The Dunciad: Book IV

Original Text: 
Alexander Pope, The Dunciad, in four books. Printed according to the complete copy found in the year 1742. with the prolegomena of Scriblerus, and notes variorum. To which are added, several notes now first publish'd, the Hypercritics of Aristarchus, and his Dissertation on the hero of the poem (London, M. Cooper, 1743). E-10/1294 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
4As half to show, half veil, the deep intent.
5Ye pow'rs! whose mysteries restor'd I sing,
6To whom time bears me on his rapid wing,
8Then take at once the poet and the song.
12The moon-struck prophet felt the madding hour:
13Then rose the seed of Chaos, and of Night,
14To blot out order, and extinguish light,
17      She mounts the throne: her head a cloud conceal'd,
19('Tis thus aspiring Dulness ever shines)
20Soft on her lap her laureate son reclines.
21      Beneath her footstool, Science groans in chains,
22And Wit dreads exile, penalties, and pains.
23There foam'd rebellious Logic , gagg'd and bound,
24There, stripp'd, fair Rhet'ric languish'd on the ground;
25His blunted arms by Sophistry are borne,
27 Morality , by her false guardians drawn,
29Gasps, as they straighten at each end the cord,
30And dies, when Dulness gives her page the word.
32Too mad for mere material chains to bind,
33Now to pure space lifts her ecstatic stare,
34Now running round the circle finds it square.
36Watch'd both by Envy's and by Flatt'ry's eye:
37There to her heart sad Tragedy addres'd
38The dagger wont to pierce the tyrant's breast;
40And promised vengeance on a barb'rous age.
42Had not her sister Satire held her head:
44Thou weptst, and with thee wept each gentle Muse.
46With mincing step, small voice, and languid eye;
47Foreign her air, her robe's discordant pride
48In patchwork flutt'ring, and her head aside:
49By singing peers upheld on either hand,
50She tripp'd and laugh'd, too pretty much to stand;
51Cast on the prostrate Nine a scornful look,
52Then thus in quaint recitativo spoke.
55Chromatic tortures soon shall drive them hence,
56Break all their nerves, and fritter all their sense:
57One trill shall harmonize joy, grief, and rage,
58Wake the dull Church, and lull the ranting Stage;
59To the same notes thy sons shall hum, or snore,
60And all thy yawning daughters cry, encore .
62Joys in my jigs, and dances in my chains.
63But soon, ah soon, Rebellion will commence,
67To stir, to rouse, to shake the soul he comes,
68And Jove's own thunders follow Mars's drums.
69Arrest him, Empress, or you sleep no more--"
72And all the nations summoned to the throne.
74One instinct seizes, and transports away.
75None need a guide, by sure attraction led,
76And strong impulsive gravity of head:
77None want a place, for all their centre found
78Hung to the Goddess, and coher'd around.
80The buzzing bees about their dusky Queen.
81      The gath'ring number, as it moves along,
82Involves a vast involuntary throng,
83Who gently drawn, and struggling less and less,
85Not those alone who passive own her laws,
86But who, weak rebels, more advance her cause.
87Whate'er of dunce in college or in town
89Whate'er of mongrel no one class admits,
90A wit with dunces, and a dunce with wits.
91      Nor absent they, no members of her state,
92Who pay her homage in her sons, the Great;
95Patrons, who sneak from living worth to dead,
97Or vest dull Flattery in the sacred gown;
98Or give from fool to fool the laurel crown.
99And (last and worst) with all the cant of wit,
101     There march'd the bard and blockhead, side by side,
102Who rhym'd for hire, and patroniz'd for pride.
104Look'd a white lily sunk beneath a show'r.
106His stretch'd-out arm display'd a volume fair;
107Courtiers and Patriots in two ranks divide,
108Through both he pass'd, and bow'd from side to side:
109But as in graceful act, with awful eye
111On two unequal crutches propp'd he came,
113The decent knight retir'd with sober rage,
114Withdrew his hand, and closed the pompous page.
115But (happy for him as the times went then)
118To lug the pond'rous volume off in state.
119     When Dulness, smiling--"Thus revive the Wits!
120But murder first, and mince them all to bits;
122A new edition of old Aeson gave;
124Appear more glorious as more hack'd and torn,
125And you, my Critics! in the chequer'd shade,
126Admire new light through holes yourselves have made.
127     "Leave not a foot of verse, a foot of stone,
128A page, a grave, that they can call their own;
129But spread, my sons, your glory thin or thick,
130On passive paper, or on solid brick.
131So by each bard an Alderman shall sit,
132A heavy lord shall hang at ev'ry wit,
133And while on Fame's triumphal Car they ride,
134Some Slave of mine be pinion'd to their side."
135     Now crowds on crowds around the Goddess press,
136Each eager to present their first address.
138But fop shows fop superior complaisance,
140Held forth the virtue of the dreadful wand;
143O'er every vein a shud'ring horror runs;
146Shrink, and confess the Genius of the place:
148And holds his breeches close with both his hands.
149     Then thus. "Since man from beast by words is known,
150Words are man's province, words we teach alone.
152Points him two ways, the narrower is the better.
153Plac'd at the door of learning, youth to guide,
154We never suffer it to stand too wide.
155To ask, to guess, to know, as they commence,
156As fancy opens the quick springs of sense,
157We ply the memory, we load the brain,
158Bind rebel Wit, and double chain on chain,
159Confine the thought, to exercise the breath;
161Whate'er the talents, or howe'er design'd,
163A Poet the first day, he dips his quill;
164And what the last? A very Poet still.
165Pity! the charm works only in our wall,
171Else sure some bard, to our eternal praise,
172In twice ten thousand rhyming nights and days,
173Had reach'd the work, and All that mortal can;
175     "Oh," cried the Goddess, "for some pedant Reign!
177To stick the Doctor's chair into the throne,
178Give law to words, or war with words alone,
179Senates and courts with Greek and Latin rule,
180And turn the council to a grammar school!
