Monday, July 23, 2012


Hard Study Without Sense or Breeding

David Mallet (1701/2?–1765), Of Verbal Criticism, 15-34:
In error obstinate, in wrangling loud,    15
For trifles eager, positive, and proud;
Deep in the darkness of dull authors bred,
With all their refuse lumber'd in his head,
What every dunce from every dunghill drew
Of literary offals, old or new,    20
Forth steps at last the self-applauding Wight,
Of points and letters, chaff and straws, to write:
Sagely resolv'd to swell each bulky piece
With venerable toys, from Rome and Greece;
How oft, in HOMER, PARIS curl'd his hair;    25
If ARISTOTLE's Cap were round or square;
If in the cave, where DIDO first was sped,
To Tyre she turn'd her heels, to Troy her head.

Such the choice anecdotes, profound and vain,
That store a BENTLEY's and a BURMAN's brain:    30
Hence, PLATO quoted, or the Stagyrite,
To prove that flame ascends, and snow is white:
Hence, much hard study without sense or breeding,
And all the grave impertinence of reading.
Id., 79-88:
Blest Genius! who bestows his oil and pains
On each dull passage, each dull book contains;    80
The toil more grateful, as the task more low:
So Carrion is the quarry of a Crow.
Where his fam'd Author's page is flat and poor,
There, most exact the reading to restore;
By dint of plodding, and by sweat of face,    85
A bull to change, a blunder to replace:
Whate'er is refuse critically gleaning,
And mending nonsense into doubtful meaning.

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