« PreviousContinue »
P. Faith, it imports not much from whom it
Whoever borrow'd, could not be to blame,
From him the next receives it, thick or thin, 175
F. This filthy simile, this beastly line
P. So does flattery mine;
Ver. 172. As hog to hog] "Our modern authors write plays as they feed hogs in Westphaly, where but one eats pease or acorns, and all the rest feed upon his, and one another's excrements." Thoughts on various subjects, vol. ii. p. 497. Though those remarks were not published in the lifetime of Pope, yet the author of them, Mr. Thyer, informs us, that Mr. Longueville, in whose custody they were, communicated them to Atterbury, from whom Pope might hear of them. It is impossible any two writers could casually hit upon an image so very peculiar and uncommon.
Ver. 182. So does flattery mine;] Fontenelle has written a pleasant dialogue between Augustus and Peter Aretine, the Italian satirist, who laughs immoderately at the emperor, for the gross flattery he so cordially received from his poets, particularly Virgil, at the beginning of the Third Georgic. And Aretine, among other delicate strokes of ridicule, tells him: "On louoit une par2 c2
And all your courtly civet-cats can vent,
Ver. 185. In the MS.
tie de votre vie, aux depens de l'autre." But Fontenelle ends like a true Frenchman, and assures Augustus, "he will no longer be quoted as a model for kings, since Louis XIV. has appeared." Such is the language held of a man, who could banish Fenelon, burn the Palatinate, and drive away or destroy so many of his protestant subjects; who kept in pay 440,000 men. It is grievous to reflect, that for incurring the displeasure of such a man, Racine had the weakness to be so much affected, as to bring on, by vexation and grief, a disease that was fatal to him. Racine and Boileau relinquished, after a small progress, the History of Louis XIV. which they were appointed to write, Boileau honestly owned to his friends, that he did not well know what reasons to allege in justification of the war against Holland in 1672. The pride, profusion, ambition, and despotism of Louis XIV. laid the foundation of the ruin of France, and all the miseries we have lived to see. Warton.
Ver. 185. Japhet-Chartres] See the Epistle to Lord Bathurst.
grant it, Sir; and further, 'tis agreed,
Japhet writ not, and Chartres scarce could read.
And each blasphemer quite escape the rod,
Ask you what provocation I have had?
The affront is mine, my friend, and should be
Mine, as a foe profess'd to false pretence,
Who think a coxcomb's honour like his sense;
F. You're strangely proud.
P. So proud, I am no slave:
So impudent, I own myself no knave:
So odd, my country's ruin makes me grave.
Safe from the bar, the pulpit, and the throne, 210
Ver. 204. And mine as man, who feel for all mankind.] From Terence: "Homo sum: humani nihil a me alienum puto."
Ver. 208. Yes, I am proud, &c.] In this ironical exultation the poet insinuates a subject of the deepest humiliation.
Ver. 208. Yes, I am proud, &c.] This seems fabricated from
the materials of Boileau, Discours au Roi, ver.
En vain d'un lâche orgueil leur esprit revêtu
S'il se moque de Dieu, craint Tartuffe et Molière. Wakefield.
O sacred weapon! left for truth's defence, Sole dread of folly, vice, and insolence! To all but heaven-directed hands denied, The muse may give thee, but the Gods must guide. Reverent I touch thee! but with honest zeal; To rouse the watchmen of the public weal, To virtue's work provoke the tardy Hall, And goad the prelate slumbering in his stall. Ye tinsel insects! whom a court maintains, That counts your beauties only by your stains,
Ver. 211. Yet touch'd and shamed by ridicule alone.] The passions are given us to awake and support virtue. But they frequently betray their trust, and go over to the interests of vice. Ridicule, when employed in the cause of virtue, shames and brings them back to their duty. Hence the use and importance of satire. Warburton.
Ver. 219. And goad the prelate slumbering in his stall.] The good Eusebius, in his Evangelical Preparation, draws a long parallel between the or and the Christian priesthood. Hence the dignified clergy, out of mere humility, have ever since called their thrones by the name of stalls. To which a great prelate of Winchester, one W. Edinton, modestly alluding, has rendered his name immortal by this ecclesiastical aphorism, who would otherwise have been forgotten; Canterbury is the higher rack, but Winchester is the better manger. By which, however, it appears that he was not one of those here condemned, who slumber in their stalls. Scriblerus.
Ver. 220. Ye insects !--The MUSE's wing shall brush you all away;] This it did very effectually; and the memory of them had been now forgotten, had not the Poet's charity, for a while, protracted their miserable being. There is now in his library, at Mr. Allen's, a complete collection of all the horrid libels written and published against him:
"The tale revived, the lie so oft o'erthrown,
The imputed trash, and dulness not his own;
Spin all your cobwebs o'er the eye of day!
The morals blackened, when the writings 'scape,
These he had bound up in several volumes, according to their various sizes, from folios down to duodecimos; and to each of them hath affixed this motto out of the book of Job:
Behold, my desire is, that mine adversary should write a book, Surely I should take it upon my shoulder, and bind it as a crown to Ch. xxxi. ver. 35, 36. Warburton.
Ver. 220. Ye tinsel insects!] Poets have frequently been partymen, ancient as well as modern. Euripides was of Alcibiades's faction, for war; Aristophanes, for peace. Hence arose their mutual animosity. The Inferno of Dante is as much a political poem as the Absalom and Achitophel of Dryden. The Eneid is also of this kind; and so is the Pharsalia of Lucan, and the Henriade of Voltaire. Warton.
Ver. 222. cobwebs] Weak and slight sophistry against virtue and honour. Thin colours over vice, as unable to hide the light of truth, as cobwebs to shade the sun. Pope.
Ver. 223. The MUSE's wing shall brush you all away;] An exquisite verse, of which Mr. Gray has made excellent use in his Ode on Spring:
"Brush'd by the hand of rough mischance,
Or chill'd by age―.”
Ver. 225. gods of kings.] When James the First had once bespeeched his parliament, Bishop Williams, Keeper of the Great Seal, added that, after his Majesty's DIVINUM ET IMMORTALE DICTUM, he would not dare mortale aliquid addere. On which Wilson, the historian, observes-This is not inserted to shew the PREGNANCY and GENIUS of the man, but the temper of the times.