181For sure, if Dulness sees a grateful day,
183O! if my sons may learn one earthly thing,
184Teach but that one, sufficient for a king;
185That which my priests, and mine alone, maintain,
186Which as it dies, or lives, we fall, or reign:
187May you, may Cam and Isis, preach it long!
188'The Right Divine of Kings to govern wrong'."
189     Prompt at the call, around the Goddess roll
191Thick and more thick the black blockade extends,
192A hundred head of Aristotle's friends.
195Each staunch polemic, stubborn as a rock,
197Came whip and spur, and dash'd through thin and thick
203Before them march'd that awful Aristarch;
204Plow'd was his front with many a deep remark:
205His hat, which never vail'd to human pride,
209"Mistress! dismiss that rabble from your throne:
213Turn what they will to verse, their toil is vain,
214Critics like me shall make it prose again.
216Author of something yet more great than letter;
218Stands our Digamma, and o'ertops them all.
219'Tis true, on words is still our whole debate,
221To sound or sink in cano , O or A,
222Or give up Cicero to C or K.
229In ancient sense if any needs will deal,
230Be sure I give them fragments, not a meal;
231What Gellius or Stobaeus hash'd before,
232Or chew'd by blind old Scholiasts o'er and o'er.
233The critic eye, that microscope of wit,
234Sees hairs and pores, examines bit by bit:
235How parts relate to parts, or they to whole,
236The body's harmony, the beaming soul,
238When man's whole frame is obvious to a Flea .
239     "Ah, think not, Mistress! more true dulness lies
240In Folly's cap, than Wisdom's grave disguise.
241Like buoys, that never sink into the flood,
242On learning's surface we but lie and nod.
243Thine is the genuine head of many a house,
246Nor has one Atterbury spoil'd the flock.
248And metaphysic smokes involve the pole.
249For thee we dim the eyes, and stuff the head
250With all such reading as was never read:
251For thee explain a thing till all men doubt it,
252And write about it, Goddess, and about it:
253So spins the silkworm small its slender store,
254And labours till it clouds itself all o'er.
255     "What though we let some better sort of fool
256Thrid ev'ry science, run through ev'ry school?
257Never by tumbler through the hoops was shown
258Such skill in passing all, and touching none.
259He may indeed (if sober all this time)
260Plague with dispute, or persecute with rhyme.
261We only furnish what he cannot use,
262Or wed to what he must divorce, a Muse:
263Full in the midst of Euclid dip at once,
264And petrify a Genius to a Dunce:
265Or set on metaphysic ground to prance,
266Show all his paces, not a step advance.
268We bring to one dead level ev'ry mind.
269Then take him to develop, if you can,
270And hew the block off, and get out the man.
271But wherefore waste I words? I see advance
272Whore, pupil, and lac'd governor from France.
273Walker! our hat"--nor more he deign'd to say,
453     "O! would the sons of men once think their eyes
454And reason given them but to study flies !
455See Nature in some partial narrow shape,
456And let the Author of the Whole escape:
457Learn but to trifle; or, who most observe,
458To wonder at their Maker, not to serve."
460Sworn foe to Myst'ry, yet divinely dark;
461Whose pious hope aspires to see the day
464Prompt to impose, and fond to dogmatize:)
465"Let others creep by timid steps, and slow,
466On plain experience lay foundations low,
467By common sense to common knowledge bred,
468And last, to Nature's Cause through Nature led.
469All-seeing in thy mists, we want no guide,
470Mother of Arrogance, and Source of Pride!
472And reason downward, till we doubt of God:
474And shove him off as far as e'er we can:
476Or bind in matter, or diffuse in space.
477Or, at one bound o'erleaping all his laws,
478Make God man's image, man the final Cause,
480See all in self , and but for self be born:
481Of naught so certain as our reason still,
482Of naught so doubtful as of soul and will .
483Oh hide the God still more! and make us see
485Wrapp'd up in self, a god without a thought,
486Regardless of our merit or default.
489While through poetic scenes the Genius roves,
490Or wanders wild in academic groves;
491That Nature our society adores,
495Then snapp'd his box, and strok'd his belly down:
497Bland and familiar to the throne he came,
498Led up the youth, and call'd the Goddess Dame .
499Then thus, "From priestcraft happily set free,
500Lo! ev'ry finished Son returns to thee:
501First slave to words, then vassal to a name,
502Then dupe to party; child and man the same;
503Bounded by Nature, narrow'd still by art,
504A trifling head, and a contracted heart.
505Thus bred, thus taught, how many have I seen,
506Smiling on all, and smil'd on by a queen.
507Marked out for honours, honour'd for their birth,
508To thee the most rebellious things on earth:
509Now to thy gentle shadow all are shrunk,
512A monarch's half, and half a harlot's slave.
514Who praises now? his chaplain on his tomb.
515Then take them all, oh take them to thy breast!
516Thy Magus , Goddess! shall perform the rest."
518Which whoso tastes, forgets his former friends,
519Sire, ancestors, himself. One casts his eyes
522Extracts his brain, and principle is fled,
523Lost is his God, his country, ev'rything;
524And nothing left but homage to a king!
525The vulgar herd turn off to roll with hogs,
526To run with horses, or to hunt with dogs;
527But, sad example! never to escape
529But she, good Goddess, sent to ev'ry child
530Firm impudence, or stupefaction mild;
531And straight succeeded, leaving shame no room,
533     Kind self-conceit to some her glass applies,
534Which no one looks in with another's eyes:
535But as the flatt'rer or dependant paint,
536Beholds himself a patriot, chief, or saint.
537     On others Int'rest her gay liv'ry flings,
539Turn'd to the sun, she casts a thousand dyes,
540And, as she turns, the colours fall or rise.
542And empty heads console with empty sound.
543No more, Alas! the voice of Fame they hear,
544The balm of Dulness trickling in their ear.
546Why all your toils? your Sons have learn'd to sing.
547How quick ambition hastes to ridicule!
548The sire is made a peer, the son a fool.
550Attends; all flesh is nothing in his sight!
551Beeves, at his touch, at once to jelly turn,
552And the huge boar is shrunk into an urn:
554Turns hares to larks, and pigeons into toads.
555Another (for in all what one can shine?)
557What cannot copious sacrifice atone?
559With French libation, and Italian strain,
561Knight lifts the head, for what are crowds undone.
562To three essential partridges in one?
563Gone ev'ry blush, and silent all reproach,
564Contending princes mount them in their coach.
565     Next, bidding all draw near on bended knees,
566The Queen confers her Titles and Degrees .
567Her children first of more distinguish'd sort,
571Some, deep Freemasons, join the silent race
573Some botanists, or florists at the least,
575Nor pass'd the meanest unregarded, one
577The last, not least in honour or applause,
579     Then, blessing all, "Go, Children of my care!
580To practice now from theory repair.
581All my commands are easy, short, and full:
582My sons! be proud, be selfish, and be dull.
583Guard my prerogative, assert my throne:
584This nod confirms each privilege your own.
586With staff and pumps the Marquis lead the race;
587From stage to stage the licens'd Earl may run,
588Pair'd with his fellow charioteer the sun;
589The learned Baron butterflies design,
591The Judge to dance his brother Sergeant call;
592The Senator at cricket urge the ball;
593The Bishop stow (pontific luxury!)
594An hundred souls of turkeys in a pie;
595The sturdy Squire to Gallic masters stoop,
596And drown his lands and manors in a soupe .
597Others import yet nobler arts from France,
598Teach kings to fiddle, and make senates dance.
600Proud to my list to add one monarch more;
601And nobly conscious, princes are but things
602Born for first ministers, as slaves for kings,
603Tyrant supreme! shall three Estates command,
606What mortal can resist the yawn of gods?
607Churches and Chapels instantly it reach'd;
609Then catch'd the schools; the Hall scarce kept awake;
611Lost was the nation's sense, nor could be found,
613Wide, and more wide, it spread o'er all the realm;
616Unfinish'd treaties in each office slept;
617And chiefless armies doz'd out the campaign;
618And navies yawn'd for orders on the main.
619     O Muse! relate (for you can tell alone,
621Relate, who first, who last resign'd to rest;
622Whose heads she partly, whose completely blest;
623What charms could faction, what ambition lull,
624The venal quiet, and entrance the dull;
625Till drown'd was sense, and shame, and right, and wrong--
626O sing, and hush the nations with thy song!
627     In vain, in vain--the all-composing hour
628Resistless falls: The Muse obeys the Pow'r.
630Of Night primeval, and of Chaos old!
631Before her, Fancy's gilded clouds decay,
632And all its varying rainbows die away.
633 Wit shoots in vain its momentary fires,
634The meteor drops, and in a flash expires.
636The sick'ning stars fade off th' ethereal plain;
638Clos'd one by one to everlasting rest;
639Thus at her felt approach, and secret might,
640 Art after Art goes out, and all is Night.
642Mountains of Casuistry heap'd o'er her head!
643 Philosophy, that lean'd on Heav'n before,
644Shrinks to her second cause, and is no more.
645 Physic of Metaphysic begs defence,
646And Metaphysic calls for aid on Sense !
647See Mystery to Mathematics fly!
648In vain! they gaze, turn giddy, rave, and die.
649 Religion blushing veils her sacred fires,
650And unawares Morality expires.
651Nor public Flame, nor private , dares to shine;
652Nor human Spark is left, nor Glimpse divine !
653Lo! thy dread Empire, Chaos! is restor'd;
655Thy hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall;
656And universal Darkness buries All.


1] The Dunciad, often regarded as Pope's masterpiece, grew out of Pope's association with Swift and others in the Scriblerus Club. Although Pope did not begin work on the actual poem until around 1726, his work demonstrates a continuity with the aims of his earlier Scriblerian venture. The Dunciad was first published in 1728 in three books in verse without any other apparatus. In 1729, after drawing out critics to attack the poem, Pope published The Dunciad Variorum, which added "Proeme, Prolegomena, Testimonia Scriptorum, Index Authorum, and Notes Variorum" under the editorship of Martinus Scriblerus, the figure of a learned blockhead created by the Scriblerus group. This was Martinus' second major Popean work: the first was the Peri Balhous or the Art of Sinking in Poetry (March 1728). The mocking notes signed "Scriblerus" are included with other authorial notes below. This earlier version of The Dunciad employed Lewis Theobald, a hack dramatist, editor, and scholar as hero. In 1726 Theobald had published a critique of Pope's edition of Shakespeare entitled Shakespeare Restored, or a Specimen of the Many Errors as well Committed as Unamended by Mr. Pope. Theobald's criticism was well taken, for he was a better scholar of Elizabethan literature and a sounder editor than the poet. As a selection for hero, however, the choice was apt for his work showed the pedantic folly, lumbering dulness, and heavy style characteristic of so many of the verbal scholarly analysts of the day. The first book of this version dealt with the selection of a successor to the Kingdom of Dulness, the second book with heroic games to honour the goddess and celebrate the accession of the king, and the third book with a Pisgah vision in which the future of the reign of Dulness is shown to the new king. Echoes of heroic literature from the Iliad, Odyssey, Aeneid, and Paradise Lost employed throughout. For the next decade, Pope allowed this version of The Dunciad to remain virtually unaltered. In 1741, however, he wrote a fourth book to complete his structure. In this book the satire is extended from the literary world to the world of learning by way of showing the fulfilment of the prophecies in Book III. This fourth book appeared in 1741, under the title The New Dunciad. The next year, Pope revised The New Dunciad and added the first three books with commentary, as well as some additional notes and appendices to his work. This was published under the title The Dunciad, in Four Books. The additional prose material included "the Hypercritics of Aristarchus, and his Dissertation on the Hero of the Poem. " In this expanded and revised version Pope changed his hero from Theobald to Colley Cibber, who is treated as "the anti-Christ of wit." Pope had personal reasons for choosing Cibber, but there were also reasons understandable in terms of Cibber's role in eighteenth-century literature. Colley Cibber (1671-1757) was an incapable Poet Laureate to George II. As a political appointee of Walpole he was somewhat of a yes man, but, more important, he was nationally famous as an actor, dramatist, and theatrical personality, who, while a coxcomb and shallow in intellect, was both shrewd and impudent. He had, for example, compared himself favourably to Ben Jonson, and in his Apology had preached his impudent attitude and defended a box-office view of theatrical worth. In Pope's new version, Cibber became hero because Pope thought the worst dunces were not fools, but men of limited and specialized wisdom who over-rated their abilities.
