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61.—IMITATION OF HORACE.
POPE [THERE was a controversy going on some twenty years ago whether Pope was a poet. He was not a poet in the sense in which we speak of Spenser, or Dante, or Milton; but, unless we narrow the realms of poetry somewhat strangely, the author of the most pointed and dazzling satire, conveyed in the most harmonious verse, must take his rank amongst the great masters. Are the portraits of Titian or Vandyke not works of art, because they have not the high imagination of the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel or the Cartoons ? Alexander Pope was born in 1688; died in 1744.]
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 eye-balls roll,
And the brain dances to the mantling bowl.
Hear Bethel's sermon, one not versed 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 strollid 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,
(Though 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!”
Oh, 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 through 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-red-breast till of late had rest,
And children sacred held a martin's nest,
Till beccaficos sold so dev'lish dear
To one hat 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.
'Tis 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; though 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 generous cannot bear : Oil, though 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, every error pass,
The musty wine, foul cloth, and 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 every dish,
A tomb of boild 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 temperate sleeps, and spirits light as air.
How pale, each worshipful and reverend guest
Rise from a clergy or a city feast!
What life in all that ample body, say?
What heavenly particle inspires the clay ?
The soul subsides, and wickedly inclines
To seem but mortal, evin 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 every 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 intemperate youth the vessel drains ?
Our fathers prais'd rank ven’son. 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 pleased 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,
Cursed 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 'tis noble, suits my birth and state,
My wealth unwieldly, 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 dar’st thou let one worthy man be poor?
Shall half the new-built churches round thee fall ?
Make quays, build bridges, of repair Whitehall :
Or to thy country let that heap be lent,
As M * * o's was, but not at five per cent.
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 blest 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 forests planted by a father's hand, Than in five acres now of rented land. Content with little, I can piddle here On broccoli and mutton, round the year;
But ancient friends (though poor, or out of play)
That touch my bell, I cannot turn away.
'Tis 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 yon old walnut-tree a shower shall fall;
And grapes, long lingering 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 :
Though 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 ? through 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 Heaven 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 rent 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 ;