Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Restoration Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Restoration Verse.  1910.
 
Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, Being the Prologue to the Satires
By Alexander Pope (1688–1744)
 
P.  SHUT, 1 shut the door, good John! 2 fatigu’d, I said,
Tie up the knocker, say I’m sick, I’m dead.
The Dog-star rages! nay ’tis past a doubt,
All Bedlam, or Parnassus, is let out:
Fire in each eye, and papers in each hand,        5
They rave, recite, and madden round the land.
  What walls can guard me, or what shades can hide?
They pierce my thickets, thro’ my Grot they glide;
By land, by water, they renew the charge;
They stop the chariot, and they board the barge.        10
No place is sacred, not the Church is free;
Ev’n Sunday shines no Sabbath-day to me;
Then from the Mint 3 walks forth the Man of rhyme,
Happy to catch me just at Dinner-time.
  Is there a Parson, 4 much bemus’d in beer,        15
A maudlin Poetess, a rhyming Peer,
A Clerk, foredoom’d his father’s soul to cross,
Who pens a Stanza, when he should engross?
Is there, who, lock’d from ink and paper, scrawls
With desp’rate charcoal round his darken’d walls?        20
All fly at Twit’nam, and in humble strain
Apply to me, to keep them mad or vain.
Arthur, whose giddy son 5 neglects the Laws,
Imputes to me and my damn’d works the cause:
Poor Cornus 6 sees his frantic wife elope,        25
And curses Wit, and Poetry, and Pope.
  Friend to my life! (which did not you prolong,
The world had wanted many an idle song)
What Drop or Nostrum can this plague remove?
Or which must end me, a Fool’s wrath or love?        30
A dire delemma! either way I’m sped,
If foes, they write, if friends, they read me dead.
Seiz’d and tied down to judge, how wretched I!
Who can’t be silent, and who will not lie.
To laugh, were want of goodness and of grace,        35
And to be grave, exceeds all Pow’r of face.
I sit with sad civility, I read
With honest anguish, and an aching head;
And drop at last, but in unwilling ears,
This saving counsel, ‘Keep your piece nine years.’        40
  ‘Nine years!’ cries he, who high in Drury-lane,
Lull’d by soft Zephyrs thro’ the broken pane,
Rhymes ere he wakes, and prints before Term ends,
Oblig’d by hunger, and request of friends:
‘The piece, you think, is incorrect? why, take it,        45
I’m all submission, what you’d have it, make it.’
  Three things another’s modest wishes bound,
My Friendship, and a Prologue, and ten pound.
  Pitholeon sends to me: ‘You know his Grace,
I want his Patron; ask him for a Place.’        50
‘Pitholeon 7 libell’d me,’—‘but here’s a letter
Informs you, Sir, ’twas when he knew no better.
Dare you refuse him? Curll 8 invites to dine,
He’ll write a Journal or he’ll turn Divine.’
‘Bless me! a packet.—’ ’Tis a stranger sues,        55
‘A Virgin Tragedy, an Orphan Muse.’
If I dislike it, ‘Furies, death and rage!’
If I approve, ‘Commend it to the Stage.’
There (thank my stars) my whole commission ends,
The Play’rs and I are, luckily no friends,        60
‘Fir’d that the house reject him,’ ’Sdeath I’ll print it,
‘And shame the fools—Your Int’rest, Sir, with Lintot!’
‘Lintot, dull rogue! will think your price too much:’
‘Not, Sir, if you revise it, and retouch.’
All my demurs but double his Attacks;        65
At last he whispers, ‘Do; and we go snacks.’
Glad of a quarrel, straight I clap the door,
Sir, let me see your works, and you no more.
  ’Tis sung, when Midas’ Ears began to spring,
(Midas, a sacred person and a king)        70
His very Minister who spied them first,
(Some say his Queen) was foc’ed to speak, or burst.
And is not mine, my friend, a sorer case,
When every coxcomb perks them in my face?
A.  Good friend, forbear! you deal in dang’rous things.        75
I’d never name Queens, Ministers, or Kings;
Keep close to Ears, and those let asses prick;
’Tis nothing—  P.  Nothing? if they bite and kick?
