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Say for my comfort, languishing in bed,
Juft fo immortal Maro held his head:" And when I die, be fure you let me know Great Homer dy'd three thousand years ago.
Why did I write? what fin to me unknown 125 Dipt me in ink, my parents', or my own? As yet a child, nor yet a fool to fame, I lifp'd in numbers, for the numbers came.
After 124. in the MS.
But, friend, this shape, which You and Curl * admire,
a Curl fet up his head for a fign. b His Father was crooked. His Mother was much afflicted with head-achs.
VER. 127. As yet a child, &c.] He used to say, that he began to write verfes further back than he could remember. When he was eight years old, Ogilby's Homer fell in his way, and delighted him extremely; it was followed by Sandys' Ovid; and the raptures these then gave him were fo ftrong, that he fpoke of them with pleafure ever after. About ten, being at school at Hide-park-corner, where he was much neglected, and fuffered to go to the Comedy with the greater boys, he turned the tranfactions of the Iliad into a play, made up of a number of fpeeches from Ogilby's tranflation, tacked together with verfes of his own. He had the addrefs to perfuade the upper boys to act it; he even prevailed on the Mafter's Gardener to reprefent Ajax; and contrived to have all the actors dressed after the pictures in his favourite Ogilby. At twelve he went with VOL. IV. с
I left no calling for this idle trade,
No duty broke, no father difobey'd.
But why then publish? Granville the polite, 1 3 5
his Father into the Foreft: and then got first acquainted with the writings of Waller, Spencer, and Dryden; in the order I have named them. On the first fight of Dryden, he found he had what he wanted. His Poems were never out of his hands; they became his model; and from them alone he learnt the whole magic of his verfification. This year he began an epic Poem, the fame which Bp. Atterbury, long afterwards, perfuaded him to burn. Befides this, he wrote, in thofe early days, a Comedy and Tragedy, the latter taken from a story in the Legend of St. Genevieve. They both defervedly underwent the fame fate. As he began his Paftorals foon after, he used to fay pleafantly, that he had literally followed the example of Virgil, who tells us, Cum canerem reges et prælia, &c.
VER. 130. no father difobey'd.] When Mr. Pope was yet a Child, his Father, though no Poet, would fet him to make English verfes. He was pretty difficult to please, and would often fend the boy back to new turn them. When they were to his mind, he took great pleasure in them, and would fay, Thefe are good rhymes. VER. 139. Talbot, &c.] All thefe were Patrons or Admirers of Mr. Dryden; though a fcandalous libel against him, entitled,
And St. John's felf (great Dryden's friends before)
Dryden's Satyr to his Muft, has been printed in the name of the Lord Sorters, of which he was wholly ignorant.
Thefe are the perions to whofe account the Author charges the publication of his firft pieces: perfons, with whom he was converfant (and he adds beloved) at 16 or 17 years of age; an early period for fuch acquaintance. The catalogue might be made yet more illuftrious, had he not confined it to that time when he writ the Patiorals and Winajor Foreft, on which he pailes a fort of Cenfure in the lines following,
While pure Description held the place of Sense ? &c. P. VER. 146. Burnets, &c.] Authors of fecret and fcandalous Hiftory.
Ibid. Burnets, O'dmixens, and Cooks.] By no means Au thors of the fame clafs, though the violence of party might hurry them into the fame miftakes. But if the first offended this way, it was only through an honest warmth of temper, that allowed too little to an excellent understanding. other two, with very bad heads, had hearts ftill worse.
VER. 148. While pure Description held the place of Senfe ?] He uses pure equivocally, to fignify either chaste or empty; and has given in this line what he eficemed the true Character of defcriptive poetry, as it is called. A compofition, in his opinion, as abfurd as a feaft made up of fauces. The ufe of a pictorefque imagination is to brighten and adorn good fense; fo that to employ it only in defcription, is like childrens delighting in à prifm for the fake of its gaudy colours; which when frugally
Like gentle Fanny's was my flow'ry theme,
If want provok'd, or madness made them print, 155
Did fome more fober Critic come abroad;
And 'twere a fin to rob them of their mite.
managed, and artfully difpofed, might be made to represent and illuftrate the nobleft objects in nature.
VER. 150. A painted meadow, or a purling fream. is a verfe of Mr. Addison.
VER. 163. thefe ribalds,] How defervedly this title is given to the genius of PHILOLOGY, may be feen by a fhort account of the manners of the modern Scholiafts.
When in these latter ages, human learning raifed its head in the Weft, and its tail, verbal criticifm, was, of course, to rife with it; the madnefs of Critics foon became fo offenfive, that the fober ftupidity of the monks might appear the more tolerable evil. J. Argyropylus, a mercenary Greek, who came to teach fchool in Italy, after the facking of Conftantinople by the Turks,
Each wight, who reads not, and but fcans and spells, Each Word-catcher, that lives on fyllables, 166.
used to maintain that Cicero underflood neither Philofophy nor Greek: while another of his Countrymen, J. Lafcari: by name, threatened to demonftrate that Virgil was no Poet. Coun-tenanced by such great examples, a French Critic afterwards undertook to prove that Ariftotie did not understand Greek, nor Titus Livius, Latin. It was the fame difcernment of fpirit, which has fince difcovered that Jofephus was ignorant of He-brew; and Er fmus fo pitiful a Linguift, that, Burman afiures us, were he now alive, he would not deferve to be put at the head of a country school. For though time has ftrip'd the prefent race of Pedants of all the real accomplishments of their predeceffors, it has conveyed down this fpirit to them, unimpaired; it being found much easier to ape their manners, than to imitate their science. However, thofe earlier Ribalds raised an appetite for the Greek language in the Weft: infomuch, that Hermolaus Barbarus, a paflionate admirer of it, and a noted Critic, used to boast, that he had invoked and raised the Devil, and puzzled him into the bargain, about the meaning of the Ariftotelian ENTEAEXEIA. Another, whom Balzac fpeaks of, was as eminent for his Revelations and was wont to fay, that the meaning of such or such a verse, in Perfius, no one knew but GOD and himself. While the celebrated Pomponius Latus, in excess of Veneration for Antiquity, became a real Pagan, raifed altars to Romulus, and facriñced to the Gods of Latium: in which he was followed by our countryman, Baxter, in every thing, but in the expence of his facrifices.
But if the Greeks cried down Cicero, the Italian Critics knew how to support his credit. Every one has heard of the childifh exceffes into which the ambition of being thought CICERONIANS carried the moft celebrated Italians of this time. They abftained from reading the Scriptures for fear of spoiling their style: Cardinal Bembo used to call the Epistles of St. Paul by the contemptuous name of Epiftolaccias, great overg oun Epifles. But ERASMUS cured their frenzy in that maker, lece of good fenfe, his Ciceronianus. For which (in the way Lunatics treat their Phyficians) the elder Saliger infulted him with all the brutal fury peculiar to his family and profefiion.