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


Satires, Epistles, and Odes of Horace Imitated. The First Epistle of the First Book of Horace

To Lord Bolingbroke

ST. JOHN, whose love indulged my labours past,

Matures my present, and shall bound my last,

Why will you break the Sabbath of my days?

Now sick alike of envy and of praise.

Public too long, ah! let me hide my Age:

See modest Cibber now has left the Stage:

Our gen’rals now, retired to their estates,

Hang their old trophies o’er the garden gates;

In life’s cool ev’ning satiate of applause,

Nor fond of bleeding ev’n in BRUNSWICK’S cause.

A voice there is, that whispers in my ear

(’T is Reason’s voice, which sometimes one can hear),

‘Friend Pope! be prudent, let your Muse take breath,

And never gallop Pegasus to death;

Lest stiff and stately, void of fire or force,

You limp, like Blackmore, on a lord mayor’s horse.’

Farewell then Verse, and Love, and ev’ry toy,

The rhymes and rattles of the Man or Boy;

What right, what true, what fit, we justly call,

Let this be all my care—for this is all;

To lay this harvest up, and hoard with haste

What ev’ry day will want, and most the last.

But ask not to what Doctors I apply;

Sworn to no master, of no sect am I:

As drives the storm, at any door I knock,

And house with Montaigne now, or now with Locke.

Sometimes a patriot, active in debate,

Mix with the world, and battle for the state;

Free as young Lyttleton, her cause pursue,

Still true to Virtue, and as warm as true:

Sometimes with Aristippus or St. Paul,

Indulge my candour, and grow all to all;

Back to my native Moderation slide,

And win my way by yielding to the tide.

Long as to him who works for debt the day,

Long as the night to her whose love’s away,

Long as the year’s dull circle seems to run

When the brisk minor pants for twenty-one;

So slow th’ unprofitable moments roll

That lock up all the functions of my soul,

That keep me from myself, and still delay

Life’s instant business to a future day;

That task which as we follow or despise,

The eldest is a fool, the youngest wise;

Which done, the poorest can no wants endure;

And which not done, the richest must be poor.

Late as it is, I put myself to school,

And feel some comfort not to be a fool.

Weak tho’ I am of limb, and short of sight,

Far from a lynx, and not a giant quite,

I ’ll do what Mead and Cheselden advise,

To keep these limbs, and to preserve these eyes.

Not to go back is somewhat to advance,

And men must walk, at least, before they dance.

Say, does thy blood rebel, thy bosom move

With wretched Av’rice, or as wretched Love?

Know there are words and spells which can control,

Between the fits, this fever of the soul;

Know there are rhymes which, fresh and fresh applied,

Will cure the arrant’st puppy of his pride.

Be furious, envious, slothful, mad, or drunk,

Slave to a wife, or vassal to a punk,

A Switz, a High-Dutch or a Low-Dutch bear;

All that we ask is but a patient ear.

’T is the first virtue vices to abhor,

And the first wisdom to be fool no more:

But to the world no bugbear is so great

As want of figure and a small Estate.

To either India see the merchant fly,

Scared at the spectre of pale Poverty!

See him with pains of body, pangs of soul,

Burn thro’ the Tropics, freeze beneath the Pole!

Wilt thou do nothing for a nobler end,

Nothing to make Philosophy thy friend?

To stop thy foolish views, thy long desires,

And ease thy heart of all that it admires?

Here Wisdom calls, ‘Seek Virtue first, be bold!

As gold to silver, Virtue is to gold.’

There London’s voice, ‘Get money, money still!

And then let Virtue follow if she will.’

This, this the saving doctrine preach’d to all,

From low St. James’s up to high St. Paul;

From him whose quills stand quiver’d at his ear,

To him who notches sticks at Westminster.

Barnard in spirit, sense, and truth abounds;

‘Pray then what wants he?’ Fourscore thousand pounds;

A pension, or such harness for a slave

As Bug now has, and Dorimant would have.

Barnard, thou art a cit, with all thy worth;

But Bug and D—l their Honours! and so forth.

Yet ev’ry child another song will sing,

‘Virtue, brave boys! ’t is Virtue makes a King.’