Out with it DUNCIAD! let the secret pass,
That secret to each fool, that he’s an Ass:        80
The truth once told (and wherefore should we lie?)
The Queen of Midas slept, and so may I.
  You think this cruel? take it for a rule,
No creature smarts so little as a fool.
Let peals of laughter Codrus! round thee break,        85
Thou unconcern’d canst hear the mighty crack:
Pit, Box, and gall’ry in convulsions hurl’d,
Thou stand’st unshook amidst a bursting world.
Who shames a Scribbler? break one cobweb thro’,
He spins the slight, self-pleasing thread anew:        90
Destroy his fib or sophistry, in vain,
The creature’s at his dirty work again,
Thron’d in the centre of his thin designs,
Proud of a vast extent of flimsy lines!
Whom have I hurt? has Poet yet, or Peer,        95
Lost the arch’d eye-brow, or Parnassian sneer?
And has not Colley 9 still his Lord, and whore?
His butchers Henley, 10 his free-masons Moore? 11
Does not one table Bavius still admit?
Still to one Bishop Philips seem a wit? 12        100
Still Sappho—  A.  Hold! for God’s sake—you’ll offend,
No Names!—be calm!—learn prudence of a friend!
I too could write, and I am twice as tall;
But foes like these—  P.  One Flatt’rers worse than all.
Of all mad creatures, if the learn’d are right,        105
It is the slaver kills, and not the bite.
A fool quite angry is quite innocent:
Alas! ’tis ten times worse when they repent.
  One dedicates in high heroic prose,
And redicules beyond a hundred foes:        110
One from all Grubstreet will my fame defend,
And more abusive, calls himself my friend.
This prints my Letters, that expects a bribe,
And others roar aloud, ‘Subscribe, subscribe.’
  There are, who to my person pay their court:        115
I cough like Horace, and, tho’ lean, am short,
Ammon’s great son 13 one shoulder had too high,
Such Ovid’s nose, and ‘Sir! you have an Eye.’—
Go on, obliging creatures, make me see,
All that disgrac’d my Betters, met in me.        120
Say for my comfort, languishing in bed,
‘Just to immortal Maro 14 held his head:’
And when I die, be sure you let me know
Great Homer died three thousand year ago.
  Why did I write? what sin to me unknown        125
Dipt me in ink, my parents’, or my own?
As yet a child, nor yet a fool to fame,
I lisp’d in numbers, for the numbers came.
I left no calling for this idle trade,
No duty broke, no father disobey’d.        130
The Muse but serv’d to ease some friend, not Wife,
To help me thro’ this long disease, my Life,
To second, ARBUTHNOT! thy Art and Care,
And teach the Being you preserv’d, to bear.
  But why then publish? Granville 15 the polite,        135
And knowing Walsh, 16 would tell me I could write;
Well-natur’d Garth 17 inflam’d with early praise;
And Congreve lov’d, and Swift endured my lays;
The courtly Talbot, Somers, Sheffield 18 read;
Ev’n mitred Rochester 19 would nod the head,        140
And St. John’s self 20 (great Dryden’s friend before)
With open arms receiv’d one Poet more.
Happy my studies, when by these approv’d!
Happier their author, when by these beloved!
From these the world will judge of men and books,        145
Not from the Burnets, Oldmixons, and Cookes. 21
  Soft were my numbers; who could take offence,
While pure Description held the place of Sense?
Like gentle Fanny’s was my flow’ry theme,
A painted mistress, or a purling stream.        150
Yet then did Gildon draw his venal quill;—
I wish’d the man a dinner, and sat still.
Yet then did Dennis rave in furious fret;
I never answer’d,—I was not in debt.
If want provok’d, or madness made them print,        155
I wag’d no war with Bedlam or the Mint.
  Did some more sober Critic come abroad;
If wrong, I smil’d; if right, I kiss’d the rod.
Pains, reading, study, are their just pretence,
And all they want is spirit, taste, and sense.        160
Commas and points they set exactly right,
And ’twere a sin to rob them of their mite.
Yet ne’er one sprig of laurel grac’d these ribalds,
From slashing Bentley down to pidling Tibalds:
Each wight, who reads not, and but scans and spells,        165
Each Word-catcher, that lives on syllables,
Ev’n such small Critics some regard may claim,
Preserv’d in Milton’s or in Shakespeare’s name.
Pretty! in amber to observe the forms
Of hairs, or straws, or dirt, or grubs, or worms!        170
The things, we know, are neither rich nor rare,
But wonder how the devil they got there.
  Were others angry: I excus’d them too;
Well might they rage, I gave them but their due.
A man’s true merit ’tis not hard to find;        175
But each man’s secret standard in his mind,
That Casting-weight pride adds to emptiness,
This, who can gratify? for who can guess?
The Bard 22 whom pilfer’d Pastorals renown,
Who turns a Persian tale for half a Crown,        180
Just writes to make his barrenness appear,
And strains, from hard-bound brains, eight lines a year;
He, who still wanting, tho’ he lives on theft,
Steals much, spends little, yet has nothing left:
And He, who now to sense, now nonsense leaning,        185
Means not, but blunders round about a meaning:
And He, whose fustian’s so sublimely bad,
It is not Poetry, but prose run mad:
All these, my modest Satire bade translate,
And own’d that nine such Poets made a Tate. 23        190
How did they fume, and stamp, and roar, and chafe!
And swear, not ADDISON himself was safe.
  Peace to all such! but were there One whose fires
True Genius kindles, and fair Fame inspires;
Blest with each talent and each art to please,        195
And born to write, converse, and live with ease:
Should such a man, too fond to rule alone,
Bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne.
View him with scornful, yet with jealous eyes,
And hate for arts that caus’d himself to rise;        200
Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike;
Alike reserv’d to blame, or to commend,        205
A tim’rous foe, and a suspicious friend;
Dreading ev’n fools, by Flatterers beseig’d,
And so obliging, that he ne’er oblig’d;
Like Cato, give his little Senate laws,
And sit attentive to his own applause;        210
While Wits and Templars ev’ry sentence raise,
And wonder with a foolish face of praise:—
Who but must laugh, if such a man there be?
Who would not weep, if ATTICUS were he?
  What tho’ my Name stood rubic on the walls,        215
Or plaister’d posts, with claps, in capitals?
Or smoking forth, a hundred hawkers’ load,
On wings of winds came flying all abroad?
I sought no homage from the Race that write:
I kept, like Asian Monarchs, from their sight:        220
Poems I heeded (now be-rhym’d so long)
No more than thou, great GEORGE! a birth-day song.
I ne’er with wits or witlings pass’d my days,
To spread about the itch of verse and praise;
Nor like a puppy, daggled thro’ the town,        225
To fetch and carry sing-song up and down;
Nor at Rehearsals sweat, and mouth’d, and cried,
With handkerchief and orange at my side;
But sick of fops, and poetry, and prate,
To Bufo 24 left the whole Castalian state.        230
  Proud as Apollo on his forked hill,
Sat full-blown Bufo puff’d by ev’ry quill;
Fed with soft Dedication all day long,
Horace and he went hand in hand in song.
His Library (where busts of Poets dead        235
And a true Pindar stood without a head,)
Receiv’d of wits an undistinguish’d race,
Who first his judgment ask’d, and then a place:
Much they extoll’d his pictures, much his seat,
And flatter’d ev’ry day, and some days eat:        240
Till grown more frugal in his riper days,
He paid some bards with port, and some with praise;
To some a dry rehearsal was assign’d,
And others (harder still) he paid in kind.
Dryden alone (what wonder?) came not nigh,        245
Dryden alone escaped this judging eye:
But still the Great have kindness in reserve,
He helped to bury whom he help’d to starve.
  May some choice patron bless each gray goose quill!
May ev’ry Bavius have his Bufo still!        250
So, when a Stateman want a day’s defence,
Or Envy holds a whole week’s war with Sense,
Or simple pride for flatt’ry makes demands,
May dunce by dunce be whistled off my hands!
Blest be the Great! for those they take away,        255
And those they left me; for they left me Gay;
Left me to see neglected Genius bloom,
Neglected die, and tell it on his tomb: 25
Of all thy blameless life the sole return
My Verse, and Queensbury weeping 26 o’er thy urn!        260
  Oh let me live my own, and die so too!
