The Battle of the Books And Other Short Pieces
Part 1 out of 3
The Battle of the Books and Other Short Pieces by Jonathan Swift
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The Battle of the Books and Other Short Pieces
I. THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS
II. A MEDITATION UPON A BROOMSTICK.
III. PREDICTIONS FOR THE YEAR 1708.
IV. THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE FIRST OF MR. BICKERSTAFF'S
V. BAUCIS AND PHILEMON.
VI. THE LOGICIANS REFUTED.
VII. THE PUPPET SHOW.
VIII. CADENUS AND VANESSA.
IX. STELLA'S BIRTHDAYS
X. TO STELLA
XI. THE FIRST HE WROTE OCT. 17, 1727.
XII. THE SECOND PRAYER WAS WRITTEN NOV. 6, 1727.
XIII. THE BEASTS' CONFESSION (1732).
XIV. ABOLISHING CHRISTIANITY
XV. HINTS TOWARDS AN ESSAY ON CONVERSATION.
XVI. THOUGHTS ON VARIOUS SUBJECTS.
THE PREFACE OF THE AUTHOR.
SATIRE is a sort of glass wherein beholders do generally discover
everybody's face but their own; which is the chief reason for that
kind reception it meets with in the world, and that so very few are
offended with it. But, if it should happen otherwise, the danger
is not great; and I have learned from long experience never to
apprehend mischief from those understandings I have been able to
provoke: for anger and fury, though they add strength to the
sinews of the body, yet are found to relax those of the mind, and
to render all its efforts feeble and impotent.
There is a brain that will endure but one scumming; let the owner
gather it with discretion, and manage his little stock with
husbandry; but, of all things, let him beware of bringing it under
the lash of his betters, because that will make it all bubble up
into impertinence, and he will find no new supply. Wit without
knowledge being a sort of cream, which gathers in a night to the
top, and by a skilful hand may be soon whipped into froth; but once
scummed away, what appears underneath will be fit for nothing but
to be thrown to the hogs.
CHAPTER I - A FULL AND TRUE ACCOUNT
BATTLE FOUGHT LAST FRIDAY
ANCIENT AND THE MODERN BOOKS
IN SAINT JAMES'S LIBRARY.
WHOEVER examines, with due circumspection, into the annual records
of time, will find it remarked that War is the child of Pride, and
Pride the daughter of Riches:- the former of which assertions may
be soon granted, but one cannot so easily subscribe to the latter;
for Pride is nearly related to Beggary and Want, either by father
or mother, and sometimes by both: and, to speak naturally, it very
seldom happens among men to fall out when all have enough;
invasions usually travelling from north to south, that is to say,
from poverty to plenty. The most ancient and natural grounds of
quarrels are lust and avarice; which, though we may allow to be
brethren, or collateral branches of pride, are certainly the issues
of want. For, to speak in the phrase of writers upon politics, we
may observe in the republic of dogs, which in its original seems to
be an institution of the many, that the whole state is ever in the
profoundest peace after a full meal; and that civil broils arise
among them when it happens for one great bone to be seized on by
some leading dog, who either divides it among the few, and then it
falls to an oligarchy, or keeps it to himself, and then it runs up
to a tyranny. The same reasoning also holds place among them in
those dissensions we behold upon a turgescency in any of their
females. For the right of possession lying in common (it being
impossible to establish a property in so delicate a case),
jealousies and suspicions do so abound, that the whole commonwealth
of that street is reduced to a manifest state of war, of every
citizen against every citizen, till some one of more courage,
conduct, or fortune than the rest seizes and enjoys the prize:
upon which naturally arises plenty of heart-burning, and envy, and
snarling against the happy dog. Again, if we look upon any of
these republics engaged in a foreign war, either of invasion or
defence, we shall find the same reasoning will serve as to the
grounds and occasions of each; and that poverty or want, in some
degree or other (whether real or in opinion, which makes no
alteration in the case), has a great share, as well as pride, on
the part of the aggressor.
Now whoever will please to take this scheme, and either reduce or
adapt it to an intellectual state or commonwealth of learning, will
soon discover the first ground of disagreement between the two
great parties at this time in arms, and may form just conclusions
upon the merits of either cause. But the issue or events of this
war are not so easy to conjecture at; for the present quarrel is so
inflamed by the warm heads of either faction, and the pretensions
somewhere or other so exorbitant, as not to admit the least
overtures of accommodation. This quarrel first began, as I have
heard it affirmed by an old dweller in the neighbourhood, about a
small spot of ground, lying and being upon one of the two tops of
the hill Parnassus; the highest and largest of which had, it seems,
been time out of mind in quiet possession of certain tenants,
called the Ancients; and the other was held by the Moderns. But
these disliking their present station, sent certain ambassadors to
the Ancients, complaining of a great nuisance; how the height of
that part of Parnassus quite spoiled the prospect of theirs,
especially towards the east; and therefore, to avoid a war, offered
them the choice of this alternative, either that the Ancients would
please to remove themselves and their effects down to the lower
summit, which the Moderns would graciously surrender to them, and
advance into their place; or else the said Ancients will give leave
to the Moderns to come with shovels and mattocks, and level the
said hill as low as they shall think it convenient. To which the
Ancients made answer, how little they expected such a message as
this from a colony whom they had admitted, out of their own free
grace, to so near a neighbourhood. That, as to their own seat,
they were aborigines of it, and therefore to talk with them of a
removal or surrender was a language they did not understand. That
if the height of the hill on their side shortened the prospect of
the Moderns, it was a disadvantage they could not help; but desired
them to consider whether that injury (if it be any) were not
largely recompensed by the shade and shelter it afforded them.
That as to the levelling or digging down, it was either folly or
ignorance to propose it if they did or did not know how that side
of the hill was an entire rock, which would break their tools and
hearts, without any damage to itself. That they would therefore
advise the Moderns rather to raise their own side of the hill than
dream of pulling down that of the Ancients; to the former of which
they would not only give licence, but also largely contribute. All
this was rejected by the Moderns with much indignation, who still
insisted upon one of the two expedients; and so this difference
broke out into a long and obstinate war, maintained on the one part
by resolution, and by the courage of certain leaders and allies;
but, on the other, by the greatness of their number, upon all
defeats affording continual recruits. In this quarrel whole
rivulets of ink have been exhausted, and the virulence of both
parties enormously augmented. Now, it must be here understood,
that ink is the great missive weapon in all battles of the learned,
which, conveyed through a sort of engine called a quill, infinite
numbers of these are darted at the enemy by the valiant on each
side, with equal skill and violence, as if it were an engagement of
porcupines. This malignant liquor was compounded, by the engineer
who invented it, of two ingredients, which are, gall and copperas;
by its bitterness and venom to suit, in some degree, as well as to
foment, the genius of the combatants. And as the Grecians, after
an engagement, when they could not agree about the victory, were
wont to set up trophies on both sides, the beaten party being
content to be at the same expense, to keep itself in countenance (a
laudable and ancient custom, happily revived of late in the art of
war), so the learned, after a sharp and bloody dispute, do, on both
sides, hang out their trophies too, whichever comes by the worst.
These trophies have largely inscribed on them the merits of the
cause; a full impartial account of such a Battle, and how the
victory fell clearly to the party that set them up. They are known
to the world under several names; as disputes, arguments,
rejoinders, brief considerations, answers, replies, remarks,
reflections, objections, confutations. For a very few days they
are fixed up all in public places, either by themselves or their
representatives, for passengers to gaze at; whence the chiefest and
largest are removed to certain magazines they call libraries, there
to remain in a quarter purposely assigned them, and thenceforth
begin to be called books of controversy.
In these books is wonderfully instilled and preserved the spirit of
each warrior while he is alive; and after his death his soul
transmigrates thither to inform them. This, at least, is the more
common opinion; but I believe it is with libraries as with other
cemeteries, where some philosophers affirm that a certain spirit,
which they call BRUTUM HOMINIS, hovers over the monument, till the
body is corrupted and turns to dust or to worms, but then vanishes
or dissolves; so, we may say, a restless spirit haunts over every
book, till dust or worms have seized upon it - which to some may
happen in a few days, but to others later - and therefore, books of
controversy being, of all others, haunted by the most disorderly
spirits, have always been confined in a separate lodge from the
rest, and for fear of a mutual violence against each other, it was
thought prudent by our ancestors to bind them to the peace with
strong iron chains. Of which invention the original occasion was
this: When the works of Scotus first came out, they were carried
to a certain library, and had lodgings appointed them; but this
author was no sooner settled than he went to visit his master
Aristotle, and there both concerted together to seize Plato by main
force, and turn him out from his ancient station among the divines,
where he had peaceably dwelt near eight hundred years. The attempt
succeeded, and the two usurpers have reigned ever since in his
stead; but, to maintain quiet for the future, it was decreed that
all polemics of the larger size should be hold fast with a chain.
By this expedient, the public peace of libraries might certainly
have been preserved if a new species of controversial books had not
arisen of late years, instinct with a more malignant spirit, from
the war above mentioned between the learned about the higher summit
When these books were first admitted into the public libraries, I
remember to have said, upon occasion, to several persons concerned,
how I was sure they would create broils wherever they came, unless
a world of care were taken; and therefore I advised that the
champions of each side should be coupled together, or otherwise
mixed, that, like the blending of contrary poisons, their malignity
might be employed among themselves. And it seems I was neither an
ill prophet nor an ill counsellor; for it was nothing else but the
neglect of this caution which gave occasion to the terrible fight
that happened on Friday last between the Ancient and Modern Books
in the King's library. Now, because the talk of this battle is so
fresh in everybody's mouth, and the expectation of the town so
great to be informed in the particulars, I, being possessed of all
qualifications requisite in an historian, and retained by neither
party, have resolved to comply with the urgent importunity of my
friends, by writing down a full impartial account thereof.
