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


Satires, Epistles, and Odes of Horace Imitated. The Second Satire of the Second Book of Horace

To Mr. Bethel

WHAT, and how great, the Virtue and the Art

To live on little with a cheerful heart!

(A doctrine sage, but truly none of mine)

Let’s talk, my friends, but talk before we dine;

Not when a gilt buffet’s reflected pride

Turns you from sound Philosophy aside;

Not when from plate to plate your eyeballs roll,

And the brain dances to the mantling bowl.

Hear Bethel’s sermon, one not vers’d in schools

But strong in sense, and wise without the rules.

‘Go work, hunt, exercise! (he thus began)

Then scorn a homely dinner if you can.

Your wine lock’d up, your butler stroll’d abroad,

Or fish denied (the river yet unthaw’d);

If then plain bread and milk will do the feat,

The pleasure lies in you, and not the meat.’

Preach as I please, I doubt our curious men

Will choose a pheasant still before a hen;

Yet hens of Guinea full as good I hold,

Except you eat the feathers green and gold.

Of carps and mullets why prefer the great,

(Tho’ cut in pieces ere my Lord can eat)

Yet for small turbots such esteem profess?

Because God made these large, the other less.

Oldfield, with more than harpy throat endued,

Cries, ‘Send me, Gods! a whole Hog barbecued!’

O blast it, South-winds! till a stench exhale

Rank as the ripeness of a rabbit’s tail.

By what criterion do you eat, d’ ye think,

If this is prized for sweetness, that for stink?

When the tired glutton labours thro’ a treat,

He finds no relish in the sweetest meat;

He calls for something bitter, something sour,

And the rich feast concludes extremely poor:

Cheap eggs, and herbs, and olives, still we see;

Thus much is left of old Simplicity!

The robin-redbreast till of late had rest,

And children sacred held a martin’s nest,

Till becaficos sold so devilish dear

To one that was, or would have been, a Peer.

Let me extol a cat on oysters fed;

I ’ll have a party at the Bedford-head:

Or ev’n to crack live crawfish recommend;

I ’d never doubt at court to make a friend!

’T is yet in vain, I own, to keep a pother

About one vice, and fall into the other:

Between Excess and Famine lies a mean;

Plain, but not sordid; tho’ not splendid, clean.

Avidien or his wife (no matter which,

For him you ’ll call a dog, and her a bitch)

Sell their presented partridges and fruits,

And humbly live on rabbits and on roots:

One half-pint bottle serves them both to dine,

And is at once their vinegar and wine:

But on some lucky day (as when they found

A lost bank-bill, or heard their son was drown’d)

At such a feast, old vinegar to spare,

Is what two souls so gen’rous cannot bear:

Oil, tho’ it stink, they drop by drop impart,

But souse the cabbage with a bounteous heart.

He knows to live who keeps the middle state,

And neither leans on this side nor on that;

Nor stops for one bad cork his butler’s pay,

Swears, like Albutius, a good cook away;

Nor lets, like Nævius, ev’ry error pass,

The musty wine, foul cloth, or greasy glass.

Now hear what blessings Temperance can bring

(Thus said our friend, and what he said I sing):

First Health: the stomach (cramm’d from ev’ry dish,

A tomb of boil’d and roast, and flesh and fish,

Where bile, and wind, and phlegm, and acid, jar,

And all the man is one intestine war)

Remembers oft the schoolboy’s simple fare,

The temp’rate sleeps, and spirits light as air.

How pale each worshipful and rev’rend guest

Rise from a clergy or a city feast!

What life in all that ample body, say?

What heav’nly particle inspires the clay?

The Soul subsides, and wickedly inclines

To seem but mortal ev’n in sound Divines.

On morning wings how active springs the mind

That leaves the load of yesterday behind!

How easy every labour it pursues!

How coming to the Poet ev’ry Muse!

Not but we may exceed, some holy-time,

Or tired in search of Truth or search of Rhyme:

Ill health some just indulgence may engage,

And more the sickness of long life, old age:

For fainting age what cordial drop remains,

If our intemp’rate youth the vessel drains?

