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« 'Tis true,' said I, • not void of hopes I came, For who so fond as youthful bards of fame? But few, alas ! the casual blessing boast, So hard to gain, so easy to be lost. How vain that second life in others' breath, 505 The estate which wits inherit after death! Ease, health, and life, for this they must resign; Unsure the tenure, but how vast the fine! The great man's curse, without the gains, endure; Be envied, wretched; and be flatter'd, poor; 510 All luckless wits their enemies profess'd; And all successful, jealous friends at best.
505 How vain that second life in others' breath. Pope had not yet learned to discard the affectation of publicly scorning that for which he sighed in private. He was now twenty-three; and if he ever determined on his pursuit in life, he had already determined on it: he must be a poet, or be nothing : fame in literature must be his reward, or he must be content with total obscurity; for it was the only object of his existence. By a striking contradiction between the language and the feeling, we find him selecting for the display of his discontent the close of a poem, whose intire subject is intellectual distinction; the security of its honors; and the vividness, purity, and elevation of its enjoyments : but this bas been the 'poetic fashion’in all ages, and even the keen understanding of Pope submitted to the fashion of his tribe.
The Temple of Fame' exhibits the early style of its author: its characteristics are, command of language, variety of description, and pomp of imagery. It might take for its motto Chaucer's rich and high-wrought picturing of his crystal tem. ple:
In which were more images
Nor Fame I slight, nor for her favors call;
THE MEMORY OF AN UNFORTUNATE LADY.
The probable features of this · Lady's' story have been already given in the Life of the poet, for they scarcely amount to more than probability: her name, her passion, the object of the passion, her end, and even her existence, are still equally obscure. The opinions of the biographers on the moral of the poem are more distinct: they almost universally charge Pope with the defence of suicide. Johnson, in his abhorrence of all vice, pronounces the lady to have been impatient, violent, and ungovernable ;' adding,
that poetry has not often been worse employed than in dignifying the amorous fury of a raving girl. Yet this ardor of rebuke is thrown away: the moralist is fighting with a shadow: the poem contains no defence of suicide : Pope wisely withdraws the act from sight, and covers the crime under the glowing generalities of poetry.
MEMORY OF AN UNFORTUNATE LADY.
What beckoning ghost, along the moonlight
shade Invites my steps, and points to yonder glade ? 'Tis she !—but why that bleeding bosom gored ? Why dimly gleams the visionary sword? 0, ever beauteous, ever friendly! tell, Is it, in heaven, a crime to love too well ? To bear too tender or too firm a heart? To act a lover's or a Roman's part? Is there no bright reversion in the sky, For those who greatly think or bravely die? 10
Why bade ye else, ye powers ! her soul aspire Above the vulgar flight of low desire ? Ambition first sprung from your bless'd abodes; The glorious fault of angels and of gods : Thence to their images on earth it flows, 15 And in the breasts of kings and heroes glows. Most souls, 'tis true, but peep out once an age, Dull sullen prisoners in the body's cage: Dim lights of life, that burn a length of years Useless, unseen, as lamps in sepulcres : 20 Like eastern kings a lazy state they keep; And, close confined to their own palace, sleep.
From these perhaps, ere Nature bade her die, Fate snatch'd her early to the pitying sky. As into air the purer spirits flow, And separate from their kindred dregs below; , So flew the soul to its congenial place, Nor left one virtue to redeem her race.
But thou, false guardian of a charge too good, Thou mean deserter of thy brother's blood ! 30 See on these ruby lips the trembling breath, These cheeks now fading at the blast of death : Cold is that breast which warm’d the world before, And those love-darting eyes must roll no more. Thus, if eternal justice rules the ball,
35 Thus shall your wives, and thus your children
fall : On all the line a sudden vengeance waits, And frequent hearses shall besiege your gates : There passengers shall stand, and pointing'say, While the long funerals blacken all the way, 40
Lo! these were they, whose souls the Furies steeld, And cursed with hearts unknowing how to yield.' Thus unlamented pass the proud away, The gaze of fools, and pageant of a day! So perish all, whose breast ne'er learn'd to glow For others' good, or melt at others' wo.
What can atone, O ever-injured shade! Thy fate un pitied, and thy rites unpaid ? No friend's complaint, no kind domestic tear Pleased thy pale ghost, or graced thy mournful bier. By foreign hands thy dying eyes were closed, 51 By foreign hands thy decent limbs composed, By foreign hands thy humble grave adorn’d, By strangers honor'd, and by strangers mourn'd!