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The pageant of a day; without one friend
Spoke forth the wondrous scene. But if my soul
Alixasper Pope, an English poet of great eminence, was born in London in 1688. His father, who appears to have acquired wealth by trade, was a Roman Catholic, and being disaffected to the politics of King William, he retired to Binfield, in Windsor Forest, where he purchased a small house with some acres of land, and lived frugally upon the fortune he had saved. Alexander, who was from infancy of a delicate habit of body, after learning to read and write at home, was placed about his eighth year under the care of a Romish priest, who taught him the rudiments of Latin and Greek. His natural fondness for books was indulged about this period by Ogilby's translation of Homer, and Sandys's of Ovid's Metamorphoses, which gave him so much delight, that they may be said to have made him a poet. He pursued his studies under different priests, to whom he was consigned. At length he became the director of his own pursuits, the variety of which proved that he was by no means deficient in industry, though his reading was rather excursive than methodical. From his early years poetry was adopted by him as a profession, for his poetical reading was always accompanied with attempts at imitation or translation; and it may be affirmed that he rose at once almost to perfection in this walk. His manners and conversation were equally beyond his years; and it does not appear that he ever cultiwated friendship with any one of his own age or condition. Pope's Pastorals were first printed in a volume of Tonson's Miscellanies in 1709, and were generally admired for the sweetness of the versification, and the lustre of the diction, though they betrayed a want of original observation, and an artificial cast of sentiment: in fact, they were any thing rather than real pastorals. In the mean time he was exercising himself in compositions of a higher class; and by his “Essay on Criticism,” published two years afterwards, he obtained a great accession of reputation, merited by the comprehension of thought, the general good sense, and the frequent beauty of illustration which it presents, though it displays many of the inaccuracies of a juvenile author. In 1712 his “Rape of the Lock,” a mock heroic, made its first appearance, and conferred upon him the best title he possesses to the merit of invention. The machinery of the Sylphs was afterwards added, an exquisite fancy-piece, wrought with unrivalled skill and beauty. The “Temple of Fame,” altered "from Chaucer, though partaking of the embarrassments of the original plan, has many passages which may rank with his happiest efforts. . In the year 1713, Pope issued proposals for publishing a translation of Homer's Iliad, the success of which soon removed all doubt of its making an accession to his reputation, whilst it afforded an
ample remuneration for his labour. This noble work was published in separate volumes, each containing four books; and the produce of the subscription enabled him to take that house at Twickenham which he made so famous by his residence and decorations. He brought hither his father and mother; of whom the first parent died two years afterwards. The second long survived, to be comforted by the truly filial attentions of her son. About this period he probably wrote his Epistle from “ Eloisa to Abelard,” partly founded upon the extant letters of these distinguished persons. He has rendered this one of the most impressive poems of which love is the subject; as it is likewise the most finished of all his works of equal length, in point of language and versification. The exaggeration, however, which he has given to the most impassioned expressions of Eloisa, and his deviations from the true story, have been pointed out by Mr. Berrington in his lives of the two lovers. During the years in which he was chiefly engaged with the Iliad, he published several occasional works, to which he usually prefixed very elegant prefaces; but the desire of farther emolument induced him to extend his translation to the Odyssey, in which task he engaged two inferior hands, whom he paid out of the produce of a new subscription. He himself, however, translated twelve books out of the twenty-four, with a happiness not inferior to his Iliad; and the transaction, conducted in a truly mercantile spirit, was the source of considerable profit to him. After the appearance of the Odyssey, Pope almost solely made himself known as a satirist and moralist. In 1728 he published the three first books of the “Dunciad,” a kind of mock heroic, the object of which was to overwhelm with indelible ridicule all his antagonists, together with some other authors whom spleen or party led him to rank among the dunces, though they had given him no personal offence. Notwithstanding that the diction and versification of this poem are laboured with the greatest care, we shall borrow nothing from it. Its imagery is often extremely gross and offensive; and irritability, ill-nature, and partiality are so prominent through the whole, that whatever he gains as a poet he loses as a man. He has, indeed, a claim to the character of a satirist in this production, but none at all to that of a moralist. The other selected pieces, though not entirely free from the same defects, may yet be tolerated; and his noble work called the “Essay on Man,” which may stand in the first class of ethical poems, does not deviate from the style proper to its topic. This piece gave an example of the poet's extraordinary power of managing argumentation in verse, and of compressing his thoughts into clauses of the most energetic brevity, as well as of expanding them into passages distinguished by every poetic ornament. The origin of this essay is, however, generally ascribed to Lord Bolingbroke, who was adopted by the author as his “guide, philosopher, and friend;” and there is little doubt that, with respect to mankind in general, Pope adopted, without always fully understanding, the system of Bolingbroke. On his works in prose, among which a collection of letters appears conspicuous, it is unnecessary here to remark. His life was not prolonged to the period of old age : an oppressive asthma indicated an early decline, and accumulated infirmities incapacitated him from pursuing the plan he had formed for new works. After having complied,
Waar dire offence from amorous causes springs,
through the instigation of a catholic friend, with the ceremonies of that religion, he quietly expired on May 30th, 1744, at the age of fifty-six. He was interred at Twickenham, where a monument was erected to his memory by the commentator and legatee of his writings, bishop Warburton. Regarded as a poet, while it is allowed that Pope was deficient in invention, his other qualifications will scarcely be disputed; and it will generally be admitted that no English writer has carried to greater degree correctness of versification, strength and splendour of diction, and the truly poetical power of vivifying and adorning every subject that he touched. The popularity of his productions has been proved by their constituting a school of English
poetry, which in part continues to the present time.
