Perlegi versus versos, Jonathan bone, tersos;
Perlepidos quidem; scribendo semper es idem.
Laudibus extollo te, tu mihi magnus Apollo;
Tu frater Phoebus, oculis collyria praebes,
Ne minus insanae reparas quoque damna Dianae,
Quae me percussit radiis (nec dixeris ussit)
Frigore collecto; medicus moderamine tecto
Lodicem binum premit, atque negat mihi vinum.
O terra et coelum! quam redit pectus anhelum.
Os mihi jam siccum, liceat mihi bibere dic cum?
Ex vestro grato poculo, tam saepe prolato,
Vina crepant: sales ostendet quis mihi tales?
Lumina, vos sperno, dum cuppae gaudia cerno:
Perdere etenim pellem nostram, quoque crura mavellem.
Amphora, quam dulces risus queis pectora mulces,
Pangitur a Flacco, cum pectus turget Iaccho:
Clarius evohe ingeminans geminatur et ohe;
Nempe jocosa propago, haesit sic vocis imago.
TO DR. SHERIDAN. 1718
Whate’er your predecessors taught us,
I have a great esteem for Plautus;
And think your boys may gather there-hence
More wit and humour than from Terence;
But as to comic Aristophanes,
The rogue too vicious and too profane is.
I went in vain to look for Eupolis
Down in the Strand, just where the New Pole is;
For I can tell you one thing, that I can,
You will not find it in the Vatican.
He and Cratinus used, as Horace says,
To take his greatest grandees for asses.
Poets, in those days, used to venture high;
But these are lost full many a century.
Thus you may see, dear friend, ex pede hence,
My judgment of the old comedians.
Proceed to tragics: first Euripides
(An author where I sometimes dip a-days)
Is rightly censured by the Stagirite,
Who says, his numbers do not fadge aright.
A friend of mine that author despises
So much he swears the very best piece is,
For aught he knows, as bad as Thespis’s;
And that a woman in these tragedies,
Commonly speaking, but a sad jade is.
At least I’m well assured, that no folk lays
The weight on him they do on Sophocles.
But, above all, I prefer Eschylus,
Whose moving touches, when they please, kill us.
And now I find my Muse but ill able,
To hold out longer in trissyllable.
I chose those rhymes out for their difficulty;
Will you return as hard ones if I call t’ye?
[Footnote 1: N.B.—The Strand in London. The fact may not be true; but the rhyme cost me some trouble.—Swift.]
[Footnote 2: The Maypole. See “The Dunciad,” ii, 28. Pope’s “Works,” Elwin and Courthope, vol. iv.]
THE ANSWER, BY DR. SHERIDAN