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than I can well remember." Ogilby's translation of Homer was one of the first large poems he read, and, in after life, he spoke of the rapture it afforded him. “I was then about eight years old. This led me to Sandys's Ovid, which I liked extremely, and so I did a translation of part of Statius by some very bad hand. When I was about twelve I wrote a kind of play, which I got to be acted by my schoolfellows. It was a number of speeches from the Iliad tacked together with verses of my own.” Ruffhead says, the part of Ajax was performed by the master's gardener, who certainly would look the character, however the poetry might suffer, better than his juvenile associates. Mr. Deane was a careless, remiss teacher; and what with studying plays and making verses, and attending the theatre in company with the older boys, Pope made so little progress, that on leaving school he was only able, he says, to construe a little of Tully's Offices. He was better acquainted with Dryden than with Cicero, and his boyish admiration and curiosity led him to obtain a sight of the living poet. “I saw Mr. Dryden when I was about twelve
years of age. [This must have been in the last year of Dryden's life.] I remember his face well, for I looked upon him even then with veneration, and observed him very particularly.” He barely saw him, as he said to Wycherley-Virgilium tantum vidi; but he remembered that he was plump, of a fresh colour, with a down look, and was not very conversible.
To learning bred, he knew not what to say.
But in his highest mood of inspiration, sitting out the summer night in tremulous excitement, his
locks waving in the early dawn, Dryden was a different sort of person. Dr. Johnson finely remarks, “who does not wish that Dryden could have known the value of the homage that was paid him, and foreseen the greatness of his young admirer ?” Yet, considering the perils and uncertainties of a literary life; its precarious rewards, feverish anxieties, mortifications and disappointments—joined to the tyranny
of the Tonsons and Lintots, and the malice and envy of dunces-all of which Dryden had long and bitterly experienced—the aged poet could hardly have looked on the delicate and deformed boy, whose preternatural acuteness and sensibility were seen in his keen dark eyes, without a feeling approaching to grief, had he known that he was to fight a battle like that under which he was himself then sinking, even though the Temple of Fame should at length open its portals to receive him.13 The die, however, was cast. "My next period,” says Pope, “was in Windsor Forest, where I sat down with an earnest desire of reading, and applied as constantly as I could to it for some years. I was between twelve and thirteen when I went thither, and I continued in this close pursuit of pleasure and languages till nineteen or twenty. Considering how very little I had when I came from school, I think I may
be said to have taught myself Latin as well as French or Greek, and in all these
of getting them was by translation." He afterwards said of himself,
Bred up at home, full early I begun
No critical scholar, however, has given Pope credit for proficiency in the language of Homer, or pronounced his scheme of self-instruction to have been a perfectly successful experiment. He forced his way into the chambers of ancient literature, but he never obtained complete possession of the treasures with which they are stored. His case may be held to support the argument in favour of public schools;
13 A similar act of homage, among many others, was paid to Pope himself by a youth who also rose to eminence. Northcote in his Life of Reynolds mentions, that one day at a public auction, numerously attended, Pope unexpectedly made his appearance. The moment he was seen a whisper passed through the room, an avenue was formed to admit his free approach, every hand was stretched out to bid him welcome, and the future Sir Joshua Reynolds succeeded, by thrusting his hand under the arm of another person, to catch hold of that of the poet.
FIRST ATTEMPTS AT VERSE,
but at the same time it affords an animating example to the young student who has been denied the inestimable advantages of early academical training and discipline.
Classic studies were varied by attempts at original composition. Pope's father used to set him to make verses ; and as his mother related, often sent him back to new turn” them, saying, “ These are not good rhymes, for that was my husband's word for verses.” The pupil, however, soon shot far ahead of his master. His Ode on Solitude was written at the age of twelve, and a satirical piece on Elkanah Settle at the age of fourteen. Some of his translations go back to nearly the same period, and all evince great skill and polish in versification. In this branch of his art Pope unquestionably surpassed Milton, Cowley, or Chatterton, whose early productions, though more strongly imbued with poetical fancy and ambition, (poor Chatterton at twelve or thirteen had all the “fine translunary madness” of the creative poet,) are crude and defective in style. Pope as a versifier was never a boy. He was born to refine our numbers and to add the charm of finished elegance to our poetical literature, and he was ready for his mission at an age when most embryo poets are labouring at syntax, or struggling for expression. Nor was it only his taste and fine ear for metrical harmony that were thus early developed. His power of condensing thought and embodying observation in language terse and appropriate, his critical judgment, the satirical bias of his mind, and a tendency it must be con-. fessed to dwell on indelicate and disagreeable images, all are visible in these juvenile poems.
The childhood shows the man,
As morning shows the day.—Par. Regained. Waller, Spenser, and Dryden were Pope's favourite poets, and when a boy, he said, he could distinguish the difference between softness and sweetness in their versification. On the same points, Dryden is found to be softer; Waller sweeter; and the same distinction prevails between Ovid and Virgil. The Eclogues of Virgil he thought the sweetest poems in the world. Some further notices of Pope's boyish studies and predilections are given in Spence :
"The epic poem, which I begun a little after I was twelve, was Alcander, Prince of Rhodes. There was an under-water scene in the first book ; it was in the Archipelago. I wrote four books toward it of about a thousand verses each; and had the copy by me till I burnt it by the advice of the Bishop of Rochester, a little before he went abroad. I endeavoured (said he smiling) in this poem to collect all the beauties of the great epic writers into one piece: there was Milton's style in one part, and Cowley's in another; here the style of Spenser imitated, and there of Statius; here Homer and Virgil, and there Ovid and Claudian. It was an imitative poem, then, as your other exercises were imitations of this or that story? Just that. Mr. Pope wrote verses imitative of sounds so early as in this epic poem.
Shields, helms, and swords all jangle as they hang,
EARLY POETICAL LESSONS.
There were also some couplets in it which I have since inserted in some of my other poems without any, alteration. As the Essay on Criticism:
Whose honours with increase of ages grow,
Another couplet inserted in the Dunciad:-
As man's meanders to the vital spring
In the scattered lessons I used to set myself about that time I translated above a quarter of the Metamorphoses, and that part of Statius which was afterwards printed with the corrections of Walsh. My next work after my epic was my Pastorals, so that I did exactly what Virgil says of himself:
Cum canarem reges et proelia, Cynthius aurem
I translated Tully's piece De Senectute in this early period, and there is a copy of it in Lord Oxford's library. My first taking to imitating was not out of vanity but humility. I saw how defective my own things were, and endeavoured to mend my manner by copying good strokes from others. My epic was about two years in hand, from thirteen to fifteen. 15
These citations exhibit the early tastes and indefatigable application of Pope. None of his juvenile poems, however, were published before he was in his twentieth year, and it is probable that all underwent careful correction before
14 I first transferred to Rome Sicilian strains;
Nor blush'd the Doric Muse to dwell on Mantuan plains.
My fattening flocks, nor dare beyond the reed.-Dryden. 15 There are some errors in Spence's statement. Atterbury did not advise the burning of the epic poem. In a letter to Pope, Feb. 18, 1717, he says, “I am not sorry your Alcander is burnt; had I known your intentions I would have interceded for the first page, and put it, with your leave, among my curiosities.” This was six years before Atterbury went abroad. There is no evidence of Walsh correcting the Statius; Cromwell was the party, though Walsh corrected the Pastorals. Spence also makes Pope say, that he submitted the Essay on Criticism to Walsh in the year 1706, whereas it was not written till 1709, a year after Walsh's death.