'O that mine enemy had written
A book!'--cried Job:--a fearful curse,
If to the Arab, as the Briton, _460
'Twas galling to be critic-bitten:--
The Devil to Peter wished no worse.
When Peter's next new book found vent,
The Devil to all the first Reviews
A copy of it slyly sent, _465
With five-pound note as compliment,
And this short notice--'Pray abuse.'
Then seriatim, month and quarter,
Appeared such mad tirades.--One said--
'Peter seduced Mrs. Foy's daughter, _470
Then drowned the mother in Ullswater,
The last thing as he went to bed.'
Another--'Let him shave his head!
Where's Dr. Willis?--Or is he joking?
What does the rascal mean or hope, _475
No longer imitating Pope,
In that barbarian Shakespeare poking?'
One more, 'Is incest not enough?
And must there be adultery too?
Grace after meat? Miscreant and Liar! _480
Thief! Blackguard! Scoundrel! Fool! hell-fire
Is twenty times too good for you.
'By that last book of yours WE think
You've double damned yourself to scorn;
We warned you whilst yet on the brink _485
You stood. From your black name will shrink
The babe that is unborn.'
All these Reviews the Devil made
Up in a parcel, which he had
Safely to Peter's house conveyed. _490
For carriage, tenpence Peter paid--
Untied them--read them--went half mad.
'What!' cried he, 'this is my reward
For nights of thought, and days, of toil?
Do poets, but to be abhorred _495
By men of whom they never heard,
Consume their spirits' oil?
'What have I done to them?--and who
IS Mrs. Foy? 'Tis very cruel
To speak of me and Betty so! _500
Adultery! God defend me! Oh!
I've half a mind to fight a duel.
'Or,' cried he, a grave look collecting,
'Is it my genius, like the moon,
Sets those who stand her face inspecting, _505
That face within their brain reflecting,
Like a crazed bell-chime, out of tune?'
For Peter did not know the town,
But thought, as country readers do,
For half a guinea or a crown, _510
He bought oblivion or renown
From God's own voice (1) in a review.
All Peter did on this occasion
Was, writing some sad stuff in prose.
It is a dangerous invasion _515
When poets criticize; their station
Is to delight, not pose.
The Devil then sent to Leipsic fair
For Born's translation of Kant's book;
A world of words, tail foremost, where _520
Right--wrong--false--true--and foul--and fair
As in a lottery-wheel are shook.
Five thousand crammed octavo pages
Of German psychologics,--he
Who his furor verborum assuages _525
Thereon, deserves just seven months' wages
More than will e'er be due to me.
I looked on them nine several days,
And then I saw that they were bad;
A friend, too, spoke in their dispraise,-- _530
He never read them;--with amaze
I found Sir William Drummond had.
When the book came, the Devil sent
It to P. Verbovale (2), Esquire,
With a brief note of compliment, _535
By that night's Carlisle mail. It went,
And set his soul on fire.
Fire, which ex luce praebens fumum,
Made him beyond the bottom see
Of truth's clear well--when I and you, Ma'am, _540
Go, as we shall do, subter humum,
We may know more than he.
Now Peter ran to seed in soul
Into a walking paradox;
For he was neither part nor whole, _545
Nor good, nor bad--nor knave nor fool;
--Among the woods and rocks
Furious he rode, where late he ran,
Lashing and spurring his tame hobby;
Turned to a formal puritan, _550
A solemn and unsexual man,--
He half believed "White Obi".
This steed in vision he would ride,
High trotting over nine-inch bridges,
With Flibbertigibbet, imp of pride, _555
Mocking and mowing by his side--
A mad-brained goblin for a guide--
Over corn-fields, gates, and hedges.
After these ghastly rides, he came
Home to his heart, and found from thence _560
Much stolen of its accustomed flame;
His thoughts grew weak, drowsy, and lame
Of their intelligence.
To Peter's view, all seemed one hue;
He was no Whig, he was no Tory; _565
No Deist and no Christian he;--
He got so subtle, that to be
Nothing, was all his glory.
One single point in his belief
From his organization sprung, _570
The heart-enrooted faith, the chief
Ear in his doctrines' blighted sheaf,
That 'Happiness is wrong';
So thought Calvin and Dominic;
So think their fierce successors, who _575
Even now would neither stint nor stick
Our flesh from off our bones to pick,
If they might 'do their do.'
His morals thus were undermined:--
The old Peter--the hard, old Potter-- _580
Was born anew within his mind;
He grew dull, harsh, sly, unrefined,
As when he tramped beside the Otter. (1)
In the death hues of agony
Lambently flashing from a fish, _585
Now Peter felt amused to see
Shades like a rainbow's rise and flee,
Mixed with a certain hungry wish(2).
So in his Country's dying face
He looked--and, lovely as she lay, _590
Seeking in vain his last embrace,
Wailing her own abandoned case,
With hardened sneer he turned away:
And coolly to his own soul said;--
'Do you not think that we might make _595
A poem on her when she's dead:--
Or, no--a thought is in my head--
Her shroud for a new sheet I'll take:
'My wife wants one.--Let who will bury
This mangled corpse! And I and you, _600
My dearest Soul, will then make merry,
As the Prince Regent did with Sherry,--'
'Ay--and at last desert me too.'
And so his Soul would not be gay,
But moaned within him; like a fawn _605
Moaning within a cave, it lay
Wounded and wasting, day by day,
Till all its life of life was gone.
As troubled skies stain waters clear,
The storm in Peter's heart and mind _610
Now made his verses dark and queer:
They were the ghosts of what they were,
Shaking dim grave-clothes in the wind.
For he now raved enormous folly,
Of Baptisms, Sunday-schools, and Graves, _615
'Twould make George Colman melancholy
To have heard him, like a male Molly,
Chanting those stupid staves.
Yet the Reviews, who heaped abuse
On Peter while he wrote for freedom, _620
So soon as in his song they spy
The folly which soothes tyranny,
Praise him, for those who feed 'em.
'He was a man, too great to scan;--
A planet lost in truth's keen rays:-- _625
His virtue, awful and prodigious;--
He was the most sublime, religious,
Pure-minded Poet of these days.'
As soon as he read that, cried Peter,
'Eureka! I have found the way _630
To make a better thing of metre
Than e'er was made by living creature
Up to this blessed day.'
Then Peter wrote odes to the Devil;--
In one of which he meekly said: _635
'May Carnage and Slaughter,
Thy niece and thy daughter,
May Rapine and Famine,
Thy gorge ever cramming,
Glut thee with living and dead! _640
'May Death and Damnation,
Flit up from Hell with pure intent!
Slash them at Manchester,
Glasgow, Leeds, and Chester; _645
Drench all with blood from Avon to Trent.
'Let thy body-guard yeomen
Hew down babes and women,
And laugh with bold triumph till Heaven be rent!
When Moloch in Jewry _650
Munched children with fury,
It was thou, Devil, dining with pure intent. (1)