The guardian of the regal library, a person of great valour, but
chiefly renowned for his humanity, had been a fierce champion for
the Moderns, and, in an engagement upon Parnassus, had vowed with
his own hands to knock down two of the ancient chiefs who guarded a
small pass on the superior rock, but, endeavouring to climb up, was
cruelly obstructed by his own unhappy weight and tendency towards
his centre, a quality to which those of the Modern party are
extremely subject; for, being light-headed, they have, in
speculation, a wonderful agility, and conceive nothing too high for
them to mount, but, in reducing to practice, discover a mighty
pressure about their posteriors and their heels. Having thus
failed in his design, the disappointed champion bore a cruel
rancour to the Ancients, which he resolved to gratify by showing
all marks of his favour to the books of their adversaries, and
lodging them in the fairest apartments; when, at the same time,
whatever book had the boldness to own itself for an advocate of the
Ancients was buried alive in some obscure corner, and threatened,
upon the least displeasure, to be turned out of doors. Besides, it
so happened that about this time there was a strange confusion of
place among all the books in the library, for which several reasons
were assigned. Some imputed it to a great heap of learned dust,
which a perverse wind blew off from a shelf of Moderns into the
keeper's eyes. Others affirmed he had a humour to pick the worms
out of the schoolmen, and swallow them fresh and fasting, whereof
some fell upon his spleen, and some climbed up into his head, to
the great perturbation of both. And lastly, others maintained
that, by walking much in the dark about the library, he had quite
lost the situation of it out of his head; and therefore, in
replacing his books, he was apt to mistake and clap Descartes next
to Aristotle, poor Plato had got between Hobbes and the Seven Wise
Masters, and Virgil was hemmed in with Dryden on one side and
Wither on the other.
Meanwhile, those books that were advocates for the Moderns, chose
out one from among them to make a progress through the whole
library, examine the number and strength of their party, and
concert their affairs. This messenger performed all things very
industriously, and brought back with him a list of their forces, in
all, fifty thousand, consisting chiefly of light-horse, heavy-armed
foot, and mercenaries; whereof the foot were in general but sorrily
armed and worse clad; their horses large, but extremely out of case
and heart; however, some few, by trading among the Ancients, had
furnished themselves tolerably enough.
While things were in this ferment, discord grew extremely high; hot
words passed on both sides, and ill blood was plentifully bred.
Here a solitary Ancient, squeezed up among a whole shelf of
Moderns, offered fairly to dispute the case, and to prove by
manifest reason that the priority was due to them from long
possession, and in regard of their prudence, antiquity, and, above
all, their great merits toward the Moderns. But these denied the
premises, and seemed very much to wonder how the Ancients could
pretend to insist upon their antiquity, when it was so plain (if
they went to that) that the Moderns were much the more ancient of
the two. As for any obligations they owed to the Ancients, they
renounced them all. "It is true," said they, "we are informed some
few of our party have been so mean as to borrow their subsistence
from you, but the rest, infinitely the greater number (and
especially we French and English), were so far from stooping to so
base an example, that there never passed, till this very hour, six
words between us. For our horses were of our own breeding, our
arms of our own forging, and our clothes of our own cutting out and
sewing." Plato was by chance up on the next shelf, and observing
those that spoke to be in the ragged plight mentioned a while ago,
their jades lean and foundered, their weapons of rotten wood, their
armour rusty, and nothing but rags underneath, he laughed loud, and
in his pleasant way swore, by -, he believed them.
Now, the Moderns had not proceeded in their late negotiation with
secrecy enough to escape the notice of the enemy. For those
advocates who had begun the quarrel, by setting first on foot the
dispute of precedency, talked so loud of coming to a battle, that
Sir William Temple happened to overhear them, and gave immediate
intelligence to the Ancients, who thereupon drew up their scattered
troops together, resolving to act upon the defensive; upon which,
several of the Moderns fled over to their party, and among the rest
Temple himself. This Temple, having been educated and long
conversed among the Ancients, was, of all the Moderns, their
greatest favourite, and became their greatest champion.
Things were at this crisis when a material accident fell out. For
upon the highest corner of a large window, there dwelt a certain
spider, swollen up to the first magnitude by the destruction of
infinite numbers of flies, whose spoils lay scattered before the
gates of his palace, like human bones before the cave of some
giant. The avenues to his castle were guarded with turnpikes and
palisadoes, all after the modern way of fortification. After you
had passed several courts you came to the centre, wherein you might
behold the constable himself in his own lodgings, which had windows
fronting to each avenue, and ports to sally out upon all occasions
of prey or defence. In this mansion he had for some time dwelt in
peace and plenty, without danger to his person by swallows from
above, or to his palace by brooms from below; when it was the
pleasure of fortune to conduct thither a wandering bee, to whose
curiosity a broken pane in the glass had discovered itself, and in
he went, where, expatiating a while, he at last happened to alight
upon one of the outward walls of the spider's citadel; which,
yielding to the unequal weight, sunk down to the very foundation.
Thrice he endeavoured to force his passage, and thrice the centre
shook. The spider within, feeling the terrible convulsion,
supposed at first that nature was approaching to her final
dissolution, or else that Beelzebub, with all his legions, was come
to revenge the death of many thousands of his subjects whom his
enemy had slain and devoured. However, he at length valiantly
resolved to issue forth and meet his fate. Meanwhile the bee had
acquitted himself of his toils, and, posted securely at some
distance, was employed in cleansing his wings, and disengaging them
from the ragged remnants of the cobweb. By this time the spider
was adventured out, when, beholding the chasms, the ruins, and
dilapidations of his fortress, he was very near at his wit's end;
he stormed and swore like a madman, and swelled till he was ready
to burst. At length, casting his eye upon the bee, and wisely
gathering causes from events (for they know each other by sight),
"A plague split you," said he; "is it you, with a vengeance, that
have made this litter here; could not you look before you, and be
d-d? Do you think I have nothing else to do (in the devil's name)
but to mend and repair after you?" "Good words, friend," said the
bee, having now pruned himself, and being disposed to droll; "I'll
give you my hand and word to come near your kennel no more; I was
never in such a confounded pickle since I was born." "Sirrah,"
replied the spider, "if it were not for breaking an old custom in
our family, never to stir abroad against an enemy, I should come
and teach you better manners." "I pray have patience," said the
bee, "or you'll spend your substance, and, for aught I see, you may
stand in need of it all, towards the repair of your house."
"Rogue, rogue," replied the spider, "yet methinks you should have
more respect to a person whom all the world allows to be so much
your betters." "By my troth," said the bee, "the comparison will
amount to a very good jest, and you will do me a favour to let me
know the reasons that all the world is pleased to use in so hopeful
a dispute." At this the spider, having swelled himself into the
size and posture of a disputant, began his argument in the true
spirit of controversy, with resolution to be heartily scurrilous
and angry, to urge on his own reasons without the least regard to
the answers or objections of his opposite, and fully predetermined
in his mind against all conviction.
"Not to disparage myself," said he, "by the comparison with such a
rascal, what art thou but a vagabond without house or home, without
stock or inheritance? born to no possession of your own, but a pair
of wings and a drone-pipe. Your livelihood is a universal plunder
upon nature; a freebooter over fields and gardens; and, for the
sake of stealing, will rob a nettle as easily as a violet. Whereas
I am a domestic animal, furnished with a native stock within
myself. This large castle (to show my improvements in the
mathematics) is all built with my own hands, and the materials
extracted altogether out of my own person."
"I am glad," answered the bee, "to hear you grant at least that I
am come honestly by my wings and my voice; for then, it seems, I am
obliged to Heaven alone for my flights and my music; and Providence
would never have bestowed on me two such gifts without designing
them for the noblest ends. I visit, indeed, all the flowers and
blossoms of the field and garden, but whatever I collect thence
enriches myself without the least injury to their beauty, their
smell, or their taste. Now, for you and your skill in architecture
and other mathematics, I have little to say: in that building of
yours there might, for aught I know, have been labour and method
enough; but, by woeful experience for us both, it is too plain the
materials are naught; and I hope you will henceforth take warning,
and consider duration and matter, as well as method and art. You
boast, indeed, of being obliged to no other creature, but of
drawing and spinning out all from yourself; that is to say, if we
may judge of the liquor in the vessel by what issues out, you
possess a good plentiful store of dirt and poison in your breast;
and, though I would by no means lesson or disparage your genuine
stock of either, yet I doubt you are somewhat obliged, for an
increase of both, to a little foreign assistance. Your inherent
portion of dirt does not fall of acquisitions, by sweepings exhaled
from below; and one insect furnishes you with a share of poison to
destroy another. So that, in short, the question comes all to
this: whether is the nobler being of the two, that which, by a
lazy contemplation of four inches round, by an overweening pride,
feeding, and engendering on itself, turns all into excrement and
venom, producing nothing at all but flybane and a cobweb; or that
which, by a universal range, with long search, much study, true
judgment, and distinction of things, brings home honey and wax."
This dispute was managed with such eagerness, clamour, and warmth,
that the two parties of books, in arms below, stood silent a while,
waiting in suspense what would be the issue; which was not long
undetermined: for the bee, grown impatient at so much loss of
time, fled straight away to a bed of roses, without looking for a
reply, and left the spider, like an orator, collected in himself,
and just prepared to burst out.
It happened upon this emergency that AEsop broke silence first. He
had been of late most barbarously treated by a strange effect of
the regent's humanity, who had torn off his title-page, sorely
defaced one half of his leaves, and chained him fast among a shelf
of Moderns. Where, soon discovering how high the quarrel was
likely to proceed, he tried all his arts, and turned himself to a
thousand forms. At length, in the borrowed shape of an ass, the
regent mistook him for a Modern; by which means he had time and
opportunity to escape to the Ancients, just when the spider and the
bee were entering into their contest; to which he gave his
attention with a world of pleasure, and, when it was ended, swore
in the loudest key that in all his life he had never known two
cases, so parallel and adapt to each other as that in the window
and this upon the shelves. "The disputants," said he, "have
admirably managed the dispute between them, have taken in the full
strength of all that is to be said on both sides, and exhausted the
substance of every argument PRO and CON. It is but to adjust the
reasonings of both to the present quarrel, then to compare and
apply the labours and fruits of each, as the bee has learnedly
deduced them, and we shall find the conclusion fall plain and close
upon the Moderns and us. For pray, gentlemen, was ever anything so
modern as the spider in his air, his turns, and his paradoxes? he
argues in the behalf of you, his brethren, and himself, with many
boastings of his native stock and great genius; that he spins and
spits wholly from himself, and scorns to own any obligation or
assistance from without. Then he displays to you his great skill
in architecture and improvement in the mathematics. To all this
the bee, as an advocate retained by us, the Ancients, thinks fit to
answer, that, if one may judge of the great genius or inventions of
the Moderns by what they have produced, you will hardly have
countenance to bear you out in boasting of either. Erect your
schemes with as much method and skill as you please; yet, if the
materials be nothing but dirt, spun out of your own entrails (the
guts of modern brains), the edifice will conclude at last in a
cobweb; the duration of which, like that of other spiders' webs,
may be imputed to their being forgotten, or neglected, or hid in a
corner. For anything else of genuine that the Moderns may pretend
to, I cannot recollect; unless it be a large vein of wrangling and
satire, much of a nature and substance with the spiders' poison;
which, however they pretend to spit wholly out of themselves, is
improved by the same arts, by feeding upon the insects and vermin
of the age. As for us, the Ancients, we are content with the bee,
to pretend to nothing of our own beyond our wings and our voice:
that is to say, our flights and our language. For the rest,
whatever we have got has been by infinite labour and search, and
ranging through every corner of nature; the difference is, that,
instead of dirt and poison, we have rather chosen to till our hives
with honey and wax; thus furnishing mankind with the two noblest of
things, which are sweetness and light."
