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THE wit, the vigour, and the honesty of Mr. Pope's Satiric Writings had raised a great clamour against him, as if the Supplement, as he calls it, to the Public Laws, was a violation of morality and fociety. In answer to this charge he had it in his purpose to fhew, that two of the most respectable characters in the modeft and virtuous age of Elizabeth, Dr. Donne and Bishop Hall, had arraigned Vice publicly, and fhewn it in ftronger colours, than he had done, whether they found it,
"On the Pillory, or near the Throne."
In pursuance of this purpose, our Poet hath admirably verified, as he expreffes it, two or three Satires of Dr. Donne. He intended to have given two or three of Bifhop Hall's likewife, whose force and claffical elegance he much admired; but as Hall was a better verfifier, and as a mere Academic, had not his vein viciated like Donne's, by the fantastic language of Courts, Mr. Pope's purpose was only to correct a little, and smooth the versification. In the firft edition of Hall's Satires, which was in Mr. Pope's library, we find that long Satire, called the first of the Sixth Book, corrected throughout, and the versification mended for his ufe. He intitles it, in the beginning of his corrections, by the name of Sat. Opt. This writer Hall fell under a severe examiner of his wit and reasoning, in the famous Milton. For Hall, a little before the unhappy breach between Charles I. and the long Parliament, having written in defence of Epifcopacy, Milton, who first set out an advocate for Prefbytery, thought fit to take Hall's defence to task. And as he rarely gave quarter to his adversaries, from the Bishop's theologic writings, he fell upon his Poetry. But a stronger proof of the excellency of these Satires can hardly be given, than that all he could find to cavil at, was the title to the three first Books, which Hall, ridiculously enough, calls TOOTHLESS SATIRES: on this, for want of better hold, Milton faftens, and fufficiently mum. bles,
That hate towards them, breeds pity towards the rest.
VER. 1. Yes; thank my ftars!] Two noblemen of taste and learning, the Duke of Shrewsbury and the Earl of Oxford, defired Pope to melt down and caft anew, the weighty bullion of Dr. Donne's Satires; who had degraded and deformed a vast fund of fterling wit and ftrong fenfe, by the most harfh and uncouth diction. Pope fucceeded in giving harmony to a writer, more rough and rugged than even any of his age, and who profited fo little by the example Spencer had fet, of a moft mufical and mellifluous verfification; far beyond the verfification of Fairfax, who is frequently mentioned as the greatest improver of the harmony of our language. The Satires of Hall, written in very smooth and pleas ing numbers, preceded thofe of Donne many years; for his Virgidemiarum were published, in fix books, in the year 1597; in which he calls himself the very first English Satirift. This, however, was not true in fact; for Sir Thomas Wyatt, of Allington Castle in Kent, the friend and favourite of Henry VIII. and, as was fuggefted, of Ann Boleyn, was our firft writer of Satire worth notice. But it was not in his numbers only that Donne was reprehensible. He abounds in false thoughts, in far-fought sentiments, in forced unnatural conceits. He was the firft corrupter of Cowley. Dryden was the first who called him a metaphysical poet. He had a confiderable fhare of learning, and though he entered late into orders, yet he was esteemed a good divine. James I. was so earnest to prefer him in the church, that he even refused the Earl of Somerfet, his favourite, the requeft he earnestly made, of giving
my ftars! as early as I knew
This Town, I had the sense to hate it too:
That all befide, one pities, not abhors;
Donne an office in the council. In the entertaining account of that converfation, which Ben Jonfon is faid to have held with Mr. Drummond, of Hauthornden in Scotland, in the year 1619, containing his judgments of the English Poets, he fpeaks thus of Donne, (who was his intimate friend, and had frequently addressed him in various poems :) "Donne was originally a poet; his grandfather, on the mother's fide, was Heywood the epigrammatist; but for not being understood, he would perish. He efteemed him the first poet in the world for fome things; his Verses of the Loft Ochadine, he had by heart; and that paffage of the Calm, "That duft and feather, did not ftir, all was fo quiet." He affirmed, that Donne wrote all his best pieces before he was twentyfive years of age. The conceit of Donne's transformation, or metempfychofis, was, that he fought the foul of that apple which Eve pulled, and hereafter made it the foul of a bitch, then of a fhe wolf, and fo of a woman; his general purpose was to have brought it into all the bodies of the heretics, from the foul of Cain, and at last left it in the body of Calvin. He only wrote one sheet of this; and fince he was made Doctor, repented heartily, and refolved to deftroy all his poems. He told Donne, that his Anniverfary was prophane; that if it had been written on the Virgin Mary, it had been tolerable; to which Donne answered, That he defcribed the idea of a woman, and not as fhe was."
Though Poetry, indeed, be such a fin,
As, I think, that brings Dearth and Spaniards in:
One (like a wretch, which at barre judg’d as dead, Yet prompts him which stands next, and cannot read,
And faves his life) gives Idiot Actors means, (Starving himself,) to live by's labour'd scenes. As in fome Organs, Puppits dance above, And bellows pant below, which them do move. One would move love by rythmes; but witchcraft's charms
Bring not now their old fears, nor their old harms : Rams and flings now are filly battery,
Pistolets are the best artillery.
And they who write to Lords, rewards to get,
Donne was one of our Poets who wrote elegantly in Latin ; as did Ben Jonfon, Cowley, Milton, Addison, and Gray. In Donne's Introduction to his Witty Catalogue of Imaginary Books, (which Swift has imitated before the Tale of a Tub,) there is a paffage fo minutely applicable to the present times, that I am tempted to transcribe it: " Ævum fortiti fumus, quo plane indoctis nihil turpius, plenè dotis nihil rarius. Tam omnes in literis aliquid fciunt, tam nemo omnia. Mediâ igitur plerumque itur viâ, & ad
I grant that Poetry's a crying fin;
It brought (no doubt) th' Excife and Army in: Catch'd like the Plague, or Love, the Lord knows how,
But that the cure is starving, all allow.
Poor and difarm'd, and hardly worth your hate!
One fings the Fair; but fongs no longer move; No rat is rhym'd to death, nor maid to love: In love's, in nature's fpite, the fiege they hold, And scorn the flesh, the dev'l, and all but gold.
These write to Lords, fome mean reward to get, As needy beggars fing at doors for meat. Those write because all write, and fo have still Excuse for writing, and for writing ill.
evitandam ignorantiæ turpitudinem, & legendi faftidium." Mr. Moore has lately answered Donne's Paradox on Self-Murder Vol. 2. p. 2. 41. The private character of Donne, the inconvenience he underwent on account of his early marriage, and his remarkable fenfibility of temper, render him very amiable.
VER. 27. Those write] The Original required little alteration.