Saturday, December 18, 2010


Bless Thy Name, Thy Dictionarian Skill

Robert Fergusson (1750-1774), To Dr. Samuel Johnson: Food for a New Edition of his Dictionary:
Let Wilkes and Churchill rage no more,
  Tho' scarce provision, learning's good:
What can these hungry's next implore?
Samuel Johnson loves our food.


GREAT PEDAGOGUE, whose literarian lore,
With SYLLABLE and SYLLABLE conjoin'd,
To transmutate and varyfy, has learn'd
The whole revolving scientific names
That in the alphabetic columns lie,
Far from the knowledge of mortalic shapes,
As we, who never can peroculate
The miracles by thee miraculiz'd,
The Muse silential long, with mouth apert,
Would give vibration to stagnatic tongue,
And loud encomiate thy puissant name,
Eulogiated from the green decline
Of Thames's banks to Scoticanian shores,
Where Loch-lomondian liquids undulise.

To meminate thy name in after times,
The mighty mayor of each regalian town
Shall consignate thy work to parchment fair
In roll burgharian, and their tables all
Shall fumigate with fumigation strong:
SCOTLAND, from perpendicularian hills,
Shall emigrate her fair MUTTONIAN store,
Which late had there in pedestration walk'd,
And o'er her any heights perambuliz'd.

Oh, blackest execrations on thy head,
EDINA shameless! tho' he came within
The bounds of your NOTATION, tho' you knew
His HONORIFIC name, you noted not,
But basely suffer'd him to chariotize
Far from your towers, with smoke that nubilate,
Nor drank one amicitial swelling cup
To welcome him convivial. BAILIES all!
With rage inflated, Catenations tear,*
Nor ever after be you vinculiz'd,
Since you that sociability denied
To him whose potent Lexiphanian stile
Words can PROLONGATE, and inswell his page
With what in others to a line's confin'd.

Welcome, thou verbal potentate and prince!
To hills and vallies, where emerging oats
From earth assurge our pauperty to bay,
And bless thy name, thy dictionarian skill,
Which there definitive will still remain,
And oft be speculiz'd by taper blue,
While youth STUDENTIOUS turn thy folio page.

Have you as yet, in per'patetic mood
Regarded with the texture of the eye
The CAVE CAVERNICK, where fraternal bard,
CHURCHILL, depicted pauperated swains
With thraldom and bleak want reducted sore,
Where Nature, coloriz'd, so coarsely fades,
And puts her russet par'phernalia on?
Have you, as yet, the way explorified
To let lignarian chalice, swell'd with oats,
Thy orofice approach? Have you as yet,
With skin fresh rubified by scarlet spheres,
Applied BRIMSTONIC UNCTION to your hide,
To terrify the SALAMANDRIAN fire
That from involuntary digits asks
The strong allaceration?—Or can you swill
The USQUEBALIAN flames of whisky blue
In fermentation strong? Have you apply'd
The kilt aerian to your Anglian thighs,
And with renunciation assigniz'd
Your breeches in LONDONA to be worn?
Can you, in frigor of Highlandian sky,
On heathy summits take nocturnal rest?

It cannot be—You may as well desire
An alderman leave plumb-puddenian store,
And scratch the tegument from pottage-dish,
As bid thy countrymen, and thee conjoin'd,
Forsake stomachic joys. Then hie you home,
And be a malcontent, that naked hinds,
On lentiles fed, can make your kingdom quake,
And tremulate Old England libertiz'd.

* Catenations, vide Chains. JOHNSON.
John Maclaurin (1734-1796), On Johnson's Dictionary:
In love with a pedantic jargon,
Our poets, now a-days, are far gone;
Hence he alone can read their songs
To whom the gift of tongues belongs;
Or who to make him understand,
Keeps Johnson's lexicon at hand,
Which an improper name has got,
He should have dubb'd it Polyglot.

Be warn'd, young poet, and take heed,
That Johnson you with caution read;
Always attentively distinguish
The Greek and Latin words from English;
And never use such, as 'tis wise
Not to attempt to nat'ralize.
Suffice the following specimen
To make the admonition plain:

Little of anthropopathy has he
Who in yon fulgid curricle reclines
Alone, while I, depauperated bard!
The streets pedestrious scour; why with bland voice,
Bids he me not his vectitation share?
Alas! he fears my lacerated coat,
And visage pale with frigorific want,
Would bring dedecoration on his chaise.

Me miserable! that th' Aonian hill
Is not auriferous, nor fit to bear
The farinaceous food, support of bards,
Carnivorous but seldom; that the soil
Which Hippocrene humectates, nothing yields
But sterile laurels, and aquatics sour.

To dulcify th'absinthiated cup
Of life, receiv'd from thy novercal hand,
Shall I have nothing, Muse? to lenify
Thy heart indurate shall poetic woe
And plaintive ejulation nought avail?

Riches desiderate I never did,
Ev'n when in mood most optative: a farm,
Little, but arboreous, was all I ask'd.
I, when a rustic, would my blatant calves
Well-pleas'd ablactate, and delighted tend
My gemillip'rous sheep; nor scorn to rear
The strutting turkey and the strepent goose;
Then to dendrology my thoughts I'd turn;
A fav'rite care shou'd horticulture be;
But most of all would geoponics please.

While ambulation thoughtless I protract
The tir'd sun appropinquates to the sea,
And now my arid throat and latrant guts
Vociferate for supper; but what house
To get it in, gives dubitation sad.
O! for a turgid bottle of strong beer,
Mature for imbibition! and O! for—
(Dear object of hiation) mutton-pye.

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