Page images

New oysters cry'd, nor sighs for cheerful ale;
But with his friends, when nightly mists arise,
To Juniper's Magpye, or Town-hall repairs ;
Where, mindful of the nymph, whose wanton eye
Transfix'd his soul, and kindled amorous flames,
Chloe or Phyllis, he each circling glass
Wisheth her health, and joy, and equal love.
Meanwhile, he smokes, and laughs at merry tale,
Or pun ambiguous or conundrum quaint.
But I, whom griping penury surrounds,
And hunger, sure attendant upon want,
With scanty offals, and small acid tiff
(Wretched repast !) my meagre corpse sustain :
Then solitary walk, or doze at home
In garret vile, and with a warming puff
Regale chill'd fingers ; or from tube as black
As winter-chimney, or well polish'd jet,
Exhale mundun gus, ill-perfuming scent.
Not blacker tube, nor of a shorter size,
Smokes Cambro-Briton (vers'd in pedigree,
Sprung from Cadwallador and Arthur, kings
Full famous in romantic tale) when he
O’er many a craggy hill and barren cliff,
Upon a cargo of fam'd Cestrian cheese,
High over-shadowing rides, with a design
To wend his wares at the Arvonian mart,
Or Maridunum, or the ancient town
Yclep'd Brechinia, or where Vaga's stream
Encircles Siriconium, fruitful soil !
Whence flow nectareous wines, that well may vie
With Massic, Setin, or renown'd Falern.

Thus, while my joyless minutes tedious flow,
With looks demure, and silent pace, a Dun,
Horrible monsier! hated by gods and men,
To my aërial citadel ascends.*
With vocal heel thrice thundering at my gate,
With' hideous accent thrice he calls ; I know
The voice ill-boding, and the solemn sound,
What should I do? or whither turn? Amaz'd,
Confounded, to the dark recess I fly
Of wood-hole ; straight my bristling hairs erect
Through sudden fear; a chilly sweat bedews
My shuddering limbs, and (wonderful to tell !)
My tongue forgets her faculty of speech;

* To-wit, his garret.

So horrible he seems! His faded brow
Entrench'd with many a frown, and conic beard,
And spreading band, admir'd by modern saints,
Disastrous acts forebode ; in his right hand
Long scrolls of paper solemnly he waves,
With characters and figures dire inscrib’d,
Grievous to mortal eyes (ye gods avert
Such plagues from righteous men !) Behind him stalks
Another monster, not unlike itself,
Sullen of aspect, by the vulgar callid
A Catchpole, whose polluted hands the gods
With force incredible, and magic charms,
First have endued : if he his ample palm
Should haply on ill-fated shoulder lay
Of debtor, straight his body to the touch
Obsequious (as whilom knights were wont)
To some enchanted castle is convey'd,
Where gates impregnable, and coercive chains,
In durance strict detain him, till, in form
Of money, Pallas sets the captive free.

Beware, ye debtors ! when ye walk, beware,
Be circumspect; oft with insidious ken
The caitiff eyes your steps aloof, and oft
Lies perdue in a nook or gloomy cave,
Prompt to enchant some inadvertent wretch
With his unhallowd touch. So (poets sing)
Grimalkin to domestic vermin sworn
An everlasting foe, with watchful eye
Lies nightly brooding o’er a chinky gap,
Portending her fell claws, to thoughtless mice
Sure ruin., So her disembowell’d web
Arachne, in a hall or kitchen, spreads
Obvious to vagrant flies : she secret stands
Within her woven cell; the humming prey,
Regardless of their fate, rush on the toils
Inextricable, nor will aught avail
Their arts, or arms, or shapes of lovely hue.
The wasp insidious, and the buzzing drone,
And butterfly proud of expanded wings
Distinct with gold, entangled in her snares,
Useless resistance make; with eager strides,
She towering flies to her expected spoils :
Then with envenom’d jaws the vital blood
Drinks of reluctant foes, and to her cave
Their bulky carcasses triumphant drags.

So pass my days. But when nocturnal shades This world envelope, and th’ inclement air Persuades men to repel benumbing frosts With pleasant wines, and crackling blaze of wood , Me, lonely sitting, nor the glimmering light Of make-weight candle, nor the joyous talk Of loving friend, delights; distress'd, forlorn, Amidst the horrors of the tedious night, Darkling I sigh, and feed with dismal thoughts My anxious mind; or sometimes mournful verse Indite, and sing of groves and myrtle shades, Or desperate lady near a purling stream, Or lover pendent on a willow-tree. Meanwhile I labor with eternal drought, And restless wish, and rave; my parched throat Finds no relief, nor heavy eyes repose : But if a slumber haply does invade My weary limbs, my fancy, still awake, Thoughtful of drink, and eager, in a dream, Tipples imaginary pots of ale ; In vain ;-awake I find the settled thirst Still gnawing, and the pleasant phantom curse.

Thus do I live, from pleasure quite debarr'd, Nor taste the fruits that the sun's genial rays Mature, john-apple, nor the downy peach, Nor walnut in rough-furrowed coat secure, Nor medlar fruit delicious in decay; Afflictions great! yet greater still remain. My galligaskins, that have long withstood The winter's fury and encroaching frosts, By time subdued (what will not time subdue !) An horrid chasm disclose with orifice Wide, discontinuous ; at which the winds Eurus and Auster and the dreadful force Of Boreas, that congeals the Cronian waves, Tumultuous enter with dire chilling blasts, Portending agues. Thus a well-fraught ship, Long sails secure, or through the Ægean deep, Or the Ionian, till cruising near The Lilybean shore, with hideous crush On Scylla or Charybdis (dangerous rocks) She strikes rebounding; whence the shatter'd oak, So fierce a shock unable to withstand, Admits the sea. In at the gaping side The crowding waves gush with impetuous rage,

Resistless, overwhelming. Horrors seize
The mariners ; death in their eyes appears;
They stare, they lave, they pump, they swear, they pray.
(Vain efforts) still the battering waves rush in,
Implacable, till, delug'd by the foam,
The ship sinks foundering in the vast abyss.


BORN, 1688—DIED, 1744.

Besides being an admirable wit and satirist, and a man of the most exquisite good sense, Pope was a true poet; and though in all probability his entire nature could never have made him a great one (since the whole man contributes to form the genius, and the very weakness of his organization was in the way of it), yet in a different age the boy who wrote the beautiful verses,

Blest be the man whose wish and care, would have turned out, I think, a greater poet than he was. He had more sensibility, thought, and fancy, than was necessary for the purposes of his school ; and he led a sequestered life with his books and his grotto, caring little for the manners he drew, and capable of higher impulses than had been given him by the wits of the time of Charles the Second. It was unlucky for him (if indeed it did not produce a lucky variety for the reading world) that Dryden came immediately before him. Dryden, a robuster nature, was just great enough to mislead Pope ; and French ascendency completed his fate. Perhaps, after all, nothing better than such a honey and such a sting as this exquisite writer de. veloped, could have been got out of his little delicate pungent nature; and we have every reason to be grateful for what they have done for us. Hundreds of greater pretensions in poetry have not attained to half his fame, nor did they deserve it; for they did not take half his pains. Perhaps they were unable to take them, for want of as good a balance of qualities. Success is generally commensurate with its grounds.

« PreviousContinue »