Page images

Let humble ALLEN, with an aukward Shame, 135
Do good by stealth, and blush to find it Fame.
Virtue may choose the high or low Degree,
'Tis just alike to Virtue, and to me;
Dwell in a Monk, or light upon a King,

She's ftill the fame, belov'd, contented thing.

Vice is undone, if she forgets her Birth,


And stoops from Angels to the Dregs of Earth:
But 'tis the Fall degrades her to a Whore;
Let Greatness owN HER, and fhe's mean no more,

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]


VER. 134. Outdo Landaffe] A Prelate of irreproachable ter, who is faid never to have offended Fope; and whofe fon is no fmall ornament to his Profeffion, Dr. Harris of Doctors ComWARTON.


VER. 134. Landaffe] A poor Bishopric in Wales, as poorly fupplied.


VER. 135. Let humble ALLEN,] Mr. Pope, on the repubication of this Poem, in a letter to Mr. Allen, writes thus-" I am going to insert, in the body of my works, my two last poems in quarto. I always profit myself of the opinion of the public, to correct myfelf on fuch occafions; and fometimes the merits of particular men, whofe names I have made free with, for examples either of good or bad, determine me to alterations. I have found a virtue in you more than I certainly knew before, till I had made experiment of it, I mean Humility. I must therefore in justice to my own confcience of it, bear teftimony to it, and change the epithet I first gave you of low-born, to humble. I fhall take care to do you the juftice to tell every body, this change was not made at your's, or at any frien's request for but you, knowledge, you merited it," gack Twit. Nov, 2. WARBURTON.

my own

VER. 144. Let Greatnefs OWN HER, and she's mean no more,] The Poet, in this whole paffage, was willing to be understood as alluding to a very extraordinary story told by Procopius, in his Secret Hiftory; the fum of which is as follows:


Her Birth, her Beauty, Crowds and Courts confefs, Chafte Matrons praise her, and grave Bishops bless;



The Emprefs THEODORA was the daughter of one Acaces, who had the care of the wild beafts, which the Green Faltion kept for the entertainment of the people. For the Empire was, at that time, divided between the two Factions of the Green and Blue But Acaces dying in the infancy of Theodora, and her two Sisters, his place of Majter of the Bears was difpofed of to a ftranger: and his widow had no other way of fupporting herfelf than by profituting her three daughters (who were all very pretty) on the public Theatre. Thither the brought them in their turns, as they came to years of puberty. Theodora first attended her Sifters in the habit and quality of a flave. And when it came to her turn to mount the flage, as she could neither dance nor play on the flute, fhe was put into the lowest class of Buffoons, to make diverfion for the Rabble; which fhe did in fo arch a manner, and complained of the indignities she suffered in fo ridiculous a tone, that she became an abfolute favourite of the people After a complete courfe of infamy and proftitution, the next place we hear of her is at Alexandria, in great poverty and diftrefs: from whence (as it was no wonder) fhe was willing to remove. And to Conftantinople fhe came; but after a large circuit through the Eaft, where the worked her way by a free courfe of proftitution. JusTINIAN was at this time confort in the Empire with his Uncle Juftin; and the management of affairs entirely in his hands. no fooner faw Theodora than he fell defperately in love with her; and would have married her immediately, but that the Emprefs Euphemia, a Barbarian, and unpolite, but not illiberal in her nature, was then alive. And she, although she rarely denied him any thing, yet obftinately refufed giving him this inftance of her complaifance. But fhe did not live long: and then hing but the ancient Laws, which forbad a Senator to marry prostitute, hindered Juftinian from executing this extraordinary project. These he obliged Justin to revoke; and then, in the face of the fun, married his dear Theodora. A terrible example (fays the Hiftorian) and an encouragement to the most abandoned licence. And now, no fooner was THEODORA (in the Poet's phrafe) owNED by Greatnefs, than fhe, whom not long before it


ith a common


In golden Chains the willing World fhe draws, 147 And hers the Gospel is, and hers the Laws,

Mounts the Tribunal, lifts her scarlet head,

And fees pale Virtue carted in her stead.




