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"Hæc data pæna diu viventibus, ut renovata Semper clade domus multa in luctibus, inque "Perpetuo morore et nigra veste senescant." Juv. Sat. x. 1. 245.
"Enlarge my life with multitude of days,
Approach, ye minstrels, try the soothing strain "And yield the tuneful lenitives of pain,
"No sound, alas! would touch the impervious ear,
Though dancing mountains witness Orpheus near. "No lute nor lyre his feeble power attend, "Nor sweeter music of a virtuous friend; "But everlasting dictates crowd his tongue, "Perversely grave, or positively wrong. "The still returning tale, and ling'ring jest, "Perplex the fawning niece and pamper'd guest; "While growing hopes scarce awe the gath'ring sneer, "And scarce a legacy can bribe to hear; "The watchful guests still hint the last offence, "The daughter's petulance.....the son's expense, Improve his heady rage with treach'rous skill, "And mould his passions till they make his will, "Unnumber'd maladies his joints invade,
Lay siege to life, and press the dire blockade; "But unextinguish'd av'rice still remains, "And dreaded losses aggravate his pains; "He turns, with anxious heart and crippl'd hands, "His bonds of debts and mortgages of lands; "Or views his coffers with suspicious eyes, "Unlocks his gold, and counts it till he dies.
"But grant the virtues of a temp❜rate prime "Bless with an age exempt from scorn or crime, "An age that melts in unperceiv'd decay, "And glides in modest innocence away; "Whose peaceful day benevolence endears, "Whose night congratulating conscience cheers,
"The gen❜ral fav'rite as the gen'ral friend,
New forms arise, and different views engage,
Of these lines it is hard to say which are to be preferred, the original or the imitation. The original has more of satire, the imitation more of dignity. In the following the imitation is so much more concentrated, and on the whole so superior, that I omit transcribing the original....
"The teeming mother, anxious for her race,
"Ye nymphs of rosy lips and radiant eyes,
"What care, what rules, your heedless charms shall save,
Boileau's satires in general may be classed among moral poems, for the writer was too courtly to lash individual vice. They are chiefly copied from Horace and Juvenal; and the remark of Warburton is perfectly true, that "Mr. Pope called his satires imitations, while the French poet dignified his imitations with the name of satires."
In our language we have several fine didactic poems of the moral kind; but none are more celebrated than Mr. Pope's Essay on Man, and his Moral Essays. In the former the poet has aimed at being methodical; but I perfectly agree with Dr. Johnson, that the metaphysics are execrable, while the morality is pure, and sometimes sublime, the knowledge of human nature it displays profound, and the poetry incomparable.
There is extant a posthumous work of Lord Bolingbroke, purporting to be the substance of several conversations between him and Mr. Pope, the object of which is to prove that the whole matter of the Essay on Man was dictated by his lordship, while Mr. Pope was little more than a versifier. To me it appears that the work in question was rather taken from the Essay on Man than the Essay from it; and neither Lord Bolingbroke nor Mr. Pope was the author of the system on which it is founded; for it is undoubtedly borrowed altogether from King's Origin of Evil: a work abundantly ingenious, but fallacious in its principles, and inaccurate in its conclusions.
The best passages in the Essay on Man are the delineations of character, and of these there are none finer than the following:
"Honour and shame from no condition rise; "Act well your part, there all the honour lies. "Fortune in men has some small diff'rence made, "One flaunts in rags, one flutters in brocade; "The cobler apron'd, and the parson gown'd "The friar hooded, and the monarch crown'd. "What differ more (you cry) than crown and cowl?' "I'll tell you, friend! a wise man and a fool. "You'll find, if once the monarch acts the monk, "Or, cobler-like, the parson will be drunk,
"Worth makes the man, and want of it the fellow; "The rest is all but leather, or prunella.
"Stuck o'er with titles, and hung round with strings, "That thou may'st be by kings, or whores of kings; "Boast the pure blood of an illustrious race, "In quiet flow from Lucrece to Lucrece : "But by your father's worth if yours you rate, "Count me those only who were good and great. "Go; if your ancient, but ignoble blood, "Has crept through scoundrels ever since the flood, "Go! and pretend your family is young; "Now own your fathers have been fools so long. "What can ennoble sots, or slaves, or cowards? "Alas! not all the blood of all the HOWARDS.
"Look next on Greatness; say where Greatness lies? "Where, but among the heroes and the wise?' "Heroes are much the same, the point's agreed, "From Macedonia's madman to the Swede; "The whole strange purpose of their lives, to find "Or make, an enemy of all mankind! "Not one looks backward, onward still he goes; "Yet ne'er looks forward further than his nose. "No less alike the politic and wise; "All sly slow things, with circumspective eyes: "Men in their loose unguarded hours they take, "Not that themselves are wise, but others weak. "But grant that those can conquer, these can cheat; "Tis phrase absurd to call a villain great: "Who wickedly is wise, or madly brave, "Is but the more a fool, the more a knave. "Who noble ends by noble means obtains, "Or, failing, smiles in exile or in chains, "Like good Aurelius let him reign, or bleed "Like Socrates, that man is great indeed.
"What's fame? a fancy'd life in others' breath, "A thing beyond us, ev'n before our death. "Just what you hear, you have; and what's unknown, "The same, (my Lord) if Tully's, or your own. "All that we feel of it begins and ends "In the small circle of our foes or friends: "To all beside, as much an empty shade, "An Eugene living, as a Cæsar dead;
"Alike, or when, or where, they shone, or shine, "Or on the Rubicon, or on the Rhine.
"A wit's a feather, and a chief a rod;
"An honest man's the noblest work of God.
"Fame but from death a villain's name can save,
"In parts superior what advantage lies? "Tell (for you can) what is it to be wise? ""Tis but to know how little can be known; "To see all others' faults, and feel our own: "Condemn'd in bus'ness or in arts to drudge, "Without a second or without a judge. "Truths would you teach, or save a sinking land ? "All fear, none aid you, and few understand. "Painful pre-eminence! yourself to view "Above life's weakness, and its comforts too.
"Bring then these blessings to a strict account; "Make fair deductions; see to what they mount : "How much of other each is sure to cost; "How each for other oft is wholly lost : "How inconsistent greater goods with these ;
How sometimes life is risk'd, and always ease: "Think, and if still the things thy envy call,
Say, wouldst thou be the man to whom they fall? "To sigh for ribands if thou art so silly, "Mark how they grace Lord Umbra, or Sir Billy. "Is yellow dirt the passion of thy life? "Look but on Gripus, or on Gripus' wife.. "If parts allure thee, think how Bacon shin'd, "The wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind: "Or ravish'd with the whistling of a name, "See Cromwell, damn'd to everlasting fame! "If all, united, thy ambition call,
"From ancient story learn to scorn them all.