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THE SECOND EPISTLE
SECOND BOOK OF HORACE.
[This Second Epistle was also published in 1737. Colonel Cotterell, to whom it is addressed, was son of Sir Charles Ludowick Cotterell, who suc ceeded his father in 1686, as Master of the Ceremonies, and in 1697 was appointed one of the Commissioners of the Privy Seal. The family had been long established at their seat of Rousham Hall, near Oxford, and Pope's friend was the founder of the Cotterells of Hadley, in Middlesex. Sir William Trumbull, the poet's early patron and friend in "the Forest," was married into this family. Colonel Cotterell died at Bath, October 13, 1746.]
EAR Colonel, Cobham's and your country's friend!
A Frenchman comes, presents you with his boy,
"This lad, sir, is of Blois : Observe his shape how clean! his locks how curl'd! My only son;-I'd have him see the world:
His French is pure; his voice too-you shall hear.
To say too much, might do my honour wrong.
But, sir, to you, with what would I not part?
Though faith, I fear, 'twill break his mother's heart.
1 A town in Beauce, where the French tongue is spoke in great purity.
If, after this, you took the graceless lad,
Consider then, and judge me in this light;
(Its name I know not, and 'tis no great matter ;)
Bred up at home, full early I begun
To hunt for Truth in Maudlin's learned grove.)
2 An eminent justice of peace, who decided much in the manner of Sancho Pancha.
[Sir Godfrey Kneller was the eminent justice. The egregious vanity and absurdities of Sir Godfrey seem to have been a fertile source of amusement to Pope and his friends.]
But knottier points, we knew not half so well,
And certain laws, by sufferers thought unjust,
Denied all posts of profit or of trust:
Hopes after hopes of pious papists fail'd,
While mighty William's thundering arm prevail'd.
He stuck to poverty with peace of mind;
And me, the muses help'd to undergo it;
Convict a papist he, and I a poet.
But (thanks to Homer) since I live and thrive,
Sure I should want the care of ten Monroes,3
If I would scribble, rather than repose.
Years following years, steal something every day,
At last they steal us from ourselves away;
In one our frolics, one amusements end,
In one a mistress drops, in one a friend:
This subtle thief of life, this paltry time,
What will it leave me, if it snatch my rhyme? every wheel of that unwearied mill,
That turn'd ten thousand verses, now stands still?
But grant I may relapse, for want of grace, Again to rhyme: can London be the place?
Who there his muse, or self, or soul attends,
In crowds and courts, law, business, feasts, and friends?
A poet begs me I will hear him read:
In Palace-yard at nine you'll find me there
At ten for certain, sir, in Bloomsbury-square
Before the Lords at twelve my cause comes on-
3 Dr. Monroe, physician to Bedlam Hospital.
"Oh, but a wit can study in the streets,
Go, lofty poet! and, in such a crowd,
Would drink and doze at Tooting or Earl's-Court.4
How match the bards whom none e'er match'd before? 115
To books and study gives seven years complete,
The boys flock round him, and the people stare :
Composing songs, for fools to get by heart?
The Temple late two brother serjeants saw,
Who deem'd each other oracles of law;
With equal talents, these congenial souls,
One lull'd the Exchequer, and one stunn'd the Rolls;
And shook his head at Murray, as a wit.
'Twas, "Sir, your law "—and "
'Sir, your eloquence,"
"Yours, Cowper's manner-and yours, Talbot's sense."
Thus we dispose of all poetic merit,
Yours Milton's genius, and mine Homer's spirit.
4 Two villages within a few miles of London.
Call Tibbald Shakspeare, and he'll swear the Nine,
Weave laurel crowns, and take what names we please.
'My dear Tibullus!" if that will not do,
"Let me be Horace, and be Ovid you:
To court applause by printing what I write :
In vain, bad rhymers all mankind reject,
They treat themselves with most profound respect;
Nay though at court (perhaps) it may find grace:
Pour the full tide of eloquence along,
Serenely pure, and yet divinely strong,
Rich with the treasures of each foreign tongue;
Prune the luxuriant, the uncouth refine,
But show no mercy to an empty line;
Then polish all, with so much life and ease,
You think 'tis nature, and a knack to please :