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

Poems: 1713–17


  • A Character
  • This was first printed in 1727 in the Miscellanies of Pope and Swift, but was probably written in 1715. Macer is supposed to be Ambrose Philips. The ‘borrow’d Play’ of the eighth line would then have been The Distrest Mother, adapted by Philips from Racine.

  • WHEN simple Macer, now of high renown,

    First sought a poet’s fortune in the town,

    ’T was all th’ ambition his high soul could feel

    To wear red stockings, and to dine with Steele.

    Some ends of verse his betters might afford,

    And gave the harmless fellow a good word:

    Set up with these he ventured on the town,

    And with a borrow’d play outdid poor Crowne.

    There he stopp’d short, nor since has writ a tittle,

    But has the wit to make the most of little;

    Like stunted hide-bound trees, that just have got

    Sufficient sap at once to bear and rot.

    Now he begs verse, and what he gets commends,

    Not of the Wits his foes, but Fools his friends.

    So some coarse country wench, almost decay’d,

    Trudges to town and first turns chamber-maid;

    Awkward and supple each devoir to pay,

    She flatters her good lady twice a day;

    Thought wondrous honest, tho’ of mean degree,

    And strangely liked for her simplicity:

    In a translated suit then tries the town,

    With borrow’d pins and patches not her own:

    But just endured the winter she began,

    And in four months a batter’d harridan:

    Now nothing left, but wither’d, pale, and shrunk,

    To bawd for others, and go shares with punk.