With Memoir, Critical Dissertation, and Explanatory Notes,
REV. GEORGE GILFILLAN.
THE GENIUS AND POETRY OF POPE.
Few poets during their lifetime have been at once so much admired and so much abused as Pope. Some writers, destined to oblivion in after-ages, have been loaded with laurels in their own time; while others, on whom Fame was one day to "wait like a menial," have gone to the grave neglected, if not decried and depreciated. But it was the fate of Pope to combine in his single experience the extremes of detraction and flattery—to have the sunshine of applause and the hail-storm of calumny mingled on his living head; while over his dead body, as over the body of Patroclus, there has raged a critical controversy, involving not merely his character as a man, but his claims as a poet. For this, unquestionably, there are some subordinate reasons. Pope's religious creed, his political connexions, his easy circumstances, his popularity with the upper classes, as well as his testy temper and malicious disposition, all tended to rouse against him, while he lived, a personal as well as public hostility, altogether irrespective of the mere merit or demerit of his poetry. "We cannot bear a Papist to be our principal bard," said one class. "No Tory for our translator of Homer," cried the zealous Whigs, "Poets should be poor, and Pope is independent," growled Grub Street. The ancients could not endure that a "poet should build an house, but this varlet has dug a grotto, and established a clandestine connexion between Parnassus and the Temple of Plutus." "Pope," said others, "is hand-in-glove with Lords Oxford and Bolingbroke, and it was never so seen before in any genuine child of genius." "He is a little ugly insect," cried another class; "can such a misbegotten brat be a favourite with the beautiful Apollo?" "He is as venomous and spiteful as he is small; never was so much of the 'essence of devil' packed into such a tiny compass," said another set; "and this, to be sure, is England's great poet!" Besides these personal objections, there were others of a more solid character. While all admitted the exquisite polish and terse language of Pope's compositions, many felt that they were too artificial—that they were often imitative—that they seldom displayed those qualities of original thought and sublime enthusiasm which had formed the chief characteristics of England's best bards, and were slow to rank the author of "Eloisa and Abelard," with the creator of "Hamlet," "Othello," and "Lear;" the author of the "Rape of the Lock" with the author of "Paradise Lost;" the author of the "Pastorals," with the author of the "Faery Queen;" and the author of the "Imitations of Horace," with the author of the "Canterbury Tales." On the one hand, Pope's ardent friends erred in classing him with or above these great old writers; and on the other, his enemies were thus provoked to thrust him too far down in the scale, and to deny him genius altogether. Since his death, his fame has continued to vibrate between extremes. Lord Byron and Lord Carlisle (the latter, in a lecture delivered in Leeds in December 1850, and published afterwards) have placed him ridiculously high; while Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Bowles, have underrated him. It shall be our endeavour, in our succeeding remarks, to steer a middle course between the parties.
Lord Carlisle commenced his able and eloquent prelection by deploring the fact, that Pope had sunk in estimation. And yet, a few sentences after, he told us that the "Commissioners of the Fine Arts" selected Pope, along with Chaucer, Shakspeare, Spenser, Milton, and Dryden, to fill the six vacant places in the New Palace of Westminster. This does not substantiate the assertion, that Pope has sunk in estimation. Had he sunk to any great extent, the Commissioners would not have dared to put his name and statue beside those of the acknowledged masters of English poetry. But apart from this, we do think that Lord Carlisle has exaggerated the "Decline and Fall" of the empire of Pope. He is still, with the exception, perhaps, of Cowper, the most popular poet of the eighteenth century. His "Essay on Man," and his "Eloisa and Abelard," are probably in every good library, public and private, in Great Britain. Can we say as much of Chaucer and Spenser? Passages and lines of his poetry are stamped on the memory of all well-educated men. More pointed sayings of Pope are afloat than of any English poet, except Shakspeare and Young. Indeed, if frequency of quotation be the principal proof of popularity, Pope, with Shakspeare, Young, and Spenser, is one of the four most popular of English poets. In America, too, Lord Carlisle found, he tells us, the most cultivated and literary portion of that great community warmly imbued with an admiration of Pope.
What more would, or at least should, his lordship desire? Pope is, by his own showing, a great favourite with many wherever the English language is spoken, and that, too, a century after his death. And there are few critics who would refuse to subscribe, on the whole, Lord Carlisle's enumeration of the Poet's qualities; his terse and motto-like lines—the elaborate gloss of his mock-heroic vein—the tenderness of his pathos—the point and polished strength of his satire—the force and vraisemblance of his descriptions of character—the delicacy and refinement of his compliments, "each of which," says Hazlitt, "is as good as an house or estate"—and the heights of moral grandeur into which he can at times soar, whenever he has manly indignation, or warm-hearted patriotism, or high-minded scorn to express. If Lord Carlisle's object, then, was to elevate Pope to the rank of a classic, it was a superfluous task; if it was to justify the Commissioners in placing him on a level with Chaucer, Shakspeare, Spenser, and Milton, our remarks will show that we think it as vain as superfluous.
In endeavouring to fix the rank of a poet, there are, we think, the following elements to be analysed:—His original genius—his kind and degree of culture—his purpose—his special faculties—the works he has written—and the amount of impression he has made on, and impulse he has given to, his own age and the world. In other words, what were his native powers, and what has he done, for, by, and with them?
Now, that Pope possessed genius, and genius of a high order, we strenuously maintain. But whether this amounted to creative power, the highest quality of the poet, is a very different question. In native imagination, that eyesight of the soul, which sees in the rose a richer red, in the sky a deeper azure, in the sea a more dazzling foam, in the stars a softer and more spiritual gold, and in the sky a more dread magnificence than nature ever gave them, that beholds the Ideal always shining through and above the Real, and that lights the poet on to form within a new and more gorgeous nature, the fresh creation of his own inspired mind, Pope was not only inferior to Chaucer, Shakspeare, Spenser, and Milton, but to Young, Thomson, Collins, Burns, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Byron, Coleridge, and many other poets. His native faculty, indeed, seems rather fine than powerful—rather timid than daring, and resembles rather the petal of a rose peeping out into the summer air, which seems scarce warm enough for its shrinking loveliness, than the feather of the wing of a great eagle, dipping into the night tempest, which raves around the inaccessible rock of his birthplace. He was not eminently original in his thinking. In proof of this, many of those fine sentiments which Pope has thrown into such perfect shape, and to which he has given such dazzling burnish, are found by Watson (see the "Adventurer") in Pascal and others. Shakspeare's wisdom, on the other hand, can be traced to Shakspeare's brain, and no further, although he has borrowed the plots of his plays. Who lent Chaucer his pictures, fresh as dewdrops from the womb of the morning? Spenser's Allegories are as native to him as his dreams; and if Milton has now and then carried off a load which belonged to another, it was a load which only a giant's arm could lift, and which he added to a caravan of priceless wealth, the native inheritance of his own genius.
The highest rank of poets descend on their sublime subjects, like Uriel, descending alongst his sunbeam on the mountain tops; another order, with care, and effort, and circumspection, often with
'Labour dire and weary woe,'
reach noble heights, and there wave their hats, and dance in astonishment at their own perseverance and success. So it is with Pope in his peroration to the Dunciad, and in many other of the serious and really eloquent passages of his works. They ARE eloquent, brilliant, in composition faultless; but the intense self-consciousness of their author, and their visible elaboration, prevent them from seeming or being great. Of Pope, you say, "He smells of the midnight lamp;" of Dante, boys cried out on the street, "Lo! the man that was in hell." With the very first class of poets, artificial objects become natural, the "rod" becomes a "serpent;" with Pope, natural objects become artificial, the "serpent" becomes a "rod." Wordsworth makes a spade poetical; Pope would have made Skiddaw little better than a mass of prose.
Let us hear Hazlitt: "Pope saw nature only dressed by art; he judged of beauty by fashion; he sought for truth in the opinions of the world; he judged the feelings of others by his own. The capacious soul of Shakspeare had an intuitive and mighty sympathy with whatever could enter into the heart of man in all possible circumstances; Pope had an exact knowledge of all that he himself loved or hated, wished or wanted. Milton has winged his daring flight from heaven to earth, through Chaos and old Night; Pope's Muse never wandered in safety, but from his library to his grotto, or from his grotto into his library, back again. His mind dwelt with greater pleasure on his own garden than on the garden of Eden; he could describe the faultless whole-length mirror that reflected his own person, better than the smooth surface of the lake that reflects the face of heaven; a piece of cut glass or pair of paste-buckles with more brilliancy and effect than a thousand dewdrops glittering in the sun. He would be more delighted with a patent lamp than with the 'pale reflex of Cynthia's brow,' that fills the sky with the soft silent lustre that trembles through the cottage window, and cheers the mariner on the lonely wave. He was the poet of personality and polished life. That which was nearest to him was the greatest. His mind was the antithesis of strength and grandeur; its power was the power of indifference. He had none of the enthusiasm of poetry; he was in poetry what the sceptic is in religion. In his smooth and polished verse we meet with no prodigies of nature, but with miracles of wit; the thunders of his pen are whispered flatteries; its forked lightnings, pointed sarcasms; for the 'gnarled oak,' he gives us the 'soft myrtle;' for rocks, and seas, and mountains, artificial grass-plots, gravel-walks, and tinkling rills; for earthquakes and tempests, the breaking of a flower-pot or the fall of a China jar; for the tug and war of the elements, or the deadly strife of the passions,
"'Calm contemplation and poetic ease.'
"Yet within this retired and narrow circle, how much, and that how exquisite, was contained! What discrimination, what wit, what delicacy, what fancy, what lurking spleen, what elegance of thought, what pampered refinement of sentiment!"
A great deal of discussion took place, during the famous controversy about Pope between Bowles and Byron, on the questions—what objects are and are not fitted for poetic purposes, and whether natural or artificial objects be better suited for the treatment of the poet. In our life of Bowles we promised, and shall now proceed to attempt, a short review of the question then at issue, and which on both sides was pled with such ingenuity, ardour, and eloquence.
