The Rape of the Lock and Other Poems
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THE RAPE OF THE LOCK
AND OTHER POEMS
WITH INTRODUCTION AND NOTES
THOMAS MARC PARROTT, PH.D.
PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY
THIS EDITION PUBLISHED 1906
It has been the aim of the editor in preparing this little book to get
together sufficient material to afford a student in one of our high
schools or colleges adequate and typical specimens of the vigorous and
versatile genius of Alexander Pope. With this purpose he has included in
addition to 'The Rape of the Lock', the 'Essay on Criticism' as
furnishing the standard by which Pope himself expected his work to be
judged, the 'First Epistle' of the 'Essay on Man' as a characteristic
example of his didactic poetry, and the 'Epistle to Arbuthnot', both for
its exhibition of Pope's genius as a satirist and for the picture it
gives of the poet himself. To these are added the famous close of the
'Dunciad', the 'Ode to Solitude', a specimen of Pope's infrequent lyric
note, and the 'Epitaph on Gay'.
The first edition of 'The Rape of the Lock' has been given as an
appendix in order that the student may have the opportunity of comparing
the two forms of this poem, and of realizing the admirable art with
which Pope blended old and new in the version that is now the only one
known to the average reader. The text throughout is that of the Globe
Edition prepared by Professor A. W. Ward.
The editor can lay no claim to originality in the notes with which he
has attempted to explain and illustrate these poems. He is indebted at
every step to the labors of earlier editors, particularly to Elwin,
Courthope, Pattison, and Hales. If he has added anything of his own, it
has been in the way of defining certain words whose meaning or
connotation has changed since the time of Pope, and in paraphrasing
certain passages to bring out a meaning which has been partially
obscured by the poet's effort after brevity and concision.
In the general introduction the editor has aimed not so much to recite
the facts of Pope's life as to draw the portrait of a man whom he
believes to have been too often misunderstood and misrepresented. The
special introductions to the various poems are intended to acquaint the
student with the circumstances under which they were composed, to trace
their literary genesis and relationships, and, whenever necessary, to
give an outline of the train of thought which they embody.
In conclusion the editor would express the hope that his labors in the
preparation of this book may help, if only in some slight degree, to
stimulate the study of the work of a poet who, with all his limitations,
remains one of the abiding glories of English literature, and may
contribute not less to a proper appreciation of a man who with all his
faults was, on the evidence of those who knew him best, not only a great
poet, but a very human and lovable personality.
T. M. P.
'Princeton University', 'June' 4, 1906.
* * * * *
THE RAPE OF THE LOCK
AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM
AN ESSAY ON MAN, EPISTLE I
AN EPISTLE TO DR ARBUTHNOT
ODE ON SOLITUDE
THE DESCENT OF DULLNESS [FROM THE 'Dunciad', BOOK IV]
EPITAPH ON GAY
THE RAPE OF THE LOCK
AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM
AN ESSAY ON MAN (EPISTLE I)
AN EPISTLE TO DR ARBUTHNOT
THE FIRST EDITION OF THE RAPE OF THE LOCK
* * * * *
Perhaps no other great poet in English Literature has been so
differently judged at different times as Alexander Pope. Accepted almost
on his first appearance as one of the leading poets of the day, he
rapidly became recognized as the foremost man of letters of his age. He
held this position throughout his life, and for over half a century
after his death his works were considered not only as masterpieces, but
as the finest models of poetry. With the change of poetic temper that
occurred at the beginning of the nineteenth century Pope's fame was
overshadowed. The romantic poets and critics even raised the question
whether Pope was a poet at all. And as his poetical fame diminished, the
harsh judgments of his personal character increased. It is almost
incredible with what exulting bitterness critics and editors of Pope
have tracked out and exposed his petty intrigues, exaggerated his
delinquencies, misrepresented his actions, attempted in short to blast
his character as a man.
Both as a man and as a poet Pope is sadly in need of a defender to-day.
And a defense is by no means impossible. The depreciation of Pope's
poetry springs, in the main, from an attempt to measure it by other
standards than those which he and his age recognized. The attacks upon
his character are due, in large measure, to a misunderstanding of the
spirit of the times in which he lived and to a forgetfulness of the
special circumstances of his own life. Tried in a fair court by
impartial judges Pope as a poet would be awarded a place, if not among
the noblest singers, at least high among poets of the second order. And
the flaws of character which even his warmest apologist must admit would
on the one hand be explained, if not excused, by circumstances, and on
the other more than counterbalanced by the existence of noble qualities
to which his assailants seem to have been quite blind.
Alexander Pope was born in London on May 21, 1688. His father was a
Roman Catholic linen draper, who had married a second time. Pope was the
only child of this marriage, and seems to have been a delicate,
sweet-tempered, precocious, and, perhaps, a rather spoiled child.
Pope's religion and his chronic ill-health are two facts of the highest
importance to be taken into consideration in any study of his life or
judgment of his character. The high hopes of the Catholics for a
restoration of their religion had been totally destroyed by the
Revolution of 1688. During all Pope's lifetime they were a sect at once
feared, hated, and oppressed by the severest laws. They were excluded
from the schools and universities, they were burdened with double taxes,
and forbidden to acquire real estate. All public careers were closed to
them, and their property and even their persons were in times of
excitement at the mercy of informers. In the last year of Pope's life a
proclamation was issued forbidding Catholics to come within ten miles of
London, and Pope himself, in spite of his influential friends, thought
it wise to comply with this edict. A fierce outburst of persecution
often evokes in the persecuted some of the noblest qualities of human
nature; but a long-continued and crushing tyranny that extends to all
the details of daily life is only too likely to have the most
unfortunate results on those who are subjected to it. And as a matter of
fact we find that the well-to-do Catholics of Pope's day lived in an
atmosphere of disaffection, political intrigue, and evasion of the law,
most unfavorable for the development of that frank, courageous, and
patriotic spirit for the lack of which Pope himself has so often been
made the object of reproach.
In a well-known passage of the 'Epistle to Arbuthnot', Pope has spoken
of his life as one long disease. He was in fact a humpbacked dwarf, not
over four feet six inches in height, with long, spider-like legs and
arms. He was subject to violent headaches, and his face was lined and
contracted with the marks of suffering. In youth he so completely ruined
his health by perpetual studies that his life was despaired of, and only
the most careful treatment saved him from an early death. Toward the
close of his life he became so weak that he could neither dress nor
undress without assistance. He had to be laced up in stiff stays in
order to sit erect, and wore a fur doublet and three pairs of stockings
to protect himself against the cold. With these physical defects he had
the extreme sensitiveness of mind that usually accompanies chronic ill
health, and this sensitiveness was outraged incessantly by the brutal
customs of the age. Pope's enemies made as free with his person as with
his poetry, and there is little doubt that he felt the former attacks
the more bitterly of the two. Dennis, his first critic, called him "a
short squab gentleman, the very bow of the God of love; his outward form
is downright monkey." A rival poet whom he had offended hung up a rod in
a coffee house where men of letters resorted, and threatened to whip
Pope like a naughty child if he showed his face there. It is said,
though perhaps not on the best authority, that when Pope once forgot
himself so far as to make love to Lady Mary Wortley Montague, the lady's
answer was "a fit of immoderate laughter." In an appendix to the
'Dunciad' Pope collected some of the epithets with which his enemies had
pelted him, "an ape," "an ass," "a frog," "a coward," "a fool," "a
little abject thing." He affected, indeed, to despise his assailants,
but there is only too good evidence that their poisoned arrows rankled
in his heart. Richardson, the painter, found him one day reading the
latest abusive pamphlet. "These things are my diversion," said the poet,
striving to put the best face on it; but as he read, his friends saw his
features "writhen with anguish," and prayed to be delivered from all
such "diversions" as these. Pope's enemies and their savage abuse are
mostly forgotten to-day. Pope's furious retorts have been secured to
immortality by his genius. It would have been nobler, no doubt, to have
answered by silence only; but before one condemns Pope it is only fair
to realize the causes of his bitterness.
Pope's education was short and irregular. He was taught the rudiments of
Latin and Greek by his family priest, attended for a brief period a
school in the country and another in London, and at the early age of
twelve left school altogether, and settling down at his father's house
in the country began to read to his heart's delight. He roamed through
the classic poets, translating passages that pleased him, went up for a
time to London to get lessons in French and Italian, and above all read
with eagerness and attention the works of older English poets,--Spenser,
Waller, and Dryden. He had already, it would seem, determined to become
a poet, and his father, delighted with the clever boy's talent, used to
set him topics, force him to correct his verses over and over, and
finally, when satisfied, dismiss him with the praise, "These are good
rhymes." He wrote a comedy, a tragedy, an epic poem, all of which he
afterward destroyed and, as he laughingly confessed in later years, he
thought himself "the greatest genius that ever was."
Pope was not alone, however, in holding a high opinion of his talents.
While still a boy in his teens he was taken up and patronized by a
number of gentlemen, Trumbull, Walsh, and Cromwell, all dabblers in
poetry and criticism. He was introduced to the dramatist Wycherly,
nearly fifty years his senior, and helped to polish some of the old
man's verses. His own works were passed about in manuscript from hand to
hand till one of them came to the eyes of Dryden's old publisher,
Tonson. Tonson wrote Pope a respectful letter asking for the honor of
being allowed to publish them. One may fancy the delight with which the
sixteen-year-old boy received this offer. It is a proof of Pope's
patience as well as his precocity that he delayed three years before
accepting it. It was not till 1709 that his first published verses, the
'Pastorals', a fragment translated from Homer, and a modernized version
of one of the 'Canterbury Tales', appeared in Tonson's 'Miscellany'.
