Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
The Critics
By Timothy Dwight (1752–1817)
 
A Fable.

  ’T IS said of every dog that’s found,
Of mongrel, spaniel, cur, and hound,
That each sustains a doggish mind,
And hates the new, sublime, refined.
’T is hence the wretches bay the moon,        5
In beauty throned at highest noon,
Hence every nobler brute they bite,
And hunt the stranger-dog with spite;
And hence, the nose’s dictates parrying,
They fly from meat to feed on carrion.        10
’T is also said, the currish soul
The critic race possesses whole;
As near they come, in thoughts and natures,
As two legg’d can, to four legg’d creatures;
Alike the things they love and blame,        15
Their voice, and language, much the same.
 
  The muse this subject made her theme,
And told me in a morning dream.
Such dreams you sages may decry;
But muses know they never lie.        20
Then hear, from me, in grave narration,
Of these strange facts, the strange occasion.
 
  In Greece Cynethe’s village lay,
Well known to all, who went that way,
For dogs of every kindred famed,        25
And from true doggish manners named.
One morn, a greyhound pass’d the street;
At once the foul-mouth’d conclave met,
Huddling around the stranger ran,
And thus their smart review began.        30
“What tramper,” with a grinning sneer
Bark’d out the clumsy cur, “is here?
No native of the town, I see;
Some foreign whelp of base degree.
I ’d show, but that the record ’s torn,        35
We true Welsh curs are better born.
His coat is smooth; but longer hair
Would more become a dog by far.
His slender ear, how straight and sloping!
While ours is much improved by cropping.”        40
 
  “Right,” cried the blood-hound, “that straight ear
Seems made for nothing but to hear;
’T is long agreed, through all the town,
That handsome ears, like mine, hang down;
And though his body’s gaunt and round,        45
’T is no true rawboned gaunt of hound.
How high his nose the creature carries!
As if on bugs, and flies, his fare is;
I ’ll teach this strutting stupid log,
To smell ’s the business of a dog.”        50
 
  “Baugh-waugh!” the shaggy spaniel cried,
“What wretched covering on his hide!
I wonder where he lives in winter;
His straight, sleek legs too, out of joint are;
I hope the vagrant will not dare        55
His fledging with my fleece compare.
He never plunged in pond or river,
To search for wounded duck and diver;
By kicks would soon be set a skipping,
Nor take one half so well a whipping.”        60
 
  “Rat me,” the lap-dog yelp’d, “through nature,
Was ever seen so coarse a creature?
I hope no lady’s sad mishap
E’er led the booby to her lap;
He ’d fright Primrilla into fits,        65
And rob Fooleria of her wits;
A mere barbarian, Indian whelp!
How clownish, countryish, sounds his yelp!
He never tasted bread and butter,
Nor play’d the petty squirm and flutter;        70
Nor e’er, like me, has learn’d to fatten,
On kisses sweet, and softest patting.”
 
  “Some parson’s dog, I vow,” whined puppy;
“His rusty coat how sun-burnt! stop ye!”
The beagle call’d him to the wood,        75
The bull-dog bellowed, “Zounds! and blood!”
The wolf-dog and the mastiff were,
The muse says, an exception here;
Superior both to such foul play,
They wish’d the stranger well away.        80
 
  From spleen the strictures rose to fury,
“Villain,” growl’d one, “I can’t endure you.”
“Let ’s seize the truant,” snarl’d another,
Encored by every foul-mouth’d brother.
“’T is done,” bark’d all, “we ’ll mob the creature,        85
And sacrifice him to ill nature.”
 
  The greyhound, who despised their breath,
Still thought it best to shun their teeth.
Easy he wing’d his rapid flight,
And left the scoundrels out of sight.        90
 
  Good Juno, by the ancients holden
The genuine notre-dame of scolding,
Sat pleased, because there ’d such a fuss been,
And in the hound’s place wish’d her husband;
For here, even pleasure bade her own,        95
Her ladyship was once outdone.
“Hail, dogs,” she cried, “of every kind!
Retain ye still this snarling mind,
Hate all that ’s good, and fair, and new,
And I ’ll a goddess be to you.        100
 
  “Nor this the only good you prove;
Learn what the fruits of Juno’s love.
Your souls, from forms, that creep all four on,
I ’ll raise, by system Pythagorean,
To animate the human frame,        105
And gain my favorite tribe a name.
Be ye henceforth (so I ordain)
Critics, the genuine curs of men.
To snarl be still your highest bliss,
And all your criticism like this.        110
Whate’er is great or just in nature,
Of graceful form, or lovely feature;
Whate’er adorns the enobled mind,
Sublime, inventive, and refined;
With spleen, and spite, for ever blame,        115
And load with every dirty name.
All things of noblest kind and use,
To your own standard vile reduce,
And all in wild confusion blend,
Nor heed the subject, scope, or end.        120
But chief, when modest young beginners,
’Gainst critic laws, by nature sinners,
Peep out in verse, and dare to run,
Through towns and villages your own,
Hunt them, as when yon stranger dog        125
Set all your growling crew agog;
Till stunn’d, and scared, they hide from view,
And leave the country clear for you.”
 
  This said, the goddess kind caressing,
Gave every cur a double blessing.        130
Each doggish mind, though grown no bigger,
Henceforth assumed the human figure:
The body walk’d on two, the mind
To four still chose to be confined;
Still creeps on earth, still scents out foes,        135
Is still led onward by the nose;
Hates all the good, it used to hate,
The lofty, beauteous, new, and great;
The stranger hunts with spite quintessent,
And snarls, from that day to the present.        140
 
 
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