(An original composition)
~Of the Poem
It is with pleasure that I present you this poem, entitled by its author "Dunciad Americana," most probably in reference to that earlier work, "The Dunciad," written by a wit and scholar of lesser stature but greater reputation. It has come to me via several hands, the connected mouths of which have celebrated in its margins several of its images and a fair number of its phrases, though in all neither they nor I can support to the utmost its meaning or intent. The author has adopted, as can readily be seen, the Homeric form; but, he has failed notably in the selection of a hero, preferring instead to present a slate of characters, poorly formed, that do little to move the action of the poem, and indeed, seem directly to retard it. The public have already declared their preference for and proposed an alternate version of this work, in which the character portraits might be replaced with other epic stuff; the author, I have been credibly informed, cannot consider this without the promise of adequate recompense, which few will offer and which none can promise.
I have staid my hand against the correction of some several errors I have detected in the manuscript, electing instead to permit the author to show himself to that advantage or disadvantage naturally resulting from his own poetic diligence. Where appropriate, I have, along with several other notes, suggested the supposed targets of the author's satirical musings; but, I encourage the gentle reader to view these suppositions with some caution, for though well-constructed, the terms and allegorical figurings are not always precise, and may admit of more than a single object. It would surely have been unpolitic of the author to have drawn on some notable and recognizable personages for his satiric musings, and we doubt not that where such individuals seem most apparent, their identifications are least intended.
If any amongst you detect in the work or suspect of the author some greater personal malice than can possibly have been meant, you will please remember that the nature of such a poem is always to place the reader without its scope, that he or she may look though the glass, not into it.
~The Text of the Poem
Sing to me, O Muse, of our earthly state!
Through mine your voice the wide world shall berate;
Draw ill deeds done precisely, in clear terms,
Revealing modern snakes' true forms as worms.
The Goddess Dulness, once subdued by art, (5)
Has raised her hoary head; still beats her Heart!
Thrown from Parnassus by the ancient ones,
To England flown, and to adopted sons;
But banished thence, her empire thrown all down,
Has found new lands o'er which to drape her gown. (10)
A foundling nation; wild for its years,
Fed once on courage but glutted now by fears;
Hides beneath skirts stain'd, befouled, besmirched--
Eyes shut, ears stopped, heads down, whereon She's perched.
Coarse cloth swaddles comfortably coarse skin, (15)
Admitting of no sense but that of spin--
Which is no sense. Hence Dulness reigns once more;
Our mother, sister, wife--above all, whore.
Of all her many children, though, are ten
Who at her breast suck most--and these are them. (20)
They lead the nation forth linked by their arms
To combat Wisdom, Virtue, and like harms;
Marching pomp! Small brains only fit thick skulls--
Their warfare seeks no battles; merely lulls.
So let us have them, Muse! Reveal their ways! (25)
Each Goddess' brat more than the last dismays.
The least has least to show, so shows too much;
Not of himself, but of his worth, as such.
It being slight, he tries to recompense;
'Tis pity ostenation's poor defense (30)
Against that which though hidden all can see.
His name? He shouts it loud--from his Humvee.
The Goddess Dulness loves him well enough,
For all his life is lived but for to bluff;
The road is his; all sees he from on high-- (35)
For it he lives; we pray in it he'll die.
Another child the Goddess has, and worse;
Gloss-lipped, gloss-eyed, false-fronting, Talent's curse!
Nature fails 'gainst Dulness' manufacture--
Though her voice and face alike may fracture. (40)
Poor Talent's chased from ev'ry stage in tears
Whene'er the screeching Goddess hoists her Spears.
Such gaudy tulips too oft spring from trash;
Their petals spread for Dulness' brother, Cash.
Third in the line, a cousin to the last: (45)
Sniffing, snuffling, celebrant of bombast.
Who keeps the store of Dulness' magazines;
Not stores of powder there, but scand'lous scenes.
Famous faces' failings famed--awful tracts!
This cousin crushes Wit beneath the stacks, (50)
And thinks by law the press was labeled free
To report nothing save the tres jolie.
Yet more there are than they we must endure--
Sic per gradus, ad mia tenditur.
Twins are there who do their chores in tandem. (55)
Two-days' work presents some tome at random;
The dull lose faith as do sheep their fleeces,
And truth breaks all to a million pieces.
'Accolades, my sons!' Does the Goddess say--
'Full proud am I, when bonds of honor fray!' (60)
(Quiet, the nation's starving wits lament
That from abroad this pestilence was sent;
It wastes away the striving, thinking mind,
Which does all right, and hopes for right in kind--
What virtue, diligence, can such afford, (65)
When lies, crime, and deceit reap all reward?)
Half of the favored litter now is told;
One half remains--most foul of a foul fold.
Competing for glory's highest prizes;
When true Glory them truly despises. (70)
Powers tremendous hold they over all,
Powers taken, given, monstrous; men fall
Before their might that might one time have stood--
But Dulness' reign has too long reigned o'er good.
Anthropophages! That do swallow whole (75)
Whole lives, devouring body, mind and soul,
Most sad waste leave behind where e'er they sit:
Piles upon piles, Alps upon Alps, of s--t.
Fast should they vanish from our sight to Hell,
Though generations know them for the smell. (80)
The Goddess' lungs fill fully with their stench;
Wits, both their fists as well as stomachs, clench:
These five the worst befoul the ship of state;
And slow to anger become quick to hate.