Our fathers prais’d rank venison. You suppose,

Perhaps, young men! our fathers had no nose.

Not so: a buck was then a week’s repast,

And ’t was their point, I ween, to make it last;

More pleas’d to keep it till their friends could come,

Than eat the sweetest by themselves at home.

Why had not I in those good times my birth,

Ere coxcomb-pies or coxcombs were on earth?

Unworthy he the voice of Fame to hear,

That sweetest music to an honest ear

(For ’faith, Lord Fanny! you are in the wrong,

The world’s good word is better than a song),

Who has not learn’d fresh sturgeon and ham-pie

Are no rewards for want and infamy!

When Luxury has lick’d up all thy pelf,

Curs’d by thy neighbours, thy trustees, thyself;

To friends, to fortune, to mankind a shame,

Think how posterity will treat thy name;

And buy a rope, that future times may tell

Thou hast at least bestow’d one penny well.

‘Right,’ cries his lordship, ‘for a rogue in need

To have a taste is insolence indeed:

In me ’t is noble, suits my birth and state,

My wealth unwieldy, and my heap too great.’

Then, like the sun, let Bounty spread her ray,

And shine that superfluity away.

Oh impudence of wealth! with all thy store

How darest thou let one worthy man be poor?

Shall half the new-built churches round thee fall?

Make quays, build bridges, or repair Whitehall;

Or to thy country let that heap be lent,

As M[arlbor]o’s was, but not at five percent.

‘Who thinks that Fortune cannot change her mind,

Prepares a dreadful jest for all mankind.

And who stands safest? tell me, is it he

That spreads and swells in puff’d prosperity,

Or bless’d with little, whose preventing care

In peace provides fit arms against a war?’

Thus Bethel spoke, who always speaks his thought,

And always thinks the very thing he ought:

His equal mind I copy what I can,

And as I love, would imitate the man.

In South-Sea days, not happier, when surmised

The lord of thousands, than if now excised;

In forest planted by a father’s hand,

Than in five acres now of rented land.

Content with little, I can piddle here

On brocoli and mutton round the year;

But ancient friends (tho’ poor, or out of play)

That touch my bell, I cannot turn away.

’T is true, no turbots dignify my boards,

But gudgeons, flounders, what my Thames affords:

To Hounslow Heath I point, and Banstead Down,

Thence comes your mutton, and these chicks my own:

From you old walnut tree a shower shall fall,

And grapes long ling’ring on my only wall;

And figs from standard and espalier join;

The devil is in you if you cannot dine:

Then cheerful healths (your Mistress shall have place),

And, what ’s more rare, a Poet shall say grace.

Fortune not much of humbling me can boast;

Tho’ double tax’d, how little have I lost!

My life’s amusements have been just the same,

Before and after standing armies came.

My lands are sold, my father’s house is gone;

I ’ll hire another’s; is not that my own—

And yours, my friends—thro’ whose free opening gate

None comes too early, none departs too late?

(For I, who hold sage Homer’s rule the best,

Welcome the coming, speed the going guest.)

‘Pray Heav’n it last! (cries Swift) as you go on:

I wish to God this house had been your own!

Pity! to build without a son or wife:

Why, you ’ll enjoy it only all your life.’

Well, if the use be mine, can it concern one

Whether the name belong to Pope or Vernon?

What ’s property? dear Swift! you see it alter

From you to me, from me to Peter Walter;

Or in a mortgage prove a lawyer’s share,

Or in a jointure vanish from the heir;

Or in pure equity (the case not clear)

The Chancery takes your rents for twenty year:

At best it falls to some ungracious son,

Who cries, ‘My father’s damn’d, and all’s my own.’

Shades, that to Bacon could retreat afford,

Become the portion of a booby lord;

And Hemsley, once proud Buckingham’s delight,

Slides to a scriv’ner or a city knight.

Let lands and houses have what lords they will,

Let us be fix’d, and our own masters still.