Now times are changed, and one poetic itch
Has seized the court and city, poor and rich : 170
Sons, sires, and grandsires, all will wear the bays;
Our wives read Milton, and our daughters plays;
To theatres and to rehearsals throng,
And all our grace at table is a song.
I, who so oft renounce the Muses, lie; 175
Not -'s self e'er tells more fibs than I :
When sick of Muse, our follies we deplore,
And promise our best friends to rhyme no more;
We wake next morning in a raging fit,
And call for pen and ink to show our wit.

180 He served a 'prenticeship who sets up shop; Ward tried on puppies and the poor his drop; Ev’n Radcliffe's doctors travel first to France, Nor dare to practise till they've learn'd to dance. Who builds a bridge that never drove a pile ? 185 Should Ripley venture, all the world would smile: But those who cannot write, and those who can, All rhyme, and scrawl, and scribble, to a man.

Yet, sir, reflect, the mischief is not great; These madmen never hurt the church or state : Sometimes the folly benefits mankind; 191 And rarely avarice taints the tuneful mind. Allow him but his plaything of a pen, He ne'er rebels, or plots, like other men :

186 Should Ripley venture. Ripley was the government architect; and, with the usual ill fate of favorites, contrived to please none but his employers. He built the Admiralty, which is still demonstrative of his taste; having all the disadvantages of massiveness without dignity, and elaborateness without elegance. The screen was erected by the Adamses. But Warton slightly vindicates his skill in the minor departments of his art, the disposition of rooms, &c., and cites Houghton, and lord Walpole's at Woollerton.

[ocr errors]


Flight of cashiers or mobs he'll never mind; 195
And knows no losses while the Muse is kind.
To cheat a friend or ward he leaves to Peter;
The good man heaps up nothing but mere metre;
Enjoys his garden and his book in quiet ;
And then a perfect hermit in his diet.

Of little use the man, you may suppose,

in verse what others say in prose ;
Yet let me show, a poet 's of some weight;
And, though no soldier, useful to the state.
What will a child learn sooner than a song ? 205
What better teach a foreigner the tongue ;
What's long or short; each accent where to place;
And speak in public with some sort of grace ?
I scarce can think him such a worthless thing,
Unless he praise some monster of a king ;
Or virtue or religion turn to sport,
To please a lewd or unbelieving court.


195 Flight of cashiers. Coxe, in his “Memoirs of Walpole,' narrates the national panic on the bankruptcy of the South-sea company. A committee of the house of commons having been chosen to examine all papers, &c., Knight, the cashier, fled the country, carrying with him his green book,' as was supposed, with the connivance of government: the committee re. ported this flight, and the commons ordered the doors to be locked, and the keys laid on the table. General Ross then stated, in the extravagant language, whether of art or terror, that the committee had discovered a train of tbe deepest villany and fraud hell had ever contrived to ruin a nation.' In consequence of this speech, four of the members, who were directors, were expelled the house, and taken into custody : the other directors shared the same fate; all their books, papers, and effects were seized ; and the royal assent was given to a bill for restraining them from leaving the kingdom, discovering their estates, and disqualifying them from holding office in any of the companies.

Unhappy Dryden !In all Charles's days,
Roscommon only boasts unspotted bays;
And in our own, excuse some courtly stains, 215
No whiter


than Addison remains. He from the taste obscene reclaims our youth, And sets the passions on the side of truth, Forms the soft bosom with the gentlest art, And pours

each human virtue in the heart. 220 Let Ireland tell, how wit upheld her cause, Her trade supported, and supplied her laws; And leave on Swift this grateful verse engraved : • The rights a court attack'd, a poet saved.' Behold the hand that wrought a nation's cure, 225 Stretch'd to relieve the idiot and the poor, Proud vice to brand, or injured worth adorn, And stretch the ray to ages yet unborn. Not but there are, who merit other palms : Hopkins and Sternhold glad the heart with psalms :

230 The boys and girls, whom charity maintains, Implore your help in these pathetic strains : How could devotion touch the country pews, Unless the gods bestow'd a proper Muse? Verse cheers their leisure, verse assists their

work, Verse prays for peace, or sings down pope and

Turk. The silent preacher yields to potent strain, And feels that grace his prayer besought in vain ;


224 The rights a court attack'd. The attorney-general of the day must bave been peculiarly sensitive to libel : he found public danger in this vague line ; and Pope, for the first time in his life, was startled with the threat of a prosecution.




The blessing thrills through all the laboring throng, And heaven is won by violence of song. 240

Our rural ancestors, with little bless'd, Patient of labor when the end was rest, Indulged the day that housed their annual grain, With feasts and offerings, and a thankful strain : The joy their wives, their sons, and servants share, Ease of their toil, and partners of their care: 246 The laugh, the jest, attendants on the bowl, Smoothed every brow, and open'd every soul : With growing years the pleasing license grew, And taunts alternate innocently flew,

230 But times corrupt, and nature, ill-inclined, Produced the point that left a sting behind ; Till friend with friend, and families at strife, Triumphant malice raged through private life : Who felt the wrong or fear'd it, took the alarm, Appeal'd to law, and justice lent her arm. 256 At length, by wholesome dread of statutes bound, The poets learn’d to please, and not to wound:

240 Heaven is won by violence of song. The use of so direct an allusion to Scripture is unbecoming: the contemptuous air of the passage, too, is unwise. The fashion of Pope's day was aristocratic, in the worst sense of the word : all below the line of the opulent, the titled, and the educated, went for nothing. This was the French folly, introduced by Charles Il. In France the roturier was, as the dust of the earth, fit only to be trampled on; but the old habits of England, more manly, generous, and natural, held the peasantry at their proper value. To the fastidious tastes of opera-hunting men and women, the rudeness of village psalmody must occasionally repel the ear ; but want of refinement may be easily forgiven for sincerity of devotion. No pomp of foreign worship is equal in true power over the heart to the noble simplicity of supplication, the ardent sympathy of homage, gratitude, and love, often felt in the united hymn of an English congregation.

Most warp'd to flattery's side; but some, more nice,
Preserved the freedom, and forbore the vice. 260
Hence satire rose, that just the medium hit,
And heals with morals what it hurts with wit.
We conquer'd France, but felt our captive's

Her arts victorious triumph'd o’er our arms;
Britain to soft refinements less a foe,

265 Wit grew polite, and numbers learn’d to flow. Waller was smooth ; but Dryden taught to join The varying verse, the full resounding line, The long majestic march, and energy divine: Though still some traces of our rustic vein, 270 And splay-foot verse, remain'd, and will remain. Late, very late, correctness grew our care, When the tired nation breathed from civil war. Exact Racine, and Corneille’s noble fire, Show'd us that France had something to admire. Not but the tragic spirit was our own,

276 And full in Shakspeare, fair in Otway shone: But Otway fail'd to polish or refine, And fluent Shakspeare scarce effaced a line.

274 Exact Racine. This is but frigid praise for Racine ; but it is perhaps all that an English ear can honestly give. The charm of Racine is in his barmony; a charm which no man can feel in the poets of any land but his own: though our scholars conceive that they can feel the harmony of verse in two languages, dead a thousand years ago ; which they do not pronounce even like the descendants of those who spoke them, and of which they are not secure of the sound of a single letter! The French prefer Racine to all their other tragedians; but laugh at the idea of an Englishman's attempting to enjoy the flow of his language : as the English laugh at the Frenchman's attempt to enjoy the sweetness of Shakspeare's lines. Both are in the right: yet both alike pretend to be enraptured with the silver stream of Euripides.

« ForrigeFortsett »