True, conscious Honour is to feel no sin;

He’s arm’d without that ’s innocent within:

Be this thy screen, and this thy wall of brass;

Compared to this a Minister’s an Ass.

And say, to which shall our applause belong,

This new Court jargon, or the good old song?

The modern language of corrupted peers,

Or what was spoke at Cressy and Poictiers?

Who counsels best? who whispers, ‘Be but great,

With praise or infamy—leave that to Fate;

Get Place and Wealth, if possible with grace;

If not, by any means get Wealth and Place:’

(For what? to have a Box where eunuchs sing,

And foremost in the circle eye a King?)

Or he who bids thee face with steady view

Proud Fortune, and look shallow Greatness thro’,

And, while he bids thee, sets th’ example too?

If such a doctrine, in St. James’s air,

Should chance to make the well-drest rabble stare;

If honest S[chut]z take scandal at a spark

That less admires the Palace than the Park;

Faith, I shall give the answer Reynard gave:

‘I cannot like, dread Sir! your royal cave;

Because I see, by all the tracks about,

Full many a beast goes in, but none come out.’

Adieu to Virtue, if you ’re once a slave:

Send her to Court, you send her to her grave.

Well, if a King ’s a lion, at the least

The people are a many-headed beast;

Can they direct what measures to pursue,

Who know themselves so little what to do?

Alike in nothing but one lust of gold,

Just half the land would buy, and half be sold:

Their country’s wealth our mightier misers drain,

Or cross, to plunder provinces, the main;

The rest, some farm the Poor-box, some the Pews;

Some keep Assemblies, and would keep the Stews;

Some with fat bucks on childless dotards fawn;

Some win rich widows by their chine and brawn;

While with the silent growth of ten percent.,

In dirt and darkness, hundreds stink content.

Of all these ways, if each pursues his own,

Satire, be kind, and let the wretch alone;

But show me one who has it in his power

To act consistent with himself an hour.

Sir Job sail’d forth, the ev’ning bright and still,

‘No place on earth (he cried) like Greenwich hill!’

Up starts a palace: lo, th’ obedient base

Slopes at its foot, the woods its sides embrace,

The silver Thames reflects its marble face.

Now let some whimsy, or that Devil within

Which guides all those who know not what they mean,

But give the Knight (or give his Lady) spleen;

‘Away, away! take all your scaffolds down,

For snug’s the word: My dear! we ’ll live in town.’

At am’rous Flavio is the stocking thrown?

That very night he longs to lie alone.

The fool whose wife elopes some thrice a quarter,

For matrimonial solace dies a martyr.

Did ever Proteus, Merlin, any witch,

Transform themselves so strangely as the Rich?

Well, but the Poor—the Poor have the same itch;

They change their weekly barber, weekly news,

Prefer a new japanner to their shoes,

Discharge their garrets, move their beds, and run

(They know not whither) in a chaise and one;

They hire their sculler, and when once aboard

Grow sick, and damn the climate—like a Lord.

You laugh, half Beau, half Sloven if I stand,

My wig all powder, and all snuff my band;

You laugh if coat and breeches strangely vary,

White gloves, and linen worthy Lady Mary!

But when no prelate’s lawn, with hair-shirt lin’d,

Is half so incoherent as my mind,

When (each opinion with the next at strife,

One ebb and flow of follies all my life)

I plant, root up, I build, and then confound;

Turn round to square, and square again to round;

You never change one muscle of your face,

You think this madness but a common case;

Nor once to Chancery nor to Hale apply,

Yet hang your lip to see a seam awry!

Careless how ill I with myself agree,

Kind to my dress, my figure,—not to me.

Is this my Guide, Philosopher, and Friend?

This he who loves me, and who ought to mend?

Who ought to make me (what he can, or none)

That man divine whom Wisdom calls her own;

Great without Title, without Fortune bless’d;

Rich ev’n when plunder’d, honour’d while oppress’d;

Lov’d without youth, and follow’d without power;

At home tho’ exiled, free tho’ in the Tower;

In short, that reas’ning, high, immortal thing,

Just less than Jove, and much above a King;

Nay, half in Heav’n—except (what ’s mighty odd)

A fit of Vapours clouds this Demigod.