The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 18/News From Parnassus



PARNASSUS, February the twenty-seventh.
The Poets assembled here on the eleventh,
Convened by Apollo, who gave them to know,
He'd have a vicegerent in his empire below;
But declared that no bard should this honour inherit,
Till the rest had agreed he surpass'd them in merit:
Now this, you'll allow, was a difficult case,
For each bard believed he'd a right to the place;
So, finding th' assembly grow warm in debate,
He put them in mind of his Phaëton's fate:
'Twas urged to no purpose; disputes higher rose,
Scarce Phœbus himself could their quarrels compose;
Till at length he determined that every bard
Should (each in his turn) be patiently heard.
First, one who believed he excell'd in translation[2],
Founds his claim on the doctrine of man's transmigration:
"Since the soul of great Milton was given to me,
I hope the Convention will quickly agree."
"Agree!" quoth Apollo: "from whence is this fool?
Is he just come from reading Pythagoras at school?
Be gone, sir, you've got your subscriptions in time,
And given in return neither reason nor rhyme."
To the next, says the God, "Though now I won't choose you,
I'll tell you the reason for which I refuse you:
Love's Goddess has oft to her parents complaln'd,
Of my favouring a bard who her empire disdain'd;
That, at my instigation, a poem you writ,
Which to beauty and youth preferred judgment and wit;
That, to make you a Laureat, I gave the first voice,
Inspiring the Britons t'approve of my choice,
Jove sent her to me, her power to try;
The Goddess of beauty what God can deny?
She forbids your preferment; I grant her desire.
Appease the fair Goddess: you then may rise higher."
The next[3] that appear'd had good hopes of succeeding,
For he merited much for his wit and his breeding.
'Twas wise in the Britons no favour to show him,
He else might expect they should pay what they owe him.
And therefore they prudently chose to discard
The Patriot, whose merits they would not reward:
The God, with a smile, bad his favourite advance,
"You were sent by Astræa her envoy to France:
You bent your ambition to rise in the state;
I refuse you, because you could stoop to be great."
Then a bard who had been a successful translator[4],
"The convention allows me a versificator."
Says Apollo, "You mention the least of your merit;
By your works, it appears you have much of my spirit.
I esteem you so well, that to tell you the truth,
The greatest objection against you's your youth;
Then be not concerned you are now laid aside;
If you live, you shall certainly one day preside."
Another, low bending, Apollo thus greets,
"'Twas I taught your subjects to walk through the streets[5]."
"You taught them to walk! why, they knew it before:
But give me the bard that can teach them to soar.
Whenever he claims, 'tis his right, I'll confess,
Who lately attempted my style with success;
Who writes like Apollo has most of his spirit,
And therefore 'tis just I distinguish his merit;
Who makes it appear, by all he has writ,
His judgment alone can set bounds to his wit;
Like Virgil correct, with his own native ease,
But excels even Virgil in elegant praise;
Who admires the ancients, and knows 'tis their due,
Yet writes in a manner entirely new;
Though none with more case their depths can explore,
Yet whatever he wants he takes from my store;
Though I'm fond of his virtues, his pride I can see,
In scorning to borrow from any but me;
It is owing to this, that, like Cynthia, his lays
Enlighten the world by reflecting my rays."
This said, the whole audience soon found out his drift:
The convention was summon'd in favour of Swift.

  1. Printed in vol. VII, p. 173.
  2. Dr. Trapp.
  3. Mr. Prior.
  4. Mr. Pope was probably here meant.
  5. Mr. Gay; alluding to his "Trivia."