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Thinks that but words, and this but brick and stones?
Is Wealth thy passion? Hence! from Pole to Pole,
Where winds can carry, or where waves can roll,
A noble superfluity it craves,
Not for yourself, but for your Fools and Knaves;
If Wealth alone then make and keep us blest,
But if to Pow'r and Place your passion lie,
[Dr Matthew Tindal, author of Christianity as old as the Creation.]
2 dubb'd a Man of worth,] Alluding to the City Knighthoods, where wealth and worship go together. Warburton.
3 Anstis, whom Pope often mentions, was Garter King of Arms. Bowles.
4 Or if three Ladies like a luckless Play,] The common reader, I am sensible, will be always more solicitous about the names of these three Ladies, the unlucky Play, and every other trifling circumstance that attended this piece of
gallantry, than for the explanation of our Author's sense, or the illustration of his poetry; even where he is most moral and sublime. But had it been in Mr Pope's purpose to indulge so impertinent a curiosity, he had sought elsewhere for a commentator on his writings. Warburton. Notwithstanding this remark of Dr Warburton, I have taken some pains, though indeed in vain, to ascertain who these ladies were, and what the play they patronized. It was once said to be Young's Busiris. Warton.
"This may be troublesome, is near the Chair;
"That makes three members, this can choose a May'r."
Instructed thus, you bow, embrace, protest,
Adopt him Son, or Cousin at the least,
Then turn about, and laugh at your own Jest.
Or if your life be one continu'd Treat,
Thro' Taverns, Stews, and Bagnio's take our round,
The Cordial Drop of Life is Love alone,
And SWIFT cry wisely, "Vive la Bagatelle3!"
The Man that loves and laughs, must sure do well.
E'en take the Counsel which I gave you first:
Or better Precepts if you can impart,
Why do, I'll follow them with all my heart.
THE FIRST EPISTLE
SECOND BOOK OF HORACE.
THE Reflections of Horace, and the Judgments past in his Epistle to Augustus, seem'd so seasonable to the present Times, that I could not help applying them to the use of my own Country. The Author thought them considerable enough to address them to his Prince; whom he paints with all the great and good
qualities of a Monarch, upon whom the Romans depended for the Increase of an Absolute Empire. But to make the Poem entirely English, I was willing to add one or two of those which contribute to the Happiness of a Free People, and are more consistent with the Welfare of our Neighbours.
This Epistle will show the learned World to have fallen into Two mistakes: one, that Augustus was a Patron of Poets in general; whereas he not only prohibited all but the Best Writers to name him, but recommended that Care even to the Civil Magistrate: Admonebat Praetores, ne paterentur Nomen suum obsolefieri, etc. The other, that this Piece was only a general Discourse of Poetry; whereas it was an Apology for the Poets, in order to render Augustus more their Patron. Horace here pleads the Cause of his Cotemporaries, first against the Taste of the Town, whose humour it was to magnify the Authors of the preceding Age; secondly against the Court and Nobility, who encouraged only the Writers for the Theatre; and lastly against the Emperor himself, who had conceived them of little Use to the Government. He shows (by a View of the Progress of Learning, and the Change of Taste among the Romans) that the Introduction of the Polite Arts of Greece had given the Writers of his Time great advantages over their Predecessors; that their Morals were much improved, and the Licence of those ancient Poets restrained that Satire and Comedy were become more just and useful; that whatever extravagancies were left on the Stage, were owing to the Ill Taste of the Nobility; that Poets, under due Regulations, were in many respects useful to the State, and concludes, that it was upon them the Emperor himself must depend, for his Fame with Posterity.
We may farther learn from this Epistle, that Horace made his Court to this great Prince by writing with a decent Freedom toward him, with a just Contempt of his low Flatterers, and with a manly Regard to his own Character.
