Alexander Pope Poems (Part 05)

Alexander Pope Poems

Alexander Pope’s witty and pointed poetic satire brought him infamy during his lifetime. It has also made critical evaluation of Pope in the years since his death more prone to interpretation based on the critic’s personal feelings about such satire than perhaps any other poet in history.

Pope was born the only child of Alexander and Edith Pope in 1688. The senior Pope, a linen-draper, had recently converted to Catholicism, and moved from London to Berkshire to avoid the anti-Catholic sentiment that ran rampant in London at the time.

pope Alexander Pope Poems (Part 05)

Alexander Pope Bio

His family’s Catholic faith kept young Alexander Pope from receiving a formal education, and thus Pope was mostly self-educated, teaching himself literature and languages, including Latin and Greek. Pope’s frail health also thwarted him; at twelve he both composed his earliest known work, “Ode to Solitude” and began suffering from a debilitating bone disease that stunted his growth, made him hunchbacked, and affected his health in general for the rest of his life.

In 1712, Pope published his most famous poem, “The Rape of the Lock,” which made him one of England’s most famous poets. Based on a true incident – a family feud that resulted from a stolen lock of hair – the poem’s hilarious satire won fans throughout the country.

Pope also turned his pen toward translation, beginning an epic translation of The Iliad that he wisely sold by subscription, enabling him income enough to support himself solely by writing.

Epistles to Several Persons: Epistle IV, To Richard Boyle

Est brevitate opus, ut currat sententia, neu se
Impediat verbis lassas onerantibus aures:
Et sermone opus est modo tristi, saepe jocoso,
Defendente vicem modo Rhetoris atque Poetae,
Interdum urbani, parcentis viribus, atque
Extenuantis eas consulto.
(Horace, Satires, I, x, 17-22)
‘Tis strange, the miser should his cares employ
To gain those riches he can ne’er enjoy:
Is it less strange, the prodigal should waste
His wealth to purchase what he ne’er can taste?
Not for himself he sees, or hears, or eats;
Artists must choose his pictures, music, meats:
He buys for Topham, drawings and designs,
For Pembroke, statues, dirty gods, and coins;
Rare monkish manuscripts for Hearne alone,
And books for Mead, and butterflies for Sloane.
Think we all these are for himself? no more
Than his fine wife, alas! or finer whore.For what his Virro painted, built, and planted?
Only to show, how many tastes he wanted.
What brought Sir Visto’s ill got wealth to waste?
Some daemon whisper’d, “Visto! have a taste.”
Heav’n visits with a taste the wealthy fool,
And needs no rod but Ripley with a rule.
See! sportive fate, to punish awkward pride,
Bids Bubo build, and sends him such a guide:
A standing sermon, at each year’s expense,
That never coxcomb reach’d magnificence!
You show us, Rome was glorious, not profuse,
And pompous buildings once were things of use.
Yet shall (my Lord) your just, your noble rules
Fill half the land with imitating fools;
Who random drawings from your sheets shall take,
And of one beauty many blunders make;
Load some vain church with old theatric state,
Turn arcs of triumph to a garden gate;
Reverse your ornaments, and hang them all
On some patch’d dog-hole ek’d with ends of wall;
Then clap four slices of pilaster on’t,
That lac’d with bits of rustic, makes a front.
Or call the winds through long arcades to roar,
Proud to catch cold at a Venetian door;
Conscious they act a true Palladian part,
And, if they starve, they starve by rules of art.

Oft have you hinted to your brother peer,
A certain truth, which many buy too dear:
Something there is more needful than expense,
And something previous ev’n to taste–’tis sense:
Good sense, which only is the gift of Heav’n,
And though no science, fairly worth the sev’n:
A light, which in yourself you must perceive;
Jones and Le Notre have it not to give.

To build, to plant, whatever you intend,
To rear the column, or the arch to bend,
To swell the terrace, or to sink the grot;
In all, let Nature never be forgot.
But treat the goddess like a modest fair,
Nor overdress, nor leave her wholly bare;
Let not each beauty ev’rywhere be spied,
Where half the skill is decently to hide.
He gains all points, who pleasingly confounds,
Surprises, varies, and conceals the bounds.

Consult the genius of the place in all;
That tells the waters or to rise, or fall;
Or helps th’ ambitious hill the heav’ns to scale,
Or scoops in circling theatres the vale;
Calls in the country, catches opening glades,
Joins willing woods, and varies shades from shades,
Now breaks, or now directs, th’ intending lines;
Paints as you plant, and, as you work, designs.

Still follow sense, of ev’ry art the soul,
Parts answ’ring parts shall slide into a whole,
Spontaneous beauties all around advance,
Start ev’n from difficulty, strike from chance;
Nature shall join you; time shall make it grow
A work to wonder at–perhaps a Stowe.

