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She immediately adjusted it, and looking a reason, I shall enter upon my present un
No. 58.] Monday, May 7, 1711.
Ut pictura poesis erit
Poems like pictures are.
world. This I think the more necessary at present, because I observed there were attempts on foot last winter to revive some of those antiquated modes of wit that have been long exploded out of the commonwealth of letters. There were several satires and panegyrics handed about in acrostic, by which means some of the most arrant undisputed blockheads about the town began to entertain ambitious thoughts, and to set up for polite authors. I shall therefore describe at length those many arts of false wit, in which a writer does not show himself a man of a beautiful genius, but of great industry.
The first species of false wit which I NOTHING is so much admired, and so have met with is very venerable for its anlittle understood, as wit. No author that tiquity, and has produced several pieces know of has written professedly upon it; which have lived very near as long as the and as for those who make any mention of Iliad itself: I mean those short poems it, they only treat on the subject as it has printed among the minor Greek poets, accidentally fallen in their way, and that which resemble the figure of an egg, a pair too in little short reflections, or in general of wings, an axe, a shepherd's pipe, and declamatory flourishes, without entering an altar. into the bottom of the matter. I hope As for the first, it is a little oval poem, therefore I shall perform an acceptable and may not improperly be called a schowork to my countrymen, if I treat at large lar's egg. I would endeavour to hatch it, or upon this subject; which I shall endeavour in more intelligible language, to translate it to do in a manner suitable to it, that I may into English, did not I find the interpretanot incur the censure which a famous critic* tion of it very difficult; for the author seems bestows upon one who had written a trea- to have been more intent upon the figure tise on the sublime' in a low grovelling of his poem than upon the sense of it. style. I intend to lay aside a whole week The pair of wings consist of twelve for this undertaking, that the scheme of verses, or rather feathers, every verse demy thoughts may not be broken and in-creasing gradually in its measure according terrupted; and I dare promise myself, if to its situation in the wing. The subject of my readers will give me a week's attention, it (as in the rest of the poems which follow) that this great city will be very much bears some remote affinity with the figure, changed for the better by next Saturday for it describes a god of love, who is always night I shall endeavour to make what I painted with wings. say intelligible to ordinary capacities, but if The axe methinks would have been a my readers meet with any paper that in good figure for a lampoon, had the edge of some parts of it may be a little out of their it consisted of the most satirical parts of reach, I would not have them discouraged, the work; but as it is in the original, I take for they may assure themselves the next it to have been nothing else but the of posy an axe which was consecrated to Minerva, As the great and only end of these my and was thought to have been the same Speculations is to banish vice and ignorance that Epeus made use of in the building of out of the territories of Great Britain, I the Trojan horse; which is a hint I shall shall endeavour as much as possible to leave to the consideration of the critics. I establish among us a taste of polite writing. am apt to think that the posy was written relating to operas and tragedies; and shall knives; and that therefore the posy still rerelset my readers right in several points our modern cutlers inscribe upon their
shall be much clearer.
comedy, as I think they may tend to its refinement and perfection. I find by my
itself is lost.
The shepherd's pipe may be said to be
bookseller, that these papers of criticism, full of music, for it is composed of nine difwith that upon humour, have met with a ferent kinds of verses, which by their sevehave hoped for from such subjects; for this old musical instrument, that is likewise the more kind reception than indeed I could ral lengths resemble the nine stops of the
subject of the poem.
The altar is inscribed with the epitaph
of Troilus the son of Hecuba; which, by | ture. I would humbly propose, for the [No. 59. the way, makes me believe, that these false benefit of our modern smatterers in poetry, pieces of wit are much more ancient than that they would imitate their brethren the authors to whom they are generally among the ancients in those ingenious deascribed; at least I will never be persuaded, vices. I have communicated this thought that so fine a writer as Theocritus could to a young poetical lover of my acquainthave been the author of any such simple ance, who intends to present his mistress works. her fan: and if he tells me true, has alreawith a copy of verses made in the shape of dy finished the three first sticks of it. has likewise promised me to get the measure of his mistress's marriage finger, with a design to make a posy in the fashion of a ring, which shall exactly fit it. It is so very easy to enlarge upon a good hint, that I do not question but my ingenjous readers will apply what I have said to many other particulars: and that we shall see the town filled in a very little time with poetical tippets, handkerchiefs, snuff-boxes, and the like female ornaments. I shall therefore conclude with a word of advice to those admirable English authors who call themselves Pindaric writers, that they would apply themselves to this kind of wit without loss other poets with verses of all sizes and diof time, as being provided better than any mensions.
