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it immediately into gold. All the business of mankind has presently vanished, the whole world has kept holiday; there has been no men but heroes and poets, no women but nymphs and shepherdesses: trees have borne fritters, and rivers flowed plum-porridge.
When he writes, he commonly steers the sense of his lines by the rhyme that is at the end of them, as butchers do calves by the tail. For when he has made one line which is easy enough, and has found out some sturdy hard word that will but rhyme, he will hammer the sense upon it, like a piece of hot iron upon an anvil, into what form he pleases. There is no art in the world so rich in terms as poetry; a whole dictionary is scarcely able to contain them; for there is hardly a pond, a sheep-walk, or a gravelpit in all Greece, but the ancient name of it is become a term of art in poetry. By this means, small poets have such a stock of able hard words lying by them, as driades, hamadryades, aönides, fauni, nymphæ, sylvani, &c., that signify nothing at all; and such a world of pedantic terms of the same kind, as may serve to furnish all the new inventions and "thorough reformations," that can happen between this and Plato's great year.
[ANOTHER lively describer of human character, who flourished in this period, was Dr. WALTER CHARLETON, physician to Charles II., a friend of Hobbes, and for several years president of the College of Physicians in London.]
The Ready and Nimble Wit.
Such as are endowed wherewith have a certain extemporary acuteness of conceit, accompanied with a quick delivery of their thoughts, so as they can at pleasure entertain their auditors with facetious passages and fluent discourses even upon slight occasions; but being generally impatient of second thoughts and deliberations, they seem fitter for pleasant colloquies and drollery than for counsel and design; like flyboats, good only in fair weather and shallow waters, and then, too, more for pleasure than traffic. If they be, as for the most part they are, narrow in the hold, and destitute of ballast sufficient to counterpoise their large sails, they reel with every blast of argument, and are often driven upon the sands of a 'nonplus;' but where favoured with the breath of common applause, they sail smoothly and proudly, and, like the city pageants, discharge whole volleys of squibs and crackers, and skirmish most furiously.
But take them from their familiar and private conversation into grave and severe assemblies, whence all
extemporary flashes of wit, all fantastic allusions, all personal reflections, are excluded, and there engage them in an encounter with solid wisdom, not in light skirmishes, but a pitched field of long and serious debate concerning any important question, and then you shall soon discover their weakness, and contemn that barrenness of understanding which is incapable of struggling with the difficulties of apodictical knowledge, and the deduction of truth from a long series of
Again, if those very concise sayings and lucky repartees, wherein they are so happy, and which at first hearing were entertained with so much of pleasure and admiration, be written down, and brought to a strict examination of their pertinency, coherence, and verity, how shallow, how frothy, how forced will they be found! how much will they lose of that applause, which their tickling of the ear and present flight through the imagination had gained! In the greatest part, therefore, of such men, you ought to expect no deep or continued river of wit, but only a few plashes, and those, too, not altogether free from mud and putrefaction.
The Slow but Sure Wit.
Some heads there are of a certain close and reserved constitution, which makes them at first sight to promise as little of the virtue wherewith they are endowed, as the former appear to be above the imperfections to which they are subject. Somewhat slow they are, indeed, of both conception and expression;
yet no whit the less provided with solid prudence. When they are engaged to speak, their tongue doth not readily interpret the dictates of their mind, so that their language comes, as it were, dropping from their lips, even where they are encouraged by familiar entreaties, or provoked by the smartness of jests, which sudden and nimble wits have newly darted at them. Costive they are also in invention; so that when they would deliver somewhat solid and remarkable, they are long in seeking what is fit, and as long in determining in what manner and words to utter it. But, after a little consideration, they penetrate deeply into the substance of things and marrow of business, and conceive proper and emphatic words by which to express their sentiments. Barren they are not, but a little heavy and retentive.
Their gifts lie deep and concealed; but being furnished with notions, not airy and umbratil ones borrowed from the pedantism of the schools, but true and useful—and if they have been manured with good learning, and the habit of exercising their pen—oftentimes they produce many excellent conceptions, worthy to be transmitted to posterity. Having, however, an aspect very like to narrow and dull capacities, at first sight most men take them to be really such, and strangers look upon them with the eyes of neglect and contempt.
Hence it comes, that excellent parts remaining unknown, often want the favour and patronage of great persons, whereby they might be redeemed from obscurity, and raised to employments answerable to their faculties, and crowned with honours proportionate to their merits. The best course, therefore, for these to
overcome that eclipse which prejudice usually brings upon them, is to contend against their own modesty, and either, by frequent converse with noble and discerning spirits, to enlarge the windows of their minds, and dispel those clouds of reservedness that darken the lustre of their faculties; or by writing on some new and useful subject, to lay open their talent, so that the world may be convinced of their intrinsic value.
[A CONSPICUOUs place in prose literature is due to Dr. THOMAS FULLER. His most celebrated works are The Worthies of England, Church History of Great Britain, History of the Holy War, and The Profane and Holy States. Fuller was a man of great learning, and good sense, but remarkable for the quaintness of his style. His Church History, strange as it may seem, while it is a veritable and elaborate history, is not much inferior to Hudibras itself for wit and humour. The extract, containing the portrait of a good schoolmaster, is from the Profane and Holy States.]
The Good Schoolmaster.
There is scarce any profession in the commonwealth more necessary, which is so slightly performed. The reasons whereof I conceive to be these:-First, young scholars make this calling their refuge; yea, perchance, before they have taken any degree in the university, commence schoolmasters in the country,