« ZurückWeiter »
books out of the twenty-four, with a happiness not inferior to his Iliad; and the transaction, conducted in a truly mercantile spirit, was the source of considerable profit to him. After the appearance of the Odyssey, Pope almost solely made himself known as a satirist and moralist. In 1728 he published the three first books of the "Dunciad," a kind of mock heroic, the object of which was to overwhelm with indelible ridicule all his antagonists, together with some other authors whom spleen or party led him to rank among the dunces, though they had given him no personal offence. Notwithstanding that the diction and versification of this poem are laboured with the greatest care, we shall borrow nothing from it. Its imagery is often extremely gross and offensive; and irritability, ill-nature, and partiality are so prominent through the whole, that whatever he gains as a poet he loses as a man. He has, indeed, a claim to the character of a satirist in this production, but none at all to that of a moralist.
The other selected pieces, though not entirely free from the same defects, may yet be tolerated; and his noble work called the " Essay on Man," which may stand in the first class of ethical poems, does not deviate from the style proper to its topic. This piece gave an example of the poet's extraordinary power of managing argumentation in verse, and of compressing his thoughts into clauses of the most energetic brevity, as well as of expanding them into passages distinguished by every poetic The origin of this essay is, however,
generally ascribed to Lord Bolingbroke, who was adopted by the author as his " 'guide, philosopher, and friend ;" and there is little doubt that, with respect to mankind in general, Pope adopted, without always fully understanding, the system of Bolingbroke.
On his works in prose, among which a collection of letters appears conspicuous, it is unnecessary here to remark. His life was not prolonged to the period of old age: an oppressive asthma indicated an early decline, and accumulated infirmities incapacitated him from pursuing the plan he had formed for new works. After having complied, through the instigation of a catholic friend, with the ceremonies of that religion, he quietly expired on May 30th, 1744, at the age of fifty-six. He was interred at Twickenham, where a monument was erected to his memory by the commentator and legatee of his writings, Bishop Warburton.
Regarded as a poet, while it is allowed that Pope was deficient in invention, his other qualifications will scarcely be disputed; and it will generally be admitted that no English writer has carried to a greater degree correctness of versification, strength and splendour of diction, and the truly poetical power of vivifying and adorning every subject that he touched. The popularity of his productions has been proved by their constituting a school of English poetry, which in part continues to the present time.
THE RAPE OF THE LOCK.
AN HEROI-COMICAL POEM.
Written in the Year 1712.
Nolueram, Belinda, tuos violare capillos;
WHAT dire offence from amorous causes springs,
Say what strange motive, goddess! could compel
Sol through white curtains shot a timorous ray, And ope'd those eyes that must eclipse the day: Now lap-dogs give themselves the rouzing shake, And sleepless lovers, just at twelve, awake: Thrice rung the bell, the slipper knock'd the ground, And the press'd watch return'd a silver sound. Belinda still her downy pillow prest, Her guardian Sylph prolong'd the balmy rest:
'Twas he had summon'd to her silent bed
The silver token, and the circled green,
Or virgins visited by angel-powers,
With golden crowns and wreaths of heavenly flowers;
These, though unseen, are ever on the wing,
Think not, when woman's transient breath is fled,
Succeeding vanities she still regards,
And though she plays no more, o'erlooks the cards.
"Know farther yet; whoever fair and chaste Rejects mankind, is by some Sylph embrac'd: For, spirits, freed from mortal laws, with ease Assume what sexes and what shapes they please. What guards the purity of melting maids, In courtly balls, and midnight masquerades, Safe from the treacherous friend, the daring spark, The glance by day, the whisper in the dark, When kind occasion prompts their warm desires, When music softens, and when dancing fires? 'Tis but their Sylph, the wise celestials know, Though honour is the word with men below. "Some nymphs there are, too conscious of their face,
For life predestin'd to the Gnome's embrace. These swell their prospects, and exalt their pride, When offers are disdain'd, and love deny❜d: Then gay ideas crowd the vacant brain,
While peers, and dukes, and all their sweeping train,