It is wonderful to conceive the tumult arisen among the books upon
the close of this long descant of AEsop: both parties took the
hint, and heightened their animosities so on a sudden, that they
resolved it should come to a battle. Immediately the two main
bodies withdrew, under their several ensigns, to the farther parts
of the library, and there entered into cabals and consults upon the
present emergency. The Moderns were in very warm debates upon the
choice of their leaders; and nothing less than the fear impending
from their enemies could have kept them from mutinies upon this
occasion. The difference was greatest among the horse, where every
private trooper pretended to the chief command, from Tasso and
Milton to Dryden and Wither. The light-horse were commanded by
Cowley and Despreaux. There came the bowmen under their valiant
leaders, Descartes, Gassendi, and Hobbes; whose strength was such
that they could shoot their arrows beyond the atmosphere, never to
fall down again, but turn, like that of Evander, into meteors; or,
like the cannon-ball, into stars. Paracelsus brought a squadron of
stinkpot-flingers from the snowy mountains of Rhaetia. There came
a vast body of dragoons, of different nations, under the leading of
Harvey, their great aga: part armed with scythes, the weapons of
death; part with lances and long knives, all steeped in poison;
part shot bullets of a most malignant nature, and used white
powder, which infallibly killed without report. There came several
bodies of heavy-armed foot, all mercenaries, under the ensigns of
Guicciardini, Davila, Polydore Vergil, Buchanan, Mariana, Camden,
and others. The engineers were commanded by Regiomontanus and
Wilkins. The rest was a confused multitude, led by Scotus,
Aquinas, and Bellarmine; of mighty bulk and stature, but without
either arms, courage, or discipline. In the last place came
infinite swarms of calones, a disorderly rout led by L'Estrange;
rogues and ragamuffins, that follow the camp for nothing but the
plunder, all without coats to cover them.
The army of the Ancients was much fewer in number; Homer led the
horse, and Pindar the light-horse; Euclid was chief engineer; Plato
and Aristotle commanded the bowmen; Herodotus and Livy the foot;
Hippocrates, the dragoons; the allies, led by Vossius and Temple,
brought up the rear.
All things violently tending to a decisive battle, Fame, who much
frequented, and had a large apartment formerly assigned her in the
regal library, fled up straight to Jupiter, to whom she delivered a
faithful account of all that passed between the two parties below;
for among the gods she always tells truth. Jove, in great concern,
convokes a council in the Milky Way. The senate assembled, he
declares the occasion of convening them; a bloody battle just
impendent between two mighty armies of ancient and modern
creatures, called books, wherein the celestial interest was but too
deeply concerned. Momus, the patron of the Moderns, made an
excellent speech in their favour, which was answered by Pallas, the
protectress of the Ancients. The assembly was divided in their
affections; when Jupiter commanded the Book of Fate to be laid
before him. Immediately were brought by Mercury three large
volumes in folio, containing memoirs of all things past, present,
and to come. The clasps were of silver double gilt, the covers of
celestial turkey leather, and the paper such as here on earth might
pass almost for vellum. Jupiter, having silently read the decree,
would communicate the import to none, but presently shut up the
Without the doors of this assembly there attended a vast number of
light, nimble gods, menial servants to Jupiter: those are his
ministering instruments in all affairs below. They travel in a
caravan, more or less together, and are fastened to each other like
a link of galley-slaves, by a light chain, which passes from them
to Jupiter's great toe: and yet, in receiving or delivering a
message, they may never approach above the lowest step of his
throne, where he and they whisper to each other through a large
hollow trunk. These deities are called by mortal men accidents or
events; but the gods call them second causes. Jupiter having
delivered his message to a certain number of these divinities, they
flew immediately down to the pinnacle of the regal library, and
consulting a few minutes, entered unseen, and disposed the parties
according to their orders.
Meanwhile Momus, fearing the worst, and calling to mind an ancient
prophecy which bore no very good face to his children the Moderns,
bent his flight to the region of a malignant deity called
Criticism. She dwelt on the top of a snowy mountain in Nova
Zembla; there Momus found her extended in her den, upon the spoils
of numberless volumes, half devoured. At her right hand sat
Ignorance, her father and husband, blind with age; at her left,
Pride, her mother, dressing her up in the scraps of paper herself
had torn. There was Opinion, her sister, light of foot, hood-
winked, and head-strong, yet giddy and perpetually turning. About
her played her children, Noise and Impudence, Dulness and Vanity,
Positiveness, Pedantry, and Ill-manners. The goddess herself had
claws like a cat; her head, and ears, and voice resembled those of
an ass; her teeth fallen out before, her eyes turned inward, as if
she looked only upon herself; her diet was the overflowing of her
own gall; her spleen was so large as to stand prominent, like a dug
of the first rate; nor wanted excrescences in form of teats, at
which a crew of ugly monsters were greedily sucking; and, what is
wonderful to conceive, the bulk of spleen increased faster than the
sucking could diminish it. "Goddess," said Momus, "can you sit
idly here while our devout worshippers, the Moderns, are this
minute entering into a cruel battle, and perhaps now lying under
the swords of their enemies? who then hereafter will ever sacrifice
or build altars to our divinities? Haste, therefore, to the
British Isle, and, if possible, prevent their destruction; while I
make factions among the gods, and gain them over to our party."
Momus, having thus delivered himself, stayed not for an answer, but
left the goddess to her own resentment. Up she rose in a rage,
and, as it is the form on such occasions, began a soliloquy: "It
is I" (said she) "who give wisdom to infants and idiots; by me
children grow wiser than their parents, by me beaux become
politicians, and schoolboys judges of philosophy; by me sophisters
debate and conclude upon the depths of knowledge; and coffee-house
wits, instinct by me, can correct an author's style, and display
his minutest errors, without understanding a syllable of his matter
or his language; by me striplings spend their judgment, as they do
their estate, before it comes into their hands. It is I who have
deposed wit and knowledge from their empire over poetry, and
advanced myself in their stead. And shall a few upstart Ancients
dare to oppose me? But come, my aged parent, and you, my children
dear, and thou, my beauteous sister; let us ascend my chariot, and
haste to assist our devout Moderns, who are now sacrificing to us a
hecatomb, as I perceive by that grateful smell which from thence
reaches my nostrils."
The goddess and her train, having mounted the chariot, which was
drawn by tame geese, flew over infinite regions, shedding her
influence in due places, till at length she arrived at her beloved
island of Britain; but in hovering over its metropolis, what
blessings did she not let fall upon her seminaries of Gresham and
Covent-garden! And now she reached the fatal plain of St. James's
library, at what time the two armies were upon the point to engage;
where, entering with all her caravan unseen, and landing upon a
case of shelves, now desert, but once inhabited by a colony of
virtuosos, she stayed awhile to observe the posture of both armies.
But here the tender cares of a mother began to fill her thoughts
and move in her breast: for at the head of a troup of Modern
bowmen she cast her eyes upon her son Wotton, to whom the fates had
assigned a very short thread. Wotton, a young hero, whom an
unknown father of mortal race begot by stolen embraces with this
goddess. He was the darling of his mother above all her children,
and she resolved to go and comfort him. But first, according to
the good old custom of deities, she cast about to change her shape,
for fear the divinity of her countenance might dazzle his mortal
sight and overcharge the rest of his senses. She therefore
gathered up her person into an octavo compass: her body grow white
and arid, and split in pieces with dryness; the thick turned into
pasteboard, and the thin into paper; upon which her parents and
children artfully strewed a black juice, or decoction of gall and
soot, in form of letters: her head, and voice, and spleen, kept
their primitive form; and that which before was a cover of skin did
still continue so. In this guise she marched on towards the
Moderns, indistinguishable in shape and dress from the divine
Bentley, Wotton's dearest friend. "Brave Wotton," said the
goddess, "why do our troops stand idle here, to spend their present
vigour and opportunity of the day? away, let us haste to the
generals, and advise to give the onset immediately." Having spoke
thus, she took the ugliest of her monsters, full glutted from her
spleen, and flung it invisibly into his mouth, which, flying
straight up into his head, squeezed out his eye-balls, gave him a
distorted look, and half-overturned his brain. Then she privately
ordered two of her beloved children, Dulness and Ill-manners,
closely to attend his person in all encounters. Having thus
accoutred him, she vanished in a mist, and the hero perceived it
was the goddess his mother.
The destined hour of fate being now arrived, the fight began;
whereof, before I dare adventure to make a particular description,
I must, after the example of other authors, petition for a hundred
tongues, and mouths, and hands, and pens, which would all be too
little to perform so immense a work. Say, goddess, that presidest
over history, who it was that first advanced in the field of
battle! Paracelsus, at the head of his dragoons, observing Galen
in the adverse wing, darted his javelin with a mighty force, which
the brave Ancient received upon his shield, the point breaking in
the second fold . . . HIC PAUCA
. . . . DESUNT
They bore the wounded aga on their shields to his
chariot . . .
DESUNT . . .
NONNULLA. . . .
Then Aristotle, observing Bacon advance with a furious mien, drew
his bow to the head, and let fly his arrow, which missed the
valiant Modern and went whizzing over his head; but Descartes it
hit; the steel point quickly found a defect in his head-piece; it
pierced the leather and the pasteboard, and went in at his right
eye. The torture of the pain whirled the valiant bow-man round
till death, like a star of superior influence, drew him into his
own vortex INGENS HIATUS . . . .
HIC IN MS. . . . .
. . . . when Homer appeared at the head of the cavalry, mounted
on a furious horse, with difficulty managed by the rider himself,
but which no other mortal durst approach; he rode among the enemy's
ranks, and bore down all before him. Say, goddess, whom he slew
first and whom he slew last! First, Gondibert advanced against
him, clad in heavy armour and mounted on a staid sober gelding, not
so famed for his speed as his docility in kneeling whenever his
rider would mount or alight. He had made a vow to Pallas that he
would never leave the field till he had spoiled Homer of his
armour: madman, who had never once seen the wearer, nor understood
his strength! Him Homer overthrew, horse and man, to the ground,
there to be trampled and choked in the dirt. Then with a long
spear he slew Denham, a stout Modern, who from his father's side
derived his lineage from Apollo, but his mother was of mortal race.