[The bland statements of the above Advertisement will not deceive the reader as to the ironical character of Pope's Epistle, which ranks among the most finished of his compositions. According to Suetonius (Vita Hor.) the origin of the Horatian Epistle (probably written only a year or two before the poet's death) was the expression by Augustus of a desire that Horace might address one of his Epistles to the Emperor himself. No such wish, we may feel sure, ever suggested itself in the bosom of King George II. Augustus was a real patron of literature, and in particular of dramatic poetry. Horace accordingly takes occasion to examine the development of Roman literature with special reference to this branch of it; and after dwelling on the prejudicial influence of the prevalent preference for the older poets, to show the evil effects of the love of spectacle upon the progress of the Roman drama. He concludes by directing the attention of the Emperor to the non-dramatic, and particularly the epic poets, and while recognising the grandeur of their task-the glorification of the deeds of heroes like Augustus himself-modestly declares his own incapacity to enter their ranks.
Pope addresses himself to a monarch who, since his accession to the throne in 1727, had done nothing, and intended to do nothing, to foster a literature for which, notwithstanding his intelligence, he lacked sympathy. The opposition, to which Pope was attached by personal friendships rather than by any distinct political creed, had pretended to found high hopes in this respect, as in all others, upon George Prince of Wales, when he was on bad terms with his father and the Walpole ministry. But he had speedily undeceived them as to the real object of their hopes; and 'Bob, the poet's foe' (as Swift nicknamed Sir Robert Walpole), remained in power. The slight attempts on the part of Queen Caroline to patronise literature and literary men were lost in the general apathy, amounting almost to dislike, with which both were regarded by King and Minister.
While therefore all the allusions to the King himself must be understood as distinctly ironical, the review of English literature which they introduce is only addressed to the King because he would take no interest in it. This review itself contains many criticisms of much sagacity and acuteness; it will be found that upon the whole Pope in his manhood adhered very much to the opinions which as a youth he had expressed in his Essay on Criticism, which should be carefully compared with the present: Epistle. It is strange to find Pope charging his age with an undue preference for the old poets; the truth being that the period of a renaissance in this respect had hardly yet begun in English popular taste. The observations on the stage are fully borne out by contemporary accounts; Pope was to live to hail the appearance of Garrick as the advent of better days.]
THILE you, great Patron of Mankind! sustain
Edward and Henry, now the Boast of Fame 3,
To thee, the World its present homage pays,
1 At this time (1737) the Spanish depredations at sea were such, that there was an universal cry that the British flag had been insulted, and the English braved on their own element. Opening all the main' therefore, means that the King was so liberal as to leave it open to the Spaniards. Bowles.
2 [This again ironically refers to the general cry for war after a long period of peace.]
3 [These historical parallels or antitheta, substituted by Pope for Horace's safer names of Romulus, Bacchus and the Dioscuri, must be taken quantum valeant. The close of Edward III.'s reign offers a melancholy proof that a great man may outlive his own greatness; and Henry V. enjoyed a high popularity with his subjects to the day of his death, except of course with the Lollards.]
Above all Greek, above all Roman Fame1:
Just in one instance, be it yet confest
Authors, like coins, grow dear as they grow old;
And beastly Skelton Heads of Houses quote3:
One likes no language but the Faery Queen;
A Scot will fight for Christ's Kirk o' the Green*;
Tho' justly Greece her eldest sons admires,
We build, we paint, we sing, we dance as well,
If Time improve our Wit as well as Wine,
"Who lasts a century can have no flaw,
Suppose he wants a year, will you compound?
And shall we deem him Ancient, right and sound,
At ninety-nine, a Modern and a Dunce?
Then by the rule that made the Horse-tail bear3,
"By courtesy of England', he may do."
I pluck out year by year, as hair by hair,
1 Te nostris ducibus, te Graiis anteferendo.
? [Particularly when modernised.]
4 Christ's Kirk o' the Green;] A Ballad made by a King of Scotland. P. [James I.] 5 met him at the Devil] The Devil Tavern, where Ben Jonson held his Poetical Club, P. 6 [i.e. to be immortal.]
7 ['Courtesy of England,' a legal term signi fying the custom by which a widower holds during his lifetime the lands of which his wife was seized in fee, if she had issue by him born alive.]
8 [The reference in Horace is to the so-called Argumentatio Acervalis, or Sorites, the purpose of which is to show that relative terms of measure admit of no precise definition.]