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TO THE COMPLETE EDITION OF 1743.
I have long had a design of giving some sort of Notes on the works of this poet. Before I had the happiness of his acquaintance, I had written a commentary on his Essay on Man, and have since finished another on the Essay on Criticism. There was one already on the Dunciad, which had met with general approbation: but I still thought some additions were wanting, of a more serious kind, to the humourous notes of Scriblerus, and even to those written by Mr. Cleland, Dr. Arbuthnot, and others. I had lately the pleasure to pass some months with the author in the country, where I prevailed upon him to do what I had long desired, and favour me with his explanation of several passages in his works. It happened, that just at that juncture was published a ridiculous book against him, full of personal reflections, which furnished him with a lucky opportunity of improving This Poem, by giving it the only thing it wanted, a more considerable Hero. He was always sensible of its defect in that particular, and owned he had let it pass with the Hero it had, purely for want of a better; not entertaining the least expectation
that such an one was reserved for this post, as has since obtained the Laurel; but, since that had happened, he could no longer deny this justice either to him or the Dunciad.
And yet, I will venture to say, there was another motive which had still more weight with our author. This person was one, who from every folly (not to say vice) of which another would be ashamed, has constantly derived a vanity; and therefore was the man in the world who would least be hurt by it.
Nov. 19, 1729.
The time of the election of a Poet Laureate being now at hand, it may be proper to give some account of the rites and ceremonies anciently used at that solemnity, and only discontinued through the
* It is not easy to conceive, why this piece, which was written by Pope, and inserted in the first complete edition of the Dunciad, in Four Books, in 1743, should have been transferred, in all the subsequent editions, to another volume of the works of the author, with the rest of the contents of which it has no immediate connexion; whilst it is essential to the proper understanding of the character and dignity of the Poet Laureate, whose office is here traced from the times of Leo X. when
Rome in her capitol saw Querno sit,
Thron'd on seven hills, the antichrist of witto the days of George the Second.
We may also be permitted to observe, that notwithstanding the difference of age and country, this piece may still be of use, as a record of the duties, qualifications, and privileges of the Laureate, in order to prevent any person from being raised, in future, to that high station (as no person has yet been) who is not abundantly qualified for it~" such a person as is truly jealous of the honour and dignity of poetry; no joker or trifler, but a bard in good earnest; nay, not amiss if a critic, and the better if a little obstinate.”
neglect and degeneracy of later times. These we have extracted from an historian of undoubted credit, a reverend bishop, the learned Paulus Jovius; and are the same that were practised under the pontificate of Leo X, the great restorer of learning.
As we now see an age and a court, that for the encouragement of poetry rivals, if not exceeds, that of this famous Pope, we cannot but wish a restoration of all its honours to poesy; the rather, since there are so many parallel circumstances in the person who was then honoured with the laurel, and in him, who (in all probability) is now to wear it.
I shall translate my author exactly as I find it in the 82d chapter of his Elogia Vir. Doct. He begins with the character of the poet himself, who was the original and father of all Laureates, and called Camillo. He was a plain countryman of Apulia, whether a shepherd or thresher is not material. “ This man (says Jovius) excited by the fame of the great encouragement given to poets at court, and the high honour in which they were held, came to the city, bringing with him a strange kind of lyre in his hand, and at least some twenty thousand of verses. All the wits and critics of the court flocked about him, delighted to see a clown, with a ruddy, hale complexion, and in his own long hair, so top full of poetry; and at the first sight of him all agreed he was born to be Poet
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Laureate.* He had a most hearty welcome in an island of the river Tiber (an agreeable place, not unlike our Richmond) where he was first made to eat and drink plentifully, and to repeat his verses to every body. Then they adorned him with a new and elegant garland, composed of vine-leaves, laurel, and brassica (a sort of cabbage) so composed, says my author, emblematically, ut tam sales, quam lepide ejus temulentia, Brassicæ remedio cohibenda, notaretur. He was then saluted by common consent with the title of archi-poeta, or arch-poet, in the style of those days; in ours, Poet Laureate. This honour the poor man received with the most sensible demonstrations of joy, his eyes drunk with tears and gladness.f. Next, the public acclamation was expressed in a canticle, which is transmitted to us, as follows:
“ Salve, brassiceâ virens coronâ,
Et lauro, archipoeta, pampinoque !
Vine, bay, or cabbage fit to wear,
And worthy of the prince's ear.” From hence he was conducted in pomp to the Capitol of Rome, mounted on an elephant, through the shouts of the populace, where the ceremony ended.
The historian tells us farther, “ That at his in
* Apulus præpingui vultu alacer, et prolixe comatus, omnino dignus festâ laureà videretur.
+ Manantibus præ gaudio oculis.