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THE HE Reflections of Horace, and the Judgments paffed in his Epiftle to Auguftus, feemed fo feafonable to the present Times, that I could not help applying them to the use of my own Country. The Author thought them confiderable enough to address them to his Prince; whom he paints with all the great and good qualities of a Monarch, upon whom the Romans depended for the Increase of an Abfolute Empire. But to make the Poem entirely English, I was willing to add one or two of those which contribute to the Happiness of a Free People, and are more consistent with the Welfare of our Neighbours.
This Epistle will fhew the learned World to have fallen into two mistakes: one, that Auguftus was a Patron of Poets in general; whereas he not only prohibited all but the Best Writers to name him, but recommended that Care even to the Civil Magiftrate: Admonebat Prætores, ne paterentur Nomen fuum obfolefieri, &c. The other, that this Piece was only a general Difcourfe of Poetry; whereas it was an Apology for the Poets, in order to render Auguftus more their Patron. Horace here pleads the Cause of his Cotemporaries, first against the Taste of the Town, whose humour it was to magnify the Authors of the preceding Age; fecondly against the Court and Nobility, who encouraged only the Writers for the Theatre; and
and laftly against the Emperor himself, who had conceived them of little Ufe to the Government. He fhews (by a View of the Progrefs of Learning, and the Change of Taste among the Romans) that the Introduction of the Polite Arts of Greece had given the Writers of his Time great advantages over their Predeceffors; that their Morals were much improv, ed, and the Licence of those ancient Poets restrained: that Satire and Comedy were become more just and ufeful; that whatever extravagancies were left on the Stage, were owing to the Ill Tafte, of the Nobility; that Poets, under due Regulations, were in many respects useful to the State; and concludes, that it was upon them the Emperor himself must depend, for his Fame with Posterity.
We may further learn from this Epiftle, that Horace made his Court to this Great Prince by writing with a decent Freedom toward him, with a juft Contempt of his low Flatterers, and with a manly regard to his own Character. POPE.
Romulus, et Liber pater, et cum Caftore Pollux, Poft ingentia facta, Deorum in templa recepti,
* Romulus,] Dion Caffius informs us, book 53. that Auguftus was particularly pleafed to be called Romulus. WARTON.
VER. 1. While you, great Patron] All thofe naufeous and outrageous compliments, which Horace, in a strain of abject adulation, degraded himself by paying to Auguftus, Pope has converted into bitter and pointed farcasms, conveyed under the form of the most artful irony.
"Horace," fays Pope, in the advertisement to this piece, "made his court to this great prince, (or rather this cool and fubtle tyrant,) by writing with a decent freedom towards him, with a juft contempt of his low flatterers, and with a manly regard to his own character." Surely he forgot the 15th and 16th lines:
Jurandafque tibi per numen ponimus aras,
Nil oriturum alias, nil ortum tale fatentes, &c. WARTON.
VER. 2. open all the Main ;] This has been thought a very obfcure expreffion; but it should be remembered that irony is the leading feature of this Epiftle. It was written in 1737, at the time when the Spanish depredations at sea were such, that there was an univerfal cry that the British flag had been infulted, and the contemptible and degraded English braved on their own element. At this period, fays Mr. Coxe," the House was daily inundated " with
WHILE you, great Patron of Mankind! * sustain The balanc'd World, and open all the Main; Your Country, chief, in Arms abroad defend,
At home, with Morals, Arts, and Laws amend;
How fhall the Mufe, from fuch a Monarch, steal 5 An hour, and not defraud the Public Weal?
Edward and Henry, now the Boast of Fame, And virtuous Alfred, a more facred Name,
"with petitions and papers relating to the inhumanities commit"ted on the English prifoners taken on board of trading veffels."
Opening all the Main," therefore, means that the King was fo LIBERAL as to leave it OPEN TO THE SPANIARDS, who committed with impunity whatever outrages they pleased, on those who were before confidered the almost exclufive mafters of it.
The fame explanation may be given of
"Your Country, chief, in arms abroad defend.” This line means quite the contrary. The people were wearied with fo long a period of peace, and in 1738 the public mind was agitated almoft to phrenzy, and the cry of inftant war, retaliation, and revenge, refounded from one part of England to the other; it is therefore with the bittereft farcasm that Pope exclaims,
"Your Country, chief, IN ARMS ABROAD DEFEND!"
It was not till two years afterwards, October 19th, 1739, that war, fo long infifted on, was declared, which declaration was received with the greatest demonstrations of enthusiasm and joy. How then could any one at the time be ignorant of the real meaning of Pope's expreffions?
VER. 5. from fuch a Monarch.] This fine imitation was first published in 1737. The ftrong fatire with which it abounds was
Dum terras hominumque colunt genus, afpera bella
Urit enim fulgore fuo, qui prægravat artes
Præfenti tibi maturos largimur honores,
concealed with fuch delicate art and addrefs, that many perfons, and some of the highest rank in the court, as I have been well informed, read it as a panegyric on the king and miniftry, and congratulated themfelves that Pope had left the oppofition, in which he had been engaged. But it may feem strange they fhould not fee the drift and intention of fuch lines, as, the fix firft, the twenty ninth, the three hundred and fifty-fourth, the three hundred and fifty-fixth, the three hundred and feventy-fixth, the three hundred and ninety-fourth, and many other lines.