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I think I met with something there,
To suit my purpose to a hair.
But let us not proceed too furious;
First please to turn to god Mercurius:
You'll find him pictur'd at full length
In book the second, page the tenth.
The stress of all my proofs on him I lay;
And now proceed we to our simile.
Imprimis, pray observe his hat;
Wings upon either side—mark that.
Well! what is it from thence we gather ?
Why, these denote a brain of feather.
A brain of feather very right—
With wit that's flighty, learning light;
Such as to modern bards decreed:
A just comparison — proceed.
In the next place, his feet peruse;
Wings grow again from both his shoes:
Design'd, no doubt, their part to bear,
And waft his godship through the air.
And here my simile unites—

For, in a modern poet's flights,

I'm sure it may be justly said,
His feet are useful as his head.
Lastly, vouchsafe to observe his hand,
Fill'd with a snake-encircled wand,
By classic authors term'd caduceus,
And highly fam'd for several uses;
To wit, most wondrously endu'd,
No poppy-water half so good—
For let folks only get a touch,
Its soporific virtue 's such,
Though ne'er so much awake before,
That quickly they begin to snore.
Add, too, what certain writers tell—
With this he drives men's souls to hell.
Now to apply, begin we then :
His wand 's a modern author's pen;
The serpents round about it twin'd
Denote him of the reptile kind—
Denote the rage with which he writes,
His frothy slaver, venom'd bites;
An equal semblance still to keep,

Alike, too, both conduce to sleep—

This difference only, as the god
Drove souls to Tartarus with his rod,
With his goose-quill the scribbling elf
Instead of others damns himself.
And here my simile almost tripp'd ;
Yet grant a word by way of postscript.
Moreover, Mercury had a failing:
Well! what of that? out with it—stealing;
In which all modern bards agree,
Being each as great a thief as he.
But even this deity's existence
Shall lend my simile assistance:
Our modern bards ! why, what a-pox

Are they—but senseless stones and blocks? To where yon taper cheers the vale

And guide my lonely way

With hospitable ray;

1. First published in The Vicar of Wakefield, 1766. It is now printed from the amended text which appears in A collection of the most II. “For here, forlorn and lost, I tread With fainting steps and slow—


Where wilds, immeasurably spread,

Seem lengthening as I go.”

III. “Forbear, my son,” the hermit cries, “To tempt the dangerous gloom; For yonder faithless phantom flies To lure thee to thy doom.

esteemed pieces of Poetry, 1767; with an additional stanza — the 30th —given by the author to Richard Archdal, esq., from The Miscellaneous Works, 1801.

This ballad requires no explanation; but, as its originality has been contested, it may be desirable to compare the statements on each side.

In 1767 the author was censured, in an anonymous communication to the printer of the St. James's Chronicle, a paper noted for wit and sarcasm, as the inferior copyist of Percy. He thus replied:


“A correspondent of yours accuses me of having taken a ballad I published some time ago, from one [The Friar of orders gray] by the ingenious Mr. Percy. I do not think there is any great resemblance between the two pieces in question. If there be any, his ballad is taken from mine. I read it to Mr. Percy some years ago, and he – as we both considered these things as trifles at best—told me, with his usual good-humor, the next time I saw him, that he had taken my plan to form the fragments of Shakspeare into a ballad of his own. He then read me his little cento, if I may so call it, and I highly approved it. Such petty anecdotes as these are scarce worth printing; and, were it

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