The Dunciad, Book 4

By Alexander Pope

Edited and annotated by Jack Lynch

Pope first published his mock-epic Dunciad in three "books" in 1728. In the following year, he released a new version, the Dunciad Variorum, including long mock-scholarly prefaces by "Martinus Scriblerus" and endless pedantic notes falsely attributed to his enemies. (Pope pretends the poem is an ancient epic that needs a modern scholarly commentary.) In 1743 he published The New Dunciad, a fourth book, and in 1744 he republished the whole as The Dunciad in Four Books. The 1744 version is a thorough revision of the original poem in three books; among other things, the "hero" of the poem has been changed from Lewis Theobald to Colley Cibber (see notes to lines 20 and 532).

The Dunciad is a dense and demanding poem. Pope's eighteenth-century poetic diction is challenging enough; even harder are the poem's form, with its parody of pedantic scholarship, and its references to dozens of forgotten names. Jonathan Swift, to whom The Dunciad was dedicated, warned Pope that "twenty miles from London nobody understands hints, initial letters, or town facts and passages; and in a few years not even those who live in London."

This is 1743 edition of book 4, including a selection of Pope's notes from various editions (all attributed to him). My own notes don't try to explain every reference and allusion, but to point out the more important facts and define the more difficult words. A few Greek words have been transliterated.


The Poet being, in this Book, to declare the Completion of the Prophecies mention'd at the end of the former, makes a new Invocation; as the greater Poets are wont, when some high and worthy matter is to be sung. He shews the Goddess coming in her Majesty, to destroy Order and Science, and to substitute the Kingdom of the Dull upon earth. How she leads captive the Sciences, and silenceth the Muses; and what they be who succeed in their stead. All her Children, by a wonderful attraction, are drawn about her; and bear along with them divers others, who promote her Empire by connivance, weak resistance, or discouragement of Arts; such as Half-wits, tasteless Admirers, vain Pretenders, the Flatterers of Dunces, or the Patrons of them. All these crowd round her; one of them offering to approach her, is driven back by a Rival, but she commends and encourages both. The first who speak in form are the Genius's of the Schools, who assure her of their care to advance her Cause, by confining Youth to Words, and keeping them out of the way of real Knowledge. Their Address, and her gracious Answer; with her Charge to them and the Universities. The Universities appear by their proper Deputies, and assure her that the same method is observ'd in the progress of Education; The speech of Aristarchus on this subject. They are driven off by a band of young Gentlemen return'd from Travel with their Tutors; one of whom delivers to the Goddess, in a polite oration, an account of the whole Conduct and Fruits of their Travels: presenting to her at the same time a young Nobleman perfectly accomplished. She receives him graciously, and indues him with the happy quality of Want of Shame. She sees loitering about her a number of Indolent Persons abandoning all business and duty, and dying with laziness: To these approaches the Antiquary Annius, intreating her to make them Virtuosos, and assign them over to him: But Mummius, another Antiquary, complaining of his fraudulent proceeding, she finds a method to reconcile their difference. Then enter a Troop of people fantastically adorn'd, offering her strange and exotic presents: Amongst them, one stands forth and demands justice on another, who had deprived him of one of the greatest Curiosities in nature: but he justifies himself so well, that the Goddess gives them both her approbation. She recommends to them to find proper employment for the Indolents before-mentioned, in the study of Butterflies, Shells, Birds-nests, Moss, &c. but with particular caution, not to proceed beyond Trifles, to any useful or extensive views of Nature, or of the Author of Nature. Against the last of these apprehensions, she is secured by a hearty Address from the Minute Philosophers and Freethinkers, one of whom speaks in the name of the rest. The Youth thus instructed and principled, are delivered to her in a body, by the hands of Silenus; and then admitted to taste the Cup of the Magus her High Priest, which causes a total oblivion of all Obligations, divine, civil, moral, or rational. To these her Adepts she sends Priests, Attendants, and Comforters, of various kinds; confers on them Orders and Degrees; and then dismissing them with a speech, confirming to each his Privileges and telling what she expects from each, concludes with a Yawn of extraordinary virtue: 1  The Progress and Effects whereof on all Orders of men, and the Consummation of all, in the Restoration of Night and Chaos, conclude the Poem.

Yet, yet a moment, one dim Ray of Light
Indulge, dread Chaos, and eternal Night!

   Of darkness visible so much be lent, 2 
As half to shew, half veil the deep Intent.
Ye Pow'rs! whose Mysteries restor'd I sing, [5]
To whom Time bears me on his rapid wing,
Suspend a while your Force inertly strong,
Then take at once the Poet and the Song.

   Now flam'd the Dog-star's unpropitious ray, 3 
Smote ev'ry Brain, and wither'd ev'ry Bay; 4  [10]
Sick was the Sun, the Owl forsook his bow'r, 5 
The moon-struck 6  Prophet felt the madding hour:
Then rose the Seed of Chaos, and of Night,
To blot out Order, and extinguish Light,
Of dull and venal a new World to mold, [15]
And bring Saturnian days of Lead and Gold. 7 

   She mounts the Throne: her head a Cloud conceal'd,
In broad Effulgence all below reveal'd, 8 
('Tis thus aspiring Dulness ever shines)
Soft on her lap her Laureat son reclines. 9  [20]

   Beneath her foot-stool, Science 10  groans in Chains,
And Wit dreads Exile, Penalties and Pains.
There foam'd rebellious Logic, gagg'd and bound,
There, stript, fair Rhet'ric languish'd on the ground;
His blunted Arms by Sophistry 11  are born, [25]
And shameless Billingsgate 12  her Robes adorn.
Morality, by her false Guardians drawn,
Chicane in Furs, and Casuistry in Lawn, 13 
Gasps, as they straiten at each end the cord,
And dies, when Dulness gives her Page the word. 14  [30]
Mad Mathesis 15  alone was unconfin'd,
Too mad for mere material chains to bind,
Now to pure Space lifts her extatic stare,
Now running round the Circle, finds it square. 16 
But held in ten-fold bonds the Muses lie, [35]
Watch'd both by Envy's and by Flatt'ry's eye: 17 
There to her heart sad Tragedy addrest
The dagger wont to pierce the Tyrant's breast;
But sober History restrain'd her rage,
And promis'd Vengeance on a barb'rous age. [40]
There sunk Thalia, 18  nerveless, cold, and dead,
Had not her Sister Satyr held her head:
Nor cou'd'st thou, Chesterfield! 19  a tear refuse,
Thou wept'st, and with thee wept each gentle Muse.

   When lo! a Harlot form soft sliding by, 20  [45]
With mincing step, small voice, and languid eye;
Foreign her air, her robe's discordant pride
In patch-work flutt'ring, and her head aside:
By singing Peers 21  up-held on either hand,
She tripp'd and laugh'd, too pretty much to stand; [50]
Cast on the prostrate Nine 22  a scornful look,
Then thus in quaint Recitativo 23  spoke.

