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[Published in 1737. Pope prefixed to it the following


"The reflections of Horace, and the judgments passed in his Epistle to Augustus, seemed so seasonable to the present times, that I could not help applying them to the use of my own country. The author thought them considerable 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 absolute 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 show the learned world to have fallen into two mistakes: one, that Augustus 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 magistrate: Admonebat Prætores, ne paterentur Nomen suum obsolefieri, &c. The other, that this piece was only a general Discourse of Poetry, whereas it was an Apology for the Poets, in order to render Augustus more their patron. Horace here pleads the cause of his contemporaries, first, against the taste of the town, whose humour it was to magnify the authors of the preceding age; secondly, against the Court and nobility, who encouraged only the writers for the Theatre; and lastly, against the Emperor himself, who had conceived them of little use to the Government. He shows (by a View of the Progress 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 predecessors; that their morals were much improved, and the licence of those ancient poets restrained: that Satire and Comedy were become more just and useful; that whatever extravagances were left on the stage, were owing to the ill taste 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 Epistle, that Horace made his court to

this great Prince by writing with a decent freedom toward him, with a just contempt of his low flatterers, and with a manly regard to his own character." Pope's imitation is a Satire on George II.—the British Augustus—and on the follies and flatteries of the age. He also reviews the literature of that and preceding reigns; and concludes with an ironical panegyric on the King, conceived and expressed in his happiest manner.]


WHILE you, great patron of mankind! sustain

The balanced world, and open all the main ;

Your country, chief, in arms abroad defend,
At home, with morals, arts, and laws amend;
How shall the Muse, from such a monarch, steal
An hour, and not defraud the public weal?
Edward and Henry, now the boast of fame,
And virtuous Alfred, a more sacred name,
After a life of gen'rous toils endured,
The Gaul subdued, or property secured,
Ambition humbled, mighty cities storm'd,
Or laws establish'd, and the world reform'd;
Closed their long glories with a sigh, to find
The unwilling gratitude of base mankind!
All human virtue, to its latest breath,
Finds envy never conquer'd, but by death.
The great Alcides, every labour pass'd,
Had still this monster to subdue at last.
Sure fate of all, beneath whose rising ray
Each star of meaner merit fades away!
Oppress'd we feel the beam directly beat,
Those suns of glory please not till they set.

To thee, the world its present homage pays,
The harvest early, but mature the praise:
Great friend of liberty! in kings a name
Above all Greek, above all Roman fame:
Whose word is truth, as sacred and revered,
As Heaven's own oracles from altars heard.
Wonder of kings! like whom, to mortal eyes
None e'er has risen, and none e'er shall rise.
Just in one instance, be it yet confess'd
Your people, sir, are partial in the rest:

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Foes to all living worth except your own,
And advocates for folly dead and gone.

Authors, like coins, grow dear as they grow old;
It is the rust we value, not the gold.
Chaucer's worst ribaldry is learn'd by rote,
And beastly Skelton heads of houses quote:1
One likes no language but the Faery Queen ;


A Scot will fight for Christ's kirk o' the Green :2
And each true Briton is to Ben so civil,


He swears the Muses met him at the Devil.3
Though justly Greece her eldest sons admires,
Why should not we be wiser than our sires?
In every public virtue we excel;


We build, we paint, we sing, we dance as well;
And learned Athens to our art must stoop,
Could she behold us tumbling through a hoop.


If time improve our wits as well as wine,
Say at what age a poet grows divine?
Shall we, or shall we not, account him so,
Who died, perhaps, an hundred years ago?
End all dispute; and fix the year precise
When British bards begin to immortalize?

"Who lasts a century can have no flaw, I hold that wit a classic, good in law."

Suppose he wants a year, will you compound?

And shall we deem him ancient, right and sound,
Or damn to all eternity at once,


At ninety-nine, a modern and a dunce?

"We shall not quarrel for a year or two;

By courtesy of England, he may do."


1 Skelton, Poet Laureate to Henry VIII., a volume of whose verses has been lately reprinted, consisting almost wholly of ribaldry, obscenity, and scurrilous language.