The question, professedly that of the province, slides away into what is the nature of poetry. The object of poetry is, we think, to show the infinite through the finite—to reveal the ideal in the real—it seeks, by clustering analogies and associations around objects, to give them a beautiful, or sublime, or interesting, or terrible aspect which is not entirely their own. Now, as all objects in comparison with the infinite are finite, and all realities in comparison with the ideal are little, it follows that between artificial and natural objects, as fitted for poetic purposes, there is no immense disparity, and that both are capable of poetic treatment. Both, accordingly, have become subservient to high poetic effect; and even the preponderance, whatever it be on the part of natural objects, has sometimes been equalised by the power of genius, and artificial things have often been made to wring the heart or awaken the fancy, as much or more than the other class. Think, for instance, of the words in Lear,
"Prithee, undo this button. Thank you, sir."
What more contemptibly artificial than a button? And yet, beating in the wind of the hysterical passion which is tearing the heart of the poor dying king, what a powerful index of misery it becomes, and its "undoing," as the sign of the end of the tragedy, and the letting forth of the great injured soul, has melted many to tears! When Lady Macbeth exclaims, in that terrible crisis,
"Give me the daggers!"'
who feels not, that, although a dagger be only an artificial thing, no natural or supernatural thing, not the flaming sword of the Cherubim itself, could seem, in the circumstances, more fearfully sublime. What action more artificial than dancing, and yet how grand it seems, in Ford's heroine, who continues to dance on till the ball is finished, while the news of "death, and death, and death" of friend, brother, husband, are successively recounted to her—and then herself expires! There seems no comparison between a diamond and a star, and yet a Shakspeare or a Schiller could so describe the trembling of a diamond on the brow say of Belshazzar when the apparition of the writing on the wall disturbed his impious feast, that it would seem more ideal and more magnificent than a star "trembling on the hand of God" when newly created, or trembling on the verge of everlasting darkness, when its hour had come. A slipper seems a very commonplace object; but how interesting the veritable slipper of Empedocles, who flung himself into Etna, whose slipper was disgorged by the volcano, and as a link, connecting the seen with the unseen, the grassy earth with the burning entrails of the eternal furnace, became intensely imaginative! A feather in a cap (even though it were an eagle's) seems, from its position, an object sufficiently artificial; but how affecting the black plume of Ravenswood floating on the waves which had engulphed the proud head that once bore it, and which old Caleb took up, dried, and placed in his bosom!
Nor are we sure that there are any objects so small or vulgar but what genius could extract poetry from them. In Pope's hands, indeed, the "clouded cane" and the "amber snuff-box" of Sir Plume assume no ideal aspect; but in Shakspeare's it might have been different; and the highest order of genius, like true catholicity of faith, counts "nothing common or unclean." What poetry Burns has gathered up even in "Poosie Nancy's," which had been lying unsuspected at the feet of beggars, prostitutes, and pickpockets! What powerful imagination there is in Crabbe's descriptions of poorhouses, prisons, and asylums; and in Wordsworth's "Old Cumberland Beggar," who, although he lived and died in the "eye of nature," was clothed in rags, and had the vulgar, mendicant meal-bag slung over his shoulders! What pathos Scott extracts from that "black bitch of a boat," which Mucklebackit, in the frenzy of his grief, accuses for the loss of his son! Which of the lower animals less poetical or coarser than a swine? and yet Shakspeare introduces such a creature with great effect in "Macbeth," in that weird dialogue of the witches—
"Where hast thou been, sister?" "Killing swine."
And Goethe makes it ideal by mingling it with the mad revelry of the "Walpurgis Night"—
"An able sow, with old Baubo upon her. Is worthy of glory and worthy of honour."
The whole truth on this vexed question may perhaps be summed up in the following propositions:—1st, No object, natural or artificial, is per se out of the province of imagination; 2d, There is no infinite gulf between natural and artificial objects, or between the higher and lower degrees of either, as subjects for the idealising power of poetry; 3d, Ere any object natural or artificial, become poetical, it must be subjected more or less to the transfiguring power of imagination; and, 4th, Some objects in nature, and some in art, need less of this transforming magic than others, and are thus intrinsically, although not immeasurably, superior in adaptation to the purposes of poetry.
The great point, after all, is, What eye beholds objects, whether natural or artificial? Is it a poetical eye or not? For given a poet's eye, then it matters little on what object that eye be fixed, it becomes poetical; where there is intrinsic poetry—as in mountains, the sea, the sky, the stars—it comes rushing out to the silent spell of genius; where there is less—as in artificial objects, or the poorer productions of nature—the mind of the poet must exert itself tenfold, and shed on it its own wealth and glory. Now, Pope, we fear, wanted almost entirely this true second sight. Take, for instance, the "lock" in the famous "Rape!" What fancy, humour, wit, eloquence, he brings to play around it! But he never touches it, even en passant, with a ray of poetry. You never could dream of intertwining it with
"The tangles of Neaera's hair,"
far less with the "golden tresses" and "wanton ringlets" of our primeval parent in the garden of Eden. Shakspeare, on the other hand, would have made it a dropping from the shorn sun, or a mad moonbeam gone astray, or a tress fallen from the hair of the star Venus, as she gazed too intently at her own image in the calm evening sea. Nor will Pope leave the "lock" entire in its beautiful smallness. He must apply a microscope to it, and stake his fame on idealising its subdivided, single hairs. The sylphs are created by combining the agility of Ariel with the lively impertinence of the inhabitants of Lilliput. Yet with what ease, elegance, and lingering love does he draw his petty Pucks, till, though too tiny for touch, they become palpable to vision! On the whole, had not the "Tempest" and the "Midsummer Night's Dream" existed before the "Rape of the Lock," the machinery in it would have proclaimed Pope a man of creative imagination. As it is, it proves wonderful activity of fancy. Shakspeare's delicate creations are touched again without crumbling at the touch, clad in new down, fed on a fresh supply of "honey-dew," and sent out on minor but aerial errands—although, after all, we prefer Puck and Ariel—not to speak of those delectable personages, Cobweb, Peaseblossom, and Mustardseed. Ariel's "oak," in our poet's hands, becomes a "vial"—"knotty entrails" are exchanged for a "bodkin's eye"—the fine dew of the "still vexed Bermoothes" is degraded into an "essence;" pomatum takes the place of poetry; the enchanted lock, of an enchanted isle; and the transformation of original imagination into ingenious fancy is completed before your eyes. Let the admirers of Pope, like the worshippers of Caesar of old, "beg a hair of him for memory;" for certainly he is more at home among hairs and curls than in any field where he has chosen to exercise his powers.
About Pope originally there was a small, trivial, and stinted something which did not promise even the greatness he actually attained. We do not allude merely to his small stature, remembering that the nine-pin Napoleon overthrew half the thrones in Europe. But he possessed sana mens in sano copore, an erect figure, and was "every inch a man," although his inches were few; while in Pope, both bodily and mentally, there lay a crooked, waspish, and petty nature. His form too faithfully reflected his character. He was never, from the beginning to the close of his life, a great, broad, genial being. There was an unhealthy taint which partly enfeebled and partly corrupted him. His self-will, his ambition, his Pariah position, as belonging to the Roman Catholic faith, the feebleness of his constitution, the uncertainty of his real creed, and one or two other circumstances we do not choose to name, combined to create a life-long ulcer in his heart and temper, against which the vigour of his mind, the enthusiasm of his literary tastes, and the warmth of his heart, struggled with much difficulty. He had not, in short, the basis of a truly great poet, either in imagination or in nature. Nor, with all his incredible industry, tact, and talent, did he ever rise into the "seventh heaven of invention." A splendid sylph let us call him—a "giant angel" he was not.
His culture, like his genius, was rather elegant than profound. He lived in an age when a knowledge of the classics, with a tincture of the metaphysics of the schools, was thought a good average stock of learning, although it was the age, too, of such mighty scholars as Bentley, Clarke, and Warlburton. Pope seems to have glanced over a great variety of subjects with a rapid recherce eye, not examined any one with a quiet, deep, longing, lingering, exhaustive look. He was no literary Behemoth, "trusting that he could draw up Jordan into his mouth." He became thus neither an ill-informed writer, like Goldsmith, whose ingenuity must make up for his ignorance, nor one of those doctorum vatum, those learned poets, such as Dante, Milton, and Coleridge, whose works alone, according at least to Buchanan, are to obtain the rare and regal palm of immortality—
"Sola doctorum monumenta vatum Nesciunt fati imperium severi: Sola contemnunt Phlegethonta, et Orci Jura superbi."
That his philosophy was empirical, is proved by his "Essay on Man," which, notwithstanding all its brilliant rhetoric, is the shallow version of a shallow system of naturalism. And one may accommodate to him the well-known saying of Lyndhurst about Lord Brougham, "who would have made a capital Chancellor if he had had only a little law;" so Pope was very well qualified to have translated Homer, barring his ignorance of Greek. But every page of his writings proves a wide and diversified knowledge—a knowledge, too, which he has perfectly under control—which he can make to go a great way—and by which, with admirable skill, he can subserve alike his moral and literary purpose. But the question now arises—What was his purpose? Was it worthy of his powers? Was it high, holy, and faithfully pursued? No poet, we venture to say, can be great without a great purpose. "Purpose is the edge and point of character; it is the stamp and superscription of genius; it is the direction on the letter of talent. Character without it is blunt and torpid; talent without it is a letter which, undirected, goes nowhere; genius without it is bullion, sluggish, splendid, and uncirculating." Now, Pope's purpose seems, on the whole, dim and uncertain. He is indifferent to destruction, and careless about conserving. He is neither an infidel nor a Christian; no Whig, but no very ardent Tory either. He seems to wish to support morality, but his support is stumbling and precarious; although, on the other hand, notwithstanding his frequent coarseness of language and looseness of allusion, he exhibits no desire to overturn or undermine it. His bursts of moral feeling are very beautiful (such as that containing the noble lines—
"Vice is undone if she forgets her earth, And stoops from angels to the dregs of birth. But 'tis the fall degrades her to a whore: Let greatness own her and she's mean no more. Her birth, her beauty, crowds and courts confess, Chaste matrons praise her, and grave bishops bless. In golden chains the willing world she draws, And hers the gospel is, and hers the laws; Mounts the tribunal, lifts her scarlet head, And sees pale Virtue carted in her stead.")