With the publication of the 'Pastorals', Pope embarked upon his life as
a man of letters. They seem to have brought him a certain recognition,
but hardly fame. That he obtained by his next poem, the 'Essay on
Criticism', which appeared in 1711. It was applauded in the 'Spectator',
and Pope seems about this time to have made the acquaintance of Addison
and the little senate which met in Button's coffee house. His poem the
'Messiah' appeared in the 'Spectator' in May 1712; the first draft of
'The Rape of the Lock' in a poetical miscellany in the same year, and
Addison's request, in 1713, that he compose a prologue for the tragedy
of 'Cato' set the final stamp upon his rank as a poet.
Pope's friendly relations with Addison and his circle were not, however,
long continued. In the year 1713 he gradually drew away from them and
came under the influence of Swift, then at the height of his power in
political and social life. Swift introduced him to the brilliant Tories,
politicians and lovers of letters, Harley, Bolingbroke, and Atterbury,
who were then at the head of affairs. Pope's new friends seem to have
treated him with a deference which he had never experienced before, and
which bound him to them in unbroken affection. Harley used to regret
that Pope's religion rendered him legally incapable of holding a
sinecure office in the government, such as was frequently bestowed in
those days upon men of letters, and Swift jestingly offered the young
poet twenty guineas to become a Protestant. But now, as later, Pope was
firmly resolved not to abandon the faith of his parents for the sake of
worldly advantage. And in order to secure the independence he valued so
highly he resolved to embark upon the great work of his life, the
translation of Homer.
"What led me into that," he told a friend long after, "was purely the
want of money. I had then none; not even to buy books." It seems that
about this time, 1713, Pope's father had experienced some heavy
financial losses, and the poet, whose receipts in money had so far been
by no means in proportion to the reputation his works had brought him,
now resolved to use that reputation as a means of securing from the
public a sum which would at least keep him for life from poverty or the
necessity of begging for patronage. It is worth noting that Pope was the
first Englishman of letters who threw himself thus boldly upon the
public and earned his living by his pen.
The arrangements for the publication and sale of Pope's translation of
Homer were made with care and pushed on with enthusiasm. He issued in
1713 his proposals for an edition to be published by subscription, and
his friends at once became enthusiastic canvassers. We have a
characteristic picture of Swift at this time, bustling about a crowded
ante-chamber, and informing the company that the best poet in England
was Mr. Pope (a Papist) who had begun a translation of Homer for which
they must all subscribe, "for," says he, "the author shall not begin to
print till I have a thousand guineas for him." The work was to be in six
volumes, each costing a guinea. Pope obtained 575 subscribers, many of
whom took more than one set. Lintot, the publisher, gave Pope £1200 for
the work and agreed to supply the subscription copies free of charge. As
a result Pope made something between £5000 and £6000, a sum absolutely
unprecedented in the history of English literature, and amply sufficient
to make him independent for life.
But the sum was honestly earned by hard and wearisome work. Pope was no
Greek scholar; it is said, indeed, that he was just able to make out the
sense of the original with a translation. And in addition to the fifteen
thousand lines of the 'Iliad', he had engaged to furnish an introduction
and notes. At first the magnitude of the undertaking frightened him.
"What terrible moments," he said to Spence, "does one feel after one has
engaged for a large work. In the beginning of my translating the
'Iliad', I wished anybody would hang me a hundred times. It sat so
heavily on my mind at first that I often used to dream of it and do
sometimes still." In spite of his discouragement, however, and of the
ill health which so constantly beset him, Pope fell gallantly upon his
task, and as time went on came almost to enjoy it. He used to translate
thirty or forty verses in the morning before rising and, in his own
characteristic phrase, "piddled over them for the rest of the day." He
used every assistance possible, drew freely upon the scholarship of
friends, corrected and recorrected with a view to obtaining clearness
and point, and finally succeeded in producing a version which not only
satisfied his own critical judgment, but was at once accepted by the
English-speaking world as the standard translation of Homer.
The first volume came out in June, 1715, and to Pope's dismay and wrath
a rival translation appeared almost simultaneously. Tickell, one of
Addison's "little senate," had also begun a translation of the 'Iliad',
and although he announced in the preface that he intended to withdraw in
favor of Pope and take up a translation of the 'Odyssey', the poet's
suspicions were at once aroused. And they were quickly fanned into a
flame by the gossip of the town which reported that Addison, the
recognized authority in literary criticism, pronounced Tickell's version
"the best that ever was in any language." Rumor went so far, in fact, as
to hint pretty broadly that Addison himself was the author, in part, at
least, of Tickell's book; and Pope, who had been encouraged by Addison
to begin his long task, felt at once that he had been betrayed. His
resentment was all the more bitter since he fancied that Addison, now at
the height of his power and prosperity in the world of letters and of
politics, had attempted to ruin an enterprise on which the younger man
had set all his hopes of success and independence, for no better reason
than literary jealousy and political estrangement. We know now that Pope
was mistaken, but there was beyond question some reason at the time for
his thinking as he did, and it is to the bitterness which this incident
caused in his mind that we owe the famous satiric portrait of Addison as
The last volume of the 'Iliad' appeared in the spring of 1720, and in it
Pope gave a renewed proof of his independence by dedicating the whole
work, not to some lord who would have rewarded him with a handsome
present, but to his old acquaintance, Congreve, the last survivor of the
brilliant comic dramatists of Dryden's day. And now resting for a time
from his long labors, Pope turned to the adornment and cultivation of
the little house and garden that he had leased at Twickenham.
Pope's father had died in 1717, and the poet, rejecting politely but
firmly the suggestion of his friend, Atterbury, that he might now turn
Protestant, devoted himself with double tenderness to the care of his
aged and infirm mother. He brought her with him to Twickenham, where she
lived till 1733, dying in that year at the great age of ninety-one. It
may have been partly on her account that Pope pitched upon Twickenham as
his abiding place. Beautifully situated on the banks of the Thames, it
was at once a quiet country place and yet of easy access to London, to
Hampton Court, or to Kew. The five acres of land that lay about the
house furnished Pope with inexhaustible entertainment for the rest of
his life. He "twisted and twirled and harmonized" his bit of ground
"till it appeared two or three sweet little lawns opening and opening
beyond one another, the whole surrounded by impenetrable woods."
Following the taste of his times in landscape gardening, he adorned his
lawns with artificial mounds, a shell temple, an obelisk, and a
colonnade. But the crowning glory was the grotto, a tunnel decorated
fantastically with shells and bits of looking-glass, which Pope dug
under a road that ran through his grounds. Here Pope received in state,
and his house and garden was for years the center of the most brilliant
society in England. Here Swift came on his rare visits from Ireland, and
Bolingbroke on his return from exile. Arbuthnot, Pope's beloved
physician, was a frequent visitor, and Peterborough, one of the most
distinguished of English soldiers, condescended to help lay out the
garden. Congreve came too, at times, and Gay, the laziest and most
good-natured of poets. Nor was the society of women lacking at these
gatherings. Lady Mary Wortley Montague, the wittiest woman in England,
was often there, until her bitter quarrel with the poet; the grim old
Duchess of Marlborough appeared once or twice in Pope's last years; and
the Princess of Wales came with her husband to inspire the leaders of
the opposition to the hated Walpole and the miserly king. And from first
to last, the good angel of the place was the blue-eyed, sweet-tempered
Patty Blount, Pope's best and dearest friend.
Not long after the completion of the 'Iliad', Pope undertook to edit
Shakespeare, and completed the work in 1724. The edition is, of course,
quite superseded now, but it has its place in the history of
Shakespearean studies as the first that made an effort, though irregular
and incomplete, to restore the true text by collation and conjecture. It
has its place, too, in the story of Pope's life, since the bitter
criticism which it received, all the more unpleasant to the poet since
it was in the main true, was one of the principal causes of his writing
the 'Dunciad'. Between the publication of his edition of Shakespeare,
however, and the appearance of the 'Dunciad', Pope resolved to complete
his translation of Homer, and with the assistance of a pair of friends,
got out a version of the Odyssey in 1725. Like the 'Iliad', this was
published by subscription, and as in the former case the greatest men in
England were eager to show their appreciation of the poet by filling up
his lists. Sir Robert Walpole, the great Whig statesman, took ten
copies, and Harley, the fallen Tory leader, put himself, his wife, and
his daughter down for sixteen. Pope made, it is said, about £3700 by
In 1726, Swift visited Pope and encouraged him to complete a satire
which he seems already to have begun on the dull critics and hack
writers of the day. For one cause or another its publication was
deferred until 1728, when it appeared under the title of the 'Dunciad'.
Here Pope declared open war upon his enemies. All those who had attacked
his works, abused his character, or scoffed at his personal deformities,
were caricatured as ridiculous and sometimes disgusting figures in a
mock epic poem celebrating the accession of a new monarch to the throne
of Dullness. The 'Dunciad' is little read to-day except by professed
students of English letters, but it made, naturally enough, a great stir
at the time and vastly provoked the wrath of all the dunces whose names
it dragged to light. Pope has often been blamed for stooping to such
ignoble combat, and in particular for the coarseness of his abuse, and
for his bitter jests upon the poverty of his opponents. But it must be
remembered that no living writer had been so scandalously abused as
Pope, and no writer that ever lived was by nature so quick to feel and
to resent insult. The undoubted coarseness of the work is in part due to
the gross license of the times in speech and writing, and more
particularly to the influence of Swift, at this time predominant over
Pope. And in regard to Pope's trick of taunting his enemies with
poverty, it must frankly be confessed that he seized upon this charge as
a ready and telling weapon. Pope was at heart one of the most charitable
of men. In the days of his prosperity he is said to have given away one
eighth of his income. And he was always quick to succor merit in
distress; he pensioned the poet Savage and he tried to secure patronage
for Johnson. But for the wretched hack writers of the common press who
had barked against him he had no mercy, and he struck them with the
first rod that lay ready to his hands.
During his work on the 'Dunciad', Pope came into intimate relations with
Bolingbroke, who in 1725 had returned from his long exile in France and
had settled at Dawley within easy reach of Pope's villa at Twickenham.