It was impossible for a man to succeed in these performances who was not a kind of painter, or at least a designer. He was first of all to draw the outline of the subject which he intended to write upon, and afterwards conform the description to the figure of his subject. The poetry was to contract or dilate itself according to the mould in which it was cast. In a word, the verses were to be cramped or extended to the dimensions of the frame that was prepared for them; and to undergo the fate of those persons whom the tyrant Procustes used to lodge in his iron bed; if they were too short, he stretched them on a rack; and if they were too long, chopped off a part of their legs, till they fitted the couch which he had prepared for them.
Mr. Dryden hints at this obsolete kind of wit in one of the following verses in his Mac Flecno; which an English reader cannot understand, who does not know that there are those little poems above-men- No. 59.] Tuesday, May 8, 1711. tioned in the shape of wings and altars:
Choose for thy command
Some peaceful province in acrostic land;
Operose nihil agunt.
Busy about nothing.
THERE is nothing more certain than that notwithstanding pedants of a pretended every man would be a wit if he could; and depth and solidity are apt to decry the writings of a polite author, as flash and froth, they all of them show upon occasion, that they would spare no pains to arrive at the character of those whom they seem to despise. For this reason we often find them endeavouring at works of fancy, which cost them infinito pangs in the production. The truth of it is, a man had better be a galley slave than a wit, were one to gain that title by those elaborate trifles which have been the inventions of such authors as often masters of great learning, but no genius.
This fashion of false wit was revived by several poets of the last age, and in particular may be met with among Mr. Herbert's poems; and, if I am not mistaken, in the translation of Du Bartas. I do not remember any other kind of work among the moderns which more resembles the performances I have mentioned, than that famous picture of king Charles the First, which has the whole book of Psalms written in the lines of the face, and the hair of the head. When I was last at Oxford, I perused one of the whiskers, and was reading the other, but could not go so far in it as I would have done, by reason of the impatience of my friends and fellow-travelfers, who all of them pressed to see such a those false wits among the ancients, and In my last paper I mentioned some of piece of curiosity. I have since heard, that in this shall give the reader two or three there is now an eminent writing-master in other species of them, that flourished in the town, who has transcribed all the Old Tes- same early ages of the world. The first I tament in a full-bottomed periwig; and if shall produce are the lipogrammatists the fashion should introduce the thick kind letter-droppers of antiquity, that would take of wigs, which were in vogue some years an exception, without any reason, against ago, he promises to add two or three super- some particular letter in the alphabet, so numerary locks that shall contain all the as not to admit it once into a whole poem. Apocrypha. He designed this wig origi- One Tryphiodorus was a great master in nally for king William, having disposed of this kind of writing. He composed the two books of Kings in the two forks of Odyssey or epic poem on the adventures the foretop; but that glorious monarch dy- of Ulysses, consisting of four and twenty ing before the wig was finished, there is a space left in it for the face of any one that from his first book, which was called Alpha books, having entirely banished the letter A But to return to our ancient poems in pic-not an Alpha in it. His second book was inlucus a non lucendo) because there was
has a mind to purchase it.
scribed Beta for the same reason. In short, the poet excluded the whole four and twenty letters in their turns, and showed them, one after another, that he could do his business without them.
Among innumerable instances that may be
It must have been very pleasant to have seen this poet avoiding the reprobate letter, as much as another would a false quantity, and making his escape from it through the several Greek dialects, when he was pressed with it in any particular syllable. For the most apt and elegant word in the whole I shall conclude this topic with a rebus, language was rejected, like a diamond with which has been lately hewn out in freea flaw in it, if it appeared blemished with stone, and erected over two of the portals a wrong letter. I shall only observe upon of Blenheim House, being the figure of a this head, that if the work I have here monstrous lion tearing to pieces a little mentioned had now been extant, the Odys- cock. For the better understanding of sey of Typhiodorus, in all probability, which device, I must acquaint my English would have been oftener quoted by our reader, that a cock has the misfortune to learned pedants, than the Odyssey of Ho-be called in Latin by the same word that mer. What a perpetual fund would it signifies a Frenchman, as a lion is an emhave been of obsolete words and phrases, blem of the English nation. Such a device unusual barbarisms and rusticities, absurd in so noble a pile of building, looks like a spellings, and complicated dialects? I pun in an heroic poem; and I am very make no question but it would have been sorry the truly ingenious architect would looked upon as one of the most valuable suffer the statuary to blemish his exceltreasures of the Greek tongue. lent plan with so poor a conceit. But I hope what I have said will gain quarter for the cock, and deliver him out of the lion's paw.