But they are brief, seem the result of momentary moods rather than the spray of a strong, steady current; and he soon turns from them to the expression of his petty chagrins and personal animosities. In satire, he has not the indomitable pace and deep-mouthed bellow of a Juvenal, pursuing his object like a bloodhound: he resembles more a half-angry, half-playful terrier. To obtain a terse and musical expression for his thought is his artistic purpose, but that of his mind and moral nature is not so apparent in his poetry. Indeed, we are tempted at times to class him with his own sylphs in this respect, as well as in the elegance and swiftness of his genius. They neither belonged to heaven nor hell, but vibrated between in graceful gyrations. They laughed at, and toyed with, all things—never rising to dangerous heights, never sinking into profound abysses—fancying a lock a universe, and a universe only a larger lock—dancing like evening ephemerae in the sunbeam, which was to be their sepulchre, and shutting their tiny eyes to all the solemn responsibilities, grave uncertainties, and mysterious destinies of human nature. And so, too often, did their poet.
Pope's special faculties are easily seen, and may be briefly enumerated. Destitute of the highest imagination, and perhaps of constructive power—(he has produced many brilliant parts, and many little, but no large wholes)—he is otherwise prodigally endowed. He has a keen, strong, clear intellect, which, if it seldom reaches sublimity, never fails to eliminate sense. He has wit of a polished and vigorous kind—less easy, indeed, than Addison's, the very curl of whose lip was crucifixion to his foe. This wit, when exasperated into satire, is very formidable, for, like Addison's, it does its work with little noise. Pope whispers poetic perdition—he deals in drops of concentrated bitterness—he stabs with a poisoned bodkin—he touches his enemies into stone with the light and playful finger of a fairy—and his more elaborate invectives glitter all over with the polish of profound malignity. His knowledge of human nature, particularly of woman's heart, is great, but seems more the result of impish eavesdropping than of that thorough and genial insight which sympathy produces. He has listened at the keyhole, not by any "Open Sesame" entered the chamber. He has rather painted manners than men. His power of simulating passion is great; but the passion must, in general, be mingled with unnatural elements ere he can realise it—the game must be putrid ere he can enjoy its flavour. He has no humour, at least in his poetry. It is too much of an unconscious outflow, and partakes too much of the genial and the human nature for him. His fancy is lively and copious, but its poetical products often resemble the forced fruits of a hothouse rather than those of a natural soil and climate. His description of Sporus, lauded by Byron as a piece of imagination, is exceedingly artificial and far-fetched in its figures—a mere mass of smoked gumflowers. Compare for fancy the speeches of Mercutio, in "Romeo and Juliet," the "Rape of the Lock," if we would see the difference between a spontaneous and artificial outpouring of images, between a fancy as free as fervid, and one lashing itself into productiveness. His power of describing natural objects is far from first-rate; he enumerates instead of describing; he omits nothing in the scene except the one thing needful—the bright poetical gleam or haze which ought to have been there. There is the "grass" but not the "splendour"—the "flower" but not the "glory." In depicting character, it is very different. His likenesses of men and women, so far as manners, external features, and the contrasts produced by the accidents of circumstances and the mutation of affairs, are inimitable. His power of complimenting is superior even to that of Louis XIV. He picks out the one best quality in a man, sets it in gold, and presents it as if he were conferring instead of describing a noble gift.
"Would you be blest, despise low joys, low gains, Disdain whatever Cornbury disdains; Be virtuous, and be happy for your pains."
Pope's language seems as if it were laboriously formed by himself for his peculiar shape of mind, habits of thought, and style of poetry. Compared to all English before him, Pope's English is a new although a lesser language. He has so cut down, shorn, and trimmed the broad old oak of Shakspeare's speech, that it seems another tree altogether. Everything is so terse, so clear, so pointed, so elaborately easy, so monotonously brilliant, that you must pause to remember. "These are the very copulatives, diphthongs, and adjectives of Hooker, Milton, and Jeremy Taylor." The change at first is pleasant, and has been generally popular; but those who know and love our early authors, soon miss their deep organ-tones, their gnarled strength, their intricate but intense sweetness, their varied and voluminous music, their linked chains of lightning, and feel the difference between the fabricator of clever lines and sparkling sentences, and the former of great passages and works. In keeping with his style is his versification, the incessant tinkling of a sheep-bell—sweet, small, monotonous—producing perfectly-melodious single lines, but no grand interwoven swells and well-proportioned masses of harmony. "Pope," says Hazlitt, "has turned Pegasus into a rocking-horse." The noble gallop of Dryden's verse is exchanged for a quick trot. And there is not even a point of comparison between his sweet sing-song, and the wavy, snow-like, spirit-like motion of Milton's loftier passages; or the gliding, pausing, fitful, river-like progress of Shakspeare's verse; or the fretted fury, and "torrent-rapture" of brave old Chapman in his translation of Homer; or the rich, long-drawn-out, slow-swimming, now soft-languishing, and now full-gushing melody of Spenser's "Faery Queen."—Yet, within his own sphere, Pope was, as Scott calls him, a "Deacon of his craft;" he aimed at, and secured, correctness and elegance; his part is not the highest, but in it he approaches absolute perfection; and with all his monotony of manner and versification, he is one of the most interesting of writers, and many find a greater luxury in reading his pages than those of any other poet. He is the facile princeps of those poetical writers who have written for, and are so singularly appreciated by, the fastidious—that class who are more staggered by faults than delighted with beauties.
Our glance at his individual works must be brief and cursory. His "Ode to Solitude" is the most simple and natural thing he ever wrote, and in it he seems to say to nature, "Vale, longum vale." His "Pastorals" have an unnatural and luscious sweetness. He has sugared his milk; it is not, as it ought to be, warm from the cow, and fresh as the clover. How different his "Rural Life" from the rude, rough pictures of Theocritus, and the delightfully true and genial pages of the "Gentle Shepherd!" His "Windsor Forest" is an elegant accumulation of sweet sonnets and pleasant images, but the freshness of the dew is not resting on every bud and blade. No shadowy forms are seen retiring amidst the glades of the forest; no Uriels seem descending on the sudden slips of afternoon sunshine which pierce athwart the green or brown masses of foliage; and you cannot say of his descriptions that
"Visions, as poetic eyes avow, Hang on each leaf and cling to every bough."
Shelley studied the scenery of his fine poem, "Alastor," in the same shades with Pope; but he had, like Jonathan of old, touched his lips with a rod dipped in poetic honey, and his "eyes were enlightened" to see sights of beauty and mystery which to the other are denied. Keats could have comprised all the poetry of "Windsor Forest" into one sonnet or line; indeed, has he not done so, where, describing his soul following the note of the nightingale into the far depths of the woods, where she is pouring out her heart in song, he says—
"And with thee fade away into the forest dim?"
The "Essay on Criticism" is rather a wonderful, intellectual, and artistic feat, than a true poem. It is astonishing as the work of a boy of nineteen, and contains a unique collection of clever and sparkling sentences, displaying the highest powers of acuteness and assimilation, if not much profound and original insight or genius. This poem suggests the wish that more of our critics would write in verse. The music might lessen the malice, and set off the commonplace to advantage, so that if there were no "reason," there might be at least "rhyme." His "Lines to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady" are too elaborate and artificial for the theme. It is a tale of intrigue, murder, and suicide, set to a musical snuff-box! His "Rape of the Lock" we have already characterised. It is an "Iliad in a nutshell," an Epic of Lilliput, where all the proportions are accurately observed, and where the finishing is so exact and admirable, that you fancy the author to have had microscopic eyes. It contains certainly the most elegant and brilliant badinage, the most graceful raillery, the most finished nonsense, and one of the most exquisitely-managed machineries in the language. His "Eloisa and Abelard," a poem beautiful and almost unequalled in execution, is ill chosen in subject. He compels you indeed to weep, but you blame and trample on your tears after they are shed. Pope in this poem, as Shelley in the "Cenci," has tried to extract beauty from moral deformity, and to glorify putrefaction. But who can long love to gaze at worms, however well painted, or will be disposed to pardon the monstrous choice of a dead or demon bride for the splendour of her wedding-garment? The passion of the Eloisa and that of the Cenci were both indeed facts; but many facts should be veiled statues in the Temple of Truth. To do, however, both Pope and Shelley justice, they touch their painful and shocking themes with extreme delicacy. "Dryden," well remarks Campbell, "would have given but a coarse draught of Eloisa's passion." Pope's Epistles, Satires, Imitations, &c., contain much of the most spirited sense and elegant sarcasm in literature. The portraits of "Villars" and "Atticus" will occur to every reader as masterpieces in power, although we deem the latter grossly unjust to a good and great man. His Homer is rather an adaptation than a translation—far less a "transfusion" of the Grecian bard. Pope does not, indeed, clothe the old blind rhapsodist with a bag-wig and sword; but he does all short of this to make him a fine modern gentleman. Scott, we think, could have best rendered Homer in his ballad-rhyme. Chapman is Chapman, but he is not Homer. Pope is Pope, and Hobbes is Hobbes, and Sotheby is Sotheby, and Cowper is Cowper, each doing his best to render Homer, but none of them is the grand old Greek, whose lines are all simple and plain as brands, but like brands pointed on their edges with fire.
The "Essay on Man" ought to have been called an "Epigram on Man," or, better still, should have been propounded as a riddle, to which the word "Man" was to supply the solution. But an antithesis, epigram, or riddle on man of 1300 lines, is rather long. It seems so especially as there is no real or new light cast in it on man's nature or destiny. (We refer our readers to the notes of Dr Croly's edition for a running commentary of confutation to the "Essay on Man" distinguished by solid and unanswerable acuteness of argument.) But such an eloquent and ingenious puzzle as it is! It might have issued from the work-basket of Titania herself. It is another evidence of Pope's greatness in trifles. How he would have shone in fabricating the staves of the ark, or the fringes of the tabernacle!
The "Dunciad" is in many respects the ablest, the most elaborate, and the most characteristic of Pope's poems. In embalming insignificance and impaling folly he seems to have found, at last, his most congenial work. With what apparently sovereign contempt, masterly ease, artistic calm, and judicial gravity, does he set about it! And once his museum of dunces is completed, with what dignity—the little tyrant that he was!—does he march through it, and with what complacency does he point to his slain and dried Dunces, and say, "Behold the work of my hands!" It never seems to have occurred to him that his poem was destined to be an everlasting memorial, not only of his enemies, but of the annoyance he had met from them—at once of his strength in crushing, and his weakness in feeling, their attacks, and in showing their mummies for money.
That Pope deserves, on the whole, the name of "poet," we are willing, as aforesaid, to concede. But he was the most artificial of true poets. He had in him a real though limited vein, but did not trust sufficiently to it, and at once weakened and strengthened it by his peculiar kind of cultivation. He weakened it as a faculty, but strengthened it as an art; he lessened its inward force, but increased the elegance and facility of its outward expression. What he might have attained, had he left his study and trim gardens, and visited the Alps, Snowdon, or the Grampians—had he studied Boileau less, and Dante, Milton, or the Bible more—we cannot tell; but he certainly, in this case, would have left works greater, if not more graceful, behind him; and if he had pleased his own taste and that of his age less, he might have more effectually touched the chord of the heart of all future time by his poetry. As it is, his works resemble rather the London Colosseum than Westminster Abbey. They are exquisite imitations of nature; but we never can apply to them the words of the poet—
"O'er England's abbeys bends the sky, As on its friends, with kindred eye; For Nature gladly gave them place, Adopted them into her race, And granted them an equal date With Andes and with Ararat."
Read, and admired, Pope must always be—if not for his poetry and passion, yet for his elegance, wit, satiric force, fidelity as a painter of artificial life, and the clear, pellucid English. But his deficiency in the creative faculty (a deficiency very marked in two of his most lauded poems we have not specified, his "Messiah" and "Temple of Fame," both eloquent imitations), his lack of profound thought, the general poverty of his natural pictures (there are some fine ones in "Eloisa and Abelard"), the coarse and bitter element often intermingled with his satire, the monotonous glitter of his verse, and the want of profound purpose in his writings, combine to class him below the first file of poets. And vain are all attempts, such as those of Byron and Lord Carlisle, to alter the general verdict. It is very difficult, after a time, either to raise or depress an acknowledged classic; and Pope must come, if he has not come already, to a peculiarly defined and strictly apportioned place on the shelf. He was unquestionably the poet of his age. But his age was far from being one of a lofty order: it was a low, languid, artificial, and lazily sceptical age. It loved to be tickled; and Pope tickled it with the finger of a master. It liked to be lulled, at other times, into half-slumber; and the soft and even monotonies of Pope's pastorals and "Windsor Forest" effected this end. It loved to be suspended in a state of semi-doubt, swung to and fro in agreeable equipoise; and the "Essay on Man" was precisely such a swing. It was fond of a mixture of strong English sense with French graces and charms of manner; and Pope supplied it. It was fond of keen, yet artfully managed satire; and Pope furnished it in abundance. It loved nothing that threatened greatly to disturb its equanimity or over-much to excite or arouse it; and there was little of this in Pope. Had he been a really great poet of the old Homer or Dante breed, he would have outshot his age, till he "dwindled in the distance;" but in lieu of immediate fame, and of elaborate lectures in the next century, to bolster it unduly up, all generations would have "risen and called him blessed."
We had intended some remarks on Pope as a prose-writer, and as a correspondent; but want of space has compelled us to confine ourselves to his poetry.
MORAL ESSAYS— Epistle I.—Of the Knowledge and Characters of Men Epistle II.—Of the Characters of Women Epistle III.—Of the Use of Riches Epistle IV.—Of the Use of Riches Epistle V.—Occasioned by his Dialogues on Medals
TRANSLATIONS AND IMITATIONS— Sappho to Phaon The Fable of Dryope Vertumnus and Pomona The First Book of Statius's Thebais January and May The Wife of Bath
PROLOGUES AND EPILOGUES— A Prologue to a Play for Mr Dennis's Benefit Prologue to Mr Addison's 'Cato' Prologue to Mr Thomson's 'Sophonisba' Prologue, designed for Mr D'Urfey's Last Play Prologue to 'The Three Hours after Marriage' Epilogue to Mr Rowe's 'Jane Shore'
MISCELLANIES— The Basset-Table Lines on receiving from the Right Hon. the Lady Frances Shirley a Standish and Two Pens Verbatim from Boileau Answer to the following Question of Mrs Howe Occasioned by some Verses of His Grace the Duke of Buckingham Macer: a Character Song, by a Person of Quality On a Certain Lady at Court On his Grotto at Twickenham Roxana, or the Drawing-Room To Lady Mary Wortley Montague Extemporaneous Lines on a Portrait of Lady Mary Wortley Montague Lines sung by Durastanti when she took leave of the English Stage Upon the Duke of Marlborough's House at Woodstock Verses left by Mr Pope, on his lying in the same bed which Wilmot slept in at Adderbury The Challenge The Three Gentle Shepherds Epigram, engraved on the Collar of a Dog The Translator The Looking-Glass A Farewell to London Sandys' Ghost Umbra Sylvia, a Fragment Impromptu to Lady Winchelsea Epigram Epigram on the Feuds about Handel and Bononcini On Mrs Tofts, a celebrated Opera Singer The Balance of Europe Epitaph on Lord Coningsby Epigram Epigram from the French Epitaph on Gay Epigram on the Toasts of the Kit-Kat Club To a Lady, with 'The Temple of Fame' On the Countess of Burlington cutting Paper On Drawings of the Statues of Apollo, Venus, and Hercules On Bentley's 'Milton' Lines written in Windsor Forest To Erinna A Dialogue Ode to Quinbus Flestrin The Lamentation of Glumdalclitch for the Loss of Grildrig To Mr Lemuel Gulliver Mary Gulliver to Captain Lemuel Gulliver 1740, a Fragment of a Poem The Fourth Epistle of the First Book of Horace Epigram on one who made long Epitaphs On an Old Gate A Fragment To Mr Gay Argus Prayer of Brutus Lines on a Grotto, at Cruxeaston, Hants
THE UNIVERSAL PRAYER
THE DUNCIAD— A Letter to the Publisher Martinus Scriblerus, his Prolegomena Testimonies of Authors Martinus Scriblerus of the Poem Recardus Aristarchus of the Hero of the Poem Book the First Book the Second Book the Third Book the Fourth Declaration by the Author
APPENDIX— I. Preface prefixed to the Five First imperfect Editions II. A List of Books, Papers, and Verses III. Advertisement to the First Edition IV. Advertisement to the First Edition of the Fourth Book V. Advertisement to the Complete Edition of 1743 VI. Advertisement printed in the Journals, 1730 VII. A Parallel of the Characters of Mr Dryden and Mr Pope
Index of Persons celebrated in this Poem
The 'Essay on Man' was intended to have been comprised in four books:—
The first of which, the author has given us under that title, in four epistles.
The second was to have consisted of the same number:—1. Of the extent and limits of human reason. 2. Of those arts and sciences, and of the parts of them, which are useful, and therefore attainable, together with those which are unuseful, and therefore unattainable. 3. Of the nature, ends, use, and application of the different capacities of men. 4. Of the use of learning, of the science of the world, and of wit; concluding with a satire against the misapplication of them, illustrated by pictures, characters, and examples.
The third book regarded civil regimen, or the science of politics, in which the several forms of a republic were to have been examined and explained; together with the several modes of religious worship, as far forth as they affect society; between which the author always supposed there was the most interesting relation and closest connexion; so that this part would have treated of civil and religious society in their full extent.
The fourth and last book concerned private ethics or practical morality, considered in all the circumstances, orders, professions, and stations of human life.
The scheme of all this had been maturely digested, and communicated to the Lord Bolingbroke, Dr Swift, and one or two more, and was intended for the only work of his riper years; but was, partly through ill health, partly through discouragements from the depravity of the times, and partly on prudential and other considerations, interrupted, postponed, and, lastly, in a manner laid aside.
But as this was the author's favourite work, which more exactly reflected the image of his strong capacious mind, and as we can have but a very imperfect idea of it from the disjecta membra poetae that now remain, it may not be amiss to be a little more particular concerning each of these projected books. The first, as it treats of man in the abstract, and considers him in general under every one of his relations, becomes the foundation, and furnishes out the subjects, of the three following; so that—
The second book takes up again the first and second epistles of the first book, and treats of man in his intellectual capacity at large, as has been explained above. Of this, only a small part of the conclusion (which, as we said, was to have contained a satire against the misapplication of wit and learning) may be found in the fourth book of 'The Dunciad,' and up and down, occasionally, in the other three.
The third book, in like manner, reassumes the subject of the third epistle of the first, which treats of man in his social, political, and religious capacity. But this part the poet afterwards conceived might be best executed in an epic poem; as the action would make it more animated, and the fable less invidious; in which all the great principles of true and false governments and religions should be chiefly delivered in feigned examples.
