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When black ambition stains a public cause, A monarch's sword when mad vain-glory draws, Not Waller's wreath can hide the nation's scar, 230 Nor Boileau turn the feather to a star.
Not so, when diadem'd with rays divine, Touch'd with the flame that breaks from Virtue's
shrine, Her priestess Muse forbids the good to die, And opes the temple of eternity.
Ver. 228. When black ambition, &c.] The case of Cromwell in the civil war of England; and (Ver. 229.) of Louis XIV. in his conquest of the Low Countries.
Pope. Ver. 230. Not Waller's wreath] “Such a series of verses," says Dr. Johnson, "as the Panegyric on Cromwell, had hardly appeared before in the English language." I cannot forbear adding, that I am surprized Waller should never name Milton, who of the same party, and which he had so many opportunities of doing in his works. But Waller was not of Milton's school.
Warton. Ver. 231. Nor Boileau turn the feather to a star.] See his Ode on Namur ; where (to use his own words) “Il a fait un astre de la plume blanche que le Roi porte ordinairement à son chapeau, et qui est en effet une espèce de comete, fatale à nos ennemis."
After Ver. 227 in the MS.
With that which follow'd Julius to the skies.
There, other trophies deck the truly brave;
Prior burlesqued this Ode with infinite pleasantry and humour. And the same may be said of Prior's Epistle to Boileau. Louis XIV., who had a personal regard for Prior, did not, we may well imagine, know that he had ridiculed his favourite Poet. Another French flatterer read to Malherbe some fulsome verses, in which he had represented France as moving out of its place to receive the King. “Though this," said the honest Malherbe," was in my time, yet I protest I do not remember it.”
Warton. Ver. 235. And opes] From Milton's Comus, ver. 14.
" That opes the palace of eternity.” Warton. Ver. 237. Anstis] The chief herald at arms. It is the custom at the funeral of great peers, to cast into the grave the broken staves and ensigns of honour.
Pope. Ver. 238. Far other stars than *** and *** wear] That is, Kent and Grafton. The next line wants explanation. I have some notion Lord Mordington kept a gaming-house. Bennet.
Ver. 239. STAIR;] John Dalrymple, Earl of Stair, Knight of the Thistle, served in all the wars under the Duke of Marlborough ; and afterwards as ambassador to France.
Pope. Ver. 240, 241. HOUGH — DIGBY,] Dr. John Hough, Bishop of Worcester; and the Lord Digby. The one an assertor of the Church of England, in opposition to the false measures of King James II. The other as firmly attached to the cause of that King. Both acting out of principle, and equally men of honour and virtue.
Pope. Ver. 240. (Such us on Hough's unsullied mitre shine,] Dr. John Hough, successively Bishop of Oxford, Lichfield, and Worcester, was born in 1655, and died May 8, 1743, at the very
advanced age of ninety-two, after an episcopacy of fifty-three years.
Let envy howl, while heaven's whole chorus sings,
Yes, the last pen for freedom let me draw, When truth stands trembling on the edge of law; Here, last of Britons ! let your names be read : 250 Are none, none living ? let me praise the dead, And for that cause which made your fathers shine, Fall by the votes of their degenerate line.
Ver. 240. on Hough's unsullied] In the fifty-seventh Persian Letter, is an elegant and well written eulogium on this excellent prelate, by Lord Lyttelton. These Letters have been too much depreciated and neglected.
Warton. Ver. 253. of their degenerate line.] Such was the language at that time, used by our author and his friends and associates. Lord Chesterfield ends the account of his friend Hammond, author of the Love Elegies, with these words : “ He looked back, with a kind of religious awe and delight, upon those glorious and happy times of Greece and Rome, when wisdom, virtue, and liberty formed the only triumvirates ; in these sentiments he lived, and would have lived, even in these times; in these sentiments he died; but in these times too, ut non erepta a diis immortalibus vita, sed donata, mors videatur."
In every age, and in every nation, there is a constant progression of manners; “For the manners of a people seldom stand still, but are either POLISHING or SPOILING."
Ver. 255. In the MS.
Quit, quit these themes and write Essays on Man.
Fr. Alas! alas! pray end what you began, And write next winter more Essays on Man. 255
Ver. ult.] This was the last poem of the kind printed by our author, with a resolution to publish no more; but to enter thus, in the most plain and solemn manner he could, a sort of PROTEST against that insuperable corruption and depravity of manners, which he had been so unhappy as to live to see. Could he have hoped to have amended any, he had continued those attacks; but bad men were grown so shameless and so powerful, that ridicule was become as unsafe as it was ineffectual. The Poem raised him, as he knew it would, some enemies; but he had reason to be satisfied with the approbation of good men, and the testimony of his own conscience.
Pope. We must own that these Dialogues, excellent as they are, exhibit many and strong marks of our author's petulance, partyspirit, and self-importance; and of assuming to himself the character of censor general; who, alas ! if he had possessed a thousand times more genius, integrity, and ability, than he actually enjoyed, could not have altered or amended the manners of a rich and commercial, and consequently of a luxurious and dissipated nation. But we make ourselves unhappy, by hoping to possess incompatible things; we want to have wealth without corruption, and liberty without virtue !
Warton. Could Pope with his good sense, unless self-love had blinded him, seriously believe, that his pen could effect such mighty purposes, even if the objects of his satire were so notorious, that every good and wise man would have been on his side, and nothing was dictated by private spleen, and political asperity! Alas, we might say, in the language of poor Cowper,
66 Leviathan is not so tamed;
Turns to the stroke his adamantine scales.” Bowles. The foregoing objections of Dr. Warton and Mr. Bowles to these Satires, would, if just, apply not only to the writings of Pope, but to all moral instruction and remonstrance whatsoever. That the efforts of any single individual are not likely to effect an entire
change in the manners of a people may be admitted ; but it will not thence follow that no attempt is to be made to resist the torrent of corruption and depravity, and to awaken the energies of a people to a better sense of their own true interests and happiness. What results
may be produced by such efforts no one can ascertain. They are lessons not confined to a single age or nation, but are common to all times and to all mankind; and whatever may be thought of temporary politics and private partialities or resentments, will inculcate a scorn of factitious greatness, a contempt of meanness and servility, and a generous indignation against profligacy and vice, as long as the language in which they are written