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

Poems: 1718–27

Epistle to Robert, Earl of Oxford and Mortimer

Prefixed to Parnell’s Poems

SUCH were the notes thy once-lov’d Poet sung,

Till Death untimely stopp’d his tuneful tongue.

Oh, just beheld and lost! admired and mourn’d!

With softest manners, gentlest arts, adorn’d!

Bless’d in each science! bless’d in ev’ry strain!

Dear to the Muse! to Harley dear—in vain!

For him thou oft hast bid the world attend,

Fond to forget the statesman in the friend;

For Swift and him despised the farce of state,

The sober follies of the wise and great,

Dext’rous the craving, fawning crowd to quit,

And pleas’d to ’scape from Flattery to Wit.

Absent or dead, still let a friend be dear

(A sigh the absent claims, the dead a tear);

Recall those nights that closed thy toilsome days,

Still hear thy Parnell in his living lays;

Who, careless now of Int’rest, Fame, or Fate,

Perhaps forgets that Oxford e’er was great;

Or deeming meanest what we greatest call,

Beholds thee glorious only in thy fall.

And sure if aught below the seats divine

Can touch immortals, ’t is a soul like thine;

A soul supreme, in each hard instance tried,

Above all pain, all passion, and all pride,

The rage of power, the blast of public breath,

The lust of lucre, and the dread of death.

In vain to deserts thy retreat is made;

The Muse attends thee to thy silent shade;

’T is hers the brave man’s latest steps to trace,

Rejudge his acts, and dignify disgrace.

When Int’rest calls off all her sneaking train,

And all th’ obliged desert, and all the vain,

She waits, or to the scaffold or the cell,

When the last ling’ring friend has bid farewell.

Ev’n now she shades thy evening walk with bays

(No hireling she, no prostitute to praise);

Ev’n now, observant of the parting ray,

Eyes the calm sunset of thy various day,

Thro’ fortune’s cloud one truly great can see,

Nor fears to tell that Mortimer is he.