Or virgins visited by angel-powers,
'Tis but their Sylph, the wise celestials know, Though honour is the word with men below. “Some nymphs there are, too conscious of their face, For life predestin'd to the Gnome's embrace. These swell their prospects, and exalt their pride, When offers are disdain'd, and love deny'd: Then gay ideas crowd the vacant brain, While peers, and dukes, and all their sweeping train, Andgarters, stars, and coronets appear, And in soft sounds, “your grace’ salutes their ear. 'Tis these that early taint the female soul, Instruct the eyes of young coquettes to roll, Teach infant cheeks a bidden blush to know, And little hearts to flutter at a beau. “Oft, when the world imagine women stray, The Sylphs through mystic mazos guide their way, Through all the giddy circle they pursue, And old impertinence expel by new. What tender maid but must a victim fall To one mam's treat, but for another's ball ? When Florio speaks, what virgin could withstand, If gentle Damon did not squeeze her hand? With varying vanities, from every part, They shift the moving Toy-shop of their heart; Where wigs with wigs, with sword-knots swordknots strive, Beaux banish beaux, and coaches coaches drive. This erring mortals levity may call; Oh, blind to truth! the Sylphs contrive it all. “Of these am I, who thy protection claim, A watchful sprite, and Ariel is my name. Late, as I rang'd the crystal wilds of air, In the clear mirror of thy ruling star I saw, alas! some dread event impend, Ere to the main this morning sun descend; But Heaven reveals not what, or how, or where Warn'd by the Sylph, oh pious maid, beware : This to disclose is all thy guardian can : Beware of all, but most beware of man " [long, He said; when Shock, who thought she slept too Leap'd up, and wak'd his mistress with his tongue. 'Twas then, Belinda, if report say true, Thy eyes first open'd on a billet-doux; Wounds, charms, and ardours were no sooner read, But all the vision vanish'd from thy head. And now, unveil'd, the toilet stands display'd, Each silver vase in mystic order laid. First, rob’d in white, the nymph intent adores, With head uncover'd, the cosmetic powers. A heavenly image in the glass appears, To that she bends, to that her eyes she rcars; Th’ inferior priestess, at her altar's side, Trembling, begins the sacred rites of Pride. Unnumber'd treasures ope at once, and here The various offerings of the world appear; From each she nicely culls with curious toil, And decks the goddess with the glittering spoil. This casket India's glowing gems unlocks, And all Arabia breathcs from yonder box. The tortoise here and elephant unite, Transform'd to combs, the speckled and the white. Here files of pins extend their shining rows, Puffs, powders, patches, Bibles, billet-doux. Now awful Beauty puts on all its arms; The fair each moment rises in her charms, Repairs her smiles, awakens every grace, And calls forth all the wonders of her face: Sees by degrees a purer blush arise, And keener lightnings quicken in her eyes.
Nor with more glories in th' ethereal plain, The Sun first rises o'er the purpled main, Than, issuing forth, the rival of his beams Lanch'd on the bosom of the silver'd Thames. Fair nymphs and well-dress'd youths around her shone, But every eye was fix'd on her alone. On her white breast a sparkling cross she wore, Which Jews might kiss, and infidels adore. Her lively looks a sprightly mind disclose, Quick as her eyes, and as unfix'd as those: Favours to none, to all she smiles extends; Oft she rejects, but never once offends. Bright as the Sun, her eyes the gazers strike, And, like the Sun, they shine on all alike. Yet graceful ease, and sweetness void of pride, Might hide her faults, if belles had faults to hide: If to her share some female errours fall, Look on her face, and you'll forget them all. This nymph, to the destruction of mankind, Nourish'd two locks, which graceful hung behind, In equal curls, and well conspir'd to deck With shining ringlets the smooth ivory neck. Love in these labyrinths his slaves detains, And mighty hearts are held in slender chains. With hairy springes we the birds betray; Slight lines of hair surprise the finny prey; Fair tresses man's imperial race insnare, And Beauty draws us with a single hair. Th' adventurous baron the bright locks admir’d; He saw, he wish'd, and to the prize aspir'd. Resolv'd to win, he meditates the way, By force to ravish, or by fraud betray; For when success a lover's toil attends, Few ask if fraud or force attain'd his ends. For this, ere Phoebus rose, he had implor'd Propitious Heaven, and every power ador'd; But chiefly Love—to Love an altar built, Of twelve vast French romances, neatly gilt. There lay three garters, half a pair of gloves, And all the trophies of his former loves. With tender billet-doux he lights the pyre, And breathes three amorous sighs to raise the fire. Then prostrate falls, and begs with ardent eyes Soon to obtain, and long possess the prize : The powers gave ear, and granted half his prayer; The rest, the winds dispers'd in empty air. But now secure the painted vessel glides, The sun-beams trembling on the floating tides: While melting music steals upon the sky, And soften’d sounds along the waters die; Smooth flow the waves, the zephyrs gentle play, Belinda smil'd, and all the world was gay, All but the Sylph– with careful thoughts opprest, Th’ impending woe sat heavy on his breast. He summons straight his denizens of air; The lucid squadrons round the sails repair: Soft o'er the shrouds aerial whispers breathe, That seem'd but zephyrs to the train beneath. Some to the Sun their insect wings unfold, Waft on the breeze, or sink in clouds of gold;
Transparent forms, too fine for mortal si
Gums and pomatums shall his flight restrain,
Close by those meads, for ever crown'd with flowers,