Without it, proud Versailles! thy glory falls;
And Nero’s terraces desert their walls:
The vast parterres a thousand hands shall make,
Lo! Cobham comes, and floats them with a lake:
Or cut wide views through mountains to the plain,
You’ll wish your hill or shelter’d seat again.
Ev’n in an ornament its place remark,
Nor in an hermitage set Dr. Clarke.

Behold Villario’s ten years’ toil complete;
His quincunx darkens, his espaliers meet;
The wood supports the plain, the parts unite,
And strength of shade contends with strength of light;
A waving glow his bloomy beds display,
Blushing in bright diversities of day,
With silver-quiv’ring rills meander’d o’er–
Enjoy them, you! Villario can no more;
Tir’d of the scene parterres and fountains yield,
He finds at last he better likes a field.

Through his young woods how pleas’d Sabinus stray’d,
Or sat delighted in the thick’ning shade,
With annual joy the redd’ning shoots to greet,
Or see the stretching branches long to meet!
His son’s fine taste an op’ner vista loves,
Foe to the dryads of his father’s groves;
One boundless green, or flourish’d carpet views,
With all the mournful family of yews;
The thriving plants ignoble broomsticks made,
Now sweep those alleys they were born to shade.

At Timon’s villa let us pass a day,
Where all cry out, “What sums are thrown away!”
So proud, so grand of that stupendous air,
Soft and agreeable come never there.
Greatness, with Timon, dwells in such a draught
As brings all Brobdingnag before your thought.
To compass this, his building is a town,
His pond an ocean, his parterre a down:
Who but must laugh, the master when he sees,
A puny insect, shiv’ring at a breeze!
Lo, what huge heaps of littleness around!
The whole, a labour’d quarry above ground.
Two cupids squirt before: a lake behind
Improves the keenness of the Northern wind.
His gardens next your admiration call,
On ev’ry side you look, behold the wall!
No pleasing intricacies intervene,
No artful wildness to perplex the scene;
Grove nods at grove, each alley has a brother,
And half the platform just reflects the other.
The suff’ring eye inverted Nature sees,
Trees cut to statues, statues thick as trees;
With here a fountain, never to be play’d;
And there a summerhouse, that knows no shade;
Here Amphitrite sails through myrtle bow’rs;
There gladiators fight, or die in flow’rs;
Unwater’d see the drooping sea horse mourn,
And swallows roost in Nilus’ dusty urn.

My Lord advances with majestic mien,
Smit with the mighty pleasure, to be seen:
But soft–by regular approach–not yet–
First through the length of yon hot terrace sweat;
And when up ten steep slopes you’ve dragg’d your thighs,
Just at his study door he’ll bless your eyes.

His study! with what authors is it stor’d?
In books, not authors, curious is my Lord;
To all their dated backs he turns you round:
These Aldus printed, those Du Sueil has bound.
Lo, some are vellum, and the rest as good
For all his Lordship knows, but they are wood.
For Locke or Milton ’tis in vain to look,
These shelves admit not any modern book.

And now the chapel’s silver bell you hear,
That summons you to all the pride of pray’r:
Light quirks of music, broken and uneven,
Make the soul dance upon a jig to heaven.
On painted ceilings you devoutly stare,
Where sprawl the saints of Verrio or Laguerre,
On gilded clouds in fair expansion lie,
And bring all paradise before your eye.
To rest, the cushion and soft dean invite,
Who never mentions Hell to ears polite.

But hark! the chiming clocks to dinner call;
A hundred footsteps scrape the marble hall:
The rich buffet well-colour’d serpents grace,
And gaping Tritons spew to wash your face.
Is this a dinner? this a genial room?
No, ’tis a temple, and a hecatomb.
A solemn sacrifice, perform’d in state,
You drink by measure, and to minutes eat.
So quick retires each flying course, you’d swear
Sancho’s dread doctor and his wand were there.
Between each act the trembling salvers ring,
From soup to sweet wine, and God bless the King.
In plenty starving, tantaliz’d in state,
And complaisantly help’d to all I hate,
Treated, caress’d, and tir’d, I take my leave,
Sick of his civil pride from morn to eve;
I curse such lavish cost, and little skill,
And swear no day was ever pass’d so ill.

Yet hence the poor are cloth’d, the hungry fed;
Health to himself, and to his infants bread
The lab’rer bears: What his hard heart denies,
His charitable vanity supplies.

Another age shall see the golden ear
Embrown the slope, and nod on the parterre,
Deep harvests bury all his pride has plann’d,
And laughing Ceres reassume the land.

Who then shall grace, or who improve the soil?
Who plants like Bathurst, or who builds like Boyle.
‘Tis use alone that sanctifies expense,
And splendour borrows all her rays from sense.

