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

Poems: 1718–27

The Curll Miscellanies. III. Sandys’ Ghost

  • Or, a Proper New Ballad on the New Ovid’s Metamorphoses: As It Was Intended to Be Translated by Persons of Quality
  • This refers to the translation undertaken by Sir Samuel Garth, which aimed to complete Dryden’s translation of Ovid, avoiding the rigidness of Sandys’ method. The enterprise was begun in 1718, when these verses were probably written.

  • YE Lords and Commons, men of wit

    And pleasure about town,

    Read this, ere you translate one bit

    Of books of high renown.

    Beware of Latin authors, all,

    Nor think your verses sterling,

    Tho’ with a golden pen you scrawl,

    And scribble in a Berlin.

    For not the desk with silver nails,

    Nor bureau of expense,

    Nor standish well japann’d, avails

    To writing of good sense.

    Hear how a Ghost in dead of night,

    With saucer eyes of fire,

    In woful wise did sore affright

    A Wit and courtly Squire:

    Rare imp of Phœbus, hopeful youth!

    Like puppy tame, that uses

    To fetch and carry in his mouth

    The works of all the Muses.

    Ah! why did he write poetry,

    That hereto was so civil;

    And sell his soul for vanity

    To Rhyming and the Devil?

    A desk he had of curious work,

    With glitt’ring studs about;

    Within the same did Sandys lurk,

    Tho’ Ovid lay without.

    Now, as he scratch’d to fetch up thought,

    Forth popp’d the sprite so thin,

    And from the keyhole bolted out,

    All upright as a pin.

    With whiskers, band, and pantaloon,

    And ruff composed most duly,

    This Squire he dropp’d his pen full soon,

    While as the light burnt bluely.

    Ho! master Sam, quoth Sandys’ sprite,

    Write on, nor let me scare ye!

    Forsooth, if rhymes fall not in right,

    To Budgell seek or Carey.

    I hear the beat of Jacob’s drums,

    Poor Ovid finds no quarter!

    See first the merry P[embroke] comes

    In haste without his garter.

    Then Lords and Lordlings, Squires and Knights,

    Wits, Witlings, Prigs, and Peers:

    Garth at St. James’s, and at White’s,

    Beats up for volunteers.

    What Fenton will not do, nor Gay,

    Nor Congreve, Rowe, nor Stanyan,

    Tom B[urne]t, or Tom D’Urfey may,

    John Dunton, Steele, or any one.

    If Justice Philips’ costive head

    Some frigid rhymes disburses,

    They shall like Persian tales be read,

    And glad both babes and nurses.

    Let W[a]rw[ic]k’s Muse with Ash[urs]t join,

    And Ozell’s with Lord Hervey’s,

    Tickell and Addison combine,

    And P[o]pe translate with Jervas.

    L[ansdowne] himself, that lively lord,

    Who bows to every lady,

    Shall join with F[rowde] in one accord,

    And be like Tate and Brady.

    Ye ladies, too, draw forth your pen;

    I pray, where can the hurt lie?

    Since you have brains as well as men,

    As witness Lady Wortley.

    Now, Tonson, list thy forces all,

    Review them and tell noses;

    For to poor Ovid shall befall

    A strange metamorphosis;

    A metamorphosis more strange

    Than all his books can vapour—

    ‘To what (quoth ’Squire) shall Ovid change?’

    Quoth Sandys, ‘To waste paper.’