Pope's summary of The Dunciad is as follows: "The poet being, in this book, to declare the completion of the prophecies mentioned at the end of the former, makes a new invocation; as the greater poets are wont, when some high and worthy matter is to be sung. He shows the Goddess coming in her majesty, to destroy order and science, and to substitute the Kingdom of the Dull upon earth. How she leads captive the Sciences, and silenceth the Muses, and what they be who succeed in their stead. All her children, by a wonderful attraction, are drawn about her; and bear along with them divers others, who promote her empire by connivance, weak resistance, or discouragement of arts; such as half-wits, tasteless admirers, vain pretenders, the flatterers of dunces, or the patrons of them. All these crowd round her; one of them offering to approach her is driven back by a rival, but she commends and encourages both. The first who speak in form are the geniuses of the schools, who assure her of their care to advance her cause, by confining youth to words, and keeping them out of the way of real knowledge. Their address, and her gracious answer; with her charge to them and the universities. The universities appear by their proper deputies, and assure her that the same method is observed in the progress of education. The speech of Aristarchus on this subject. They are driven off by a band of young gentlemen returned from travel with their tutors; one of whom delivers to the Goddess, in a polite oration, an account of the whole conduct and fruits of their travels: presenting to her at the same time a young nobleman perfectly accomplished. She receives him graciously, and endues him with the happy quality of want of shame. She sees loitering about her a number of indolent persons abandoning all business and duty, and dying with laziness: To these approaches the Antiquary Annius, entreating her to make them virtuosos, and assign them over to him: But Mummius, another antiquary, complaining of his fraudulent proceeding, she finds a method to reconcile their difference. Then enter a troop of people fantastically adorned, offering her strange and exotic presents: Amongst them, one stands forth and demands justice on another, who had deprived him of one of the greatest curiosities in nature: but he justifies himself so well, that the Goddess gives them both her approbation. She recommends to them to find proper employment for the indolents before-mentioned, in the study of butterflies, shells, birds' nests, moss, etc., but with particular caution, not to proceed beyond trifles, to any useful or extensive views of Nature, or of the Author of Nature. Against the last of these apprehensions, she is secured by a hearty address from the minute philosophers and freethinkers, one of whom speaks in the name of the rest. The youth, thus instructed and principled, are delivered to her in a body, by the hands of Silenus, and then admitted to taste the cup of the Magus, her High Priest, which causes a total oblivion of all obligations, divine, civil, moral, or rational. To these her adepts she sends priests, attendants, and comforters, of various kinds; confers on them orders and degrees; and then dismissing them with a speech, confirming to each his privileges, and telling what she expects from each, concludes with a yawn of extraordinary virtue: The progress and effects whereof on all orders of men, and the consummation of all, in the restoration of Night and Chaos, conclude the poem. Back to Line
2] dread Chaos and eternal Night: cf. Paradise Lost, II, 894-1009. Back to Line
3] darkness visible: Paradise Lost, I, 63. Back to Line
7] force inertly strong: "[Pope] Alluding to the Vis inertiae of Matter, which, though it really be no Power, is yet the Foundation of all the Qualities and Attributes of that sluggish Substance." Back to Line
9] Dog Star's ... ray: cf. Epistle to Arbuthnot, note on line 3. Back to Line
10] bay: wreath of leaves indicating poetic power in the classical world. Back to Line
11] owl: sacred to Athene, the goddess of wisdom. Back to Line
15] Of dull and venal: "[Pope] The allegory continued; dull referring to the extinction of Light or Science, venal to the destruction of Order, or the Truth of Things." Back to Line
16] Saturnian days. Saturn's reign was the legendary "golden age," but Saturn is also the name for lead. The new Saturnian age is leaden in dulness and golden in its love of money. Back to Line
18] all below reveal'd: "[Pope] Vet. Adg. The higher you climb, the more you show your A ... Verified in no instance more than in Dulness aspiring. Emblematized also by an Ape climbing and exposing his posteriors...." Back to Line
26] Billingsgate: abusive language. Back to Line
28] furs: the ermine robe of the judges; hence, the law.
lawn: fine linen used in sleeves of bishops' robes; hence, the church. Back to Line
31] Mathésis: i.e., mathematics. Back to Line
35] Pope refers to the Act of 1737 requiring that plays be licensed. Back to Line
39] But sober History. ''[W.] History attends on tragedy, satire on comedy, as their substitutes in discharge of their distinct functions...." Back to Line
41] Thalia: the Muse of Comedy. Back to Line
43] Nor couldst thou.... "[Pope] This Noble Person in the year 1737, when the Act aforesaid was brought into the House of Lords, opposed it in an excellent speech . . ." (Srible). Back to Line
45] Harlot form. "[Pope] The attitude given to this phantom represents the nature and genius of the Italian opera; its affected airs, its effeminate sounds, and the practice of patching up these operas with favourite songs, incoherently put together. These things were supported by the subscriptions of the nobility. This circumstance that opera should prepare for the opening of the grand Sessions was prophesied of in Bk. III, line 304: 'Already Opera prepares the way,/The sure forerunner of her gentle sway'." Back to Line
53] that train: the Muses. Back to Line
54] "[Pope] Alluding to the false taste of playing tricks in Music with numberless divisions, to the neglect of that harmony which conforms to the sense, and applies to the passions. Mr. Handel had introduced a great number of hands, and more variety of instruments into the orchestra, and employed even drums and cannon to make a fuller chorus; which proved so much too manly for the fine gentlemen of his age, that he was obliged to remove his music into Ireland ...."