   O Cara! Cara! silence all that train: 24 
Joy to great Chaos! let Division reign: 25 
Chromatic 26  tortures soon shall drive them hence, [55]
Break all their nerves, and fritter all their sense:
One Trill shall harmonize joy, grief, and rage,
Wake the dull Church, and lull the ranting Stage;
To the same notes thy sons shall hum, or snore,
And all thy yawning daughters cry, encore. [60]
Another Ph bus, thy own Ph bus, reigns, 27 
Joys in my jiggs, and dances in my chains.
But soon, ah soon Rebellion will commence,
If Music meanly borrows aid from Sense:
Strong in new Arms, lo! Giant Handel stands, 28  [65]
Like bold Briareus, with a hundred hands; 29 
To stir, to rouze, to shake the Soul he comes,
And Jove's own Thunders follow Mars's Drums.
Arrest him, Empress; or you sleep no more—
She heard, and drove him to th'Hibernian shore. 30  [70]

   And now had Fame's posterior Trumpet blown, 31 
And all the Nations summon'd to the Throne.
The young, the old, who feel her inward sway,
One instinct seizes, and transports away.
None need a guide, by sure Attraction led, [75]
And strong impulsive gravity of Head:
None want a place, for all their Centre found,
Hung to the Goddess, and coher'd around. 32 
Not closer, orb in orb, conglob'd are seen
The buzzing Bees about their dusky Queen. [80]

   The gath'ring number, as it moves along,
Involves a vast involuntary throng,
Who gently drawn, and struggling less and less,
Roll in her Vortex, and her pow'r confess.
Not those alone who passive own 33  her laws, [85]
But who, weak rebels, more advance her cause.
Whate'er of dunce in College or in Town
Sneers at another, in toupee 34  or gown;
Whate'er of mungril no one class admits,
A wit with dunces, and a dunce with wits. [90]

   Nor absent they, no members of her state,
Who pay her homage in her sons, the Great;
Who false to Ph bus, bow the knee to Baal; 35 
Or impious, preach his Word without a call.
Patrons, who sneak from living worth to dead, [95]
With-hold the pension, and set up the head; 36 
Or vest dull Flatt'ry in the sacred Gown;
Or give from fool to fool the Laurel crown. 37 
And (last and worst) with all the cant 38  of wit,
Without the soul, the Muse's Hypocrit. [100]

   There march'd the bard and blockhead, side by side,
Who rhym'd for hire, and patroniz'd for pride.
Narcissus, 39  prais'd with all a Parson's pow'r,
Look'd a white lilly sunk beneath a show'r.
There mov'd Montalto 40  with superior air; [105]
His stretch'd-out arm display'd a Volume fair;
Courtiers and Patriots in two ranks divide,
Thro' both he pass'd, and bow'd from side to side:
But as in graceful act, with awful eye
Compos'd he stood, bold Benson thrust him by: [110]
On two unequal crutches propt he came,
Milton's on this, on that one Johnston's name.
The decent Knight retir'd with sober rage,
"What! no respect, he cry'd, for Shakespear's page?"
But (happy for him as the times went then) [115]
Appear'd Apollo's May'r and Aldermen,
On whom three hundred gold-capt youths 41  await,
To lug the pond'rous volume off in state.

   When Dulness, smiling — "Thus revive the Wits!
But murder first, and mince them all to bits; [120]
As erst Medea (cruel, so to save!)
A new Edition of old ’son gave. 42 
Let standard-Authors, thus, like trophies born,
Appear more glorious as more hack'd and torn,
And you, my Critics! in the checquer'd shade, [125]
Admire new light thro' holes yourselves have made.

   Leave not a foot of verse, 43  a foot of stone,
A Page, a Grave, that they can call their own;
But spread, my sons, your glory thin or thick,
On passive paper, or on solid brick. [130]
So by each Bard an Alderman shall sit, 44 
A heavy Lord shall hang at ev'ry Wit,
And while on Fame's triumphal Car 45  they ride,
Some Slave of mine be pinion'd to their side.

   Now crowds on crowds around the Goddess press, [135]
Each eager to present the first Address.
Dunce scorning Dunce beholds the next advance,
But Fop shews Fop superior complaisance.
When lo! a Spectre rose, 46  whose index-hand
Held forth the Virtue of the dreadful Wand; 47  [140]
His beaver'd 48  brow a birchen garland wears,
Dropping with Infant's blood, and Mother's tears. 49 
O'er ev'ry vein a shudd'ring horror runs;
Eton and Winton shake thro' all their Sons.
All Flesh is humbled, Westminster's bold race 50  [145]
Shrink, and confess the Genius 51  of the place:
The pale Boy-Senator yet tingling stands,
And holds his breeches close with both his hands.

   Then thus. Since Man from beast by Words is known,
Words are Man's province, Words we teach alone. [150]
When Reason doubtful, like the Samian letter, 52 
Points him two ways, the narrower is the better.
Plac'd at the door of Learning, youth to guide,
We never suffer 53  it to stand too wide.
To ask, to guess, to know, as they commence, [155]
As Fancy opens the quick springs of Sense, 54 
We ply the Memory, we load the brain,
Bind rebel Wit, and double chain on chain,
Confine the thought, to exercise the breath;
And keep them in the pale 55  of Words till death. [160]
Whate'er the talents, or howe'er design'd,
We hang one jingling padlock on the mind:
A Poet the first day, he dips his quill;
And what the last? a very Poet still.
Pity! the charm works only in our wall, [165]
Lost, lost too soon in yonder House or Hall. 56 
There truant Wyndham ev'ry Muse gave o'er,
There Talbot sunk, and was a Wit no more!
How sweet an Ovid, Murray was our boast!
How many Martials were in Pult'ney lost! 57  [170]
Else sure some Bard, to our eternal praise,
In twice ten thousand rhyming nights and days,
Had reach'd the Work, the All that mortal can;
And South beheld that Master-piece of Man.

   Oh (cry'd the Goddess) for some pedant Reign! [175]
Some gentle James, 58  to bless the land again;
To stick the Doctor's Chair into the Throne,
Give law to Words, or war with Words alone,
Senates and Courts with Greek and Latin rule,
And turn the Council to a Grammar School! [180]
For sure, if Dulness sees a grateful 59  Day,
'Tis in the shade of Arbitrary Sway. 60 
O! if my sons may learn one earthly thing,
Teach but that one, sufficient for a King;
That which my Priests, and mine alone, maintain, [185]
Which as it dies, or lives, we fall, or reign:
May you, may Cam, and Isis preach it long! 61 
"The Right Divine of Kings to govern wrong." 62 