Bolingbroke was beyond doubt one of the most brilliant and stimulating
minds of his age. Without depth of intellect or solidity of character,
he was at once a philosopher, a statesman, a scholar, and a fascinating
talker. Pope, who had already made his acquaintance, was delighted to
renew and improve their intimacy, and soon came wholly under the
influence of his splendid friend. It is hardly too much to say that all
the rest of Pope's work is directly traceable to Bolingbroke. The 'Essay
on Man' was built up on the precepts of Bolingbroke's philosophy; the
'Imitations of Horace' were undertaken at Bolingbroke's suggestion; and
the whole tone of Pope's political and social satire during the years
from 1731 to 1738 reflects the spirit of that opposition to the
administration of Walpole and to the growing influence of the commercial
class, which was at once inspired and directed by Bolingbroke. And yet
it is exactly in the work of this period that we find the best and with
perhaps one exception, the 'Essay on Man', the most original, work of
Pope. He has obtained an absolute command over his instrument of
expression. In his hands the heroic couplet sings, and laughs, and
chats, and thunders. He has turned from the ignoble warfare with the
dunces to satirize courtly frivolity and wickedness in high places. And
most important of all to the student of Pope, it is in these last works
that his personality is most clearly revealed. It has been well said
that the best introduction to the study of Pope, the man, is to get the
'Epistle to Arbuthnot' by heart.
Pope gradually persuaded himself that all the works of these years, the
'Essay on Man', the 'Satires, Epistles', and 'Moral Essays', were but
parts of one stupendous whole. He told Spence in the last years of his
life: "I had once thought of completing my ethic work in four
books.--The first, you know, is on the Nature of Man [the 'Essay on
Man']; the second would have been on knowledge and its limits--here
would have come in an Essay on Education, part of which I have inserted
in the 'Dunciad' ['i.e.' in the Fourth Book, published in 1742]. The
third was to have treated of Government, both ecclesiastical and
civil--and this was what chiefly stopped my going on. I could not have
said what 'I would' have said without provoking every church on the face
of the earth; and I did not care for living always in boiling
water.--This part would have come into my 'Brutus' [an epic poem which
Pope never completed], which is planned already. The fourth would have
been on Morality; in eight or nine of the most concerning branches of
It is difficult, if not impossible, to believe that Pope with his
irregular methods of work and illogical habit of thought had planned so
vast and elaborate a system before he began its execution. It is far
more likely that he followed his old method of composing on the
inspiration of the moment, and produced the works in question with
little thought of their relation or interdependence. But in the last
years of his life, when he had made the acquaintance of Warburton, and
was engaged in reviewing and perfecting the works of this period, he
noticed their general similarity in form and spirit, and, possibly under
Warburton's influence, conceived the notion of combining and
supplementing them to form that "Greater Essay on Man" of which he spoke
to Spence, and of which Warburton himself has given us a detailed
Warburton, a wide-read, pompous, and polemical clergyman, had introduced
himself to the notice of Pope by a defense of the philosophical and
religious principles of the 'Essay on Man'. In spite of the influence of
the free-thinking Bolingbroke, Pope still remained a member of the
Catholic church and sincerely believed himself to be an orthodox, though
liberal, Christian, and he had, in consequence, been greatly
disconcerted by a criticism of his poem published in Switzerland and
lately translated into English. Its author, Pierre de Crousaz,
maintained, and with a considerable degree of truth, that the principles
of Pope's poem if pushed to their logical conclusion were destructive to
religion and would rank their author rather among atheists than
defenders of the faith. The very word "atheist" was at that day
sufficient to put the man to whom it was applied beyond the pale of
polite society, and Pope, who quite lacked the ability to refute in
logical argument the attack of de Crousaz, was proportionately delighted
when Warburton came forward in his defense, and in a series of letters
asserted that Pope's whole intention was to vindicate the ways of God to
man, and that de Crousaz had mistaken his purpose and misunderstood his
language. Pope's gratitude to his defender knew no bounds; he declared
that Warburton understood the 'Essay' better than he did himself; he
pronounced him the greatest critic he ever knew, secured an introduction
to him, introduced him to his own rich and influential friends, in short
made the man's fortune for him outright. When the University of Oxford
hesitated to give Warburton, who had never attended a university, the
degree of D.D., Pope declined to accept the degree of D.C.L. which had
been offered him at the same time, and wrote the Fourth Book of the
'Dunciad' to satirize the stupidity of the university authorities. In
conjunction with Warburton he proceeded further to revise the whole
poem, for which his new friend wrote notes and a ponderous introduction,
and made the capital mistake of substituting the frivolous, but clever,
Colley Gibber, with whom he had recently become embroiled, for his old
enemy, Theobald, as the hero. And the last year of his life was spent in
getting out new editions of his poems accompanied by elaborate
commentaries from the pen of Warburton.
In the spring of 1744, it was evident that Pope was failing fast. In
addition to his other ailments he was now attacked by an asthmatical
dropsy, which no efforts of his physicians could remove. Yet he
continued to work almost to the last, and distributed copies of his
'Ethic Epistles' to his friends about three weeks before his death, with
the smiling remark that like the dying Socrates he was dispensing his
morality among his friends. His mind began to wander; he complained that
he saw all things as through a curtain, and told Spence once "with a
smile of great pleasure and with the greatest softness" that he had seen
a vision. His friends were devoted in their attendance. Bolingbroke sat
weeping by his chair, and on Spence's remarking how Pope with every
rally was always saying something kindly of his friends, replied: "I
never in my life knew a man that had so tender a heart for his
particular friends, or a more general friendship for mankind. I have
known him these thirty years; and value myself more for that man's love
than"--here his head dropped and his voice broke in tears. It was
noticed that whenever Patty Blount came into the room, the dying flame
of life flashed up in a momentary glow. At the very end a friend
reminded Pope that as a professed Catholic he ought to send for a
priest. The dying man replied that he did not believe it essential, but
thanked him for the suggestion. When the priest appeared, Pope attempted
to rise from his bed that he might receive the sacrament kneeling, and
the priest came out from the sick room "penetrated to the last degree
with the state of mind in which he found his penitent, resigned and
wrapt up in the love of God and man." The hope that sustained Pope to
the end was that of immortality. "I am so certain of the soul's being
immortal," he whispered, almost with his last breath, "that I seem to
feel it within me, as it were by intuition." He died on the evening of
May 30, so quietly that his friends hardly knew that the end had come.
He was buried in Twickenham Church, near the monument he had erected to
his parents, and his coffin was carried to the grave by six of the
poorest men of the parish.
It is plain even from so slight a sketch as this that the common
conception of Pope as "the wicked wasp of Twickenham," a bitter,
jealous, and malignant spirit, is utterly out of accord with the facts
of his life. Pope's faults of character lie on the surface, and the most
perceptible is that which has done him most harm in the eyes of
English-speaking men. He was by nature, perhaps by training also,
untruthful. If he seldom stooped to an outright lie, he never hesitated
to equivocate; and students of his life have found that it is seldom
possible to take his word on any point where his own works or interests
were concerned. I have already (p. x) attempted to point out the
probable cause of this defect; and it is, moreover, worth while to
remark that Pope's manifold intrigues and evasions were mainly of the
defensive order. He plotted and quibbled not so much to injure others as
to protect himself. To charge Pope with treachery to his friends, as has
sometimes been done, is wholly to misunderstand his character.
Another flaw, one can hardly call it a vice, in Pope's character was his
constant practice of considering everything that came in his way as
copy. It was this which led him to reclaim his early letters from his
friends, to alter, rewrite, and redate them, utterly unconscious of the
trouble which he was preparing for his future biographers. The letters,
he thought, were good reading but not so good as he could make them, and
he set to work to improve them with all an artist's zeal, and without a
trace of a historian's care for facts. It was this which led him to
embody in his description of a rich fool's splendid house and park
certain unmistakable traces of a living nobleman's estate and to start
in genuine amazement and regret when the world insisted on identifying
the nobleman and the fool. And when Pope had once done a good piece of
work, he had all an artist's reluctance to destroy it. He kept bits of
verse by him for years and inserted them into appropriate places in his
poems. This habit it was that brought about perhaps the gravest charge
that has ever been made against Pope, that of accepting £1000 to
suppress a satiric portrait of the old Duchess of Marlborough, and yet
of publishing it in a revision of a poem that he was engaged on just
before his death. The truth seems to be that Pope had drawn this
portrait in days when he was at bitter enmity with the Duchess, and
after the reconcilement that took place, unwilling to suppress it
entirely, had worked it over, and added passages out of keeping with the
first design, but pointing to another lady with whom he was now at odds.
Pope's behavior, we must admit, was not altogether creditable, but it
was that of an artist reluctant to throw away good work, not that of a
ruffian who stabs a woman he has taken money to spare.
Finally Pope was throughout his life, and notably in his later years,
the victim of an irritable temper and a quick, abusive tongue. His
irritability sprang in part, we may believe, from his physical
sufferings, even more, however, from the exquisitely sensitive heart
which made him feel a coarse insult as others would a blow. And of the
coarseness of the insults that were heaped upon Pope no one except the
careful student of his life can have any conception. His genius, his
morals, his person, his parents, and his religion were overwhelmed in
one indiscriminate flood of abuse. Too high spirited to submit tamely to
these attacks, too irritable to laugh at them, he struck back, and his
weapon was personal satire which cut like a whip and left a brand like a
hot iron. And if at times, as in the case of Addison, Pope was mistaken
in his object and assaulted one who was in no sense his enemy, the fault
lies not so much in his alleged malice as in the unhappy state of
warfare in which he lived.
Over against the faults of Pope we may set more than one noble
characteristic. The sensitive heart and impulsive temper that led him so
often into bitter warfare, made him also most susceptible to kindness
and quick to pity suffering. He was essentially of a tender and loving
nature, a devoted son, and a loyal friend, unwearied in acts of kindness
and generosity. His ruling passion, to use his own phrase, was a
devotion to letters, and he determined as early and worked as diligently
to make himself a poet as ever Milton did. His wretched body was
dominated by a high and eager mind, and he combined in an unparalleled
degree the fiery energy of the born poet with the tireless patience of
the trained artist.
