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1777 : “Such a one's rerses are come out,” said I: “Yes (replied Johnson) and this frost has struck them in again. Here are some lines I have written to ridicule them: but remember that I love the fellow dearly, now—for all I laugh at him.
When he parodied the verses of another eminent writer, it was done with more provocation, I believe, and with some merry malice. A serious translation of the same lines, which I think are from Euripides, may be found in Burney's “ History of Music.”—Here are the burlesque ones :
“ Err shall they not, who resolute explore
They to the dome where smoke with curling play
“Oh! send them to the sullen mansions dun,
“ When cates luxuriant pile the spacious dish,
Can yield no room to Music's soothing pow'r." Some of the old legendary stories put in verse by modern writers provoked him to caricature them thus one day at Streatham; but they are already well known, I am sure.
“ The tender infant, meek and mild,
Fell down upon the stone ;,
But still the child squealid on.'
A famous ballad also, beginning Rio verde, Rio verde, when I commended the translation of it, he said he could do it better himself-as thus :
“ Glassy water, glassy water,
“But Sir," said I,“this is not ridiculous at all.” “ Why no (replied he), why should I always write ridiculously?-perhaps because I made these verses to imitate such a one, naming him :
".. Hermit hoar, in solemn cell
«« Thus I spoke, and speaking sigh’d,
I could give another comical instance of caricatura imitation. Recollecting some day, when praising these verses of Lopez de Vega,
“ Se acquien los leones vence
more than he thought they deserved, Mr. Johnson instantly observed, “ that they were founded on a trivial conceit; and that conceit ill-explained, and ill-expressed beside. --The lady, we all know, does not conquer in the same manner as the lion does : 'Tis a mere play of words (added he), and you might as well say, that
6. If the man who turnips cries, Cry not when his father dies, 'Tis a proof that he had rather Have a turnip than his father."
And this humour is of the same sort with which he answered the friend who commended the following line:
6. Who rules o'er freemen should himself be free."
“ To be sure (said Dr. Johnson),
666 Who drives fat oxen should himself be fat.'”
This readiness of finding a parallel, or making one, was shewn by him perpetually in the course of conversation.—When the French verses of a certain pantomime were quoted thus,
“ Je suis Cassandre descendüe des cieux,
he cried out gaily and suddenly, almost in a moment,
“I am Cassandra come down from the sky,
The pretty Italian verses too, at the end of Baretti's book, called “Easy Phraseology,” he did all'improviso, in the same
“ Viva! viva la padrona!
Viva! viva la padrona !”
The famous distich too, of an Italian improvisatore, who, when the duke of Modena ran away from the comet in the year 1742 or 1743,
“ Se al venir vestro i principi sen' vanno
durate un anno ;” “ which (said he) would do just as well in our language thus :
“If at your coming princes disappear,
Comets! come every day—and stay a year.””
“ Theatre des ris et des pleurs,
Sont nos plaisirs, et nos chagrins.”
" In bed we laugh, in bed we cry,
The inscription on the collar of Sir Joseph Banks's goat which had been on two of his adventurous expeditions with him, and was then, by the humanity of her amiable master, turned out to graze in Kent, as a recompence for her utility and faithful service, was given me by Johnson in the year 1777 I think, and I have never yet seen it printed.
“ Perpetui, ambitâ bis terrâ, premia lactis
Hæc habet altrici Capra secunda Jovis.” The epigram written at Lord Anson's house many years ago, “ where (says Mr. Johnson) I was well received and kindly treated, and with the true gratitude of a wit ridiculed the master of the house before I had left it an hour," has been falsely printed in many papers since his death. I wrote it down from his own lips one evening in August 1772, not neglecting the little preface, accusing himself of making so graceless a return for the civilities shown him. He had, among other elegancies about the park and gardens, been made to observe a temple to the winds, when this thought naturally presented itself to a wit.
“Gratum animum laudo ; Qui debuit omnia ventis,
Quam bene ventorum surgere ten pla jubet ! ” A translation of Dryden's epigram too, I used to fancy I had to myself.
“ Quos laudet vates, Graius, Romanus, et Anglus,
Sublime ingenium Graius,-Romanus habebat
Quæ potuere duos, tertius unus habet : "
“ Three poets in three distant ages born,
To make a third she join'd the former two." One evening in the oratorio season of the year 1771, Mr. Johnson went with me to Covent-Garden theatre; and though he was for the most part an exceedingly bad playhouse companion, as his person drew people's eyes upon the box, and the loudness of his voice made it difficult for me to hear any body but himself; he sat surprisingly quiet, and I flattered myself that he was listening to the music. When we were got home however he repeated these verses, which he said he had made at the oratorio, and he bid me translate them.
6. Tertii verso quater orbe lustri
Sera voluptas !
Currere formas ?
I gave him the following lines in imitation, which he liked well enough, I think :