"Th' illiterate Writer, Emperique like, applies / To minds diseas'd, unsafe, chance Remedies."

— Dryden, John (1631-1700)

Place of Publication
Jacob Tonson
1673, 1684
"Th' illiterate Writer, Emperique like, applies / To minds diseas'd, unsafe, chance Remedies."
Metaphor in Context
WHat Greece, when Learning flourish'd, onely Knew,
(Athenian Judges,) you this day Renew.
Here too are Annual Rites to Pallas done,
And here Poetique prizes lost or won.
Methinks I see you, Crown'd with Olives sit,
And strike a sacred Horrour from the Pit.
A Day of Doom is this of your Decree,
Where even the Best are but by Mercy free:
A Day which none but Iohnson durst have wish'd to see.
Here they who long have known the usefull Stage,
Come to be taught themselves to teach the Age.
As your Commissioners our Poets goe,
To Cultivate the Virtue which you sow:
In your Lycaeum, first themselves refind,
And Delegated thence to Humane kind.
But as Embassadours, when long from home,
For new Instructions to their Princes come;
So Poets who your Precepts have forgot,
Return, and beg they may be better taught:
Follies and Faults elsewhere by them are shown,
But by your Manners they Correct their Own.
Th' illiterate Writer, Emperique like, applies
To minds diseas'd, unsafe, chance Remedies
The Learn'd in Schools, where Knowledge first began,
Studies with Care th' Anatomy of Man;
Sees Vertue, Vice, and Passions in their Cause,
And Fame from Science, not from Fortune draws.
So Poetry, which is in Oxford made
An Art, in London onely is a Trade.
There Haughty Dunces whose unlearned Pen
Could ne'er Spell Grammar, would be reading Men.
Such build their Poems the Lucretian way,
So many Huddled Atoms make a Play,
And if they hit in Order by some Chance,
They call that Nature, which is Ignorance.
To such a Fame let mere Town-Wits aspire,
And their Gay Nonsense their own Citts admire.
Our Poet, could he find Forgiveness here
Would wish it rather than a Plaudit there.
He owns no Crown from those Praetorian bands,
But knows that Right is in this Senates hands.
Not Impudent enough to hope your Praise,
Low at the Muses feet, his Wreath he lays,
And where he took it up Resigns his Bays.
Kings make their Poets whom themselves think fit,
But 'tis your Suffrage makes Authentique Wit.
(pp. 263-5)
Written 1673. First published in Miscellany Poems. See "Prologue, To the University of Oxon. Spoken by Mr. Hart, at the Acting of the Silent Woman," in Miscellany Poems: Containing a new Translation of Virgills Eclogues, Ovid's Love Elegies, Odes of Horace, and Other Authors: With Several Original Poems. (London: Printed for Jacob Tonson, 1684), pp. 263-5. <Link to EEBO>

Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.