Part 1 out of 7
THE POETICAL WORKS OF ALEXANDER POPE
With Memoir, Critical Dissertation, and Explanatory Notes
by THE REV. GEORGE GILFILLAN
LIFE OF ALEXANDER POPE
Alexander Pope was born in Lombard Street, London, on the 21st of May
1688--the year of the Revolution. His father was a linen-merchant, in
thriving circumstances, and said to have noble blood in his veins. His
mother was Edith or Editha Turner, daughter of William Turner, Esq., of
York. Mr Carruthers, in his excellent Life of the Poet, mentions that
there was an Alexander Pope, a clergyman, in the remote parish of Reay,
in Caithness, who rode all the way to Twickenham to pay his great
namesake a visit, and was presented by him with a copy of the
subscription edition of the "Odyssey," in five volumes quarto, which is
still preserved by his descendants. Pope's father had made about L10,000
by trade; but being a Roman Catholic, and fond of a country life, he
retired from business shortly after the Revolution, at the early age of
forty-six. He resided first at Kensington, and then in Binfield, in the
neighbourhood of Windsor Forest. He is said to have put his money in a
strong box, and to have lived on the principal. His great delight was in
his garden; and both he and his wife seem to have cherished the warmest
interest in their son, who was very delicate in health, and their only
child. Pope's study is still preserved in Binfield; and on the lawn, a
cypress-tree which he is said to have planted, is pointed out.
Pope was a premature and precocious child. His figure was deformed--his
back humped--his stature short (four feet)--his legs and arms
disproportionably long. He was sometimes compared to a spider, and
sometimes to a windmill. The only mark of genius lay in his bright and
piercing eye. He was sickly in constitution, and required and received
great tenderness and care. Once, when three years old, he narrowly
escaped from an angry cow, but was wounded in the throat. He was
remarkable as a child for his amiable temper; and from the sweetness of
his voice, received the name of the Little Nightingale. His aunt gave
him his first lessons in reading, and he soon became an enthusiastic
lover of books; and by copying printed characters, taught himself to
write. When eight years old, he was placed under the care of the family
priest, one Bannister, who taught him the Latin and Greek grammars
together. He was next removed to a Catholic seminary at Twyford, near
Winchester; and while there, read Ogilby's "Homer" and Sandys's "Ovid"
with great delight. He had not been long at this school till he wrote a
severe lampoon, of two hundred lines' length, on his master--so truly
was the "boy the father of the man"--for which demi-Dunciad he was
severely flogged. His father, offended at this, removed him to a London
school, kept by a Mr Deane. This man taught the poet nothing; but his
residence in London gave him the opportunity of attending the theatres.
With these he was so captivated, that he wrote a kind of play, which was
acted by his schoolfellows, consisting of speeches from Ogilby's
"Iliad," tacked together with verses of his own. He became acquainted
with Dryden's works, and went to Wills's coffee-house to see him. He
says, "Virgilium tantum vidi." Such transient meetings of literary orbs
are among the most interesting passages in biography. Thus met Galileo
with Milton, Milton with Dryden, Dryden with Pope, and Burns with Scott.
Carruthers strikingly remarks, "Considering the perils and uncertainties
of a literary life--its precarious rewards, feverish anxieties,
mortifications, and disappointments, joined to the tyranny of the
Tonsons and Lintots, and the malice and envy of dunces, all of which
Dryden had long and bitterly experienced--the aged poet could hardly
have looked at the delicate and deformed boy, whose preternatural
acuteness and sensibility were seen in his dark eyes, without a feeling
approaching to grief, had he known that he was to fight a battle like
that under which he was himself then sinking, even though the Temple of
Fame should at length open to receive him." At twelve, he wrote the "Ode
to Solitude;" and shortly after, his satirical piece on Elkanah Settle,
and some of his translations and imitations. His next period, he says,
was in Windsor Forest, where for several years he did nothing but read
the classics and indite poetry. He wrote a tragedy, a comedy, and four
books of an Epic called "Alexander," all of which afterwards he
committed to the flames. He translated also a portion of Statius, and
Cicero "De Senectute," and "thought himself the greatest genius that
ever was." His father encouraged him in his studies, and when his verses
did not please him, sent him back to "new turn" them, saying, "These are
not good rhymes." His principal favourites were Virgil's "Eclogues," in
Latin; and in English, Spencer, Waller, and Dryden--admiring Spencer, we
presume, for his luxuriant fancy, Waller for his smooth versification,
and Dryden for his vigorous sense and vivid sarcasm. In the Forest, he
became acquainted with Sir William Trumbull, the retired secretary of
state, a man of general accomplishments, who read, rode, conversed with
the youthful poet; introduced him to old Wycherley, the dramatist; and
was of material service to his views. With Wycherley, who was old,
doted, and excessively vain, Pope did not continue long intimate. A
coldness, springing from some criticisms which the youth ventured to
make on the veteran's poetry, crept in between them. Walsh of Abberley,
in Worcestershire, a man of good sense and taste, became, after a
perusal of the "Pastorals" in MS., a warm friend and kind adviser of
Pope's, who has immortalised him in more than one of his poems. Walsh
told Pope that there had never hitherto appeared in Britain a poet who
was at once great and correct, and exhorted him to aim at accuracy and
When fifteen, he visited London, in order to acquire a more thorough
knowledge of French and Italian. At sixteen, he wrote the "Pastorals,"
and a portion of "Windsor Forest," although they were not published for
some time afterwards. By his incessant exertions, he now began to feel
his constitution injured. He imagined himself dying, and sent farewell
letters to all his friends, including the Abbe Southcot. This gentleman
communicated Pope's case to Dr Ratcliffe, who gave him some medical
directions; by following which, the poet recovered. He was advised to
relax in his studies, and to ride daily; and he prudently followed the
advice. Many years afterwards, he repaid the benevolent Abbe by
procuring for him, through Sir Robert Walpole, the nomination to an
abbey in Avignon. This is only one of many proofs that, notwithstanding
his waspish temper, and his no small share of malice as well as vanity,
there was a warm heart in our poet.
In 1707, Pope became acquainted with Michael Blount of Maple, Durham,
near Reading; whose two sisters, Martha and Teresa, he has commemorated
in various verses. On his connexion with these ladies, some mystery
rests. Bowles has strongly and plausibly urged that it was not of the
purest or most creditable order. Others have contended that it did not
go further than the manners of the age sanctioned; and they say, "a much
greater license in conversation and in epistolary correspondence was
permitted between the sexes than in our decorous age!" We are not
careful to try and settle such a delicate question--only we are inclined
to suspect, that when common decency quits the _words_ of male and
female parties in their mutual communications, it is a very ample
charity that can suppose it to adhere to their _actions_. And nowhere do
we find grosser language than in some of Pope's prose epistles to the
His "Pastorals," after having been handed about in MS., and shewn to
such reputed judges as Lord Halifax, Lord Somers, Garth, Congreve, &c.,
were at last, in 1709, printed in the sixth volume of Tonson's
"Miscellanies." Like all well-finished commonplaces, they were received
with instant and universal applause. It is humiliating to contrast the
reception of these empty echoes of inspiration, these agreeable
_centos_, with that of such genuine, although faulty poems, as Keat's
"Endymion," Shelley's "Queen Mab," and Wordsworth's "Lyrical Ballads."
Two years later, (in 1711), a far better and more characteristic
production from his pen was ushered anonymously into the world. This was
the "Essay on Criticism," a work which he had first written in prose,
and which discovers a ripeness of judgment, a clearness of thought, a
condensation of style, and a command over the information he possesses,
worthy of any age in life, and almost of any mind in time. It serves,
indeed, to shew what Pope's true forte was. That lay not so much in
poetry, as in the knowledge of its principles and laws,--not so much in
creation, as in criticism. He was no Homer or Shakspeare; but he might
have been nearly as acute a judge of poetry as Aristotle, and nearly as
eloquent an expounder of the rules of art and the glories of genius as
In the same year, Pope printed "The Rape of the Lock," in a volume of
Miscellanies. Lord Petre had, much in the way described by the poet,
stolen a lock of Miss Belle Fermor's hair,--a feat which led to an
estrangement between the families. Pope set himself to reconcile them by
this beautiful poem,--a poem which has embalmed at once the quarrel and
the reconciliation to all future time. In its first version, the
machinery was awanting, the "lock" was a desert, the "rape" a natural
event,--the small infantry of sylphs and gnomes were slumbering
uncreated in the poet's mind; but in the next edition he contrived to
introduce them in a manner so easy and so exquisite, as to remind you of
the variations which occur in dreams, where one wonder seems softly to
slide into the bosom of another, and where beautiful and fantastic
fancies grow suddenly out of realities, like the bud from the bough, or
the fairy-seeming wing of the summer-cloud from the stern azure of the
A little after this, Pope became acquainted with a far greater, better,
and truer man than himself, Joseph Addison. Warburton, and others, have
sadly misrepresented the connexion between these two famous wits, as
well as their relative intellectual positions. Addison was a more
amiable and childlike person than Pope. He had much more, too, of the
Christian. He was not so elaborately polished and furbished as the
author of "The Rape of the Lock;" but he had, naturally, a finer and
richer genius. Pope found early occasion for imagining Addison his
disguised enemy. He gave him a hint of his intention to introduce the
machinery into "The Rape of the Lock." Of this, Addison disapproved, and
said it was a delicious little thing already--_merum sal_. This, Pope,
and some of his friends, have attributed to jealousy; but it is obvious
that Addison could not foresee the success with which the machinery was
to be managed, and did foresee the difficulties connected with tinkering
such an exquisite production. We may allude here to the circumstances
which, at a later date, produced an estrangement between these
celebrated men. When Tickell, Addison's friend, published the first book
of the "Iliad," in opposition to Pope's version, Addison gave it the
preference. This moved Pope's indignation, and led him to assert that it
was Addison's own composition. In this conjecture he was supported by
Edward Young, who had known Tickell long and intimately, and had never
heard of him having written at college, as was averred, this
translation. It is now, however, we believe, certain, from the MS. which
still exists, that Tickell was the real author. A coldness, from this
date, began between Pope and Addison. An attempt to reconcile them only
made matters worse; and at last the breach was rendered irremediable by
Pope's writing the famous character of his rival, afterwards inserted in
the Prologue to the Satires,--a portrait drawn with the perfection of
polished malice and bitter sarcasm, but which seems more a caricature
than a likeness. Whatever Addison's faults, his conduct to Pope did not
deserve such a return. The whole passage is only one of those painful
incidents which disgrace the history of letters, and prove how much
spleen, ingratitude, and baseness often co-exist with the highest parts.
The words of Pope are as true now as ever they were--"the life of a wit
is a warfare upon earth;" and a warfare in which poisoned missiles and
every variety of falsehood are still common. We may also here mention,
that while the friendship of Pope and Addison lasted, the former
contributed the well-known prologue to the latter's "Cato."
