Poetry: Savage Comments on Journalists

Thomas Fleming

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January 16, 2020

Richard Savage, whose birthday falls in January, was a close friend of Johnson who celebrated his unfortunate life and death in prison from liver failure.  This passage is from a longer satire "The Authors."  Note how brutally relevant are down to the last detail, e.g., the stupid press's attack on inoculation and their cruelty toward the unfortunate.

Next, Pamphleteers a Trade licentious drive,
Like wrangling Lawyers, they by Discord thrive.
If Hancock proves Cold Water's Virtue clear,
His Rival prints a Treatise on Warm Beer.
If next Inoculation's Art spreads wide,
(An Art, that mitigates Infection's Tide)
Loud Pamphleteers 'gainst Innovation cry,
Let Nature work - 'Tis natural to die.

IF Heav'n-born Wisdom, gazing Nature thro',
Thro' Nature's Optics forms Religion's View,
Priestcraft opposes Demonstration's Aid,
And with dark Myst'ry dignifies her Trade.

IF Ruin rushes o'er a Statesman's Sway,
Scribblers, like Worms, on tainted Grandeur prey
While a poor Felon waits th' impending Stroke,
Voracious Scribes, like hov'ring Ravens, croak.
In their dark Quills a dreary Insult lies,
Th' Offence lives recent, tho' th' Offender dies;
In his last Words they suck his parting Breath,
And gorge on his loath'd Memory after Death.

WRETCHES, like these, no Satire wou'd chastise,
But Follies here to ruthless Insult rise;
Distinguish'd Insult taints a Nation's Fame,
And various Vice deserves a various Shame.

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina