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I will or perish in the gen’rous cause :
120 &To VIRTUE ONLY and HER FRIENDS A FRIEND, The World beside may murmur, or commend. Know, all the distant din that world can keep, Rolls o'er my Grotto, and but sooths my sleep. There, my retreat the best Companions grace, 125 Chiefs out of war, and Statesmen out of place.
Ver. 125. There, my retreat] I know not whether these lines, spirited and splendid as they are, give us more pleasure than the natural picture of the great Scipio and Lælius, unbending themselves from their high occupations, and descending to common and even trifling sports: for the old commentator says, that they lived in such intimacy with Lucilius, “ ut quodam tempore Lælio circum lectos triclinii fugienti Lucilius superveniens, eum obtorta mappa quasi percussurus sequeretur.” For this is the fact to which Horace seems to allude, rather than to what Tully mentions in the second book De Oratore, of their amusing themselves in picking up shells and pebbles on the sea-shore.
Bolingbroke is here represented as pouring out himself to his friend in the most free and unreserved conversations on topics the most interesting and important. But Pope was deceived : for it is asserted that the philosopher never discovered his real principles to our Poet; who is said, strange as it appears, not even to have been acquainted with the tenets and contents of those very essays which were addressed to himself, at the beginning of Bolingbroke's Philosophical Works. And it is added, that Pope was surprised, in his last illness, when a common acquaintance informed him that his Lordship, in a late conversation had denied the moral attributes of God. There is a remarkable passage in a letter from Bolingbroke to Swift, dated June, 1734: “I am glad you approve of his Moral Essays. They will do more good than the sermons and writings of some, who had a mind to find great fault with them. And if the doc
Nugari cum illo, et discincti ludere, donec
Quidquid sum ego, quamvis
trines taught, hinted at, and implied in them, and the trains of consequences deducible from these doctrines, were to be disputed in prose,
I think he would have no reason to apprehend either the freethinkers, on one hand, or the narrow dogmatists on the other. Some few things may be expressed a little hardly; but none are, I believe, unintelligible.” With respect to the doctrines in the Essay on Man, I shall here insert an anecdote copied exactly from the papers of Mr. Spence in the words of Pope himself: “ In the moral poem, I had written an address to our Saviour, imitated from Lucretius's compliments to Epicurus, but omitted it by the advice of Dean Berkeley. One of our priests, who are more narrow than your's, made a less sensible objection to the Epistle on Happiness. He was very angry that there was nothing said in it of our eternal happiness hereafter ; though my subject was expressly to treat only of the state of man here."
If Bolingbroke concealed his real opinions from Pope, yet surely he speaks out plainly and loudly to Swift in one of his letters, and openly tells him he dismisses from his creed the belief of a future state, as superfluous, and unnecessary to be called in to vindicate the general plan of Providence.
“ Does Pope talk to you of the noble work which, at my instigation, he has begun in such a manner that he must be convinced by this time I judged better of his talents than he did. The first Epistle, which considers Man relatively to the whole system of universal Being: The second, which considers him in his own habitation, in himself: And the third, which shews how a universal cause works to one end, but works by various
a laws: how man, and beast, and vegetable, are linked in a mutual dependency; parts necessary to each other, and necessary to the whole: how human societies were formed: from what spring true religion and true policy are derived : how God has made our
There St. John mingles with my friendly bowl
Envy must own, I live among the Great,
· No pimp of pleasure, and no spy of state,
greatest interests and our plainest duty indivisibly the same : These three epistles, I say, are finished. The fourth he is now intent upon. It is a noble subject: he pleads the cause of God. I use Seneca's expression against that famous charge which atheists in all ages have brought—the supposed unequal dispensations of Providence; a charge which I cannot heartily forgive your divines for admitting. You admit it, indeed, for an extreme good purpose, and you build on this admission the necessity of a future state of rewards and punishments; but if you should find that this future state will not account for God's justice in the present state, which you give up, in opposition to the atheist, would it not have been better to defend God's justice in this world, against these daring men, by irrefragable reasons, and to have rested the other point on revelation ? I do not like concessions made against demonstration; repair or supply them how you will. The Epistles I have mentioned will compose a first book: the plan of the second is settled. You will not understand by what I have said, that Pope will go so deep into the argument, or carry it so far as I have hinted.”
