The Dunciad is a landmark literary satire by Alexander Pope published in three different versions at different times. The first version (the "three book" Dunciad) was published in 1728. The second version, in which Pope confirmed his authorship of the work, appeared in the Dunciad Variorum in 1735. The New Dunciad, in four books and with a different hero, appeared in 1743. The poem celebrates the goddess Dulness and the progress of her chosen agents as they bring decay, imbecility, and tastelessness to the kingdom of Great Britain.
- O thou! whatever title please thine ear,
Dean, Drapier, Bickerstaff, or Gulliver!
Whether thou choose Cervantes' serious air,
Or laugh and shake in Rabelais' easy chair.
- Book I, line 19.
- Poetic Justice, with her lifted scale,
Where, in nice balance, truth with gold she weighs,
And solid pudding against empty praise.
- Book I, line 52.
- Now night descending, the proud scene was o'er,
But lived in Settle's numbers one day more.
- Book I, line 89.
- While pensive poets painful vigils keep,
Sleepless themselves to give their readers sleep.
- Book I, line 93. Compare: "As pleasing are thy verses to us, divine Poet, as sleep is to the wearied." (Tale tuum carmen nobis, divine poeta, / Quale sopor fessis.) Virgil, Eclogues, V, 45. Meant as a compliment in the original, but sometimes also used ironically in speaking of poets who give their readers sleep.
- Next o'er his books his eyes begin to roll,
In pleasing memory of all he stole;
How here he sipp'd, how there he plunder'd snug,
And suck'd all o'er like an industrious bug.
- Book I, line 127.
- Or where the pictures for the page atone,
And Quarles is saved by beauties not his own.
- Book I, line 139.
- Soon to that mass of nonsense to return,
Where things destroy'd are swept to things unborn.
- Book I, line 241.
- How index-learning turns no student pale,
Yet holds the eel of science by the tail.
- Book I, line 279.
- And gentle Dulness ever loves a joke.
- Book II, line 34.
- A brain of feathers, and a heart of lead.
- Book II, line 44.
- But blind to former, as to future Fate,
What mortal knows his pre-existent state?
- Book III, lines 39-40.
- Another, yet the same.
- Book III, line 90. Compare: "Another, yet the same", Thomas Tickell, From a Lady in England; Samuel Johnson, Life of Dryden; Charles Darwin, Botanic Garden, part i, canto iv, line 380; William Wordsworth, The Excursion, Book IX; Sir Walter Scott, The Abbot, chap. i; Horace, carmen secundum, line 10.
- Till Peter's keys some christen'd Jove adorn,
And Pan to Moses lends his pagan horn.
- Book III, line 109.
- Peeled, patched, and piebald, linsey-woolsey brothers,
Grave mummers! sleeveless some, and shirtless others.
That once was Britain.
- Book III, line 115.
- All crowd, who foremost shall be damn'd to fame.
- Book III, line 158. Compare: "May see thee now, though late, redeem thy name, And glorify what else is damn'd to fame", Richard Savage, Character of Foster.
- Silence, ye wolves! while Ralph to Cynthia howls,
And makes night hideous; —answer him, ye owls!
- Book III, line 165. Compare: "Revisit'st thus the glimpses of the moon, Making night hideous, and we fools of nature", William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act i, Scene 4.
- Immortal Rich! how calm he sits at ease,
Midst snows of paper, and fierce hail of pease;
And proud his mistress' order to perform,
Rides in the whirlwind and directs the storm.
- So when an angel by divine command
With rising tempests shakes a guilty land,
Such as of late o'er pale Britannia passed,
Calm and serene he drives the furious blast;
And, pleas'd th' Almighty's orders to perform,
Rides in the whirlwind, and directs the storm.
- The word "passed" was here originally spelt "past" but modern renditions have updated the spelling for clarity.
- So when an angel by divine command
- To aid our cause, if Heav'n thou can'st not bend,
Hell thou shalt move.
- Book III, line 307, a translation of Virgil, Aeneid, vii, 312: "Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo."
- A wit with dunces, and a dunce with wits.
- Book IV, line 90. See also An X among Ys, a Y among Xs.
- How sweet an Ovid, Murray was our boast!
- Book IV, line 169.
- The Right Divine of Kings to govern wrong.
- Book IV, line 188.
- Stuff the head
With all such reading as was never read:
For thee explain a thing till all men doubt it,
And write about it, Goddess, and about it.
- Book IV, line 249.
- To happy convents, bosomed deep in vines,
Where slumber abbots, purple as their wines.
- Book IV, line 301.
- Led by my hand, he sauntered Europe round,
And gathered every vice on Christian ground.
- Book IV, line 311.
- Judicious drank, and greatly daring din'd.
- Book IV, line 318.
- Stretch'd on the rack of a too easy chair,
And heard thy everlasting yawn confess
The pains and penalties of idleness.
- Book IV, line 342.
- E'en Palinurus nodded at the helm.
- Book IV, line 614.
- Philosophy, that lean'd on heaven before,
Shrinks to her second cause, and is no more.
Physic of Metaphysic begs defence,
And Metaphysic calls for aid on Sense!
- Book IV, line 643.
- Religion blushing veils her sacred fires,
And unawares Morality expires.
Nor public flame, nor private, dares to shine;
Nor human spark is left, nor glimpse divine!
Lo! thy dread empire Chaos! is restored:
Light dies before thy uncreating word;
Thy hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall,
And universal darkness buries all.
- Book IV, line 649.
- [P]erhaps the best specimen that has yet appeared of personal satire ludicrously pompous.
- Samuel Johnson, The Life of Pope (1781).