James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

December 13

On Dr. Johnson

By John Wolcot (1738–1819)

  • Dr. Samuel Johnson, the famous English lexicographer, poet and essayist, died Dec. 13, 1784.

  • I OWN I like not Johnson’s turgid style,

    That gives an inch the importance of a mile;

    Casts of manure a wagon-load around

    To raise a simple daisy from the ground;

    Uplifts the club of Hercules—for what?

    To crush a butterfly, or brain a gnat!

    Creates a whirlwind, from the earth to draw

    A goose’s feather, or exalt a straw;

    Sets wheels on wheels in motion—such a clatter!—

    To force up one poor nipperkin of water;

    Bids ocean labor with tremendous roar

    To heave a cockle-shell upon the shore:

    Alike in every theme his pompous art—

    Heaven’s awful thunder or a rumbling cart!