One of Pope's most intimate friends in his early days was Henry
Cromwell--a distant relative of the great Oliver--a gentleman of
fortune, gallantry, and literary taste, who became his agreeable and
fascinating, but somewhat dangerous, companion. He is supposed to have
initiated Pope into some of the fashionable follies of the town. At this
time, Pope's popularity roused one of his most formidable foes against
him. This was that Cobbett of criticism, old John Dennis,--a man of
strong natural powers, much learning, and a rich, coarse vein of humour;
but irascible, vindictive, vain, and capricious. Pope had provoked him
by an attack in his "Essay on Criticism," and the savage old man
revenged himself by a running fire of fierce diatribes against that
"Essay" and "The Rape of the Lock." Pope waited till Dennis had
committed himself by a powerful but furious assault on Addison's "Cato"
(most of which Johnson has preserved in his Life of Pope); and then,
partly to court Addison, and partly to indulge his spleen at the critic,
wrote a prose satire, entitled, "The Narrative of Dr Robert Norris on
the Frenzy of J.D." In this, however, he overshot the mark; and Addison
signified to him that he was displeased with the spirit of his
narrative,--an intimation which Pope keenly resented. _This_ scornful
dog would not eat the dirty pudding that was graciously flung to him;
and Pope found that, without having conciliated Addison, he had made
Dennis's furnace of hate against himself seven times hotter than before.
In 1712 appeared "The Messiah," "The Dying Christian to his Soul," "The
Temple of Fame," and the "Elegy on the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady."
Her story is still involved in mystery. Her name is said to have been
Wainsbury. She was attached to a lover above her degree,--some say to
the Duke of Berry, whom she had met in her early youth in France. In
despair of obtaining her desire, she hanged herself. It is curious, if
true, that she was as deformed in person as Pope himself. Her family
seems to have been noble. In 1713, he published "Windsor Forest," an
"Ode on St Cecilia's Day," and several papers in the _Guardian_--one of
them being an exquisitely ironical paper, comparing Phillip's pastorals
with his own, and affecting to give them the preference--the extracts
being so selected as to damage his rival's claims. This year, also, he
wrote, although he did not publish, his fine epistle to Jervas, the
painter. Pope was passionately fond of the art of painting, and
practised it a good deal under Jervas's instructions, although he did
not reach great proficiency. The prodigy has yet to be born who combines
the characters of a great painter and a great poet.
About this time, Pope commenced preparations for the great work of
translating Homer; and subscription-papers, accordingly, were issued.
Dean Swift was now in England, and took a deep interest in the success
of this undertaking, recommending it in coffee-houses, and introducing
the subject and Pope's name to the leading Tories. Pope met the Dean for
the first time in Berkshire, where, in one of his fits of savage disgust
at the conflicting parties of the period, he had retired to the house of
a clergyman, and an intimacy commenced which was only terminated by
death. We have often regretted that Pope had not selected some author
more suitable to his genius than Homer. Horace or Lucretius, or even
Ovid, would have been more congenial. His imitations of Horace shew us
what he might have made of a complete translation. What a brilliant
thing a version of Lucretius, in the style of the "Essay on Man," would
have been! And his "Rape of the Lock" proves that he had considerable
sympathy with the elaborate fancy, although not with the meretricious
graces of Ovid. But with Homer, the severely grand, the simple, the
warlike, the lover and painter of all Nature's old original forms--the
ocean, the mountains, and the stars--what thorough sympathy could a man
have who never saw a real mountain or a battle, and whose enthusiasm for
scenery was confined to purling brooks, trim gardens, artificial
grottos, and the shades of Windsor Forest? Accordingly, his Homer,
although a beautiful and sparkling poem, is not a satisfactory
translation of the "Iliad," and still less of the "Odyssey." He has
trailed along the naked lances of the Homeric lines so many flowers and
leaves that you can hardly recognise them, and feel that their point is
deadened and their power gone. This at least is our opinion; although
many to this day continue to admire these translations, and have even
said that if they are not Homer, they are something better.
The "Iliad" took him six years, and was a work which cost him much
anxiety as well as labour, the more as his scholarship was far from
profound. He was assisted in the undertaking by Parnell (who wrote the
Life of Homer), by Broome, Jortin, and others. The first volume appeared
in June 1715, and the other volumes followed at irregular intervals. He
began it in 1712, his twenty-fifth year, and finished it in 1718, his
thirtieth year. Previous to its appearance, his remuneration for his
poems had been small, and his circumstances were embarrassed; but the
result of the subscription, which amounted to L5320, 4s., rendered him
independent for life.
While at Binfield, he had often visited London; and there, in the
society of Howe, Garth, Parnell, and the rest, used to indulge in
occasional excesses, which did his feeble constitution no good; and
once, according to Colley Cibber, he narrowly escaped a serious scrape
in a house of a certain description,--Colley, by his own account,
"helping out the tomtit for the sake of Homer!" This statement, indeed,
Pope has denied; but his veracity was by no means his strongest point.
After writing a "Farewell to London," he retired, in 1715, to
Twickenham, along with his parents; and remained there, cultivating his
garden, digging his grottos, and diversifying his walks, till the end of
Some years before, he had become acquainted with Lady Mary Wortley
Montague, the most brilliant woman of her age--witty, fascinating,
beautiful, and accomplished--full of enterprise and spirit, too,
although decidedly French in her tastes, manners, and character. Pope
fell violently in love with her, and had her undoubtedly in his eye when
writing "Eloisa and Abelard," which he did at Oxford in 1716, shortly
after her going abroad, and which appeared the next year. His passion
was not requited,--nay, was treated with contempt and ridicule; and he
became in after years a bitter enemy and foul-mouthed detractor of the
lady, although after her return, in 1718, she resided near him at
Twickenham, and they seemed outwardly on good terms.
In 1717, and the succeeding year, Pope lost successively his father,
Parnell, Garth, and Rowe, and bitterly felt their loss. He finished, as
we have seen, the "Iliad" in 1718; but the fifth and sixth volumes,
which were the last, did not appear till 1720. Its success, which at the
time was triumphant, roused against him the whole host of envy and
detraction. Dennis, and all Grub Street with him, were moved to assail
him. Pamphlets after pamphlets were published, all of which, after
reading with writhing anguish, Pope had the resolution to bind up into
volumes--a great collection of calumny, which he preserved, probably,
for purposes of future revenge. His own friends, on the other hand,
hailed his work with applause,--Gay writing a most graceful and elegant
poem, in _ottava rima_, entitled, "Mr Pope's Welcome Home from Greece,"
in which his different friends are pictured as receiving him home on the
shores of Britain, after an absence of six years. Bentley, that stern
old Grecian, avoided the extremes of a howling Grub Street on the one
hand, and a flattering aristocracy on the other, and expressed what is,
we think, the just opinion when he said, "It is a pretty poem, but it is
In 1721, he issued a selection from the poems of Parnell, and prefixed a
very beautiful dedication to the Earl of Oxford, commencing with--
"Such were the notes thy once-loved poet sung,
Till death untimely stopp'd his tuneful tongue.
Oh, just beheld and lost, admired and mourn'd,
With softest manners, gentlest arts adorn'd!"
In 1722, he engaged to translate the "Odyssey." He employed Broome and
Fenton as his assistants in the work; and the portions translated by
them were thought as good as his. He remunerated them very handsomely.
Of this work, the first three quarto volumes appeared in 1725; and the
fourth and fifth, which completed the work, the following year. Pope
sold the copyright to Lintot for L600.
He was busy at this time, too, with an edition of Shakspeare,--not quite
worthy of either poet. It appeared in six volumes, quarto, in 1725. His
preface was good, but he was deficient in antiquarian lore; and his
mortification was extreme when Theobald, destined to figure in "The
Dunciad," a mere plodding hack, not only in his "Shakspeare Restored,"
exposed many blunders in Pope's edition; but issued, some years
afterwards, an edition of his own, which was much better received by the
In 1726, there was a great gathering of the Tory wits at Twickenham.
Swift had come from Ireland, and resided for some time with Pope.
Bolingbroke came over occasionally from Dawley; and Gay was often there
to laugh with, and be laughed at by, the rest. Swift had "Gulliver's
Travels"--the most ingenious and elaborate libel against man and God
ever written--in his pocket, nearly ready for publication; and we may
conceive the grim, sardonic smile with which he read it to his friends,
and their tumultuous mirth. Gay was projecting his "Beggars' Opera," and
Pope preparing some of his witty "Miscellanies." At the end of two
months, the Dean was hurried home by the tidings of Stella's illness. He
left the "Travels" behind him, for the copyright of which Pope procured
L300,--a sum counted then very large, and which Swift generously handed
over to Pope.
In September this year, when returning in Lord Bolingbroke's coach from
Dawley, the poet was overturned in a little rivulet near Twickenhan, and
nearly drowned. The unfortunate little man! One is reminded of
Gulliver's accident in the Brobdignagian cream-pot. In trying to break
the glasses of the coach, which were down, he severely cut his right
hand, and lost the use of two of his fingers,--an addition to his other
deformities not very desirable; and we suspect that Pope thought
Voltaire (who had met him at Bolingbroke's) but a miserable comforter,
when, in a letter of pretended condolence, he asked--"Is it possible
that those fingers which have written 'The Rape of the Lock,' and
dressed Homer so becomingly in an English coat, should have been so
barbarously treated? Let the hand of Dennis or of your poetasters be cut
off; yours is sacred." It was perhaps in keeping that those mutilated
fingers were soon to be employed in attacking Dennis, and that the
embittered poet was about, with the half of his hand, but with the whole
of his heart, to write "The Dunciad."
In the end of April 1727, we find Swift again in Twickenham, where his
irritation at the continued ascendancy of Sir Robert Walpole served to
infuse more venom into the "Miscellanies" concocted between him and
Pope,--two volumes of which appeared in June this year. Gay, also, and
the ingenious and admirable Dr Arbuthnot, contributed their quota to
these volumes. Swift speedily fell ill with that giddiness and deafness
which were the _avant-couriers_ of his final malady; and in August he
left Twickenham, and in October, London and England, for ever.
