Page images
PDF
EPUB

All fly to Twit'nam, and in humble strain
Apply to me, to keep them mad or vain.
Arthur, whose giddy son neglects the laws,
Imputes to me and my damn'd works the cause:
Poor Cornus sees his frantic wife elope,

And curses wit, and poetry, and Pope.

Friend to my life! (which did you not prolong,
The world had wanted many an idle song),
What drop or nostrum can this plague remove?
Or which must end me, a fool's wrath or love?
A dire dilemma! either way I'm sped;
If foes they write, if friends, they read me dead.
Seiz'd and ty'd down to judge, how wretched I! ·
Who can't be silent, and who will not lie :
To laugh, were want of goodness and of grace;
And to be grave, exceeds all power of face.
I sit with sad civility; I read

With honest anguish, and an aching head;
And drop at last, but in unwilling ears,

This saving counsel, "Keep your piece nine years."
"Nine years!" cries he, who, high in Drury Lane,
Lull'd by soft zephyrs through the broken pane,
Rhymes e'er he wakes, and prints before term ends,
Oblig'd by hunger, and request of friends:
"The piece, you think, is incorrect? Why take it;
I'm all submission; what you'd have it, make it ;"
Three things another's modest wishes bound,
My friendship, and a prologue, and ten pound.
Pitholeon sends to me: "You know his grace;

I want a patron: ask him for a place."
Pitholeon libell'd me-" But here's a letter
Informs you, sir, 't was when he knew no better.
Dare you refuse him? Curll invites to dine,

He'll write a journal, or he 'll turn divine."

8

Bless me! a packet.-"'T is a stranger sues,

A virgin tragedy, an orphan muse.”

If I dislike it, "furies, death, and rage!"

If I approve, "Commend it to the stage."

There (thank my stars), my whole commission ends,
The players and I are luckily no friends.

Fir'd that the house reject him, "'Sdeath! I'll print it,
And shame the fools-Your interest, sir, with Lintot."
"Lintot, dull rogue! will think your price too much :"
"Not, sir, if you revise it, and retouch."

All my demurs but double his attacks:

At last he whispers, "Do; and we go snacks."

Glad of a quarrel, straight I clap the door;

66

Sir, let me see your works and you no more.'

[ocr errors]

7 Then from the Mint walks forth the man of rhyme,
Happy to catch me, just at dinner-time.

The precincts of the Mint, in those days, included a jail for debtors. It was shabby of the poor devils of authors to take advantage of the poet's dinnerhour; but was it quite magnanimous in the poet to say so? If his father had not left him an independence, he might have found even himself hard pushed sometimes for a meal. Pope was a little too fond of taking his pecuniary advantages for merits. He did not see (so blind respecting themselves are the acutest satirists) that this inability to forego a false ground of superiority originated in an instinct of weakness.

8 Curll invites to dine.-Curll was the chief scandalous bookseller of that time.

CHARACTERS AND RULING PASSIONS.

CHARACTER OF THE DUKE OF WHARTON.

Manners with fortunes, humours turn with climes,
Tenets with books, and principles with times.
Search then the Ruling Passion: there, alone,
The wild are constant, and the cunning known;
The fool consistent, and the false sincere ;
Priests, princes, women, no dissemblers here.
This clue once found, unravels all the rest,
The prospect clears, and Wharton stands confest.
Wharton the scorn and wonder of our days,
Whose ruling passion was the lust of praise:
Born with whate'er could win it from the wise,
Women and fools must like him, or he dies:
Though wondering senates hung on all he spoke,
The club must hail him master of the joke.
Shall parts so various aim at nothing new ?
He'll shine a Tully and a Wilmot too.

Then turns repentant, and his God adores,

With the same spirit that he drinks and whores :10

Enough if all around him but admire,

And now the punk applaud, and now the friar.

Thus with each gift of nature and of art
And wanting nothing but an honest heart;
Grown all to all, from no one vice exempt;
And most contemptible, to shun contempt;
His passion still to covet general praise;
His life, to forfeit it a thousand ways;
A constant bounty, which no friend has made;
An angel tongue, which no man can persuade;

A fool, with more of wit than half mankind;
Too rash for thought, for action too refin'd:
A tyrant to the wife his heart approves ;
A rebel to the very king he loves;

He dies, sad outcast of each church and state,

And, harder still! flagitious, yet not great.

Ask you why Wharton broke through every rule?
'T was all for fear that knaves should call him fool.10"

10 Then turns repentant, and his God adores

With the same spirit that he drinks and whores.

The reader must bear in mind that all which is considered coarse language now, was not so considered in Pope's time; and that words, which cannot any longer be read out loud in mixed company, may still have the benefit of that recollection, and be silently endured.

11 Ask you why Wharton broke through every rule?
'Twas all for fear that knaves should call him fool.

Perhaps, if it were required to select from all Pope's writings the passage most calculated to have a practical effect on readers in want of it, it would be this couplet. The address of it is exquisite. The obvious conclusion is, that it is better to be thought a fool by a knave than by a man of genius.

CHARACTER OF ADDISON.

A man's true merit is not hard to find;
But each man's secret standard in his mind
(That casting-weight pride adds to emptiness)
This, who can gratify? for who can guess ?12
The bard whom pilfer'd pastorals renown,
Who turns a Persian tale for half-a-crown; 13
He, who still wanting, though he lives on theft,
Steals much, spends little, yet has nothing left;
And he who now to sense, now nonsense leaning,
Means not, but blunders round about a meaning;
And he whose fustian's so sublimely bad,

It is not poetry, but prose run mad;
All these my modest satire bade translate,

And own'd that nine such poets made a Tate.

How did they fume, and stamp, and roar, and chafe,

And swear not Addison himself was safe.

Peace to all such! But were there one whose fires

True genius kindles, and fair fame inspires;
Blest with each talent and each art to please,
And born to write, converse, and live with ease;
Should such a man, too fond to rule alone,
Bear like the Turk no brother near the throne;
View him with scornful, yet with jealous eyes,
And hate for arts that caus'd himself to rise;
Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And without sneering teach the rest to sneer;
Willing to wound and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault and hesitate dislike;
Alike reserv'd to blame, or to commend,
A timorous foe and a suspicious friend;
Dreading e'en fools, by flatterers besieg'd,
And so obliging, that he ne'er obliged;

« PreviousContinue »