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Sir Carr Scroope, ‘Answer by way of Epigram’
Lines from an Anonymous Advice to Apollo
From Poems on Affairs of State (1703), i, 200–1.
The type of poem represented here, in which the contemporary poets are reviewed in order, was
popular during the Restoration. A similar poem, called ‘A Session of the Poets’ has been attributed to
Rochester himself (Pinto, lvii) and though Vieth rejects it as spurious, Rochester may have had a hand in its
Rochester’s easie Muse does still improve
Each hour thy1 little wealthy World of Love,
(That World in which each Muse is thought a Queen)
That he must be forgiv’n in Charity then;
Tho his sharp Satyrs have offended thee;
In charity to Love, who will decay,
When its delightful Muse (its only stay)
Is by thy Pow’r severely ta’ne away.
Forbear (then) Civil Wars, and strike not down
Love, who alone supports thy tott’ring Crown.
John Sheffield, Earl of Mulgrave, later Marquess of Normandy and
Duke of Buckinghamshire, on Rochester
John Sheffield, third Earl of Mulgrave, 1648–1721, was perhaps the chief of Rochester’s enemies
following a quarrel in 1669, and there are several poems by Rochester which satirize him (see Pinto,
xxxvi. li. lxi). The antipathy between the two men was intensified by Mulgrave’s patronage of Dryden.
Dryden seems to have assisted Mulgrave in the composition of the Essay upon Satire and Rochester was
under the erroneous impression that it was largely Dryden’s work (see Rochester’s letter to Savile 21
Lines 230–69 of An Essay upon Satire (1679)
Rochester I despise for his mere want of wit
(Though thought to have a tail and cloven feet)
For while he mischief means to all mankind,
Himself alone the ill effect does find,
And so like witches justly suffers shame,
Whose harmless malice is so much the same.
False are his words, affected as his wit,
So often he does aim, so seldem hit;
To ev’ry face he cringes whilst he speaks,
But when the back is turn’d the head he breaks.
Mean in each motion, lewd in ev’ry limb,
Manners themselves are mischievous in him;
A proof that chance alone makes ev’ry creature,
A very Killigrew without good nature.1
For what a Bessus hath he always liv’d,1
And his own kicking notably contriv’d?
For there’s the folly that’s still mix’d with fear:
Cowards more blows than any hero bear.
Henry Killigrew, one of the wilder rakes of Charles II’s Court.
Of fighting sparks some may their pleasure say,
But ’tis a bolder thing to run away.
The world may well forgive him all his ill,
For ev’ry fault does prove his penance still;
Falsely he falls into some dang’rous noose,
And then as meanly labors to get loose;
A life so infamous it’s better quitting,
Spent in base injuring and low submitting.
I’d like to have left out his poetry,
Forgot almost by all as well as me:
Sometimes he hath some humor, never wit,2
And if it ever (very rarely) hit,
’Tis under so much nasty rubbish laid,
To find it out’s the cinder-woman’s trade,
Who for the wretched remnants of a fire,
Must toil all day in ashes and in mire.
So lewdly dull his idle works appear,
The wretched text deserves no comment here,
There one poor thought’s sometimes left all alone
For a whole page of dulness to atone.
’Mongst forty bad’s one tolerable line,
Without expression, fancy, or design.
(from Poems on Affairs of State, ed. G.de F.Lord (1963), i. 412–13)
Lines 63–4, 80–9 of An Essay upon Poetry (1682)
First then of Songs, that now so much abound:
Without his Song no Fop is to be found…
… Here as in all things else, is most unfit
Bawdry barefac’d, that poor pretence to Wit, —
Such nauseous Songs as the late Convert made,1
Which justly call this censure on his Shade;
Not that warm thoughts of the transporting joy
Can shock the Chastest or the Nicest cloy,
But obscene words, too gross to move desire,
Like heaps of Fuel do but choak the Fire.
Bessus, a cowardly, bragging character in Beaumont and Fletcher’s King and no King.
The essence of the distinction here seems to be that humour is destructive, consisting mainly of ridicule, while wit involves
imaginative invention. A little later the emotional connotation came to be reversed and humour came to be regarded as
superior to wit, see for example Congreve’s letter ‘Concerning Humour in Comedy’ (1695) Spingarn, iii. 242.