But perhaps the most remarkable characteristic of Pope is his manly
independence. In an age when almost without exception his fellow-writers
stooped to accept a great man's patronage or sold their talents into the
slavery of politics, Pope stood aloof from patron and from party. He
repeatedly declined offers of money that were made him, even when no
condition was attached. He refused to change his religion, though he was
far from being a devout Catholic, in order to secure a comfortable
place. He relied upon his genius alone for his support, and his genius
gave him all that he asked, a modest competency. His relations with his
rich and powerful friends were marked by the same independent spirit. He
never cringed or flattered, but met them on even terms, and raised
himself by merit alone from his position as the unknown son of an humble
shopkeeper to be the friend and associate of the greatest fortunes and
most powerful minds in England. It is not too much to say that the
career of a man of letters as we know it to-day, a career at once
honorable and independent, takes its rise from the life and work of
The long controversies that have raged about Pope's rank as a poet seem
at last to be drawing to a close; and it has become possible to strike a
balance between the exaggerated praise of his contemporaries and the
reckless depreciation of romantic critics. That he is not a poet of the
first order is plain, if for no other reason than that he never produced
a work in any of the greatest forms of poetry. The drama, the epic, the
lyric, were all outside his range. On the other hand, unless a
definition of poetry be framed--and Dr. Johnson has well remarked that
"to circumscribe poetry by a definition will only show the narrowness of
the definer"--which shall exclude all gnomic and satiric verse, and so
debar the claims of Hesiod, Juvenal, and Boileau, it is impossible to
deny that Pope is a true poet. Certain qualities of the highest poet
Pope no doubt lacked, lofty imagination, intense passion, wide human
sympathy. But within the narrow field which he marked out for his own he
approaches perfection as nearly as any English poet, and Pope's merit
consists not merely in the smoothness of his verse or the polish of
separate epigrams, as is so often stated, but quite as much in the vigor
of his conceptions and the unity and careful proportion of each poem as
a whole. It is not too much to say that 'The Rape of the Lock' is one of
the best-planned poems in any language. It is as symmetrical and
exquisitely finished as a Grecian temple.
Historically Pope represents the fullest embodiment of that spirit which
began to appear in English literature about the middle of the
seventeenth century, and which we are accustomed to call the "classical"
spirit. In essence this movement was a protest against the irregularity
and individual license of earlier poets. Instead of far-fetched wit and
fanciful diction, the classical school erected the standards of common
sense in conception and directness in expression. And in so doing they
restored poetry which had become the diversion of the few to the
possession of the many. Pope, for example, is preeminently the poet of
his time. He dealt with topics that were of general interest to the
society in which he lived; he pictured life as he saw it about him. And
this accounts for his prompt and general acceptance by the world of his
For the student of English literature Pope's work has a threefold value.
It represents the highest achievement of one of the great movements in
the developments of English verse. It reflects with unerring accuracy
the life and thought of his time--not merely the outward life of beau
and belle in the days of Queen Anne, but the ideals of the age in art,
philosophy, and politics. And finally it teaches as hardly any other
body of English verse can be said to do, the perennial value of
conscious and controlling art. Pope's work lives and will live while
English poetry is read, not because of its inspiration, imagination, or
depth of thought, but by its unity of design, vigor of expression, and
perfection of finish--by those qualities, in short, which show the poet
as an artist in verse.
CHIEF DATES IN POPE'S LIFE
1688 Born, May 21.
1700 Moves to Binfield.
1711 'Essay on Criticism'.
1711-12 Contributes to 'Spectator'.
1712 'Rape of the Lock', first form.
1713 'Windsor Forest'.
1713 Issues proposals for translation of Homer.
1714 'Rape of the Lock', second form.
1715 First volume of the 'Iliad'.
1715 'Temple of Fame'.
1717 Pope's father dies.
1717 'Works', including some new poems.
1719 Settles at Twickenham.
1720 Sixth and last volume of the 'Iliad'.
1722 Begins translation of 'Odyssey'.
1725 Edits Shakespeare.
1726 Finishes translation of 'Odyssey'.
1727-8 'Miscellanies' by Pope and Swift.
1731-2 'Moral Essays': 'Of Taste', 'Of the Use of Riches'.
1733-4 'Essay on Man'.
1733-8 'Satires and Epistles'.
1735 'Letters' published by Curll.
1741 'Works in Prose'; vol. II. includes the correspondence with Swift.
1742 Fourth book of 'Dunciad'.
1742 Revised 'Dunciad'.
1744 Died, May 30.
1751 First collected edition, published by Warburton, 9 vols.
* * * * *
SELECTIONS FROM POPE
* * * * *
THE RAPE OF THE LOCK
AN HEROI-COMICAL POEM
Nolueram, Belinda, tuos violare capillos;
Sed juvat, hoc precibus me tribuisse tuis.
Mart, [Epigr, XII. 84.]
TO MRS. ARABELLA FERMOR
It will be in vain to deny that I have some regard for this piece, since
I dedicate it to You. Yet you may bear me witness, it was intended only
to divert a few young Ladies, who have good sense and good humour enough
to laugh not only at their sex's little unguarded follies, but at their
own. But as it was communicated with the air of a Secret, it soon found
its way into the world. An imperfect copy having been offer'd to a
Bookseller, you had the good-nature for my sake to consent to the
publication of one more correct: This I was forc'd to, before I had
executed half my design, for the Machinery was entirely wanting to
The Machinery, Madam, is a term invented by the Critics, to signify that
part which the Deities, Angels, or Dæmons are made to act in a Poem:
For the ancient Poets are in one respect like many modern Ladies: let an
action be never so trivial in itself, they always make it appear of the
utmost importance. These Machines I determined to raise on a very new
and odd foundation, the Rosicrucian doctrine of Spirits.
I know how disagreeable it is to make use of hard words before a Lady;
but't is so much the concern of a Poet to have his works understood, and
particularly by your Sex, that you must give me leave to explain two or
three difficult terms.
The Rosicrucians are a people I must bring you acquainted with. The best
account I know of them is in a French book call'd 'Le Comte de
Gabalis', which both in its title and size is so like a Novel, that
many of the Fair Sex have read it for one by mistake. According to these
Gentlemen, the four Elements are inhabited by Spirits, which they call
Sylphs, Gnomes, Nymphs, and Salamanders. The Gnomes or Dæmons of Earth
delight in mischief; but the Sylphs whose habitation is in the Air, are
the best-condition'd creatures imaginable. For they say, any mortals may
enjoy the most intimate familiarities with these gentle Spirits, upon a
condition very easy to all true Adepts, an inviolate preservation of
As to the following Canto's, all the passages of them are as fabulous,
as the Vision at the beginning, or the Transformation at the end;
(except the loss of your Hair, which I always mention with reverence).
The Human persons are as fictitious as the airy ones; and the character
of Belinda, as it is now manag'd, resembles you in nothing but in
If this Poem had as many Graces as there are in your Person, or in your
Mind, yet I could never hope it should pass thro' the world half so
Uncensur'd as You have done. But let its fortune be what it will, mine
is happy enough, to have given me this occasion of assuring you that I
am, with the truest esteem, Madam,
Your most obedient, Humble Servant,
What dire offence from am'rous causes springs,
What mighty contests rise from trivial things,
I sing--This verse to CARYL, Muse! is due:
This, ev'n Belinda may vouchsafe to view:
Slight is the subject, but not so the praise, 5
If She inspire, and He approve my lays.
Say what strange motive, Goddess! could compel
A well-bred Lord t' assault a gentle Belle?
O say what stranger cause, yet unexplor'd,
Could make a gentle Belle reject a Lord? 10
In tasks so bold, can little men engage,
And in soft bosoms dwells such mighty Rage?
Sol thro' white curtains shot a tim'rous ray,
And oped those eyes that must eclipse the day:
Now lap-dogs give themselves the rousing shake, 15
And sleepless lovers, just at twelve, awake:
Thrice rung the bell, the slipper knock'd the ground,
And the press'd watch return'd a silver sound.
Belinda still her downy pillow prest,
Her guardian SYLPH prolong'd the balmy rest: 20
'Twas He had summon'd to her silent bed
The morning-dream that hover'd o'er her head;
A Youth more glitt'ring than a Birth-night Beau,
(That ev'n in slumber caus'd her cheek to glow)
Seem'd to her ear his winning lips to lay, 25
And thus in whispers said, or seem'd to say.
Fairest of mortals, thou distinguish'd care
Of thousand bright Inhabitants of Air!
If e'er one vision touch.'d thy infant thought,
Of all the Nurse and all the Priest have taught; 30
Of airy Elves by moonlight shadows seen,
The silver token, and the circled green,
Or virgins visited by Angel-pow'rs,
With golden crowns and wreaths of heav'nly flow'rs;
Hear and believe! thy own importance know, 35
Nor bound thy narrow views to things below.
Some secret truths, from learned pride conceal'd,
To Maids alone and Children are reveal'd:
What tho' no credit doubting Wits may give?
The Fair and Innocent shall still believe. 40
Know, then, unnumber'd Spirits round thee fly,
The light Militia of the lower sky:
These, tho' unseen, are ever on the wing,
Hang o'er the Box, and hover round the Ring.
Think what an equipage thou hast in Air, 45
And view with scorn two Pages and a Chair.
As now your own, our beings were of old,
And once inclos'd in Woman's beauteous mould;
Thence, by a soft transition, we repair
From earthly Vehicles to these of air. 50
Think not, when Woman's transient breath is fled
That all her vanities at once are dead;
Succeeding vanities she still regards,
And tho' she plays no more, o'erlooks the cards.