The fourth and last book pursues the subject of the fourth epistle of the first, and treats of ethics, or practical morality; and would have consisted of many members; of which the four following epistles were detached portions: the two first, on the characters of men and women, being the introductory part of this concluding book.—Warburton.
EPISTLE I.—TO SIR RICHARD TEMPLE, LORD COBHAM.
OF THE KNOWLEDGE AND CHARACTERS OF MEN.
That it is not sufficient for this knowledge to consider man in the abstract: books will not serve the purpose, nor yet our own experience singly, ver. 1. General maxims, unless they be formed upon both, will be but notional, ver. 10. Some peculiarity in every man, characteristic to himself, yet varying from himself, ver. 15. Difficulties arising from our own passions, fancies, faculties, &c., ver. 31. The shortness of life, to observe in, and the uncertainty of the principles of action in men, to observe by, ver. 37, &c. Our own principle of action often hid from ourselves, ver. 41. Some few characters plain, but in general confounded, dissembled, or inconsistent, ver. 51. The same man utterly different in different places and seasons, ver. 71. Unimaginable weaknesses in the greatest, ver. 70, &c. Nothing constant and certain but God and nature, ver. 95. No judging of the motives from the actions; the same actions proceeding from contrary motives, and the same motives influencing contrary actions, ver. 100. II. Yet to form characters, we can only take the strongest actions of a man's life, and try to make them agree: the utter uncertainty of this, from nature itself, and from policy, ver. 120. Characters given according to the rank of men of the world, ver. 135. And some reason for it, ver. 140. Education alters the nature, or at least character of many, ver. 149. Actions, passions, opinions, manners, humours, or principles, all subject to change. No judging by nature, from ver. 158 to 174. III. It only remains to find (if we can) his ruling passion: that will certainly influence all the rest, and can reconcile the seeming or real inconsistency of all his actions, ver. 175. Instanced in the extraordinary character of Clodio, ver. 179. A caution against mistaking second qualities for first, which will destroy all possibility of the knowledge of mankind, ver. 210. Examples of the strength of the ruling passion, and its continuation to the last breath, ver. 222, &c.
Yes, you despise the man to books confined, Who from his study rails at human kind; Though what he learns he speaks, and may advance Some general maxims, or be right by chance. The coxcomb bird, so talkative and grave, That from his cage cries 'Cuckold,' 'Whore,' and 'Knave,' Though many a passenger he rightly call, You hold him no philosopher at all.
And yet the fate of all extremes is such, Men may be read, as well as books, too much. 10 To observations which ourselves we make, We grow more partial for the observer's sake; To written wisdom, as another's, less: Maxims are drawn from notions, those from guess. There's some peculiar in each leaf and grain, Some unmark'd fibre, or some varying vein: Shall only man be taken in the gross? Grant but as many sorts of mind as moss.
That each from other differs, first confess; Next that he varies from himself no less: 20 Add nature's, custom's, reason's, passion's strife, And all opinion's colours cast on life.
Our depths who fathoms, or our shallows finds, Quick whirls, and shifting eddies, of our minds? On human actions reason though you can, It may be reason, but it is not man: His principle of action once explore, That instant 'tis his principle no more. Like following life through creatures you dissect, You lose it in the moment you detect. 30
Yet more; the difference is as great between The optics seeing, as the objects seen. All manners take a tincture from our own; Or come discolour'd, through our passions shown; Or fancy's beam enlarges, multiplies, Contracts, inverts, and gives ten thousand dyes.
Nor will life's stream for observation stay, It hurries all too fast to mark their way: In vain sedate reflections we would make, When half our knowledge we must snatch, not take. 40 Oft, in the passions' wild rotation toss'd, Our spring of action to ourselves is lost: Tired, not determined, to the last we yield, And what comes then is master of the field. As the last image of that troubled heap, When sense subsides, and fancy sports in sleep, (Though past the recollection of the thought), Becomes the stuff of which our dream is wrought: Something as dim to our internal view, Is thus, perhaps, the cause of most we do. 50
True, some are open, and to all men known; Others so very close, they're hid from none; (So darkness strikes the sense no less than light) Thus gracious Chandos is beloved at sight; And every child hates Shylock, though his soul Still sits at squat, and peeps not from its hole. At half mankind when generous Manly raves, All know 'tis virtue, for he thinks them knaves: When universal homage Umbra pays, All see 'tis vice, and itch of vulgar praise. 60 When flattery glares, all hate it in a queen, While one there is who charms us with his spleen.
But these plain characters we rarely find; Though strong the bent, yet quick the turns of mind: Or puzzling contraries confound the whole; Or affectations quite reverse the soul. The dull, flat falsehood serves for policy; And, in the cunning, truth itself's a lie: Unthought-of frailties cheat us in the wise; The fool lies hid in inconsistencies. 70
See the same man, in vigour, in the gout; Alone, in company; in place, or out; Early at business, and at hazard late; Mad at a fox-chase, wise at a debate; Drunk at a borough, civil at a ball; Friendly at Hackney, faithless at Whitehall.
Catius is ever moral, ever grave, Thinks who endures a knave, is next a knave, Save just at dinner—then prefers, no doubt, A rogue with venison to a saint without. 80
Who would not praise Patricio's high desert, His hand unstain'd, his uncorrupted heart, His comprehensive head, all interests weigh'd, All Europe saved, yet Britain not betray'd? He thanks you not, his pride is in picquet, Newmarket fame, and judgment at a bet.
What made (says Montaigne, or more sage Charron) Otho a warrior, Cromwell a buffoon? A perjured prince a leaden saint revere, A godless regent tremble at a star? 90 The throne a bigot keep, a genius quit, Faithless through piety, and duped through wit? Europe a woman, child, or dotard rule, And just her wisest monarch made a fool?
Know, God and Nature only are the same: In man, the judgment shoots at flying game; A bird of passage! gone as soon as found, Now in the moon perhaps, now under ground.
II. In vain the sage, with retrospective eye, Would from the apparent what conclude the why, 100 Infer the motive from the deed, and show That what we chanced was what we meant to do. Behold! if fortune or a mistress frowns, Some plunge in business, others shave their crowns: To ease the soul of one oppressive weight, This quits an empire, that embroils a state: The same adust complexion has impell'd Charles to the convent, Philip to the field.
Not always actions show the man: we find Who does a kindness, is not therefore kind; 110 Perhaps prosperity becalm'd his breast, Perhaps the wind just shifted from the east: Not therefore humble he who seeks retreat, Pride guides his steps, and bids him shun the great: Who combats bravely is not therefore brave, He dreads a death-bed like the meanest slave: Who reasons wisely is not therefore wise, His pride in reasoning, not in acting, lies.
But grant that actions best discover man; Take the most strong, and sort them as you can: 120 The few that glare, each character must mark, You balance not the many in the dark. What will you do with such as disagree? Suppress them, or miscall them policy? Must then at once (the character to save) The plain rough hero turn a crafty knave? Alas! in truth the man but changed his mind, Perhaps was sick, in love, or had not dined. Ask why from Britain Caesar would retreat? Caesar himself might whisper he was beat. 130 Why risk the world's great empire for a punk? Caesar perhaps might answer he was drunk. But, sage historians! 'tis your task to prove One action, conduct; one, heroic love.
'Tis from high life high characters are drawn; A saint in crape is twice a saint in lawn; A judge is just, a chancellor juster still; A gownman, learn'd; a bishop, what you will; Wise, if a minister; but, if a king, More wise, more learn'd, more just, more everything, 140 Court-virtues bear, like gems, the highest rate, Born where Heaven's influence scarce can penetrate: In life's low vale, the soil the virtues like, They please as beauties, here as wonders strike. Though the same sun with all-diffusive rays Blush in the rose, and in the diamond blaze, We prize the stronger effort of his power, And justly set the gem above the flower.
'Tis education forms the common mind, Just as the twig is bent, the tree's inclined. 150 Boastful and rough, your first son is a squire; The next a tradesman, meek, and much a liar; Tom struts a soldier, open, bold, and brave; Will sneaks a scrivener, an exceeding knave: Is he a Churchman? then he's fond of power: A Quaker? sly: A Presbyterian? sour: A smart free-thinker? all things in an hour. Ask men's opinions: Scoto now shall tell How trade increases, and the world goes well; Strike off his pension, by the setting sun, 160 And Britain, if not Europe, is undone.
That gay free-thinker, a fine talker once, What turns him now a stupid silent dunce? Some god, or spirit he has lately found; Or chanced to meet a minister that frown'd.
Judge we by nature? Habit can efface, Interest o'ercome, or policy take place: By actions? those uncertainty divides: By passions? these dissimulation hides: Opinions? they still take a wider range: 170 Find, if you can, in what you cannot change.
Manners with fortunes, humours turn with climes, Tenets with books, and principles with times.
III. Search, then, the ruling passion: there, alone, The wild are constant, and the cunning known; The fool consistent, and the false sincere; Priests, princes, women, no dissemblers here. This clue once found, unravels all the rest, The prospect clears, and Wharton stands confess'd. Wharton, the scorn and wonder of our days, 180 Whose ruling passion was the lust of praise: Born with whate'er could win it from the wise, Women and fools must like him or he dies; Though wondering senates hung on all he spoke, The club must hail him master of the joke. Shall parts so various aim at nothing new? He'll shine a Tully and a Wilmot too. Then turns repentant, and his God adores With the same spirit that he drinks and whores; Enough if all around him but admire, 190 And now the punk applaud, and now the friar. Thus with each gift of nature and of art, And wanting nothing but an honest heart; Grown all to all, from no one vice exempt; And most contemptible, to shun contempt; His passion still to covet general praise, His life, to forfeit it a thousand ways; A constant bounty which no friend has made; An angel tongue, which no man can persuade; A fool, with more of wit than half mankind, 200 Too rash for thought, for action too refined; A tyrant to the wife his heart approves; A rebel to the very king he loves; He dies, sad outcast of each church and state, And, harder still! flagitious, yet not great. Ask you why Wharton broke through every rule 'Twas all for fear the knaves should call him fool.
