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Why pique all mortals, yet affect a name?
A fool to pleasure, yet a slave to fame:
Now deep in Taylor and the Book of Martyrs,
Now drinking citron with his grace and Chartres :
Now conscience chills her, and now passion burns;
And atheism and religion take their turns;
A very heathen in the carnal part,
Yet still a sad, good Christian at her heart.
See Sin in state, majestically drunk;8
Proud as a peeress, prouder as a punk;
Chaste to her husband, frank to all beside,
A teeming mistress, but a barren bride.
What then? let blood and body bear the fault,
Her head's untouch'd, that noble seat of thought:
Such this day's doctrine-in another fit
She sins with poets through pure love of wit.
What has not fired her bosom or her brain?
Cæsar and Tall-boy, Charles and Charlemagne.
As Helluo, late dictator of the feast,
The nose of haut-goût and the tip of taste,
Critiqued your wine, and analysed your meat,
Yet on plain pudding deign'd at home to eat:
So Philomedé, lecturing all mankind
On the soft passion, and the taste refined,
The address, the delicacy-stoops at once,
And makes her hearty meal upon a dunce.
Flavia's a wit, has too much sense to pray;10
To toast our wants and wishes is her way;
Nor asks of God, but of her stars, to give
The mighty blessing, "while we live, to live."
Then all for death, that opiate of the soul!
Lucretia's dagger, Rosamonda's bowl.
Say, what can cause such impotence of mind?
A spark too fickle, or a spouse too kind.
8 In the lewd and vicious.
9 In the MS.:
"In whose mad brain the mix'd ideas roll,
Of Tall-boy's breeches, and of Cæsar's soul."
[Tall-boy was a character in a comedy called The Jovial Crew.] 10 Contrarieties in the witty and refined.
Wise wretch! with pleasures too refined to please;
With too much spirit to be e'er at ease;
With too much quickness ever to be taught;
With too much thinking to have common thought;
You purchase pain with all that joy can give,
And die of nothing, but a rage to live.
Turn then from wits; and look on Simo's mate,
No ass so meek, no ass so obstinate.
Or her, that owns her faults, but never mends,
Because she's honest, and the best of friends.
Or her, whose life the church and scandal share,
For ever in a passion, or a prayer.
Or her, who laughs at hell, but (like her grace) 11
Cries, "Ah! how charming if there's no such place!"
Or who in sweet vicissitude appears
Of mirth and opium, ratifia and tears,
The daily anodyne, and nightly draught,
To kill those foes to fair ones, time and thought.
Woman and fool are two hard things to hit ;
For true no-meaning puzzles more than wit.
But what are these to great Atossa's mind ?12
Scarce once herself, by turns all womankind!
Who, with herself, or others, from her birth
Finds all her life one warfare
Shines, in exposing knaves, and painting fools,
Yet is, whate'er she hates and ridicules.
No thought advances, but her eddy brain
Whisks it about, and down it goes again. 13
"Oppress'd with wealth, and wit, abundance sad!
One makes her poor, the other makes her mad."
11 [The Duchess of Montagu, Lady Mary Churchill, youngest daughter of the Duke of Marlborough, is said to have been the person here satirized by Pope.]
12["Atossa is a name mentioned in Herodotus, and said to be a follower of Sappho. She was daughter of Cyrus, and sister of Cambyses, and married Darius. She is also named in the Persae of Eschylus. She is said to be the first that wrote epistles. See Bentley on Phalaris, p. 385, and Dodwell against Bentley."-WARTON. Pope's Atossa was Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, and the choice of the name was certainly felicitous; for Sarah was a great friend of the poet's Sappho, Lady Mary-was married to a great man -and was a great writer of epistles.]
13 In the MS. were these lines:
Full sixty years the world has been her trade,
The wisest fool much time has ever made.
From loveless youth to unrespected age,
No passion gratified, except her rage,
So much the fury still outran the wit,
The pleasure miss'd her, and the scandal hit.
Who breaks with her, provokes revenge from hell,
But he's a bolder man who dares be well.
Her every turn with violence pursued,
No more a storm her hate than gratitude:
To that each passion turns, or soon or late;
Love, if it makes her yield, must make her hate:
Superiors? death! and equals? what a curse!
But an inferior not dependant? worse.
Offend her, and she knows not to forgive;
Oblige her, and she'll hate you while you live:
But die, and she'll adore you—then the bust
And temple rise-then fall again to dust.
Last night, her lord was all that's good and great;
A knave this morning, and his will a cheat.
