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Originally published in book format in 1812, pp. 238-254.1
My Lord retired,––the Doctor too,
As he had nothing else to do,
Thought he would take a peep and see
His noble Patron’s Library.
So down he sat, without a care,
In a well-stuff’d Morocco chair,
And seiz’d a book, but Morpheus shed
Her poppies o’er his rev’rend head;
While Fancy would not be behind;
So play’d her tricks within his mind,
And furnish’d a most busy dream
Which Syntax made his pleasant Theme,
Soon as he met my Lord to dine
Or rather while they took their wine.
That I was in the Strand I dream’d,
And o’er my head methought there seem’d,
A flight of volumes in the air,
In various bindings gilt and fair.
The unfolded leaves expos’d to view,
Serv’d them as wings on which they flew.
In the ‘mid air they pass’d along
In stately flight a num’rous throng,
And from each book a Label fell,2
Form’d ev’ry author’s name to tell:
Nor was it long before I saw
With a fond reverential awe
The celebrated Bards and Sages
Which grac’d the Greek and Roman Ages,
All headed by a solemn fowl
Which bore the semblance of an Owl.
’Twas Pallas’ Bird who led them strait
Through Temple-Bar’s expanded Gate.
––Year-Books, Reports and sage, grave Entries,
At either Temple-gate stood sentries:
While Viner his Abridgment shows
In sixty well arm’d Folios.
The Lamb, it ba’ad, and the Horse neigh’d
In rev’rence of the cavalcade.
Near Clifford’s Inn appear’d to stand
Of Capiases an ugly band,
For when their Parchment flags appear’d,
Instant, the crowded Street was clear’d,
And the procession pass’d along,
Untroubled by a pressing throng;
While Erskine’s Pamphlet Cap-a-pee,
With many an I and many a Me,
Issued from a Serjeant’s Inn, and made
A speech to grace this grand parade.
The Stationers came forth to meet
The Stranger Forms in Ludgate-street,
Each one upon his brawny back,
Bearing a large, sheet Almanack.
For a short time the Learned train
Stopp’d before Ave-Mary-lane,
The Galen might just view the College,
The Seat of medicinal Knowledge.
Nor did they fail while to tarry
Before Saint Paul’s learn’d Seminary:
Where Lily’s Grammar did rehearse,
Propria quae Maribus in verse.
At Cheapside end there seem’d to stand
A Pageant rather huge than grand.
Ream upon Ream of Quire Stock
Appear’d like some vast, massive rock;
On its firm base the figure stood,
A composite of brass and wood.
The months and weeks around it stand,
With each a number in its hand
Of Bibles, Hist’ries and Reviews,
And Magazines from every Muse.
With coverlids of various hue,
Pea-green and red and brown and blue.
The shape was clad in Livery-Gown,
The face had neither smile nor frown,
While it held out a monstrous paunch
As fat with many a ham and haunch.
Two Printer’s Devils o’er his head
A crimson canvas widely spread,
Whereon was writ in gilded show,
GENIUS OF PATER NOSTER ROW.
Now as they came near the Old-Jewry,––
Like Dulness, work’d into a Fury,
A vulgar shape appear’d, who flew
On pinions mark’d with ONE and TWO,
And other items which denote,
That four-pence is well worth a groat.
It seem’d to lead a numerous train
Who render’d further passage vain.
Strait he came forward to produce
A Blank Sheet as a Flag of Truce.
By him two flutt’ring Pamphlets bore
Standards with figures cover’d o’er:
A gilt Pence-table grac’d the one,
The Price of Stocks on t’other shone.
A picquet guard of valuations,
And Int’rest tables shook their stations
Around the leader, who drew nigh,
To make his bold soliloquy.
But, e’er he speaks, my proper course is
Just to describe the city forces
Bill Books and Cash Books form’d the van,
An active and num’rous clan:
The Journals follow’d them, whose skill
Was exercis’d in daily drill.
On either side appear’d to range
Unpaid Accounts, Bills of Exchange
And Files of Banker’s Checks: ––these three
Manoev’red as light infantry:––
While ev’ry other trading book
Its regular position took.
While Quires of Blotting Paper stood,
To suck up any flow of blood.––
The Ledgers the main body form
Arm’d to resist the coming storm;
Whose pond’rous shapes could boldly show
A steady phalanx to the flow.
Discord appear’d with base intent
The hostile spirit to foment.
Not Discord that precedes the car
Of Mars whene’er he goes to war,
But of a different rank and nation,
Known by the name of Litigation;
Born on some foul attorney’s desk;
Bred but to harass and perplex:
Whose appetite is for dispute,
And has no wish but for a suit.
