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Triumphant thou through Time's vast gulf shalt sail
The pilot of our literary whale ;
Close to the classic Rambler shalt thou cling,
Close as a supple courtier to a king!
Fate shall not shake thee off with all its power,
Stuck like a bat to some old ivied tower.
Nay, though thy Johnson ne'er had blessed thy eyes,
Paoli's deeds had raised thee to the skies!
Yes! his broad wing had raised thee (no bad hack)
A tom-tit, twittering on an eagle's back.
Thou, curious scrapmonger, shalt live in song,
When death hath still'd the rattle of thy tongue;
Even future babes to lisp thy name shall learn,
And Bozzy join with Wood, and Tommy Hearn,
Who drove the spiders from much prose and rhyme,
And snatch'd old stories from the jaws of time.
Sweet is thy page, I ween, that doth recite,
How thou and Johnson, arm in arm one night,
Marched through fair Edinburgh's Pactolian showers,
Which Cloacina bountifully pours:
How sweetly grumbled, too, was Sam's remark,
"I smell you, master Bozzy, in the dark!" (1)
Alas! historians are confounded dull,
A dim Boeotia reigns in every skull;
Mere beasts of burden, broken-winded, slow,
Heavy as dromedaries, on they go,
Whilst thou, a Will-o'-wisp, art here, art there,
Wild darting coruscations every where.
What tasteless mouth can gape, what eye can close,
What head can nod, o'er thy enlivening prose?
Think not I flatter thee, my flippant friend;
For well I know that flattery would offend:
Yet honest praise, I'm sure, thou wouldst not shun,
Born with a stomach to digest a tun!
Who can refuse a smile, that reads thy page,
Where surly Sam, inflamed with Tory rage,
Nassau bescoundrels, and with anger big,
Swears Whigs are rogues, and every rogue a Whig?
Who will not, too, thy pen's minutiæ bless,
That gives posterity the Rambler's dress?
Methinks I view his full, plain suit of brown,
The large grey bushy wig, that grac'd his crown;
Black worsted stockings, little silver buckles;
And shirt, that had no ruffles for his knuckles.
I mark the brown great-coat of cloth he wore,
That two huge Patagonian pockets bore,
(1) ["Mr. Johnson and I walked arm and arm, up the High Street, to my house in James's Court: it was a dusky night; I could not prevent his being assailed by the evening effluvia of Edinburgh. As we marched slowly along, he grumbled in my ear, I smell you in the dark.' "—Boswell.]
Which Patagonians (wondrous to unfold!) (1)
Would fairly both his Dictionaries hold.
I see the Rambler on a large bay mare,
Just like a Centaur, every danger dare;
On a full gallop dash the yielding wind ;
The colt and Bozzy scampering close behind.
Of Lady Lochbuy with what glee we read,
Who offer'd Sam, for breakfast, cold sheep's head;
Who press'd, and worried by this dame so civil,
Wished the sheep's head and woman's at the devil.
I see you sailing both in Buchan's pot
Now storming an old woman and her cot,
Who, terrified at each tremendous shape,
Deem'd you two demons, ready for a rape:
I see all marvelling at M'Leod's together,
On Sam's remarks on whey, and tanning leather:
At Corrichatachin's, the Lord knows how,
I see thee, Bozzy, drunk as David's sow,
And begging, with raised eyes and lengthen'd chin,
Heaven not to damn thee for the deadly sin:
I see, too, the stern moralist regale,
And pen a Latin ode to Mrs. Thrale.
I see, without a night-cap on his head,
Rare sight! bald Sam, in the Pretender's bed:
I hear (what's wonderful!) unsought by studying,
His classic dissertation upon pudding :
Of provost Jopp I mark the marvelling face,
Who gave the Rambler's freedom with a grace:
I see, too, travelling from the Isle of Egg;
The humble servant of a horse's leg;
And Snip, the tailor, from the Isle of Muck,
Who stitch'd in Sky with tolerable luck :
I see the horn, that drunkards must adore;
The horn, the mighty horn of Rorie More;
And bloody shields, that guarded hearts in quarrels,
Now guard from rats the milk and butter barrels.
Methinks, the Caledonian dame I see,
Familiar sitting on the Rambler's knee,
Charming, with kisses sweet, the chuckling sage;
Melting, with sweetest smiles, the frost of age;
Like Sol, who darts, at times, a cheerful ray,
O'er the wan visage of a winter's day.
"Do it again, my dear," I hear Sam cry,
"See, who first tires, (my charmer !) you or I."
(1) [" He wore a full suit of plain brown clothes, a large bushy greyish wig, black worsted stockings, and silver buckles. Upon this tour, when journeying, he wore boots, and a very wide brown cloth great coat, with pockets which might almost have held the two volumes of his folio Dictionary; and he carried in his hand a large English oak stick."-BOSWELL.]
I see thee stuffing, with a hand uncouth,
An old dried whiting in thy Johnson's mouth;
And lo! I see, with all his might and main,
Thy Johnson spit the whiting out again.
Rare anecdotes ! 't is anecdotes like these,
That bring thee glory, and the million please!
On these shall future times delighted stare,
Thou charming haberdasher of small ware!
Stewart and Robertson from thee shall learn
The simple charms of history to discern :
To thee fair history's palm shall Livy yield,
And Tacitus to Bozzy leave the field!
Joe Miller's self, whose page such fun provokes,
Shall quit his shroud, to grin at Bozzy's jokes!
How are we all with rapture touch'd, to see
Where, when, and at what hour, you swallowed tea ;
How, once, to grace this Asiatic treat,
Came haddocks, which the Rambler could not eat!
Pleased on thy book thy sovereign's eyeballs roll,
Who loves a gossip's story from his soul;
Blest with the memory of the Persian king (1),
He every body knows, and every thing;
Who's dead, who's married, what poor girl, beguiled,
Hath lost a paramour and found a child;
Which gardener hath most cabbages and peas,
And which old woman hath most hives of bees,
Which farmer boasts the most prolific sows,
Cocks, hens, geese, turkeys, goats, sheep, bulls, and cows;
Which barber best the ladies' locks can curl;
Which house in Windsor sells the finest purl;
Which chimney-sweep best beats in gold array,
His brush and shovel, on the first of May!
Whose dancing dogs in rigadoons excel;
And whose the puppet show, that bears the bell:
Which clever smith, the prettiest man-trap makes
To save from thieves the royal ducks and drakes,
The Guinea hens and peacocks with their eggs,
And catch his loving subjects by the legs.
O since the prince of gossips reads thy book,
To what high honours may not Bozzy look!
The sunshine of his smile may soon be thine
Perchance, in converse thou may'st hear him shine.
Perchance, to stamp thy merit through the nation,
He begs of Johnson's Life, thy dedication;
Asks questions (2) of thee, O thou lucky elf,
And kindly answers every one himself.
(2) Just after Dr. Johnson had been honoured with an interview with a certain great personage, in the Queen's Library at Buckingham House, he was
Blest with the classic learning of a college,
Our king is not a miser in his knowledge:
Nought in the storehouse of his brains turns musty:
No razor-wit, for want of use, grows rusty;
Whate'er his head suggests, whate'er he knows,
Free as election beer from tubs it flows.
Yet, ah! superior far! it boasts the merit
Of never fuddling people with the spirit.
Say, Bozzy, when, to bless our anxious sight,
When shall thy volume (1) burst the gates of light ?
O! clothed in calf, ambitious brat, be born
Our kitchens, parlours, libraries adorn!
O Bozzy, still thy tell-tale plan pursue:
The world is wondrous fond of something new:
And, let but Scandal's breath embalm the page,
It lives a welcome guest from age to age.
Not only say who breathes an arrant knave,
But who hath sneaked a rascal to his grave:
Without a fear on families harangue,
Say who shall lose their ears, and who shall hang;
Thy brilliant brain conjecture can supply,
To charm through every leaf the eager eye.
The blue-stocking society describe,
And give thy comment on each joke and gibe :
Tell what the women are, their wit, their quality,
And dip them in thy streams of immortality.
Let Lord Mac Donald threat thy breech to kick,
And o'er thy shrinking shoulders shake his stick;
Treat with contempt the menace of this lord,
'Tis History's province, Bozzy, to record.
Though Wilkes abuse thy brain, that airy mill,
And swear poor Johnson murder'd by thy quill;
What's that to thee? Why, let the victim bleed -
Thy end is answer'd if the nation read.
The fiddling knight, and tuneful Mrs. Thrale,
Who frequent hobbed or nobbed with Sam in ale,
Snatch up the pen (as thirst of fame inspires)
To write his jokes and stories by their fires;
Then why not thou each joke and tale enrol,
Who, like a watchful cat before a hole,
Full twenty years, inflamed with letter'd pride,
Didst mousing sit before Sam's mouth so wide,
To catch as many scraps as thou wert able —
A very Lazarus at the rich man's table?
interrogated by a friend, concerning his reception, and his opinion of the royal intellect. -"His Majesty seems to be possessed of much goodnature, and much curiosity," replied the Doctor; "as for his vous it is far from contemptible. His Majesty, indeed, was multifarious in his questions; but, thank God, he answered them all himself."
(1) The Life of Dr. Johnson.
What though against thee porters bounce the door,
And bid thee hunt for secrets there no more,
With pen and ink so ready at thy coat,
Exciseman-like, each syllable to note,
That given to printer's devils (a precious load!)
On wings of print comes flying all abroad.
Watch then the venal valets-smack the maids,
And try with gold to make them rogues and jades:
Yet should their honesty thy bribes resent,
Fly to thy fertile genius and invent:
Like old Voltaire, who placed his greatest glory
In cooking up an entertaining story;
Who laugh'd at Truth, whene'er her simple tongue
Would snatch amusement from a tale or song.
O! whilst amid the anecdotie mine,
Thou labour'st hard to bid thy hero shine,
Run to Bolt Court, exert thy Curl-like soul,
And fish for golden leaves from hole to hole:
On tales, however strange, impose thy claw;
Yes, let thy amber lick up every straw;
Sam's nods, and winks, and laughs, will form a treat;
For all that breathes of Johnson must be great!
Bless'd be thy labours, most adventurous Bozzy,
Bold rival of Sir John, and Dame Piozzi;
Heavens with what laurels shall thy head be crown'd!
A grove, a forest, shall thy ears surround.
Yes! whilst the Rambler shall a comet blaze,
And gild a world of darkness with his rays,
Thee too that world with wonderment shall hail,
A lively, bouncing cracker at his tail.