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Alexander Pope (1688–1744). Complete Poetical Works. 1903.

Poems: 1708–12

Epistle to Mr. Jervas

  • With Dryden’s Translation of Fresnoy’s Art of Painting
  • Charles Jervas was an early and firm friend of Pope’s, and, himself an indifferent painter, at one time gave Pope some instruction in painting. Dryden’s translation of Fresnoy appears to have been a hasty and perfunctory piece of work. The poem was first published in 1712.

  • THIS verse be thine, my friend, nor thou refuse

    This from no venal or ungrateful Muse.

    Whether thy hand strike out some free design,

    Where life awakes, and dawns at ev’ry line,

    Or blend in beauteous tints the colour’d mass,

    And from the canvas call the mimic face:

    Read these instructive leaves, in which conspire

    Fresnoy’s close Art and Dryden’s native Fire;

    And reading wish like theirs our fate and fame,

    So mix’d our studies, and so join’d our name;

    Like them to shine thro’ long succeeding age,

    So just thy skill, so regular my rage.

    Smit with the love of Sister-Arts we came,

    And met congenial, mingling flame with flame;

    Like friendly colours found them both unite,

    And each from each contract new strength and light.

    How oft in pleasing tasks we wear the day,

    While summer suns roll unperceiv’d away!

    How oft our slowly growing works impart,

    While images reflect from art to art!

    How oft review; each finding, like a friend,

    Something to blame, and something to commend.

    What flatt’ring scenes our wand’ring fancy wrought,

    Rome’s pompous glories rising to our thought!

    Together o’er the Alps methinks we fly,

    Fired with ideas of fair Italy.

    With thee on Raphael’s monument I mourn,

    Or wait inspiring dreams at Maro’s urn:

    With thee repose where Tully once was laid,

    Or seek some ruin’s formidable shade:

    While Fancy brings the vanish’d piles to view,

    And builds imaginary Rome anew.

    Here thy well-studied marbles fix our eye;

    A fading fresco here demands a sigh;

    Each heav’nly piece unwearied we compare,

    Match Raphael’s grace with thy lov’d Guido’s air,

    Carracci’s strength, Correggio’s softer line,

    Paulo’s free stroke, and Titian’s warmth divine.

    How finish’d with illustrious toil appears

    This small well-polish’d Gem, the work of years,

    Yet still how faint by precept is exprest

    The living image in the painter’s breast!

    Thence endless streams of fair ideas flow,

    Strike in the sketch, or in the picture glow;

    Thence Beauty, waking all her forms, supplies

    An Angel’s sweetness, or Bridgewater’s eyes.

    Muse! at that name thy sacred sorrows shed

    Those tears eternal that embalm the dead;

    Call round her tomb each object of desire,

    Each purer frame inform’d with purer fire;

    Bid her be all that cheers or softens life,

    The tender sister, daughter, friend, and wife;

    Bid her be all that makes mankind adore,

    Then view this marble, and be vain no more!

    Yet still her charms in breathing paint engage,

    Her modest cheek shall warm a future age.

    Beauty, frail flower, that ev’ry season fears,

    Blooms in thy colours for a thousand years.

    Thus Churchill’s race shall other hearts surprise,

    And other beauties envy Worsley’s eyes;

    Each pleasing Blount shall endless smiles bestow,

    And soft Belinda’s blush for ever glow.

    O, lasting as those colours may they shine,

    Free as thy stroke, yet faultless as thy line;

    New graces yearly like thy works display,

    Soft without weakness, without glaring gay!

    Led by some rule that guides, but not constrains,

    And finish’d more thro’ happiness than pains.

    The kindred arts shall in their praise conspire,

    One dip the pencil, and one string the lyre.

    Yet should the Graces all thy figures place,

    And breathe an air divine on ev’ry face;

    Yet should the Muses bid my numbers roll

    Strong as their charms, and gentle as their soul;

    With Zeuxis’ Helen thy Bridgewater vie,

    And these be sung till Granville’s Myra die;

    Alas! how little from the grave we claim!

    Thou but preserv’st a Face and I a Name!