Nature well known, no prodigies remain, Comets are regular, and Wharton plain.
Yet, in this search, the wisest may mistake, 210 If second qualities for first they take. When Catiline by rapine swell'd his store; When Caesar made a noble dame a whore; In this the lust, in that the avarice Were means, not ends; ambition was the vice. That very Caesar, born in Scipio's days, Had aim'd, like him, by chastity at praise. Lucullus, when frugality could charm, Had roasted turnips in the Sabine farm. In vain the observer eyes the builder's toil, 220 But quite mistakes the scaffold for the pile.
In this one passion man can strength enjoy, As fits give vigour, just when they destroy. Time, that on all things lays his lenient hand, Yet tames not this; it sticks to our last sand. Consistent in our follies and our sins, Here honest Nature ends as she begins.
Old politicians chew on wisdom past, And totter on in business to the last; As weak, as earnest, and as gravely out, 230 As sober Lanesborough dancing in the gout.
Behold a reverend sire, whom want of grace Has made the father of a nameless race, Shoved from the wall perhaps, or rudely press'd By his own son, that passes by unbless'd: Still to his wench he crawls on knocking knees, And envies every sparrow that he sees.
A salmon's belly, Helluo, was thy fate; The doctor call'd, declares all help too late: 'Mercy!' cries Helluo, 'mercy on my soul! 240 Is there no hope? Alas! then bring the jowl.'
The frugal crone, whom praying priests attend, Still tries to save the hallow'd taper's end, Collects her breath, as ebbing life retires, For one puff more, and in that puff expires.
'Odious! in woollen! 'twould a saint provoke,' (Were the last words that poor Narcissa spoke), 'No, let a charming chintz and Brussels lace Wrap my cold limbs, and shade my lifeless face: One would not, sure, be frightful when one's dead— 250 And, Betty, give this cheek a little red.'
The courtier smooth, who forty years had shined An humble servant to all human kind, Just brought out this, when scarce his tongue could stir, 'If—where I'm going—I could serve you, sir?'
'I give and I devise' (old Euclio said, And sigh'd) 'my lands and tenements to Ned.' 'Your money, sir?' 'My money, sir, what! all? Why—if I must'—(then wept)—'I give it Paul.' 'The manor, sir?'—'The manor! hold,' (he cried), 260 'Not that—I cannot part with that'—and died.
And you, brave Cobham! to the latest breath Shall feel your ruling passion strong in death: Such in those moments as in all the past,
'Oh, save my country, Heaven!' shall be your last.
After VER. 86, in the former editions—
Triumphant leaders, at an army's head, Hemm'd round with glories, pilfer cloth or bread: As meanly plunder as they bravely fought, Now save a people, and now save a groat.
VER. 129, in the former editions—
Ask why from Britain Caesar made retreat? Caesar himself would tell you he was beat. The mighty Czar what moved to wed a punk? The mighty Czar would tell you he was drunk.
In the former editions, VER. 208—
Nature well known, no miracles remain.
EPISTLE II.—TO A LADY.
OF THE CHARACTERS OF WOMEN.
Nothing so true as what you once let fall— 'Most women have no characters at all.' Matter too soft a lasting mark to bear, And best distinguish'd by black, brown, or fair.
How many pictures of one nymph we view, All how unlike each other, all how true! Arcadia's Countess, here, in ermined pride, Is there, Pastora by a fountain side. Here Fannia, leering on her own good man, And there, a naked Leda with a swan. 10 Let then the fair one beautifully cry, In Magdalen's loose hair and lifted eye, Or dress'd in smiles of sweet Cecilia shine, With simpering angels, palms, and harps divine; Whether the charmer sinner it or saint it, If folly grow romantic, I must paint it.
Come then, the colours and the ground prepare! Dip in the rainbow, trick her off in air; Choose a firm cloud, before it fall, and in it Catch, ere she change, the Cynthia of this minute. 20
Rufa, whose eye quick glancing o'er the park, Attracts each light gay meteor of a spark, Agrees as ill with Rufa studying Locke, As Sappho's diamonds with her dirty smock; Or Sappho at her toilet's greasy task, With Sappho fragrant at an evening mask: So morning insects that in muck begun, Shine, buzz, and fly-blow in the setting sun.
How soft is Silia! fearful to offend; The frail one's advocate, the weak one's friend: 30 To her, Calista proved her conduct nice; And good Simplicius asks of her advice. Sudden, she storms! she raves! You tip the wink, But spare your censure—Silia does not drink. All eyes may see from what the change arose, All eyes may see—a pimple on her nose.
Papillia, wedded to her amorous spark, Sighs for the shades—'How charming is a park!' A park is purchased, but the fair he sees All bathed in tears—'Oh odious, odious trees!' 40
Ladies, like variegated tulips, show, 'Tis to their changes half their charms we owe; Fine by defect, and delicately weak, Their happy spots the nice admirer take. 'Twas thus Calypso once each heart alarm'd, Awed without virtue, without beauty charm'd; Her tongue bewitch'd as oddly as her eyes, Less wit than mimic, more a wit than wise; Strange graces still, and stranger flights she had, Was just not ugly, and was just not mad; 50 Yet ne'er so sure our passion to create, As when she touch'd the brink of all we hate.
Narcissa's nature, tolerably mild, To make a wash, would hardly stew a child; Has even been proved to grant a lover's prayer, And paid a tradesman once, to make him stare; Gave alms at Easter, in a Christian trim, And made a widow happy, for a whim. Why then declare good-nature is her scorn, When 'tis by that alone she can be borne 60 Why pique all mortals, yet affect a name? A fool to pleasure, yet a slave to fame: Now deep in Taylor and the Book of Martyrs, Now drinking citron with his Grace and Chartres: Now conscience chills her, and now passion burns; And atheism and religion take their turns; A very heathen in the carnal part, Yet still a sad, good Christian at her heart.
See Sin in state, majestically drunk; Proud as a peeress, prouder as a punk; 70 Chaste to her husband, frank to all beside, A teeming mistress, but a barren bride. What then? let blood and body bear the fault, Her head's untouch'd, that noble seat of thought: Such this day's doctrine—in another fit She sins with poets through pure love of wit. What has not fired her bosom or her brain— Caesar and Tall-boy, Charles and Charlemagne? As Helluo, late dictator of the feast, The nose of haut gout, and the tip of taste, 80 Critiqued your wine, and analysed your meat, Yet on plain pudding deign'd at home to eat; So Philomede, lecturing all mankind On the soft passion and the taste refined, The address, the delicacy—stoops at once, And makes her hearty meal upon a dunce.
Flavia's a wit, has too much sense to pray; To toast our wants and wishes, is her way; Nor asks of God, but of her stars, to give The mighty blessing, 'While we live, to live.' 90 Then all for death, that opiate of the soul! Lucretia's dagger, Rosamonda's bowl. Say, what can cause such impotence of mind? A spark too fickle, or a spouse too kind.
Wise wretch! with pleasures too refined to please; With too much spirit to be e'er at ease; With too much quickness ever to be taught; With too much thinking to have common thought: You purchase pain with all that joy can give, And die of nothing, but a rage to live. 100
Turn then from wits; and look on Simo's mate, No ass so meek, no ass so obstinate. Or her, that owns her faults, but never mends, Because she's honest, and the best of friends. Or her, whose life the church and scandal share, For ever in a passion or a prayer. Or her, who laughs at hell, but (like her Grace) Cries, 'Ah! how charming, if there's no such place!' Or who in sweet vicissitude appears Of mirth and opium, ratafia and tears, 110 The daily anodyne, and nightly draught, To kill those foes to fair ones—time and thought. Woman and fool are two hard things to hit; For true no-meaning puzzles more than wit.
But what are these to great Atossa's mind? Scarce once herself, by turns all womankind! Who, with herself, or others, from her birth Finds all her life one warfare upon earth: Shines, in exposing knaves, and painting fools, Yet is whate'er she hates and ridicules. 120 No thought advances, but her eddy brain Whisks it about, and down it goes again. Full sixty years the world has been her trade, The wisest fool much time has ever made. From loveless youth to uninspected age, No passion gratified, except her rage. So much the fury still outran the wit, The pleasure miss'd her, and the scandal hit. Who breaks with her, provokes revenge from hell, But he's a bolder man who dares be well. 130 Her every turn with violence pursued, Nor more a storm her hate than gratitude: To that each passion turns, or soon or late; Love, if it makes her yield, must make her hate: Superiors? death! and equals? what a curse! But an inferior not dependent? worse! Offend her, and she knows not to forgive: Oblige her, and she'll hate you while you live: But die, and she'll adore you—then the bust And temple rise—then fall again to dust. 140 Last night, her lord was all that's good and great: A knave this morning, and his will a cheat. Strange! by the means defeated of the ends, By spirit robb'd of power, by warmth of friends, By wealth of followers! without one distress, Sick of herself through very selfishness! Atossa, cursed with every granted prayer, Childless with all her children, wants an heir. To heirs unknown descends the unguarded store, Or wanders, Heaven-directed, to the poor. 150
Pictures like these, dear Madam, to design, Asks no firm hand, and no unerring line; Some wandering touches, some reflected light, Some flying stroke alone can hit 'em right: For how should equal colours do the knack? Chameleons who can paint in white and black?
'Yet Chloe, sure, was form'd without a spot'— Nature in her then err'd not, but forgot. 'With every pleasing, every prudent part, Say, what can Chloe want?'—She wants a heart. 160 She speaks, behaves, and acts just as she ought; But never, never reach'd one generous thought. Virtue she finds too painful an endeavour, Content to dwell in decencies for ever. So very reasonable, so unmoved, As never yet to love, or to be loved. She, while her lover pants upon her breast, Can mark the figures on an Indian chest; And when she sees her friend in deep despair, Observes how much a chintz exceeds mohair. 170 Forbid it, Heaven! a favour or a debt She e'er should cancel—but she may forget. Safe is your secret still in Chloe's ear; But none of Chloe's shall you ever hear. Of all her dears she never slander'd one, But cares not if a thousand are undone. Would Chloe know if you're alive or dead? She bids her footman put it in her head. Chloe is prudent—would you, too, be wise? Then never break your heart when Chloe dies. 180
One certain portrait may (I grant) be seen, Which Heaven has varnish'd out, and made a queen: The same for ever! and described by all With truth and goodness, as with crown and ball. Poets heap virtues, painters gems at will, And show their zeal, and hide their want of skill. 'Tis well—but, artists! who can paint or write, To draw the naked is your true delight. That robe of quality so struts and swells, None see what parts of nature it conceals: 190 The exactest traits of body or of mind, We owe to models of an humble kind. If Queensberry to strip there's no compelling, 'Tis from a handmaid we must take an Helen From peer or bishop 'tis no easy thing To draw the man who loves his God, or king: Alas! I copy (or my draught would fail) From honest Mahomet, or plain Parson Hale.
But grant, in public men sometimes are shown, A woman's seen in private life alone: 200 Our bolder talents in full light display'd; Your virtues open fairest in the shade. Bred to disguise, in public 'tis you hide; There, none distinguish 'twixt your shame or pride, Weakness or delicacy; all so nice, That each may seem a virtue, or a vice.
In men, we various ruling passions find; In women, two almost divide the kind; Those, only fix'd, they first or last obey, The love of pleasure, and the love of sway. 210
That, Nature gives; and where the lesson taught Is but to please, can pleasure seem a fault? Experience, this; by man's oppression curst, They seek the second not to lose the first.
Men, some to business, some to pleasure take; But every woman is at heart a rake: Men, some to quiet, some to public strife; But every lady would be queen for life.
Yet mark the fate of a whole sex of queens! Power all their end, but beauty all the means: 220 In youth they conquer, with so wild a rage, As leaves them scarce a subject in their age: For foreign glory, foreign joy, they roam; No thought of peace or happiness at home. But wisdom's triumph is well-timed retreat, As hard a science to the fair as great! Beauties, like tyrants, old and friendless grown, Yet hate repose, and dread to be alone, Worn out in public, weary every eye, Nor leave one sigh behind them when they die. 230
Pleasure the sex, as children birds, pursue, Still out of reach, yet never out of view; Sure, if they catch, to spoil the toy at most, To covet flying, and regret when lost: At last, to follies youth could scarce defend, It grows their age's prudence to pretend; Ashamed to own they gave delight before, Reduced to feign it, when they give no more: As hags hold Sabbaths, less for joy than spite, So these their merry, miserable night; 240 Still round and round the ghosts of beauty glide, And haunt the places where their honour died.
See how the world its veterans rewards! A youth of frolics, an old age of cards; Fair to no purpose, artful to no end, Young without lovers, old without a friend; A fop their passion, but their prize a sot, Alive, ridiculous; and dead, forgot!
Ah, friend! to dazzle let the vain design; To raise the thought, and touch the heart, be thine! 250 That charm shall grow, while what fatigues the ring, Flaunts and goes down, an unregarded thing: So when the sun's broad beam has tired the sight, All mild ascends the moon's more sober light, Serene in virgin modesty she shines, And unobserved the glaring orb declines.
Oh! bless'd with temper, whose unclouded ray Can make to-morrow cheerful as to-day; She, who can love a sister's charms, or hear Sighs for a daughter with unwounded ear; 260 She, who ne'er answers till a husband cools, Or, if she rales him, never shows she rules; Charms by accepting, by submitting sways, Yet has her humour most when she obeys; Let fops or fortune fly which way they will; Disdains all loss of tickets, or codille; Spleen, vapours, or small-pox, above them all, And mistress of herself though China fall.
And yet, believe me, good as well as ill, Woman's at best a contradiction still. 270 Heaven, when it strives to polish all it can Its last, best work, but forms a softer man; Picks from each sex, to make the favourite blest, Your love of pleasure or desire of rest: Blends, in exception to all general rules, Your taste of follies, with our scorn of fools: Reserve with frankness, art with truth allied, Courage with softness, modesty with pride; Fix'd principles, with fancy ever new; Shakes all together, and produces—you. 280
Be this a woman's fame: with this unbless'd, Toasts live a scorn, and queens may die a jest. This Phoebus promised (I forget the year) When those blue eyes first open'd on the sphere; Ascendant Phoebus watch'd that hour with care, Averted half your parents' simple prayer; And gave you beauty, but denied the pelf That buys your sex a tyrant o'er itself. The generous god, who wit and gold refines, And ripens spirits as he ripens mines, 290 Kept dross for duchesses, the world shall know it, To you gave sense, good-humour, and a poet.
VER. 77 in the MS.—
In whose mad brain the mix'd ideas roll Of Tall-toy's breeches, and of Caesar's soul.
After VER. 122 in the MS.—
Oppress'd with wealth and wit, abundance sad! One makes her poor, the other makes her mad.
After VER. 148 in the MS.—
This Death decides, nor lets the blessing fall On any one she hates, but on them all. Cursed chance! this only could afflict her more, If any part should wander to the poor.
After VER. 198 in the MS.—
Fain I'd in Fulvia spy the tender wife; I cannot prove it on her, for my life: And, for a noble pride, I blush no less, Instead of Berenice, to think on Bess. Thus while immortal Gibber only sings (As ——- and H—-y preach) for queens and kings, The nymph that ne'er read Milton's mighty line, May, if she love, and merit verse, have mine
VER. 207 in the first edition—
In several men we several passions find; In women, two almost divide the kind.
EPISTLE III.—TO ALLEN LORD BATHURST.
OF THE USE OF RICHES.
That it is known to few, most falling into one of the extremes, avarice or profusion, ver. 1., &c. The point discussed, whether the invention of money has been more commodious, or pernicious to mankind, ver. 21 to 77. That riches, either to the avaricious or the prodigal, cannot afford happiness, scarcely necessaries, ver. 89 to 160. That avarice is an absolute frenzy, without an end or purpose, ver. 113 to 152. Conjectures about the motives of avaricious men, ver. 121 to 153. That the conduct of men, with respect to riches, can only be accounted for by the order of Providence, which works the general good out of extremes, and brings all to its great end by perpetual revolutions, ver. 161 to 178. How a miser acts upon principles which appear to him reasonable, ver. 179. How a prodigal does the same, ver. l99. The due medium, and true use of riches, ver. 219. The Man of Ross, ver. 250. The fate of the profuse and the covetous, in two examples; both miserable in life and in death, ver. 300, &c. The story of Sir Balaam, ver. 339 to the end.
P. Who shall decide, when doctors disagree, And soundest casuists doubt, like you and me? You hold the word, from Jove to Momus given, That man was made the standing jest of Heaven; And gold but sent to keep the fools in play, For some to heap, and some to throw away.
But I, who think more highly of our kind, (And, surely, Heaven and I are of a mind) Opine, that Nature, as in duty bound, Deep hid the shining mischief under ground: 10 But when, by man's audacious labour won, Flamed forth this rival to its sire, the Sun, Then careful Heaven supplied two sorts of men, To squander these, and those to hide again.
Like doctors thus, when much dispute has pass'd, We find our tenets just the same at last. Both fairly owning, riches, in effect, No grace of Heaven or token of the elect; Given to the fool, the mad, the vain, the evil, To Ward, to Waters, Chartres, and the devil. 20
B. What nature wants, commodious gold bestows, 'Tis thus we eat the bread another sows.
P. But how unequal it bestows, observe, Tis thus we riot, while who sow it starve: What nature wants (a phrase I much distrust) Extends to luxury, extends to lust: Useful, I grant, it serves what life requires, But dreadful too, the dark assassin hires:
B. Trade it may help, society extend.
P. But lures the pirate, and corrupts the friend. 30
B. It raises armies in a nation's aid.
P. But bribes a senate, and the land's betray'd. In vain may heroes fight, and patriots rave; If secret gold sap on from knave to knave. Once, we confess, beneath the patriot's cloak, From the crack'd bag the dropping guinea spoke, And jingling down the back-stairs, told the crew, 'Old Cato is as great a rogue as you.' Blest paper-credit! last and best supply! That lends corruption lighter wings to fly! 40 Gold imp'd by thee, can compass hardest things, Can pocket states, can fetch or carry kings; A single leaf shall waft an army o'er, Or ship off senates to a distant shore; A leaf, like Sibyl's, scatter to and fro Our fates and fortunes, as the winds shall blow: Pregnant with thousands flits the scrap unseen, And silent sells a king, or buys a queen,
Oh! that such bulky bribes as all might see, Still, as of old, encumber'd villainy! 50 Could France or Rome divert our brave designs, With all their brandies, or with all their wines? What could they more than knights and squires confound, Or water all the quorum ten miles round? A statesman's slumbers how this speech would spoil! 'Sir, Spain has sent a thousand jars of oil; Huge bales of British cloth blockade the door; A hundred oxen at your levee roar.'
Poor avarice one torment more would find; Nor could profusion squander all in kind. 60 Astride his cheese, Sir Morgan might we meet; And Worldly crying coals from street to street, Whom, with a wig so wild, and mien so mazed, Pity mistakes for some poor tradesman crazed. Had Colepepper's whole wealth been hops and hogs, Could he himself have sent it to the dogs? His Grace will game: to White's a bull be led, With spurning heels, and with a butting head: To White's be carried, as to ancient games, Fair coursers, vases, and alluring dames. 70 Shall then Uxorio, if the stakes he sweep, Bear home six whores and make his lady weep? Or soft Adonis, so perfumed and fine, Drive to St James's a whole herd of swine? Oh filthy check on all industrious skill, To spoil the nation's last great trade—quadrille? Since then, my lord, on such a world we fall, What say you?