   Prompt at the Call, around the Goddess roll
Broad hats, and hoods, and caps, a sable shoal: 63  [190]
Thick and more thick the black blockade extends,
A hundred head of Aristotle's friends.
Nor wert thou, Isis! wanting to the day,
[Tho' Christ-church long kept prudishly away.] 64 
Each staunch Polemic, stubborn as a rock, [195]
Each fierce Logician, still expelling Locke, 65 
Came whip and spur, and dash'd thro' thin and thick
On German Crouzaz, and Dutch Burgersdyck. 66 
As many quit the streams that murm'ring fall
To lull the sons of Marg'ret and Clare-hall, 67  [200]
Where Bentley 68  late tempestuous wont to sport
In troubled waters, but now sleeps in Port.
Before them march'd that awful Aristarch;
Plow'd was his front with many a deep Remark:
His Hat, which never vail'd to human pride, [205]
Walker 69  with rev'rence took, and lay'd aside.
Low bow'd the rest: He, kingly, did but nod;
So upright Quakers please both Man and God. 70 
Mistress! dismiss that rabble from your throne:
Avaunt — is Aristarchus 71  yet unknown? [210]
Thy mighty Scholiast, 72  whose unweary'd pains
Made Horace dull, and humbled Milton's strains. 73 
Turn what they will to Verse, their toil is vain,
Critics like me shall make it Prose again.
Roman and Greek Grammarians! know your Better: [215]
Author of something yet more great than Letter;
While tow'ring o'er your Alphabet, like Saul,
Stands our Digamma, and o'er-tops them all. 74 
'Tis true, on Words is still our whole debate,
Disputes of Me or Te, of aut or at, [220]
To sound or sink in cano, O or A,
Or give up Cicero to C or K. 75 
Let Freind affect to speak as Terence spoke,
And Alsop never but like Horace joke: 76 
For me, what Virgil, Pliny may deny, [225]
Manilius or Solinus shall supply: 77 
For Attic Phrase in Plato let them seek,
I poach in Suidas for unlicens'd Greek.
In ancient Sense if any needs will deal,
Be sure I give them Fragments, not a Meal; [230]
What Gellius or Stobæus hash'd before, 78 
Or chew'd by blind old Scholiasts o'er and o'er.
The critic Eye, that microscope of Wit,
Sees hairs and pores, examines bit by bit:
How parts relate to parts, or they to whole, [235]
The body's harmony, the beaming soul,
Are things which Kuster, Burman, Wasse shall see, 79 
When Man's whole frame is obvious to a Flea.

   Ah, think not, Mistress! more true Dulness lies
In Folly's Cap, than Wisdom's grave disguise. [240]
Like buoys, that never sink into the flood,
On Learning's surface we but lie and nod.
Thine is the genuine head of many a house,
And much Divinity without a . 80 
Nor could a Barrow work on ev'ry block, [245]
Nor has one Atterbury spoil'd the flock. 81 
See! still thy own, the heavy Canon roll, 82 
And Metaphysic smokes involve the Pole.
For thee we dim the eyes, and stuff the head
With all such reading as was never read: [250]
For thee explain a thing till all men doubt it,
And write about it, Goddess, and about it:
So spins the silk-worm small its slender store,
And labours till it clouds itself all o'er.

   What tho' 83  we let some better sort of fool [255]
Thrid ev'ry science, run thro' ev'ry school?
Never by tumbler thro' the hoops was shown
Such skill in passing all, and touching none.
He may indeed (if sober all this time)
Plague with Dispute, or persecute with Rhyme. [260]
We only furnish what he cannot use,
Or wed to what he must divorce, a Muse:
Full in the midst of Euclid 84  dip at once,
And petrify a Genius to a Dunce:
Or set on Metaphysic ground to prance, [265]
Show all his paces, not a step advance.
With the same Cement, ever sure to bind,
We bring to one dead level ev'ry mind.
Then take him to devellop, if you can,
And hew the Block off, and get out the Man. [270]
But wherefore waste I words? I see advance
Whore, Pupil, and lac'd Governor from France.
Walker! our hat — nor more he deign'd to say,
But, stern as Ajax' spectre, strode away.

   In flow'd at once a gay embroider'd race, [275]
And titt'ring push'd the Pedants off the place: 85 
Some would have spoken, but the voice was drown'd
By the French horn, or by the op'ning hound.
The first came forwards, with as easy mien,
As if he saw St. James's 86  and the Queen. [280]
When thus th'attendant Orator begun.
Receive, great Empress! thy accomplish'd Son:
Thine from the birth, and sacred from the rod,
A dauntless infant! never scar'd with God.
The Sire saw, one by one, his Virtues wake: [285]
The Mother begg'd the blessing of a Rake.
Thou gav'st that Ripeness, which so soon began,
And ceas'd so soon, he ne'er was Boy, nor Man.
Thro' School and College, thy kind cloud o'ercast,
Safe and unseen the young ’neas past: [290]
Thence bursting glorious, all at once let down,
Stunn'd with his giddy Larum half the town. 87 
Intrepid then, o'er seas and lands he flew:
Europe he saw, and Europe saw him too.
There all thy gifts and graces we display, [295]
Thou, only thou, directing all our way!
To where the Seine, obsequious as she runs,
Pours at great Bourbon's feet her silken sons;
Or Tyber, now no longer Roman, rolls,
Vain of Italian Arts, Italian Souls: [300]
To happy Convents, bosom'd deep in vines,
Where slumber Abbots, purple as their wines:
To Isles of fragrance, lilly-silver'd vales,
Diffusing languor in the panting gales:
To lands of singing, or of dancing slaves, [305]
Love-whisp'ring woods, and lute-resounding waves.
But chief her shrine where naked Venus keeps,
And Cupids ride the Lyon of the Deeps;
Where, eas'd of Fleets, the Adriatic main
Wafts the smooth Eunuch and enamour'd swain. [310]
Led by my hand, he saunter'd Europe round,
And gather'd ev'ry Vice on Christian ground;
Saw ev'ry Court, hear'd ev'ry King declare
His royal Sense, of Op'ra's or the Fair;
The Stews 88  and Palace equally explor'd, [315]
Intrigu'd with glory, and with spirit whor'd;
Try'd all hors-d' uvres, all Liqueurs defin'd,
Judicious drank, and greatly-daring din'd;
Dropt the dull lumber 89  of the Latin store,
Spoil'd his own Language, and acquir'd no more; [320]
All Classic learning lost on Classic ground;
And last turn'd Air, the Eccho of a Sound!
See now, half-cur'd, and perfectly well-bred,
With nothing but a Solo in his head;
As much Estate, and Principle, and Wit, [325]
As Jansen, Fleetwood, Cibber shall think fit; 90 
Stol'n 91  from a Duel, follow'd by a Nun,
And, if a Borough chuse him, not undone; 92 
See, to my country happy I restore
This glorious Youth, and add one Venus more. [330]
Her too receive (for her my soul adores)
So may the sons of sons of sons of whores,
Prop thine, O Empress! like each neighbour Throne,
And make a long Posterity thy own.

   Pleas'd, she accepts the Hero, and the Dame, [335]
Wraps in her Veil, and frees from sense of Shame.

   Then look'd, and saw a lazy, lolling sort,
Unseen at Church, at Senate, or at Court,
Of ever-listless Loit'rers, that attend
No Cause, no Trust, no Duty, and no Friend. [340]
Thee too, my Paridel! 93  she mark'd thee there,
Stretch'd on the rack of a too easy chair,
And heard thy everlasting yawn confess
The Pains and Penalties of Idleness.
She pity'd! but her Pity only shed [345]
Benigner influence on thy nodding head.

   But Annius, 94  crafty Seer, with ebon wand,
And well-dissembl'd Em'rald on his hand,
False as his Gems and canker'd as his Coins,
Came, cramm'd with Capon, 95  from where Pollio dines. [350]
Soft, as the wily Fox is seen to creep,
Where bask on sunny banks the simple sheep,
Walk round and round, now prying here, now there;
So he; but pious, whisper'd first his pray'r.