Her joy in gilded Chariots, when alive, 55
And love of Ombre, after death survive.
For when the Fair in all their pride expire,
To their first Elements their Souls retire:
The Sprites of fiery Termagants in Flame
Mount up, and take a Salamander's name. 60
Soft yielding minds to Water glide away,
And sip, with Nymphs, their elemental Tea.
The graver Prude sinks downward to a Gnome,
In search of mischief still on Earth to roam.
The light Coquettes in Sylphs aloft repair, 65
And sport and flutter in the fields of Air.
"Know further yet; whoever fair and chaste
Rejects mankind, is by some Sylph embrac'd:
For Spirits, freed from mortal laws, with ease
Assume what sexes and what shapes they please. 70
What guards the purity of melting Maids,
In courtly balls, and midnight masquerades,
Safe from the treach'rous friend, the daring spark,
The glance by day, the whisper in the dark,
When kind occasion prompts their warm desires, 75
When music softens, and when dancing fires?
'Tis but their Sylph, the wise Celestials know,
Tho' Honour is the word with Men below.
Some nymphs there are, too conscious of their face,
For life predestin'd to the Gnomes' embrace. 80
These swell their prospects and exalt their pride,
When offers are disdain'd, and love deny'd:
Then gay Ideas crowd the vacant brain,
While Peers, and Dukes, and all their sweeping train,
And Garters, Stars, and Coronets appear, 85
And in soft sounds, Your Grace salutes their ear.
'T is these that early taint the female soul,
Instruct the eyes of young Coquettes to roll,
Teach Infant-cheeks a bidden blush to know,
And little hearts to flutter at a Beau. 90
Oft, when the world imagine women stray,
The Sylphs thro' mystic mazes guide their way,
Thro' all the giddy circle they pursue,
And old impertinence expel by new.
What tender maid but must a victim fall 95
To one man's treat, but for another's ball?
When Florio speaks what virgin could withstand,
If gentle Damon did not squeeze her hand?
With varying vanities, from ev'ry part,
They shift the moving Toyshop of their heart; 100
Where wigs with wigs, with sword-knots sword-knots strive,
Beaux banish beaux, and coaches coaches drive.
This erring mortals Levity may call;
Oh blind to truth! the Sylphs contrive it all.
Of these am I, who thy protection claim, 105
A watchful sprite, and Ariel is my name.
Late, as I rang'd the crystal wilds of air,
In the clear Mirror of thy ruling Star
I saw, alas! some dread event impend,
Ere to the main this morning sun descend, 110
But heav'n reveals not what, or how, or where:
Warn'd by the Sylph, oh pious maid, beware!
This to disclose is all thy guardian can:
Beware of all, but most beware of Man!"
He said; when Shock, who thought she slept too long, 115
Leap'd up, and wak'd his mistress with his tongue.
'T was then, Belinda, if report say true,
Thy eyes first open'd on a Billet-doux;
Wounds, Charms, and Ardors were no sooner read,
But all the Vision vanish'd from thy head. 120
And now, unveil'd, the Toilet stands display'd,
Each silver Vase in mystic order laid.
First, rob'd in white, the Nymph intent adores,
With head uncover'd, the Cosmetic pow'rs.
A heav'nly image in the glass appears, 125
To that she bends, to that her eyes she rears;
Th' inferior Priestess, at her altar's side,
Trembling begins the sacred rites of Pride.
Unnumber'd treasures ope at once, and here
The various off'rings of the world appear; 130
From each she nicely culls with curious toil,
And decks the Goddess with the glitt'ring spoil.
This casket India's glowing gems unlocks,
And all Arabia breathes from yonder box.
The Tortoise here and Elephant unite, 135
Transformed to combs, the speckled, and the white.
Here files of pins extend their shining rows,
Puffs, Powders, Patches, Bibles, Billet-doux.
Now awful Beauty puts on all its arms;
The fair each moment rises in her charms, 140
Repairs her smiles, awakens ev'ry grace,
And calls forth all the wonders of her face;
Sees by degrees a purer blush arise,
And keener lightnings quicken in her eyes.
The busy Sylphs surround their darling care, 145
These set the head, and those divide the hair,
Some fold the sleeve, whilst others plait the gown:
And Betty's prais'd for labours not her own.
Not with more glories, in th' etherial plain,
The Sun first rises o'er the purpled main,
Than, issuing forth, the rival of his beams
Launch'd on the bosom of the silver Thames.
Fair Nymphs, and well-drest Youths around her shone. 5
But ev'ry eye was fix'd on her alone.
On her white breast a sparkling Cross she wore,
Which Jews might kiss, and Infidels adore.
Her lively looks a sprightly mind disclose,
Quick as her eyes, and as unfix'd as those: 10
Favours to none, to all she smiles extends;
Oft she rejects, but never once offends.
Bright as the sun, her eyes the gazers strike,
And, like the sun, they shine on all alike.
Yet graceful ease, and sweetness void of pride, 15
Might hide her faults, if Belles had faults to hide:
If to her share some female errors fall,
Look on her face, and you'll forget 'em all.
This Nymph, to the destruction of mankind,
Nourish'd two Locks, which graceful hung behind 20
In equal curls, and well conspir'd to deck
With shining ringlets the smooth iv'ry neck.
Love in these labyrinths his slaves detains,
And mighty hearts are held in slender chains.
With hairy springes we the birds betray, 25
Slight lines of hair surprise the finny prey,
Fair tresses man's imperial race ensnare,
And beauty draws us with a single hair.
Th' advent'rous Baron the bright locks admir'd;
He saw, he wish'd, and to the prize aspir'd. 30
Resolv'd to win, he meditates the way,
By force to ravish, or by fraud betray;
For when success a Lover's toil attends,
Few ask, if fraud or force attain'd his ends.
For this, ere Phoebus rose, he had implor'd 35
Propitious heav'n, and ev'ry pow'r ador'd,
But chiefly Love--to Love an Altar built,
Of twelve vast French Romances, neatly gilt.
There lay three garters, half a pair of gloves;
And all the trophies of his former loves; 40
With tender Billet-doux he lights the pyre,
And breathes three am'rous sighs to raise the fire.
Then prostrate falls, and begs with ardent eyes
Soon to obtain, and long possess the prize:
The pow'rs gave ear, and granted half his pray'r, 45
The rest, the winds dispers'd in empty air.
But now secure the painted vessel glides,
The sun-beams trembling on the floating tides:
While melting music steals upon the sky,
And soften'd sounds along the waters die; 50
Smooth flow the waves, the Zephyrs gently play,
Belinda smil'd, and all the world was gay.
All but the Sylph--with careful thoughts opprest,
Th' impending woe sat heavy on his breast.
He summons strait his Denizens of air; 55
The lucid squadrons round the sails repair:
Soft o'er the shrouds aërial whispers breathe,
That seem'd but Zephyrs to the train beneath.
Some to the sun their insect-wings unfold,
Waft on the breeze, or sink in clouds of gold; 60
Transparent forms, too fine for mortal sight,
Their fluid bodies half dissolv'd in light,
Loose to the wind their airy garments flew,
Thin glitt'ring textures of the filmy dew,
Dipt in the richest tincture of the skies, 65
Where light disports in ever-mingling dyes,
While ev'ry beam new transient colours flings,
Colours that change whene'er they wave their wings.
Amid the circle, on the gilded mast,
Superior by the head, was Ariel plac'd; 70
His purple pinions op'ning to the sun,
He rais'd his azure wand, and thus begun.
Ye Sylphs and Sylphids, to your chief give ear!
Fays, Fairies, Genii, Elves, and Dæmons, hear!
Ye know the spheres and various tasks assign'd 75
By laws eternal to th' aërial kind.
Some in the fields of purest Æther play,
And bask and whiten in the blaze of day.
Some guide the course of wand'ring orbs on high,
Or roll the planets thro' the boundless sky. 80
Some less refin'd, beneath the moon's pale light
Pursue the stars that shoot athwart the night,
Or suck the mists in grosser air below,
Or dip their pinions in the painted bow,
Or brew fierce tempests on the wintry main, 85
Or o'er the glebe distil the kindly rain.
Others on earth o'er human race preside,
Watch all their ways, and all their actions guide:
Of these the chief the care of Nations own,
And guard with Arms divine the British Throne. 90
Our humbler province is to tend the Fair,
Not a less pleasing, tho' less glorious care;
To save the powder from too rude a gale,
Nor let th' imprison'd-essences exhale;
To draw fresh colours from the vernal flow'rs; 95
To steal from rainbows e'er they drop in show'rs
A brighter wash; to curl their waving hairs,
Assist their blushes, and inspire their airs;
Nay oft, in dreams, invention we bestow,
To change a Flounce, or add a Furbelow. 100
This day, black Omens threat the brightest Fair,
That e'er deserv'd a watchful spirit's care;
Some dire disaster, or by force, or slight;
But what, or where, the fates have wrapt in night.
Whether the nymph shall break Diana's law, 105
Or some frail China jar receive a flaw;
Or stain her honour or her new brocade;
Forget her pray'rs, or miss a masquerade;
Or lose her heart, or necklace, at a ball;
Or whether Heav'n has doom'd that Shock must fall. 110
Haste, then, ye spirits! to your charge repair:
The flutt'ring fan be Zephyretta's care;
The drops to thee, Brillante, we consign;
And, Momentilla, let the watch be thine;
Do thou, Crispissa, tend her fav'rite Lock; 115
Ariel himself shall be the guard of Shock.
To fifty chosen Sylphs, of special note,
We trust th' important charge, the Petticoat:
Oft have we known that seven-fold fence to fail,
Tho' stiff with hoops, and arm'd with ribs of whale; 120
Form a strong line about the silver bound,
And guard the wide circumference around.