In these "Miscellanies" there appeared the famous "Memoirs of Martinus
Scriblerus," written chiefly by Pope, in which he lashed the various
proficients in the bathos, under the names of flying fishes, swallows,
parrots, frogs, eels, &c., and appended the initials of well-known
authors to each head. This roused Grub Street, whose malice had nearly
fallen asleep, into fresh fury, and he was bitterly assailed in every
possible form. Like Hyder Ali, he now--to travesty Burke--"in the
recesses of a mind capacious of such things, determined to leave all
Duncedom an everlasting monument of vengeance, and became at length so
confident of his force, so collected in his might, that he made no
secret whatever of his dreadful resolution, but, compounding all the
materials of fun, sarcasm, irony, and invective, into one black cloud,
he hung for a while on the declivities of Richmond Hill; and whilst the
authors were idly and stupidly gazing on this menacing meteor which
blackened all their horizon, it suddenly burst and poured down the whole
of its contents on the garrets of Grub Street. Then issued a scene of
(ludicrous) woe, the like of which no eye had seen, no heart conceived,
and which no tongue can adequately tell. All the horrors of literary war
before known or heard of--(MacFlecknoe, the Rehearsal, &c.)--were mercy
to the new tempest of havoc which burst from the brain of this
remorseless poet. A storm of universal laughter filled every
bookseller's shop, and penetrated into the remotest attics. The
miserable dunces, in part, were stricken mad with rage--in part, dumb
with consternation. Some fled for refuge to ale, and others to ink;
while not a few fell, or feared to fall, into the 'jaws of famine.'"
This singular poem was written in 1727. It was first printed
surreptitiously (_i.e._, with the connivance of the author) in Dublin,
and then reprinted in London. The first perfect edition, however, did
not appear in London till 1729. On the day of its publication, according
to Pope, a crowd of authors besieged the publisher's shop; and by
entreaties, threats, nay, cries of treason, tried to hinder its
appearance. What a scene it must have been--of teeth gnashing above
ragged coats, and eyes glaring through old periwigs--of faces livid with
famine and ferocity; while, to complete the confusion, hawkers,
booksellers, and even lords, were mixed with the crowd, clamouring for
its issue! And as, says Pope, "there is no stopping a torrent with a
finger, out it came." The consequence he had foreseen. A universal howl
of rage and pain burst from the aggrieved dunces, on whose naked sides
the hot pitch had fallen. They pushed their rejoinders beyond the limits
of civilised literary warfare; and although Pope had been coarse in his
language, they were coarser far, and their blackguardism was not
redeemed by wit or genius. Pope felt, or seemed to feel, entire
indifference as to these assaults. On some of them, indeed, he could
afford to look down with contempt, on account of their obvious _animus_
and gross language. Others, again, were neutralised by the fact, that
their authors had provoked reprisals by their previous insults or
ingratitude to Pope. Many, however, were too obscure for his notice; and
some, such as Aaron Hill and Bentley, did not deserve to be classed with
the Theobalds and Ralphs. To Hill, he, after some finessing, was
compelled to make an apology. Altogether, although this production
increased Pope's fame, and the conception of his power, it did not tend
to shew him in the most amiable light, or perhaps to promote his own
comfort or peace of mind. After having emptied out his bile in "The
Dunciad," he ought to have become mellower in temper, and resigned
satire for ever. He continued, on the contrary, as ill-natured as
before; and although he afterwards flew at higher game, the iron had
entered into his soul, and he remained a satirist, and therefore an
unhappy man, for life.
In 1731 appeared an "Epistle on Taste," which was very favourably
received; only his enemies accused him of having satirised the Duke of
Chandos in it,--a man who had befriended Pope, and had lent him money.
Pope denied the charge, although it is very possible, both from his own
temperament, and from the frequent occurrence of similar cases of
baseness in literary life, that it may have been true. Nothing is more
common than for those who have been most liberally helped, to become
first the secret, and then the open, enemies of their benefactors. In
1732 appeared his epistle on "The Use of Riches," addressed to Lord
Bathurst. These two epistles were afterwards incorporated in his "Moral
As far back as 1725, Pope had been revolving the subject of the "Essay
on Man;" and, indeed, some of its couplets remind you of "pebbles which
had long been rolled over and polished in the ocean of his mind." It has
been asserted, but not proved, that Lord Bolingbroke gave him the
outline of this essay in prose. It is unquestionable, indeed, that
Bolingbroke exercised influence over Pope's mind, and may have suggested
some of the thoughts in the Essay; but it is not probable that a man
like Pope would have set himself on such a subject simply to translate
from another's mind. He published the first epistle of the Essay, in
1732, anonymously, as an experiment, and had the satisfaction to see it
successful. It was received with rapture, and passed through several
editions ere the author was known; although we must say that the value
of this reception is considerably lessened, when we remember that the
critics could not have been very acute who did not detect Pope's "fine
Roman hand" in every sentence of this brilliant but most unsatisfactory
and shallow performance.
In the same year died dear, simple-minded Gay, who found in Pope a
sincere mourner, and an elegant elegiast; and on the 7th of June 1733,
expired good old Mrs Pope, at the age of ninety-four. Pope, who had
always been a dutiful son, erected an obelisk in his own grounds to her
memory, with a simple but striking inscription in Latin. During this
year, he published the third part of the "Essay on Man," an epistle to
Lord Cobham, On the Knowledge and Characters of Man, and an Imitation of
the First Satire of the Second Book of Horace. In this last, he attacks,
in the most brutal style, his former love Lady Mary W. Montague, who
replied in a piece of coarse cleverness, entitled, "Verses to the
Imitator of the First Satire of the Second Book of Horace,"--verses in
which she was assisted by Lord Harvey, another of Pope's victims. He
wrote, but was prudent enough to suppress, an ironical reply.
In 1734 appeared his very clever and highly-finished epistle to Dr
Arbuthnot (now entitled the "Prologue to the Satires"), who was then
languishing toward death. Arbuthnot, from his deathbed, solemnly advised
Pope to regulate his satire, and seems to have been afraid of his
personal safety from his numerous foes. Pope replied in a manly but
self-defensive style. He is said about this time to have in his walks
carried arms, and had a large dog as his protector; but none of the
dunces had courage enough to assail him. Dennis, who was no dunce, might
have ventured on it--but he had become miserably infirm, poor, and
blind; and Pope had heaped coals of fire on his head, by contributing a
Prologue to a play which was acted for his behoof.
Our author's life becomes now little else than a record of multiplying
labours and increasing infirmities. In 1734 appeared the fourth part of
the "Essay on Man," and the Second Satire of the Second Book of Horace.
In 1735 were issued his "Characters of Women: An Epistle to a Lady"
(Martha Blount). In this appears his famous character of Atossa--the
Duchess of Marlborough. It is said--we fear too truly--that these lines
being shewn to her Grace, as a character of the Duchess of Buckingham,
she recognised in them her own likeness, and bribed Pope with a thousand
pounds to suppress it. He did so religiously--as long as she was
alive--and then published it! In the same year he printed a second
volume of his "Miscellaneous Works," in folio and quarto, uniform with
the "Iliad" and "Odyssey," including a versification of the Satires of
Donne; also, anonymously, a production disgraceful to his memory,
entitled, "Sober Advice from Horace to the Young Gentlemen about Town,"
in which he commits many gross indecorums of language, and annexes the
name of the great Bentley to several indecent notes. It is said that
Bentley, when he read the pamphlet, cried, "'Tis an impudent dog, but I
talked against his Homer, and the _portentous cub never forgives_."
The "Essay on Man" and the "Moral Epistles" were designed to be parts of
a great system of ethics, which Pope had long revolved in his mind, and
wished to incarnate in poetry. At this time occurred the strange,
mysterious circumstances connected with the publication of his letters.
It seems that, in 1729, Pope had recalled from his correspondents the
letters he had written them, of many of which he had kept no copies. He
was induced to this by the fact, that after Henry Cromwell's death, his
mistress, Mrs Thomas, who was in indigent circumstances, had sold the
letters which had passed between Pope and her keeper, to Curll the
bookseller, who had published them without scruple. When Pope obtained
his correspondence, he, according to his own statement, burned a great
many and laid past the others, after having had a copy of them taken,
and deposited in Lord Oxford's library. And his charge against Curll
was, that he obtained surreptitiously some of these letters, and
published them without Pope's consent. But, ere we come to the
circumstances of the publication, several other things require to be
noticed. In 1733, Curll, anxious to publish a Life of Pope, advertised
for information; and, in consequence, one P.T., who professed to be an
old friend of Pope's and his father's, wrote Curll a letter, giving an
account of Pope's ancestry, which tallied exactly with what Pope
himself, in a note to one of his poems, furnished the following year.
P.T., in a second letter, offered to the publisher a large collection of
Pope's letters, and inclosed a copy of an advertisement he had drawn out
to be published by Curll. Strange as it seems, Curll took no notice of
the proposal till 1735, when, having accidentally turned up a copy of
P.T.'s advertisement, he sent it to Pope, with a letter requesting an
interview, and mentioning that he had some papers of P.T.'s in reference
to his family history, which he would shew him. Pope replied by three
advertisements in the papers, denying all knowledge of P.T. or his
collection of letters or MSS. P.T. then wrote Curll that he had printed
the letters at his own expense, seeking a sum of money for them, and
appointing an interview at a tavern to shew him the sheets. This was
countermanded the next day, P.T. professing to be afraid of Pope and his
"bravoes," although how Pope was to know of this meeting was, according
to Curll, "the cream of the jest."
Soon after, a round, fat man, with a clergyman's gown and a barrister's
band, called on Curll, at ten o'clock at night. He said his name was
Smith, that he was a cousin of P.T.'s, and shewed the book in sheets,
along with about a dozen of the original letters. After a good deal of
negotiation with this personage, Curll obtained fifty copies of P.T.'s
printed copies, and issued a flaming advertisement announcing the
publication of Pope's letters for thirty years, and stating that the
original MSS. were lying at his shop, and might be seen by any who
chose,--although not a single MS. seems to have been delivered. Smith,
the day that the advertisement appeared, handed over, for a sum of
money, about three hundred volumes to Curll. But as in the advertisement
it was stated that various letters of lords were included, and as there
is a law amongst regulations of the Upper House that no peer's letters
can be published without his consent, at the instance of the Earl of
Jersey, and in consequence, too, of an advertisement of Pope's, the
books were seized, and Curll, and the printer of the paper where the
advertisement appeared, were ordered to appear at the bar for breach of
privilege. P.T. wrote Curll to tell him to conceal all that passed
between him and the publisher, and promising him more valuable letters
still. Curll, however, told the whole story; and as, when the books were
examined, not a single lord's letter was found among them, Curll was
acquitted, his books restored to him, the lords saying that they had
been made the tools of Pope; and he proceeded to advertise the
correspondence, in terms most insulting to Pope, who now felt himself
compelled (!) to print, by subscription, his genuine letters, which,
when printed, turned out, strange to tell, to be identical with those
published by the rapacious bookseller! On viewing the whole transaction,
we incline with Johnson, Warton, Bowles, Macaulay, and Carruthers, to
look upon it as one of Pope's ape-like stratagems--to believe that P.T.
was himself, Smith his agent, and that his objects were partly to outwit
Curll, to mystify the public, to gratify that strange love of
manoeuvring which dwelt as strongly in him as in any match-making mamma,
and to attract interest and attention to the genuine correspondence when
it should appear. Pope, it was said, could not "drink tea without a
stratagem," and far less publish his correspondence without a series of
contemptible tricks--tricks, however, in which he was true to his
nature--_that_ being a curious compound of the woman and the wit, the
monkey and the genius.