His father’s acres who enjoys in peace,
Or makes his neighbours glad, if he increase:
Whose cheerful tenants bless their yearly toil,
Yet to their Lord owe more than to the soil;
Whose ample lawns are not asham’d to feed
The milky heifer and deserving steed;
Whose rising forests, not for pride or show,
But future buildings, future navies, grow:
Let his plantations stretch from down to down,
First shade a country, and then raise a town.

You too proceed! make falling arts your care,
Erect new wonders, and the old repair;
Jones and Palladio to themselves restore,
And be whate’er Vitruvius was before:
Till kings call forth th’ ideas of your mind,
Proud to accomplish what such hands design’d,
Bid harbours open, public ways extend,
Bid temples, worthier of the God, ascend;
Bid the broad arch the dang’rous flood contain,
The mole projected break the roaring main;
Back to his bounds their subject sea command,
And roll obedient rivers through the land;
These honours, peace to happy Britain brings,
These are imperial works, and worthy kings.

 Alexander Pope Poems
Alexander Pope Poems

Imitations of Horace: The First Epistle of the Second Book

Ne Rubeam, Pingui donatus Munere
(Horace, Epistles II.i.267)
While you, great patron of mankind, sustain
The balanc’d world, and open all the main;
Your country, chief, in arms abroad defend,
At home, with morals, arts, and laws amend;
How shall the Muse, from such a monarch steal
An hour, and not defraud the public weal?
Edward and Henry, now the boast of fame,
And virtuous Alfred, a more sacred name,
After a life of gen’rous toils endur’d,
The Gaul subdu’d, or property secur’d,
Ambition humbled, mighty cities storm’d,
Or laws establish’d, and the world reform’d;
Clos’d their long glories with a sigh, to find
Th’ unwilling gratitude of base mankind!
All human virtue, to its latest breath
Finds envy never conquer’d, but by death.
The great Alcides, ev’ry labour past,
Had still this monster to subdue at last.
Sure fate of all, beneath whose rising ray
Each star of meaner merit fades away!
Oppress’d we feel the beam directly beat,
Those suns of glory please not till they set.

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 rever’d,
As Heav’n’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 confest
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 learn’d 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:
And each true Briton is to Ben so civil,
He swears the Muses met him at the Devil.

Though justly Greece her eldest sons admires,
Why should not we be wiser than our sires?
In ev’ry public virtue we excel:
We build, we paint, we sing, we dance as well,
And learned Athens to our art must stoop,
Could she behold us tumbling through a hoop.

If time improve our wit as well as wine,
Say at what age a poet grows divine?
Shall we, or shall we not, account him so,
Who died, perhaps, an hundred years ago?
End all dispute; and fix the year precise
When British bards begin t’immortalize?

“Who lasts a century can have no flaw,
I hold that wit a classic, good in law.”

Suppose he wants a year, will you compound?
And shall we deem him ancient, right and sound,
Or damn to all eternity at once,
At ninety-nine, a modern and a dunce?

“We shall not quarrel for a year or two;
By courtesy of England, he may do.”

Then by the rule that made the horsetail bare,
I pluck out year by year, as hair by hair,
And melt down ancients like a heap of snow:
While you, to measure merits, look in Stowe,
And estimating authors by the year,
Bestow a garland only on a bier.

Shakespeare (whom you and ev’ry playhouse bill
Style the divine, the matchless, what you will)
For gain, not glory, wing’d his roving flight,
And grew immortal in his own despite.
Ben, old and poor, as little seem’d to heed
The life to come, in ev’ry poet’s creed.
Who now reads Cowley? if he pleases yet,
His moral pleases, not his pointed wit;
Forgot his epic, nay Pindaric art,
But still I love the language of his heart.

“Yet surely, surely, these were famous men!
What boy but hears the sayings of old Ben?
In all debates where critics bear a part,
Not one but nods, and talks of Jonson’s art,
Of Shakespeare’s nature, and of Cowley’s wit;
How Beaumont’s judgment check’d what Fletcher writ;
How Shadwell hasty, Wycherley was slow;
But, for the passions, Southerne sure and Rowe.
These, only these, support the crowded stage,
From eldest Heywood down to Cibber’s age.”

All this may be; the people’s voice is odd,
It is, and it is not, the voice of God.
To Gammer Gurton if it give the bays,
And yet deny the Careless Husband praise,
Or say our fathers never broke a rule;
Why then, I say, the public is a fool.
But let them own, that greater faults than we
They had, and greater virtues, I’ll agree.
Spenser himself affects the obsolete,
And Sidney’s verse halts ill on Roman feet:
Milton’s strong pinion now not Heav’n can bound,
Now serpent-like, in prose he sweeps the ground,
In quibbles, angel and archangel join,
And God the Father turns a school divine.
Not that I’d lop the beauties from his book,
Like slashing Bentley with his desp’rate hook,
Or damn all Shakespeare, like th’ affected fool
At court, who hates whate’er he read at school.

But for the wits of either Charles’s days,
The mob of gentlemen who wrote with ease;
Sprat, Carew, Sedley, and a hundred more,
(Like twinkling stars the Miscellanies o’er)
One simile, that solitary shines
In the dry desert of a thousand lines,
Or lengthen’d thought that gleams through many a page,
Has sanctified whole poems for an age.

I lose my patience, and I own it too,
When works are censur’d, not as bad, but new;
While if our elders break all reason’s laws,
These fools demand not pardon, but applause.

On Avon’s bank, where flow’rs eternal blow,
If I but ask if any weed can grow?
One tragic sentence if I dare deride,
Which Betterton’s grave action dignified,
Or well-mouth’d Booth with emphasis proclaims
(Though but, perhaps, a muster-roll of names)
How will our fathers rise up in a rage,
And swear, all shame is lost in George’s age!
You’d think no fools disgrac’d the former reign,
Did not some grave examples yet remain,
Who scorn a lad should teach his father skill,
And, having once been wrong, will be so still.
He, who to seem more deep than you or I,
Extols old bards, or Merlin’s Prophecy,
Mistake him not; he envies, not admires,
And to debase the sons, exalts the sires.
Had ancient times conspir’d to disallow
What then was new, what had been ancient now?
Or what remain’d, so worthy to be read
By learned critics, of the mighty dead?

In days of ease, when now the weary sword
Was sheath’d, and luxury with Charles restor’d;
In ev’ry taste of foreign courts improv’d,
“All, by the King’s example, liv’d and lov’d.”
Then peers grew proud in horsemanship t’excel,
Newmarket’s glory rose, as Britain’s fell;
The soldier breath’d the gallantries of France,
And ev’ry flow’ry courtier writ romance.
Then marble, soften’d into life, grew warm,
And yielding metal flow’d to human form:
Lely on animated canvas stole
The sleepy eye, that spoke the melting soul.
No wonder then, when all was love and sport,
The willing Muses were debauch’d at court:
On each enervate string they taught the note
To pant or tremble through an eunuch’s throat.
But Britain, changeful as a child at play,
Now calls in princes, and now turns away:
Now Whig, now Tory, what we lov’d we hate;
Now all for pleasure, now for Church and state;
Now for prerogative, and now for laws;
Effects unhappy! from a noble cause.

Time was, a sober Englishman would knock
His servants up, and rise by five o’clock,
Instruct his family in ev’ry rule,
And send his wife to church, his son to school.
To worship like his fathers was his care;
To teach their frugal virtues to his heir;
To prove that luxury could never hold,
And place, on good security, his gold.
Now times are chang’d, and one poetic itch
Has seiz’d the court and city, poor and rich:
Sons, sires, and grandsires, all will wear the bays,
Our wives read Milton, and our daughters plays,
To theatres, and to rehearsals throng,
And all our grace at table is a song.
I, who so oft renounce the Muses, lie,
Not {-}{-}{-}{-}{-}’s self e’er tells more fibs than I;
When sick of Muse, our follies we deplore,
And promise our best friends to rhyme no more;
We wake next morning in a raging fit,
And call for pen and ink to show our wit.

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

Yet, Sir, reflect, the mischief is not great;
These madmen never hurt the Church or state:
Sometimes the folly benefits mankind;
And rarely av’rice taints the tuneful mind.
Allow him but his plaything of a pen,
He ne’er rebels, or plots, like other men:
Flight of cashiers, or mobs, he’ll never mind;
And knows no losses while the Muse is kind.
To cheat a friend, or ward, he leaves to Peter;
The good man heaps up nothing but mere metre,
Enjoys his garden and his book in quiet;
And then–a perfect hermit in his diet.
Of little use the man you may suppose,
Who says in verse what others say in prose:
Yet let me show, a poet’s of some weight,
And (though no soldier) useful to the state.
What will a child learn sooner than a song?
What better teach a foreigner the tongue?
What’s long or short, each accent where to place,
And speak in public with some sort of grace.
I scarce can think him such a worthless thing,
Unless he praise some monster of a king;
Or virtue or religion turn to sport,
To please a lewd, or unbelieving court.
Unhappy Dryden!–In all Charles’s days,
Roscommon only boasts unspotted bays;
And in our own (excuse some courtly stains)
No whiter page than Addison remains.
He, from the taste obscene reclaims our youth,
And sets the passions on the side of truth,
Forms the soft bosom with the gentlest art,
And pours each human virtue in the heart.
Let Ireland tell, how wit upheld her cause,
Her trade supported, and supplied her laws;
And leave on Swift this grateful verse engrav’d,
“The rights a court attack’d, a poet sav’d.”
Behold the hand that wrought a nation’s cure,
Stretch’d to relieve the idiot and the poor,
Proud vice to brand, or injur’d worth adorn,
And stretch the ray to ages yet unborn.
Not but there are, who merit other palms;
Hopkins and Sternhold glad the heart with psalms:
The boys and girls whom charity maintains,
Implore your help in these pathetic strains:
How could devotion touch the country pews,
Unless the gods bestow’d a proper Muse?
Verse cheers their leisure, verse assists their work,
Verse prays for peace, or sings down Pope and Turk.
The silenc’d preacher yields to potent strain,
And feels that grace his pray’r besought in vain;
The blessing thrills through all the lab’ring throng,
And Heav’n is won by violence of song.

