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Who hung with woods yon mountain's sultry brow?
From the dry rock who bade the waters flow?
Not to the skies in useless columns toss'd,
Or in proud falls magnificently lost,
But clear and artless, pouring through the plain
Health to the sick, and solace to the swain.
Whose causeway parts the vale with shady rows?
Whose seats the weary traveller repose?
Who taught that heaven-directed spire to rise?
"The Man of Ross," each lisping babe replies.
Behold the market-place with poor o'erspread!
The Man of Ross divides the weekly bread:
He feeds yon alms-house, neat, but void of state,
Where Age and Want sit smiling at the gate;
Him portion'd maids, apprenticed orphans bless'd,
young who labour, and the old who rest.
any sick? the Man of Ross relieves,
Prescribes, attends, the medicine makes, and gives.
Is there a variance? enter but his door,
Balk'd are the courts, and contest is no more.
Despairing quacks with curses fled the place,
And vile attorneys, now an useless race.
B. Thrice happy man! enabled to pursue What all so wish, but want the power to do!
Oh say, what sums that generous hand supply?
What mines to swell that boundless charity?
P. Of debts and taxes, wife and children clear,
This man possess'd-five hundred pounds a-year!
Blush, Grandeur, blush! proud courts, withdraw your
Ye little stars, hide your diminish'd rays.
B. And what? no monument, inscription, stone?
His race, his form, his name almost unknown?
P. Who builds a church to God, and not to fame,
Will never mark the marble with his name:
Go, search it there, where to be born, and die,
Of rich and poor makes all the history; 29
Enough, that Virtue fill'd the space between;
Proved, by the ends of being, to have been.
When Hopkins dies, a thousand lights attend
The wretch, who living saved a candle's end;
Shouldering God's altar a vile image stands,
Belies his features, nay extends his hands;
That live-long wig which Gorgon's self might own,
Eternal buckle takes in Parian stone.
Behold what blessings wealth to life can lend !
And see, what comfort it affords our end.
In the worst inn's worst room, with mat half-hung,
The floors of plaster, and the walls of dung,
On once a flock-bed, but repair'd with straw,
With tape-tied curtains never meant to draw,
The George and Garter dangling from that bed
Where tawdry yellow strove with dirty red,
Great Villiers lies,30-alas! how changed from him,
That life of pleasure, and that soul of whim!
30 This lord, yet more famous for his vices than his misfortunes, having been possessed of about £50,000 a year, and passed through many of the highest posts in the kingdom, died in the year 1687, in a remote inn in Yorkshire, reduced to the utmost misery. [See Additional Notes.]
Gallant and gay, in Cliveden's proud alcove,31
The bower of wanton Shrewsbury, and love;32
Or just as gay, at council, in a ring
Of mimick'd statesmen, and their merry King.
No wit to flatter left of all his store!
No fool to laugh at, which he valued more.
There, victor of his health, of fortune, friends,
And fame, this lord of useless thousands ends.
His Grace's fate sage Cutler could foresee,
And well (he thought) advised him, "Live like me."
As well his Grace replied, "Like you, Sir John?
That I can do, when all I have is gone."
Resolve me, Reason, which of these is worse,
Want with a full, or with an empty purse?
31 A delightful palace on the banks of the Thames, built by the Duke of Buckingham.
32 The Countess of Shrewsbury, a woman abandoned to gallantries. The Earl, her husband, was killed by the Duke of Buckingham in a duel; and it has been said, that during the combat she held the Duke's horses, in the habit of a page.
Thy life more wretched, Cutler, was confess'd,
Arise, and tell me, was thy death more bless'd?
Cutler saw tenants break, and houses fall;
For very want he could not build a wall.
His only daughter in a stranger's power;
For very want he could not pay a dower.
A few grey hairs his reverend temples crowned;
'Twas very want that sold them for two pound.
What e'en denied a cordial at his end,
Banish'd the doctor, and expell'd the friend?
What but a want, which you perhaps think mad,
Yet numbers feel-the want of what he had!
Cutler and Brutus, dying, both exclaim,
"Virtue and Wealth! what are ye but a name!"
Say, for such worth are other worlds prepared?
Or are they both in this their own reward?
A knotty point! to which we now proceed.
But you are tired—I'll tell a tale. B. Agreed.
P. Where London's column, pointing at the skies 33
Like a tall bully, lifts the head and lies;
There dwelt a citizen of sober fame,
A plain good man, and Balaam was his name;
Religious, punctual, frugal, and so forth;
His word would pass for more than he was worth.
One solid dish his week-day meal affords,
An added pudding solemnized the Lord's:
Constant at Church, and 'Change; his gains were sure,
His givings rare, save farthings to the poor.
The Devil was piqued such saintship to behold,
And longed to tempt him, like good Job of old:
33 The Monument, built in memory of the fire of London, with an inscription importing that city to have been burnt by the Papists. [The inscription was engraved on the monument in 1681, when the city was frighted from its propriety by Titus Oates and his plot. "This pillar was set up in perpetual remembrance of that most dreadful burning of this Protestant city, begun and carried on by the treachery and malice of the Popish faction, in the beginning of September, in the year of our Lord, 1666, in order to the carrying on their horrid plot for extirpating the Protestant religion and old English liberty, and then introducing Popery and slavery." Such was the downright Saxon "lie." It was erased in the reign of James II., re-cut in the reign of William III., and erased again in the reign of William IV. (1831.) Though curious as a relic of ancient prejudice and belief, the inscription is better away.]
But Satan now is wiser than of yore,
And tempts by making rich, not making poor.
Roused by the Prince of Air, the whirlwinds sweep
The surge, and plunge his father in the deep;
Then full against his Cornish lands they roar,34
And two rich shipwrecks bless the lucky shore.
Sir Balaam now, he lives like other folks,
He takes his chirping pint, and cracks his jokes :
"Live like yourself," was soon my Lady's word;
And lo! two puddings smoked upon the board.
Asleep and naked as an Indian lay,
An honest factor stole a gem away:
He pledged it to the knight, the knight had wit,
So kept the diamond,35 and the rogue was bit.
Some scruple rose, but thus he eased his thought :
"I'll now give sixpence where I gave a groat;
Where once I went to church, I'll now go twice;
And am so clear too of all other vice."
The Tempter saw his time; the work he plied; Stocks and subscriptions pour on every side,
34 The author has placed the scene of these shipwrecks in Cornwall, not only from their frequency on that coast, but from the inhumanity of the inhabitants to those to whom that misfortune arrives. When a ship happens to be stranded there, they have been known to bore holes in it, to prevent its getting off; to plunder, and sometimes even to massacre, the people. Nor has the Parliament of England been yet able wholly to suppress these barbarities. [Fielding and Smollett, it will be recollected, give scenes of this description.]
35 [Pope was supposed to allude here to the Pitt diamond, a gem brought to this country by Thomas Pitt, Governor of Madras, about 1700. Mr. Pitt purchased this celebrated diamond, which goes by his name, for £20,400, and sold it to the King of France for more than five times that sum. It was then reckoned the largest jewel in Europe, and weighed 127 carats. When polished it was as big as a pullet's egg; the cuttings amounted in value to eight or ten thousand pounds. The report that Mr. Pitt had obtained this diamond by dishonourable means was very general; and he was at last induced to publish a narrative of the circumstances connected with its purchase. This gentleman, we may remark, was grandfather of the great William Pitt, Earl of Chatham. He sat in Parliament for some time after his final return to England, and died in 1726. The affair of the Pitt diamond may have suggested the incident of the stolen gem to Pope, but the whole episode appears fanciful, and the history of Sir Baalam and his family is outrageously improbable.]