In 1737, four of his Imitations of Horace were published, and in the
next year appeared two Dialogues, each entitled "1738," which now form
the Epilogue to the Satires. One of them was issued on the same day with
Johnson's "London." In that year, too, he published his "Universal
Prayer,"--a singular specimen of latitudinarian thought, expressed in a
loose simplicity of language, quite unusual with its author. The next
year he had intended to signalise by a third Dialogue, which he
commenced in a vigorous style, but which he did not finish, owing to the
dread of a prosecution before the Lords; and with the exception of
letters (one of them interesting, as his last to Swift), his pen was
altogether idle. In 1740, he did nothing but edit an edition of select
Italian Poets. This year, Crousaz, a Swiss professor of note, having
attacked (we think most justly) the "Essay on Man" as a mere Pagan
prolusion--a thin philosophical smile cast on the Gordian knot of the
mystery of the universe, instead of a _sword_ cutting, or trying to cut,
it in sunder--Warburton, a man of much talent and learning, but of more
astuteness and anxiety to exalt himself, came forward to the rescue,
and, with a mixture of casuistical cunning and real ingenuity, tried, as
some one has it, "to make Pope a Christian," although, even in
Warburton's hands, like the dying Donald Bane in "Waverley," he "makes
but a queer Christian after all;" and his system, essentially
Pantheistic, contrives to ignore the grand Scripture principles of a
Fall, of a Divine Redeemer, of a Future World, and the glorious light or
darkness which these and other Christian doctrines cast upon the Mystery
of Man. If, however, Warburton, with all his scholastic subtlety, failed
to make Pope a Christian, he made him a warm friend; Allen, Pope's
acquaintance, a rich father-in-law; and himself, by and by, the Bishop
of Gloucester. Sophistry has seldom, although sometimes, been thus
The last scene of Pope's tiny and tortured existence was now at hand.
But ere it closed, it must close like Dryden's, characteristically, with
an author's quarrel. Colley Cibber had long been a favourite of Pope's
ire, and had as often retorted scorn, till at last, by laughing upon the
stage at Pope's play (partly Gay's), entitled, "Three Hours After
Marriage," he roused the bard almost to frenzy; and Pope set to work to
remodel "The Dunciad;" and, dethroning Theobald, set up Cibber as the
lawful King of the Dull,--a most unfortunate substitution, since, while
Theobald was the ideal of stolid, solemn stupidity, Cibber was gay,
light, pert, and clever; full of pluck, too, and who overflowed in
reply, with pamphlets which gave Pope both a headache and a heartache
whenever he perused them.
Pope had never been strong, and for many years the variety and multitude
of his frailties had been increasing. He had habitually all his life
been tormented with headaches, for which he found the steam of strong
coffee the chief remedy. He had hurt his stomach, too, by indulging in
excess of stimulating viands, such as potted lampreys, and in copious
and frequent _drams_. He was assailed at last by dropsy and asthma; and
on the 30th of May 1744, he breathed his last, fifty-six years of age.
He had long, he said, "been tired of the world," and died with
philosophic composure and serenity. He took the sacrament according to
the form of the Roman Catholic Church; but merely, he said, because it
"looked right." A little before his death, he called for his desk, and
began an essay on the immortality of the soul, and on those material
things which tend to weaken or to strengthen it for immortality,--
enumerating generous wines as among the latter influences, and
spirituous liquors among the former! His last words were, "There is
nothing that is meritorious but virtue and friendship; and, indeed,
friendship itself is only a part of virtue." Thus, "motionless and
moanless," without a word about Christ--the slightest syllable of
repentance--and with a scrap of heathen morality in his mouth, died the
brilliant Alexander Pope. Who is ready to say, "May my last end be like
his"? His favourite Martha Blount behaved, according to some accounts,
with disgusting unconcern on the occasion. So true it is, "there is no
friendship among the wicked," even although the heartless Bolingbroke,
too, was by, and seems to have succeeded in squeezing out some crocodile
tears, as he bent over the dying poet, and said, "O God! what is man?"
His remains were, according to his wish, deposited in Twickenham church,
near his parents, where the single letter P on the stone alone
distinguishes the spot.
Pope's character, apart from his poetry, which we intend criticising in
our next volume, was not specially interesting or elevated. He was a
spoiled child, a small self-tormentor,--full to bursting with petty
spites, mean animosities, and unfounded jealousies. While he sought,
with the fury of a pampered slave, to trample on those authors that were
beneath him in rank or in popularity, he could on all occasions fawn
with the sycophancy of a eunuch upon the noble, the rich, and the
powerful. Hazlitt speaks of Moore as a "pug-dog barking from the lap of
a lady of quality at inferior passengers." The description is far more
applicable to Pope. We have much allowance to make for the influence
exerted on his mind by his singularly crooked frame and sickly habit of
body, by his position as belonging to a proscribed faith, and by his
want of training in a public school; but after all these deductions, we
cannot but deplore the spectacle of one of the finest, clearest, and
sharpest minds that England ever produced, so frequently reminding you
of a bright sting set in the body, and steeped in the venom, of a wasp.
And yet, withal, he possessed many virtues, which endeared him to a
multitude of friends. He was a kind son. He was a faithful and devoted
friend. He loved, if not _man_, yet many men with deep tenderness. A
keen politician he was not; but, so far as he went along with his party,
he was true to the common cause. In morals, he was greatly superior, in
point of external decorum, to most of the wits of the time; but in
falsehood, finesse, treachery, and envy, he stood at the bottom of the
list, without that plea of poverty, or wretchedness, or despair, which
so many of them might have urged. Uneasy, indeed, he always, and unhappy
he often, was; but very much of his uneasiness and unhappiness sprung
from his own fault. He attacked others, and could not bear to be
attacked in return. He was a bully and a coward. He threw himself into a
thorn-hedge, and was amazed that he came out covered with scratches and
blood. While he shone in satirising many kinds of vice, he laid himself
open to retort by his own want of delicacy. He, as well as Swift, was
fond of alluding in his verse to polluted and forbidden things. _There_,
and there alone, his taste deserted him; and there is something
disgusting and unnatural in the combination of the elegant and the
obscene--the coarse in sentiment and the polished in style. And whatever
may be said for many of the amiable traits of the Man, there is very
little to be said for the general tendency--so far as healthy morality
and Christian principle are concerned--of the writings of the Poet.
Spring, the First Pastoral, or Damon
Summer, the Second Pastoral, or Alexis
Autumn, the Third Pastoral, or Hylas and AEgon
Winter, the Fourth Pastoral, or Daphne
AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM--
THE RAPE OF THE LOCK--
ODE ON ST CECILIA'S DAY
TWO CHORUSES TO THE TRAGEDY OF BRUTUS--
Chorus of Athenians
Chorus of Youths and Virgins
TO THE AUTHOR OF A POEM ENTITLED SUCCESSIO
ODE ON SOLITUDE
THE DYING CHRISTIAN TO HIS SOUL
ELEGY TO THE MEMORY OF AN UNFORTUNATE LADY
PROLOGUE TO MR ADDISON'S TRAGEDY OF CATO
IMITATIONS OF ENGLISH POETS--
Of a Lady Singing to her Lute
On a Fan of the Author's Design
Earl of Rochester--
Earl of Dorset--
The Happy Life of a Country Parson
THE TEMPLE OF FAME
ELOISA TO ABELARD
EPISTLE TO ROBERT EARL OF OXFORD AND EARL MORTIMER
EPISTLE TO JAMES CRAGGS, ESQ.
EPISTLE TO MR JERVAS
EPISTLE TO MISS BLOUNT
EPISTLE TO MRS TERESA BLOUNT
TO MRS M.B. ON HER BIRTHDAY
TO MR THOMAS SOUTHERN, ON HIS BIRTHDAY, 1742
TO MR JOHN MOORE
TO MR C., ST JAMES'S PLACE
On Charles Earl of Dorset
On Sir William Trumbull
On the Hon. Simon Harcourt
On James Craggs, Esq.
Intended for Mr Rowe
On Mrs Corbet
On the Monument of the Honourable Robert Digby, and his Sister Mary
On Sir Godfrey Kneller
On General Henry Withers
On Mr Elijah Fenton
On Mr Gay
Intended for Sir Isaac Newton
On Dr Francis Atterbury
On Edmund Duke of Buckingham
For One who would not be Buried in Westminster Abbey
Another, on the same
On two Lovers struck dead by Lightning
AN ESSAY ON MAN--
EPISTLE TO DR AKBUTHNOT; OR, PROLOGUE TO THE SATIRES
SATIRES AND EPISTLES OF HORACE IMITATED--
Satire I. To Mr Fortescue
Satire II. To Mr Bethel
THE FIRST EPISTLE OF THE FIRST BOOK OF HORACE--
To Lord Bolingbroke
THE SIXTH EPISTLE OF THE FIRST BOOK OF HORACE--
To Mr Murray
THE FIRST EPISTLE OF THE SECOND BOOK OF HORACE--
THE SECOND EPISTLE OF THE SECOND BOOK OF HORACE--
Book I. Epistle VII.
Book II. Satire VI.
Book IV. Ode I.
Part of the Ninth Ode of the Fourth Book
THE SATIRES OF DR JOHN VERSIFIED--
EPILOGUE TO THE SATIRES: IN TWO DIALOGUES--
POPE'S POETICAL WORKS.
I am inclined to think that both the writers of books, and the readers
of them, are generally not a little unreasonable in their expectations.
The first seem to fancy that the world must approve whatever they
produce, and the latter to imagine that authors are obliged to please
them at any rate. Methinks, as on the one hand, no single man is born
with a right of controlling the opinions of all the rest; so, on the
other, the world has no title to demand that the whole care and time of
any particular person should be sacrificed to its entertainment.
Therefore I cannot but believe that writers and readers are under equal
obligations for as much fame, or pleasure, as each affords the other.
Every one acknowledges, it would be a wild notion to expect perfection
in any work of man: and yet one would think the contrary was taken for
granted, by the judgment commonly passed upon poems. A critic supposes
he has done his part, if he proves a writer to have failed in an
expression, or erred in any particular point: and can it then be
wondered at, if the poets in general seem resolved not to own themselves
in any error? For as long as one side will make no allowances, the other
will be brought to no acknowledgments.
I am afraid this extreme zeal on both sides is ill-placed; poetry and
criticism being by no means the universal concern of the world, but only
the affair of idle men who write in their closets, and of idle men who
Yet sure, upon the whole, a bad author deserves better usage than a bad
critic; for a writer's endeavour, for the most part, is to please his
readers, and he fails merely through the misfortune of an ill judgment;
but such a critic's is to put them out of humour,--a design he could
never go upon without both that and an ill temper.
