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Catius 6 is ever moral, ever grave,
85 Newmarket fame, and judgment at a bet.8
What made (say Montaigne, or more sage Charron !) Otho a warrior, Cromwell a buffoon ?
6 [Catius is Charles Dartineuf, whom Gay calls a grave joker," and who was a noted epicure. He occurs again in the Imitations of Horace.]
7 [Sidney Earl of Godolphin.]
Triumphant leaders at an army's head,
Now save a people, and now save a groat.” The satire here is general as respects the army—and nothing could be more lax or extravagant than the system of military accounts and supplies—but the poet evidently points to Marlborough, whose avarice he frequently con. demns. The great general did not pilfer, but he had taken presents from army contractors. Never, ore or since, was the low vice of avarice united to such transcendant talents as in the case of Marlborough; and it is to be regretted, that Pope did not anatomise his character in the style of Atticus or Atossa. The brilliant lights and strong contrasts—the public glory and private meanness—would have afforded him a noble subject; and the materials were at his hand. The beginning of Marlborough's enormous fortune, it is well known, was a present of £5000, given him by the infamous Duchess of Cleveland, and with this sum the young ensign, old in prudence, purchased an annuity, which was secured on the Earl of Halifax's estate. But one of the most striking illustrations of his penurious habits, and the best comment on Pope's verses, is an anecdote related by Warton, on the authority of Colonel Selwyn. The night before the battle of Blenheim, after a council of war had been held in Marlborough's tent, at which Prince Louis of Baden and Prince Eugene assisted, the latter, after the council had broken up, stepped back to the tent to communicate something he had forgotten, when he found the Duke giving orders to his aide-de-camp at the table, on which there was now only a single light burning, all the others having been extinguished the moment the council was over. “What a man is this,” said Prince Eugene, “who at such a time can think of saving the ends of candles !"]
A perjured prince a leaden saint revere,9
Know, God and Nature only are the same :
II. In vain the sage, with retrospective eye,
Not always actions show the man; we find
9 Louis XI. of France wore in his hat a leaden image of the Virgin Mary which when he swore by, he feared to break his oath.
10 Philip Duke of Orleans, Regent of France in the minority of Louis XV., superstitious in judicial astrology, though an unbeliever in all religion.
11 Philip V. of Spain, who after renouncing the throne for religion, resumed it to gratify his queen; and Victor Amadeus II., King of Sardinia, who resigned the crown, and, trying to reassume it, was imprisoned till his death.
12 The Czarina, the King of France, the Pope, and the above-mentioned King of Sardinia.
13 (Warburton remarks on this line :—“The atrabilaire complexion of Philip II. is well known, but not so well, that he derived it from his father Charles V., whose health, the historians of his life tell us, was frequently disordered by bilious fevers. But what the author meant principally to observe here was, that this humour made both these princes act contrary to their character; Charles, who was an active man, when he retired into a convent ; Philip, who was a man of the closet, when he gave the battle of St. Quentin."]
Not therefore humble he who seeks retreat,
But grant that actions best discover man;
'Tis from high life high characters are drawn
14 [Cleopatra. This couplet stood originally:
The mighty Czar what mov'd to wed a punk?
The mighty Czar might answer, he was drunk.” The alteration, as Warton says, is for the worse, because drunkenness was not a vice of Cæsar's, and, indeed, could not co-exist with his ambition and energy of character.]
We prize the stronger effort of his power,
'Tis education forms the common mind,
Ask men's opinions : Scoto now shall tell 15
That gay free-thinker, a fine talker once, ? What turns him now a stupid silent dunce ?
Some god, or spirit, he has lately found ;
Judge we by nature? Habit can efface,
Manners with fortunes, humours turn with climes,
III. Search then the RULING PASSION : there, alone,
15 [In the first edition :-"J—-n now shall tell;" meaning perhaps Johnston the Scottish Secretary, afterwards Lord Register. He lived to a great age, and was a neighbour of Pope's at Twickenham.]
16 [In the first edition :-"Clodio stands confess'd."]
Though wondering senates hung on all he spoke,
Nature well known, no prodigies remain,
Yet, in this search, the wisest may mistake,
17 John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, famous for his wit and extravagancies in the time of Charles II.
18 The sister of Cato and the mother of Brutus. [Servilia. Warton quotes a fine reflection on this passage from St. Real. “How great must have been her affliction at the death of Cæsar, her lover, massacred by the hand of her own son, who perhaps hoped to efface this suspicion of his bastardy by this very action! Historians have neglected to inform us of the fate of this most unhappy mistress and mother. Nothing could have been more interesting than the history of Servilia after this event. Next to Cleopatra she was the most beloved of all Cæsar's mistresses; and Suetonius says, Cæsar bought for her a single jewel at the price of £50,000.”]