[This censure of the old poets is exaggerated. Chaucer is a study; no one learns him by rote. Skelton is, indeed, often coarse, but not so much so as Rabelais, and his object was the same-to decry, under this garb of coarse licentiousness, (which he dared not do openly,) the vices of the clergy and the court. He often attacked Cardinal Wolsey, and that powerful prelate threatened him with vengeance, to escape which Skelton took refuge in the sanctuary at Westminster, where he died 21st June, 1529.]

2 A ballad made by a king of Scotland.

3 The Devil Tavern, where Ben Jonson held his poetical club.

Then, by the rule that made the horse-tail bare,
I pluck out year by year, as hair by hair,
And melt down ancients like a heap of snow:

While you, to measure merits, look in Stowe,
And estimating authors by the year,
Bestow a garland only on a bier.


Shakespear (whom you and every play-house bill Style the divine, the matchless, what you will),


For gain, not glory, wing'd his roving flight,

And grew immortal in his own despite.

Ben, old and poor, as little seem'd to heed
The life to come, in every poet's creed.

Who now reads Cowley? if he pleases yet,
His moral pleases, not his pointed wit;
Forgot his epic, nay Pindaric art,


But still I love the language of his heart.

"Yet surely, surely, these were famous men!
What boy but hears the sayings of old Ben?
In all debates where critics bear a part,
Not one but nods, and talks of Jonson's art,


Of Shakespear's nature, and of Cowley's wit;

How Beaumont's judgment check'd what Fletcher writ;
How Shadwell hasty, Wycherley was slow;


But, for the passions, Southern sure and Rowe.

These, only these, support the crowded stage,
From eldest Heywood down to Cibber's age."

All this may be; the people's voice is odd,

It is, and it is not, the voice of God.
To Gammer Gurton if it give the bays,5
And yet deny the Careless Husband praise,

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Shakespear and Ben Jonson may truly be said not much to have thought of this immortality; the one in many pieces composed in haste for the stage; the other in his latter works in general, which Dryden called his dotages. 5 A piece of very low humour, one of the first printed plays in English, and therefore much valued by some antiquaries.

[This comedy was written about the year 1565 by Dr. John Still, Bishop of Bath and Wells. The humour of the piece, it must be admitted, is low enough, for it turns upon the loss and recovery of a needle with which Dame Gurton was mending the breeches of Hodge her husband. The song of "Jolly Good Ale" in this rude drama is the best part of it, and is still deservedly a favourite :

"I love no roast but a nut-brown toast,

And a crab laid in the fire;

Or say our fathers never broke a rule;
Why then, I say, the public is a fool.

But let them own, that greater faults than we
They had, and greater virtues, I'll agree.
Spenser himself affects the obsolete,

And Sydney's verse halts ill on Roman feet:

Milton's strong pinion now not Heaven can bound,
Now serpent-like, in prose he sweeps the ground;
In quibbles, angel and archangel join,
And God the Father turns a school-divine.
Not that I'd lop the beauties from his book,
Like slashing Bentley with his desperate hook,
Or damn all Shakspeare, like the affected fool
At court, who hates whate'er he read at school.6
But for the wits of either Charles's days,
The mob of gentlemen who wrote with ease;
Sprat, Carew, Sedley, and a hundred more,




(Like twinkling stars the miscellanies o'er,) One simile, that solitary shines


In the dry desert of a thousand lines,

Has sanctified whole poems for an age.

Or lengthen'd thought that gleams through many a page,

I lose my patience, and I own it too,


When works are censured, not as bad but new;

While if our elders break all reason's laws,

On Avon's bank, where flowers eternal blow,


These fools demand not pardon, but applause.

If I but ask, if any weed can grow;
One tragic sentence if I dare deride,

A little bread shall do me stead,

Much bread I not desire.

No frost, no snow, no wind, I trow,

Can hurt me if it wold,

I am so wrapt and thoroughly capt

Of jolly good ale and old."

The "Careless Husband," noticed in the next line, is Colley Cibber's best play, produced in 1706.]

6 [An indirect satire on Lord Hervey, who in his "Epistle to a Doctor of Divinity from a Nobleman at Hampton Court," has these lines:

"All I learn'd from Dr. Friend at school

Has quite deserted this poor John Trot head,
And left plain native English in its stead."]

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