She rose upon a Grander’s wing,
And round about began to fling,
Pleas, Declarations, and each bit
Of Parchment that could form a Writ.
The News-papers with pen in hand,
In the balconies took their stand;
Waiting with that impartial spirit,
Which all well know they all inherit,
To make the hurry of the Battle
Through all their day’s columns rattle;
And, with one conscience, to prepare
The His’try of this Paper war.
The Herald now the silence broke.
’Twas mighty COCKER’S self who spoke
And thus to Pallas’ Bird address’d
The solemn purpose of his breast
“I state my claim to ask and know
From whence you come and where you go:
And by what licence you appear
With all your foreign Pagans here.
Come you with all the Cavalcade
T’ insult the Vehicles of Trade;
And our dear, home-bred rights invade?
A mighty force awaits you here
To check and punish your career.
And I am order’d by my masters,
Who fear disturbance and disasters,
To bid you quickly turn about,
From London streets to take your rout,
Or we shall bravely turn you out.
My name is COCKER which is known
In ev’ry Counting-House in Town.
Nay such my use and reputation
I am respected through the nation.
Yes I’m the Father, I who speak,
Of Mercantile Arithmetic.
Source of a Race that doth outvie
Your Greek and Latin Progeny.
And now I hope that in a crack
You’ll send an humble answer back
Or else expect a fierce attack.
I’ll count twice two and then add four,
That time I’ll give but give no more.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.––
I’ve done, and I’ll no longer wait.”
The Bird of Pallas who could speak,
In English or in Attic Greek
As suited best,––did not prolong
His answers in the Vulgar Tongue.
“’Twas a petition duly made
By certain of your Sons of Trade,
To beg my mistress would permit
That they should buy a little wit,
And might import, though in defiance
Of common rules, a little Science.
I ask not, if ’twas their intent
To gain a name or ten per Cent.;––
Whether ’tis wisdom or misdoing,
Whether ’twill prove their good or ruin;
Or the result of common sense,
Or a shrewd, mercantile presence.
Whether ’tis Interest or Pride
That turns them from old rules aside;
That urges them to tax their trade
For off’ringes to th’ immortal maid;––
These self same matters, to be free,
Are, Mister Cocker, nought to me,
’Tis by Minerva’s high command,
That I conduct this Classic Band,
’Tis she commands, and we obey;
Nor shall you stop us on our way.
Whether it does or does not suit
Your pleasure,––to the Institute
We’ll go, you calculating brute
Say will your low born volumes dare
With these brave vet’rans to compare.
What’s all this bustle, all thus fuss?
Think you they can contend with us?
They who are slaves so base and willing
Of any pound and pence and shilling:
As the pen gives they forced to drink
The venal dips of any ink;
And when they’re fill’d their lives expire,
Consign’d to light a kitchen fire;
Or sent away to such vile use;
We’ll sweep them from the face of day.
At the same time we wish for peace,
And that your saucy threats may cease.
We do not mean to mock the city
With any hopes of being witty;
We do not bring our learned powers
To vex its speculating hours.
Or with poetic visions cross
Your Schemes of Profit and of Loss.
We did not first suggest the deed,
To bring you books, you cannot read.
Meetings were form’d and speeches made,
And all by weighty men of trade,
To frame the unforseen request;
And surely we have done our best;
When we each Classic did provide,
With a Translation by its side.
––Dryden is ready to rehearse
All Virgil’s work in English verse,
And Grecian Homer rests his Hope,
Of being understood, from Pope.
Leland will give you if you please,
The speeches of Demosthenes:
And Northern Guthrie will bestow
The Eloquence of Cicero.
To Thomas Styles and John a Nokes,
Carr will repeat old Lucian’s Jokes.
While Juvenal’s sharp satire shines
In William Giffard’s rival Lines.
Colman and Thornton will convey
Right notions of a Latin Play.
Whate’er the ancient Critics wrote,
You may now in plain English quote.
And drink Pye’s health, when o’er the bottle,
For Anglicising Aristotle.
Nay, all the Ancient Bards have sung,
You may now sing in Vulgar Tongue.
What could we more, so cease your riot,
And let us pass along in quiet.
Dismiss your Couting-house parade;
Send off these cumbrous tomes of trade;
Back to their counters let them roam,
And sip their ink and stay at home;
Nor e’er again their threats oppose
To Grecian and to Roman Foes.”
“Fools may be found, I do not doubt it,
Within this city as without it.
This truth, indeed, is very clear,
For they were fools who brought you here.
I pray thee tell me what has wit
To do with any plodding cit?
