of it, for not one of them shall
without 5 your approbation.
When dress'd in Laurel wreaths you shine.
And tune your soft melodious notes.
as the former. I am very glad to hear you say so, says he ; 15 but mind the next :
You seem a Sister of the Nine.
That is, says he, you seem a Sister of the Muses; for if you look into ancient Authors, you will find it was their opinion, that there were Nine of them. I remember it very well, said I; but pray proceed.
Or Phæbus self in Petticoats. Phæbus, says he, was the God of Poetry. These little instances, Mr. Bickerstaffe, show a Gentleman's reading. Then
to take off from the air of Learning, which Phæbus and the 25 Muses have given to this first Stanza, you may observe, how it falls all of a sudden into the familiar; in Petticoats!
Or Phæbus self in Petticoats.
the first line is still a continuation of the Metaphor. 30
I fancy, when your Song you sing.
It is very right, says he ; but pray observe the turn of words in those two Lines. I was a whole hour in adjusting of them, and have still a doubt upon me, whether in the second Line it should be, Your Song you sing; or, You sing your Song. You shall hear them both :
I fancy, when your song you sing,
(You sing your Song with so much art.)
15 Think! says I; I think you have made Cupid look like a little Goose. That was my meaning, says he; I think the ridicule is well enough hit off. But we now come to the last, which sums up
the whole matter.
For Ah! it wounds me like his Dart. Pray how do you like that Ah! Doth it not make a pretty figure in that place? Ah! It looks as if I felt the Dart, and cried out at being pricked with it.
For Ah! it wounds me like his Dart. My friend Dick Easy, continued he, assured me, he would 25 rather have written that Ah! than to have been the Author of the Æneid. He indeed objected, that I made Mira's Pen like a Quill in one of the lines, and like a Dart in the other. But as to that -Oh! as to that, says I, it is but supposing Cupid to be like a Porcupine, and his Quills and Darts will be 30 the same thing. He was going to embrace me for the hint;