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P. Where London's column, pointing at the skies, Like a tall bully, lifts the head and lies ; 340
Ver. 339. Where London's column, ģc.) For, the foregoing examples of profusion and avarice having been given, to shew that wealth misapplied was not enjoyed, it only remained to prove, that, in such circumstances, wealth became the heaviest punishment ; and this was the very point to conclude with, as it is the great Moral of this instructive Poem; which is to teach us, how miserable men make themselves by not endeavouring to restrain the Ruling Passion, though it be indeed implanted in us by the Author of our Nature; while, at the same time, it is an answer to the latter part of the question,
“Say, for such worth are other worlds prepar'd ?
Or are they both, in this, their own reward ?” For the solution of which only, this example was jocularly pretended to have been given.
All this, the Poet has admirably supported in the artful construction of his fable of Sir Balaam ; whose character is so drawn, as to let the reader see he had it in his power to regulate the ruling Passion by Reason, as having in himself the seeds of integrity, religion, and sobriety. These are all gradually worked out by an insatiable thirst of wealth ; and this again (through a false sense of his own abilities in acquiring it) succeeded by as immoderate a vanity : which will lead us to another beauty in the management of the story. For, in order to see, in one concluding example, the miseries of exorbitant wealth, ill employed, it was necessary to set before the reader, at once, all the misuse that flowed both from avarice and profusion. The vices of the
Ver. 339. Where London's column,] The Monument built in memory of the fire of London, with an inscription importing that city to have been burnt by the Papists.
Pope. Ver. 340. Like a tall bully, lifts the head and lies ;] It were to be wished, the City monument had been compared to something of more dignity; as, to the Court-champion, for instance, since, like him, it only spoke the sense of the Government. SCRIBL.
There dwelt a citizen of sober fame,
Citizen and the Noble, therefore, which were separated, and contrasted in the foregoing instances, are here shewn incorporated in a Courtly Cit. Perhaps it will be said, that the character has, by this means, the appearance of two ruling Passions : but those studied in human nature know the contrary; and that alieni appetens, sui profusus, is frequently as much one as either the profuse or avaricious apart. Indeed, this is so far from an inaccuracy, that it produces a new beauty. The Ruling Passion is of two kinds, the simple and the complex. The first sort, the Poet had given examples of before. Nothing then remained to complete his philosophic plan, but to conclude with the other. Let me only observe further, that the author, in this tale, has artfully summed up and recapitulated those three principal mischiefs in the abuse of money, which the satirical part of this Poem throughout was employed to expose, namely AVARICE, PROFUSION, and PUBLIC CORRUPTION:
Ver. 341. There dwelt a citizen] This tale of Sir Balaam, his progress and change of manners, from being a plodding, sober, plain, and punctual citizen, to his becoming a debauched and dissolute courtier and senator, abounds in much knowledge of life, and many strokes of true humour, and will bear to be compared to the exquisite history of Eugenio and Crosodes in one of Swift's Intelligencers.
Warton. Ver. 346. An added pudding] It would be curious to trace the origin of this old English custom : “ With a pudding on Sunday, with stout humming liquor,
And remnants of Latin, to welcome the vicar!" See that old excellent ballad, the “ Old Man's Wish," where there is this note :
Constant at Church, and 'Change; his gains were
sure, His givings rare, save farthings to the poor.
The Devil was piqued such saintship to behold, And long'd to tempt him like good Job of old: 350 But Satan now is wiser than of yore, And tempts by making rich, not making poor. Rous'd by the Prince of air, the whirlwinds
sweep The surge, and plunge his father in the deep; Then full against his Cornish lands they roar, 355 And two rich shipwrecks bless the lucky shore.
Sir Balaam now, he lives like other folks, He takes his chirping pint, and cracks his jokes : “ Live like yourself,” was soon my Lady's word; And lo! two puddings smok'd upon the board. 360
“ Constant at Church, and 'Change ; his gains were sure,
His givings rare, save farthings to the poor."“ Leaves the dull cits, and joins (to please the fair)
The well-bred cuckolds in St. James's air.”. - In Britain's senate he a seat obtains,
And one more pensioner St. Stephen gains."
“ Though the Poet never eats any, yet he provides this dish for his guests; but principally in observance of the old English custom, to let no Sunday pass without a pudding!!”
Bowles. Ver. 355. Cornish] The author has placed the scene of these shipwrecks in Cornwall, not only from their frequency on that coast, but from the inhumanity of the inhabitants to those to whom that misfortune arrives. When a ship happens to be stranded there, they have been known to bore holes in it, to prevent its getting off; to plunder, and sometimes even to massacre the people; nor has the Parliament of England been yet able wholly to suppress these barbarities.
Asleep and naked as an Indian lay,
The tempter saw his time; the work he plied ;
Behold Sir Balaam, now a man of spirit, 375
Ver. 377. What late he calld a blessing, now was wit, &c.] This is an admirable picture of human nature. In the entrance into life, all, but coxcombs born, are modest; and esteem the favours of their superiors as marks of their benevolence. But if these favours happen to increase; then, instead of advancing in gratitude to our benefactors, we only improve in the good opinion of ourselves ; and the constant returns of such favours make us consider them no longer as accommodations to our wants, or the hire of our service, but debts due to our merit. Yet, at the same time, to do justice to our common nature, we should observe, that this does not proceed so often from downright vice as is imagined, but frequently from mere infirmity; of which the reason is evident; for, having small knowledge, and yet an excessive opinion of ourselves, we estimate our merit by the passions and caprice of others; and this perhaps would not be so much amiss, were we not apt to take their favours for a declaration of their sense of our
Things change their titles, as our manners turn :
A nymph of quality admires our Knight; 385
merits. How often, for instance, has it been seen, in the three learned professions, that a man, who, had he continued in his primeval meanness, would have circumscribed his knowledge within the modest limits of Socrates; yet, being pushed up, as the phrase is, has felt himself growing into a Hooker, a Hale, or a Sydenham; while, in the rapidity of his course, he imagined he saw, at every new station, a new door of science opening to him, without so much as staying for a flatterer to let him in?
Beatus enim jam
Ver. 394. And one more pensioner St. Stephen gains.] atque unum civem donare Sibyllæ."