I think a good deal may be said to extenuate the fault of bad poets.
What we call a genius, is hard to be distinguished by a man himself from
a strong inclination: and if his genius be ever so great, he cannot at
first discover it any other way than by giving way to that prevalent
propensity which renders him the more liable to be mistaken. The only
method he has is to make the experiment by writing, and appealing to the
judgment of others: now if he happens to write ill (which is certainly
no sin in itself) he is immediately made an object of ridicule. I wish
we had the humanity to reflect, that even the worst authors might, in
their endeavour to please us, deserve something at our hands. We have no
cause to quarrel with them but for their obstinacy in persisting to
write; and this too may admit of alleviating circumstances. Their
particular friends may be either ignorant or insincere; and the rest of
the world in general is too well bred to shock them with a truth which
generally their booksellers are the first that inform them of. This
happens not till they have spent too much of their time to apply to any
profession which might better fit their talents, and till such talents
as they have are so far discredited as to be but of small service to
them. For (what is the hardest case imaginable) the reputation of a man
generally depends upon the first steps he makes in the world; and people
will establish their opinion of us from what we do at that season when
we have least judgment to direct us.
On the other hand, a good poet no sooner communicates his works with the
same desire of information, but it is imagined he is a vain young
creature given up to the ambition of fame; when perhaps the poor man is
all the while trembling with the fear of being ridiculous. If he is made
to hope he may please the world, he falls under very unlucky
circumstances: for, from the moment he prints, he must expect to hear no
more truth than if he were a prince, or a beauty. If he has not very
good sense (and indeed there are twenty men of wit for one man of
sense), his living thus in a course of flattery may put him in no small
danger of becoming a coxcomb: if he has, he will consequently have so
much diffidence as not to reap any great satisfaction from his praise;
since, if it be given to his face, it can scarce be distinguished from
flattery, and if in his absence, it is hard to be certain of it. Were he
sure to be commended by the best and most knowing, he is as sure of
being envied by the worst and most ignorant, which are the majority; for
it is with a fine genius as with a fine fashion, all those are
displeased at it who are not able to follow it: and it is to be feared
that esteem will seldom do any man so much good as ill-will does him
harm. Then there is a third class of people, who make the largest part
of mankind, those of ordinary or indifferent capacities; and these (to a
man) will hate, or suspect him: a hundred honest gentlemen will dread
him as a wit, and a hundred innocent women as a satirist. In a word,
whatever be his fate in poetry, it is ten to one but he must give up all
the reasonable aims of life for it. There are indeed some advantages
accruing from a genius to poetry, and they are all I can think of: the
agreeable power of self-amusement when a man is idle or alone; the
privilege of being admitted into the best company; and the freedom of
saying as many careless things as other people, without being so
severely remarked upon.
I believe, if any one, early in his life, should contemplate the
dangerous fate of authors, he would scarce be of their number on any
consideration. The life of a wit is a warfare upon earth; and the
present spirit of the learned world is such, that to attempt to serve it
(any way) one must have the constancy of a martyr, and a resolution to
suffer for its sake. I could wish people would believe, what I am pretty
certain they will not, that I have been much less concerned about fame
than I durst declare till this occasion, when methinks I should find
more credit than I could heretofore: since my writings have had their
fate already, and it is too late to think of prepossessing the reader in
their favour. I would plead it as some merit in me, that the world has
never been prepared for these trifles by prefaces, biased by
recommendations, dazzled with the names of great patrons, wheedled with
fine reasons and pretences, or troubled with excuses. I confess it was
want of consideration that made me an author; I writ because it amused
me; I corrected because it was as pleasant to me to correct as to write;
and I published because I was told I might please such as it was a
credit to please. To what degree I have done this, I am really ignorant;
I had too much fondness for my productions to judge of them at first,
and too much judgment to be pleased with them at last. But I have reason
to think they can have no reputation which will continue long, or which
deserves to do so: for they have always fallen short, not only of what I
read of others, but even of my own ideas of poetry.
If any one should imagine I am not in earnest, I desire him to reflect
that the ancients (to say the least of them) had as much genius as we:
and that to take more pains, and employ more time, cannot fail to
produce more complete pieces. They constantly applied themselves not
only to that art, but to that single branch of an art, to which their
talent was most powerfully bent; and it was the business of their lives
to correct and finish their works for posterity. If we can pretend to
have used the same industry, let us expect the same immortality: though
if we took the same care, we should still lie under a further
misfortune: they writ in languages that became universal and
everlasting, while ours are extremely limited both in extent and in
duration. A mighty foundation for our pride! when the utmost we can hope
is but to be read in one island, and to be thrown aside at the end of
All that is left us is to recommend our productions by the imitation of
the ancients; and it will be found true, that, in every age, the highest
character for sense and learning has been obtained by those who have
been most indebted to them. For, to say truth, whatever is very good
sense must have been common sense in all times; and what we call
learning is but the knowledge of the sense of our predecessors.
Therefore they who say our thoughts are not our own, because they
resemble the ancients, may as well say our faces are not our own,
because they are like our fathers: and indeed it is very unreasonable
that people should expect us to be scholars, and yet be angry to find us
I fairly confess that I have served myself all I could by reading; that
I made use of the judgment of authors dead and living; that I omitted no
means in my power to be informed of my errors, both by my friends and
enemies: but the true reason these pieces are not more correct, is owing
to the consideration how short a time they and I have to live: one may
be ashamed to consume half one's days in bringing sense and rhyme
together; and what critic can be so unreasonable as not to leave a man
time enough for any more serious employment, or more agreeable
The only plea I shall use for the favour of the public is, that I have
as great a respect for it as most authors have for themselves; and that
I have sacrificed much of my own self-love for its sake, in preventing
not only many mean things from seeing the light, but many which I
thought tolerable. I would not be like those authors who forgive
themselves some particular lines for the sake of a whole poem, and _vice
versa_ a whole poem for the sake of some particular lines. I believe no
one qualification is so likely to make a good writer as the power of
rejecting his own thoughts; and it must be this (if anything) that can
give me a chance to be one. For what I have published, I can only hope
to be pardoned; but for what I have burned, I deserve to be praised. On
this account the world is under some obligation to me, and owes me the
justice in return to look upon no verses as mine that are not inserted
in this collection. And perhaps nothing could make it worth my while to
own what are really so, but to avoid the imputation of so many dull and
immoral things as, partly by malice, and partly by ignorance, have been
ascribed to me. I must further acquit myself of the presumption of
having lent my name to recommend any miscellanies or works of other men;
a thing I never thought becoming a person who has hardly credit enough
to answer for his own.
In this office of collecting my pieces, I am altogether uncertain
whether to look upon myself as a man building a monument, or burying the
dead. If time shall make it the former, may these poems (as long as they
last) remain as a testimony that their author never made his talents
subservient to the mean and unworthy ends of party or self-interest; the
gratification of public prejudices or private passions; the flattery of
the undeserving or the insult of the unfortunate. If I have written
well, let it be considered that 'tis what no man can do without good
sense,--a quality that not only renders one capable of being a good
writer, but a good man. And if I have made any acquisition in the
opinion of any one under the notion of the former, let it be continued
to me under no other title than that of the latter.
But if this publication be only a more solemn funeral of my remains, I
desire it may be known that I die in charity and in my senses, without
any murmurs against the justice of this age, or any mad appeals to
posterity. I declare I shall think the world in the right, and quietly
submit to every truth which time shall discover to the prejudice of
these writings; not so much as wishing so irrational a thing, as that
every body should be deceived merely for my credit. However, I desire it
may then be considered that there are very few things in this collection
which were not written under the age of five-and-twenty: so that my
youth may be made (as it never fails to be in executions) a case of
compassion. That I was never so concerned about my works as to vindicate
them in print; believing, if any thing was good, it would defend itself,
and what was bad could never be defended. That I used no artifice to
raise or continue a reputation, depreciated no dead author I was obliged
to, bribed no living one with unjust praise, insulted no adversary with
ill language: or, when I could not attack a rival's works, encouraged
reports against his morals. To conclude, if this volume perish, let it
serve as a warning to the critics, not to take too much pains for the
future to destroy such things as will die of themselves; and a _memento
mori_ to some of my vain cotemporaries the poets, to teach them that,
when real merit is wanting, it avails nothing to have been encouraged by
the great, commended by the eminent, and favoured by the public in
November 10, 1716.
VARIATIONS IN THE AUTHOR'S MANUSCRIPT PREFACE.
After the words 'severely remarked on,' p. 2, l. 41, it followed
thus--For my part, I confess, had I seen things in this view at first,
the public had never been troubled either with my writings, or with this
apology for them. I am sensible how difficult it is to speak of one's
self with decency: but when a man must speak of himself, the best way is
to speak truth of himself, or, he may depend upon it, others will do it
for him. I'll therefore make this preface a general confession of all my
thoughts of my own poetry, resolving with the same freedom to expose
myself, as it is in the power of any other to expose them. In the first
place, I thank God and nature that I was born with a love to poetry; for
nothing more conduces to fill up all the intervals of our time, or, if
rightly used, to make the whole course of life entertaining: _Cantantes
licet usque_ (_minus via laedet_). 'Tis a vast happiness to possess the
pleasures of the head, the only pleasures in which a man is sufficient
to himself, and the only part of him which, to his satisfaction, he can
employ all day long. The Muses are _amicae omnium horarum_; and, like
our gay acquaintance, the best company in the world as long as one
expects no real service from them. I confess there was a time when I was
in love with myself, and my first productions were the children of
Self-Love upon Innocence. I had made an epic poem, and panegyrics on all
the princes in Europe, and thought myself the greatest genius that ever
was. I can't but regret those delightful visions of my childhood, which,
like the fine colours we see when our eyes are shut, are vanished for
ever. Many trials and sad experience have so undeceived me by degrees,
that I am utterly at a loss at what rate to value myself. As for fame, I
shall be glad of any I can get, and not repine at any I miss; and as for
vanity, I have enough to keep me from hanging myself, or even from
wishing those hanged who would take it away. It was this that made me
write. The sense of my faults made me correct.
After the words 'angry to find us so,' p. 3, l. 36, occurred the
following--In the first place I own that I have used my best endeavours
to the finishing these pieces. That I made what advantage I could of the
judgment of authors dead and living; and that I omitted no means in my
power to be informed of my errors by my friends and by my enemies. And
that I expect no favour on account of my youth, business, want of
health, or any such idle excuses. But the true reason they are not yet
more correct is owing to the consideration how short a time they and I
have to live. A man that can expect but sixty years may be ashamed to
employ thirty in measuring syllables and bringing sense and rhyme
together. To spend our youth in pursuit of riches or fame, in hopes to
enjoy them when we are old; and when we are old, we find it is too late
to enjoy any thing. I therefore hope the wits will pardon me, if I
reserve some of my time to save my soul; and that some wise men will be
of my opinion, even if I should think a part of it better spent in the
enjoyments of life than in pleasing the critics.