Our rural ancestors, with little blest,
Patient of labour when the end was rest,
Indulg’d the day that hous’d their annual grain,
With feasts, and off’rings, and a thankful strain:
The joy their wives, their sons, and servants share,
Ease of their toil, and part’ners of their care:
The laugh, the jest, attendants on the bowl,
Smooth’d ev’ry brow, and open’d ev’ry soul:
With growing years the pleasing licence grew,
And taunts alternate innocently flew.
But times corrupt, and nature, ill-inclin’d,
Produc’d the point that left a sting behind;
Till friend with friend, and families at strife,
Triumphant malice rag’d through private life.
Who felt the wrong, or fear’d it, took th’ alarm,
Appeal’d to law, and justice lent her arm.
At length, by wholesome dread of statutes bound,
The poets learn’d to please, and not to wound:
Most warp’d to flatt’ry’s side; but some, more nice,
Preserv’d the freedom, and forbore the vice.
Hence satire rose, that just the medium hit,
And heals with morals what it hurts with wit.

We conquer’d France, but felt our captive’s charms;
Her arts victorious triumph’d o’er our arms;
Britain to soft refinements less a foe,
Wit grew polite, and numbers learn’d to flow.
Waller was smooth; but Dryden taught to join
The varying verse, the full-resounding line,
The long majestic march, and energy divine.
Though still some traces of our rustic vein
And splayfoot verse remain’d, and will remain.
Late, very late, correctness grew our care,
When the tir’d nation breath’d from civil war.
Exact Racine, and Corneille’s noble fire
Show’d us that France had something to admire.
Not but the tragic spirit was our own,
And full in Shakespeare, fair in Otway shone:
But Otway fail’d to polish or refine,
And fluent Shakespeare scarce effac’d a line.
Ev’n copious Dryden wanted, or forgot,
The last and greatest art, the art to blot.

Some doubt, if equal pains, or equal fire
The humbler Muse of comedy require.
But in known images of life, I guess
The labour greater, as th’ indulgence less.
Observe how seldom ev’n the best succeed:
Tell me if Congreve’s fools are fools indeed?
What pert, low dialogue has Farqu’ar writ!
How Van wants grace, who never wanted wit!
The stage how loosely does Astr{ae}ea tread,
Who fairly puts all characters to bed!
And idle Cibber, how he breaks the laws,
To make poor Pinky eat with vast applause!
But fill their purse, our poet’s work is done,
Alike to them, by pathos or by pun.

O you! whom vanity’s light bark conveys
On fame’s mad voyage by the wind of praise,
With what a shifting gale your course you ply,
For ever sunk too low, or borne too high!
Who pants for glory finds but short repose,
A breath revives him, or a breath o’erthrows.
Farewell the stage! if just as thrives the play,
The silly bard grows fat, or falls away.

There still remains, to mortify a wit,
The many-headed monster of the pit:
A senseless, worthless, and unhonour’d crowd;
Who, to disturb their betters mighty proud,
Clatt’ring their sticks before ten lines are spoke,
Call for the farce, the bear, or the black-joke.
What dear delight to Britons farce affords!
Farce once the taste of mobs, but now of lords;
(For taste, eternal wanderer, now flies
From heads to ears, and now from ears to eyes.)
The play stands still; damn action and discourse,
Back fly the scenes, and enter foot and horse;
Pageants on pageants, in long order drawn,
Peers, heralds, bishops, ermine, gold, and lawn;
The champion too! and, to complete the jest,
Old Edward’s armour beams on Cibber’s breast.
With laughter sure Democritus had died,
Had he beheld an audience gape so wide.
Let bear or elephant be e’er so white,
The people, sure, the people are the sight!
Ah luckless poet! stretch thy lungs and roar,
That bear or elephant shall heed thee more;
While all its throats the gallery extends,
And all the thunder of the pit ascends!
Loud as the wolves on Orcas’ stormy steep,
Howl to the roarings of the Northern deep.
Such is the shout, the long-applauding note,
At Quin’s high plume, or Oldfield’s petticoat,
Or when from Court a birthday suit bestow’d
Sinks the lost actor in the tawdry load.
Booth enters–hark! the universal peal!
“But has he spoken?” Not a syllable.
“What shook the stage, and made the people stare?”
Cato’s long wig, flow’r’d gown, and lacquer’d chair.