was thought unlucky to meet, and a pollution to touch, became the idol of the Court. There was not a fingle magiftrate fays Procopius) that expreffed the leaft indignation at the fhame and difhonour brought upon the ftate; not a fingle Prelate that fhewed the leaft defolation for the public fcandal They all drove to Court fo precipitately, as if they were striving to prevent one another in her good graces. Nay, the very foldiers were emulous of the honour of becoming the Champions of her virtue As for the common People, who had fo long been the fpectators of her fervility, her buffoonry, and her prostitution, they all in a body threw themselves at her feet, as flaves at the footstool of their Miftrefs. In a word, there was no man, of what condition foever who fhewed the leaft diflike of fo monstrous an elevation. In the mean time, Theodora's first care was to fill her Coffers, which fhe foon did, with immenfe wealth. To this end, Juftinian and, fhe pretended to differ in their party principles. The one protected the blue, and the other the green Faction; till in a long course of intrigue, by fometimes giving up the one to plunder and confifcation, and fometimes the other, they left nothing to either. See Procop. Anec. c. ix.—x. WARBURTON.

Upon this note Gibbon obferves, vol. iv. p. 26. "Without Warburton's critical Telescope, I fhould never have feen, in this general picture of triumphant vice, any perfonal allufion to Theodora " Her infamous conduct may be read in the 4th vol of the Menagiana. What Bayle fays of J. Scaliger may be juftly applied to many of Warburton's notes." Les commentaires qui viennent de lui font phe Jes de conjectures hardies, ingenieuses, et fort scavantes; mais n'eft gueres apparent que les auteurs ayent fongés à tout de qu'il leur fait dire. On s'eloigne de leur fens auffi bien, quand on a beaucoup d'efprit, quand on en a pas." Repub. des Lett. 1684. WARTON.

VER. 148. And hers the Gospel is, and hers the Laws,] i e. She difpofed of the honours of both. WARBURTON.

VER. 149. fcarlet head,] Alluding to the Scarlet Whore of the Apocalypfe. WARBURTON.

Lo! at the wheels of her Triumphal Car,

Old Englands Genius, rough with many a Scar,
Dragg'd in the Duft! his arms hang idly round,
His Flag inverted trails along the ground!

Our Youth, all liv'ry'd o'er with foreign Gold, 155
Before her dance: behind her, crawl the Old!
See thronging Millions to the Pagod run,

And offer Country, Parent, Wife, or Son!
Hear her black Trumpet through the Land proclaim,
In Soldier, Churchman, Patriot, Man in Pow'r,
'Tis Av'rice all, Ambition is no more!
See, all our Nobles begging to be Slaves!

See all our Fools afpiring to be Knaves!

The Wit of Cheats, the Courage of a Whore, 165 Are what ten thousand envy and adore:

All, all look up, with reverential Awe,

At Crimes that 'scape, or triumph o'er the Law: While Truth, Worth, Wisdom, daily they decry"Nothing is Sacred now but Villainy.”



VER. 151. Lo! at the wheels] A groupe of allegorical perfons worthy the pencil of Rubens! and defcribed in expreffions worthy of Virgil! This is perhaps the nobleft paffage in all his works, without any exception whatever. WARTON.

VER. 162. 'Tis Av'rice all,]" So far from having the virtues, we have not even the vices of our ancestors," fays Bolingbroke. WARTON.

VER. 170. "Nothing is Sacred now but Villainy."] From the conclufion of this Satire, which is highly poetical and animated, one might suppose that there was neither honesty, honour, public fpirit,


Yet may this Verse (if fuch a Verse remain) Show, there was one who held it in difdain.


fpirit, or virtue, in the nation. We fhould however always keep in mind the agitated state of Parties, at the time. Tories, Jacobites, difappointed Whigs, all under the name of Patriot, united in one cry against the adminiftration of Walpole, who most truly deferved that diftinguished appellation, and by whose firmness, wisdom, and integrity, under Providence, the Protestant fucceffion was in great measure fuftained, in the most trying periods, and with it our laws and liberties.

But whatever may be faid of the political, of the poetical part, particularly the defcription of vice, and the noble conclufion, there can be but one opinion. More dignified and impreffive numbers, more lofty indignation, more animated appeals, and more rich personifications never adorned the page of the Satiric Mufe.

« PreviousContinue »