Page images

I neither strut with every favouring breath,
Nor strive with all the tempest in my teeth.
In power, wit, figure, virtue, fortune, placed
Behind the foremost, and before the last.

"But why all this of avarice?

I have none."

I wish you joy, sir, of a tyrant gone;
But does no other lord it at this hour,
As wild and mad? the avarice of power?
Does neither rage inflame, nor fear appal?
Not the black fear of death, that saddens all?
With terrors round, can reason hold her throne,
Despise the known, nor tremble at the unknown?
Survey both worlds, intrepid and entire,
In spite of witches, devils, dreams, and fire?
Pleased to look forward, pleased to look behind,
And count each birthday with a grateful mind?
Has life no sourness, drawn so near its end?
Canst. thou endure a foe, forgive a friend?
Has age but melted the rough parts away,
As winter-fruits grow mild ere they decay?
Or will you think, my friend, your business done,
When, of a hundred thorns, you pull out one?

Learn to live well, or fairly make your will;
You've play'd, and loved, and eat, and drunk
Walk sober off, before a sprightlier age


Comes tittering on, and shoves you from the stage:
Leave such to trifle with more grace and ease,

Whom folly pleases, and whose follies please.











'Quid vetat et nosmet Lucili scripta legentes
Quærere, num illius, num rerum dura negarit
Versiculos natura magis factos, et euntes

["What then forbids our equal right to know

Why his own verses inharmonious flow?

Or whether in his subject lies the fault,

Or in himself, that they 're not higher wrought."-FRANCIS.]

[Dr. John Donne, the precursor of Cowley and the other metaphysical poets, wrote Latin verses much smoother and more correct than his English numbers. The latter, however, abound in sense and wit, and Dryden had suggested the modernisation of his satires. Donne died in 1662, having survived many schools of poetry and politics: he was in his eighty-ninth year. The style of this old poet, though rugged and most unmusical, is not very antiquated in expression. The following is the opening of his second satire:

[ocr errors]

'Sir, though (I thank God for it) I do hate

Perfectly all this town; yet there's one state

In all ill things so excellently best,

That hate towards them, breeds pity towards the rest.
Though poetry, indeed, be such a sin,

As I think, that brings dearth and Spaniards in:
Though, like the pestilence and old-fashion'd love,
Ridlingly it catch men, and doth remove

Never, till it be starved out; yet their state

Is poor, disarm'd, like Papists, not worth hate.

One (like a wretch, which at barre judged as dead,

Yet prompts him which stands next, and cannot read,
And saves his life) gives idiot-actors means,
(Starving himself) to live by 's laboured scenes :

As in some organs, puppets dance above,

And bellows pant below which them do move.

One would move love by rhymes; but witchcraft's charms
Bring not now their old fears, nor their old harms;

[merged small][graphic][merged small][merged small]

YES, thank my stars! as early as I knew

This town, I had the sense to hate it too:
Yet here, as e'en in hell, there must be still
One giant-vice, so excellently ill,

That all beside, one pities, not abhors;
As who knows Sappho, smiles at other whores.

I grant that poetry 's a crying sin;


It brought (no doubt) the Excise and Army in:

Catch'd like the plague, or love, the Lord knows how,

But that the cure is starving, all allow.


Yet like the papist's is the poet's state,

Poor and disarm'd, and hardly worth your hate'

Here a lean bard, whose wit could never give
Himself a dinner, makes an actor live:
The thief condemn'd, in law already dead,

So prompts, and saves a rogue who cannot read.
Thus as the pipes of some carved organ move,
The gilded puppets dance and mount above.
Heaved by the breath the inspiring bellows blow:
The inspiring bellows lie and pant below.

One sings the fair: but songs no longer move;
No rat is rhymed to death, nor maid to love:
In love's, in nature's spite, the siege they hold,
And scorn the flesh, the devil, and all-but gold.
These write to lords, some mean reward to get,
As needy beggars sing at doors for meat.
Those write because all write, and so have still
Excuse for writing, and for writing ill.

Wretched indeed! but far more wretched yet
Is he who makes his meal on others' wit:
"Tis changed, no doubt, from what it was before;
His rank digestion makes it wit no more:
Sense, pass'd through him, no longer is the same;
For food digested takes another name.





I pass o'er all those confessors and martyrs,
Who live like S-tt-n, or who die like Chartres,
Out-cant old Esdras, or out-drink his heir,
Out-usure Jews, or Irishmen out-swear;
Wicked as pages, who in early years


Act sins which Prisca's confessor scarce hears.


E'en those I pardon, for whose sinful sake
Schoolmen new tenements in hell must make;
Of whose strange crimes no canonist can tell

In what commandment's large contents they dwell.
One, one man only, breeds my just offence;


Whom crimes gave wealth, and wealth gave impudence:

Time, that at last matures a clap to pox,

Whose gentle progress makes a calf an ox,

And brings all natural events to pass,

Hath made him an attorney of an ass.


1 [Sir Robert Sutton, a privy councillor, and M. P. for Northamptonshire.

He was one of the parties implicated in the frauds of the company called the Charitable Corporation, and was expelled the House of Commons.]

No young divine, new-beneficed, can be
More pert, more proud, more positive than he.
What further could I wish the fop to do,
But turn a wit, and scribble verses too?
Pierce the soft labyrinth of a lady's ear

With rhymes of this per cent. and that per year?
Or court a wife, spread out his wily parts,
Like nets or lime-twigs, for rich widow's hearts;
Call himself barrister to every wench,

And woo in language of the Pleas and Bench?
Language, which Boreas might to Auster hold,
More rough than forty Germans when they scold.
Cursed be the wretch, so venal and so vain :
Paltry and proud, as drabs in Drury-lane.
'Tis such a bounty as was never known,
If Peter deigns to help you to your own:2

[blocks in formation]

What thanks, what praise, if Peter but supplies!
And what a solemn face, if he denies!

Grave, as when prisoners shake the head and swear
'Twas only suretyship that brought 'em there.
His office keeps your parchment fates entire,
He starves with cold to save them from the fire;


For you he walks the streets through rain or dust,
For not in chariots Peter puts his trust;


For you he sweats and labours at the laws,
Takes God to witness he affects your cause,
And lies to every lord in every thing,
Like a king's favourite, or like a king.
These are the talents that adorn them all,
From wicked Waters e'en to godly ** 3
Not more of simony beneath black gowns,
Not more of bastardy in heirs to crowns.
In shillings and in pence at first they deal;
And steal so little, few perceive they steal;
Till, like the sea, they compass all the land,
From Scots to Wight, from Mount to Dover strand:
And when rank widows purchase luscious nights,
Or when a duke to Jansen punts at White's,

[blocks in formation]

2 [Peter Walter, whose name occurs so often in Pope's satires.] [Perhaps Paul Benfield, M.P., who was engaged in the jobbing transac tions of that period.]

« PreviousContinue »