   Grant, gracious Goddess! grant me still to cheat, [355]
O may thy cloud still cover the deceit!
Thy choicer mists on this assembly shed,
But pour them thickest on the noble head.
So shall each youth, assisted by our eyes,
See other Cæsars, other Homers rise; [360]
Thro' twilight ages hunt th'Athenian fowl,
Which Chalcis Gods, and mortals call an Owl,
Now see an Attys, now a Cecrops clear, 96 
Nay, Mahomet! 97  the Pigeon at thine ear;
Be rich in ancient brass, tho' not in gold, [365]
And keep his Lares, 98  tho' his house be sold;
To headless Ph be his fair bride postpone,
Honour a Syrian Prince above his own;
Lord of an Otho, if I vouch it true;
Blest in one Niger, till he knows of two. [370]

   Mummius 99  o'erheard him; Mummius, Fool-renown'd,
Who like his Cheops stinks above the ground,
Fierce as a startled Adder, swell'd, and said,
Rattling an ancient Sistrum at his head. 100 

   Speak'st thou of Syrian Princes? Traitor base! [375]
Mine, Goddess! mine is all the horned race.
True, he had wit, to make their value rise;
From foolish Greeks to steal them, was as wise;
More glorious yet, from barb'rous hands to keep,
When Sallee Rovers 101  chac'd him on the deep. [380]
Then taught by Hermes, and divinely bold,
Down his own throat he risqu'd the Grecian gold;
Receiv'd each Demi-God, with pious care,
Deep in his Entrails — I rever'd them there,
I bought them, shrouded in that living shrine, [385]
And, at their second birth, they issue mine.

   Witness great Ammon! by whose horns I swore,
(Reply'd soft Annius) this our paunch before
Still bears them, faithful; and that thus I eat,
Is to refund the Medals with the meat. [390]
To prove me, Goddess! clear of all design,
Bid me with Pollio sup, as well as dine:
There all the Learn'd shall at the labour stand,
And Douglas lend his soft, obstetric hand.

   The Goddess smiling seem'd to give consent; [395]
So back to Pollio, hand in hand, they went.

   Then thick as Locusts black'ning all the ground,
A tribe, with weeds and shells fantastic crown'd,
Each with some wond'rous gift approach'd the Pow'r,
A Nest, a Toad, a Fungus, or a Flow'r. [400]
But far the foremost, two, with earnest zeal,
And aspect ardent to the Throne appeal.

   The first thus open'd: Hear thy suppliant's call,
Great Queen, and common Mother of us all!
Fair from its humble bed I rear'd this Flow'r, [405]
Suckled, and chear'd, with air, and sun, and show'r,
Soft on the paper ruff its leaves I spread,
Bright with the gilded button tipt its head,
Then thron'd in glass, and nam'd it Caroline: 102 
Each Maid cry'd, charming! and each Youth, divine! [410]
Did Nature's pencil 103  ever blend such rays,
Such vary'd light in one promiscuous 104  blaze?
Now prostrate! dead! behold that Caroline:
No Maid cries, charming! and no Youth, divine!
And lo the wretch! whose vile, whose insect lust [415]
Lay'd this gay daughter of the Spring in dust.
Oh punish him, or to th'Elysian shades
Dismiss my soul, where no Carnation fades.

   He ceas'd, and wept. With innocence of mien, 105 
Th'Accus'd stood forth, and thus address'd the Queen. [420]

   Of all th'enamel'd race, 106  whose silv'ry wing
Waves to the tepid Zephyrs 107  of the spring,
Or swims along the fluid atmosphere,
Once brightest shin'd this child of Heat and Air.
I saw, and started from its vernal bow'r [425]
The rising game, and chac'd from flow'r to flow'r.
It fled, I follow'd; now in hope, now pain;
It stopt, I stopt; it mov'd, I mov'd again.
At last it fix'd, 'twas on what plant it pleas'd,
And where it fix'd, the beauteous bird 108  I seiz'd: [430]
Rose or Carnation was below my care;
I meddle, Goddess! only in my sphere.
I tell the naked fact without disguise,
And, to excuse it, need but shew the prize;
Whose spoils this paper offers to your eye, [435]
Fair ev'n in death! this peerless Butterfly.

   My sons! (she answer'd) both have done your parts:
Live happy both, and long promote our arts.
But hear a Mother, when she recommends
To your fraternal care, our sleeping friends. [440]
The common Soul, of Heav'n's more frugal make,
Serves but to keep fools pert, and knaves awake:
A drowzy Watchman, that just gives a knock,
And breaks our rest, to tell us what's a clock.
Yet by some object ev'ry brain is stirr'd; [445]
The dull may waken to a Humming-bird;
The most recluse, discreetly open'd, find
Congenial matter in the Cockle-kind;
The mind, in Metaphysics at a loss,
May wander in a wilderness of Moss; 109  [450]
The head that turns at super-lunar things,
Poiz'd with a tail, may steer on Wilkins' wings. 110 

   O! would the Sons of Men once think their Eyes
And Reason giv'n them but to study Flies!
See Nature in some partial narrow shape, [455]
And let the Author of the Whole escape:
Learn but to trifle; or, who most observe,
To wonder at their Maker, not to serve.

   Be that my task (replies a gloomy Clerk, 111 
Sworn foe to Myst'ry, yet divinely dark; [460]
Whose pious hope aspires to see the day
When Moral Evidence shall quite decay, 112 
And damns implicit faith, and holy lies,
Prompt to impose, and fond to dogmatize:)
Let others creep by timid steps, and slow, [465]
On plain Experience lay foundations low,
By common sense to common knowledge bred,
And last, to Nature's Cause thro' Nature led.
All-seeing in thy mists, we want no guide,
Mother of Arrogance, and Source of Pride! [470]
We nobly take the high Priori Road, 113 
And reason downward, till we doubt of God:
Make Nature still incroach upon his plan;
And shove him off as far as e'er we can:
Thrust some Mechanic Cause into his place; [475]
Or bind in Matter, or diffuse in Space. 114 
Or, at one bound o'er-leaping all his laws,
Make God Man's Image, Man the final Cause,
Find Virtue local, all Relation scorn,
See all in Self, and but for self be born: [480]
Of nought so certain as our Reason still,
Of nought so doubtful as of Soul and Will.
Oh hide the God still more! and make us see
Such as Lucretius drew, a God like Thee:
Wrapt up in Self, a God without a Thought, [485]
Regardless of our merit or default. 115 
Or that bright Image to our fancy draw,
Which Theocles in raptur'd vision saw,
While thro' Poetic scenes the Genius roves,
Or wanders wild in Academic Groves; [490]
That Nature our Society adores,
Where Tindal dictates, and Silenus snores. 116 

   Rous'd at his name, up rose the bowzy 117  Sire,
And shook from out his Pipe the seeds of fire;
Then snapt his box, 118  and strok'd his belly down: [495]
Rosy and rev'rend, tho' without a Gown. 119 
Bland and familiar to the throne he came,
Led up the Youth, and call'd the Goddess Dame.
Then thus. From Priest-craft 120  happily set free,
Lo! ev'ry finish'd Son returns to thee: [500]
First slave to Words, then vassal to a Name,
Then dupe to Party; child and man the same;
Bounded by Nature, narrow'd still by Art,
A trifling head, and a contracted heart.
Thus bred, thus taught, how many have I seen, [505]
Smiling on all, and smil'd on by a Queen.
Mark'd out for Honours, honour'd for their Birth,
To thee the most rebellious things on earth:
Now to thy gentle shadow all are shrunk,
All melted down, in Pension, or in Punk! 121  [510]
So K—— so B—— sneak'd into the grave,
A Monarch's half, and half a Harlot's slave.
Poor W—— nipt in Folly's broadest bloom, 122 
Who praises now? his Chaplain on his Tomb.
Then take them all, oh take them to thy breast! [515]
Thy Magus, Goddess! shall perform the rest.

   With that, a Wizard old 123  his Cup extends;
Which whoso tastes, forgets his former friends,
Sire, Ancestors, Himself. One casts his eyes
Up to a Star, 124  and like Endymion dies: 125  [520]
A Feather shooting from another's head,
Extracts his brain, and Principle is fled,
Lost is his God, his Country, ev'ry thing;
And nothing left but Homage to a King!
The vulgar herd turn off to roll with Hogs, [525]
To run with Horses, or to hunt with Dogs;
But, sad example! never to escape
Their Infamy, still keep the human shape.

   But she, good Goddess, sent to ev'ry child
Firm Impudence, or Stupefaction mild; [530]
And strait succeeded, leaving shame no room,
Cibberian forehead, or Cimmerian gloom. 126 

   Kind Self-conceit to some her glass 127  applies,
Which no one looks in with another's eyes:
But as the Flatt'rer or Dependant paint, [535]
Beholds himself a Patriot, Chief, or Saint.

   On others Int'rest her gay liv'ry 128  flings,
Int'rest, that waves on Party-colour'd wings:
Turn'd to the Sun, she casts a thousand dyes,
And, as she turns, the colours fall or rise. [540]

   Others the Syren Sisters warble round, 129 
And empty heads console with empty sound.
No more, alas! the voice of Fame they hear,
The balm of Dulness trickling in their ear.
Great C——, H——, P——, R——, K——, 130  [545]
Why all your Toils? your Sons have learn'd to sing.
How quick Ambition hastes to ridicule!
The Sire is made a Peer, the Son a Fool.

   On some, a Priest succinct in amice 131  white
Attends; all flesh is nothing in his sight! [550]
Beeves, 132  at his touch, at once to jelly turn,
And the huge Boar is shrunk into an Urn:
The board 133  with specious miracles he loads,
Turns Hares to Larks, and Pigeons into Toads.
Another (for in all what one can shine?) [555]
Explains the Seve and Verdeur of the Vine. 134 
What cannot copious Sacrifice attone?
Thy Treufles, Perigord! thy Hams, Bayonne! 135 
With French Libation, and Italian Strain,
Wash Bladen white, and expiate Hays's stain. [560]
Knight lifts the head, for what are crowds undone
To three essential Partriges in one?
Gone ev'ry blush, and silent all reproach,
Contending Princes mount them in their Coach.

   Next bidding all draw near on bended knees, [565]
The Queen confers her Titles and Degrees.
Her children first of more distinguish'd sort,
Who study Shakespeare at the Inns of Court, 136 
Impale a Glow-worm, or Vertù 137  profess,
Shine in the dignity of F.R.S. 138  [570]
Some, deep Free-Masons, join the silent race
Worthy to fill Pythagoras's place:
Some Botanists, or Florists at the least,
Or issue Members of an Annual feast.
Nor past the meanest unregarded, one [575]
Rose a Gregorian, one a Gormogon.
The last, not least in honour or applause,
Isis and Cam 139  made Doctors of her Laws.

   Then blessing all, Go Children of my care!
To Practice now from Theory repair. 140  [580]
All my commands are easy, short, and full:
My Sons! be proud, be selfish, and be dull.
Guard my Prerogative, 141  assert my Throne:
This Nod confirms each Privilege your own.
The Cap and Switch be sacred to his Grace; 142  [585]
With Staff and Pumps the Marquis lead the Race;
From Stage to Stage the licens'd Earl may run,
Pair'd with his Fellow-Charioteer the Sun;
The learned Baron Butterflies design,
Or draw to silk Arachne's 143  subtile line; [590]
The Judge to dance his brother Sergeant call;
The Senator at Cricket urge the Ball;
The Bishop stow (Pontific Luxury!)
An hundred Souls of Turkeys in a pye;
The sturdy Squire to Gallic 144  masters stoop, [595]
And drown his Lands and Manors in a Soupe.
Others import yet nobler arts from France,
Teach Kings to fiddle, and make Senates dance.
Perhaps more high some daring son may soar,
Proud to my list to add one Monarch more; [600]
And nobly conscious, Princes are but things
Born for First Ministers, as Slaves for Kings,
Tyrant supreme! shall three Estates command,
And make one Mighty Dunciad of the Land!

   More she had spoke, but yawn'd — All Nature nods: [605]
What Mortal can resist the Yawn of Gods? 145 
Churches and Chapels instantly it reach'd;
(St. James's first, for leaden Gilbert 146  preach'd)
Then catch'd the Schools; the Hall scarce kept awake;
The Convocation gap'd, but could not speak: [610]
Lost was the Nation's Sense, nor could be found,
While the long solemn Unison went round:
Wide, and more wide, it spread o'er all the realm;
Ev'n Palinurus nodded at the Helm: 147 
The Vapour mild o'er each Committee crept; [615]
Unfinish'd Treaties in each Office slept;
And Chiefless Armies doz'd out the Campaign;
And Navies yawn'd for Orders on the Main.

   O Muse! relate (for you can tell alone,
Wits have short Memories, and Dunces none) [620]
Relate, who first, who last resign'd to rest;
Whose Heads she partly, whose completely blest;
What Charms could Faction, what Ambition lull,
The Venal quiet, and intrance the Dull;
'Till drown'd was Sense, and Shame, and Right, and
   Wrong— [625]
O sing, and hush the Nations with thy Song!

* * * * * * * * * * * *

   In vain, in vain, — the all-composing Hour
Resistless falls: The Muse obeys the Pow'r.
She comes! she comes! the sable Throne behold
Of Night Primæval, and of Chaos old! 148  [630]
Before her, Fancy's gilded clouds decay,
And all its varying Rain-bows die away.
Wit shoots in vain its momentary fires,
The meteor drops, and in a flash expires.
As one by one, at dread Medea's strain, [635]
The sick'ning stars fade off th'ethereal plain;
As Argus' eyes 149  by Hermes' wand opprest,
Clos'd one by one to everlasting rest;
Thus at her felt approach, and secret might,
Art after Art goes out, and all is Night. [640]
See skulking Truth to her old Cavern fled,
Mountains of Casuistry 150  heap'd o'er her head!
Philosophy, that lean'd on Heav'n before,
Shrinks to her second cause, and is no more.
Physic of Metaphysic begs defence, [645]
And Metaphysic calls for aid on Sense!
See Mystery 151 to Mathematics fly!
In vain! they gaze, turn giddy, rave, and die.
Religion blushing veils her sacred fires,
And unawares Morality expires. [650]
Nor public Flame, nor private, dares to shine;
Nor human Spark is left, nor Glimpse divine!
Lo! thy dread Empire, Chaos! is restor'd;
Light dies before thy uncreating word: 152 
Thy hand, great Anarch! 153  lets the curtain fall; [655]
And Universal Darkness buries All.



1. Virtue, "Efficacy; power" (Johnson).

2. The reference to "Chaos, and eternal Night" is an allusion to Milton's Paradise Lost, 2.894-1009; "darkness visible" is from Paradise Lost, 1.63. Pope is ironically invoking the great sublime epic in the English language at the start of his mock epic.

