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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.
THE FIRST EPISTLE
SECOND BOOK OF HORACE.
While you, great patron of mankind ! sustain
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
well as in Warburton's. But I can-
sire to command the army in person
1 Edward III. and Henry V.
"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.
when without noise
your story :
To thee, the world its present homage pays,
Just in one instance, be it yet confessed
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.