dialogue upon this silly kind of device, and
I find likewise among the ancients that ingenious kind of conceit, which the moderns distinguish by the name of a rebus, that does not sink a letter, but a whole I find likewise in ancient times the conword, by substituting a picture in its place. ceit of making an echo talk sensibly, and When Casar was one of the masters of the give rational answers. If this could be exRoman mint, he placed the figure of an ele- cusable in any writer, it would be in Ovid, phant upon the reverse of the public money; where he introduces the echo as a nymph, the word Cæsar signifying an elephant in before she was worn away into nothing but the Punic language. This was artificially a voice. The learned Erasmus, though a contrived by Cæsar, because it was not man of wit and genius, has composed a lawful for a private man to stamp his own figure upon the coin of the commonwealth. Cicero, who was so called from the founder of his family, that was marked on the nose with a little wen like a vetch (which is Cicer in Latin,) instead of Marcus Tullius Cicero, ordered the words Marcus Tullius, with a figure of a vetch at the end of them, to be inscribed on a public monument. This was done probably to show that he was neither ashamed of his name or family, notwithstanding the envy of his competitors had often reproached him with both. In the same manner we read of a famous building that was marked in several parts of it with the figures of a frog and a lizard; those words in Greek having been the names of the architects, who by the laws of their country were never permitted to inscribe their own names upon their works. For the same reason it is thought, that the forelock of the horse in the antique equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, represents at a distance the shape of an owl, to intimate the country of the statuary, who, in all probability, was an Athenian. This
kind of wit was very much in vogue among our own countrymen about an age or two ago, who did not practise it for any oblique reason, as the ancients above-mentioned, but purely for the sake of being witty.
He rag'd, and kept as heavy a coil as
I thought th' hadst scorn'd to bydge a step
For fear. (Quoth Echo) Marry guep.
mine not broken up, which will not show the treasure it contains, till he shall have spent many hours in the search of it; for it is his business to find out one word, that conceals itself in another, and to examine the letters in all the variety of stations in which they can possibly be ranged. I have heard of a gentleman who, when this kind of wit was in fashion, endeavoured to gain his mistress's heart by it. She was one of the finest women of her age, and known by the name of the Lady Mary Boon. The lovernot being able to make any thing of Mary, by certain liberties indulged to this kind of writing, converted it into Moll; and after having shut himself up for a half year,
Hoc est quod palles? Cur quis non prandeat, Hoc est. with indefatigable industry produced an
Pers. Sat. iii. 85.
Is it for this you gain those meagre looks,
SEVERAL kinds of false wit that vanished in the refined ages of the world, discovered themselves again in the time of monkish ignorance.
As the monks were the masters of all that little learning which was then extant, and had their whole lives entirely disengaged from business, it is no wonder that several of them, who wanted genius for higher performances, employed many hours in the composition of such tricks in writing, as required much time and little capacity. I have seen half the Eneid turned into Latin rhymes by one of the beaux esprits of that dark age: who says in his preface to it, that the neid wanted nothing but the sweets of rhyme to make it the most perfect work in its kind. I have likewise seen a hymn in hexameters to the Virgin Mary, which filled a whole book, though it consisted but of the eight following words:
'Tot, tibi, sunt, Virgo, dotes, quot, sidera, cœlo.'
Thou hast as many virtues, O Virgin, as there are
stars in heaven.'
anagram. Upon the presenting it to his Imistress, who was a little vexed in her heart to see herself degraded into Moll Boon, she told him, to his infinite surprise, that he had mistaken her surname, for that it was not Boon, but Bohun.
The lover was thunder-struck with his misfortune, insomuch that in a little time after he lost his senses, which indeed had been very much impaired by that continual application he had given to his anagram.
The acrostic was probably invented about the same time with the anagram, though it is impossible to decide whether the inventor of the one or the other were the greater blockhead. The simple acrostic is nothing but the name or title of a person, or thing, made out of the initial letters of several verses, and by that means written, after the manner of the Chinese, in a perpendicular line. But besides these there are compound acrostics, when the principal letters stand two or three deep. I have seen some of them where the verses have not only been edged by a name at each extremity, but have had the same name running down like a seam through the middle of the poem.