Three the Goddess joined into one creature (85)
With countless heads, but no heart to feature:
An awesome beast, Man-made but not humane,
A Dragon's lust for gold, Honesty's bane.
'Tis wondrous strange! To think of all it does!
Future wits may'nt believe--and yet it was! (90)
Masterless, the beast is thus perfected:
No one leads; yet the thing's directed.
It has no sense of taste; for it eats books;
Or so it seems--for those it has, it cooks.
And if of one head th'others must dispose, (95)
Then down a chute of gold the dread thing goes.
As 'twas Dulness birthed th'abomination,
So the Goddess named it: Corporation.
Two now are left. The next, a duncely prince
Who does the most of Dulness' gifts evince. (100)
Thoughtless, the drone, for his satisfaction,
In mangled English trumpets calls to action.
A valiant soldier, born the charge to lead;
Whate'er the cost--provided, lack of need.
'Tis not his only kingly alchemy-- (105)
To see what others plainly do not see--
Dulness helps him to make spells of numbers;
To wake Confusion as Wit, tir'd, slumbers.
Most oft two together the prince invokes:
For this charm, more than all, the fire stokes; (110)
A simple incantation swells the ground
And gives the Duncely Prince strength nigh unbound:
(I dare not at once myself to say'em,
For fear to unleash, as he does, mayhem)
But four and five of you will understand (115)
What five and six must also have in hand.
His sceptre, though, sways he o'er subjects all;
Who hear not his, though he may hear their call.
Some leap to cheer him, others stand aghast,
And he soils his refuge--a scoundrel's last. (120)
"Such fast descent!" the Goddess, joyful, smiles
(Or smirks--'tis after her himself he styles).
"A great nation, born in Valor's forge,
Gone from the highest, to the lowest George!"
So strong in Dulness, weak in Wit, are few-- (125)
But still the Prince is only number two.
The one--the first--I cannot speak its name.
A Juggernaut, Leviathan; its fame
O'erreaches all its loathsome, debased kin;
For 'tis the child of Dulness sired by Sin. (130)
No one-named beast was it, with Dulness matched--
No private ill, nor single will, dispatched
Upon her body its thin and stinking seed;
Souls fallen, without number, did that deed.
Thus did the offspring of the erstwhile mates (135)
Combine in it as many evil traits,
Dispersed amongst three hundred million heads
And one corpse that o'er a continent spreads.
Had such a monster but one mind, its will
The world might rule--and all against it, kill (140)
(Half-asleep, it this half-dreams of doing;
And is, somnambulantly, pursuing)--
But 'twere not Dulness' child if't could achieve.
It is enough for her that it believe.
In Y-w-h, Christ, Allah, or whichever-- (145)
Those are faiths apart from her endeavor.
Upon religion subtler she depends;
And through maneuvers meaner she defends
Her Fortress' ramparts 'gainst onslaughts of Thought--
And repels that for which its founders fought. (150)
The plan she set straight from the child's spawning,
Knowing best how best to keep it yawning.
"My dear, my first!" the swollen Goddess cried.
Six hundred million ears then twitched, and sighed
The behemoth, th'lights in its eyes still low; (155)
It strained to make an answer, wit to show.
It reared its heads, and deeply drew a breath;
And ope'd its mouths to speak--and spoke its death.
So many tongues at once made such a hiss
(Which to the Goddess' taste was purely bliss) (160)
That fast the child sued to her for peace
And vow'd t'obey, provided Thinking cease.
"One task alone do I command," she roared.
Her voice the beast benumbed, and peace restored.
"And what I wish scarce calls for you to act. (165)
Your slumber and my rule upon this pact
Will stand: your brothers and your sisters nine
Shall more than you be seen to bear my sign.
These my anti-Muses; these pins the pricks
Upon Wits' flesh--what each of these depicts (170)
Is a shadow of my mighty power.
My true stength lies in you--you, the flower
Of Dulness, without whom there is no hope
To capture lands and time beyond all scope.
For you, one charge, one order, here is writ: (175)
Thou, still, slow child, must all the rest permit.
In accordance, then, with the Goddess' plan,
The first in dulness yet does all it can
Nothing to do. Obsessed with show and sport,
With gossip, squabbling, violence--in short, (180)
Nothing, into ev'rything made. And o'er
The nine Her other, evil, lesser spawn,
The one, though greater, yet will ever fawn.
For, though, as one, it had the strength to reach
Beyond its grasp, and could have been taught speech (185)
To quiet its discords but not its mind,
To stifle Dulness, and all of like kind;
Instead, its factious tongues, so many flails,
Each other whip--and so the body fails.
Too many necks have heads that want cutting (190)
Off; too many heads, and all abutting:
The nine they support upon their faces--
Hoping soon themselves to gain such places.
The Goddess laughs, and knows her work finished--
For she sees a nation great, diminished. (195)
"Carry on!" she bellows--with her voice, leads;
Its echo moving us as wind through reeds:
For though unseen, 'tis sure some force that moves--
And through our actions, she her presence proves.
What more adventures there are to relate (200)
The greatest has no part in; 'tis its fate
To watch, or hear, and laugh at, unaware
That much it laughs at falls to its own share.
Rest then, my Muse, back to your mountain go.
Too long hast thou here lingered, 'mongst the low (205)
And teeming masses that your flesh would tear
For painting portraits of them none too fair.
If more to say thou hast, to me return--
And pray there here remain some who can learn.