WITH A DISCOURSE ON PASTORAL POETRY.
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR MDCCIV.
Rura mihi et rigui placeant in vallibus amnes,
Flumina amem, sylvasque, inglorius!
There are not, I believe, a greater number of any sort of verses than of
those which are called Pastorals; nor a smaller, than of those which are
truly so. It therefore seems necessary to give some account of this kind
of poem; and it is my design to comprise in this short paper the
substance of those numerous dissertations the critics have made on the
subject, without omitting any of their rules in my own favour. You will
also find some points reconciled, about which they seem to differ, and a
few remarks which, I think, have escaped their observation.
The original of poetry is ascribed to that age which succeeded the
creation of the world: and as the keeping of flocks seems to have been
the first employment of mankind, the most ancient sort of poetry was
probably _pastoral_. It is natural to imagine, that the leisure of those
ancient shepherds admitting and inviting some diversion, none was so
proper to that solitary and sedentary life as singing; and that in their
songs they took occasion to celebrate their own felicity. From hence a
poem was invented, and afterwards improved to a perfect image of that
happy time; which, by giving us an esteem for the virtues of a former
age, might recommend them to the present. And since the life of
shepherds was attended with more tranquility than any other rural
employment, the poets chose to introduce their persons, from whom it
received the name of "pastoral."
A pastoral is an imitation of the action of a shepherd, or one
considered under that character. The form of this imitation is dramatic,
or narrative, or mixed of both; the fable simple, the manners not too
polite nor too rustic: the thoughts are plain, yet admit a little
quickness and passion, but that short and flowing: the expression
humble, yet as pure as the language will afford; neat, but not florid;
easy and yet lively. In short, the fable, manners, thoughts, and
expressions are full of the greatest simplicity in nature.
The complete character of this poem consists in simplicity, brevity, and
delicacy; the two first of which render an eclogue natural, and the last
If we would copy nature, it may be useful to take this idea along with
us, that pastoral is an image of what they call the Golden Age. So that
we are not to describe our shepherds as shepherds at this day really
are, but as they may be conceived then to have been, when the best of
men followed the employment. To carry this resemblance yet further, it
would not be amiss to give these shepherds some skill in astronomy, as
far as it may be useful to that sort of life. And an air of piety to the
gods should shine through the poem, which so visibly appears in all the
works of antiquity: and it ought to preserve some relish of the old way
of writing; the connexion should be loose, the narrations and
descriptions short, and the periods concise. Yet it is not sufficient,
that the sentences only be brief, the whole eclogue should be so too.
For we cannot suppose poetry in those days to have been the business of
men, but their recreation at vacant hours.
But with respect to the present age, nothing more conduces to make these
composures natural than when some knowledge in rural affairs is
discovered. This may be made to appear rather done by chance than on
design, and sometimes is best shown by inference; lest by too much study
to seem natural, we destroy that easy simplicity from whence arises the
delight. For what is inviting in this sort of poetry, proceeds not so
much from the idea of that business, as of the tranquility of a country
We must therefore use some illusion to render a pastoral delightful; and
this consists in exposing the best side only of a shepherd's life, and
in concealing its miseries. Nor is it enough to introduce shepherds
discoursing together in a natural way; but a regard must be had to the
subject--that it contain some particular beauty in itself, and that it
be different in every eclogue. Besides, in each of them a designed scene
or prospect is to be presented to our view, which should likewise have
its variety. This variety is obtained in a great degree by frequent
comparisons, drawn from the most agreeable objects of the country; by
interrogations to things inanimate; by beautiful digressions, but those
short; sometimes by insisting a little on circumstances; and lastly, by
elegant turns on the words, which render the numbers extremely sweet and
pleasing. As for the numbers themselves, though they are properly of the
heroic measure, they should be the smoothest, the most easy and flowing
It is by rules like these that we ought to judge of pastorals. And since
the instructions given for any art are to be delivered as that art is in
perfection, they must of necessity be derived from those in whom it is
acknowledged so to be. It is therefore from the practice of Theocritus
and Virgil (the only undisputed authors of pastoral) that the critics
have drawn the foregoing notions concerning it.
Theocritus excels all others in nature and simplicity. The subjects of
his 'Idyllia' are purely pastoral; but he is not so exact in his
persons, having introduced reapers and fishermen as well as shepherds.
He is apt to be too long in his descriptions, of which that of the cup
in the first pastoral is a remarkable instance. In the manners he seems
a little defective, for his swains are sometimes abusive and immodest,
and perhaps too much inclining to rusticity; for instance, in his fourth
and fifth 'Idyllia.' But 'tis enough that all others learnt their
excellencies from him, and that his dialect alone has a secret charm in
it, which no other could ever attain.
Virgil, who copies Theocritus, refines upon his original: and in all
points where judgment is principally concerned, he is much superior to
Though some of his subjects are not pastoral in themselves, but only
seem to be such, they have a wonderful variety in them, which the Greek
was a stranger to. He exceeds him in regularity and brevity, and falls
short of him in nothing but simplicity and propriety of style; the first
of which perhaps was the fault of his age, and the last of his language.
Among the moderns, their success has been greatest who have most
endeavoured to make these ancients their pattern. The most considerable
genius appears in the famous Tasso, and our Spenser. Tasso in his
'Aminta' has as far excelled all the pastoral writers, as in his
'Gierusalemme' he has outdone the epic poets of his country. But as this
piece seems to have been the original of a new sort of poem--the
pastoral comedy--in Italy, it cannot so well be considered as a copy of
the ancients. Spenser's Calendar, in Mr Dryden's opinion, is the most
complete work of this kind which any nation has produced ever since the
time of Virgil. Not but that he may be thought imperfect in some few
points. His Eclogues are somewhat too long, if we compare them with the
ancients. He is sometimes too allegorical, and treats of matters of
religion in a pastoral style, as the Mantuan had done before him. He has
employed the lyric measure, which is contrary to the practice of the old
poets. His stanza is not still the same, nor always well chosen. This
last may be the reason his expression is sometimes not concise enough:
for the Tetrastic has obliged him to extend his sense to the length of
four lines, which would have been more closely confined in the couplet.
In the manners, thoughts, and characters, he comes near to Theocritus
himself; though, notwithstanding all the care he has taken, he is
certainly inferior in his dialect: for the Doric had its beauty and
propriety in the time of Theocritus; it was used in part of Greece, and
frequent in the mouths of many of the greatest persons: whereas the old
English and country phrases of Spenser were either entirely obsolete, or
spoken only by people of the lowest condition. As there is a difference
betwixt simplicity and rusticity, so the expression of simple thoughts
should be plain, but not clownish. The addition he has made of a
Calendar to his Eclogues, is very beautiful; since by this, besides the
general moral of innocence and simplicity, which is common to other
authors of pastoral, he has one peculiar to himself--he compares human
life to the several seasons, and at once exposes to his readers a view
of the great and little worlds, in their various changes and aspects.
Yet the scrupulous division of his pastorals into months has obliged him
either to repeat the same description, in other words, for three months
together; or, when it was exhausted before, entirely to omit it: whence
it comes to pass that some of his Eclogues (as the sixth, eighth, and
tenth, for example) have nothing but their titles to distinguish them.
The reason is evident--because the year has not that variety in it to
furnish every month with a particular description, as it may every
Of the following eclogues I shall only say, that these four comprehend
all the subjects which the critics upon Theocritus and Virgil will allow
to be fit for pastoral: that they have as much variety of description,
in respect of the several seasons, as Spenser's: that, in order to add
to this variety, the several times of the day are observed, the rural
employments in each season or time of day, and the rural scenes or
places proper to such employments; not without some regard to the
several ages of man, and the different passions proper to each age.
But after all, if they have any merit, it is to be attributed to some
good old authors, whose works as I had leisure to study, so I hope I
have not wanted care to imitate.
THE FIRST PASTORAL, OR DAMON.
TO SIR WILLIAM TRUMBULL.
First in these fields I try the sylvan strains,
Nor blush to sport on Windsor's blissful plains:
Fair Thames, flow gently from thy sacred spring,
While on thy banks Sicilian Muses sing;
Let vernal airs through trembling osiers play,
And Albion's cliffs resound the rural lay.
You that, too wise for pride, too good for power,
Enjoy the glory to be great no more,
And, carrying with you all the world can boast,
To all the world illustriously are lost! 10
Oh, let my Muse her slender reed inspire,
Till in your native shades you tune the lyre:
So when the nightingale to rest removes,
The thrush may chant to the forsaken groves,
But, charm'd to silence, listens while she sings,
And all the aerial audience clap their wings.
Soon as the flocks shook off the nightly dews,
Two swains, whom Love kept wakeful, and the Muse,
Pour'd o'er the whitening vale their fleecy care,
Fresh as the morn, and as the season fair: 20
The dawn now blushing on the mountain's side,
Thus Daphnis spoke, and Strephou thus replied.
Hear how the birds, on every bloomy spray,
With joyous music wake the dawning day!
Why sit we mute when early linnets sing,
When warbling Philomel salutes the spring?
Why sit we sad, when Phosphor shines so clear,
And lavish Nature paints the purple year?
Sing then, and Damon shall attend the strain,
While yon slow oxen turn the furrow'd plain. 30
Here the bright crocus and blue violet glow;
Here western winds on breathing roses blow.
I'll stake yon lamb, that near the fountain plays,
And from the brink his dancing shade surveys.
And I this bowl, where wanton ivy twines,
And swelling clusters bend the curling vines:
Four Figures rising from the work appear,
The various Seasons of the rolling year;
And what is that, which binds the radiant sky,
Where twelve fair signs in beauteous order lie? 40
Then sing by turns, by turns the Muses sing;
Now hawthorns blossom, now the daisies spring;
Now leaves the trees, and flowers adorn the ground:
Begin, the vales shall every note rebound.
Inspire me, Phoebus, in my Delia's praise,
With Waller's strains, or Granville's moving lays!
A milk-white bull shall at your altars stand,
That threats a fight, and spurns the rising sand.
O Love! for Sylvia let me gain the prize,
And make my tongue victorious as her eyes; 50
No lambs or sheep for victims I'll impart,
Thy victim, Love, shall be the shepherd's heart.
Me gentle Delia beckons from the plain,
Then hid in shades, eludes her eager swain;
But feigns a laugh, to see me search around,
And by that laugh the willing fair is found.