division: (1) music, variations on a theme; (2) discord. chromatic: refers to chromaticism in music, characterized by the extensive use of altered chords, appoggiaturas, etc., in order to heighten the emotional tension of music. Back to Line
61] another Phoebus. "[Pope] Tuus jam regnat Apollo [Virgil, Eclogues, 410]. Not the ancient Phoebus, the god of harmony, but a modern Phoebus of French extraction, married to the Princess Galimathia, one of the handmaids of Dulness and assistant to Opera, of whom see Bouhors and other critics of that nation [Scrib. P.,W.]". Bouhors in the Art of Logick and Rhetorick says, "The French express this kind of nonsense by the term 'Phebus; in which figure, if we may so call it, there must be an appearance of light glimmering over the obscurity, a semblance of meaning without any real sense; whereas in Galimathias the obscurity is complete . . ." [trans. J. Oldmixon, 1728]. Pope echoes Virgil's messianic eclogue in the opening line of the note. This relates to the theme of the anti-Christ of wit. Back to Line
64] If music meanly borrows aid from sense; i.e., as in Handel's oratorios. Back to Line
65] Handel: Georg Friedrich Handel (1685-1759), composer and conductor, patronized by Pope's friend Burlington, one of the leading musical figures of the day. Back to Line
66] Briareus: the hundred-headed giant of Greek myth. Back to Line
70] Hibernian shore: Ireland, where Handel was enjoying great success after neglect in England. Cf. note on line 54. Back to Line
71] Fame's posterior trumpet: "[P., W.] Posterior, viz. her second or more certain report: unless we imagine this word posterior to relate to the position of her trumpets...." Back to Line
73] The young ... around. The metaphor is Newtonian. Back to Line
79] orb on orb: cf. Paradise Lost, V, 596: the angels responding to the "imperial summons." Back to Line
84] vortex: "in older theories of the universe (esp. Descartes) a supposed rotary movement of cosmic matter around a centre or axis . . ." (OED). The language in this paragraph is also meant to suggest Newton's theories. Back to Line
88] toupee: "a curl or artificial lock of hair, esp. as a crowning feature of a periwig." Back to Line
93] Phoebus: here, Apollo proper. Cf. line 61. Baal: Local deity of the Cannanites (e.g., Jos. 13-17), here used in the sense of any false god. Back to Line
94] Word: in the theological sense of Christ, the Word, as well. See note to line 61 and introductory materials describing Cibber as anti-Christ of wit. Back to Line
96] Withold ... head: neglect the poet while alive and commemorate him in sculpture after he is dead. Back to Line
100] the Muse's hypocrite: ''[W.] He who thinks the only end of poetry is to amuse, and the only business of the poet is to be witty." Back to Line
103] Narcissus: see Moral Epistle II, note on line 53. Back to Line
105] Montalto: "[P., W.] An eminent person [Sir Thomas Hanmer], who was about to publish a very pompous Edition of a great Author [Shakespeare], at his own expense. Sir Thomas Hanmer (1677-1746), baronet, Speaker of the House of Commons, and editor of Shakespeare. Although Hanmer was pompous and dull, he is included chiefly because of his quarrel with Warburton about the edition of Shakespeare. Back to Line
110] bold Benson. "[P., W.] This man endeavoured to raise himself to fame by erecting monuments, strikingcoins, setting up heads, and procuring translations, of Milton; and afterwards by as great passion for Arthur Johnston, a Scotch physician's version of the Psalms, of which he printed many fine editions. See more of him, Bk. III, 1. 325." Back to Line
112] Johnston: see note on line 110. Back to Line
116] Apollo's Mayor and Aldermen: the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford and the heads of the various colleges. Back to Line
117] gold-capped youths: the gold tassel on the gentleman-commoner's hats. Back to Line
121] Medea ... Aeson: "[P., W.] Of whom Ovid (very applicable to these, restored authors) Aeson miratur /Dissimilenque animum subiit.... " In Metamorphoses, VIII, Medea, at Jason's request restores the youth of his father by removing his blood and replacing it with her magic concoction. Back to Line
123] standard. Pope is playing with the sense of "banner" as well as "admitted merit." Back to Line
137] Dunce scorning dunce. "[W.] This is not to be ascribed so much to the different manners of a court and a college, as to the different effects which a pretence to learning and a pretence to wit, have on Blockheads. For as Judgment consists in finding out the differences in things and wit in finding out their likenesses, so the dunce is all discord and dissension, and constantly busied in reproving, examining, confuting, etc. while the Fop flourishes in peace, with Songs and Hymns of Praise, Addresses, Characters, Epithalamiums, etc." Back to Line
139] Pope's portrait is general, not specific--the schoolmaster as dunce. Back to Line
141] beaver'd brown i.e., wearing the scholar's furred cap. Back to Line
142] Cf. Moloch in Paradise Lost, 1, 392-93: "besmear'd with blood/Of human sacrifice and parents' tears." Back to Line
144] Winton: Winchester College. Back to Line
145] Westminster: Westminster School. Back to Line
147] boy senator: new member of Parliament graduated from one of the schools mentioned in the text. Back to Line
151] like the Samian letter. "[P., W.] The letter Y, used by Pythagoras as an emblem of the different roads of Virtue and Vice. Et tibi quae Samios diduxit litera ramos. Persius [Satire iii, 56]." Back to Line
160] pale: fenced-in area. Back to Line
162] We hang one jingling padlock: refers to the old classical educational strategy of employing rhymes to assist the memory. Back to Line
166] House or Hall: Westminster Hall and the House of Commons. Back to Line