He fell, and bit the earth. The celestial part Apollo took, and
made it a star; but the terrestrial lay wallowing upon the ground.
Then Homer slew Sam Wesley with a kick of his horse's heel; he took
Perrault by mighty force out of his saddle, then hurled him at
Fontenelle, with the same blow dashing out both their brains.
On the left wing of the horse Virgil appeared, in shining armour,
completely fitted to his body; he was mounted on a dapple-grey
steed, the slowness of whose pace was an effect of the highest
mettle and vigour. He cast his eye on the adverse wing, with a
desire to find an object worthy of his valour, when behold upon a
sorrel gelding of a monstrous size appeared a foe, issuing from
among the thickest of the enemy's squadrons; but his speed was less
than his noise; for his horse, old and lean, spent the dregs of his
strength in a high trot, which, though it made slow advances, yet
caused a loud clashing of his armour, terrible to hear. The two
cavaliers had now approached within the throw of a lance, when the
stranger desired a parley, and, lifting up the visor of his helmet,
a face hardly appeared from within which, after a pause, was known
for that of the renowned Dryden. The brave Ancient suddenly
started, as one possessed with surprise and disappointment
together; for the helmet was nine times too large for the head,
which appeared situate far in the hinder part, even like the lady
in a lobster, or like a mouse under a canopy of state, or like a
shrivelled beau from within the penthouse of a modern periwig; and
the voice was suited to the visage, sounding weak and remote.
Dryden, in a long harangue, soothed up the good Ancient; called him
father, and, by a large deduction of genealogies, made it plainly
appear that they were nearly related. Then he humbly proposed an
exchange of armour, as a lasting mark of hospitality between them.
Virgil consented (for the goddess Diffidence came unseen, and cast
a mist before his eyes), though his was of gold and cost a hundred
beeves, the other's but of rusty iron. However, this glittering
armour became the Modern yet worsen than his own. Then they agreed
to exchange horses; but, when it came to the trial, Dryden was
afraid and utterly unable to mount. . . ALTER HIATUS
. . . . IN MS.
Lucan appeared upon a fiery horse of admirable shape, but
headstrong, bearing the rider where he list over the field; he made
a mighty slaughter among the enemy's horse; which destruction to
stop, Blackmore, a famous Modern (but one of the mercenaries),
strenuously opposed himself, and darted his javelin with a strong
hand, which, falling short of its mark, struck deep in the earth.
Then Lucan threw a lance; but AEsculapius came unseen and turned
off the point. "Brave Modern," said Lucan, "I perceive some god
protects you, for never did my arm so deceive me before: but what
mortal can contend with a god? Therefore, let us fight no longer,
but present gifts to each other." Lucan then bestowed on the
Modern a pair of spurs, and Blackmore gave Lucan a bridle. . . .
PAUCA DESUNT. . . .
. . . .
Creech: but the goddess Dulness took a cloud, formed into the
shape of Horace, armed and mounted, and placed in a flying posture
before him. Glad was the cavalier to begin a combat with a flying
foe, and pursued the image, threatening aloud; till at last it led
him to the peaceful bower of his father, Ogleby, by whom he was
disarmed and assigned to his repose.
Then Pindar slew -, and - and Oldham, and -, and Afra the Amazon,
light of foot; never advancing in a direct line, but wheeling with
incredible agility and force, he made a terrible slaughter among
the enemy's light-horse. Him when Cowley observed, his generous
heart burnt within him, and he advanced against the fierce Ancient,
imitating his address, his pace, and career, as well as the vigour
of his horse and his own skill would allow. When the two cavaliers
had approached within the length of three javelins, first Cowley
threw a lance, which missed Pindar, and, passing into the enemy's
ranks, fell ineffectual to the ground. Then Pindar darted a
javelin so large and weighty, that scarce a dozen Cavaliers, as
cavaliers are in our degenerate days, could raise it from the
ground; yet he threw it with ease, and it went, by an unerring
hand, singing through the air; nor could the Modern have avoided
present death if he had not luckily opposed the shield that had
been given him by Venus. And now both heroes drew their swords;
but the Modern was so aghast and disordered that he knew not where
he was; his shield dropped from his hands; thrice he fled, and
thrice he could not escape. At last he turned, and lifting up his
hand in the posture of a suppliant, "Godlike Pindar," said he,
"spare my life, and possess my horse, with these arms, beside the
ransom which my friends will give when they hear I am alive and
your prisoner." "Dog!" said Pindar, "let your ransom stay with
your friends; but your carcase shall be left for the fowls of the
air and the beasts of the field." With that he raised his sword,
and, with a mighty stroke, cleft the wretched Modern in twain, the
sword pursuing the blow; and one half lay panting on the ground, to
be trod in pieces by the horses' feet; the other half was borne by
the frighted steed through the field. This Venus took, washed it
seven times in ambrosia, then struck it thrice with a sprig of
amaranth; upon which the leather grow round and soft, and the
leaves turned into feathers, and, being gilded before, continued
gilded still; so it became a dove, and she harnessed it to her
chariot. . . .
. . . . HIATUS VALDE DE-
. . . . FLENDUS IN MS.
THE EPISODE OF BENTLEY AND WOTTON.
Day being far spent, and the numerous forces of the Moderns half
inclining to a retreat, there issued forth, from a squadron of
their heavy-armed foot, a captain whose name was Bentley, the most
deformed of all the Moderns; tall, but without shape or comeliness;
large, but without strength or proportion. His armour was patched
up of a thousand incoherent pieces, and the sound of it, as he
marched, was loud and dry, like that made by the fall of a sheet of
lead, which an Etesian wind blows suddenly down from the roof of
some steeple. His helmet was of old rusty iron, but the vizor was
brass, which, tainted by his breath, corrupted into copperas, nor
wanted gall from the same fountain, so that, whenever provoked by
anger or labour, an atramentous quality, of most malignant nature,
was seen to distil from his lips. In his right hand he grasped a
flail, and (that he might never be unprovided of an offensive
weapon) a vessel full of ordure in his left. Thus completely
armed, he advanced with a slow and heavy pace where the Modern
chiefs were holding a consult upon the sum of things, who, as he
came onwards, laughed to behold his crooked leg and humped
shoulder, which his boot and armour, vainly endeavouring to hide,
were forced to comply with and expose. The generals made use of
him for his talent of railing, which, kept within government,
proved frequently of great service to their cause, but, at other
times, did more mischief than good; for, at the least touch of
offence, and often without any at all, he would, like a wounded
elephant, convert it against his leaders. Such, at this juncture,
was the disposition of Bentley, grieved to see the enemy prevail,
and dissatisfied with everybody's conduct but his own. He humbly
gave the Modern generals to understand that he conceived, with
great submission, they were all a pack of rogues, and fools, and
confounded logger-heads, and illiterate whelps, and nonsensical
scoundrels; that, if himself had been constituted general, those
presumptuous dogs, the Ancients, would long before this have been
beaten out of the field. "You," said he, "sit here idle, but when
I, or any other valiant Modern kill an enemy, you are sure to seize
the spoil. But I will not march one foot against the foe till you
all swear to me that whomever I take or kill, his arms I shall
quietly possess." Bentley having spoken thus, Scaliger, bestowing
him a sour look, "Miscreant prater!" said he, "eloquent only in
thine own eyes, thou railest without wit, or truth, or discretion.
The malignity of thy temper perverteth nature; thy learning makes
thee more barbarous; thy study of humanity more inhuman; thy
converse among poets more grovelling, miry, and dull. All arts of
civilising others render thee rude and untractable; courts have
taught thee ill manners, and polite conversation has finished thee
a pedant. Besides, a greater coward burdeneth not the army. But
never despond; I pass my word, whatever spoil thou takest shall
certainly be thy own; though I hope that vile carcase will first
become a prey to kites and worms."
Bentley durst not reply, but, half choked with spleen and rage,
withdrew, in full resolution of performing some great achievement.
With him, for his aid and companion, he took his beloved Wotton,
resolving by policy or surprise to attempt some neglected quarter
of the Ancients' army. They began their march over carcases of
their slaughtered friends; then to the right of their own forces;
then wheeled northward, till they came to Aldrovandus's tomb, which
they passed on the side of the declining sun. And now they
arrived, with fear, toward the enemy's out-guards, looking about,
if haply they might spy the quarters of the wounded, or some
straggling sleepers, unarmed and remote from the rest. As when two
mongrel curs, whom native greediness and domestic want provoke and
join in partnership, though fearful, nightly to invade the folds of
some rich grazier, they, with tails depressed and lolling tongues,
creep soft and slow. Meanwhile the conscious moon, now in her
zenith, on their guilty heads darts perpendicular rays; nor dare
they bark, though much provoked at her refulgent visage, whether
seen in puddle by reflection or in sphere direct; but one surveys
the region round, while the other scouts the plain, if haply to
discover, at distance from the flock, some carcase half devoured,
the refuse of gorged wolves or ominous ravens. So marched this
lovely, loving pair of friends, nor with less fear and
circumspection, when at a distance they might perceive two shining
suits of armour hanging upon an oak, and the owners not far off in
a profound sleep. The two friends drew lots, and the pursuing of
this adventure fell to Bentley; on he went, and in his van
Confusion and Amaze, while Horror and Affright brought up the rear.
As he came near, behold two heroes of the Ancient army, Phalaris
and AEsop, lay fast asleep. Bentley would fain have despatched
them both, and, stealing close, aimed his flail at Phalaris's
breast; but then the goddess Affright, interposing, caught the
Modern in her icy arms, and dragged him from the danger she
foresaw; both the dormant heroes happened to turn at the same
instant, though soundly sleeping, and busy in a dream. For
Phalaris was just that minute dreaming how a most vile poetaster
had lampooned him, and how he had got him roaring in his bull. And
AEsop dreamed that as he and the Ancient were lying on the ground,
a wild ass broke loose, ran about, trampling and kicking in their
faces. Bentley, leaving the two heroes asleep, seized on both
their armours, and withdrew in quest of his darling Wotton.
He, in the meantime, had wandered long in search of some
enterprise, till at length he arrived at a small rivulet that
issued from a fountain hard by, called, in the language of mortal
men, Helicon. Here he stopped, and, parched with thirst, resolved
to allay it in this limpid stream. Thrice with profane hands he
essayed to raise the water to his lips, and thrice it slipped all
through his fingers. Then he stopped prone on his breast, but, ere
his mouth had kissed the liquid crystal, Apollo came, and in the
channel held his shield betwixt the Modern and the fountain, so
that he drew up nothing but mud. For, although no fountain on
earth can compare with the clearness of Helicon, yet there lies at
bottom a thick sediment of slime and mud; for so Apollo begged of
Jupiter, as a punishment to those who durst attempt to taste it
with unhallowed lips, and for a lesson to all not to draw too deep
or far from the spring.