Ver. 129. And He, whose lightning, &c.] Charles Mordaunt Earl of Peterborow, who in the year 1705 took Barcelona, and in the winter following, with only 280 horse and 900 foot, enterprised and accomplished the Conquest of Valentia. P.
Ver. 133. Envy must own,] Pope has omitted an elegant allusion. Horace seems to have been particularly fond of those exquisite morsels of wit and genius, the old Æsopic fables. He frequently alludes to them, but always with a brevity very different from our modern writers of fable. Even the natural La
Offendet solido :
* nisi quid tu, docte Trebati, Dissentis.
T. 'Equidem nihil hic diffingere possum. Sed tamen ut monitus caveas, ne forte negotî Incutiat tibi quid sanctarum inscitia legum:
m« Si mala condiderit in quem quis carmina, jus est Judiciumque.”
Fontaine has added a quaint and witty thought to this very fable. The File says to the Viper, Fab. 98.
“ Tu te romprois toutes les dents,
Je ne crains que telles du temps.” Ver. 134. No Pimp of pleasure,] Men of talents are not the most acceptable companions to the great: “L'Homme mediocre est l'homme aimé,” says one who knew the world.
Ver. 135. With eyes that pry not,] Pope triumphs and felicitates himself upon having lived with the great, without descending into one of those characters which he thinks it unavoidable to escape in such a situation. From the generosity and openness of Horace's character, I think he might be pronounced equally free (at least from the last) of these imputations. There must have been something uncommonly captivating in the temper
and manners of Horace, that could have made Augustus so fond of him, though he had been so avowed an enemy, and served under Brutus. I have seen some manuscript letters of Shaftesbury, in which he has ranged, in three different classes, the Ethical writings of Horace, according to the different periods of his life in which he supposes them to have been written. The first, during the time he professed the Stoic philosophy, and was a friend of Brutus. The second, after he became dissolute and With eyes
that pry not, tongue that ne'er repeats, Fond to spread Friendships, but to cover heats ; To help who want, to forward who excel; This all who know me, know; who love me, tell ; And who unknown defame me, let them be Scribblers or Peers, alike are Mob to me. 140 This is my Plea, on this I rest my causeWhat saith my council, learned in the laws? k
, F. 'Your plea is good; but still I say beware! Laws are explain'd by men-so have a care. It stands on Record, that in Richard's times 145 A man was hang'd for very
honest rhymes. m Consult the Statue : quart. I think, it is, Edwardi sext. or prim. et quint. Eliz.
debauched at the court of Augustus. The third, when he repented of this abandoned Epicurean life, wished to retire from the city and court, and become a private man and a philosopher. I have read a poem, which may one day see the light, in which Horace is represented as meeting Brutus in Elysium; who will not deign to hold any conversation with our Court-poet, but turns away from him with the sullen silence and haughty disdain with which Ajax treats Ulysses in the Odyssey.
Ver. 146. A man was hanged, &c.] Si mala condiderit - A great French Lawyer explains this matter very truly. “L'Aristocratie est le Gouvernement qui proscrit le plus les Ouvrages satiriques. Les Magistrats y sont de petits Souverains, qui ne sont pas assez grands pour mepriser les injures. Si dans la Monarchie quelque trait va contre le Monarque, il est si haut que le trait n'arrive point jusqu'à lui; un Seigneur Aristocratique en est percé de part en part. Aussi les Decemvirs, qui formoient une Aristocratie, punirent-ils de mort les ecrits satiriques.” De L'Esprit des Loix, 1. xii. c. 13. W.