The poet rung the changes upon these eight several words, and by that means There is another near relation of the anamade his verses almost as numerous as grams and acrostics, which is commonly the virtues and the stars which they cele- called a chronogram. This kind of wit ap brated. It is no wonder that men who pears very often on many modern medals, had so much time upon their hand did not especially those of Germany, when they re only restore all the antiquated pieces of present in the inscription the year in which false wit, but enriched the world with in- they were coined. Thus we see on a medal ventions of their own. It was to this age of Gustavus Adolphus the following words, that we owe the productions of anagrams, CHRISTVS DUX ERGO TRIVMPHVS. which is nothing else but a transmutation of you take the pains to pick the figures out of one word into another, or the turning of the several words, and range them in their the same set of letters into different words; proper order, you will find they amount which may change night into day, or black to MDCXXVII, or 1627, the year in which into white, if Chance, who is the goddess the medal was stamped: for as some of the that presides over these sorts of composi- letters distinguish themselves from the rest, tion, shall so direct. I remember a witty author, in allusion to this kind of writing, calls his rival, who (it seems) was distorted, and had his limbs set in places that did not properly belong to them, the anagram of a man.'
When the anagrammatist takes a name to work upon, he considers it at first as
and overtop their fellows, they are to be considered in a double capacity, both as letters and as figures. Your laborious Ger man wits will turn over a whole dictionary for one of these ingenious devices. A man would think they were searching after an apt classical term, but instead of that they are looking out a word that has an L. an
M, or a D in it. When therefore we meet with any of these inscriptions, we are not so much to look in them for the thought, as for the year of the Lord.
The first occasion of these bouts-rimez made them in some manner excusable, as they were tasks which the French ladies used to impose on their lovers. But when a grave author, like him above-mentioned, tasked himself, could there be any thing more ridiculous? Or would not one be apt to believe that the author played booty, and did not make his list of rhymes till he had finished his poem?
I shall only add, that this piece of false wit has been finely ridiculed by Monsieur Sarasin, in a poem entitled, La Defaite des Bouts-Rimez, The Rout of the BoutsRimez.
The bouts-rimez were the favourites of the French nation for a whole age together, and that at a time when it abounded in wit and learning. They were a list of words that rhyme to one another, drawn up by another hand, and given to a poet, who was to make a poem to the rhymes in the same order that they were placed upon the list: the more uncommon the rhymes were, the more extraordinary was the genius of the poet that could accommodate his verses to them. I do not know any greater instance I must subjoin to this last kind of wit the of the decay of wit and learning among the double rhymes, which are used in doggerel French (which generally follows the de- poetry, and generally applauded by ignoclension of empire) than the endeavouring rant readers. If the thought of the couplet to restore this foolish kind of wit. If the in such compositions is good, the rhyme reader will be at the trouble to see exam- adds little to it; and if bad, it will not be ples of it, let him look into the new Mer- in the power of the rhyme to recommend cure Gallant; where the author every month it. I am afraid that great numbers of those gives a list of rhymes to be filled up by the who admire the incomparable Hudibras, ingenious, in order to be communicated to do it more on account of these doggerel the public in the Mercure for the succeed-rhymes, than of the parts that really deing month. That for the month of Novem-serve admiration. I am sure I have heard ber last, which now lies before me, is as the follows:
One would be amazed to see so learned a man as Menage talking seriously on this kind of trifle in the following passage:
'Pulpit, drum ecclesiastic,
Was beat with fist, instead of a stick ;'
There was an ancient sage philosopher,
more frequently quoted than the finest
No. 61.] Thursday, May 10, 1711.
'Tis not indeed my talent to engage
'Monsieur de la Chambre has told me, that he never knew what he was going to write when he took his pen into his hand; THERE is no kind of false wit which has but that one sentence always produced been so recommended by the practice of all another. For my own part I never knew ages, as that which consists in a jingle of what I should write next when I was mak- words, and is comprehended under the geing verses. In the first place, I got all my neral name of punning. It is indeed imposrhymes together, and was afterwards per-sible to kill a weed which the soil has a haps three or four months in filling them natural disposition to produce. The seeds up. I one day showed Monsieur Gombaud of punning are in the minds of all men; and a composition of this nature, in which, though they may be subdued by reason, among others, I had made use of the four fol- reflection, and good sense, they will be very lowing rhymes, Amaryllis, Phyllis, Marne, apt to shoot up in the greatest genius that Arne; desiring him to give me his opinion of is not broken and cultivated by the rules of it. He told me immediately, that my verses art. Imitation is natural to us, and when were good for nothing. And upon my asking his reason, he said, because the rhymes are too common; and for that reason easy to be put into verse. "Marry," says I, "if it be so, I am very well rewarded for all the pains I have been at." But by Monsieur Gombaud's leave, notwithstanding the severity of the criticism, the verses were good. Vid. Menagiana.*-Thus far the learned Menage, whom I have translated word for word.
Tom. 1. p. 174. 6o ed. Amst. 1713
it does not raise the mind to poetry, paint-
Aristotle, in the eleventh chapter of his