Monday, August 08, 2016


The Scholar

David Mallet (1705-1765), "Of Verbal Criticism," lines 15-40:
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.
If Shakespear says, the noon-day sun is bright,        35
His Scholiast will remark, it then was light;
Turn Caxton, Winkin, each old Goth and Hun,
To rectify the reading of a pun.
Thus, nicely trifling, accurately dull,
How one may toil, and toil —— to be a fool!        40

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