2012: James Scruton – Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary

Poetry selection from the 2012 issue

Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary
by James Scruton

It must have seemed the ideal way
to put the real world down on paper.
Abyssinia and the lives of poets,
kicking at philosophy—all that
was a stone’s throw in the future.
For now he’d let words stick to him
like burs, follow him like little Boswells
from London to the Hebrides,
reading room to coffee house.

Rambler, idler, self-admitted harmless drudge,
he showed with each edition
how indefinable things could be,
the language of empire empirical
and ephemeral at once, words
like so many tiny colonies
that would not be governed,
our wish for every meaning
one more vanity that makes us human.

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