3. Sirius, the dog-star, is visible in late August; that time of year is known as the "dog-days." It was traditionally a time when poets read their work in ancient Rome: see Juvenal's third Satire. Pope's note: "The Poet introduceth this, (as all great events are supposed by sage Historians to be preceded) by an Eclipse of the Sun; but with a peculiar propriety, as the Sun is the Emblem of that intellectual light which dies before the face of Dulness. Very apposite likewise is it to make this Eclipse, which is occasion'd by the Moon's predominancy, the very time when Dulness and Madness are in Conjunction."

4. A wreath of leaves known as a bay was given as a crown to poets.

5. The owl is associated with Athena (also known as Minerva), the goddess of wisdom.

6. Moonstruck, "Lunatick; affected by the moon" (Johnson). The word was famously used by Milton.

7. A pun: Johnson defines saturnian as "Happy; golden: used by poets for times of felicity, such as are feigned to have been in the reign of Saturn," but Pope also recalls that Saturn is the chemical name for lead.

8. Effulgence is "brightness." Pope's note: "Vet. Adag. [old saying] The higher you climb, the more you show your A—. Verified in no instance more than in Dulness aspiring. Emblematized also by an Ape climbing and exposing his posteriors."

9. Dulness's "Laureat son" is Colley Cibber, the Poet Laureat of Britain, and the "hero" of the second version of The Dunciad.

10. Science, "any kind of knowledge or learning."

11. Sophistry, "over-subtle and misleading philosophical argument."

12. Billingsgate refers to the obscenity heard at the fish markets in London's Billingsgate section.

13. Chicane, "crafty and litigious pleading." Furs refers to the ermine robes worn by judges. Lawn, "Fine linen, remarkable for being used in the sleeves of bishops" (Johnson).

14. Perhaps a pun: Sir Francis Page was a notorious "hanging judge."

15. Mathematics.

16. To "square the circle" — that is, to construct a square with the same area as a given circle, using only a straight edge and a compass — was one of the great problems of ancient mathematics. It is now known to be impossible, although cranks have always been convinced they've had a solution.

17. A reference to the Licensing Act, which restricted what could appear on the stage.

18. Thalia is the Muse of comedy.

19. Lord Chesterfield fought against the Stage Licensing Act.

20. Pope's note: "The Attitude given to this phantom represents the nature and genius of the Italian Opera: its affected airs, its luxurious and effemenating sounds, and the practise of patching up these Opera's with favourite tunes, incoherently put together. These things were supported by the subscriptions of the Nobility."

21. Peers are members of the House of Lords.

22. The Nine are the Muses.

23. Recitativo or recitative is an operatic style of half speaking and half singing.

24. Cara is Italian for "dear lady," a term common in operas. The train refers to the Muses.

25. Pope's note: "Alluding to the false taste of playing tricks in Music with numberless divisions, to the neglect of that harmony which conforms to the Sense, and applies to the Passions. Mr. Handel had introduced a great number of Hands, and more variety of Instruments into the Orchestra, and employed even Drums and Cannon to make a fuller Chorus; which prov'd so much too manly for the fine Gentlemen of his age, that he was obliged to remove his Music into Ireland. After which they were reduced, for want of Composers, to practise the patch-work above mentioned."

26. Pope's note: "That species of the ancient music called the Chromatic was a variation and embellishment, in odd irregularities, of the Diatonic kind. They say it was invented about the time of Alexander, and that the Spartans forbad the use of it, as languid and effeminate." In modern usage, the diatonic scale is the familiar major or minor scale; the chromatic scale includes all the tones in between, used to add "color" to the music.

27. Phoebus Apollo was the god of music.

28. George Friedrich Handel, England's greatest composer in the early eighteenth century.

29. In Greek myth, Briareus was a hundred-handed giant.

30. Hibernia is Ireland, where Handel had retired after his popularity in England waned.

31. Pope's disingenuous note: "Posterior, viz. her second or more certain Report: unless we imagine this word posterior to relate to the position of one of her Trumpets."

32. Pope's note: "None need a Guide, — none want a Place — The sons of Dulness are autodidactos [self-taught], and can introduce themselves into all places, they want no instructors in study, nor guides in life."

33. Own, "accept" or "admit."

34. Toupet, "A curl; an artificial lock of hair" (Johnson).

35. Baal is a false god in the Old Testament, the chief god of the enemies of the Israelites, the "children of light."

36. In other words, refuse to support the poet while he's alive, but after his death set up a statue to honor him.

37. The Laurel crown was the traditional award given to the poet laureate.

38. Cant, "empty words."

39. Narcissus is Lord Hervey, attacked as Sporus in the Epistle to Arbuthnot. He was famously fair-skinned.

40. Pope's note: "An eminent person of Quality who was about to publish a very pompous Edition of a great Author, very much at his own expence indeed." He is referring to Sir Thomas Hanmer, whose edition of Shakespeare was published twenty years after Pope's.

41. The tasseled caps of gentleman-commoners at Oxford.

42. Medea was the wife of Jason; she rejuvenated Jason's father, Aeson.

43. A foot of verse is a unit of meter, such as an iamb or a trochee.

44. An alderman is a member of the city council.

45. A car is a chariot.

46. A reference to Dr. Busby, the headmaster of Westminster School, a notorious disciplinarian.

47. Pope's note: "A thin cane is usually born by Schoolmasters, which drives the poor Souls about like the Wand of Mercury." He's referring to a cane, usually made of birch (see "birchen" in the next line), used to beat schoolchildren.

48. Beaver, "A hat of the best kind, so called from being made of the fur of beaver" (Johnson), commonly associated with doctors.

49. An allusion to Paradise Lost, 1.392-93: "First Moloch, horrid King besmear'd with blood/ Of human sacrifice, and parents tears."

50. Eton, Winton (or Winchester), and Westminster are three of the most exclusive "public schools" — "public" in the British sense, not the American. They catered to the sons of the rich and powerful.

51. Genius, "The protecting or ruling power of men, places, or things" (Johnson).

52. The Samian letter is Y, used by Pythagoras of Samia to represent the paths to Virtue and Vice.

53. Suffer, "allow."

54. Fancy, "Imagination; the power by which the mind forms to itself images and representations of things, persons, or scenes of being" (Johnson).

55. Pale, "fenced-in area."

56. The House of Commons and Westminster Hall.

57. Politicians and friends of Pope: William Wyndham, leader of the Tory opposition; Charles Talbot, Baron Talbot, Lord Chancellor; William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield; and William Pulteney, Earl of Bath.

58. King James I (reigned 1603-25) was renowned for his pedantry.

59. Grateful, "pleasing."

60. Sway, "Power; rule; dominion" (Johnson).

61. The Cam is the river that runs through Cambridge; the Isis is the name of the Thames as it flows through Oxford.

62. The "divine right of kings" was advocated by James I and his supporters.

63. Sable refers to the black gowns of professors; shoal likens them to a school of fish.

64. Pope's note: "This line is doubtless spurious, and foisted in by the impertinence of the Editor; and accordingly we have put it between Hooks [brackets]. For I affirm this College came as early as any other, by its proper Deputies; nor did any College pay homage to Dulness in its whole body. Bentl." The note is (falsely) attributed to Richard Bentley, who printed "spurious" lines, supposedly added to Milton's Paradise Lost by a meddling editor, in brackets.

