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they themselves endeavour to banter others out of every serious and virtuous notion, we too (in the language of the psalmist) should laugh them to scorn, and have them in derision.'
It is with infinite pleasure that I find myself so much encouraged to continue my labours, by the kind reception which they have hitherto met with from the public and Mr. Baldwin with no less pleasure informs me, that as there are but few numbers left of the folio edition, he intends to collect my papers into two pocket volumes. The reader cannot conceive how much I already pride myself on the charming figure, which my works will make in this new form and I shall endeavour to render these volumes as complete as I possibly can, by several considerable additions and amendments. Though contracted into the small space of an eighteens volume, I still hope to maintain my former dignity; like the devils in Milton's Pandemonium, who,
.To smallest forms
Reduc'd their shapes immense, and were at large.
The Spectator has very elegantly compared his single papers, as they came out, to" cherries on a stick,' of the dearness of which the purchasers cannot complain, who are willing to gratify their taste with choice fruit at its earliest production. I have considered my own papers as so many flowers, which, joined together, would make up a pretty nose-gay; and though each of them singly taken, may not be equally admired for their odours, they may receive an additional fragance by an happy union of their
The learned decoration in the front of my papers, though perhaps it has sometimes put my scholarship to a stand, I could by no means dispense with: for
out a nose.
such is the prevalence of custom, that the most finished essay without a motto would appear to many people as maimed and imperfect, as a beautiful face withBut custom has imposed upon us a new task, of giving translations to these new mottos]; and it has been the usual method to copy them promiscuously from Dryden or Francis: though (as Denham has remarked of translation in general) the spirit of the original is evaporated in the transfusion and nothing is left behind but a mere caput mortuum.' motto, as it stands in the original, may be very apposite to the subject of the essay though nothing to the purpose in the common translation; and it frequently derives all its elegance from an humorous application, in a different sense to what it bears in the author, but of which not the least trace can appear in the version. For this reason I have determined to give entirely new translations, or rather imitations, of all the mottos and quotations adapted to the present times. And these, I flatter myself, will reflect an additional beauty on my work; as some of them admit of epigrammatic turns, while others afford room for lively and picturesque allusions to modern manners. In this dress they will at least appear more of a piece with the essays themselves; and not like the patch-work of random translations.
In the mean time I shall only add, that if any nobleman, gentleman, or rich citizen, is ambitious to have his name prefixed to either of these volumes, he is desired to send in proposals, together with a list of his virtues and good qualities, to the publisher; and the dedication shall be disposed of to the best bidder. None but principals will be treated with.
No. LXXII. THURSDAY, JUNE 12.
......Versus inopes rerum, nugæque canorë.
What though our songs to wit have no pretence,
THE managers of our public gardens, willing to make their summer diversions as complete as possible, are not content with laying out beautiful walks, and providing an excellent band of music, but are also at much expence to amuse us with the old English entertainment of ballad-singing. For this end they not only retain the best voices that can be procured, but each of them also has a poet in ordinary, who is allowed a stated salary, and the run of the gardens. The productions of these petty laureats naturally come within my notice as Critic: and, indeed, whether I am at Vauxhall, Ranelagh, Marybone, or even Sadler's Wells, I indulge myself in many remarks on the poetry of the place; and am as attentive to the songs as to the cascade, the fire-works, or Miss Isabella Wilkinson.
Ballads seem peculiarly adapted to the genius of our people; and are a species of composition, in which we are superior to all other nations. Many of our old English songs have in them an affecting simplicity; and it is remarkable that our best writers have not been ashamed to cultivate this branch of poe try. Cowley, Waller, Roscommon, Rowe, Gay, Prior, and many others, have left behind them very elegant ballads: but it must be confessed, to the honour of the present age, that it was reserved for our modern writers to bring this kind of poetry to perfec tion. Song-writing is now reduced to certain rules of art; and the ballad-maker goes to work by a method
as regular and mechanical, as a carpenter or a blacksmith.
Swift, in his voyage to Laputa, describes a machine to write books in all arts and sciences: I have also read of a mill to make verses; and remember to have seen a curious table, by the assistance of which the most illiterate might amuse themselves in composing hexameters and pentameters in Latin: inventions wonderfully calculated for the promotion of literature. Whatever gentlemen of Grub-street or others are ambitious to enlist themselves as hackney sonnetteers, are desired to attend to the following rules, drawn from the practice of our modern song-writers; a set of geniuses excellent in their manner, and who will probably be hereafter as much known and admired as garden-poets, as the celebrated Taylor is now famous under the denomination of water-poet.
I must beg leave positively to contradict any reports, insinuating that our ballad-makers are in possession of such a machine, mill, or table as above-mentioned; and believe it to be equally false, that it is their practice to hustle certain quaint terms and phrases toge ther in a hat, and take them out at random. It has, indeed, been asserted on some just ground, that their productions are totally void of sense and expression, that they have little rhyme and less reason, and that they are, from the beginning to the end, nothing more than nonsensical rhapsodies to a new tune. This charge I do not mean to deny: though I cannot but lament the deplorable want of taste, that mentions it as a fault. For it is this very circumstance, which I, who am professedly a Connoisseur, particularly admire. It is a received maxim with all composers of music, that nothing is so melodious as nonsensé. Manly sense is too harsh and stubborn to go through the numberless divisions and sub-divisions of modern music, and to be trilled forth in crotchets and demi
quavers. For this reason, thought is so cautiously sprinkled over a modern song; which it is the business of the singer to warble into sentiment.
Our ballad-makers for the most part slide into the familiar style, and affect that easy manner of writing, which (according to Wycherly) is easily written. Seeing the dangerous consequence of meaning, in words adapted to music, they are very frugal of their sentiment: and indeed they husband it so well, that the same thoughts are adapted to every song. The only variation requisite in twenty ballads is, that the last line of the stanza be different. In this ingenious line the wit of the whole song consists: and the author, whether he shall die if he has not the lass of the mill,' or deserves to be reckoned an ass,' turns over his dictionary of rhymes for words of a similar sound, and every verse jingles to the same word, with all the agreeable. variety of a set of bells eternally ringing the same peal.
The authors of love-songs formerly wasted a great deal of poetry in illustrating their own passion and the beauty of their mistress; but our modern poetscontent themselves with falling in love with her name. There cannot be a greater misfortune to one of these rhymers, than a mistress with an hard name: such a misfortune sends them all over the world, and makes them run through all arts, sciences, and languages for correspondent terms; and after all perhaps the name is so harsh and untractable, that our poet has as much difficulty to bring it into verse, as the celebraters of the Duke of Marlborough were puzzled to reduce to rhyme the uncouth names of the Dutch towns taken in queen Anne's wars. Valentine, in Love for Love, when he talks of turning poet, orders Jeremy to get the maids together of an evening to crambo: no contemptible hint to our ballad-makers, and which, if properly made use of, would be of as much service, to, them as Byshe's Art of Poetry.