(To live and die is all I have to do:)
Maintain a Poet’s dignity and ease,
And see what friends, and read what books I please;
Above a Patron, tho’ I condescend        265
Sometimes to call a minister my friend.
I was not born for Courts or great affairs;
I pay my debts, believe, and say my pray’rs;
Can sleep without a Poem in my head;
Nor know, if Dennis, 27 be alive or dead.        270
  Why am I ask’d what next shall see the light?
Heav’ns! was I born for nothing but to write?
Has Life no joys for me? or, (to be grave)
Have I no friend to serve, no soul to save?
‘I found him close with Swift’—‘Indeed? no doubt,’        275
(Cries prating Balbus 28) ‘something will come out.’
‘’Tis all in vain, deny it as I will.’
‘No, such a Genius never can lie still;’
And then for mine obligingly mistakes
The first Lampoon Sir Will. 29 or Bubo 30 makes.        280
Poor guiltless I! and can I choose but smile,
When ev’ry coxcomb knows me by my Style?
  Curst be the verse, how well soe’er it flow,
That tends to make one worthy man my foe,
Give Virtue scandal, Innocence a fear,        285
Or from the soft-eyed Virgin steal a tear!
But he who hurts a harmless neighbour’s peace,
Insults fall’n worth, or Beauty in distress,
Who loves a Lie, lame slander helps about,
Who writes a Libel, or who copies out:        290
That Fop, whose pride affects a patron’s name,
Yet absent, wounds an author’s honest fame:
Who can your merit selfishly approve,
And show the sense of it without the love;
Who has the vanity to call you friend,        295
Yet wants the honour, injur’d, to defend;
Who tells whate’er you think, whate’er you say,
And, if he lie not, must at least betray:
Who to the Dean, and silver bell 31 can swear,
And sees at Canons 32 what was never there:        300
Who reads, but with a lust to misapply,
Make Satire a Lampoon, and Fiction, Lie.
A lash like mine no honest man shall dread,
But all such babbling blockheads in his stead.
  Let Sporus 33 tremble—  A.  What? that thing of silk,        305
Sporus, that mere white curd of Ass’s milk?
Satire or sense, alas! can Sporus feel?
Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?
P.  Yet let me flap this bug with gilded wings,
This painted child of dirt, that stinks and stings;        310
Whose buzz the witty and the fair annoys,
Yet wit ne’er tastes, and beauty ne’er enjoys;
So well-bred spaniels civilly delight
In mumbling of the game they dare not bite.
Eternal smiles his emptiness betray,        315
As shallow streams run dimpling all the way.
Whether in florid impotence he speaks,
And, as the prompter breathes, the puppet squeaks;
Or at the ear of Eve, familiar Toad,
Half froth, half venom, spits himself abroad,        320
In puns, or politics, or tales, or lies,
Or spite, or smut, or rhymes, or blasphemies.
His wit all see-saw, between that and this,
Now high, now low, now master up, now miss,
And he himself one vile Antithesis.        325
Amphibious thing! that acting either part,
The trifling head or the corrupted heart,
Fop at the toilet, flatt’rer at the board,
Now trips a Lady, and now struts a Lord.
Eve’s tempter thus the Rabbins have exprest,        330
A Cherub’s face, a reptile all the rest;
Beauty that shocks you, parts that none will trust;
Wit that can creep, and pride that licks the dust.
  Not Fortune’s worshipper, nor fashion’s fool,
Not Lucre’s madman, nor Ambition’s tool,        335
Not proud, nor servile;—be one Poet’s praise,
That, if he pleas’d, he pleas’d by manly ways:
That Flatt’ry, ev’n to Kings, he held a shame,
And thought a Lie in verse or prose the same.