65. Pope's note: "In the year 1703 there was a meeting of the heads of the University of Oxford to censure Mr. Locke's Essay on Human Understanding, and to forbid the reading it."

66. Two professors of logic, Jean Pierre de Crousaz and Francis Burgersdyck. The former had attacked Pope for his Essay on Man.

67. Colleges at Cambridge University.

68. Richard Bentley, England's greatest classical scholar, and one of Pope's enemies. Pope attacks his pedantry throughout the Dunciad, but especially in his notes.

69. Dr. Richard Walker, a friend of Bentley.

70. Quakers did not bow in prayer or to social superiors.

71. Pope's note: "A famous Commentator, and Corrector of Homer, whose name has been frequently used to signify a complete Critic."

72. Scholiast, "A writer of explanatory notes" (Johnson). Pope is applying it to Bentley's pedantry.

73. Bentley had edited both Horace (in 1711) and Milton's Paradise Lost (in 1732). His Horace was in fact the best edition to date, but his eccentric edition of Milton earned much scorn.

74. Pope's note: "Alludes to the boasted restoration of the Æolic Digamma, in his long projected Edition of Homer. He calls it something more than Letter, from the enormous figure it would make among the other letters, being one Gamma set upon the shoulders of another." Pope is referring to one of Bentley's greatest discoveries, the digamma (F), a Greek letter that had fallen out of use during the classical period. His conjectures, confirmed by later classical scholars, made a great many curious features of Greek poetry comprehensible.

75. Examples of debates over the spelling and pronunciation of classical Latin — for Pope, pedantic wastes of time.

76. Richard Freind and Anthony Alsop, classical scholars.

77. Manilius was a Latin poet and author of the Astronomica, on which Bentley wrote a commentary. Solinus was a third-century writer, whose Collectanea rerum memorabilium summarizes Pliny's Natural History.

78. Pope's note on Suidas, Gellius, and Stobæus: "The first a Dictionary-writer, a collector of impertinent facts and barbarous words; the second a minute Critic; the third an author, who gave his Common-place book to the public, where we happen to find much Mince-meat of old books." Bentley helped to edit the Suidas lexicon, and Theobald had written on him.

79. Ludolph Kuster, Peter Burman, and Joseph Wasse, classical scholars and supporters of Bentley. Contrast the scholars' attention to tiny details, rather than the whole, with Pope's advice in his Essay on Criticism: "In Wit, as Nature, what affects our Hearts/ Is not th' Exactness of peculiar Parts;/ 'Tis not a Lip, or Eye, we Beauty call,/ But the joint Force and full Result of all."

80. Pope's note: "A word much affected by the learned Aristarchus [i.e., Bentley] in common conversation, to signify Genius or natural acumen. But this passage has a further view: Nous was the Platonic term for Mind, or the first Cause, and that system of Divinity is here hinted at which terminates in blind Nature without a Nous: such as the Poet afterwards describes (speaking of the dreams of one of these later Platonists) 'Or that bright Image to our Fancy draw,/ Which Theocles in raptur'd Vision saw,/ That Nature — &c."

81. Pope's note: "Isaac Barrow Master of Trinity, Francis Atterbury Dean of Christ-church, both great Genius's and eloquent Preachers; one more conversant in the sublime Geometry, the other in classical Learning; but who equally made it their care to advance the polite Arts in their several Societies."

82. Pope's note: "Cannon here, if spoken of Artillery, is in the plural number; if of the Canons of the House, in the singular, and meant only of one: in which case I suspect the Pole to be a false reading, and that it should be the Poll, or Head of that Canon. It may be objected, that this is a mere Paronomasia or Pun. But what of that? Is any figure of Speech more apposite to our gentle Goddess, or more frequently used by her, and her Children, especially of the University? Doubtless it better suits the Character of Dulness, yea of a Doctor, than that of an Angel; yet Milton fear'd not to put a considerable quantity into the mouths of his. It hath indeed been observed, that they were the Devil's Angels, as if he did it to suggest the Devil was the Author as well of false Wit, as of false Religion, and that the Father of Lies was also the Father of Puns. But this is idle: It must be own'd a Christian practice, used in the primitive times by some of the Fathers, and later by most of the Sons of the Church; till the debauch'd reign of Charles the second, when the shameful Passion for Wit overthrew every thing: and even then the best Writers admitted it, provided it was obscene, under the name of the Double entendre. Scribl." The pun is on cannon, the weapon, and canon, which Johnson defines as "A dignitary in cathedral churches."

83. What tho', "What if."

84. Euclid, an ancient Greek writer on mathematics, whose propositions in geometry were widely studied.

85. After satirizing the scholarly pedants, Pope turns his attention on the fashionable fops with French manners.

86. St. James's Palace.

87. Larum, "An instrument that makes a noise at a certain hour" (Johnson). Johnson cites this line as an example.

88. Stew, "A brothel; a house of prostitution" (Johnson). King George II was notoriously fond of mistresses.

89. Lumber, "Any thing useless or cumbersome; any thing of more bulk than value" (Johnson).

90. Pope's note: "Very eminent persons, all Managers of Plays; who tho' not Governors by profession, had each in his way concern'd themselves in the Education of youth, and regulated their Wits, their Morals, or their Finances, at that period of their age which is the most important, their entrance into the polite world."

91. Stol'n, "escaped," as in "to steal away."

92. Members of Parliament could not be arrested for debt.

93. The name Paridel comes from Spenser's Faerie Queene. Pope's note: "The Poet seems to speak of this young gentleman with great affection. The name is taken from Spenser, who gives it to a wandering Courtly 'Squire, that travell'd about for the same reason, for which many young Squires are now fond of travelling, and especially to Paris."

94. The portraits of Annius and Mummius satirize antiquaries, who were obsessed with historical and natural curiosities, and especially liable to forgeries. Pope's note: "The name taken from Annius the Monk of Viterbo, famous for many Impositions and Forgeries of ancient manuscripts and inscriptions, which he was propted to from mere vanity; but our Annius had a more substantial motive."

95. Capon, "chicken."

96. Pope's note: "The first Kings of Athens, of whom it is hard to suppose any Coins are extant; but not so improbable as what follows, that there should be any of Mahomet, who forbad all Images. Nevertheless one of these Annius's made a counterfeit one, now in the collection of a learned Nobleman."

97. That is, Mohammed, the prophet of Islam. In the eighteenth century, it was pronounced with the accents on the first syllable, Má-ho-met.

98. Lares, "household gods."

99. Pope's note: "Mummius is not merely an allusion to the Mummies he was so fond of, but probably referred to the Roman General of that name, who burn'd Corinth, and committed the curious Statues to the Captain of a Ship, assuring him, 'that if any were lost or broken, he should procure other to be made in their stead': by which it should seem (whatever may be pretended) that Mummius was no Virtuoso." Johnson defines virtuoso as "A man skilled in antique or natural curiosities; a man studious of painting, statuary, or architecture."

