"Gentle Dullness Ever Loves A Joke"
Context: This long, satiric mock-epic describes the establishment of the kingdom of dullness ruled over by the King of the Dunces. In various stages of the revision of the poem over a number of years Pope appointed several different scribblers to the throne of dullness, depending upon whom he was most irritated with at the moment. Dozens of other minor Grub Street scribblers and hacks come under Pope's withering satiric fire in the course of the poem. Book I invokes the Goddess of Dullness, describes her great empire and her college within the city of London, and closes with her proclamation of Cibber, in the 1742 version, as the new King of the Dunces. In Book II the newly proclaimed king is honored with public games and sports, all in satiric imitation of Virgil's Aeneid. As this Book opens, the king on his throne is surrounded by admiring spectators:
Amid that area wide they took their stand,Where the tall may-pole once o'er-look'd the Strand;But now (so ANNE and Piety ordain)A Church collects the saints of Drury-lane.With Authors, Stationers obey'd the call,(The field of glory is a field for all.)Glory, and gain, th' industrious tribe provoke;And gentle Dulness ever loves a joke.A Poet's form she plac'd before their eyes,And bade the nimblest racer seize the prize;No meagre, muse-rid mope, adust and thin,In a dun night-gown of his own loose skin;But such a bulk as no twelve bards could raise,Twelve starv'ling bards of these degen'rate days.