Of wit he knows not what is meant
Unless ’tis found in cent. per cent.
Learning a drug has always been;
No Warehouseman will take it in.
Should practic’d Mercers quit their satin,
To look at Greek and long for Latin!
Should the pert, upstart Merchant’s boy,
Behold the Tower and think on Troy?
Should City Praters leave their tools,
To talk by Ciceronian rules,
And should our meetings at Guildhall
Be puzzled with your Classic brawl.
I treat the name of Rome with scorn,
Give me the Commerce of Leghorn.
From Italy’s prolific shore,
The wond’rous science was brought o’er,
The bright invention which convey’d
Such vast facilities to trade.
The DOUBLE ENTRY far outlives
All pictur’d, sculptured fantasies:
And sure I am his honour’d name
Deserves a brighter wreath of Fame,
To whose keen mind the scheme occur’d,
Than e’er was won by Conqu’ror’s sword.
What did the Greeks pray, know of trade?
Ulysses, as I’ve heard it said
Was full ten months obliged to roam,
Before he brought his cargo home:
A voyage in that self same sea,
Our coasting brigs would make in three.
The INSTITUTION was display’d,
As a mere trump’ry trick of trade
Deck’d out ’tis true with great parade;
And you are coming, as a bribe,
To make our purse-proud cit subscribe;
And aid the primary intent
Of dividends of ten per cent.––
We have our pedant tradesmen too,
Who talk as if they something knew,
And Learning’s cud pretend to chew.
Who get cramp words, and court the Muse
In Magazines and in Reviews.
Yes we have those whose priggish rage is,
Not to read books, but title-pages:
Who spare no cost in drink and meat
To furnish out a tempting treat
That may attract an Attic train
To Mincing or to Philpot-lane.
Who snatch the feast, and go away
To mock the patron of the day.
There are who strive to have it thought,
That they have minds with Learning fraught;
But if they have so small discerning,
To interrupt their trade with Learning;
The day will come, when they’ll be found
With certain shillings in the pound.
But to be brief,––consult your fame,
And go back gravely as you came:
Or we shall send you somewhat faster;
Nor for your wounds afford a plaster.
––Look at that form which soars in air,
And shines like a protentous star;
It is the armorial symbol bright
Of a renown’d commercial Knight,
Who ask’d no other, higher fame,
Than doth befit a Mercant’s name.
See how its ensign is unfurl’d
O’er the Emporium of the world,
And does with threat’ning aspect view,
The Bird of Pallas and his Crew.
While in its motions we descry
The sure presage of Victory.
Yes on success I calculate
As sure as four and four makes eight.
Thus I have clearly stated the amount,
Errors excepted, of my just account.”
Good Mister Cocker I have heard,
All that your wisdom has preferr’d;
And I entreat you’ll turn your head
In which such numbers have been bred,
And see an eastern wind prevail,
To make your grasshopper turn tail;
From which my wise soothsayer draws
An Omen fatal to your cause,
And you may hear his tongue proclaim
Your boobies will all do the same.
But talking is of little use,––
Therefore at once I break the truce.”
As Critics now when call’d to duel,
Disdainful of the common fuel,
No more with shot or bullet vapour,
But wound with ink, or kill with paper,
Both sides for conflict dire prepare,––
And thus commenc’d the threaten’d war.
Euclid at Master Cocker flew,
Whom, by one stroke, he overthrew,
Then with a knotty problem bound him;
And left him struggling where he found him.
Caesar with all his Latins pounc’d
On the light parties, whom they trounc’d,
And soon a dreadful havoc made
Of Bills that never would be paid.
While Banker’s Checks made quick retreat,
And huddled into Lombard-Street.
With equal force the Greeks attack,
And drove the heavy legions back.
Ledgers and Journals lay all scatter’d;
Bill-Books and Cash-Books were bespatter’d.
Short was the contest; struck with dread
Confus’d the City forces fled.
For aid on Stationers they call,
But they were busy at their hall:
And this same hall their trade-craft found
To be a kind of neutral ground.
For they conceiv’d the havoc made,
Might serve the paper-making trade.
To side with either they were loth,
In hopes to profit from them both.
The Postman now his clarion blew;
His blasts were vain,––they would not do;––
The Letter-books disorder’d flew.
While Pindar from Blow-steeple clock
Look’d down, and as he view’d the shock
Chaunted, nor did he chaunt in vain,
A loud, and animating strain.
Forth from the Bank a troop was sent
Of threes and fours and fives per cent.;
But they ran off, nor struck a blow;
For stocks that day were very low.