That not in Fancy’s maze he wander’d long,        340
But stoop’d to Truth, and mortaliz’d his song;
That not for Fame, but Virtue’s better end,
He stood the furious foe, the timid friend,
The damning critic, half approving wit,
The coxcomb hit, or fearing to be hit;        345
Laugh’d at the loss of friends he never had,
The dull, the proud, the wicked, and the mad;
The distant threats of vengeance on his head,
The blow unfelt, the tear he never shed;
The tale reviv’d, the lie so oft o’erthrown,        350
Th’ imputed trash, and dulness not his own;
The morals blacken’d when the writings scape,
The libell’d person, and the pictur’d shape;
Abuse, on all he lov’d, or lov’d him, spread,
A friend in exile, or a father, dead;        355
The whisper, that to greatness still too near,
Perhaps, yet vibrates on his SOV’REIGN’S ear:—
Welcome for thee, fair Virtue! all the past;
For thee, Fair Virtue! welcome ev’n the last!
  A.  But why insult the poor, affront the great?        360
P.  A knave’s a knave, to me, in ev’ry state:
Alike my scorn, if he succeed or fail,
Sporus at court, or Japhet 34 in a jail,
A hireling scribbler, or a hireling peer,
Knight of the post 35 corrupt, or of the shire;        365
If on a Pillory, or near a Throne,
He gain his Prince’s ear, or lose his own.
  Yet soft by nature, more a dupe than wit,
Sappho 36 can tell you how this man was bit;
This dreaded Sat’rist Dennis will confess        370
Foe to his pride, but friend to his distress:
So humble, he has knock’d at Tibbald’s door,
Has drunk with Cibber, nay has rhym’d for Moore.
Full ten years slander’d, did he once reply?
Three thousand suns went down on Welsted’s lie. 37        375
To please a Mistress one aspers’d his life;
He lash’d him not, but let her be his wife.
Let Budgel charge low Grubstreet on his quill,
And write whate’er he pleas’d, except his Will;
Let the two Curlls of Town and Court, abuse        380
His father, mother, body, soul, and muse.
Yet why? that Father held it for a rule,
It was a sin to call our neighbour fool:
That harmless Mother thought no wife a whore:
Hear this, and spare his family, James Moore!        385
Unspotted names, and memorable long!
If there be force in Virtue, or in Song.
  Of gentle blood (part shed in Honour’s cause,
While yet in Britain Honour had applause)
Each parent sprung—  A.  What fortune pray?—  P.  Their own,        390
And better got, than Bertia’s from the throne.
Born to no Pride, inheriting no Strife,
Nor marrying Discord in a noble wife,
Stranger to civil and religious rage,
The good man walk’d innoxious thro’ his age.        395
Nor Courts he saw, no suits would ever try,
Nor dar’d an Oath, nor hazarded a Lie.
Unlearn’d, he knew no schoolman’s subtle art,
No language, but the language of the heart.
By Nature honest, by Experience wise,        400
Healthy by temp’rance, and by exercise;
His life, tho’ long, to sickness past unknown,
His death was instant, and without a groan.
O grant me, thus to live, and thus to die!
Who sprung from Kings shall know less joy than I.        405
  O Friend! may each domestic bliss be thine!
Be no unpleasing Melancholy mine:
Me, let the tender office long engage,
To rock the cradle of reposing Age,
With lenient arts extend a Mother’s breath,        410
Make Languor smile, and smooth the bed of Death,
Explore the thought, explain the asking eye,
And keep a while one parent from the sky!
On cares like these if length of days attend,
May Heav’n, to bless those days, preserve my friend,        415
Preserve him social, cheerful, and serene,
And just as rich as when he serv’d a QUEEN.
A.  Whether that blessing be deny’d or giv’n,
Thus far was right, the rest belongs to Heav’n.