Yet lest you think I rally more than teach,
Or praise malignly arts I cannot reach,
Let me for once presume t’instruct the times,
To know the poet from the man of rhymes:
‘Tis he, who gives my breast a thousand pains,
Can make me feel each passion that he feigns;
Enrage, compose, with more than magic art,
With pity and with terror tear my heart;
And snatch me o’er the earth or thro’ the air,
To Thebes, to Athens, when he will, and where.

But not this part of the poetic state
Alone, deserves the favour of the great:
Think of those authors, Sir, who would rely
More on a reader’s sense, than gazer’s eye.
Or who shall wander where the Muses sing?
Who climb their mountain, or who taste their spring?
How shall we fill a library with wit,
When Merlin’s Cave is half unfurnish’d yet?

My Liege! why writers little claim your thought,
I guess: and, with their leave, will tell the fault:
We poets are (upon a poet’s word)
Of all mankind, the creatures most absurd:
The season, when to come, and when to go,
To sing, or cease to sing, we never know;
And if we will recite nine hours in ten,
You lose your patience, just like other men.
Then too we hurt ourselves, when to defend
A single verse, we quarrel with a friend;
Repeat unask’d; lament, the wit’s too fine
For vulgar eyes, and point out ev’ry line.
But most, when straining with too weak a wing,
We needs will write epistles to the king;
And from the moment we oblige the town,
Expect a place, or pension from the Crown;
Or dubb’d historians by express command,
T’enroll your triumphs o’er the seas and land,
Be call’d to court to plan some work divine,
As once for Louis, Boileau and Racine.

Yet think, great Sir! (so many virtues shown)
Ah think, what poet best may make them known?
Or choose at least some minister of grace,
Fit to bestow the laureate’s weighty place.

Charles, to late times to be transmitted fair,
Assign’d his figure to Bernini’s care;
And great Nassau to Kneller’s hand decreed
To fix him graceful on the bounding steed;
So well in paint and stone they judg’d of merit:
But kings in wit may want discerning spirit.
The hero William, and the martyr Charles,
One knighted Blackmore, and one pension’d Quarles;
Which made old Ben, and surly Dennis swear,
“No Lord’s anointed, but a Russian bear.”

Not with such majesty, such bold relief,
The forms august, of king, or conqu’ring chief,
E’er swell’d on marble; as in verse have shin’d
(In polish’d verse) the manners and the mind.
Oh! could I mount on the M{ae}onian wing,
Your arms, your actions, your repose to sing!
What seas you travers’d! and what fields you fought!
Your country’s peace, how oft, how dearly bought!
How barb’rous rage subsided at your word,
And nations wonder’d while they dropp’d the sword!
How, when you nodded, o’er the land and deep,
Peace stole her wing, and wrapp’d the world in sleep;
Till earth’s extremes your mediation own,
And Asia’s tyrants tremble at your throne–
But verse, alas! your Majesty disdains;
And I’m not us’d to panegyric strains:
The zeal of fools offends at any time,
But most of all, the zeal of fools in rhyme,
Besides, a fate attends on all I write,
That when I aim at praise, they say I bite.
A vile encomium doubly ridicules:
There’s nothing blackens like the ink of fools;
If true, a woeful likeness; and if lies,
“Praise undeserv’d is scandal in disguise.”
Well may he blush, who gives it, or receives;
And when I flatter, let my dirty leaves
(Like journals, odes, and such forgotten things
As Eusden, Philips, Settle, writ of kings)
Clothe spice, line trunks, or flutt’ring in a row,
Befringe the rails of Bedlam and Soho.

 Alexander Pope Poems
Alexander Pope Poems

Ode on Solitude

Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air,
In his own ground.Whose heards with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire,
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire.

Blest! who can unconcern’dly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away,
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day,

Sound sleep by night; study and ease
Together mix’d; sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please,
With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me dye;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lye.

 Alexander Pope Poems
Alexander Pope Poems

Summer

See what delights in sylvan scenes appear!
Descending Gods have found Elysium here.
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 bow’rs;
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.
Oh deign to visit our forsaken seats,
The mossy fountains, and the green retreats!
Where-e’er you walk, cool gales shall fan the glade,
Trees, where you sit, shall crowd into a shade,
Where-e’er you tread, the blushing flow’rs 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 ev’ry grove,
And winds shall waft it to the pow’rs above.
But wou’d you sing, and rival Orpheus’ strain,
The wond’ring forests soon shou’d dance again,
The moving mountains hear the pow’rful call,
And headlong streams hang list’ning in their fall!
But see, the shepherds shun the noon-day heat,
The lowing herds to murm’ring 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;
On me Love’s fiercer flames for every prey,
By night he scorches, as he burns by day.

