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But the first poem devoted to natural description appeared while Pope was yet alive, in the very midst of a vigorous town poetry. It was the Seasons, 1726-30; and it is curious, remembering what I have said about the peculiar turn of the Scotch for natural description, that it was the work of JAMES Thomson, a Scotchman. It described the scenery and country life of Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. He wrote with his eye upon their scenery, and even when he wrote of it in his room, it was with a recollected love. The descriptions were too much like catalogues, the very fault of the previous Scotch poets, and his style was always heavy and often cold, but he was the first poet who led the English people into that new world of nature in poetry, which has moved and enchanted us in the work of Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, and Tennyson, but which was entirely impossible for Pope to understand."
BIBLIOGRAPHY. POPE.-Elwin's Life of ; R Bell's and S Johnson's Lives of Eng. Poets; Ward's Anthology ; De Quincey's Biog. Essays and Essays on the Poets ; I. Disraeli's Quarrels of Authors ; L. Stephen's Hours in a Library; Eng. Men of Let. Series; J. T. Fields' Yesterdays with Authors; W. Howitt's Homes of Brit. Poets ; Thackeray's Eng. Humorists : Lowell's My Study Windows ; Fraser's Mag., v. 48, 1853, and v. 61, 1860; Ecl. Mag., Dec., 1847; N. Br. Rev., v: 75, 1872.
TAOMSON. -Erskine's Essays upon; Howitt's Homes of Brit. Poets ; S. Johnson's Lives of Eng. Poets, J. Wilson's Recreations ; Ecl. Mag., v. 29, 1853; New Monthly, June, 1855, and June, 1858.
From Pope's Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot.
P. Shut, shut the door, good John! fatigued, I said,
Tie up the knocker, say I'm sick, I'm dead.
The dog-star rages! nay, 'tis past a doubt,
All Bedlam or Parnassus is let out:
Fire in each eye and papers in each hand,
They rave, recite, and madden round the land.
What walks can guard me, or what shades can hide?
They pierce my thickets, through my grot they glide.
By land, by water, they renew the charge,
They stop the chariot, and they board the barge.
No place is sacred, not the church is free,
Ev'n Sunday shines no Sabbath-day to me.
Is there a parson much be-mus'd in beer,
A maudlin poetess, a rhyming peer,
A clerk foredoom'd his father's soul to cross,
Who pens a stanza when he should engross?
Is there who, lock'd from ink and paper, scrawls
With desp’rate charcoal round his darken'd walls?
All fly to Twit’nam, and in humble strain
Apply to me to keep them mad or vain.
Friend to my life, (which did not you prolong The world had wanted many an idle song) What drop or nostrum can this plague remove? Or which must end me, a fool's wrath or love? A dire dilemma! either way I'm sped, If foes, they write, if friends, they read me dead. Seiz'd and tied down to judge, how wretched I! Who can't be silent, and who will not lie: To laugh were want of goodness and of grace, And to be grave exceeds all pow'r of face. I sit with sad civility, I read With honest anguish and an aching head: And drop at last, but in unwilling ears, This saving counsel, “Keep your piece nine years."
Nine years!” cries he, who high in Drury-lane Lull'd by soft zephyrs through the broken pane, Rhymes ere he wakes, and prints before term ends, Oblig'd by hunger and request of friends; “The piece, you think, is incorrect? why take it, I'm all submission, what you'd have it make it.” Three things another's modest wishes bound, My friendship and a prologue and ten pound.
Why did I write? what sin to me unknown Dipt me in ink,-my parents' or my own? As yet a child, nor yet a fool to fame, I lisp'd in numbers, for the numbers came. I left no calling for this idle trade, No duty broke, no father disobey'd; The muse but serv'd to ease some friend, not wife, To help me through this long disease, my life,
To second, Arbuthnot, thy art and care
And teach the being you preserv'd to bear.
Soft were my numbers; who could take offence
While pure description held the place of sense?
Like gentle Fanny's was my flow'ry theme,
A painted mistress or a purling stream.
Yet then did Gildon draw his venal quill;
I wish'd the man a dinner, and sate still.
Yet then did Dennis rave in furious fret;
I never answer'd, I was not in debt.
If want provok’d, or madness made them print,
I wag'd no war with Bedlam or the Mint.
Did some more sober critic come abroad;
If wrong, I smiled; if right, I kiss'd the rod.
Pains, reading, study are their just pretence,
And all they want is spirit, taste, and sense.
Commas and points they set exactly right,
And 'twere a sin to rob them of their mite.
Yet ne'er one sprig of laurel grac'd these ribalds,
From slashing Bentley down to piddling Tibalds.
Each wight who reads not, and but scans and spells,
Each word-catcher that lives on syllables,
Ev'n such small critics some regard may claim,
Preserv'd in Milton's or in Shakespeare's name.
Pretty! in amber to observe the forms
Of hairs or straws or dirt or grubs or worms!
The things, we know, are neither rich nor rare,
But wonder how the d— they got there.
Were others angry, I excused them too;
1 Well might they rage, I gave them but their due.
I A man's true merit 'tis not hard to find; But each man's secret standard in his mind, That casting-weight pride adds to emptiness, This who can gratify? for who can guess? The bard whom pilfered pastorals renown, Who turns a Persian tale for half a crown, Just writes to make his barrenness appear, And strains from hard-bound brains eight lines a year; He who, still wanting, tho' he lives on theft, Steals much, spends little, yet has nothing left;
And he who now to sense, now nonsense leaning,
Means not, but blunders round about a meaning;
And he whose fustian's so sublimely bad
It is not poetry but prose run mad;-
All these my modest satire bade translate
And own'd that nine such poets made a Tate.
How did they fume and stamp and roar and chafe!
And swear not Addison himself was safe.
Peace to all such! but were there one whose fires
True genius kindles, and fair fame inspires;
Blest with each talent and each art to please,
And born to write, converse, and live with ease:
Should such a man, too fond to rule alone,
Bear, like the Turk,? no brother near the throne,
View him with scornful, yet with jealous, eyes,
And hate for arts that caus'd himself to rise;
Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And without sneering teach the rest to sneer;
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike;
Alike reserv'd to blame or to commend,
A timorous foe and a suspicious friend;
Dreading ev'n fools, by flatterers besieg'd,
And so obliging that he ne'er obliged;
Like Cato, give his little senate laws,
And sit tentive to his own applause;
While wits and templars ev'ry sentence raise
And wonder with a foolish face of praise :-
Who but must laugh if such a man there be?
Who would not weep if Atticus were he?
Oh! let me live my own and die so too! (To live and die is all I have to do) Maintain a poet's dignity and ease, And see what friends and read what books I please; Above a patron, tho' I condescend Sometimes to call a minister my friend. I was not born for courts or great affairs; I pay my debts, believe, and say my prayers;
Can sleep without a poem in my head,
Nor know if Dennis be alive or dead.
A lash like mine no honest man shall dread,
But all such babbling blockheads in his stead.
Let Sporus' tremble. A. What? that thing of silk,
Sporus, that mere white curd of ass's milk?
Satire or sense, alas! can Sporus feel ?
Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel ?
P. Yet let me flap this bug with gilded wings,
This painted child of dirt that s—s and stings;
Whose buzz the witty and the fair annoys,
Yet wit ne'er tastes, and beauty ne'er enjoys.
So well-bred spaniels civilly delight
In mumbling of the game they dare not bite.
Eternal smiles his emptiness betray,
As shallow streams run dimpling all the way,
Whether in florid impotence he speaks,
And, as the prompter breathes the puppet squeaks;
Or at the ear of Eve, familiar toad,
Half froth, half venom, spits himself abroad
In puns or politics or tales or lies
Or spite or smut or rhymes or blasphemies.
His wit all see-saw, between that and this,
Now high, now low, now master up, now miss,
And he himself one vile antithesis.
Amphibious thing! that, acting either part,
The trifling head or the corrupted heart,
Fop at the toilet, flatterer at the board,
Now trips a lady, and now struts a lord.
Eve's temper thus the rabbins have express'd
A cherub's face, a reptile all the rest,
Beauty that shocks you, parts that none will trust,
Wit that can creep, and pride that licks the dust.
Not fortune's worshipper nor fashion's fool,
Not lucre's madman nor ambition's tool,
Not proud nor servile, be one poet's praise
That, if he pleas’d, he pleas'd by manly ways;
That flattery ev'n to kings he held a shame,
And thought a lie in verse or prose the same.