At the fountain-head Wotton discerned two heroes; the one he could
not distinguish, but the other was soon known for Temple, general
of the allies to the Ancients. His back was turned, and he was
employed in drinking large draughts in his helmet from the
fountain, where he had withdrawn himself to rest from the toils of
the war. Wotton, observing him, with quaking knees and trembling
hands, spoke thus to himself: O that I could kill this destroyer
of our army, what renown should I purchase among the chiefs! but to
issue out against him, man against man, shield against shield, and
lance against lance, what Modern of us dare? for he fights like a
god, and Pallas or Apollo are ever at his elbow. But, O mother! if
what Fame reports be true, that I am the son of so great a goddess,
grant me to hit Temple with this lance, that the stroke may send
him to hell, and that I may return in safety and triumph, laden
with his spoils. The first part of this prayer the gods granted at
the intercession of his mother and of Momus; but the rest, by a
perverse wind sent from Fate, was scattered in the air. Then
Wotton grasped his lance, and, brandishing it thrice over his head,
darted it with all his might; the goddess, his mother, at the same
time adding strength to his arm. Away the lance went hizzing, and
reached even to the belt of the averted Ancient, upon which,
lightly grazing, it fell to the ground. Temple neither felt the
weapon touch him nor heard it fall: and Wotton might have escaped
to his army, with the honour of having remitted his lance against
so great a leader unrevenged; but Apollo, enraged that a javelin
flung by the assistance of so foul a goddess should pollute his
fountain, put on the shape of -, and softly came to young Boyle,
who then accompanied Temple: he pointed first to the lance, then
to the distant Modern that flung it, and commanded the young hero
to take immediate revenge. Boyle, clad in a suit of armour which
had been given him by all the gods, immediately advanced against
the trembling foe, who now fled before him. As a young lion in the
Libyan plains, or Araby desert, sent by his aged sire to hunt for
prey, or health, or exercise, he scours along, wishing to meet some
tiger from the mountains, or a furious boar; if chance a wild ass,
with brayings importune, affronts his ear, the generous beast,
though loathing to distain his claws with blood so vile, yet, much
provoked at the offensive noise, which Echo, foolish nymph, like
her ill-judging sex, repeats much louder, and with more delight
than Philomela's song, he vindicates the honour of the forest, and
hunts the noisy long-eared animal. So Wotton fled, so Boyle
pursued. But Wotton, heavy-armed, and slow of foot, began to slack
his course, when his lover Bentley appeared, returning laden with
the spoils of the two sleeping Ancients. Boyle observed him well,
and soon discovering the helmet and shield of Phalaris his friend,
both which he had lately with his own hands new polished and gilt,
rage sparkled in his eyes, and, leaving his pursuit after Wotton,
he furiously rushed on against this new approacher. Fain would he
be revenged on both; but both now fled different ways: and, as a
woman in a little house that gets a painful livelihood by spinning,
if chance her geese be scattered o'er the common, she courses round
the plain from side to side, compelling here and there the
stragglers to the flock; they cackle loud, and flutter o'er the
champaign; so Boyle pursued, so fled this pair of friends: finding
at length their flight was vain, they bravely joined, and drew
themselves in phalanx. First Bentley threw a spear with all his
force, hoping to pierce the enemy's breast; but Pallas came unseen,
and in the air took off the point, and clapped on one of lead,
which, after a dead bang against the enemy's shield, fell blunted
to the ground. Then Boyle, observing well his time, took up a
lance of wondrous length and sharpness; and, as this pair of
friends compacted, stood close side by side, he wheeled him to the
right, and, with unusual force, darted the weapon. Bentley saw his
fate approach, and flanking down his arms close to his ribs, hoping
to save his body, in went the point, passing through arm and side,
nor stopped or spent its force till it had also pierced the valiant
Wotton, who, going to sustain his dying friend, shared his fate.
As when a skilful cook has trussed a brace of woodcocks, he with
iron skewer pierces the tender sides of both, their legs and wings
close pinioned to the rib; so was this pair of friends transfixed,
till down they fell, joined in their lives, joined in their deaths;
so closely joined that Charon would mistake them both for one, and
waft them over Styx for half his fare. Farewell, beloved, loving
pair; few equals have you left behind: and happy and immortal
shall you be, if all my wit and eloquence can make you.
And now. . . .
CHAPTER II - A MEDITATION UPON A BROOMSTICK.
ACCORDING TO THE STYLE AND MANNER OF THE HON. ROBERT BOYLE'S
THIS single stick, which you now behold ingloriously lying in that
neglected corner, I once knew in a flourishing state in a forest.
It was full of sap, full of leaves, and full of boughs; but now in
vain does the busy art of man pretend to vie with nature, by tying
that withered bundle of twigs to its sapless trunk; it is now at
best but the reverse of what it was, a tree turned upside-down, the
branches on the earth, and the root in the air; it is now handled
by every dirty wench, condemned to do her drudgery, and, by a
capricious kind of fate, destined to make other things clean, and
be nasty itself; at length, worn to the stumps in the service of
the maids, it is either thrown out of doors or condemned to the
last use - of kindling a fire. When I behold this I sighed, and
said within myself, "Surely mortal man is a broomstick!" Nature
sent him into the world strong and lusty, in a thriving condition,
wearing his own hair on his head, the proper branches of this
reasoning vegetable, till the axe of intemperance has lopped off
his green boughs, and left him a withered trunk; he then flies to
art, and puts on a periwig, valuing himself upon an unnatural
bundle of hairs, all covered with powder, that never grew on his
head; but now should this our broomstick pretend to enter the
scene, proud of those birchen spoils it never bore, and all covered
with dust, through the sweepings of the finest lady's chamber, we
should be apt to ridicule and despise its vanity. Partial judges
that we are of our own excellencies, and other men's defaults!
But a broomstick, perhaps you will say, is an emblem of a tree
standing on its head; and pray what is a man but a topsy-turvy
creature, his animal faculties perpetually mounted on his rational,
his head where his heels should be, grovelling on the earth? And
yet, with all his faults, he sets up to be a universal reformer and
corrector of abuses, a remover of grievances, rakes into every
slut's corner of nature, bringing hidden corruptions to the light,
and raises a mighty dust where there was none before, sharing
deeply all the while in the very same pollutions he pretends to
sweep away. His last days are spent in slavery to women, and
generally the least deserving; till, worn to the stumps, like his
brother besom, he is either kicked out of doors, or made use of to
kindle flames for others to warm themselves by.
CHAPTER III - PREDICTIONS FOR THE YEAR 1708.
WHEREIN THE MONTH, AND DAY OF THE MONTH ARE SET DOWN, THE PERSONS
NAMED, AND THE GREAT ACTIONS AND EVENTS OF NEXT YEAR PARTICULARLY
RELATED AS WILL COME TO PASS.
WRITTEN TO PREVENT THE PEOPLE OF ENGLAND FROM BEING FARTHER IMPOSED
ON BY VULGAR ALMANACK-MAKERS.
BY ISAAC BICKERSTAFF, ESQ.
I HAVE long considered the gross abuse of astrology in this
kingdom, and upon debating the matter with myself, I could not
possibly lay the fault upon the art, but upon those gross impostors
who set up to be the artists. I know several learned men have
contended that the whole is a cheat; that it is absurd and
ridiculous to imagine the stars can have any influence at all upon
human actions, thoughts, or inclinations; and whoever has not bent
his studies that way may be excused for thinking so, when he sees
in how wretched a manner that noble art is treated by a few mean
illiterate traders between us and the stars, who import a yearly
stock of nonsense, lies, folly, and impertinence, which they offer
to the world as genuine from the planets, though they descend from
no greater a height than their own brains.
I intend in a short time to publish a large and rational defence of
this art, and therefore shall say no more in its justification at
present than that it hath been in all ages defended by many learned
men, and among the rest by Socrates himself, whom I look upon as
undoubtedly the wisest of uninspired mortals: to which if we add
that those who have condemned this art, though otherwise learned,
having been such as either did not apply their studies this way, or
at least did not succeed in their applications, their testimony
will not be of much weight to its disadvantage, since they are
liable to the common objection of condemning what they did not
Nor am I at all offended, or think it an injury to the art, when I
see the common dealers in it, the students in astrology, the
Philomaths, and the rest of that tribe, treated by wise men with
the utmost scorn and contempt; but rather wonder, when I observe
gentlemen in the country, rich enough to serve the nation in
Parliament, poring in Partridge's Almanack to find out the events
of the year at home and abroad, not daring to propose a hunting-
match till Gadbury or he have fixed the weather.
I will allow either of the two I have mentioned, or any other of
the fraternity, to he not only astrologers, but conjurers too, if I
do not produce a hundred instances in all their almanacks to
convince any reasonable man that they do not so much as understand
common grammar and syntax; that they are not able to spell any word
out of the usual road, nor even in their prefaces write common
sense or intelligible English. Then for their observations and
predictions, they are such as will equally suit any age or country
in the world. "This month a certain great person. will be
threatened with death or sickness." This the newspapers will tell
them; for there we find at the end of the year that no month passes
without the death of some person of note; and it would be hard if
it should be otherwise, when there are at least two thousand
persons of note in this kingdom, many of them old, and the
almanack-maker has the liberty of choosing the sickliest season of
the year where lie may fix his prediction. Again, "This month an
eminent clergyman will be preferred;" of which there may be some
hundreds, half of them with one foot in the grave. Then "such a
planet in such a house shows great machinations, plots, and
conspiracies, that may in time be brought to light:" after which,
if we hear of any discovery, the astrologer gets the honour; if
not, his prediction still stands good. And at last, "God preserve
King William from all his open and secret enemies, Amen." When if
the King should happen to have died, the astrologer plainly
foretold it; otherwise it passes but for the pious ejaculation of a
loyal subject; though it unluckily happened in some of their
almanacks that poor King William was prayed for many months after
he was dead, because it fell out that he died about the beginning
of the year.
To mention no more of their impertinent predictions: what have we
to do with their advertisements about pills and drink for disease?
or their mutual quarrels in verse and prose of Whig and Tory,
wherewith the stars have little to do?