 Alexander Pope Poems
Alexander Pope Poems

The Iliad: Book VI (excerpt)

He said, and pass’d with sad presaging heart
To seek his spouse, his soul’s far dearer part;
At home he sought her, but he sought in vain:
She, with one maid of all her menial train,
Had thence retir’d; and, with her second joy,
The young Astyanax, the hope of Troy,
Pensive she stood on Ilion’s tow’ry height,
Beheld the war, and sicken’d at the sight;
There her sad eyes in vain her lord explore,
Or weep the wounds her bleeding country bore.But he, who found not whom his soul desir’d,
Whose virtue charm’d him as her beauty fir’d,
Stood in the gates, and ask’d what way she bent
Her parting steps; if to the fane she went,
Where late the mourning matrons made resort,
Or sought her sisters in the Trojan court.
“Not to the court” replied th’ attendant train,
“Nor, mixed with matrons, to Minerva’s fane;
To Ilion’s steepy tow’r she bent her way,
To mark the fortunes of the doubtful day.
Troy fled, she heard, before the Grecian sword;
She heard, and trembled for her absent lord.
Distracted with surprise, she seem’d to fly,
Fear on her cheek and sorrow in her eye.
The nurse attended with her infant boy,
The young Astyanax, the hope of Troy.”

Hector, this heard, return’d without delay;
Swift through the town he trod his former way
Through streets of palaces and walks of state,
And met the mourner at the Scæan gate.
With haste to meet him sprung the joyful fair,
His blameless wife, E{“e}tion’s wealthy heir
(Cilician Thebè great E{“e}tion sway’d,
And Hippoplacus’ wide-extended shade);
The nurse stood near, in whose embraces prest
His only hope hung smiling at her breast,
Whom each soft charm and early grace adorn,
Fair as the new-born star that gilds the morn.
To this lov’d infant Hector gave the name
Scamandrius, from Scamander’s honour’d stream;
Astyanax the Trojans call’d the boy,
From his great father, the defence of Troy.
Silent the warrior smil’d, and pleas’d, resign’d
To tender passions all his mighty mind:
His beauteous princess cast a mournful look,
Hung on his hand, and then dejected spoke;
Her bosom labour’d with a boding sigh,
And the big tear stood trembling in her eye.

“Too daring prince! ah whither dost thou run?
Ah, too forgetful of thy wife and son!
And think’st thou not how wretched we shall be,
A widow I, a helpless orphan he!
For sure such courage length of life denies,
And thou must fall, thy virtue’s sacrifice.
Greece in her single heroes strove in vain;
Now hosts oppose thee, and thou must be slain!
Oh, grant me, gods! e’er Hector meets his doom,
All I can ask of heav’n, an early tomb!
So shall my days in one sad tenor run,
And end with sorrows as they first begun.
No parent now remains, my griefs to share,
No father’s aid, no mother’s tender care.
The fierce Achilles wrapp’d our walls in fire,
Laid Thebè waste, and slew my warlike sire!
His fate compassion in the victor bred;
Stern as he was, he yet rever’d the dead,
His radiant arms preserv’d from hostile spoil,
And laid him decent on the fun’ral pile;
Then rais’d a mountain where his bones were burn’d:
The mountain nymphs the rural tomb adorn’d;
Jove’s sylvan daughters bade their elms bestow
A barren shade, and in his honour grow.

“By the same arm my sev’n brave brothers fell;
In one sad day beheld the gates of hell:
While the fat herds and snowy flocks they fed,
Amid their fields the hapless heroes bled!
My mother liv’d to bear the victor’s bands,
The queen of Hippoplacia’s sylvan lands;
Redeem’d too late, she scarce beheld again
Her pleasing empire and her native plain,
When, ah! oppress’d by life-consuming woe,
She fell a victim to Diana’s bow.

“Yet while my Hector still survives, I see
My father, mother, brethren, all, in thee:
Alas! my parents, brothers, kindred, all,
Once more will perish if my Hector fall.
Thy wife, thy infant, in thy danger share:
Oh, prove a husband’s and a father’s care!
That quarter most the skilful Greeks annoy,
Where yon wild fig-trees join the wall of Troy:
Thou from this tow’r defend th’ important post
There Agamemnon points his dreadful host,
That pass Tydides, Ajax, strive to gain,
And there the vengeful Spartan fires his train.
Thrice our bold foes the fierce attack have giv’n,
Or led by hopes, or dictated from heav’n.
Let others in the field their arms employ,
But stay my Hector here, and guard his Troy.”