Whatever spirit, careless of his charge,
His post neglects, or leaves the fair at large,
Shall feel sharp vengeance soon o'ertake his sins, 125
Be stopp'd in vials, or transfix'd with pins;
Or plung'd in lakes of bitter washes lie,
Or wedg'd whole ages in a bodkin's eye:
Gums and Pomatums shall his flight restrain,
While clogg'd he beats his silken wings in vain; 130
Or Alum styptics with contracting pow'r
Shrink his thin essence like a rivel'd flow'r:
Or, as Ixion fix'd, the wretch shall feel
The giddy motion of the whirling Mill,
In fumes of burning Chocolate shall glow, 135
And tremble at the sea that froths below!
He spoke; the spirits from the sails descend;
Some, orb in orb, around the nymph extend;
Some thrid the mazy ringlets of her hair;
Some hang upon the pendants of her ear: 140
With beating hearts the dire event they wait,
Anxious, and trembling for the birth of Fate.
Close by those meads, for ever crown'd with flow'rs,
Where Thames with pride surveys his rising tow'rs,
There stands a structure of majestic frame,
Which from the neighb'ring Hampton takes its name.
Here Britain's statesmen oft the fall foredoom 5
Of foreign Tyrants and of Nymphs at home;
Here thou, great ANNA! whom three realms obey.
Dost sometimes counsel take--and sometimes Tea.
Hither the heroes and the nymphs resort,
To taste awhile the pleasures of a Court; 10
In various talk th' instructive hours they past,
Who gave the ball, or paid the visit last;
One speaks the glory of the British Queen,
And one describes a charming Indian screen;
A third interprets motions, looks, and eyes; 15
At ev'ry word a reputation dies.
Snuff, or the fan, supply each pause of chat,
With singing, laughing, ogling, and _all that_.
Mean while, declining from the noon of day,
The sun obliquely shoots his burning ray; 20
The hungry Judges soon the sentence sign,
And wretches hang that jury-men may dine;
The merchant from th' Exchange returns in peace,
And the long labours of the Toilet cease.
Belinda now, whom thirst of fame invites, 25
Burns to encounter two advent'rous Knights,
At Ombre singly to decide their doom;
And swells her breast with conquests yet to come.
Straight the three bands prepare in arms to join,
Each band the number of the sacred nine. 30
Soon as she spreads her hand, th' aërial guard
Descend, and sit on each important card:
First Ariel perch'd upon a Matadore,
Then each, according to the rank they bore;
For Sylphs, yet mindful of their ancient race, 35
Are, as when women, wondrous fond of place.
Behold, four Kings in majesty rever'd,
With hoary whiskers and a forky beard;
And four fair Queens whose hands sustain a flow'r,
Th' expressive emblem of their softer pow'r; 40
Four Knaves in garbs succinct, a trusty band,
Caps on their heads, and halberts in their hand;
And particolour'd troops, a shining train,
Draw forth to combat on the velvet plain.
The skilful Nymph reviews her force with care: 45
Let Spades be trumps! she said, and trumps they were.
Now move to war her sable Matadores,
In show like leaders of the swarthy Moors.
Spadillio first, unconquerable Lord!
Led off two captive trumps, and swept the board. 50
As many more Manillio forc'd to yield,
And march'd a victor from the verdant field.
Him Basto follow'd, but his fate more hard
Gain'd but one trump and one Plebeian card.
With his broad sabre next, a chief in years, 55
The hoary Majesty of Spades appears,
Puts forth one manly leg, to sight reveal'd,
The rest, his many-colour'd robe conceal'd.
The rebel Knave, who dares his prince engage,
Proves the just victim of his royal rage. 60
Ev'n mighty Pam, that Kings and Queens o'erthrew
And mow'd down armies in the fights of Lu,
Sad chance of war! now destitute of aid,
Falls undistinguish'd by the victor spade!
Thus far both armies to Belinda yield; 65
Now to the Baron fate inclines the field.
His warlike Amazon her host invades,
Th' imperial consort of the crown of Spades.
The Club's black Tyrant first her victim dy'd,
Spite of his haughty mien, and barb'rous pride: 70
What boots the regal circle on his head,
His giant limbs, in state unwieldy spread;
That long behind he trails his pompous robe,
And, of all monarchs, only grasps the globe?
The Baron now his Diamonds pours apace; 75
Th' embroider'd King who shows but half his face,
And his refulgent Queen, with pow'rs combin'd
Of broken troops an easy conquest find.
Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, in wild disorder seen,
With throngs promiscuous strow the level green. 80
Thus when dispers'd a routed army runs,
Of Asia's troops, and Afric's sable sons,
With like confusion different nations fly,
Of various habit, and of various dye,
The pierc'd battalions dis-united fall, 85
In heaps on heaps; one fate o'erwhelms them all.
The Knave of Diamonds tries his wily arts,
And wins (oh shameful chance!) the Queen of Hearts.
At this, the blood the virgin's cheek forsook,
A livid paleness spreads o'er all her look; 90
She sees, and trembles at th' approaching ill,
Just in the jaws of ruin, and Codille.
And now (as oft in some distemper'd State)
On one nice Trick depends the gen'ral fate.
An Ace of Hearts steps forth: The King unseen 95
Lurk'd in her hand, and mourn'd his captive Queen:
He springs to Vengeance with an eager pace,
And falls like thunder on the prostrate Ace.
The nymph exulting fills with shouts the sky;
The walls, the woods, and long canals reply. 100
Oh thoughtless mortals! ever blind to fate,
Too soon dejected, and too soon elate.
Sudden, these honours shall be snatch'd away,
And curs'd for ever this victorious day.
For lo! the board with cups and spoons is crown'd, 105
The berries crackle, and the mill turns round;
On shining Altars of Japan they raise
The silver lamp; the fiery spirits blaze:
From silver spouts the grateful liquors glide,
While China's earth receives the smoking tide: 110
At once they gratify their scent and taste,
And frequent cups prolong the rich repast.
Straight hover round the Fair her airy band;
Some, as she sipp'd, the fuming liquor fann'd,
Some o'er her lap their careful plumes display'd, 115
Trembling, and conscious of the rich brocade.
Coffee, (which makes the politician wise,
And see thro' all things with his half-shut eyes)
Sent up in vapours to the Baron's brain
New Stratagems, the radiant Lock to gain. 120
Ah cease, rash youth! desist ere't is too late,
Fear the just Gods, and think of Scylla's Fate!
Chang'd to a bird, and sent to flit in air,
She dearly pays for Nisus' injur'd hair!
But when to mischief mortals bend their will, 125
How soon they find fit instruments of ill!
Just then, Clarissa drew with tempting grace
A two-edg'd weapon from her shining case:
So Ladies in Romance assist their Knight,
Present the spear, and arm him for the fight. 130
He takes the gift with rev'rence, and extends
The little engine on his fingers' ends;
This just behind Belinda's neck he spread,
As o'er the fragrant steams she bends her head.
Swift to the Lock a thousand Sprites repair, 135
A thousand wings, by turns, blow back the hair;
And thrice they twitch'd the diamond in her ear;
Thrice she look'd back, and thrice the foe drew near.
Just in that instant, anxious Ariel sought
The close recesses of the Virgin's thought; 140
As on the nosegay in her breast reclin'd,
He watch'd th' Ideas rising in her mind,
Sudden he view'd, in spite of all her art,
An earthly Lover lurking at her heart.
Amaz'd, confus'd, he found his pow'r expir'd, 145
Resign'd to fate, and with a sigh retir'd.
The Peer now spreads the glitt'ring Forfex wide,
T' inclose the Lock; now joins it, to divide.
Ev'n then, before the fatal engine clos'd,
A wretched Sylph too fondly interpos'd; 150
Fate urg'd the shears, and cut the Sylph in twain,
(But airy substance soon unites again)
The meeting points the sacred hair dissever
From the fair head, for ever, and for ever!
Then flash'd the living lightning from her eyes, 155
And screams of horror rend th' affrighted skies.
Not louder shrieks to pitying heav'n are cast,
When husbands, or when lapdogs breathe their last;
Or when rich China vessels fall'n from high,
In glitt'ring dust and painted fragments lie! 160
Let wreaths of triumph now my temples twine
(The victor cry'd) the glorious Prize is mine!
While fish in streams, or birds delight in air,
Or in a coach and six the British Fair,
As long as Atalantis shall be read, 165
Or the small pillow grace a Lady's bed,
While visits shall be paid on solemn days,
When num'rous wax-lights in bright order blaze,
While nymphs take treats, or assignations give,
So long my honour, name, and praise shall live! 170
What Time would spare, from Steel receives its date,
And monuments, like men, submit to fate!
Steel could the labour of the Gods destroy,
And strike to dust th' imperial tow'rs of Troy;
Steel could the works of mortal pride confound, 175
And hew triumphal arches to the ground.
What wonder then, fair nymph! thy hairs should feel,
The conqu'ring force of unresisted steel?
But anxious cares the pensive nymph oppress'd,
And secret passions labour'd in her breast.
Not youthful kings in battle seiz'd alive,
Not scornful virgins who their charms survive,
Not ardent lovers robb'd of all their bliss, 5
Not ancient ladies when refus'd a kiss,
Not tyrants fierce that unrepenting die,
Not Cynthia when her manteau's pinn'd awry,
E'er felt such rage, resentment, and despair,
As thou, sad Virgin! for thy ravish'd Hair. 10
For, that sad moment, when the Sylphs withdrew
And Ariel weeping from Belinda flew,
Umbriel, a dusky, melancholy sprite,
As ever sully'd the fair face of light,
Down to the central earth, his proper scene, 15
Repair'd to search the gloomy Cave of Spleen.
Swift on his sooty pinions flits the Gnome,
And in a vapour reach'd the dismal dome.
No cheerful breeze this sullen region knows,
The dreaded East is all the wind that blows. 20
Here in a grotto, shelter'd close from air,
And screen'd in shades from day's detested glare,
She sighs for ever on her pensive bed,
Pain at her side, and Megrim at her head.
