Imágenes de página


The reflections of Horace, and the judgments passed in his Epistle to Augustus, seemed so seasonable to the present times, that I could not help applying them to the use of my own country. The author thought them considerable enough to address them to his Prince; whom he paints with all the great and good qualities of a monarch, upon whom the Romans depended for the increase of an Absolute Empire. But to make the poem entirely English, I was willing to add one or two of those which contribute to the happiness of a Free People, and are more consistent with the welfare of our Neighbours.

This Epistle will shew the learned world to have fallen into two mistakes : one, that Augustus was a Patron of Poets in general; whereas he not only prohibited all but the best writers to name him, but recommended that care even to the civil magistrate : Admonebat Prætores, ne paterentur nomen suum obsolefieri, &c. The other, that this piece was only a general Discourse of Poetry; whereas it was an Apology for the Poets, in order to render Augustus more their patron. Horace here pleads the cause of his cotemporaries, first against the taste of the Town, whose humour it was to magnify the authors of the preceding age; secondly against the Court and Nobility, who encouraged only the writers for the theatre ; and lastly against the Emperor himself, who had conceived them of little use to the Government. He shews (by a view of the progress of learning, and the change of taste among the Romans) that the introduction of the polite arts of Greece had given the writers of his time great advantages over their predecessors; that their Morals were much improved, and the licence of those ancient poets restrained : that Satire and Comedy were become more just and useful; that whatever extravagances were left on the stage, were owing to the ni Taste of the Nobility; that poets, under due regulations, were in many respects useful to the State ; and concludes, that it was upon them the Emperor himself must depend, for his fame with posterity.

We may further learn from this Epistle, that Horace made his court to this great Prince by writing with a decent freedom toward him, with a just contempt of his low flatterers, and with a manly regard to his own character.—POPE.





[ocr errors]

While you, great patron of mankind ! sustain
The balanced world, and open all the main;'
Your country, chief, in arms abroad defend,
At home, with morals, arts, and laws amend; ✓

1 The king's name was George “Opening all the main” means, thereAugustus.

fore, that the King was so liberal as 2 All those nauseous and outra- to leave it open to the Spaniards, who geous compliments, which Horace, committed with impunity whatever in a strain of abject adulation, de- outrages they pleased, on those who graded himself by paying to Augus- were before considered the almost tus, Pope has converted into bitter exclusive masters of it. -BOWLES. and pointed sarcasms, conveyed under Rather, “Open all the main” has the form of the most artful irony. - a double meaning. It seems, on the WARTON.

surface, to mean,

open all the 3 This has been thought a very main to English trade ;" but what obscure expression ; but it should be is actually meant is, as Bowles says, remembered that irony is the lead- that the main was left open only ing feature of this Epistle. It to the Spaniards. By the treaty of was written in 1737, at the time 1667, the Spaniards had the right when the Spanish depredations at sea of searching merchant vessels in were such that there was an univer. those seas for contraband goods, and sal cry that the British flag had been the manner in which they exercised insulted, and the contemptible and the right provoked the liveliest indegraded English braved on their dignation in England. The public own element. At this period,

excitement reached its height over says Mr. Coxe, “the House was what Burke calls “ the fable of daily inundated with petitions and Jenkins's ears." papers relating to the inhumanities 4 I have not ventured to alter the committed on the English prisoners punctuation, for the passage stands as taken on board of trading vessels.” here pointed in all the early editions as


How shall the Muse, from such a monarch, steal
An hour, and not defraud the public weal ?
Edward and Henry,' now tle boast of fame,
And virtuous Alfred, a more sacred name,
After a life of generous toils endured,
The Gauls subdued, or property secured,
Ambition humbled, mighty cities stormed,
Or laws established, and the world reformed;
Closed their long glories with a sigh, to find
The unwilling gratitude of base mankind !?
All human virtue, to its latest breath,
Finds envy never conquered but by death.
The great Alcides, every labour passed,
Had still this monster to subdue at last.
Sure fate of all, beneath whose rising ray
Each star of meaner merit fades away!
Oppressed we feel the beam directly beat,
Those suns of glory please not till they set.'