B. Say! Why, take it, gold and all.
P. What riches give us, let us then inquire: Meat, fire, and clothes.
B. What more?
P. Meat, clothes, and fire. 80 Is this too little? would you more than live? Alas! 'tis more than Turner finds they give. Alas! 'tis more than (all his visions past) Unhappy Wharton, waking, found at last! What can they give? to dying Hopkins, heirs; To Chartres, vigour; Japhet, nose and ears? Can they in gems bid pallid Hippia glow, In Fulvia's buckle ease the throbs below; Or heal, old Narses, thy obscener ail, With all the embroidery plaster'd at thy tail? 90 They might (were Harpax not too wise to spend) Give Harpax' self the blessing of a friend; Or find some doctor that would save the life Of wretched Shylock, spite of Shylock's wife: But thousands die, without or this or that, Die, and endow a college, or a cat. To some, indeed, Heaven grants the happier fate, T' enrich a bastard, or a son they hate.
Perhaps you think the poor might have their part? Bond damns the poor, and hates them from his heart: 100 The grave Sir Gilbert holds it for a rule, That 'every man in want is knave or fool:' 'God cannot love' (says Blunt, with tearless eyes) 'The wretch he starves'—and piously denies: But the good bishop, with a meeker air, Admits, and leaves them, Providence's care.
Yet, to be just to these poor men of pelf, Each does but hate his neighbour as himself: Damn'd to the mines, an equal fate betides The slave that digs it, and the slave that hides. 110
B. Who suffer thus, mere charity should own, Must act on motives powerful, though unknown.
P. Some war, some plague, or famine, they foresee, Some revelation hid from you and me. Why Shylock wants a meal, the cause is found, He thinks a loaf will rise to fifty pound. What made directors cheat in South-sea year? To live on venison when it sold so dear. Ask you why Phryne the whole auction buys? Phryne foresees a general excise. 120 Why she and Sappho raise that monstrous sum? Alas! they fear a man will cost a plum.
Wise Peter sees the world's respect for gold, And therefore hopes this nation may be sold: Glorious ambition! Peter, swell thy store, And be what Rome's great Didius was before.
The crown of Poland, venal twice an age, To just three millions stinted modest Gage. But nobler scenes Maria's dreams unfold, Hereditary realms, and worlds of gold. 130 Congenial souls! whose life one avarice joins, And one fate buries in the Asturian mines.
Much-injured Blunt! why bears he Britain's hate? A wizard told him in these words our fate: 'At length corruption, like a general flood, (So long by watchful ministers withstood) Shall deluge all; and avarice creeping on, Spread like a low-born mist, and blot the sun, Statesman and patriot ply alike the stocks, Peeress and butler share alike the box, 140 And judges job, and bishops bite the town, And mighty dukes pack cards for half-a-crown. See Britain sunk in lucre's sordid charms, And France revenged of Anne's and Edward's arms!' 'Twas no court-badge, great scrivener! fired thy brain, Nor lordly luxury, nor city gain: No, 'twas thy righteous end, ashamed to see Senates degenerate, patriots disagree, And nobly wishing party-rage to cease, To buy both sides, and give thy country peace. 150
'All this is madness,' cries a sober sage: But who, my friend, has reason in his rage? 'The ruling passion, be it what it will, The ruling passion conquers reason still.' Less mad the wildest whimsy we can frame, Than even that passion, if it has no aim; For though such motives folly you may call, The folly's greater to have none at all.
Hear, then, the truth: ''Tis Heaven each passion sends, And different men directs to different ends. 160 Extremes in Nature equal good produce, Extremes in man concur to general use.' Ask we what makes one keep, and one bestow? That Power who bids the ocean ebb and flow, Bids seed-time, harvest, equal course maintain, Through reconciled extremes of drought and rain. Builds life on death, on change duration founds, And gives the eternal wheels to know their rounds.
Riches, like insects, when conceal'd they lie, Wait but for wings, and in their season fly. 170 Who sees pale Mammon pine amidst his store, Sees but a backward steward for the poor; This year a reservoir, to keep and spare; The next a fountain, spouting through his heir, In lavish streams to quench a country's thirst, And men and dogs shall drink him till they burst.
Old Cotta shamed his fortune and his birth, Yet was not Cotta void of wit or worth: What though (the use of barbarous spits forgot) His kitchen vied in coolness with his grot? 180 His court with nettles, moats with cresses stored, With soups unbought and salads bless'd his board? If Cotta lived on pulse, it was no more Than Brahmins, saints, and sages did before; To cram the rich was prodigal expense, And who would take the poor from Providence? Like some lone Chartreux stands the good old Hall, Silence without, and fasts within the wall; No rafter'd roofs with dance and tabor sound, No noontide-bell invites the country round: 190 Tenants with sighs the smokeless towers survey, And turn the unwilling steeds another way: Benighted wanderers, the forest o'er, Curse the saved candle, and unopening door; While the gaunt mastiff growling at the gate, Affrights the beggar whom he longs to eat.
Not so his son; he mark'd this oversight, And then mistook reverse of wrong for right. (For what to shun will no great knowledge need, But what to follow, is a task indeed). 200 Yet sure, of qualities deserving praise, More go to ruin fortunes, than to raise. What slaughter'd hecatombs, what floods of wine, Fill the capacious squire, and deep divine! Yet no mean motive this profusion draws, His oxen perish in his country's cause; 'Tis George and Liberty that crowns the cup, And zeal for that great house which eats him up. The woods recede around the naked seat, The silvans groan—no matter—for the fleet; 210 Next goes his wool—to clothe our valiant bands, Last, for his country's love, he sells his lands. To town he comes, completes the nation's hope, And heads the bold train-bands, and burns a pope. And shall not Britain now reward his toils, Britain, that pays her patriots with her spoils? In vain at court the bankrupt pleads his cause, His thankless country leaves him to her laws.
The sense to value riches, with the art To enjoy them, and the virtue to impart, 220 Not meanly, nor ambitiously pursued, Not sunk by sloth, nor raised by servitude: To balance fortune by a just expense, Join with economy, magnificence; With splendour, charity; with plenty, health; Oh teach us, Bathurst! yet unspoil'd by wealth! That secret rare, between the extremes to move Of mad good-nature and of mean self-love.
B. To worth or want well-weigh'd, be bounty given, And ease, or emulate, the care of Heaven; 230 (Whose measure full o'erflows on human race) Mend Fortune's fault, and justify her grace. Wealth in the gross is death, but life, diffused; As poison heals, in just proportion used: In heaps, like ambergris, a stink it lies, But well-dispersed, is incense to the skies.
P. Who starves by nobles, or with nobles eats? The wretch that trusts them, and the rogue that cheats. Is there a lord, who knows a cheerful noon Without a fiddler, flatterer, or buffoon? 240 Whose table, wit, or modest merit share, Unelbow'd by a gamester, pimp, or player? Who copies yours, or Oxford's better part, To ease the oppress'd, and raise the sinking heart? Where'er he shines, O Fortune! gild the scene, And angels guard him in the golden mean! There, English bounty yet awhile may stand, And honour linger ere it leaves the land.
But all our praises why should lords engross? Rise, honest Muse! and sing the Man of Ross: 250 Pleased Vaga echoes through her winding bounds, And rapid Severn hoarse applause resounds. Who hung with woods yon mountain's sultry brow? From the dry rock who bade the waters flow? Not to the skies in useless columns toss'd, Or in proud falls magnificently lost, But clear and artless pouring through the plain Health to the sick, and solace to the swain. Whose causeway parts the vale with shady rows? Whose seats the weary traveller repose? 260 Who taught that heaven-directed spire to rise? 'The Man of Ross,' each lisping babe replies. Behold the market-place with poor o'erspread! The Man of Ross divides the weekly bread: He feeds yon alms-house, neat, but void of state, Where Age and Want sit smiling at the gate: Him portion'd maids, apprenticed orphans bless'd, The young who labour, and the old who rest. Is any sick? the Man of Ross relieves, Prescribes, attends, the medicine makes, and gives. 270 Is there a variance? enter but his door, Balk'd are the courts, and contest is no more. Despairing quacks with curses fled the place, And vile attorneys, now a useless race.
B. Thrice happy man! enabled to pursue What all so wish, but want the power to do! Oh say, what sums that generous hand supply? What mines, to swell that boundless charity?
P. Of debts and taxes, wife and children clear, This man possess'd—five hundred pounds a-year. 280 Blush, Grandeur, blush! proud courts, withdraw your blaze! Ye little stars, hide your diminish'd rays!
B. And what? no monument, inscription, stone? His race, his form, his name almost unknown?
P. Who builds a church to God, and not to fame, Will never mark the marble with his name: Go, search it there, where to be born and die, Of rich and poor makes all the history; Enough, that virtue fill'd the space between; Proved, by the ends of being, to have been. 290 When Hopkins dies, a thousand lights attend The wretch who, living, saved a candle's end: Shouldering God's altar a vile image stands, Belies his features, nay, extends his hands; That live-long wig which Gorgon's self might own, Eternal buckle takes in Parian stone. Behold what blessings wealth to life can lend! And see what comfort it affords our end!
In the worst inn's worst room, with mat half-hung, The floors of plaster, and the walls of dung, 300 On once a flock-bed, but repair'd with straw, With tape-tied curtains, never meant to draw, The George and Garter dangling from that bed Where tawdry yellow strove with dirty red, Great Villiers lies—alas! how changed from him, That life of pleasure, and that soul of whim! Gallant and gay, in Cliveden's proud alcove, The bower of wanton Shrewsbury, and love; Or just as gay, at council, in a ring Of mimick'd statesmen, and their merry king. 310 No wit to flatter, left of all his store; No fool to laugh at, which he valued more. There, victor of his health, of fortune, friends, And fame, this lord of useless thousands ends.