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Is there a Parson much be-mus'd in beer,
A clerk, foredoom'd his father's soul to cross,
After Ver. 20 in the MS.
Is there a Bard in durance? turn them free
Ver. 15. Is there a Parson] Some lines in this Epistle to Arbuthnot had been used in a letter to Thomson when he was in Italy, and transferred from him to Arbuthnot, which naturally displeased the former, though they lived always on terms of civility and friendship and Pope earnestly exerted himself, and used all his interest to promote the success of Thomson's Agamemnon, and attended the first night of its being performed. Though Agamemnon is not a capital play on the whole, and abounds in languid and long declamatory speeches, yet parts of it are striking; particularly Melisander's account of the desert island to which he was banished, copied from the Philoctetes of Sophocles; and the prophetic speeches of Cassandra, during the moment of Agamemnon's being murdered, well calculated to fill the audience with alarm, astonishment, and suspense, at an awful event, obscurely hinted at in very strong imagery. These speeches are closely copied from the Agamemnon of Æschylus, as is a striking scene in his Eleonora from the Alcestis of Euripides. Thomson was well acquainted with the Greek Tragedies, on which I heard him talk learnedly, when I was once introduced to him by my friend Mr. W. Collins.
Arthur, whose giddy son neglects the laws,
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?
If foes, they write, if friends, they read me dead.
I sit with sad civility, I read
With honest anguish, and an aching head;
This saving counsel, "Keep your piece nine years."
Ver. 29 in the first Ed.
Dear Doctor, tell me, is not this a curse?
Say, is their anger, or their friendship worse?
Ver. 23. Arthur Moore, Esq.
Ver. 33. Seiz'd and tied down to judge,] Alluding to the scene in the Plain-Dealer, where Old-fox gags and ties down the Widow, to hear his well-penn'd stanzas. W.- -Rather from Horace; vide his Druso.
Ver. 38. an aching head;] Alluding to the disorder he was then so constantly afflicted with. W.
Ver. 40. Keep your piece nine years.] Boileau employed eleven years in his short satire of L'Equivoque. Patru was four years altering and correcting the first paragraph of his translation of the oration for Archias.
Nine years! cries he, who high in Drury-lane, 41 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 : 44 "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. Pitholeon sends to me: "You know his Grace, I want a Patron; ask him for a Place." Pitholeon libell'd me-" but here's a letter Informs you, Sir, 'twas when he knew no better. Dare you refuse him? Curl invites to dine, He'll write a Journal; or he'll turn Divine." Bless me! a packet.-" "Tis a stranger sues, A Virgin Tragedy, an Orphan Muse."
Ver. 53 in the MS.
If you refuse, he goes, as fates incline,
Ver. 49. Pitholeon] The name taken from a foolish Poet of Rhodes, who pretended much to Greek. Schol. in Horat. 1. i. Dr. Bentley pretends, that this Pitholeon libelled Cæsar also. See notes on Hor. Sat. 10. 1. i. P.
Ver. 54. He'll write a Journal,] Meaning the London Journal; a paper in favour of Sir R. Walpole's ministry. Bishop Hoadley wrote in it, as did Dr. Bland.
Ver. 55. a packet.] Alludes to a tragedy called the Virgin Queen, by Mr. R. Barford, published 1729, who displeased Pope by daring to adopt the fine machinery of his Sylphs in an heroi-comical poem called the Assembly. 1726.
Ver. 43. Rhymes ere he wakes,]
"Dictates to me slumb'ring, or inspires
Easy my unpremeditated Verse."
If I dislike it, "Furies, death and rage!"
All my demurs but double his attacks;
At last he whispers, "Do; and we go snacks."
Ver. 60 in the former Ed.
Cibber and I are, luckily, no friends.
Ver. 69. 'Tis sung, when Midas'] The abruptness with which this story from Persius is introduced, occasions an obscurity in the passage; for there is no connexion with the foregoing paragraph. Boileau says, Sat. ix. v. 221, I have nothing to do with Chapelain's honour, or candour, or civility, or complaisance; but, if you hold him up as a model of good writing, and as the king of authors,
"Ma bile alors s'echauffe, et je brûle d'ecrire ;
Midas, le Roi Midas, a des oreilles d'Asne."
There is much humour in making the prying and watchful eyes of the minister, instead of the barber, first discover the ass's ears; and the word perks has particular force and emphasis. Sir Robert Walpole and Queen Caroline were here pointed at. Boileau wrote his ninth Satire first in prose; of which there was a copy in the late French King's Library.
His very Minister who spy'd them first
(Some say his Queen), was forc'd to speak, or burst. And is not mine, my friend, a sorer case,
When ev'ry cox comb perks them in my face?
A. Good friend, forbear! you deal in dang❜rous
I'd never name Queens, Ministers, or Kings;
You think this cruel? take it for a rule,
Ver. 72. Queen,] The story is told, by some, of his Barber, but by Chaucer, of his Queen. See Wife of Bath's Tale in Dryden's Fables. P.
Ver. 75. Good Friend, forbear !] Dr. Hurd, in the Dialogue on the Age of Queen Elizabeth, has supported the character of Arbuthnot with more spirit and propriety than is done in this Epistle.
Ver. 79. Out with it, DUNCIAD!] "Had Mr. Pope," says Mr. Mason, "sat as easy to the sarcasms of the many writers that endeavoured to eclipse his poetical fame, as Mr. Gray appears to have done with respect to the parodies on his Odes, the world would not have been possessed of a Dunciad; but it would have been impressed with a more amiable idea of its author's temper."
Ver. 80. That secret to each fool that he's an Ass :] i. e. that his ears (his marks of folly) are visible. W.
Ver. 86. the mighty crack:] A parody on Addison's translation of Horace, Ode iii. b. 3.