The sprightly Sylvia trips along the green,
She runs, but hopes she does not run unseen;
While a kind glance at her pursuer flies,
How much at variance are her feet and eyes! 60
O'er golden sands let rich Pactolus flow,
And trees weep amber on the banks of Po;
Blest Thames's shores the brightest beauties yield,
Feed here, my lambs, I'll seek no distant field.
Celestial Venus haunts Idalia's groves;
Diana Cynthus, Ceres Hybla loves;
If Windsor-shades delight the matchless maid,
Cynthus and Hybla yield to Windsor-shade.
All nature mourns, the skies relent in showers,
Hush'd are the birds, and closed the drooping flowers; 70
If Delia smile, the flowers begin to spring,
The skies to brighten, and the birds to sing.
All nature laughs, the groves are fresh and fair,
The sun's mild lustre warms the vital air;
If Sylvia smiles, new glories gild the shore,
And vanquish'd Nature seems to charm no more.
In spring the fields, in autumn hills I love,
At morn the plains, at noon the shady grove,
But Delia always; absent from her sight,
Nor plains at morn, nor groves at noon delight. 80
Sylvia's like autumn ripe, yet mild as May,
More bright than noon, yet fresh as early day;
Even spring displeases, when she shines not here;
But, blest with her, 'tis spring throughout the year.
Say, Daphnis, say, in what glad soil appears,
A wondrous tree that sacred monarchs bears?
Tell me but this, and I'll disclaim the prize,
And give the conquest to thy Sylvia's eyes.
Nay, tell me first, in what more happy fields
The thistle springs, to which the lily yields? 90
And then a nobler prize I will resign;
For Sylvia, charming Sylvia shall be thine.
Cease to contend, for, Daphnis, I decree,
The bowl to Strephon, and the lamb to thee:
Blest swains, whose nymphs in every grace excel;
Blest nymphs, whose swains those graces sing so well!
Now rise, and haste to yonder woodbine bowers,
A soft retreat from sudden vernal showers;
The turf with rural dainties shall be crown'd.
While opening blooms diffuse their sweets around. 100
For see! the gath'ring flocks to shelter tend,
And from the Pleiads fruitful showers descend.
* * * * *
VER. 36. And clusters lurk beneath the curling vines.
VER. 49-52. Originally thus in the MS.--
Pan, let my numbers equal Strephon's lays,
Of Parian stone thy statue will I raise;
But if I conquer and augment my fold,
Thy Parian statue shall be changed to gold.
VER. 61-64. It stood thus at first--
Let rich Iberia golden fleeces boast,
Her purple wool the proud Assyrian coast,
Blest Thames's shores, &c.
VER. 61-68 Originally thus in the MS.--
Go, flowery wreath, and let my Sylvia know,
Compared to thine how bright her beauties show;
Then die; and dying teach the lovely maid
How soon the brightest beauties are decay'd.
Go, tuneful bird, that pleased the woods so long,
Of Amaryllis learn a sweeter song;
To Heaven arising then her notes convey,
For Heaven alone is worthy such a lay.
VER 69-73. These verses were thus at first--
All nature mourns, the birds their songs deny,
Nor wasted brooks the thirsty flowers supply;
If Delia smile, the flowers begin to spring,
The brooks to murmur, and the birds to sing.
VER. 99, 100, was originally--
The turf with country dainties shall be spread,
And trees with twining branches shade your head.
* * * * *
THE SECOND PASTORAL, OR ALEXIS.
TO DR GARTH.
A shepherd's boy (he seeks no better name)
Led forth his flocks along the silver Thame,
Where dancing sunbeams on the waters play'd,
And verdant alders form'd a quivering shade.
Soft as he mourn'd, the streams forgot to flow,
The flocks around a dumb compassion show:
The Naiads wept in every watery bower,
And Jove consented in a silent shower.
Accept, O Garth the Muse's early lays,
That adds this wreath of ivy to thy bays; 10
Hear what from love unpractised hearts endure:
From love, the sole disease thou canst not cure.
Ye shady beeches, and ye cooling streams,
Defence from Phoebus', not from Cupid's beams,
To you I mourn, nor to the deaf I sing,
'The woods shall answer, and their echo ring.'
The hills and rocks attend my doleful lay;
Why art thou prouder and more hard than they?
The bleating sheep with my complaints agree,
They parch'd with heat, and I inflamed by thee. 20
The sultry Sirius burns the thirsty plains,
While in thy heart eternal winter reigns.
Where stray ye, Muses, in what lawn or grove,
While your Alexis pines in hopeless love?
In those fair fields where sacred Isis glides,
Or else where Cam his winding vales divides?
As in the crystal spring I view my face,
Fresh rising blushes paint the watery glass;
But since those graces please thy eyes no more,
I shun the fountains which I sought before. 30
Once I was skill'd in every herb that grew,
And every plant that drinks the morning dew;
Ah, wretched shepherd, what avails thy art,
To cure thy lambs, but not to heal thy heart!
Let other swains attend the rural care,
Feed fairer flocks, or richer fleeces shear:
But nigh yon mountain let me tune my lays,
Embrace my love, and bind my brows with bays.
That flute is mine which Colin's tuneful breath
Inspired when living, and bequeath'd in death; 40
He said, 'Alexis, take this pipe--the same
That taught the groves my Rosalinda's name:'
But now the reeds shall hang on yonder tree,
For ever silent, since despised by thee.
Oh! were I made by some transforming power
The captive bird that sings within thy bower!
Then might my voice thy listening ears employ,
And I those kisses he receives, enjoy.
And yet my numbers please the rural throng,
Rough Satyrs dance, and Pan applauds the song: 50
The Nymphs, forsaking every cave and spring,
Their early fruit, and milk-white turtles bring;
Each amorous nymph prefers her gifts in vain.
On you their gifts are all bestow'd again.
For you the swains the fairest flowers design,
And in one garland all their beauties join;
Accept the wreath which you deserve alone,
In whom all beauties are comprised in one.
See what delights in sylvan scenes appear!
Descending gods have found Elysium here. 60
In woods bright Venus with Adonis stray'd,
And chaste Diana haunts the forest shade.
Come, lovely nymph, and bless the silent hours,
When swains from shearing seek their nightly bowers,
When weary reapers quit the sultry field,
And crown'd with corn their thanks to Ceres yield;
This harmless grove no lurking viper hides,
But in my breast the serpent love abides.
Here bees from blossoms sip the rosy dew,
But your Alexis knows no sweets but you. 70
Oh, deign to visit our forsaken seats,
The mossy fountains, and the green retreats!
Where'er you walk, cool gales shall fan the glade,
Trees, where you sit, shall crowd into a shade:
Where'er you tread, the blushing flowers shall rise,
And all things flourish where you turn your eyes.
Oh, how I long with you to pass my days,
Invoke the Muses, and resound your praise!
Your praise the birds shall chant in every grove,
And winds shall waft it to the Powers above. 80
But would you sing, and rival Orpheus' strain,
The wondering forests soon should dance again,
The moving mountains hear the powerful call,
And headlong streams hang listening in their fall!
But see, the shepherds shun the noonday heat,
The lowing herds to murmuring brooks retreat,
To closer shades the panting flocks remove;
Ye gods! and is there no relief for love?
But soon the sun with milder rays descends
To the cool ocean, where his journey ends: 90
On me Love's fiercer flames for ever prey,
By night he scorches, as he burns by day.
* * * * *
VER. 1-4 were thus printed in the first edition--
A faithful swain, whom Love had taught to sing,
Bewail'd his fate beside a silver spring;
Where gentle Thames his winding waters leads
Through verdant forests, and through flowery meads.
VER. 3, 4. Originally thus in the MS.--
There to the winds he plain'd his hapless love,
And Amaryllis fill'd the vocal grove.
Oft in the crystal spring I cast a view,
And equall'd Hylas, if the glass be true;
But since those graces meet my eyes no more
I shun, &c.
VER. 79, 80--
Your praise the tuneful birds to heaven shall bear,
And listening wolves grow milder as they hear.
Me love inflames, nor will his fires allay.
THE THIRD PASTORAL, Or HYLAS AND AEGON.
TO MR WYCHERLEY.
Beneath the shade a spreading beech displays,
Hylas and AEgon sung their rural lays;
This mourn'd a faithless, that an absent love.
And Delia's name and Doris' fill'd the grove.
Ye Mantuan nymphs, your sacred succour bring;
Hylas and AEgon's rural lays I sing.
Thou, whom the Nine with Plautus' wit inspire,
The art of Terence, and Menander's fire;
Whose sense instructs us, and whose humour charms,
Whose judgment sways us, and whose spirit warms! 10
Oh, skill'd in Nature! see the hearts of swains,
Their artless passions, and their tender pains.
Now setting Phoebus shone serenely bright,
And fleecy clouds were streak'd with purple light;
When tuneful Hylas, with melodious moan,
Taught rocks to weep, and made the mountains groan.
Go, gentle gales, and bear my sighs away!
To Delia's ear the tender notes convey.
As some sad turtle his lost love deplores,
And with deep murmurs fills the sounding shores, 20
Thus, far from Delia, to the winds I mourn,
Alike unheard, unpitied, and forlorn.
Go, gentle gales, and bear my sighs along!
For her, the feather'd choirs neglect their song:
For her, the limes their pleasing shades deny;
For her, the lilies hang their heads and die.
Ye flowers that droop, forsaken by the spring,
Ye birds that, left by summer, cease to sing,
Ye trees that fade when autumn-heats remove,
Say, is not absence death to those who love? 30
Go, gentle gales, and bear my sighs away!
Cursed be the fields that cause my Delia's stay;
Fade every blossom, wither every tree,
Die every flower, and perish all but she.
What have I said? Where'er my Delia flies,
Let spring attend, and sudden flowers arise;
Let opening roses knotted oaks adorn,
And liquid amber drop from every thorn.
Go, gentle gales, and bear my sighs along!
The birds shall cease to tune their evening song, 40
The winds to breathe, the waving woods to move,
And streams to murmur, ere I cease to love.
Not bubbling fountains to the thirsty swain,
Not balmy sleep to labourers faint with pain,
Not showers to larks, or sunshine to the bee,
Are half so charming as thy sight to me.
Go, gentle gales, and bear my sighs away!
Come, Delia, come; ah, why this long delay?
Through rocks and caves the name of Delia sounds,
Delia, each care and echoing rock rebounds. 50
Ye Powers, what pleasing frenzy soothes my mind!
Do lovers dream, or is my Delia kind?
She comes, my Delia comes!--Now cease, my lay,
And cease, ye gales, to bear my sighs away!
Next AEgon sung, while Windsor groves admired;
Rehearse, ye Muses, what yourselves inspired.
Resound, ye hills, resound my mournful strain!
Of perjured Doris, dying I complain:
Here where the mountains, lessening as they rise,
Lose the low vales, and steal into the skies: 60
While labouring oxen, spent with toil and heat,
In their loose traces from the field retreat:
While curling smokes from village-tops are seen,
And the fleet shades glide o'er the dusky green.
