Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

And then he work'd about the whites,
As mad-men do in raving fits;
Reeld in his tub from side to side,
And wrung his hands as if he cry'd.
His beard from shoul' to shoulder rov'd,
And like the clock-work drummers mov’d;
Thus yawn'd, and gap'd, and gently stirr'd
His head, but yet said ne'er a word ;
Made many strange Geneva faces,
And out-did twenty apes' grimaces.
At last his tongue its silence broke,
And thus the rev'rend Spin-text spoke."

Hudibras Redivivus.

The Republican Procession is described by Mr. Hogg (in his Jacobite Reliques) as “ a poem of sterling rough humour," and as containing “ more humour than any thing of the kind I ever saw.” We suspect Mr. Hogg's political zeal had got the upper-hand of his judgment when this eulogium escaped him. The extracts which he has given from this work are remarkable for nothing but outrageous scurrility and vulgar effrontery, and the whole composition is mean, bald, and contemptible. The subject is the Duke of Marlborough's return, after the death of Queen Anne, and the procession which met and welcomed him to the metropolis.* We are unable to find in this Jacobite effusion any passage of merit or interest to lay before our readers. The Hudibrastic Brewer is somewhat of a comment on the preceding work, and quite as dull, though not so abusive.

Four Hudibrastic Cantos turn upon some local scandal, and are of too mediocre a cast to be disturbed in their oblivion.

England's Reformation is an ex-parte history, in doggrel, of the religious dissentions in this country, from the time of Henry VIII. to Titus Oates, written by a bigoted and unscrupulous papist. Thomas Ward has heavier sins than those of coarseness and dulness to answer for, his work being written throughout with an utter disregard of truth, and falsifying or concealing facts, just as it suited the purpose of the author. We hear enough of the sanguinary persecutions of Edward VI. and of that fiend incarnate, Elizabeth, but not a word of the Smithfield burnings of the good Queen Mary," or of the torturing exploits of the “good Bonner.”—

* Mr. Hogg very erróneously makes King George the First the hero of this libellous poem, though the personalities against the Duke and his wife are numerous and palpable.

tion substance ofore pleasing d neit

Good Glo'ster and good Devil are alike,

And both preposterous.” Those readers who can tolerate a work which burlesques martyrdom, and makes merry with executions, will find it not destitute of humour and ingenuity.

The Alma of Prior is avowedly written in imitation of Hudibras, but there are few points of resemblance between the two works. The plan of Butler is sufficiently irregular, but Prior appears to have had no plan at all, nor even an object. The Alma is a mere conversational sketch, which might have been expanded to any length, according to the industry or caprice of the writer. Prior has judiciously abstained from copying the mere superficial peculiarities of Butler, his uncouth versification, and his licentious phraseology; but he wants the matter and substance of his original. Few writers could tell a humourous tale with a more pleasing mixture of archness and simplicity than Mat Prior; but he had neither the keen wit, the sound sense, or the comprehensive learning of Butler. His good things are " thinly scattered to make up a show;" and there is a pervading feeling of poverty in his Alma, which cannot be disguised by the sprightliness of the style and the neatness of the versification.

The Knight of the Kirk, or the Ecclesiastical Adventures of Sir John Presbyter, by Meston,* is a close and tolerably successful imitation of the style of Butler; but, whether from having studied his original so incessantly that he confounded his ideas with his own, or actuated by zealous admiration, like the old woman that stole a bible through the excess of her devotion, the Scottish writer has conveyed (“convey the wise it call,”) not only thoughts and expressions, but whole lines from his great prototype. He frequently expands a pithy couplet into half a page of doggrel, and dilutes the concentrated spirit of Butler into vapid and mawkish slip-slop. The author of Hudibras certainly did not bequeath him his mantle, but he has managed to pilfer some scraps of it, with which he has patched his thread-bare plaid. Meston, however, is decidedly superior to the common herd of Hudibrastic writers, and his

* William Meston was a native of Aberdeenshire: he was born towards the latter end of the seventeenth century, and was educated at the Mareshall College of Aberdeen. Being a sturdy Jacobite, he took an active part in the insurrection of 1715, and after the defeat at Sheriffmuir, was obliged to skulk among the hills and fastnesses till an act of indemnity was published. He afterwards turned schoolmaster, but with little success, and in his latter years he was dependent on the Countess of Errol for support. He died in 1745.

propensity to plagiarism is the more to be regretted, as he
possessed wherewithal to subsist respectably without it. The
Knight of the Kirk was probably intended as the commence-
ment of a work of some length : the part which Meston com-
pleted, has no action in it, and consists of a somewhat weari-
some detail of the mental and bodily endowments of Sir John
Presbyter, the personification of the Scottish Kirk, his dress,
arms, opinions, and accomplishments.

