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This Imitation will be valuable to a certain class of readers, because it is written without effort or ostentation ; and, in a familiar, yet lively manner, brings us acquainted with the author's domestic establishment and way of life. After a philosophic lesson, which the Poet puts into the mouth of his friend Mr. Bethel, as Horace did into that of Ofellus, Pope assumes the discourse at v. 129, and continues it through the remainder of the piece. He here introduces us in the most easy and unaffected manner to his own simple yet hospitable style of living, the result of those philosophic maxims which teach him not to refuse the blessings which Providence has left him, because he cannot accumulate riches; for the want of which he consoles himself by reflecting on the rapidity with which they frequently pass from one to another, or become the prize of the most worthless or the most ignorant of mankind.
To say, as his critics Warton and Bowles have done, that “ this imitation is not equal to others, and the least successful of any he has attempted, &c.” is to compare it with pieces, the merits of which are of a different kind, but not on that account necessarily greater. There is no kind of composition more pleasing than that which introduces us to the personal acquaintance of the Poet, and enables us to participate not only in his domestic concerns, but in his very thoughts, so as almost to place him in the list of our friends. The difficulty of attaining this, does not consist in style and manner only. Before a person can accomplish it, he must have formed for himself a temper and disposition which will bear to be represented, and this seems to be the true reason why, amongst the innumerable attempts that have been made in this style, so few of them have been attended with success.
Quæ virtus et quanta, boni, sit vivere parvo,
Ver. 2. To live on little] This discourse in praise of temperance loses much of its grace and propriety by being put into the mouth of a person of a much higher rank in life than the honest countryman Ofellus; whose patrimony had been seized by Augustus, and given to one of his soldiers named Umbrenus, and whom, perhaps, Horace recommended to the Emperor, by making him the chief speaker in this very Satire. We may imagine that a discourse on temperance from Horace raised a laugh among the courtiers of Augustus; and we see he could not venture to deliver it in his own person. This Imitation of Pope is not equal to most of his others.
Warton. Ver. 9. Bethel] The same to whom several of Mr. Pope's Letters are addressed.
TO MR. BETHEL.
"What, and how great, the virtue and the art To live on little with a cheerful heart, "(A doctrine sage, but truly none of mine ;) Let's talk, my friends, but talk before we dine. "Not when a gilt buffet's reflected pride
5 Turns you from sound philosophy aside; Not when from plate to plate your eye-balls roll, And the brain dances to the mantling bowl.
Hear BETHEL's sermon, one not versed in schools, *But strong in sense, and wise without the rules. 10
'Go work, hunt, exercise ! (he thus began,) Then scorn a homely dinner, if you can.
Ver. 11. Go work, hunt,] These six following lines are much inferior to the original, in which the mention of many particular exercises gives it a pleasing variety. The sixth and seventh lines in Horace are nervous and strong. The third in Pope is languid and wordy, which renders foris est promus. Defendens, and latrantem, and caro, and pinguem, and album, are all of them very expressive epithets : and the allusion to Socrates's constant exercise, tu pulmentaria, &c. ought not to have been omitted. Pope's two last lines in this passage are very exceptionable. We are informed by Mr. Stuart, in his Athens, that the honey of Hymettus, even to this time, continues to be in vogue; and that the seraglio of the Grand Seignor is served with a stated quantity of it yearly.