The Policies remain’d secure,
Waiting for arms of signature:
For what brave spirit, e’er would fight ‘em,
When nobody would underwrite ‘em.
And now, these doughty cits were beat;
Down ev’ry lane, up ev’ry street;
But met to form each broken rank,
Before the Portals of the Bank:
There they a solemn council hold,
Whether, by added strength grown bold,
To a new contest they should come,
Or sneak away disbanded home.
Thus the old Classics having beast
The vulgar foe, sought Coleman-street;
But as they pass’d, a numerous host
At Coopers’-hall, had taken post.
Two blue-coated urchins play’d the fife
Which call’d them to the martial strife,
When, stead of pointed darts and lances,
They pelted the Antiques with Chances.
But Fortune who is ever blind,
Turn’d short and left her bands behind:––
Their Leader lost, away they steal,
And hide their numbers in the wheel.
At length the Classic Sages greet
Their Parthenonian retreat:
But while the echoing walls around
With Io Paeans loud resound;
Again the vengeful foes appear’d,
Again their angry standards rear’d.
“Must we once more,” the Ancients said,
O’ercome these frantic imps of trade.
Is there no power will save our race
From war, where conquest is disgrace?”
The Greek’s then call’d on PORSON’S name:
The Latins echoed back the same,
And strait, in Grecian stole array’d,
Appear’d his venerable Shade.
Homer went down upon his knees,
And so did Tragic Sophocles,
With all the names that end in
“Hail sacred tomes!” he said, “to you
I grateful ow’d whate’er I knew:
From you I gain’d my mortal fame;
The honour’s of a scholar’s name:
To give the immortal power I owe,
To give the aid I now bestow.
I come from that celestial Hall
Where they all dwell, who wrote you all.
He spoke––and lo! a Volume came
Of size immense and rueful name.
Its back no verbal title bore;
But num’rous dates of time long o’er;––
While on its letter’d sides appears,
“LONDON GAZETTES for FIFTY YEARS!!”
Strait to the flow that all aloof
Flutter’d about each neighb’ring roof
It did full many a page unfold,
And show Whereas, and cried “behold!”
While that same word, upon the walls
Blaz’d forth in flaming Capitals.
Whereas, a thousand voices rung,
And on the wing there upwards sprung
A flight of Dockets, who were join’d
By dire Certificates unsign’d.
These saw the foes, and, chill’d with dread,
Trembled and shriek’d aloud, and fled.
The Ghost now vanish’d from the view;
The Bird of Pallas vanish’d too.
And then I thought the Classic elves
Instinctive sought their proper shelves,
Where undisturb’d each learned Tome,
Might slumber to the Day of Doom.
A woke and felt a real glee
At this same fancied victory.
Nor would I change my Classic Lore,
Poor as I am, for all the store
Which plodding, anxious trade can give,
IN constant doubt and fear to live.
My treasures are all well secur’d,
I want them not to be insur’d,––
My Greek and Latin are immur’d
Within the Warehouse of my brain;
And there in safety they remain.
My little cargo’s lodg’d at home
Where storms and tempests never come.
Learning will give an unmix’d pleasure,
Which gold can’t buy, and trade can’t measure.
But each within his destin’d station:––––
Learning’s my pride and consolation.
That high-form’d inmate of the soul,
Which, as the changing seasons roll,
Acquires new strength, preserves its power,
And smiles in Life’s extremest hour.
The learned man, let who will flout him,
Doth always carry it about him:
And should he idly fail to use it;
Though it may rust, he will not loose it.
Fortune may leave off her caressing,
But she can’t rob him of the blessing.
Full many a comfort money gives;
But ask him who for money lives,
Whether he other pleasures shares,
Than sordid joys and golden cares?
How oft I’ve pass’d an evening hour
Within an hawthorn’s humble bower,
And read aloud each charming line,
That doth in Virgil’s Georgies shine.
Though wealth pass’d by in stately guise,
I felt no rankling Envy rise;
Nor could the show my mind engage
From the Immortal Poet’s Page.
When homeward as I used to stray,
Along some unfrequented way;
Enraptur’d as I stroll’d along,
With Philomel’s evening song.
I felt what worldliness never share,
Oblivion of all human care.
Such hours are few, but well I know,
That Learning can those hours bestow.
My Lord continued the debate:––
And time pass’d on in pleasant prate
Till night broke up the Tête-à-tête.
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1. Combe refers to this added section in preface to 1812a: “The Battle of the Books was an after thought; and forms the Novelty of this volume.”
2. In 1812a this plate was placed within Chapter XXIV, after the line, “Aptly forbodes the coming joke–––”. The placement here has been emended from 1812b.