“Now since you have our hero's name,
Our epick poem should be lame,
Unless his pedigree we trace,
And tell whence he derives his race;
Without the help of divination,
"Tis hard to tell his generation ;
For as it happens in old states,
Which have outliv'd our common dates,
The longer time they have endur'd,
Their origin is more obscur’d,
And if you trace their births and æras,
You'll meet with nothing but chimæras.
Yea, some of them have been so vain,
As all ancestors to disdain,
Except our common mother earth,
To which alone they ow'd their birth,
As if like mushrooms they had sprung
From heaps of rotten earth and dung ;
For, trace the old and young, you'll still
Find, that they meet on the dunghill.
So some alledge our doughty knight
Was come of Chaos and old Night,
Proving that he came from that border
Because he hates all form and order.
Could we believe himself, he'll tell us,
He is one of th' apostles' fellows,
With whom he did sit cheek by jowl,
And voted when they made their poll,
As member of their first assembly,
Which makes him be with them so homely.
He'll not call any of them saint
Unless they'd take the covenant;
But this is what few will allow him,
For the apostles never knew him.
As bravest soldiers are seen,
In time of war, to look most keen,
Who hang their head and droop their snout,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

When peace comes in and war goes out;
Or as some herbs that love the shade,
But in the sun-shine die or fade;
Or as the owl that hates the light,
And only seems to live in night :

Just so, Sir John, in time of war,
· Appeared like a blazing star,

But languished with sore disease,
And droop'd in times of peace and ease.
No wonder then if still he hates
All peaceful and well-order'd states;
For, to his glory or his shame,
He cannot live but in a flame.
He's still resolv'd, whate'er betide him,
That none shall live in peace beside him.
A pair of gauntlet gloves he had,
For boxing, and for preaching made,
With which he dealt his deadly blows,
And thump'd the pulpit and his foes;
Well vers'd he was in both these trades,
Of handling texts and rusty blades;
In both he had such matchless skill,
With either he could wound or kill;
And many a head had got contusions
With both these weapons, in confusions;
For when he kill'd not by the word,
He did it with the powerful sword,
And made his enemies perplex'd
Either with awful sword or text.
He was content to fright his foes,
Either with paraphrase or blows;
And if the one did not succeed,
The other knock'd them in the head.
But far less vict'ry he had got
By texts, than blows and musket-shot;
For like the wight with the tame pigeon,
He cudgell’d men into religion.”

Meston's Works.

The following definition of truth is neatly written.

“ Truth is an atom or a point
Which never man could yet disjoint,
And make two contradictions share it;
For if you try to eke or pare it,

Or to dissect it, or dispose it,
"Twixt contradictions you will lose it;
For tho' this little thing, we know,
Can either lodge in yea or no :
Yet 'twixt these two it will not vary,
Whenever they are found contrary,
Nor like a trimmer take it's post,
With either side that rules the roast :
It dwells not with these luke-warm sinners,
Who for no side will lose their dinners,
But shift about and chuse the upper-
Side, where they get the better supper.”

Meston's Works.

[ocr errors]

Meston's Mob contra Mob, and some of his Mother Grim's Tales, are close imitations of Butler ; but we have already devoted a sufficient space to his productions.

Whatever quantum of merit these imitations may possess, they have one distinguishing characteristic unlike their great original: whether written for purposes of mirth or malice, they never rise above their subject. Butler's path was equally narrow, but it could not narrow his mind. He crowds into his confined circle all the treasures of wit and the accumulations of learning. He gives full measure to his readers, heaped up, and running over. Thought crowds upon thought and witticism upon witticism, in rapid and dazzling succession. Every topic and every incident is made the most of: his bye-play always tells. Many of his happiest sallies appear to escape him as if by accident; many of his hardest hits appear to be merely chance-blows. A description of a bear-ward brings in a sneer at Sir Kenelm Digby and his powder of sympathy, and an account of a tinker's doxey introduces a pleasantry on Sir William Davenant's Gondibert. There is always an under current of satiric allusion beneath the main stream of his satire. The juggling of astrology, the besotting folly of alchemy, the transfusion of blood, the sympathetic medicines, the learned trifling of experimental philosophers, the knavery of fortune-tellers and the folly of their dupes, the marvellous relations of travellers, the subtleties of the school-divines, the freaks of fashion, the fantastic extravagancies of lovers, the affectations of poetry, and the absurdities of romance, are interwoven with his subject, and soften down and relieve his dark delineation of fanatical violence and perfidy. Of this continuity of satire, Butler's imitators had no conception, or were too poor in spirit and invention to attempt to follow in his steps. They seem to have taken it into their heads that they had only to bid defiance to grammar and decency, to be vulgar in thought and coarse in

« AnteriorContinuar »