167] Wyndham: William Wyndham (1687-1740), leader of Tory opposition and close ally of Bolingbroke. Back to Line
168] Talbot: Charles Talbot, Baron Talbot (1685-1737), Lord Chancellor 1733. Pope wrote an elaborate commendation of Talbot in the original edition of Moral Essay III but later omitted it. Back to Line
169] Murray: William Murray, first Earl of Mansfield (1705-93), lawyer and Parliamentarian who gained fame and popularity by a speech in support of the merchant's petition concerning Spanish depredation, 1738. Back to Line
170] Pult'ney: William Pulteney, Earl of Bath (1684-1764), Parliamentary opponent of Walpole after 1721, who was acquainted with Gay, Pope, and Swift. Back to Line
174] that masterpiece of man: "[P., W.| Viz. an Epigram. The famous Dr. South declared a perfect Epigram to be as difficult a performance as an Epic Poem. And the Critics say, "an Epic Poem is the greatest work human nature is capable of. Back to Line
176] James 1: renowned for his pedantic learning. Back to Line
182] arbitrary sway. James was a learned proponent of the Divine Right of Kings. Cf. line 188. Back to Line
190] sable shoal: referring to the crowd of professors in academic robes and comparing them to a school of fish. Back to Line
193] Isis: Oxford. Back to Line
194] Christ Church. Pope excepted this college of Oxford because of the group of wits there (e.g., Atterbury, Freind, who attacked Bentley). Back to Line
196] still expelling Locke. "[P., W.] In the year 1703 there was a meeting of the heads of the University of Oxford to censure Mr. Locke's Essay on Human Understanding, and to forbid the reading it. See his Letters in the last Edition." Back to Line
198] Crousaz ... Burgersdyck: Jean Pierre de Crousaz (1663-1748), Swiss logician, who had attacked Pope's Essay on Man for its Leibnitzian ideas. His attack was based on a French translation. Francis Burgersdyck (1590-1629) was a Dutch professor of logic and philosophy. Back to Line
199] "[P., W.] The River Cam; running by the walls of these Colleges, which are particularly famous for their skill in Disputation." Back to Line
200] Margaret, Clare Hall: Cambridge colleges. Back to Line
201] Bentley: cf. Epistle to Arbuthnot, note on line 64. Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, tempestuous, because he quarrelled with his fellows. Back to Line
202] sleeps in port: "[P., W.] 'Now retired into harbour, after the tempests that had long agitated his society.' So Scriblerus. But the learned Scipio Maffei understands it of a certain Wine called Port, from Oporto, a city of Portugal, of which this Professor invited him to drink abundantly. SCIP. MAFF. De Compotationibus Academicis." Back to Line
206] Walker: Dr. Richard Walker (1679-1764), Vice-Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, from 1734. A close friend and ally of Bentley; with reverence refers ironically to the fact that he was a Doctor of Divinity as well as Professor of Moral Philosophy. Back to Line
207] "He kingly, did but nod": Paradise Lost, XI, 249-507 "--He, kingly, from his State/Declin'd not--." Back to Line
208] upright. Pope is punning on the word alluding to the fact that Quakers do not bow when they worship. Back to Line
210] Aristarchus: "[P., W.] A famous Commentator, and Corrector of Homer, whose name has been frequently used to signify a complete Critic." The complete 1743 edition of The Dunciad was preceded by the "Hypocritics of Aristarchus" and "Aristarchus on the Hero of the Poem." At this point Pope applies the name to Bentley. In the introductory sections it is used as a separate persona. Back to Line
211] scholiast: commentator. Back to Line
212] Made Horace dull, and humbled Milton's strains: refers to Bentley's editions of Horace, 1711, and of Paradise Lost, 1732. Back to Line
215] Roman ... all. Bentley made the major discovery of the importance of the Greek letter digamma (F) in Homeric poetry. Back to Line
217] like Saul: Saul "from his shoulders and upward ... was higher than any of his people" (I Samuel 9:2). Back to Line
220] Disputes ... K: used as examples of academic controversies which assume greater importance than they deserve. Back to Line
223] Freind: Robert Freind (1667-1751), Headmaster of Westminster School. 223-24.
Pope said the portraits "go on Horace's old method of telling a friend some less fault while you're commending him." Back to Line
224] Alsop: Dr. Anthony Alsop (d. 1726), poet and scholar, admired for his Latinity and for a translation of Aesop. He was after considered to be indecorous often in his jokes. Back to Line
225] Pliny: Roman man of letters, especially noted for his Natural History, whose chapters on painting and sculpture were of great artistic importance. Back to Line
226] Manilius: Latin poet who wrote the Astronomica, a didactic poem dealing with astrology. Bentley wrote a commentary on this relatively prosaic work.
Solinus: a third-century Latin writer who wrote the Collectanea rerum memorabilium, an epitome of Pliny's Natural History. Back to Line
227] attic phrase. "Let no one doubt, then, that of the three styles that of the Attics is by far the best ... there is something common to all that is written in this style, ... a keen and exact judgment" (Quintilian, Institutes of Oratory, XII, x, 21). Back to Line
228] Suidas, Gellius, Stobaeus. "[P., W.] The first a Dictionary writer, a collector of impertinent facts and barbarous words; the second a minute Critic; the third an author, who gave his Commonplace book to the public, where we happen to find much Mincemeat of old books." Back to Line
237] Kuster: Ludolph Kuster (1670-1716), a Westphalian scholar whom Bentley assisted with an edition of the lexicographer Suidas.
Burman: Peter Burman (1668-1741), Dutch scholar who published Bentley's emendations to the fragments of Menander and Philemon.
