Excerpt from “The Apology. Addressed to the Critical Reviewers” by Charles Churchill

Tristitiam et Metus.—Horace.

Laughs not the heart when giants, big with pride,
Assume the pompous port, the martial stride;
O’er arm Herculean heave the enormous shield,
Vast as a weaver’s beam the javelin wield;
With the loud voice of thundering Jove defy
And dare to single combat—What ?—A fly.

And laugh we less when giant names, which shine
Establish’d, as it were, by right divine,
Critics, whom every captive art adores,
To whom glad Science pours forth all her stores;
Who high in letter’d reputation sit,
And hold, Astraea-like, the scales of wit,
With partial rage rush forth,—Oh! shame to tell!
To crush a bard just bursting from the shell?

Great are his perils in this stormy time is
Who rashly ventures on a sea of rhyme:
Around vast surges roll, winds envious blow,
And jealous rocks and quicksands lurk below:
Greatly his foes he dreads, but more his friends;
He hurts me most who lavishly commends.

Look through the world—in every other trade
The same employment’s cause of kindness made,
At least appearance of good will creates,
And every fool puffs off the fool he hates:
Cobblers with cobblers smoke away the night,
And in the common cause e’en players unite:
Authors alone, with more than savage rage,
Unnatural war with brother authors wage.
The pride of Nature would as soon admit
Competitors in empire as in wit;
Onward they rush at Fame’s imperious call,
And, less than greatest, would not be at all.

Smit with the love of honour,—or the pence,—
O’errun with wit, and destitute of sense,
Should any novice in the rhyming trade
With lawless pen the realms of verse invade,
Forth from the court, where sceptred sages sit,
Abused with praise, and flatter’d into wit,
Where in lethargic majesty they reign,
And what they won by dullness, still maintain,
Legions of factious authors throng at once,
Fool beckons fool, and dunce awakens dunce.
To Hamilton’s the ready lies repair,—
Ne’er was lie made which was not welcome there—
Thence, on maturer judgment’s anvil wrought,
The polish’d falsehood’s into public brought.
Quick-circulating slanders mirth afford;
And reputation bleeds in every word.

A critic was of old a glorious name,
Whose sanction handed merit up to fame; so
Beauties as well as faults he brought to view;
His judgment great, and great his candour too;
No servile rules drew sickly taste aside;
Secure he walk’d, for Nature was his guide.
But now, oh! strange reverse! our critics bawl
In praise of candour with a heart of gall;
Conscious of guilt, and fearful of the light,
They lurk enshrouded in the veil of night;
Safe from detection, seize the unwary prey,
And stab, like bravoes, all who come that way.

From: Churchill, Charles and Tooke, W. (ed.), The Poetical Works of Charles Churchill with Copious Notes and a Life of the Author, Volume I, 1844, William Pickering: London, pp. 121-124.
(https://books.google.com.au/books?id=z_UpkyUlFVgC)

Date: 1761

By: Charles Churchill (1732-1764)

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