Two handmaids wait the throne: alike in place, 25
But diff'ring far in figure and in face.
Here stood Ill-nature like an ancient maid,
Her wrinkled form in black and white array'd;
With store of pray'rs, for mornings, nights, and noons,
Her hand is fill'd; her bosom with lampoons. 30
There Affectation, with a sickly mien,
Shows in her cheek the roses of eighteen,
Practis'd to lisp, and hang the head aside.
Faints into airs, and languishes with pride,
On the rich quilt sinks with becoming woe, 35
Wrapt in a gown, for sickness, and for show.
The fair ones feel such maladies as these,
When each new night-dress gives a new disease.
A constant Vapour o'er the palace flies;
Strange phantoms rising as the mists arise; 40
Dreadful, as hermit's dreams in haunted shades,
Or bright, as visions of expiring maids.
Now glaring fiends, and snakes on rolling spires,
Pale spectres, gaping tombs, and purple fires:
Now lakes of liquid gold, Elysian scenes, 45
And crystal domes, and angels in machines.
Unnumber'd throngs on every side are seen,
Of bodies chang'd to various forms by Spleen.
Here living Tea-pots stand, one arm held out,
One bent; the handle this, and that the spout: 50
A Pipkin there, like Homer's Tripod walks;
Here sighs a Jar, and there a Goose-pie talks;
Men prove with child, as pow'rful fancy works,
And maids turn'd bottles, call aloud for corks.
Safe past the Gnome thro' this fantastic band, 55
A branch of healing Spleenwort in his hand.
Then thus address'd the pow'r: "Hail, wayward Queen!
Who rule the sex to fifty from fifteen:
Parent of vapours and of female wit,
Who give th' hysteric, or poetic fit, 60
On various tempers act by various ways,
Make some take physic, others scribble plays;
Who cause the proud their visits to delay,
And send the godly in a pet to pray.
A nymph there is, that all thy pow'r disdains, 65
And thousands more in equal mirth maintains.
But oh! if e'er thy Gnome could spoil a grace,
Or raise a pimple on a beauteous face,
Like Citron-waters matrons cheeks inflame,
Or change complexions at a losing game; 70
If e'er with airy horns I planted heads,
Or rumpled petticoats, or tumbled beds,
Or caus'd suspicion when no soul was rude,
Or discompos'd the head-dress of a Prude,
Or e'er to costive lap-dog gave disease, 75
Which not the tears of brightest eyes could ease:
Hear me, and touch Belinda with chagrin,
That single act gives half the world the spleen."
The Goddess with a discontented air
Seems to reject him, tho' she grants his pray'r. 80
A wond'rous Bag with both her hands she binds,
Like that where once Ulysses held the winds;
There she collects the force of female lungs,
Sighs, sobs, and passions, and the war of tongues.
A Vial next she fills with fainting fears, 85
Soft sorrows, melting griefs, and flowing tears.
The Gnome rejoicing bears her gifts away,
Spreads his black wings, and slowly mounts to day.
Sunk in Thalestris' arms the nymph he found,
Her eyes dejected and her hair unbound. 90
Full o'er their heads the swelling bag he rent,
And all the Furies issu'd at the vent.
Belinda burns with more than mortal ire,
And fierce Thalestris fans the rising fire.
"O wretched maid!" she spread her hands, and cry'd, 95
(While Hampton's echoes, "Wretched maid!" reply'd)
"Was it for this you took such constant care
The bodkin, comb, and essence to prepare?
For this your locks in paper durance bound,
For this with tort'ring irons wreath'd around? 100
For this with fillets strain'd your tender head,
And bravely bore the double loads of lead?
Gods! shall the ravisher display your hair,
While the Fops envy, and the Ladies stare!
Honour forbid! at whose unrivall'd shrine 105
Ease, pleasure, virtue, all our sex resign.
Methinks already I your tears survey,
Already hear the horrid things they say,
Already see you a degraded toast,
And all your honour in a whisper lost! 110
How shall I, then, your helpless fame defend?
'T will then be infamy to seem your friend!
And shall this prize, th' inestimable prize,
Expos'd thro' crystal to the gazing eyes,
And heighten'd by the diamond's circling rays, 115
On that rapacious hand for ever blaze?
Sooner shall grass in Hyde-park Circus grow,
And wits take lodgings in the sound of Bow;
Sooner let earth, air, sea, to Chaos fall,
Men, monkeys, lap-dogs, parrots, perish all!" 120
She said; then raging to Sir Plume repairs,
And bids her Beau demand the precious hairs;
(Sir Plume of amber snuff-box justly vain,
And the nice conduct of a clouded cane)
With earnest eyes, and round unthinking face, 125
He first the snuff-box open'd, then the case,
And thus broke out--"My Lord, why, what the devil?
"Z--ds! damn the lock! 'fore Gad, you must be civil!
Plague on't!'t is past a jest--nay prithee, pox!
Give her the hair"--he spoke, and rapp'd his box. 130
"It grieves me much" (reply'd the Peer again)
"Who speaks so well should ever speak in vain.
But by this Lock, this sacred Lock I swear,
(Which never more shall join its parted hair;
Which never more its honours shall renew, 135
Clipp'd from the lovely head where late it grew)
That while my nostrils draw the vital air,
This hand, which won it, shall for ever wear."
He spoke, and speaking, in proud triumph spread
The long-contended honours of her head. 140
But Umbriel, hateful Gnome! forbears not so;
He breaks the Vial whence the sorrows flow.
Then see! the nymph in beauteous grief appears,
Her eyes half-languishing, half-drown'd in tears;
On her heav'd bosom hung her drooping head, 145
Which, with a sigh, she rais'd; and thus she said.
"For ever curs'd be this detested day,
Which snatch'd my best, my fav'rite curl away!
Happy! ah ten times happy had I been,
If Hampton-Court these eyes had never seen! 150
Yet am not I the first mistaken maid,
By love of Courts to num'rous ills betray'd.
Oh had I rather un-admir'd remain'd
In some lone isle, or distant Northern land;
Where the gilt Chariot never marks the way, 155
Where none learn Ombre, none e'er taste Bohea!
There kept my charms conceal'd from mortal eye,
Like roses, that in deserts bloom and die.
What mov'd my mind with youthful Lords to roam?
Oh had I stay'd, and said my pray'rs at home! 160
'T was this, the morning omens seem'd to tell,
Thrice from my trembling hand the patch-box fell;
The tott'ring China shook without a wind.
Nay, Poll sat mute, and Shock was most unkind!
A Sylph too warn'd me of the threats of fate, 165
In mystic visions, now believ'd too late!
See the poor remnants of these slighted hairs!
My hands shall rend what ev'n thy rapine spares:
These in two sable ringlets taught to break,
Once gave new beauties to the snowy neck; 170
The sister-lock now sits uncouth, alone,
And in its fellow's fate foresees its own;
Uncurl'd it hangs, the fatal shears demands,
And tempts once more thy sacrilegious hands.
Oh hadst thou, cruel! been content to seize 175
Hairs less in sight, or any hairs but these!"
She said: the pitying audience melt in tears.
But Fate and Jove had stopp'd the Baron's ears.
In vain Thalestris with reproach assails,
For who can move when fair Belinda fails?
Not half so fix'd the Trojan could remain, 5
While Anna begg'd and Dido rag'd in vain.
Then grave Clarissa graceful wav'd her fan;
Silence ensu'd, and thus the nymph began.
"Say why are Beauties prais'd and honour'd most,
The wise man's passion, and the vain man's toast? 10
Why deck'd with all that land and sea afford,
Why Angels call'd, and Angel-like ador'd?
Why round our coaches crowd the white-glov'd Beaux,
Why bows the side-box from its inmost rows;
How vain are all these glories, all our pains, 15
Unless good sense preserve what beauty gains:
That men may say, when we the front-box grace:
'Behold the first in virtue as in face!'
Oh! if to dance all night, and dress all day,
Charm'd the small-pox, or chas'd old-age away; 20
Who would not scorn what housewife's cares produce,
Or who would learn one earthly thing of use?
To patch, nay ogle, might become a Saint,
Nor could it sure be such a sin to paint.
But since, alas! frail beauty must decay, 25
Curl'd or uncurl'd, since Locks will turn to grey;
Since painted, or not painted, all shall fade,
And she who scorns a man, must die a maid;
What then remains but well our pow'r to use,
And keep good-humour still whate'er we lose? 30
And trust me, dear! good-humour can prevail,
When airs, and flights, and screams, and scolding fail.
Beauties in vain their pretty eyes may roll;
Charms strike the sight, but merit wins the soul."
So spoke the Dame, but no applause ensu'd; 35
Belinda frown'd, Thalestris call'd her Prude.
"To arms, to arms!" the fierce Virago cries,
And swift as lightning to the combat flies.
All side in parties, and begin th' attack;
Fans clap, silks rustle, and tough whalebones crack; 40
Heroes' and Heroines' shouts confus'dly rise,
And bass, and treble voices strike the skies.
No common weapons in their hands are found,
Like Gods they fight, nor dread a mortal wound.
So when bold Homer makes the Gods engage, 45
And heav'nly breasts with human passions rage;
'Gainst Pallas, Mars; Latona, Hermes arms;
And all Olympus rings with loud alarms:
Jove's thunder roars, heav'n trembles all around,
Blue Neptune storms, the bellowing deeps resound: 50
Earth shakes her nodding tow'rs, the ground gives way.
And the pale ghosts start at the flash of day!
Triumphant Umbriel on a sconce's height
Clapp'd his glad wings, and sate to view the fight:
Propp'd on the bodkin spears, the Sprites survey 55
The growing combat, or assist the fray.
While thro' the press enrag'd Thalestris flies,
And scatters death around from both her eyes,
A Beau and Witling perish'd in the throng,
One died in metaphor, and one in song. 60
"O cruel nymph! a living death I bear,"
Cry'd Dapperwit, and sunk beside his chair.