Wasse: Joseph Wasse (1672-1738), a classical scholar, who addressed a Latin elegy to Bentley and assisted Kuster in his edition of Suidas. Back to Line
244] And such Divinity without a {{Novs}}. "[P., W.] A word much affected by the learned Aristarchus [Bentley] in common conversation to signify genius or natural acumen. But this passage has a further view: {{Nous}} was the Platonic term for Mind, or the first Cause, and that system of Divinity is here hinted at which terminates in blind Nature without a {{Nous}}: such as the Poet afterwards describes (speaking of the dreams of one of these later Platonists) [see lines 486-87]." Back to Line
245] Barrow ... Atterbury. "[P., W.] Isaac Barrow [1630-1677], Master of Trinity, Francis Atterbury, Dean of Christ Church both great Geniuses and eloquent Preachers; one more conversant in the sublime Geometry, the other in classical Learning; but who equally made it their care to advance the polite Arts in their several Societies."
block: (1) block of stone used by sculptor, (2) blockhead. Back to Line
247] the heavy canon. "[P., W.] Cannon here, if spoken of artillery, is in the plural number; if of the canons of the house, in the singular, and meant only of one; in which case I suspect the pole to be a false reading, and that it should be the poll, or head of that canon. It may be objected, that this is a mere paronomasia or pun. But what of that? Is any figure of speech more apposite to our gentle Goddess, or more frequently used by her and her Children, especially of the University? Doubtless it better suits the Character of Dulness, yea of a Doctor, than that of an Angel; yet Milton fear'd not to put a considerable quantity into the mouths of his. It hath indeed been observed, that they were the Devil's Angels, as if he did it to suggest the Devil was the Author as well of false wit, as of false Religion, and that the Father of Lies was also the Father of Puns. But this is idle: It must be own'd a Christian practice, used in the primitive times by some of the Fathers, and later by most of the Sons of the Church; till the debauch'd reign of Charles the second, when the shameful Passion for Wit overthrew every thing: and even then the best Writers admitted it, provided it was obscene, under the name of the Double entendre. Scribl." Back to Line
267] cement: accent on the first syllable. Back to Line
274] Ajax's spectre. "[Scriblerus, W.] See Homer Odyssey xi, where the Ghost of Ajax turns sullenly from Ulysses ... who had succeeded against him in the dispute for the arms of Achilles." Back to Line
459] Pope refers to Deistical clergymen who sought to rationalize the element of mystery, i.e., revelation, out of Christianity. Back to Line
462] "[P., W.] 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 Caesar was in Gaul, or died in the Senate House. See Craig's Theologiae Christianae 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 if 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 have reason to pray."
moral evidence: the argument from morality that the Christian narrative is true. Back to Line
463] implicit faith: faith based on the Church's authority. Back to Line
471] the high priori road. "[P., W.] 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, Spinoza, Descartes, 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 wrong means." Back to Line
473] Make Nature still. "[P., W.] This relates to such as, being ashamed to assert a mere Mechanic Cause, and yet unwilling to forsake it entirely, have had recourse to a certain Plastic Nature, Elastic Fluid, Subtile Matter, etc." Back to Line
475] "[P., W.] The first of these Follies is that of Descartes; the second of Hobbes; the third of some succeeding Philosophers." Back to Line
479] local: applying Virtue only to man and his world, not relating it to God's eternal world. Back to Line
484] Such as Lucretius drew. In De Natura Rerum, I, 57. Lucretius describes the gods as having no thought for mankind. Back to Line
487] Or that bright image. "[Scriblerus, W.] Bright Image was the Title given by the later Platonists to the Idea of Nature, which they had formed in their fancy, so bright, that they called it {{autopton agalna}}, or the Self-seen Image--i.e., seen by its own light." Back to Line
488] Which Theocles... academic groves. Theocles is the philosopher and main speaker in Shaftesbury's dialogue The Moralists, a Philosophical Rhapsody, who rhapsodizes about "Nature" as if Nature were God. Back to Line
492] Tindal: Matthew Tindal (1657-l733), a well-known Deist author of Christianity as Old as the Creation (1730), a book illustrating that revelation was unnecessary. Silenus. "[P., W.] Silenus was an Epicurean Philosopher, as appears from Virgil Eclogue vi, where he sings the principles of that Philosophy in his drink." Back to Line
493] bousy: boozy. Back to Line
494] seeds of fire: "[P., W.] The Epicurean language, Semina rerum, or Atoms, Virgil Eclogue vi [31 ff.]. Semina ignis--semina flammae." Back to Line
496] gown: i.e., a clerical gown. Back to Line
510] pension ... punk. They have become enslaved to the court or to mistresses (punk: whore). Back to Line
511] K--B--: never have been identified with certainty, although they may be the Duke of Kent and the third Earl of Berkeley. Back to Line
513] W--: perhaps the Earl of Warrick. Back to Line
517] With that a wizard old... "[Scriblerus] Here beginneth the celebration of the greater Mysteries of the Goddess, which the Poet in his Invocation ver. 5, promised to sing. For when now each Aspirant, as was the custom, had proved his qualification and claim to a participation, the High Priest of Dulness first initiateth the Assembly by the usual way of Libation. And then each of the Initiated, as was always required, putteth on a new Nature, described from ver. 518 to 529. When the High-Priest and Goddess have thus done their parts, each of them is delivered into the hands of his Conductor, an inferior Minister or Hierophant, whose names are Impudence, Stupefaction, Self-conceit, self-interest, Pleasure, Epicurism, etc., to lead them through the several apartments of her Mystic Dome or Palace. When all this is over, the sovereign Goddess, from ver. 565 to 600 conferreth her Titles and Degrees; rewards inseparably attendant on the participation of the Mysteries .... Hence being enriched with so many various Gifts and Graces, Initiation into the Mysteries was anciently, as well as in these our times, esteemed a necessary qualification for every high office and employment, whether in Church or State. Lastly the great Mother shutteth up the Solemnity with her gracious benediction, which concludeth in drawing the Curtain, and laying all her Children to rest. It is to be observed that Dulness, before this her Restoration, had her Pontiffs in Partibus; who from time to time held her Mysteries in secret, and with great privacy. But now, on her Re-establishment, she celebrateth them, like those of the Cretans (the most ancient of all Mysteries) in open day, and offereth them to the inspection of all men." The Wizard, as Elwin and Courthope suggest, is almost certainly Walpole. In the lines that follow, Pope is probably thinking in particular of William Pulteney. Though he was not made Earl of Bath till 1742, Pulteney had been growing steadily more lukewarm in opposition, and rumours that he was willing to be silenced by a peerage had been circulating for some years. The concluding sentence of Warburton's note seems to suggest that the dull are not longer confined to particular societies (e.g., Freemasons): they have now overflowed into public life.
