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Mummius o'erheard him ; Mummius, fool-renown'd,69
Speak’st thou of Syrian princes ? Traitor base!
“ Witness great Ammon 70 by whose horns I swore,
The goddess smiling seem'd to give consent;
69 This name is not merely an allusion to the mummies he was so fond of, but probably referred to the Roman general of that name,
who burned Corinth, and committed the curious statues to the captain of a ship, assuring him, “ that if any were lost or broken, he should procure others to be made in their stead :" by which it would seem (whatever may be pretended) that Mummius was no virtuoso. Fool-renown'd, a compound epithet in the Greek manner, renown'd by fools, or renown’d for making fools.
70 Jupiter Ammon is called to witness, as the father of Alexander, to whom those kings succeeded in the division of the Macedonian empire, and whose horns they wore on their medals.
71 A physician of great learning and no less taste; above all, curious in what related to Horace, of whom he collected every edition, translation, and comment, to the number of several hundred volumes.
[Dr. James Douglas lectured on anatomy in London, and wrote notices of anatomical writers from Hippocrates to Harvey. He was also author of “Myographiæ Comporata Specimen,” and other professional treatises. He died the same year this fourth book of the Dunciad appeared, 1742.]
Then thick as locusts black’ning all the ground,
The first thus open'd: “Hear thy suppliants call,
Then, throned in glass, and named it Caroline:
“ Of all the enamell’d race, whose silvery wing 74
425 The rising game, and chased from flower to flower. It fled, I follow'd; now in hope, now pain ; It stopp'd, I stopp'd; it moved, I moved again.75 At last it fix'd, 'twas on what plant it pleased, And where it fix'd, the beauteous bird I seized: 430 Rose or carnation was below my care ; I meddle, goddess ! only in my sphere. I tell the naked fact without disguise, And, to excuse it, need but show the prize ; 72 It is a compliment which the florists usually pay to princes and great personages, to give their names to the most curious flowers of their raising. Some have been very jealous of vindicating this honour; but none more than that ambitious gardener at Hammersmith, who caused his favourite to be painted on his sign, with this inscription, " This is My Queen Caroline." 73 These verses are translated from Catullus, Epith.
“Ut flos in septis secretus nascitur hortis,
Nulli illum pueri, nullæ optavere puellæ,” &c. 74 The poet seems to have an eye to Spenser, Muiopotmos.
“Of all the race of silver-winged flies
“ I started back,
Whose spoils this paper offers to your eye,
“My sons (she answer'd) both have done your parts :
440 The common soul, of Heaven's more frugal make, Serves but to keep fools pert, and knaves awake: A drowsy watchman, that just gives a knock, And breaks our rest, to tell us what's o'clock. Yet by some object every brain is stirr'd:
445 The dull may waken to a humming-bird ; The most recluse, discreetly open'd, find, Congenial matter in the cockle-kind; The mind, in metaphysics at a loss, May wander in a wilderness of moss;
450 The head, that turns at superlunar things, Poised with a tail may steer on Wilkins' wings.76
“O! would the sons of men once think their eyes 77 And reason given them but to study flies ! See nature in some partial narrow shape,
455 And let the author of the whole escape : Learn but to trifle; or, who most observe, To wonder at their Maker, not to serve.”.
“ Be that my task (replies a gloomy clerk,78 Sworn foe to mystery, yet divinely dark ;
76 One of the first projectors of the Royal Society; who, among many enlarged and useful notions, entertained the extravagant hope of a possibility to fly to the moon; which has put some volatile geniuses upon making wings for that purpose.
77 This is the third speech of the goddess to her supplicants, and completes the whole of what she had to give in instruction on this important occasion, concerning learning, civil society, and religion. In the first speech, ver. 119, to her editors and conceited critics, she directs how to deprave wit and discredit fine writers. In her second, ver. 175, to the educators of youth, she shows them how all civil duties may be extinguished, in that one doctrine of Divine hereditary right. And in this third, she charges the investigators of nature to amuse themselves in trifles, and rest in second causes, with a total disregard of the first. This being all that Dulness can wish, is all she needs to say; and we may apply to her (as the poet hath managed it) what hath been said of true wit, that she neither says too little, nor too much.
78 The epithet gloomy in this line may seem the same with that of dark in the next. But gloomy relates to the uncomfortable and disastrous condition
Whose pious hope aspires to see the day
of an irreligious sceptic ; whereas dark alludes only to his puzzled and em. broiled systems.
79 Alluding to a ridiculous and absurd way of some mathematicians, in calculating the gradual decay of moral evidence by mathematical proportions: according to which calculation, in about fifty years it will be no longer probable that Julius Cæsar was in Gaul, or died in the Senate-House.
See Craig's Theologiæ Christianæ Principia Mathematica.—But as it seems evident that facts of a thousand years old, for instance, are now as probable as they were five hundred years ago, it is plain that in fifty more they quite disappear; it must be owing, not to their arguments, but to the extraordinary power of our goddess; for whose help therefore they are bound to pray.
80 Those who, from the effects in this visible world, deduce the eternal power and Godhead of the First Cause, though they cannot attain to an adequate idea of the Deity, yet discover so much of him, as enables them to see the end of their creation, and the means of their happiness: whereas they who take this high priori road, (such as Hobbes, Spinosa, Des Cartes, and some better reasoners,) for one that goes right, ten lose themselves in mists, or ramble after visions, which deprive them of all sight of their end, and mislead them in the choice of the means. [Wakefield characterizes this as “An oblique censure of Dr. S. Clarke's celebrated Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God à priori; after the example of his guide, philosopher, and friend,' who is perpetually attacking Clarke in his fragments of Essays, and thus expresses himself in his letters to our poet: ‘Rather than creep up slowly, à posteriori, to a little general knowledge, they soar at once as far and as high as imagination can carry them. From thence they descend again, armed with systems and arguments, à priori ; and, regardless how these agree, or class with the phenomena of nature, they impose them on mankind.'"]
81 This relates to such as, being ashamed to assert a mere mechanic canse, and yet unwilling to forsake it entirely, have had recourse to a certain plastic nature, elastic fluid, subtile matter, &c.