The chief replied: “That post shall be my care,
Not that alone, but all the works of war.
How would the sons of Troy, in arms renown’d,
And Troy’s proud dames, whose garments sweep the ground,
Attaint the lustre of my former name,
Should Hector basely quit the field of fame?
My early youth was bred to martial pains,
My soul impels me to th’ embattled plains:
Let me be foremost to defend the throne,
And guard my father’s glories, and my own.
Yet come it will, the day decreed by fates,
(How my heart trembles while my tongue relates!)
The day when thou, imperial Troy! must bend,
And see thy warriors fall, thy glories end.
And yet no dire presage so wounds my mind,
My mother’s death, the ruin of my kind,
Not Priam’s hoary hairs defil’d with gore,
Not all my brothers gasping on the shore,
As thine, Andromache! thy griefs I dread;
I see thee trembling, weeping, captive led.
In Argive looms our battles to design,
And woes, of which so large a part was thine!
To bear the victor’s hard commands, or bring
The weight of waters from Hyperia’s spring!
There, while you groan beneath the load of life,
They cry, ‘Behold the mighty Hector’s wife!’
Some haughty Greek, who lives thy tears to see,
Embitters all thy woes by naming me.
The thoughts of glory past and present shame,
A thousand griefs, shall waken at the name!
May I lie cold before that dreadful day,
Press’d with a load of monumental clay!
Thy Hector, wrapp’d in everlasting sleep,
Shall neither hear thee sigh, nor see thee weep.”

Thus having spoke, th’ illustrious chief of Troy
Stretch’d his fond arms to clasp the lovely boy.
The babe clung crying to his nurse’s breast,
Scar’d at the dazzling helm and nodding crest.
With secret pleasure each fond parent smil’d,
And Hector hasted to relieve his child;
The glitt’ring terrors from his brows unbound,
And plac’d the beaming helmet on the ground.
Then kiss’d the child, and, lifting high in air,
Thus to the gods preferr’d a father’s pray’r:

“O thou! whose glory fills th’ ethereal throne,
And all ye deathless pow’rs! protect my son!
Grant him, like me, to purchase just renown,
To guard the Trojans, to defend the crown,
Against his country’s foes the war to wage,
And rise the Hector of the future age!
So when, triumphant from successful toils,
Of heroes slain he bears the reeking spoils,
Whole hosts may hail him with deserv’d acclaim,
And say, ‘This chief transcends his father’s fame’:
While pleas’d, amidst the gen’ral shouts of Troy,
His mother’s conscious heart o’erflows with joy.”

He spoke, and fondly gazing on her charms,
Restor’d the pleasing burthen to her arms;
Soft on her fragrant breast the babe she laid,
Hush’d to repose, and with a smile survey’d.
The troubled pleasure soon chastis’d by fear,
She mingled with the smile a tender tear.
The soften’d chief with kind compassion view’d,
And dried the falling drops, and thus pursu’d:

“Andromache! my soul’s far better part,
Why with untimely sorrows heaves thy heart?
No hostile hand can antedate my doom,
Till fate condemns me to the silent tomb.
Fix’d is the term to all the race of earth,
And such the hard condition of our birth.
No force can then resist, no flight can save;
All sink alike, the fearful and the brave.
No more–but hasten to thy tasks at home,
There guide the spindle, and direct the loom;
Me glory summons to the martial scene,
The field of combat is the sphere for men.
Where heroes war, the foremost place I claim,
The first in danger as the first in fame.”

 Alexander Pope Poems
Alexander Pope Poems

Universal Prayer

Father of all! In every age,
In ev’ry clime ador’d,
By saint, by savage, and by sage,
Jehovah, Jove, or Lord!Thou Great First Cause, least understood,
Who all my sense confin’d
To know but this, that Thou art good,
And that myself am blind:

Yet gave me, in this dark estate,
To see the good from ill;
And, binding Nature fast in Fate,
Left free the human Will.

What Conscience dictates to be done,
Or warns me not to do;
This teach me more than Hell to shun,
That more than Heav’n pursue.

What blessings thy free bounty gives
Let me not cast away;
For God is paid when man receives;
T’ enjoy is to obey.

Yet not to earth’s contracted span
Thy goodness let me bound,
Or think thee Lord alone of man,
When thousand worlds are round.

Let not this weak, unknowing hand
Presume thy bolts to throw,
And teach damnation round the land
On each I judge thy foe.

If I am right, thy grace impart,
Still in the right to stay;
If I am wrong, O teach my heart
To find that better way.

Save me alike from foolish Pride
Or impious Discontent,
At aught thy wisdom has denied,
Or aught that goodness lent.

Teach me to feel another’s woe,
To right the fault I see:
That mercy I to others show,
That mercy show to me.

Mean tho’ I am, not wholly so,
Since quicken’d by thy breath;
O lead me whereso’er I go,
Thro’ this day’s life or death!

This day be bread and peace my lot:
All else beneath the sun
Though know’st if best bestow’d or not,
And let Thy will be done.

To Thee, whose temple is of Space,
Whose altar earth, sea, skies,
One chorus let all Beings raise!
All Nature’s incense rise!

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