Strange! by the means defeated of the ends,
By spirit robbed of power, by warmth of friends,
By wealth of followers! without one distress,
Sick of herself, through very selfishness!
Atossa, cursed with every granted prayer,
Childless with all her children, wants an heir. 14
To heirs unknown descends the unguarded store,
Or wanders, heaven-directed, to the poor.
Pictures like these, dear Madam, to design,
Ask no firm hand, and no unerring line;
Some wandering touches, some reflected light,
Some flying stroke alone can hit them right:
For how should equal colours do the knack?
Cameleons who can paint in white and black?
"Yet Chloe sure was form'd without a spot."Nature in her then err'd not, but forgot.
14 After ver. 148, in the MS. :
"This death decides, not lets the blessing fall
On any one she hates, but on them all.
Cursed chance! this only could afflict her more,
If any part should wander to the poor."
"With every pleasing, every prudent part,
Say, what can Chloe want?" She wants a heart.
She speaks, behaves, and acts, just as she ought,
But never, never, reached one generous thought.
Virtue she finds too painful an endeavour,
Content to dwell in decencies for ever.
So very reasonable, so unmoved,
As never yet to love, or to be loved.
She, while her lover pants upon her breast,
Can mark the figures on an Indian chest;
when she sees her friend
Observes how much a chintz exceeds mohair!
Forbid it Heaven, a favour or a debt
She e'er should cancel-but she may forget.
Safe is your secret still in Chloe's ear;
But none of Chloe's shall you ever hear.
Of all her dears she never slander'd one,
But cares not if a thousand are undone.
Would Chloe know if you're alive or dead?
She bids her footman put it in her head.15
Chloe is prudent-would you too be wise?
Then never break your heart when Chloe dies.
One certain portrait may (I grant) be seen,
Which Heaven has varnish'd out, and made a queen:
The same for ever! and described by all
With truth and goodness, as with crown and ball.
Poets heap virtues, painters gems, at will,
And show their zeal, and hide their want of skill.
"Tis well-but artists! who can paint or write,
To draw the naked is your true delight.
That robe of quality so struts and swells,
None see what parts of nature it conceals:
The exactest traits of body or of mind,
We owe to models of an humble kind.
If Queensberry to strip there's no compelling,
'Tis from a handmaid we must take a Helen.
15 [Warton says, that Pope, being at dinner one day with Mrs. Howard, afterwards Countess of Suffolk-the Chloe of the poem-heard her order her footman to put her in mind to send to know how Mrs. Blount, who was ill, had passed the night.]
From peer or bishop 'tis no easy thing
To draw the man who loves his God, or king:
Alas! I copy (or my draught would fail)
From honest Mahomet, or plain Parson Hale.
Men, some to business, some to pleasure take;
But every woman is at heart a rake:19
Men, some to quiet, some to public strife;
But every lady would be queen for life.
But grant, in public, men sometimes are shown, 16
A woman's seen in private life alone:
Our bolder talents in full light display'd;
Your virtues open fairest in the shade.
Bred to disguise, in public 'tis you hide;
There, none distinguish 'twixt your shame or pride,
Weakness or delicacy; all so nice,
That each may seem a virtue, or a vice.
In men we various ruling passions find;17
In women, two almost divide the kind;
Those, only fix'd, they first or last obey,
The love of pleasure, and the love of sway.
That, Nature gives; and where the lesson taught 18
Is but to please, can pleasure seem a fault?
Experience, this; by man's oppression cursed,
They seek the second not to lose the first.
16 After ver. 198, in the MS. :—
"Fain I 'd in Fulvia spy the tender wife;
I cannot prove it on her for my life:
And, for a noble pride, I blush no less,
Instead of Berenice to think on Bess.
Thus while immortal Cibber only sings
(As * and H**y preach) for queens and kings,
The nymph that ne'er read Milton's mighty line,
May, if she love, and merit verse, have mine."
[The blanks may be filled up with the names of Clarke and Hoadley, the Queen's favourite divines.]
17 The former part having shown, that the particular characters of women are more various than those of men, it is nevertheless observed, that the general characteristic of the sex, as to the ruling passion, is more uniform.
18 This is occasioned partly by their nature, partly by their education, and in some degree by necessity.
19 [Ayre, in his Memoirs of Pope (1745), says a certain lady "whose name for virtue and rectitude of manners has been too conspicuous not to be seen by everybody," rallied Pope on this depreciatory couplet. The poet