Resound, ye hills, resound my mournful lay!
Beneath yon poplar oft we pass'd the day:
Oft on the rind I carved her amorous vows,
While she with garlands hung the bending boughs:
The garlands fade, the vows are worn away;
So dies her love, and so my hopes decay. 70
Resound, ye hills, resound my mournful strain!
Now bright Arcturus glads the teeming grain,
Now golden fruits on loaded branches shine,
And grateful clusters swell with floods of wine;
Now blushing berries paint the yellow grove;
Just gods! shall all things yield returns but love?
Resound, ye hills, resound my mournful lay!
The shepherds cry, 'Thy flocks are left a prey'--
Ah! what avails it me, the flocks to keep,
Who lost my heart--while I preserved my sheep. 80
Pan came, and ask'd, what magic caused my smart,
Or what ill eyes malignant glances dart?
What eyes but hers, alas, have power to move?
And is there magic but what dwells in love?
Resound, ye hills, resound my mournful strains!
I'll fly from shepherds, flocks, and flowery plains.
From shepherds, flocks, and plains, I may remove,
Forsake mankind, and all the world--but Love!
I know thee, Love! on foreign mountains bred,
Wolves gave thee suck, and savage tigers fed. 90
Thou wert from Etna's burning entrails torn,
Got by fierce whirlwinds, and in thunder born!
Resound, ye hills, resound my mournful lay!
Farewell, ye woods; adieu, the light of day!
One leap from yonder cliff shall end my pains;
No more, ye hills, no more resound my strains!
Thus sung the shepherds till the approach of night,
The skies yet blushing with departing light,
When falling dews with spangles deck'd the glade,
And the low sun had lengthen'd every shade. 100
* * * * *
VER. 48-5l--Originally thus in the MS.--
With him through Libya's burning plains I'll go,
On Alpine mountains tread the eternal snow;
Yet feel no heat but what our loves impart,
And dread no coldness but in Thyrsis' heart.
THE FOURTH PASTORAL, OR DAPHNE.
TO THE MEMORY OF MRS TEMPEST.
Thyrsis, the music of that murmuring spring
Is not so mournful as the strains you sing;
Nor rivers winding through the vales below,
So sweetly warble, or so smoothly flow.
Now sleeping flocks on their soft fleeces lie,
The moon, serene in glory, mounts the sky,
While silent birds forget their tuneful lays,
Oh sing of Daphne's fate, and Daphne's praise!
Behold the groves that shine with silver frost,
Their beauty wither'd, and their verdure lost. 10
Here shall I try the sweet Alexis' strain,
That call'd the listening Dryads to the plain?
Thames heard the numbers as he flow'd along,
And bade his willows learn the moving song.
So may kind rains their vital moisture yield
And swell the future harvest of the field.
Begin; this charge the dying Daphne gave,
And said, 'Ye shepherds, sing around my grave!'
Sing, while beside the shaded tomb I mourn,
And with fresh bays her rural shrine adorn. 20
Ye gentle Muses, leave your crystal spring,
Let nymphs and sylvans cypress garlands bring;
Ye weeping Loves, the stream with myrtles hide,
And break your bows, as when Adonis died;
And with your golden darts, now useless grown,
Inscribe a verse on this relenting stone:
'Let Nature change, let Heaven and Earth deplore,
Fair Daphne's dead, and Love is now no more!'
'Tis done, and Nature's various charms decay;
See gloomy clouds obscure the cheerful day! 30
Now hung with pearls the dropping trees appear,
Their faded honours scatter'd on her bier.
See where, on earth, the flowery glories lie,
With her they flourish'd, and with her they die.
Ah, what avail the beauties Nature wore,
Fair Daphne's dead, and Beauty is no more!
For her the flocks refuse their verdant food,
The thirsty heifers shun the gliding flood,
The silver swans her hapless fate bemoan,
In notes more sad than when they sing their own; 40
In hollow caves sweet Echo silent lies,
Silent, or only to her name replies;
Her name with pleasure once she taught the shore;
Now Daphne's dead, and Pleasure is no more!
No grateful dews descend from evening skies,
Nor morning odours from the flowers arise;
No rich perfumes refresh the fruitful field,
Nor fragrant herbs their native incense yield.
The balmy zephyrs, silent since her death,
Lament the ceasing of a sweeter breath; 50
Th' industrious bees neglect their golden store;
Fair Daphne's dead, and Sweetness is no more!
No more the mounting larks, while Daphne sings,
Shall, listening in mid air, suspend their wings;
No more the birds shall imitate her lays,
Or, hush'd with wonder, hearken from the sprays:
No more the streams their murmurs shall forbear,
A sweeter music than their own to hear;
But tell the reeds, and tell the vocal shore,
Fair Daphne's dead, and Music is no more! 60
Her fate is whisper'd by the gentle breeze,
And told in sighs to all the trembling trees;
The trembling trees, in every plain and wood,
Her fate remurmur to the silver flood;
The silver flood, so lately calm, appears
Swell'd with new passion, and o'erflows with tears;
The winds and trees and floods her death deplore,
Daphne, our grief, our glory now no more!
But see! where Daphne wondering mounts on high
Above the clouds, above the starry sky! 70
Eternal beauties grace the shining scene,
Fields ever fresh, and groves for ever green!
There while you rest in amaranthine bowers,
Or from those meads select unfading flowers,
Behold us kindly, who your name implore,
Daphne, our goddess, and our grief no more!
How all things listen, while thy Muse complains!
Such silence waits on Philomela's strains,
In some still evening, when the whispering breeze
Pants on the leaves, and dies upon the trees. 80
To thee, bright goddess, oft a lamb shall bleed,
If teeming ewes increase my fleecy breed.
While plants their shade, or flowers their odours give,
Thy name, thy honour, and thy praise shall live!
But see, Orion sheds unwholesome dews;
Arise, the pines a noxious shade diffuse;
Sharp Boreas blows, and Nature feels decay,
Time conquers all, and we must Time obey.
Adieu, ye vales, ye mountains, streams, and groves;
Adieu, ye shepherds, rural lays, and loves; 90
Adieu, my flocks; farewell, ye sylvan crew;
Daphne, farewell; and all the world, adieu!
* * * * *
VER. 29, 30--Originally thus in the MS.--
'Tis done, and Nature's changed since you are gone;
Behold, the clouds have put their mourning on.
VER. 83, 84. Originally thus in the MS.--
While vapours rise, and driving snows descend,
Thy honour, name, and praise shall never end.
A SACRED ECLOGUE, IN IMITATION OF VIRGIL'S 'POLLIO.'
In reading several passages of the Prophet Isaiah, which foretell the
coming of Christ and the felicities attending it, I could not but
observe a remarkable parity between many of the thoughts, and those in
the 'Pollio' of Virgil. This will not seem surprising, when we reflect,
that the eclogue was taken from a Sibylline prophecy on the same
subject. One may judge that Virgil did not copy it line by line, but
selected such ideas as best agreed with the nature of pastoral poetry,
and disposed them in that manner which served most to beautify his
piece. I have endeavoured the same in this imitation of him, though
without admitting anything of my own; since it was written with this
particular view, that the reader, by comparing the several thoughts,
might see how far the images and descriptions of the prophet are
superior to those of the poet. But as I fear I have prejudiced them by
my management, I shall subjoin the passages of Isaiah and those of
Virgil, under the same disadvantage of a literal translation.
Ye Nymphs of Solyma! begin the song:
To heavenly themes sublimer strains belong.
The mossy fountains, and the sylvan shades,
The dreams of Pindus and the Aonian maids,
Delight no more--O Thou my voice inspire
Who touch'd Isaiah's hallow'd lips with fire!
Rapt into future times, the bard begun:
A virgin shall conceive, a virgin bear a son!
From Jesse's root behold the branch arise,
Whose sacred flower with fragrance fills the skies: 10
The ethereal Spirit o'er its leaves shall move,
And on its top descends the mystic Dove.
Ye Heavens! from high the dewy nectar pour,
And in soft silence shed the kindly shower!
The sick and weak the healing plant shall aid,
From storms a shelter, and from heat a shade.
All crimes shall cease, and ancient fraud shall fail;
Returning Justice lift aloft her scale;
Peace o'er the world her olive wand extend,
And white-robed Innocence from heaven descend. 20
Swift fly the years, and rise the expected morn!
Oh spring to light, auspicious Babe, be born!
See, Nature hastes her earliest wreaths to bring,
With all the incense of the breathing spring!
See lofty Lebanon his head advance,
See nodding forests on the mountains dance:
See spicy clouds from lowly Saron rise,
And Carmel's flowery top perfumes the skies!
Hark! a glad voice the lonely desert cheers;
'Prepare the way! a God, a God appears:' 30
'A God, a God!' the vocal hills reply,
The rocks proclaim the approaching Deity.
Lo, Earth receives him from the bending skies!
Sink down, ye mountains, and ye valleys, rise;
With heads declined, ye cedars, homage pay;
Be smooth, ye rocks, ye rapid floods, give way!
The Saviour comes! by ancient bards foretold:
Hear him, ye deaf, and all ye blind, behold!
He from thick films shall purge the visual ray,
And on the sightless eyeball pour the day: 40
'Tis he the obstructed paths of sound shall clear,
And bid new music charm th' unfolding ear:
The dumb shall sing, the lame his crutch forego,
And leap exulting like the bounding roe.
No sigh, no murmur the wide world shall hear,
From every face he wipes off every tear.
In adamantine chains shall Death be bound,
And Hell's grim tyrant feel th' eternal wound.
As the good shepherd tends his fleecy care,
Seeks freshest pasture and the purest air, 50
Explores the lost, the wandering sheep directs,
By day o'ersees them, and by night protects,
The tender lambs he raises in his arms,
Feeds from his hand, and in his bosom warms;
Thus shall mankind his guardian care engage,
The promised Father of the future age.
No more shall nation against nation rise,
Nor ardent warriors meet with hateful eyes,
Nor fields with gleaming steel be cover'd o'er,
The brazen trumpets kindle rage no more; 60
But useless lances into scythes shall bend,
And the broad falchion in a ploughshare end.
Then palaces shall rise; the joyful son
Shall finish what his short-lived sire begun;
Their vines a shadow to their race shall yield,
And the same hand that sow'd, shall reap the field;
The swain in barren deserts with surprise
See lilies spring, and sudden verdure rise;
And start, amidst the thirsty wilds, to hear
New falls of water murmuring in his ear. 70
On rifted rocks, the dragons' late abodes,
The green reed trembles, and the bulrush nods,
Waste sandy valleys, once perplex'd with thorn,
The spiry fir, and shapely box adorn:
To leafless shrubs the flowering palms succeed,
And odorous myrtle to the noisome weed.