Friday, January 11, 2013


The Muse's Surgeon: Richard Bentley

[Thomas Newcomb], from Bibliotheca: A Poem. Occasion'd by the Sight of a Modern Library. With Some Very Useful Episodes, and Digressions (London: J. Morphew, 1712), rpt. in A Select Collection of Poems, Vol. III (London: J. Nichols, 1780), pp. 19-74 (at 60-62):
Bentley immortal honour gets,
By changing Que's for nobler Et's:
From Cam to Isis see him roam,
To fetch stray'd Interjections home;
While the glad shores with joy rebound,
For Periods and lost Comma's found:
Poor Adverbs, that had long deplor'd
Their injur'd rights, by him restor'd!
Smil'd to survey a rival's doom,
While they possess'd the envied room;
And, hissing from their rescued throne
Th' usurper's fate, applaud their own.
The Roman nymphs, for want of notes
More tender, strain'd their little throats,
Till Bentley, to relieve their woes,
Gave them a sett of Ah's and Oh's:
More musically to complain,
And warble forth their gentle pain.
The suffering fair no more repine,
For vowels now to sob and whine;
In softest air their passion try,
And, without spoiling metre, die:
With Interjections of his own,
He helps them now to weep and groan;
That, reading him, no lover fears
Soft vehicles for sighs and tears.
Instructed by his learned code,
What makes a Jig, or forms an Ode,
We view what various beauties meet,
To leave each fragrant line so sweet;
How Horace' lines our passions keep
Awake, and Bentley's lull asleep.
No verse can moan a limping foot,
But he applies his plaster to't:
With pious care binds up the sore,
And kindly bids it hop no more!
While, with his helping comments nigh,
Instead of crutches to apply
To crazy verse (which envious Time
Had weaken'd both in sense and rhyme);
For a lame Muse's surgeon meet,
Instead of legs, sets broken feet.
For the medical metaphor cf. e.g. Bentley's own words in his edition of Phaedrus and Publilius Syrus (Cambridge: Cornelius Crownfield, 1726):
Quod Phaedri fabulas & Publii Syri Sententias huic Terentii editioni subjunxerim; ea partim causa est, quod hi soli praeter Plautum & fragmenta quaedam aliorum nunc extent, qui eadem qua Terentius Licentia in Senariis sint usi; partim quod hi tres pari conditione Liberti et Peregrini, in non ita dissimili argumento Comoediis Mimis & Apologis, omnia Italorum ingenia facile superaverint; partim quod post egregias plurimorum operas adhuc incurata restarent non pauca ab indoctis Librariis inflicta vulnera, quibus ipse mihi videbar posse medicari.
Related post: Richard Bentley.

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?