A mournful glance Sir Fopling upwards cast,
"Those eyes are made so killing"--was his last.
Thus on Mæander's flow'ry margin lies 65
Th' expiring Swan, and as he sings he dies.
When bold Sir Plume had drawn Clarissa down,
Chloe stepp'd in, and kill'd him with a frown;
She smil'd to see the doughty hero slain,
But, at her smile, the Beau reviv'd again. 70
Now Jove suspends his golden scales in air,
Weighs the Men's wits against the Lady's hair;
The doubtful beam long nods from side to side;
At length the wits mount up, the hairs subside.
See, fierce Belinda on the Baron flies, 75
With more than usual lightning in her eyes:
Nor fear'd the Chief th' unequal fight to try,
Who sought no more than on his foe to die.
But this bold Lord with manly strength endu'd,
She with one finger and a thumb subdu'd: 80
Just where the breath of life his nostrils drew,
A charge of Snuff the wily virgin threw;
The Gnomes direct, to ev'ry atom just,
The pungent grains of titillating dust.
Sudden, with starting tears each eye o'erflows, 85
And the high dome re-echoes to his nose.
Now meet thy fate, incens'd Belinda cry'd,
And drew a deadly bodkin from her side.
(The same, his ancient personage to deck,
Her great great grandsire wore about his neck, 90
In three seal-rings; which after, melted down,
Form'd a vast buckle for his widow's gown:
Her infant grandame's whistle next it grew,
The bells she jingled, and the whistle blew;
Then in a bodkin grac'd her mother's hairs, 95
Which long she wore, and now Belinda wears.)
"Boast not my fall" (he cry'd) "insulting foe!
Thou by some other shalt be laid as low,
Nor think, to die dejects my lofty mind:
All that I dread is leaving you behind! 100
Rather than so, ah let me still survive,
And burn in Cupid's flames--but burn alive."
"Restore the Lock!" she cries; and all around
"Restore the Lock!" the vaulted roofs rebound.
Not fierce Othello in so loud a strain 105
Roar'd for the handkerchief that caus'd his pain.
But see how oft ambitious aims are cross'd,
And chiefs contend 'till all the prize is lost!
The Lock, obtain'd with guilt, and kept with pain,
In ev'ry place is sought, but sought in vain: 110
With such a prize no mortal must be blest,
So heav'n decrees! with heav'n who can contest?
Some thought it mounted to the Lunar sphere,
Since all things lost on earth are treasur'd there.
There Hero's wits are kept in pond'rous vases, 115
And beau's in snuff-boxes and tweezer-cases.
There broken vows and death-bed alms are found,
And lovers' hearts with ends of riband bound,
The courtier's promises, and sick man's pray'rs,
The smiles of harlots, and the tears of heirs, 120
Cages for gnats, and chains to yoke a flea,
Dry'd butterflies, and tomes of casuistry.
But trust the Muse--she saw it upward rise,
Tho' mark'd by none but quick, poetic eyes:
(So Rome's great founder to the heav'ns withdrew, 125
To Proculus alone confess'd in view)
A sudden Star, it shot thro' liquid air,
And drew behind a radiant trail of hair.
Not Berenice's Locks first rose so bright,
The heav'ns bespangling with dishevell'd light. 130
The Sylphs behold it kindling as it flies,
And pleas'd pursue its progress thro' the skies.
This the Beau monde shall from the Mall survey,
And hail with music its propitious ray.
This the blest Lover shall for Venus take, 135
And send up vows from Rosamonda's lake.
This Partridge soon shall view in cloudless skies,
When next he looks thro' Galileo's eyes;
And hence th' egregious wizard shall foredoom
The fate of Louis, and the fall of Rome. 140
Then cease, bright Nymph! to mourn thy ravish'd hair,
Which adds new glory to the shining sphere!
Not all the tresses that fair head can boast,
Shall draw such envy as the Lock you lost.
For, after all the murders of your eye, 145
When, after millions slain, yourself shall die:
When those fair suns shall set, as set they must,
And all those tresses shall be laid in dust,
This Lock, the Muse shall consecrate to fame,
And 'midst the stars inscribe Belinda's name. 150
* * * * *
CONTENTS OF THE ESSAY ON CRITICISM
Introduction. That 'tis as great a fault to judge ill, as to write
v. 1. ill, and a more dangerous one to the public,
v. 9 to 18 That a true Taste is as rare to be found, as a true
v. 19 to 25 That most men are born with some Taste, but spoiled by
v. 26 to 45 The multitude of Critics, and causes of them.
v. 46 to 67. That we are to study our own Taste, and know the Limits
v. 68 to 87 Nature the best guide of Judgment.
v. 88 Improv'd by Art and Rules,--which are but methodis'd
v. id, to 110 Rules derived from the Practice of the Ancient Poets.
v. 120 to 138 That therefore the Ancients are necessary to be studyd,
by a Critic, particularly Homer and Virgil.
v. 140 to 180 Of Licenses, and the use of them by the Ancients.
v. 181, etc. Reverence due to the Ancients, and praise of them.
PART II. Ver. 201, etc.
Causes hindering a true Judgment,
v. 208 1. Pride.
v. 215 2. Imperfect Learning.
v. 233 to 288 3. Judging by parts, and not by the whole.
v. 288, 305, Critics in Wit, Language, Versification, only.
v. 384 4. Being too hard to please, or too apt to admire.
v. 394 5. Partiality--too much Love to a Sect,--to the
Ancients or Moderns.
v. 408 6. Prejudice or Prevention.
v. 424 7. Singularity.
v. 430 8. Inconstancy.
v. 452 etc. 9. Party Spirit.
v. 466 10. Envy.
v. 508, etc. Against Envy, and in praise of Good-nature.
v. 526, etc. When Severity is chiefly to be used by Critics.
PART III. Ver. 560, etc.
v. 563 Rules for the Conduct of Manners in a Critic.
v. 566 1. Candour, Modesty.
v. 572 Good-breeding.
v. 578 Sincerity, and Freedom of advice.
v. 584 2. When one's Counsel is to be restrained.
v. 600 Character of an incorrigible Poet.
v. 610 And of an impertinent Critic, etc.
v. 629 Character of a good Critic.
v. 645. The History of Criticism, and Characters of the best
v. 653 Horace,
v. 665 Dionysius,
v. 667 Petronius,
v. 670 Quintilian,
v. 675 Longinus.
v. 693 Of the Decay of Criticism, and its Revival.
v. 705 Vida,
v. 714 Boileau,
v. 725 Lord Roscommon, etc.
AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM
'Tis hard to say, if greater want of skill
Appear in writing or in judging ill;
But, of the two, less dang'rous is th' offence
To tire our patience, than mislead our sense.
Some few in that, but numbers err in this, 5
Ten censure wrong for one who writes amiss;
A fool might once himself alone expose,
Now one in verse makes many more in prose.
'Tis with our judgments as our watches, none
Go just alike, yet each believes his own. 10
In Poets as true genius is but rare,
True Taste as seldom is the Critic's share;
Both must alike from Heav'n derive their light,
These born to judge, as well as those to write.
Let such teach others who themselves excel, 15
And censure freely who have written well.
Authors are partial to their wit, 'tis true,
But are not Critics to their judgment too?
Yet if we look more closely, we shall find
Most have the seeds of judgment in their mind: 20
Nature affords at least a glimm'ring light;
The lines, tho' touch'd but faintly, are drawn right.
But as the slightest sketch, if justly trac'd, }
Is by ill-colouring but the more disgrac'd, }
So by false learning is good sense defac'd: } 25
Some are bewilder'd in the maze of schools,
And some made coxcombs Nature meant but fools.
In search of wit these lose their common sense,
And then turn Critics in their own defence:
Each burns alike, who can, or cannot write, 30
Or with a Rival's, or an Eunuch's spite.
All fools have still an itching to deride,
And fain would be upon the laughing side.
If Mævius scribble in Apollo's spite,
There are who judge still worse than he can write. 35
Some have at first for Wits, then Poets past,
Turn'd Critics next, and prov'd plain fools at last.
Some neither can for Wits nor Critics pass,
As heavy mules are neither horse nor ass.
Those half-learn'd witlings, num'rous in our isle, 40
As half-form'd insects on the banks of Nile;
Unfinish'd things, one knows not what to call,
Their generation's so equivocal:
To tell 'em, would a hundred tongues require,
Or one vain wit's, that might a hundred tire. 45
But you who seek to give and merit fame,
And justly bear a Critic's noble name,
Be sure yourself and your own reach to know,
How far your genius, taste, and learning go;
Launch not beyond your depth, but be discreet, 50
And mark that point where sense and dulness meet.
Nature to all things fix'd the limits fit,
And wisely curb'd proud man's pretending wit.
As on the land while here the ocean gains,
In other parts it leaves wide sandy plains; 55
Thus in the soul while memory prevails,
The solid pow'r of understanding fails;
Where beams of warm imagination play,
The memory's soft figures melt away.
One science only will one genius fit; 60
So vast is art, so narrow human wit:
Not only bounded to peculiar arts,
But oft in those confin'd to single parts.
Like kings we lose the conquests gain'd before,
By vain ambition still to make them more; 65
Each might his sev'ral province well command,
Would all but stoop to what they understand.
First follow Nature, and your judgment frame
By her just standard, which is still the same:
Unerring NATURE, still divinely bright, 70
One clear, unchang'd, and universal light,
Life, force, and beauty, must to all impart,
At once the source, and end, and test of Art.
Art from that fund each just supply provides,
Works without show, and without pomp presides: 75
In some fair body thus th' informing soul
With spirits feeds, with vigour fills the whole,
Each motion guides, and ev'ry nerve sustains;
Itself unseen, but in th' effects, remains.
Some, to whom Heav'n in wit has been profuse, 80
Want as much more, to turn it to its use;
For wit and judgment often are at strife,
Tho' meant each other's aid, like man and wife.
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