 
Note 1. Dr. Arbuthnot to whom this epistle was addressed was a “Scotch physician, who came to London, and originally taught mathematics. But being accidentally called in to attend Prince George of Denmark, at Epsom, he became his Highness’s physician, and Queen Anne’s also. He was author of many satirical and political works; he wrote also on natural history and mathematics. His chief work was one entitled ‘Table of Ancient Weights and Measures.’ He engaged with Pope and Swift to write a satire on human learning called ‘Memoirs of Martin Scriblerus,’ but the project was not carried out. Arbuthnot was a man of great sweetness of temper, and had much more learning than either Pope or Swift. It is known that he gave many hints to Pope, Gay, and Swift for some of the sterling parts of their works. He frequently and ably defended the cause of revelation against Bolingbroke and Chesterfield.” (Wharton). [back]
Note 2. John: John Serle, Pope’s servant. [back]
Note 3. The Mint: Southwark; in the time of Henry VIII, there was a Mint there. Debtors and criminals retired here where they were exempt from arrest; they could leave it on Sundays. [back]
Note 4. A parson: Laurence Eusden, who was poet laureate from 1718 to 1730; he was a preacher addicted to drink. [back]
Note 5. Giddy son: James Moore Smyth, son of Arthur Moore, who disagreeing with his father took the surname of his grandfather. [back]
Note 6. Cornus: said to be Lord Robert Walpole, whose wife left him in 1734. [back]
Note 7. Pitholeon: is said to stand for the author of Welsted. [back]
Note 8. Curll: the well-known publisher and bookseller. [back]
Note 9. Colley: Colley Cibber, the hero of the Dunciad. [back]
Note 10. His butchers Henley, alluding to Orator Henley, who it is said on Sundays declaimed on religious subjects, and on Wednesdays, on the sciences. His audiences were chiefly butchers in Newport Market and Butcher Row. [back]
Note 11. Moore: already mentioned, often led Masonic processions. [back]
Note 12. To one Bishop Philips seem a wit: Bishop Boulter, Primate of Ireland, and Ambrose Philips’ friend and patron. [back]
Note 13. Ammon’s great son: Alexander the Great. [back]
Note 14. Maro: Virgil; Publius Vergilius Maro. [back]
Note 15. Granville: George Granville, Lord Lansdowne. [back]
Note 16. Walsh: William Walsh, poet, critic, and gentleman of fashion, Pope’s early patron, who gave him the advice to “be correct.” [back]
Note 17. Garth: Sir Samuel Garth the poet. [back]
Note 18. Sheffield: John Sheffield, Duke of Buckinghamshire. [back]
Note 19. Mitred Rochester: Francis Atterbury, Bishop of Rochester. [back]
Note 20. St. John’s self: Lord Bolingbroke. [back]
Note 21. Burnets, Oldmixons, and Cookes: “Authors of secret and scandalous history.” (Warton). [back]
Note 22. The bard: Ambrose Philips, he translated a book called Persian Tales. [back]
Note 23. Tate: Nahum Tate, poet laureate, 1692. [back]
Note 24. Bufo: Charles Montagu, Earl of Halifax. [back]
Note 25. Tell it on his tomb: Pope wrote the epitaph on Gay in Westminster Abbey. [back]
Note 26. Queensbury weeping: The Duke and Duchess of Queensbury were close and intimate friends of Gay with whom he lived the later years of his life. [back]
Note 27. Dennis: John Dennis, indifferent poet, dramatist, and critic. [back]
Note 28. Balbus: Earl of Kinnoul. [back]
Note 29. Sir Will: Sir William Yonge. [back]
Note 30. Bubo: George Bubb Doddington, Lord Melcombe. [back]
Note 31. Dean and silver bell: Referring to an interpretation put upon certain lines in Epistle iv of the Moral Essays. “Meaning the man who would have persuaded the Duke of Chandos that Mr. P. meant him in those circumstances ridiculed in the epistle on Taste.” See Mr. Pope’s letter to the Earl of Burlington concerning this matter. (Pope). [back]
Note 32. Canons: the house of the Duke of Chandos. [back]
Note 33. Sporus: John Lord Hervey, secretary of state, friend of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, in collaboration with whom he satirised Pope. [back]
Note 34. Japhet: Japhet Cooke, alias Sir Peter Stranger. [back]
Note 35. Knight of the post: “The so-called ‘Knights of the Post’ stood about the sheriff’s pillars near the Courts in readiness to swear anything for pay.” (Ward). [back]
Note 36. Sappho: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. [back]
Note 37. Welsted’s lie: “This man had the impudence to tell in print, that Mr. P. had occasioned a lady’s death, and to name a person he never heard of. He also published that he libelled the Duke of Chandos; with whom (it was added) that he had lived in familiarity, and received from him a present of five hundred pounds: the falsehood of both which is known to his Grace. Mr. Pope never received any present, farther than the subscription for Homer, from him, or from any great man whatsoever.” (Pope). [back]
 
 
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