Poem of the Day: ‘Lines Written in Ridicule’
Thomas Warton may be little remembered, but he lives at least in Johnson’s laughter — a complaint that can be transferred to much much-labored art: ‘All is strange, yet nothing new.’
Everyone knows of James Boswell (1740–1795) and his 1791 “Life of Samuel Johnson.” But another important source of tittle-tattle about the age is Hester Thrale’s 1786 “Anecdotes of the Late Samuel Johnson.” And it’s there that we find today’s Poem of the Day, a little comic verse for a Wednesday in August. “When Tom Warton published his Poems in Jan: 1777. — nobody read ’em,” Mrs. Thrale writes. “Warton’s Poems are come out says Mr. Johnson; yes replied I, and this cold weather has struck them in again: I have written verses to abuse them says he, but I can repeat but two or three of them, and those you must say nothing of, for I love Thomas look you — tho’ I laugh at him.” Thomas Warton (1728–1790) may be little remembered, but he lives at least in Johnson’s laughter — a complaint that can be transferred to much much-labored art: “All is strange, yet nothing new.”
Lines Written in Ridicule
by Samuel Johnson
Wheresoever I turn my view,
All is strange, yet nothing new;
Endless labor all along,
Endless labor to be wrong;
Phrase that time has flung away,
Uncouth words in disarray,
Tricked in antique ruff and bonnet,
Ode, and elegy, and sonnet.
With “Poem of the Day,” The New York Sun offers a daily portion of verse selected by Joseph Bottum with the help of the North Carolina poet Sally Thomas, the Sun’s associate poetry editor. Tied to the day, or the season, or just individual taste, the poems will be typically drawn from the lesser-known portion of the history of English verse. In the coming months we will be reaching out to contemporary poets for examples of current, primarily formalist work, to show that poetry can still serve as a delight to the ear, an instruction to the mind, and a tonic for the soul.