The Dilettant.

A poem by Henry Austin Dobson

The most oppressive Form of Cant
Is that of your Art-Dilettant:--
Or rather "was." The Race, I own,
To-day is, happily, unknown.

A Painter, now by Fame forgot,
Had painted--'tis no matter what;
Enough that he resolved to try
The Verdict of a critic Eye.
The Friend he sought made no Pretence
To more than candid Common-sense,
Nor held himself from Fault exempt.
He praised, it seems, the whole Attempt.
Then, pausing long, showed here and there
That Parts required a nicer Care,--
A closer Thought. The Artist heard,
Expostulated, chafed, demurred.

Just then popped in a passing Beau,
Half Pertness, half Pulvilio;--
One of those Mushroom Growths that spring
From Grand Tours and from Tailoring;--
And dealing much in terms of Art
Picked up at Sale and auction Mart.
Straight to the Masterpiece he ran
With lifted Glass, and thus began,
Mumbling as fast as he could speak:--
"Sublime!--prodigious!--truly Greek!
That 'Air of Head' is just divine;
That contour GUIDO, every line;
That Forearm, too, has quite the Gusto
Of the third Manner of ROBUSTO...."
Then, with a Simper and a Cough,
He skipped a little farther off:--
"The middle Distance, too, is placed
Quite in the best Italian Taste;
And Nothing could be more effective
Than the Ordonnance and Perspective....
You've sold it?--No?--Then take my word,
I shall speak of it to MY LORD.
What!--I insist. Don't stir, I beg.
Adieu!" With that he made a Leg,
Offered on either Side his Box,--
So took his VirtĂș off to COCK'S.

The Critic, with a Shrug, once more
Turned to the Canvas as before.
"Nay,"--said the Painter--"I allow
The Worst that you can tell me now.
'Tis plain my Art must go to School,
To win such Praises--from a FOOL!"

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