Having long observed and lamented these, and a hundred other abuses
of this art, too tedious to repeat, I resolved to proceed in a new
way, which I doubt not will be to the general satisfaction of the
kingdom. I can this year produce but a specimen of what I design
for the future, having employed most part of my time in adjusting
and correcting the calculations I made some years past, because I
would offer nothing to the world of which I am not as fully
satisfied as that I am now alive. For these two last years I have
not failed in above one or two particulars, and those of no very
great moment. I exactly foretold the miscarriage at Toulon, with
all its particulars, and the loss of Admiral Shovel, though I was
mistaken as to the day, placing that accident about thirty-six
hours sooner than it happened; but upon reviewing my schemes, I
quickly found the cause of that error. I likewise foretold the
Battle of Almanza to the very day and hour, with the lose on both
sides, and the consequences thereof. All which I showed to some
friends many months before they happened - that is, I gave them
papers sealed up, to open at such a time, after which they were at
liberty to read them; and there they found my predictions true in
every article, except one or two very minute.
As for the few following predictions I now offer the world, I
forbore to publish them till I had perused the several almanacks
for the year we are now entered on. I find them all in the usual
strain, and I beg the reader will compare their manner with mine.
And here I make bold to tell the world that I lay the whole credit
of my art upon the truth of these predictions; and I will be
content that Partridge, and the rest of his clan, may hoot me for a
cheat and impostor if I fail in any single particular of moment. I
believe any man who reads this paper will look upon me to be at
least a person of as much honesty and understanding as a common
maker of almanacks. I do not lurk in the dark; 1 am not wholly
unknown in the world; I have set my name at length, to be a mark of
infamy to mankind, if they shall find I deceive them.
In one thing I must desire to be forgiven, that I talk more
sparingly of home affairs. As it will be imprudence to discover
secrets of State, so it would be dangerous to my person; but in
smaller matters, and that are not of public consequence, I shall be
very free; and the truth of my conjectures will as much appear from
those as the others. As for the most signal events abroad, in
France, Flanders, Italy, and Spain, I shall make no scruple to
predict them in plain terms. Some of them are of importance, and I
hope I shall seldom mistake the day they will happen; therefore I
think good to inform the reader that I all along make use of the
Old Style observed in England, which I desire he will compare with
that of the newspapers at the time they relate the actions I
I must add one word more. I know it hath been the opinion of
several of the learned, who think well enough of the true art of
astrology, that the stars do only incline, and not force the
actions or wills of men, and therefore, however I may proceed by
right rules, yet I cannot in prudence so confidently assure the
events will follow exactly as I predict them.
I hope I have maturely considered this objection, which in some
cases is of no little weight. For example: a man may, by the
influence of an over-ruling planet, be disposed or inclined to
lust, rage, or avarice, and yet by the force of reason overcome
that bad influence; and this was the case of Socrates. But as the
great events of the world usually depend upon numbers of men, it
cannot be expected they should all unite to cross their
inclinations from pursuing a general design wherein they
unanimously agree. Besides, the influence of the stars reaches to
many actions and events which are not any way in the power of
reason, as sickness, death, and what we commonly call accidents,
with many more, needless to repeat.
But now it is time to proceed to my predictions, which I have begun
to calculate from the time that the sun enters into Aries. And
this I take to be properly the beginning of the natural year. I
pursue them to the time that he enters Libra, or somewhat more,
which is the busy period of the year. The remainder I have not yet
adjusted, upon account of several impediments needless here to
mention. Besides, I must remind the reader again that this is but
a specimen of what I design in succeeding years to treat more at
large, if I may have liberty and encouragement.
My first prediction is but a trifle, yet I will mention it, to show
how ignorant those sottish pretenders to astrology are in their own
concerns. It relates to Partridge, the almanack-maker. I have
consulted the stars of his nativity by my own rules, and find he
will infallibly die upon the 29th of March next, about eleven at
night, of a raging fever; therefore I advise him to consider of it,
and settle his affairs in time.
The month of APRIL will be observable for the death of many great
persons. On the 4th will die the Cardinal de Noailles, Archbishop
of Paris; on the 11th, the young Prince of Asturias, son to the
Duke of Anjou; on the 14th, a great peer of this realm will die at
his country house; on the 19th, an old layman of great fame for
learning, and on the 23rd, an eminent goldsmith in Lombard Street.
I could mention others, both at home and abroad, if I did not
consider it is of very little use or instruction to the reader, or
to the world.
As to public affairs: On the 7th of this month there will be an
insurrection in Dauphiny, occasioned by the oppressions of the
people, which will not be quieted in some months.
On the 15th will be a violent storm on the south-east coast of
France, which will destroy many of their ships, and some in the
The 11th will be famous for the revolt of a whole province or
kingdom, excepting one city, by which the affairs of a certain
prince in the Alliance will take a better face.
MAY, against common conjectures, will be no very busy month in
Europe, but very signal for the death of the Dauphin, which will
happen on the 7th, after a short fit of sickness, and grievous
torments with the strangury. He dies less lamented by the Court
than the kingdom.
On the 9th a Marshal of France will break his leg by a fall from
his horse. I have not been able to discover whether he will then
die or not.
On the 11th will begin a most important siege, which the eyes of
all Europe will be upon: I cannot be more particular, for in
relating affairs that so nearly concern the Confederates, and
consequently this kingdom, I am forced to confine myself for
several reasons very obvious to the reader.
On the 15th news will arrive of a very surprising event, than which
nothing could be more unexpected.
On the 19th three noble ladies of this kingdom will, against all
expectation, prove with child, to the great joy of their husbands.
On the 23rd a famous buffoon of the playhouse will die a ridiculous
death, suitable to his vocation.
JUNE. This month will be distinguished at home by the utter
dispersing of those ridiculous deluded enthusiasts commonly called
the Prophets, occasioned chiefly by seeing the time come that many
of their prophecies should be fulfilled, and then finding
themselves deceived by contrary events. It is indeed to be admired
how any deceiver can be so weak to foretell things near at hand,
when a very few months must of necessity discover the impostor to
all the world; in this point less prudent than common almanack-
makers, who are so wise to wonder in generals, and talk dubiously,
and leave to the reader the business of interpreting.
On the 1st of this month a French general will be killed by a
random shot of a cannon-ball.
On the 6th a fire will break out in the suburbs of Paris, which
will destroy above a thousand houses, and seems to be the
foreboding of what will happen, to the surprise of all Europe,
about the end of the following month.
On the 10th a great battle will be fought, which will begin at four
of the clock in the afternoon, and last till nine at night with
great obstinacy, but no very decisive event. I shall not name the
place, for the reasons aforesaid, but the commanders on each left
wing will be killed. I see bonfires and hear the noise of guns for
On the 14th there will be a false report of the French king's
On the 20th Cardinal Portocarero will die of a dysentery, with
great suspicion of poison, but the report of his intention to
revolt to King Charles will prove false.
JULY. The 6th of this month a certain general will, by a glorious
action, recover the reputation he lost by former misfortunes.
On the 12th a great commander will die a prisoner in the hands of
On the 14th a shameful discovery will be made of a French Jesuit
giving poison to a great foreign general; and when he is put to the
torture, will make wonderful discoveries.
In short, this will prove a month of great action, if I might have
liberty to relate the particulars.
At home, the death of an old famous senator will happen on the 15th
at his country house, worn with age and diseases.
But that which will make this month memorable to all posterity is
the death of the French king, Louis the Fourteenth, after a week's
sickness at Marli, which will happen on the 29th, about six o'clock
in the evening. It seems to be an effect of the gout in his
stomach, followed by a flux. And in three days after Monsieur
Chamillard will follow his master, dying suddenly of an apoplexy.
In this month likewise an ambassador will die in London, but I
cannot assign the day.
AUGUST. The affairs of France will seem to suffer no change for a
while under the Duke of Burgundy's administration; but the genius
that animated the whole machine being gone, will be the cause of
mighty turns and revolutions in the following year. The new king
makes yet little change either in the army or the Ministry, but the
libels against his grandfather, that fly about his very Court, give
I see an express in mighty haste, with joy and wonder in his looks,
arriving by break of day on the 26th of this month, having
travelled in three days a prodigious journey by land and sea. In
the evening I hear bells and guns, and see the blazing of a
A young admiral of noble birth does likewise this month gain
immortal honour by a great achievement.
The affairs of Poland are this month entirely settled; Augustus
resigns his pretensions which he had again taken up for some time:
Stanislaus is peaceably possessed of the throne, and the King of
Sweden declares for the emperor.
I cannot omit one particular accident here at home: that near the
end of this month much mischief will be done at Bartholomew Fair by
the fall of a booth.
SEPTEMBER. This month begins with a very surprising fit of frosty
weather, which will last near twelve days.
The Pope, having long languished last month, the swellings in his
legs breaking, and the flesh mortifying, will die on the 11th
instant; and in three weeks' time, after a mighty contest, be
succeeded by a cardinal of the Imperial faction, but native of
Tuscany, who is now about sixty-one years old.
The French army acts now wholly on the defensive, strongly
fortified in their trenches, and the young French king sends
overtures for a treaty of peace by the Duke of Mantua; which,
because it is a matter of State that concerns us here at home, I
shall speak no farther of it.
I shall add but one prediction more, and that in mystical terms,
which shall be included in a verse out of Virgil -
ALTER ERIT JAM TETHYS, ET ALTERA QUAE VEHAT ARGO
Upon the 25th day of this month, the fulfilling of this prediction
will be manifest to everybody.
This is the farthest I have proceeded in my calculations for the
present year. I do not pretend that these are all the great events
which will happen in this period, but that those I have set down
will infallibly come to pass. It will perhaps still be objected
why I have not spoken more particularly of affairs at home, or of
the success of our armies abroad, which I might, and could very
largely have done; but those in power have wisely discouraged men
from meddling in public concerns, and I was resolved by no means to
give the least offence. This I will venture to say, that it will
be a glorious campaign for the Allies, wherein the English forces,
both by sea and land, will have their full share of honour; that
Her Majesty Queen Anne will continue in health and prosperity; and
that no ill accident will arrive to any in the chief Ministry.
As to the particular events I have mentioned, the readers may judge
by the fulfilling of them, whether I am on the level with common
astrologers, who, with an old paltry cant, and a few pothooks for
planets, to amuse the vulgar, have, in my opinion, too long been
suffered to abuse the world. But an honest physician ought not to
be despised because there are such things as mountebanks. I hope I
have some share of reputation, which I would not willingly forfeit
for a frolic or humour; and I believe no gentleman who reads this
paper will look upon it to be of the same cast or mould with the
common scribblers that are every day hawked about. My fortune has
placed me above the little regard of scribbling for a few pence,
which I neither value nor want; therefore, let no wise man too
hastily condemn this essay, intended for a good design, to
cultivate and improve an ancient art long in disgrace, by having
fallen into mean and unskilful hands. A little time will determine
whether I have deceived others or myself; and I think it is no very
unreasonable request that men would please to suspend their
judgments till then. I was once of the opinion with those who
despise all predictions from the stars, till in the year 1686 a man
of quality showed me, written in his album, that the most learned
astronomer, Captain H-, assured him, he would never believe
anything of the stars' influence if there were not a great
revolution in England in the year 1688. Since that time I began to
have other thoughts, and after eighteen years' diligent study and
application, I think I have no reason to repent of my pains. I
shall detain the reader no longer than to let him know that the
account I design to give of next year's events shall take in the
principal affairs that happen in Europe; and if I be denied the
liberty of offering it to my own country, I shall appeal to the
learned world, by publishing it in Latin, and giving order to have
it printed in Holland.
CHAPTER IV - THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE FIRST OF MR. BICKERSTAFF'S
BEING AN ACCOUNT OF THE DEATH OF MR. PARTRIDGE
THE ALMANACK-MAKER, UPON THE 29TH INSTANT.
IN A LETTER TO A PERSON OF HONOUR; WRITTEN IN THE YEAR 1708.
MY LORD, - In obedience to your lordship's commands, as well as to
satisfy my own curiosity, I have for some days past inquired
constantly after Partridge the almanack-maker, of whom it was
foretold in Mr. Bickerstaff's predictions, published about a month
ago, that he should die the 29th instant, about eleven at night, of
a raging fever. I had some sort of knowledge of him when I was
employed in the Revenue, because he used every year to present me
with his almanack, as he did other gentlemen, upon the score of
some little gratuity we gave him. I saw him accidentally once or
twice about ten days before he died, and observed he began very
much to droop and languish, though I hear his friends did not seem
to apprehend him in any danger. About two or three days ago he
grew ill, was confined first to his chamber, and in a few hours
after to his bed, where Dr. Case and Mrs. Kirleus were sent for, to
visit and to prescribe to him. Upon this intelligence I sent
thrice every day one servant or other to inquire after his health;
and yesterday, about four in the afternoon, word was brought me
that he was past hopes; upon which, I prevailed with myself to go
and see him, partly out of commiseration, and I confess, partly out
of curiosity. He knew me very well, seemed surprised at my
condescension, and made me compliments upon it as well as he could
in the condition he was. The people about him said he had been for
some time delirious; but when I saw him, he had his understanding
as well as ever I knew, and spoke strong and hearty, without any
seeming uneasiness or constraint. After I had told him how sorry I
was to see him in those melancholy circumstances, and said some
other civilities suitable to the occasion, I desired him to tell me
freely and ingenuously, whether the predictions Mr. Bickerstaff had
published relating to his death had not too much affected and
worked on his imagination. He confessed he had often had it in his
head, but never with much apprehension, till about a fortnight
before; since which time it had the perpetual possession of his
mind and thoughts, and he did verily believe was the true natural
cause of his present distemper: "For," said he, "I am thoroughly
persuaded, and I think I have very good reasons, that Mr.
Bickerstaff spoke altogether by guess, and knew no more what will
happen this year than I did myself." I told him his discourse
surprised me, and I would be glad he were in a state of health to
be able to tell me what reason he had to be convinced of Mr.
Bickerstaff's ignorance. He replied, "I am a poor, ignorant
follow, bred to a mean trade, yet I have sense enough to know that
all pretences of foretelling by astrology are deceits, for this
manifest reason, because the wise and the learned, who can only
know whether there be any truth in this science, do all unanimously
agree to laugh at and despise it; and none but the poor ignorant
vulgar give it any credit, and that only upon the word of such
silly wretches as I and my fellows, who can hardly write or read."
I then asked him why he had not calculated his own nativity, to see
whether it agreed with Bickerstaff's prediction, at which he shook
his head and said, "Oh, sir, this is no time for jesting, but for
repenting those fooleries, as I do now from the very bottom of my
heart." "By what I can gather from you," said I, "the observations
and predictions you printed with your almanacks were mere
impositions on the people." He replied, "If it were otherwise I
should have the less to answer for. We have a common form for all
those things; as to foretelling the weather, we never meddle with
that, but leave it to the printer, who takes it out of any old
almanack as he thinks fit; the rest was my own invention, to make
my almanack sell, having a wife to maintain, and no other way to
get my bread; for mending old shoes is a poor livelihood; and,"
added he, sighing, "I wish I may not have done more mischief by my
physic than my astrology; though I had some good receipts from my
grandmother, and my own compositions were such as I thought could
at least do no hurt."
I had some other discourse with him, which now I cannot call to
mind; and I fear I have already tired your lordship. I shall only
add one circumstance, that on his death-bed he declared himself a
Nonconformist, and had a fanatic preacher to be his spiritual
guide. After half an hour's conversation I took my leave, being
half stifled by the closeness of the room. I imagined he could not
hold out long, and therefore withdrew to a little coffee-house hard
by, leaving a servant at the house with orders to come immediately
and tell me, as nearly as he could, the minute when Partridge
should expire, which was not above two hours after, when, looking
upon my watch, I found it to be above five minutes after seven; by
which it is clear that Mr. Bickerstaff was mistaken almost four
hours in his calculation. In the other circumstances he was exact
enough. But, whether he has not been the cause of this poor man's
death, as well as the predictor, may be very reasonably disputed.
However, it must be confessed the matter is odd enough, whether we
should endeavour to account for it by chance, or the effect of
imagination. For my own part, though I believe no man has less
faith in these matters, yet I shall wait with some impatience, and
not without some expectation, the fulfilling of Mr. Bickerstaff's
second prediction, that the Cardinal do Noailles is to die upon the
4th of April, and if that should be verified as exactly as this of
poor Partridge, I must own I should be wholly surprised, and at a
loss, and should infallibly expect the accomplishment of all the
CHAPTER V - BAUCIS AND PHILEMON.
IMITATED FROM THE EIGHTH BOOK OF OVID.
IN ancient times, as story tells,
The saints would often leave their cells,
And stroll about, but hide their quality,
To try good people's hospitality.
It happened on a winter night,
As authors of the legend write,
Two brother hermits, saints by trade,
Taking their tour in masquerade,
Disguised in tattered habits, went
To a small village down in Kent;
Where, in the strollers' canting strain,
They begged from door to door in vain;
Tried every tone might pity win,
But not a soul would let them in.
Our wandering saints in woeful state,
Treated at this ungodly rate,
Having through all the village passed,
To a small cottage came at last,
Where dwelt a good honest old yeoman,
Called, in the neighbourhood, Philemon,
Who kindly did these saints invite
In his poor hut to pass the night;
And then the hospitable Sire
Bid goody Baucis mend the fire;
While he from out the chimney took
A flitch of bacon off the hook,
And freely from the fattest side
Cut out large slices to be fried;
Then stepped aside to fetch 'em drink,
Filled a large jug up to the brink,
And saw it fairly twice go round;
Yet (what is wonderful) they found
'Twas still replenished to the top,
As if they ne'er had touched a drop
The good old couple were amazed,
And often on each other gazed;
For both were frightened to the heart,
And just began to cry, - What art!
Then softly turned aside to view,
Whether the lights were burning blue.
The gentle pilgrims soon aware on't,
Told 'em their calling, and their errant;
"Good folks, you need not be afraid,
We are but saints," the hermits said;
"No hurt shall come to you or yours;
But, for that pack of churlish boors,
Not fit to live on Christian ground,
They and their houses shall be drowned;
Whilst you shall see your cottage rise,
And grow a church before your eyes."
They scarce had spoke; when fair and soft,
The roof began to mount aloft;
Aloft rose every beam and rafter,
The heavy wall climbed slowly after.
The chimney widened, and grew higher,
Became a steeple with a spire.
The kettle to the top was hoist,
And there stood fastened to a joist;
But with the upside down, to show
Its inclination for below.
In vain; for a superior force
Applied at bottom, stops its coarse,
Doomed ever in suspense to dwell,
'Tis now no kettle, but a bell.
A wooden jack, which had almost
Lost, by disuse, the art to roast,
A sudden alteration feels,
Increased by new intestine wheels;
And what exalts the wonder more,
The number made the motion slower.
The flyer, though 't had leaden feet,
Turned round so quick, you scarce could see 't;
But slackened by some secret power,
Now hardly moves an inch an hour.
The jack and chimney near allied,
Had never left each other's side;
The chimney to a steeple grown,
The jack would not be left alone;
But up against the steeple reared,
Became a clock, and still adhered;
And still its love to household cares
By a shrill voice at noon declares,
Warning the cook-maid not to burn
That roast meat which it cannot turn.
The groaning chair began to crawl,
Like a huge snail along the wall;
There stuck aloft in public view;
And with small change a pulpit grew.
The porringers, that in a row
Hung high, and made a glittering show,
To a less noble substance changed,
Were now but leathern buckets ranged.
The ballads pasted on the wall,
Of Joan of France, and English Moll,
Fair Rosamond, and Robin Hood,
The Little Children in the Wood,
Now seemed to look abundance better,
Improved in picture, size, and letter;
And high in order placed, describe
The heraldry of every tribe.
A bedstead of the antique mode,
Compact of timber, many a load,
Such as our ancestors did use,
Was metamorphosed into pews:
Which still their ancient nature keep,
By lodging folks disposed to sleep.
The cottage, by such feats as these,
Grown to a church by just degrees,
The hermits then desired their host
To ask for what he fancied most.
Philemon having paused a while,
Returned 'em thanks in homely style;
Then said, "My house is grown so fine,
Methinks I still would call it mine:
I'm old, and fain would live at ease,
Make me the Parson, if you please."
He spoke, and presently he feels
His grazier's coat fall down his heels;
He sees, yet hardly can believe,
About each arm a pudding sleeve;
His waistcoat to a cassock grew,
And both assumed a sable hue;
But being old, continued just
As thread-bare, and as full of dust.
His talk was now of tithes and dues;
He smoked his pipe and read the news;
Knew how to preach old sermons next,
Vamped in the preface and the text;
At christenings well could act his part,
And had the service all by heart;
Wished women might have children fast,
And thought whose sow had farrowed last
Against Dissenters would repine,
And stood up firm for Right divine.
Found his head filled with many a system,
But classic authors, - he ne'er missed 'em.
Thus having furbished up a parson,
Dame Baucis next they played their farce on.
Instead of home-spun coifs were seen
Good pinners edg'd with colberteen;
Her petticoat transformed apace,
Became black satin flounced with lace.
Plain Goody would no longer down,
'Twas Madam, in her grogram gown.
