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

Early Poems

To the Author of a Poem Entitled Successio

  • Elkanah Settle, celebrated as Doeg in Dryden’s Absalom and Achitophel, wrote Successio in honor of the incoming Brunswick dynasty. Warburton (or possibly Pope) in a note on Dunciad, I. 181, says that the poem was ‘written at fourteen years old, and soon after printed.’ A good instance of Pope’s economy of material will be found in the passage upon which that note bears: an adaptation of lines 4, 17 and 18 of this early poem. It was first published in Lintot’s Miscellanies, 1712.

  • BEGONE, ye Critics, and restrain your spite,

    Codrus writes on, and will forever write.

    The heaviest Muse the swiftest course has gone,

    As clocks run fastest when most lead is on;

    What tho’ no bees around your cradle flew,

    Nor on your lips distill’d their golden dew;

    Yet have we oft discover’d in their stead

    A swarm of drones that buzz’d about your head.

    When you, like Orpheus, strike the warbling lyre,

    Attentive blocks stand round you and admire.

    Wit pass’d thro’ thee no longer is the same,

    As meat digested takes a diff’rent name;

    But sense must sure thy safest plunder be,

    Since no reprisals can be made on thee.

    Thus thou may’st rise, and in thy daring flight

    (Tho’ ne’er so weighty) reach a wondrous height.

    So, forc’d from engines, lead itself can fly,

    And pond’rous slugs move nimbly thro’ the sky.

    Sure Bavius copied Mævius to the full,

    And Chærilus taught Codrus to be dull;

    Therefore, dear friend, at my advice give o’er

    This needless labour; and contend no more

    To prove a dull succession to be true,

    Since ’t is enough we find it so in you.