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AFTER the other persons are disposed in their proper places
of rest, the Goddess transports the King to her Temple, and there lays him to slumber with his head on her lap: a position of marvellous virtue, which causes all the Visions of wild enthusiasts, projectors, politicians, inamoratos, castlebuilders, chemists, and poets. He is immediately carried on the wings of Fancy and led by a mad Poetical Sibyl to the Elysian shade; where, on the banks of Lethe, the souls of the dull are dipped by Bavius, before their entrance into this world. There he is met by the ghost of Settle, and by him made acquainted with the wonders of the place, and with those which he himself is destined to perform. He takes him to a Mount of Vision, from whence he shews him the past triumphs of the empire of Dulness, then the present, and lastly the future: how small a part of the world was ever conquered by Science, how soon those conquests were stopped, and those very nations again reduced to her dominion. Then distinguishing the island of Great Britain, shews by what aids, by what persons, and by what degrees, it shall be brought to her Empire. Some of the persons he causes to pass in review before his eyes, describing each by his proper figure, character, and qualifications. On a sudden the scene shifts, and a vast number of miracles and prodigies appear, utterly surprising and unknown to the King himself, till threy are
explained to be the wonders of his own reign now commencing. On this subject Settle breaks into a congratulation, yet not unmixed with concern, that his own times were but the types of these. He prophesies how first the nation shall be overrun with Farces, Operas, and Shows; how the throne of Dulness shall be advanced over the Theatres, and set up even at Court: then how her Sons shall preside in the seats of Arts and Sciences : giving a glimpse, or Pisgah-sight, of the future Fulness of her Glory, the accomplishment whereof is the subject of the fourth and last book.
But in her Temple's last recess inclos'd, On Dulness' lap th’ Anointed head repos’d. Him close she curtains round with Vapours blue, And soft besprinkles with Cimmerian dew, Then raptures high the seat of Sense o’erflow, 5 Which only heads refin’d from Reason know. Hence, from the straw where Bedlam's Prophet nods, He hears loud Oracles, and talks with Gods: Hence the Fool's Paradise, the Statesman's scheme, The air-built Castle, and the golden Dream,
10 The maid's romantic wish, the Chemist's flame, And Poet's vision of eternal Fame.
And now, on Fancy's easy wing convey'd, The King descending views th’ Elysian Shade.
Ver. 5, 6, &c. Hereby is intimated that the following Vision is no more than the chimera of the dreamer's brain, and not a real or intended satire on the present Age, doubtless more learned, more enlightened, and more abounding with great Ge. niuses in Divinity, Politics, and whatever arts and sciences, than all the preceding. For fear of any such mistake of our Poet's honest meaning, he hath again, at the end of the Vision, repeated this monition, saying that it all passed through the Ivory gate, which (according to the Ancients) denoteth Falsity. Scribl.
Ver. 7, 8. Hence from the straw where Bedlam's Prophet nods,
He hears loud Oracles, and talks with Gods :] “ Et varias audit voces, fruiturque deorum Colloquio”
Virg. Æneid. viji. W. VOL. V.
A slip-shod Sibyl led his steps along,
15 In lofty madness meditating song ; Her tresses staring from Poetic dreams, And never wash’d, but in Castalia's streams. Taylor, their better Charon, lends an oar, 19 (Once swan of Thames, tho' now he sings no more) Benlowes, propitious still to blockheads, bows; And Shadwell nods the Poppy on his brows.
Ver. 19. Taylor] John Taylor the Water-poet, an honest man, who owns he learned not so much as the Accidence. A rare example of modesty in a Poet!
“I must confess I do want eloquence,
I there was gravel'd, could no farther get.”
Ver. 21. Benlowes] A country gentleman famous for his own bad Poetry, and for patronising bad Poets, as may be seen from many Dedications of Quarles and others to him. Some of these anagramed his name, Benlowes into Benevolus: to verify which, he spent his whole estate upon them. W.
Ibid. Benlowes - Brown--Mears] How could he waste so much time, and throw away such charming Poetry, on objects so very unknown and despicable! What a state of anger and irritation must his mind (and such a mind !) have been in, during the many hours, nay years, he spent in writing the 1670 lines of the Dunciad!
Ver. 22. And Shadwell nods the Poppy, &c.] Shadwell took Opium for many years, and died of too large a dose, in the year 1692. W.
IMITATIONS, Ver. 15. A slip-shod Sibyl, &c.] " Conclamat Vates furens antro se immisit aperto.”
Here, in a dusky vale where Lethe rolls,
Ver. 24. Old Bavius sits,] Bavius was an ancient Poet, celebrated by Virgil for the like cause as Bays by our author, though not in so Christian-like a manner: for heathenishly it is declared by Virgil of Bavius, that he ought to be hated and detested for his evil works; Qui Bavium non odit; whereas we have often had occasion to observe our Poet's great Good Nature and Mercifulness through the whole course of this Poem. Scribl.
Mr. Dennis warmly contends, that Bavius was no inconsiderable author; nay, that “He and Mævius had (even in Augustus's days) a very formidable party at Rome, who thought them much superior to Virgil and Horace: for (saith he) I cannot believe they would have fixed that eternal brand upon them, if they had not been coxcombs in more than ordinary credit.” Rem. on Pr. Arthur, part ï. c. 1. An Argument which, if this poem should last, will conduce to the honour of the gentlemen of the Dunciad. W.
Ver. 28. unbar the gates of Light,] An Hemistic of Milton. W.
Videt Æneas in valle reducta
Virg. Æneid. vi. W. Ver. 24. Old Bavius sits, to dip poetic souls,] Alluding to the story of Thetis dipping Achilles to render him impenetrable:
" At pater Anchises penitus convalle virenti
Virg. Æneid. vi. W. By no means with an intent to render him impenetrable; but merely in allusion to the passage in Virgil here quoted.