Philemon was in great surprise,
And hardly could believe his eyes,
Amazed to see her look so prim;
And she admired as much at him.
Thus, happy in their change of life,
Were several years this man and wife;
When on a day, which proved their last,
Discoursing o'er old stories past,
They went by chance amidst their talk,
To the church yard to take a walk;
When Baucis hastily cried out,
"My dear, I see your forehead sprout!"
"Sprout," quoth the man, "what's this you tell us?
I hope you don't believe me jealous,
But yet, methinks, I feel it true;
And really, yours is budding too -
Nay, - now I cannot stir my foot;
It feels as if 'twere taking root."
Description would but tire my Muse;
In short, they both were turned to Yews.
Old Goodman Dobson of the green
Remembers he the trees has seen;
He'll talk of them from noon till night,
And goes with folks to show the sight;
On Sundays, after evening prayer,
He gathers all the parish there,
Points out the place of either Yew:
Here Baucis, there Philemon grew,
Till once a parson of our town,
To mend his barn, cut Baucis down;
At which, 'tis hard to be believed
How much the other tree was grieved,
Grow scrubby, died a-top, was stunted:
So the next parson stubbed and burnt it.
CHAPTER VI - THE LOGICIANS REFUTED.
LOGICIANS have but ill defined
As rational, the human kind;
Reason, they say, belongs to man,
But let them prove it, if they can.
Wise Aristotle and Smiglesius,
By ratiocinations specious,
Have strove to prove with great precision,
With definition and division,
HOMO EST RATIONE PRAEDITUM;
But, for my soul, I cannot credit 'em.
And must, in spite of them, maintain
That man and all his ways are vain;
And that this boasted lord of nature
Is both a weak and erring creature.
That instinct is a surer guide
Than reason-boasting mortals pride;
And, that brute beasts are far before 'em,
DEUS EST ANIMA BRUTORUM.
Whoever knew an honest brute,
At law his neighbour prosecute,
Bring action for assault and battery,
Or friend beguile with lies and flattery?
O'er plains they ramble unconfined,
No politics disturb their mind;
They eat their meals, and take their sport,
Nor know who's in or out at court.
They never to the levee go
To treat as dearest friend a foe;
They never importune his grace,
Nor ever cringe to men in place;
Nor undertake a dirty job,
Nor draw the quill to write for Bob.
Fraught with invective they ne'er go
To folks at Paternoster Row:
No judges, fiddlers, dancing-masters,
No pickpockets, or poetasters
Are known to honest quadrupeds:
No single brute his fellows leads.
Brutes never meet in bloody fray,
Nor cut each others' throats for pay.
Of beasts, it is confessed, the ape
Comes nearest us in human shape;
Like man, he imitates each fashion,
And malice is his ruling passion:
But, both in malice and grimaces,
A courtier any ape surpasses.
Behold him humbly cringing wait
Upon the minister of state;
View him, soon after, to inferiors
Aping the conduct of superiors:
He promises, with equal air,
And to perform takes equal care.
He, in his turn, finds imitators,
At court the porters, lacqueys, waiters
Their masters' manners still contract,
And footmen, lords, and dukes can act.
Thus, at the court, both great and small
Behave alike, for all ape all.
CHAPTER VII - THE PUPPET SHOW.
THE life of man to represent,
And turn it all to ridicule,
Wit did a puppet-show invent,
Where the chief actor is a fool.
The gods of old were logs of wood,
And worship was to puppets paid;
In antic dress the idol stood,
And priests and people bowed the head.
No wonder then, if art began
The simple votaries to frame,
To shape in timber foolish man,
And consecrate the block to fame.
From hence poetic fancy learned
That trees might rise from human forms
The body to a trunk be turned,
And branches issue from the arms.
Thus Daedalus and Ovid too,
That man's a blockhead have confessed,
Powel and Stretch the hint pursue;
Life is the farce, the world a jest.
The same great truth South Sea hath proved
On that famed theatre, the ally,
Where thousands by directors moved
Are now sad monuments of folly.
What Momus was of old to Jove
The same harlequin is now;
The former was buffoon above,
The latter is a Punch below.
This fleeting scene is but a stage,
Where various images appear,
In different parts of youth and age
Alike the prince and peasant share.
Some draw our eyes by being great,
False pomp conceals mere wood within,
And legislators rang'd in state
Are oft but wisdom in machine.
A stock may chance to wear a crown,
And timber as a lord take place,
A statue may put on a frown,
And cheat us with a thinking face.
Others are blindly led away,
And made to act for ends unknown,
By the mere spring of wires they play,
And speak in language not their own.
Too oft, alas! a scolding wife
Usurps a jolly fellow's throne,
And many drink the cup of life
Mix'd and embittered by a Joan.
In short, whatever men pursue
Of pleasure, folly, war, or love,
This mimic-race brings all to view,
Alike they dress, they talk, they move.
Go on, great Stretch, with artful hand,
Mortals to please and to deride,
And when death breaks thy vital band
Thou shalt put on a puppet's pride.
Thou shalt in puny wood be shown,
Thy image shall preserve thy fame,
Ages to come thy worth shall own,
Point at thy limbs, and tell thy name.
Tell Tom he draws a farce in vain,
Before he looks in nature's glass;
Puns cannot form a witty scene,
Nor pedantry for humour pass.
To make men act as senseless wood,
And chatter in a mystic strain,
Is a mere force on flesh and blood,
And shows some error in the brain.
He that would thus refine on thee,
And turn thy stage into a school,
The jest of Punch will ever be,
And stand confessed the greater fool.
CHAPTER VIII - CADENUS AND VANESSA.
WRITTEN ANNO 1713.
THE shepherds and the nymphs were seen
Pleading before the Cyprian Queen.
The counsel for the fair began
Accusing the false creature, man.
The brief with weighty crimes was charged,
On which the pleader much enlarged:
That Cupid now has lost his art,
Or blunts the point of every dart;
His altar now no longer smokes;
His mother's aid no youth invokes -
This tempts free-thinkers to refine,
And bring in doubt their powers divine,
Now love is dwindled to intrigue,
And marriage grown a money-league.
Which crimes aforesaid (with her leave)
Were (as he humbly did conceive)
Against our Sovereign Lady's peace,
Against the statutes in that case,
Against her dignity and crown:
Then prayed an answer and sat down.
The nymphs with scorn beheld their foes:
When the defendant's counsel rose,
And, what no lawyer ever lacked,
With impudence owned all the fact.
But, what the gentlest heart would vex,
Laid all the fault on t'other sex.
That modern love is no such thing
As what those ancient poets sing;
A fire celestial, chaste, refined,
Conceived and kindled in the mind,
Which having found an equal flame,
Unites, and both become the same,
In different breasts together burn,
Together both to ashes turn.
But women now feel no such fire,
And only know the gross desire;
Their passions move in lower spheres,
Where'er caprice or folly steers.
A dog, a parrot, or an ape,
Or some worse brute in human shape
Engross the fancies of the fair,
The few soft moments they can spare
From visits to receive and pay,
From scandal, politics, and play,
From fans, and flounces, and brocades,
From equipage and park-parades,
From all the thousand female toys,
From every trifle that employs
The out or inside of their heads
Between their toilets and their beds.
In a dull stream, which, moving slow,
You hardly see the current flow,
If a small breeze obstructs the course,
It whirls about for want of force,
And in its narrow circle gathers
Nothing but chaff, and straws, and feathers:
The current of a female mind
Stops thus, and turns with every wind;
Thus whirling round, together draws
Fools, fops, and rakes, for chaff and straws.
Hence we conclude, no women's hearts
Are won by virtue, wit, and parts;
Nor are the men of sense to blame
For breasts incapable of flame:
The fault must on the nymphs be placed,
Grown so corrupted in their taste.
The pleader having spoke his best,
Had witness ready to attest,
Who fairly could on oath depose,
When questions on the fact arose,
That every article was true;
NOR FURTHER THOSE DEPONENTS KNEW:
Therefore he humbly would insist,
The bill might be with costs dismissed.
The cause appeared of so much weight,
That Venus from the judgment-seat
Desired them not to talk so loud,
Else she must interpose a cloud:
For if the heavenly folk should know
These pleadings in the Courts below,
That mortals here disdain to love,
She ne'er could show her face above.
For gods, their betters, are too wise
To value that which men despise.
"And then," said she, "my son and I
Must stroll in air 'twixt earth and sky:
Or else, shut out from heaven and earth,
Fly to the sea, my place of birth;
There live with daggled mermaids pent,
And keep on fish perpetual Lent."
But since the case appeared so nice,
She thought it best to take advice.
The Muses, by their king's permission,
Though foes to love, attend the session,
And on the right hand took their places
In order; on the left, the Graces:
To whom she might her doubts propose
On all emergencies that rose.
The Muses oft were seen to frown;
The Graces half ashamed look down;
And 'twas observed, there were but few
Of either sex, among the crew,
Whom she or her assessors knew.
The goddess soon began to see
Things were not ripe for a decree,
And said she must consult her books,
The lovers' Fletas, Bractons, Cokes.
First to a dapper clerk she beckoned,
To turn to Ovid, book the second;
She then referred them to a place
In Virgil (VIDE Dido's case);
As for Tibullus's reports,
They never passed for law in Courts:
For Cowley's brief, and pleas of Waller,
Still their authority is smaller.
There was on both sides much to say;
She'd hear the cause another day;
And so she did, and then a third,
She heard it - there she kept her word;
But with rejoinders and replies,
Long bills, and answers, stuffed with lies
Demur, imparlance, and essoign,
The parties ne'er could issue join:
For sixteen years the cause was spun,
And then stood where it first begun.
Now, gentle Clio, sing or say,
What Venus meant by this delay.
The goddess, much perplexed in mind,
To see her empire thus declined,
When first this grand debate arose
Above her wisdom to compose,
Conceived a project in her head,
To work her ends; which, if it sped,
Would show the merits of the cause
Far better than consulting laws.
In a glad hour Lucina's aid
Produced on earth a wondrous maid,
On whom the queen of love was bent
To try a new experiment.
She threw her law-books on the shelf,
And thus debated with herself:-
"Since men allege they ne'er can find
Those beauties in a female mind
Which raise a flame that will endure
For ever, uncorrupt and pure;
If 'tis with reason they complain,
This infant shall restore my reign.
I'll search where every virtue dwells,
From Courts inclusive down to cells.
What preachers talk, or sages write,
These I will gather and unite,
And represent them to mankind
Collected in that infant's mind."
This said, she plucks in heaven's high bowers
A sprig of Amaranthine flowers,
In nectar thrice infuses bays,
Three times refined in Titan's rays:
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