cup: Walpole's payroll joined to the cup of Circe (cf. line 528 n.). See also Odyssey, Bk. X. Back to Line
520] Star: worn by the Knights of the Garter or Knights of the Bath.
Endymion: given eternal youth and placed in an eternal state of sleep for love of Selene, the moon. Back to Line
521] feather: worn in their caps by knights of the Garter. Back to Line
528] still keep the human shape. "[P., W.] The effects of the Magus's cup are just contrary to that of Circe. Hers took away the shape and left the human mind: This takes away the mind and leaves the human shape." Back to Line
532] Cimmerian. In Homer, this fabulous group lives in a land of mist and cloud where the sun never shines. Pope plays with the phonetic similarity to Cibberian. Back to Line
538] party-colour'd: playing with the word "party." Back to Line
541] Siren sisters: the Muses of opera compared ironically to the Sirens (see the Odyssey, Book XII). Back to Line
545] C--, H--, P--, R--, K--: probably Lords William Cowper, Simon Harcourt, Thomas Parker, Robert Raymond, and Peter King: men of importance whose children did not amount to much. Back to Line
549] Pope applies religious terms to cookery. Back to Line
553] specious miracles: punning on the theological terminology of "species." specious: "outwardly respectable" (OED), but punning on the root sense from Latin, speciouosus (fair). Back to Line
556] seve: "the fineness and strength of flavour proper to any particular wine" (OED). verdeur: "piquancy (as applied to wine)" (OED). Back to Line
558] Perigord ... Bayonne. These places were famous for these products respectively. Back to Line
560] Bladen ... Knight: "[P., W.] Names of Gamesters. Bladen is a black man. Robert Knight, Cashier of the South Sea Company, who fled from England in 1720 (afterwards pardoned in 1742).--These lived with the utmost magnificence at Paris, and kept open Tables frequented by persons of the first Quality of England, and even by Princes of the Blood of France." Back to Line
568] Who ... Court: referring to lawyers who dabbled in Shakespearean criticism. Back to Line
569] vertú: a taste for the arts. Back to Line
570] F.R.S.: Fellow of the Royal Society. Back to Line
572] Pythagoras: Greek philosopher who advanced mathematical, geometrical, and astronomical science, and made ascetic demands on his disciples with respect to food and to preserving an absolute silence. There was a strong element of mathematical mysticism in the Pythagorean sect, and Pope is paralleling this to the secrecy and geometrical symbolism of the Freemasons. Back to Line
574] an annual feast: annual banquet of a learned society. Back to Line
576] Gregorians and Gormogon: two associations founded to ridicule the Freemasons. Back to Line
578] Cam: Cambridge.
her: Dulness. Back to Line
585] These lines describe the several careers open to the Followers of Dulness: horse racing (585), foot racing (586), stage-coach travel (587-88), drawing butterfies (589), weaving silk made by spiders (590), the Revels of the Inns of Court (591), Parliamentarians as cricketeers (592), clerics as gourmets (593-94). Back to Line
590] Arachne: challenged Athena to a weaving match and was turned into a spider. Back to Line
599] son: probably Walpole. Back to Line
605] but yawned. "[P., W.] This verse is truly Homerical; as is the conclusion of the Action, where the great Mother composes all, in the same manner as Minerva at the period of the Odyssey."
yawn'd ... nods: with puns on both words. Back to Line
608] leaden: cf. "Saturnian age of lead and gold."
Gilbert: John Gilbert (1693-1761), Bishop of Llandof at the time, presumably an eloquent and impressive preacher. Back to Line
610] Convocation: House of Convocation, an ecclesiastical assembly of the Church of England. Back to Line
612] unison: monotone. Back to Line
614] Palinurus: Aeneas' pilot, who fell into the sea. Pope here applies the name to Walpole, the pilot of the Ship of State. Back to Line
615] vapour: see Rape of the Lock, IV. Back to Line
620] Wits have short memories. "[P., W.] This seems to be the reason why the Poets, whenever they give us a Catalogue, constantly call for help on the Muses, who, as the Daughters of Memory, are obliged not to forget anything. So Homer Iliad ii 788 ff., And Virgil Aeneid vii 645-646. But our Poet had yet another reason for putting this Task upon the Muse, that all besides being asleep, She only could relate what passed. Scribl." Back to Line
629] the sable throne behold. "[W.] The sable thrones of Night and Chaos, here represented as advancing to extinguish the light of the sciences in the first place blot out the colours of Fancy, and damp the fire of Wit, before they proceed to their greater work." Back to Line
635] As one by one: Seneca, Medea, IV, ii, where Medea's charm includes an address to the skies. Back to Line
637] As Argus' eyes. Hermes, the messenger god, at Zeus's request, put to sleep the hundred-eyed giant Argus, who had been set to guard Io and then killed him. See Ovid, Metamorphoses, 1, 622 ff., esp. 687-97, 713-14. Back to Line
641] "[Pope] Alluding to the saying of Democritus, That Truth lay at the bottom of a deep well, from whence he had drawn her: Though Butler says, He first put her in, before he drew her out." Back to Line
654] uncreating word: alludes to the Word (logos). Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
D. F. Theall
RPO Edition: 
3RP 2.173.