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[This Second Epistle was also published in 1737. Colonel Cotterell, to whom it is addressed, was son of Sir Charles Ludowick Cotterell, who succeeded 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.]
DEAR Colonel, Cobham's and your country's friend!
You love a verse, take such as I can send.
A Frenchman comes, presents you with his boy,
Bows and begins:-"This lad, sir, is of Blois : 1
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.
Sir, he's your slave, for twenty pound a year.
Mere wax as yet, you fashion him with ease,
Your barber, cook, upholsterer, what you please:
A perfect genius at an opera song-
To say too much, might do my honour wrong.
Take him, with all his virtues, on my word;
His whole ambition was to serve a lord:
But, sir, to you, with what would I not part?
Though faith, I fear, 'twill break his mother's heart.
Once (and but once) I caught him in a lie,
And then, unwhipp'd, he had the grace to cry:
The fault he has I fairly shall reveal,
o'erlook but that) it is, to steal.”
1 A town in Beauce, where the French tongue is spoke in great purity.
If, after this, you took the graceless lad,
Could you complain, my friend, he proved so bad?
Faith, in such case, if you should prosecute,
I think Sir Godfrey should decide the suit; 2
Who sent the thief that stole the cash away,
And punish'd him that put it in his way.
Consider then, and judge me in this light;
I told you when I went, I could not write;
You said the same; and are you discontent
With laws, to which you gave your own assent?
Nay, worse, to ask for verse at such a time!
D'ye think me good for nothing but to rhyme ?
In Anna's wars, a soldier, poor and old,
Had dearly earn'd a little purse of gold:
Tired with a tedious march, one luckless night,
He slept, poor dog! and lost it, to a doit.
This put the man in such a desperate mind,
Between revenge, and grief, and hunger join'd,
Against the foe, himself, and all mankind,
He leap'd the trenches, scaled a castle-wall,
Tore down a standard, took the fort and all.
Prodigious well;" his great commander cried,
Gave him much praise, and some reward beside.
Next, pleased his excellence a town to batter;
(Its name I know not, and 'tis no great matter ;)
"Go on, my friend, (he cried) see yonder walls!
Advance and conquer! go where glory calls!
More honours, more rewards, attend the brave."
Don't you remember what reply he gave?
"D'ye think me, noble general, such a sot?
Let him take castles who has ne'er a groat."
Bred up at home, full early I begun
To read in Greek the wrath of Peleus' son.
Besides, my father taught me, from a lad,
The better art to know the good from bad:
(And little sure imported to remove,
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,
Deprived us soon of our paternal cell;
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.
For right hereditary tax'd and fined,
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,
Indebted to no prince or peer alive,
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?
If every wheel of that unwearied mill,
That turn'd ten thousand verses, now stands still?
But, after all, what would you have me do?
When out of twenty I can please not two;
When this Heroics only deigns to praise,
Sharp Satire that, and that Pindaric lays?
One likes the pheasant's wing, and one the leg;
The vulgar boil, the learned roast an egg.
Hard task to hit the palate of such guests,
When Oldfield loves what Dartineuf detests.
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?
My counsel sends to execute a deed:
A poet begs me I will hear him read:
-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-
There's a rehearsal, sir, exact at one.-
3 Dr. Monroe, physician to Bedlam Hospital.
"Oh, but a wit can study in the streets,
"And raise his mind above the mob he meets."
Not quite so well however as one ought;
A hackney-coach may chance to spoil a thought;
And then a nodding beam, or pig of lead,
God knows, may hurt the very ablest head.
Have you not seen, at Guildhall's narrow pass,
Two aldermen dispute it with an ass?
And peers give away, exalted as they are,
Even to their own S-r-v--nce in a car?
4 Two villages within a few miles of London.
Go, lofty poet! and, in such a crowd,
Sing thy sonorous verse- -but not aloud.
Alas! to grottoes and to groves we run,
To ease and silence, every muse's son:
Blackmore himself, for any grand effort,
Would drink and doze at Tooting or Earl's-Court.4
How shall I rhyme in this eternal roar?
How match the bards whom none e'er match'd before? 115
The man, who, stretch'd in Isis' calm retreat,
To books and study gives seven years complete,
See! strow'd with learned dust, his nightcap on,
He walks, an object new beneath the sun!
The boys flock round him, and the people stare :
So stiff, so mute! some statue you would swear,
Stepp'd from its pedestal to take the air!
And here, while town, and court, and city roars,
With mobs, and duns, and soldiers, at their doors;
Shall I, in London, act this idle part?
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;
Each had a gravity would make you split,
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.
Call Tibbald Shakspeare, and he'll swear the Nine,
Dear Cibber! never match'd one ode of thine.
Lord! how we strut through Merlin's Cave, to see
No poets there, but Stephen, you, and me.
Walk with respect behind, while we at ease
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 :
Or, I'm content, allow me Dryden's strains,
And you shall rise up Otway for your pains."
Much do I suffer, much, to keep in peace
This jealous, waspish, wrong-head, rhyming race;
And much must flatter, if the whim should bite
To court applause by printing what I write :
But let the fit pass o'er, I'm wise enough
To stop my ears to their confounded stuff.
In vain, bad rhymers all mankind reject,
They treat themselves with most profound respect;
'Tis to small purpose that you hold your tongue,
Each, praised within, is happy all day long:
But how severely with themselves proceed
The men, who write such verse as we can read!
Their own strict judges, not a word they spare,
That wants or force, or light, or weight, or care,
Howe'er unwillingly it quits its place,
Nay though at court (perhaps) it may find
Such they'll degrade; and sometimes, in its stead,
In downright charity revive the dead;
Mark where a bold expressive phrase appears,
Bright through the rubbish of some hundred years;
Command old words, that long have slept, to wake,
Words that wise Bacon or brave Raleigh spake;
Or bid the new be English, ages hence,
(For use will father what's begot by sense,)
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: