Last Updated on January 19, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 403
Context: The poet, in examining what is wrong with newspapers, says that the man who owns a hut and is possessed of an income of forty shillings a year (which annual income entitled him to vote) reads his newspapers and cries out that all that the venal candidates care for is getting elected; at the same time he feels joy that he can sell his vote at the usual price. The papers are filled with scandal, fraud, falsehood, and folly; and it is to them that the populace looks for guidance. But the poet, who longs for lasting fame and who with patient care refines every line of his work, finally publishes it, only to be greeted by censure or neglect. Writers for the newspapers, however, meet a happier fate, getting the praise that should go to worthier works. The newspaper writers are interested only in how many words make up a line, how many lines make up a column, and how many columns make up a sheet. And the readers, who abhor a book, are delighted with a paper; those who would never think of reading the Bible consider it a hardship to be deprived of their daily news. Newspapers are like public inns: there is something for everyone, and all for some. The politician looks for fact alone; gay ladies neglect fact for songs and accounts of birthdays and balls; financial advertisements are the study of the business man. When people are in the country and the paper does not arrive on time, they are completely out of sorts. In fact, a mastering passion of the human race is the love of news.
So charm the News; but we, who far from town
Wait till the postman brings the packet down,
Once in the week, a vacant day behold,
And stay for tidings, till they're three days old:
That day arrives; no welcome post appears,
But the dull morn a sullen aspect wears:
We meet, but ah! without our wonted smile,
To talk of headachs, and complain of bile;
Sullen we ponder o'er a dull repast,
Nor feast the body while the mind must fast.
A master-passion is the love of news,
Not music so commands, nor so the Muse:
Give poets claret, they grow idle soon;
Feed the musician, and he's out of tune;
But the sick mind, of this disease possess'd,
Flies from all cure, and sickness when at rest.