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Is there a Parson much be-mus'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 ? All fly to TWIT'NAM, and in humble strain 21 Apply to me, to keep them mad or vain.
Is there a Bard in durance ? turn them free
Ver. 15. Is there a Parson] Some lines in this Epistle to Arbuthnot had been used in a letter to Thomson when he was in Italy, and transferred from him to Arbuthnot, which naturally displeased the former, though they lived always on terms of civility and friendship: and Pope earnestly exerted himself, and used all his interest to promote the success of Thomson's Agamemnon, and attended the first night of its being performed. Though Agamemnon is not a capital play on the whole, and abounds in languid and long declamatory speeches, yet parts of it are striking; particularly Melisander's account of the desert island to which he was banished, copied from the Philoctetes of Sophocles; and the prophetic speeches of Cassandra, during the moment of Agamemnon's being murdered, well calculated to fill the audience with alarm, astonishment, and suspense, at an awful event, obscurely hinted at in very strong imagery. These speeches are closely copied from the Agamemnon of Æschylus, as is a striking scene in his Eleonora from the Alcestis of Euripides. Thomson was well acquainted with the Greek Tragedies, on which I heard him talk learnedly, when I was once introduced to him by my friend Mr. W. Collins.
Arthur, whose giddy son neglects the laws,
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 dilemma! 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 years, This saving counsel, “Keep your piece nine years.
VARIATIONS. Ver. 29 in the first Ed.
Dear Doctor, tell me, is not this a curse?
Ver. 23. Arthur Moore, Esq.
Ver. 33. Seized and tied down to judge,] Alluding to the scene in the Plain-Dealer, where Old-fox gags and ties down the Widow, to hear his well-penn'd stanzas. W. -Rather from Horáce; vide his Druso.
Ver. 38. an aching head;] Alluding to the disorder he was then so constantly afflicted with. W.
Ver. 40. Keep your piece nine years.] Boileau employed eleven years in his short satire of L'Equivoque. Patru was four years altering and correcting the first paragraph of his translation of the oration for Archias.
Nine years! cries he, who high in Drury-lane, 41 Lull’d by soft Zephyrs through the broken pane, Rhymes ere he wakes, and prints before Term ends, Oblig'd by hunger, and request of friends : 44 “The piece, you think, is incorrect? why take it, 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 a Patron; ask him for a Place."
50 Pitholeon libell’d me-"but here's a letter Informs you, Sir, 'twas when he knew no better. Dare you
refuse him? Curl 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.”
Ver. 53 in the MS.
If you refuse, he goes, as fates incline,
Ver. 49. Pitholeon] The name taken from a foolish Poet of Rhodes, who pretended much to Greek. Schol. in Horat. I. i. Dr. Bentley pretends, that this Pitholeon libelled Cæsar also. See notes on Hor. Sat. 10. 1. i. P.
Ver. 54. He'll write a Journal,] Meaning the London Journal; a paper in favour of Sir R. Walpole's ministry. Bishop Hoadley wrote in it, as did Dr. Bland.
Ver. 55. a packet.] Alludes to a tragedy called the Virgin Queen, by Mr. R. Barford, published 1729, who displeased Pope by daring to adopt the fine machinery of his Sylphs in an heroi-comical poem called the Assembly. 1726.
ALLUSION. Ver. 43. Rhymes ere he wakes,]
_“ Dictates to me slumb'ring, or inspires Easy my unpremeditated Verse."
If I dislike it, “Furies, death and rage !"
“Commend it to the Stage.”
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),
VARIATIONS. Ver. 60 in the former Ed.
Cibber and I are, luckily, no friends.
Ver. 69. 'Tis sung, when Midas'] The abruptness with which this story from Persius is introduced, occasions an obscurity in the passage ; for there is no connexion with the foregoing paragraph. Boileau says, Sat. ix. v. 221, I have nothing to do with Chapelain's honour, or candour, or civility, or complaisance; but, if you hold him up as a model of good writing, and as the king of authors,
“Ma bile alors s'echauffe, et je brûle d'ecrire;
Midas, le Roi Midas, a des oreilles d'Asne.” There is much humour in making the prying and watchful eyes of the minister, instead of the barber, first discover the ass's ears ; and the word perks has particular force and emphasis. Sir Robert Walpole and Queen Caroline were here pointed at. Boileau wrote his ninth Satire first in prose; of which there was a copy in the late French King's Library.
His very Minister who spy'd them first
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.
84 Let peals of laughter, Codrus ! round thee break, Thou unconcern'd canst hear the mighty crack :
Ver. 72. Queen,] The story is told, by some, of his Barber, but by Chaucer, of his Queen. See Wife of Bath's Tale in Dryden's Fables. P.
Ver. 75. Good Friend, forbear !] Dr. Hurd, in the Dialogue on the Age of Queen Elizabeth, has supported the character of Arbuthnot with more spirit and propriety than is done in this Epistle.
Ver. 79. Out with it, DUNCIAD!) “ Had Mr. Pope,” says Mr. Mason, "sat as easy to the sarcasms of the many writers that endeavoured to eclipse his poetical fame, as Mr. Gray appears to have done with respect to the parodies on his Odes, the world would not have been possessed of a Dunciad; but it would have been impressed with a more amiable idea of its author's temper."
Ver. 80. That secret to each fool that he's an Ass :) i. e. that his ears (his marks of folly) are visible. W.
Ver. 86. the mighty crack:] A parody on Addison's translation of Horace, Ode iii. b. 3.