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Whose ample lawns are not ashamed to feed
SATIRES AND EPISTLES.
SPENCE, in his 'Anecdotes,' gives the following account of the origin of these poems: When I had a fever one winter in town,' said Pope, 'that confined me to my room for five or six days, lord Bolingbroke, coming to see me, happened to take up a Horace that lay on the table, and, in turning it over, dipped on the first satire of the second book: he observed, how well that would suit my case, if I were to imitate it in English. After he was gone, I read it over, translated it in a morning or two, and sent it to press in a week or a fortnight after: and this was the occasion of my imitating some other of the satires and epistles.' -To how casual a beginning,' adds Spence, with his usual rapture, 6 we are indebted for the most delightful things in our language!' He proceeds: When I was saying to him, that he had already imitated nearly a third part of Horace's satires and epistles, and how much it was to be wished that he would go on with them, he would not believe that he had gone so far; but on computing it, it appeared to be above a third: he seemed on this not disinclined to carry it farther, but his last illness was then growing on him.'
Roscoe observes, that 'in these satires, and their prologue, Pope for the first time speaks of himself,' or rather, for the first time introduces himself as a character; he having made frequent allusions to his own feelings throughout his works: a task, which he justly terms, one of peculiar difficulty, and seldom attempted without its incurring the imputation
of vanity on the one hand, or of false modesty and affectation on the other.' He might still more justly have added, a task, in which the temptation to disguise is so powerful, that perhaps no man has ever been able wholly to overcome it; and no reader has ever a right to believe that it has been wholly overcome. Even vice has its vanity; and the exaggeration of offences is often among the absurdities of minds at once ostentatious and libertine: but the readiness of failing virtue to take refuge in palliatives is among the hourly habits of human nature. No man can be trusted to draw the portrait of his mind, his morals, or his passions.
There were some striking similarities in the condition of Ariosto and Pope. Roscoe remarks on the devotion of both to their art, the celibacy of both, and the filial piety of both to an aged mother; both more opulent than is usual with the sons of the Muse, and both living in elegance and in retirement. The likeness in personal circumstances is not less direct: Ariosto's epistles to his friends, which he too named satires, describe his state of health as requiring constant precaution: Ogni alterazione,' &c.
A small excess, with my complaint at strife,
Would in one moment ease me of my life:
Ariosto exults in his independence of mind, and the delights which he derives from poetry: 'piu tosto che arrichir,'
I wish not riches; peace is all I ask :
I find no pleasure in the worldly task,
That steals me from my studious hours away.
They pour it on my mind, and bring forth fruits
That ask my care to labor well their roots.