well as in Warburton's. But I can-
not help thinking that the comma
after “chief” was originally an error,
which was left uncorrected ; and that
the comma should be placed after
"arms. " Bowles. indeed, says : “This
line meaus quite the contrary. The
people were wearied with so long a
period of peace, and in 1738 the
public mind was agitated almost to
frenzy, and the cry of instant war,
retaliation, and revenge, resounded
from one part of England to the
other; it is therefore with the bit-
terest sarcasm that Pope exclaiins :
* Your country, chief, in
abroad defend.' But besides that it
is a clumsy piece of irony merely to
say bluntly the exact opposite of
what is really meant, and that there
is much awkwardness in the second
apostrophe to the King as “chief,”
the point of the satire seems to lie,
first, in the words “chief in arms,"
alluding to the King's notorious de-

sire to command the army in person
(see Lord Hervey's Memoirs, vol. i.
p. 371) ; and, secondly, in the words
“ abroad defend," meaning that
George II. was more careful for the
interests of Hanover than for those
of England, which was of course one
of the stock charges of the Oppo-

1 Edward III. and Henry V.
2 That is to say,

"closed their long glories with a sigh at finding how unwillingly the gratitude of base mankind was given."

3 He seems indebted to Waller's poem on the Protector, throughout this noble passage :


Still as you rise, the State, exalted too.
Finds no distemper when 'tis changed by

Changed like the world's great scene,

when without noise
The rising sun night's vulyar lights destroys.
Had you, some ages past, this age of glory
Run, with amazement we should read

your story :



To thee, the world its present homage pays,
The harvest early, but mature the praise :
Great friend of liberty! in kings a name
Above all Greek, above all Roman fame :
Whose word is truth, as sacred and revered,
As Heaven's own oracles from altars heard.
Wonder of Kings ! like whom, to mortal eyes
None e'er has risen, and none e'er shall rise.

Just in one instance, be it yet confessed
Your people, sir, are partial in the rest:
Foes to all living worth except your own,
And advocates for folly dead and gone.
Authors, like coins, grow dear as they grow old ;
It is the rust we value, not the gold.'
Chaucer's worst ribaldry is learned by rote,'
And beastly Skelton heads of houses quote:'
One likes no language but the Faery Queen ;-
A Scot will fight for Christ's Kirk o'the Green :'



[blocks in formation]

With sharpened sight pale antiquaries

poro, The inscription value, but the rust adore.

? 'After modernising January and May and The Wife of Bath, Pope was hardly the man to make this reflection.

3 Skelton, Poet Laureate to Henry VIII., a vo ume of whose verses has lately been reprinted, consisting almost wholly of ribaldry, obscenity, and scurrilous language.-POPE.

Pope doubtless alludes to the volume called “Pithy, Pleasant, and Profitable Workes of Maister Skelton." Printed for C. Davis in Pater-noster Row. 1736.

Skelton was Laureate before the year 1490. He took orders in 1498, and was censured, and perhaps suspended from his priestly office, for his satirical ballads against the Mendicants. He afterwards attacked Cardinal Wolsey, and was obliged to take shelter in the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey, where he was entertained and protected by Abbot Islip till his death in 1529. He was buried in St. Margaret's, Westminster. Erasmus styled him “Britannicarum literarum lumen et decus."

Compare ver. 97. 6 A ballad made by a king of Scotland.-POPE.

Our James I. was eminent for poetry no less than for music. We have many poems ascribed by tradi. tion to that king; one in particular, Christ's Kirk o' the Green, is a ludicrous poem, describing low manners with no less propriety than s, rightliness.-Lord KAMES.

« AnteriorContinuar »