100. A sistrum is an ancient Egyptian musical instrument.

101. Sallee Rovers, "pirate ships."

102. The name of the Queen.

103. Pencil, "A small brush of hair which painters dip in their colours" (Johnson).

104. Promiscuous, "Mingled; confused; undistinguished" (Johnson).

105. Mien, "Air; look; manner" (Johnson).

106. An elaborately poetical way of referring to insects.

107. Zephyr, "The west wind; and poetically any calm soft wind" (Johnson).

108. Bird is a seventeenth-century usage for "insect."

109. Pope's note: "Of which the Naturalists count above three hundred species."

110. Pope's note: "One of the first Projectors of the Royal Society, who among many enlarged and useful notions, entertain'd the extravagant hope of a possibility to fly to the Moon; which has put some volatile Genius's upon making wings for that purpose." Johnson defines projector as "One who forms schemes or designs" and "One who forms wild impracticable schemes." The Royal Society was the most distinguished scientific society in the country. John Wilkins was a bishop and scientist, author of Discovery of a World in the Moon and Mathematical Magick.

111. Even today, in British English clerk rhymes with dark, not work.

112. Pope's note: "Alluding to a ridiculous and absurd way of some Mathematicians, in calculating the gradual decay of Moral Evidence by mathematical proportions: according to which calculation, in about fifty years it will be no longer probable that Julius Cæsar was in Gaul, or died in the Senate House. See Craig's Theologiæ Christianæ Principia Mathematica. But as it seems evident, that facts of a thousand years old, for instance, are now as probable as they were five hundred years ago; it is plain that if in fifty more they quite disappear, it must be owing, not to their Arguments, but to the extraordinary Power of our Goddess; for whose help therefore they have reason to pray." The "moral evidence" refers to the "Christian evidences," that is, the authenticity of the Bible. Craig was a Scottish mathematician, and supported the Deists who argued that Scriptural testimony was unreliable.

113. Pope's note: "Those who, from the effects in this Visible world, deduce the Eternal Power and Godhead of the First Cause tho' they cannot attain to an adequate idea of the Deity, yet discover so much of him, as enables them to see the End of their Creation, and the Means of their Happiness: whereas they who take this high Priori Road (such as Hobbs, Spinoza, Des Cartes, and some better Reasoners) for one that goes right, ten lose themselves in Mists, or ramble after Visions which deprive them of all sight of their End, and mislead them in the choice of wrong means." The reference is to argument a priori, that is, beginning with general principles and working to derive specific truths.

114. Pope's note: "The first of these Follies is that of Des Cartes, the second of Hobbs, the third of some succeeding Philosophers."

115. Lucretius was a Roman philosopher who argued for a materialist view of the universe, in which the gods have no special concern about human beings.

116. Matthew Tindal, a famous Deist; Silenus, an Epicurean philosopher mentioned in Virgil's sixth Eclogue.

117. That is, boozy.

118. Box, "snuff-box."

119. A priest's gown.

120. Priestcraft, "Religious frauds; management of wicked priests to gain power" (Johnson).

121. Punk, "A whore; a common prostitute; a strumpet" (Johnson).

122. K——, B——. and W—— have never been reliably idenitified. Some have suggested the Duke of Kent, the 3d Earl of Berkeley, and the Earl of Warwick.

123. Pope's note: "Here beginneth the celebration of the greater Mysteries of the Goddess, which the Poet in his Invocation ver. 5, promised to sing. For when now each Aspirant, as was the custom, had proved his qualification and claim to a participation, the High Priest of Dulness first initiateth the Assembly by the usual way of Libation. And then each of the Initiated, as was always required, putteth on a new Nature, described from ver. 518 to 529. When the High-Priest and Goddess have thus done their parts, each of them is delivered into the hands of his Conductor, an inferior Minister or Hierophant, whose names are Impudence, Stupefaction, Self-conceit, self-interest, Pleasure, Epicurism, etc., to lead them through the several apartments of her Mystic Dome or Palace. When all this is over, the sovereign Goddess, from ver. 565 to 600 conferreth her Titles and Degrees; rewards inseparably attendant on the participation of the Mysteries. . . . Hence being enriched with so many various Gifts and Graces, Initiation into the Mysteries was anciently, as well as in these our times, esteemed a necessary qualification for every high office and employment, whether in Church or State. Lastly the great Mother shutteth up the Solemnity with her gracious benediction, which concludeth in drawing the Curtain, and laying all her Children to rest. It is to be observed that Dulness, before this her Restoration, had her Pontiffs in Partibus; who from time to time held her Mysteries in secret, and with great privacy. But now, on her Re-establishment, she celebrateth them, like those of the Cretans (the most ancient of all Mysteries) in open day, and offereth them to the inspection of all men." The Wizard is probably Sir Robert Walpole, the Prime Minister.

124. The Knights of the Garter and Knights of the Bath wore a star; ditto the feather in the next line.

125. Endymion is a legendary shepherd who died for love of Selene, goddess of the moon.

126. Cimmeria is a region mentioned in Homer where the sun never shines; Pope is punning on the name of Colley Cibber.

127. Glass, "mirror."

128. Livery, "The cloaths given to servants" (Johnson).

129. A reference not only to Homer's Sirens, but also to the opera.

130. These are probably Lords William Cowper, Simon Harcourt, Thomas Parker, Robert Raymond, and Peter King, whose sons never achieved any political prominence.

131. Amice, part of a priest's robes.

132. Beeves, cows or steers.

133. Board, "table," as in "room and board."

134. Seve, "the fineness and strength of flavour proper to any particular wine"; verdeur, "piquancy (as applied to wine)" (both from the OED).

135. Perigord and Bayonne are luxurious regions in France.

136. Students studied law at the Inns of Court.

137. Vertù, a taste for art.

138. F.R.S., "Fellow of the Royal Society," the country's most distinguished scientific society.

139. That is, Oxford and Cambridge.

140. Repair, "To go to; to betake himself" (Johnson).

141. Prerogative, a monarch's privileges and powers.

142. His Grace is the proper mode of address to a duke or a bishop.

143. Arachne, Greek for "spider."

144. Gallic, "French."

145. Pope's note: "This verse is truly Homerical, as is the conclusion of the Action, where the great Mother composes all, in the same manner as Minerva at the period [end] of the Odyssey."

146. John Gilbert, whom Pope accuses of being boring.

147. Palinurus was the helmsman in Virgil's Aeneid; Pope uses it to refer to Sir Robert Walpole, the Prime Minister.

148. A reference back to line 2.

149. Argus is a mythological giant with countless eyes.

150. Casuistry is reasoning based on over-sophisticated use of ethical principles.

151. Mystery, "Something above human intelligence; something awfully obscure" (Johnson); it was a term in Christian theology. Pope's note: "A sort of men (who make human Reason the adequate measure of all Truth) having pretended that whatsoever is not fully comprehended by it, is contrary to it; certain defenders of Religion, who would not be outdone in a pardox, have gone as far in the opposite folly, and attempted to shew that the mysteries of Religion may be mathematically demonstrated; as the authors of Philosophic, or Astronomic Principles, natural and reveal'd; who have much prided themselves on reflecting a fantastic light upon religion from the frigit subtilty of school moonshine."

152. An allusion to the opening of the book of John, in which God is referred to as the Word (or logos), and to Genesis, "Let there be light."

153. Anarch, "An authour of confusion" (Johnson). Johnson illustrates the word with a quotation from Paradise Lost, where Satan is the "anarch old."