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EPISTOLA I.

AD AUGUSTUM.

CUM tot sustineas et tanta negotia solus,
Rex Italas armis tuteris, moribus ornes,
Legibus emendes; in 'publica commoda peccem,
Si longo sermone morer tua tempora, Cæsar.

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Romulus,* et Liber pater, et cum Castore Pollux, Post ingentia facta, Deorum in templa recepti,

NOTES.

* Romulus,] Dion Cassius informs us, book 53, that Augustus was particularly pleased to be called Romulus. Warton.

Ver. 1. While you, great Patron] All those nauseous and outrageous compliments, which Horace, in a strain of abject adulation, degraded himself by paying to Augustus, Pope has converted into bitter and pointed sarcasms, conveyed under the form of the most artful irony.

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Horace," says Pope, in the advertisement to this piece, "made his court to this great prince, (or rather this cool and subtle tyrant,) by writing with a decent freedom towards him, with a just contempt of his low flatterers, and with a manly regard to his own character." Surely he forgot the 15th and 16th lines :

Jurandasque tibi per numen ponimus aras,

Nil oriturum alias, nil ortum tale fatentes, &c. Warton. Ver. 2. open all the main ;] This has been thought a very obscure expression; but it should be remembered that irony is the leading feature of this Epistle. It was written in 1737, at the time when the Spanish depredations at sea were such, that there was an universal cry that the British flag had been insulted, and the contemptible and degraded English braved on their own element. "At this period," says Mr. Coxe," the House was daily inundated

with

EPISTLE I.

TO AUGUSTUS.

WHILE you, great patron of mankind! *sustain
The balanced world, and open all the main;
Your country, chief, in arms abroad defend,
At home, with morals, arts, and laws amend;
"How shall the Muse, from such a monarch, steal 5
An hour, and not defraud the public weal?

Edward and Henry, now the boast of fame,
And virtuous Alfred, a more "sacred name,

66

NOTES.

with petitions and papers relating to the inhumanities committed on the English prisoners taken on board of trading vessels." Opening all the Main," therefore, means that the king was so LIBERAL as to leave it OPEN TO THE SPANIARDS, who committed with impunity whatever outrages they pleased, on those who were before considered the almost exclusive masters of it.

The same explanation may be given of

"Your country, chief, in arms abroad defend.”

This line means quite the contrary. The people were wearied with so long a period of peace, and in 1738 the public mind was agitated almost to phrenzy, and the cry of instant war, retaliation, and revenge, resounded from one part of England to the other; it is therefore with the bitterest sarcasm that Pope exclaims :

"Your country, chief, IN ARMS ABROAD DEFEND."

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It was not till two years afterwards, October 19th, 1739, that war, so long insisted on, was declared, which declaration was re'ceived with the greatest demonstrations of enthusiasm and joy. How then could any one at the time be ignorant of the real meaning of Pope's expressions? Bowles.

Ver. 5. from such a monarch,] This fine imitation was first published

VOL. VI.

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Dum terras hominumque colunt genus, aspera

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Componunt, agros assignant, oppida condunt;

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• Ploravere suis non respondere favorem Speratum meritis. Diram qui contudit Hydram, Notaque fatali portenta labore subegit, Comperit 'invidiam supremo fine domari. Urit enim fulgore suo, qui prægravat artes Infra se positas: extinctus amabitur idem. h Præsenti tibi maturos largimur honores, Jurandasque tuum per numen ponimus aras, *Nil oriturum aliàs, nil ortum tale fatentes. Sed tuus hoc populus sapiens et justus in uno, *Te nostris ducibus, te Graiis anteferendo, Cætera nequaquam simili ratione modoque Estimat; et, nisi quæ terris semota suisque Temporibus defuncta videt, fastidit et odit : 'Sic fautor veterum, ut tabulas peccare vetantes

NOTES.

published in 1737. The strong satire with which it abounds was concealed with such delicate art and address, that many persons, and some of the highest rank in the court, as I have been well informed, read it as a panegyric on the king and ministry, and congratulated themselves that Pope had left the opposition in which he had been engaged. But it may seem strange they should not see the drift and intention of such lines, as, the six first, the twenty-ninth, the three hundred and fifty-fourth, the three hundred and fifty-sixth, the three hundred and seventy-sixth, the three hundred and ninety-fourth, and many other lines. Warton.

This Epistle is, in fact, a satire not only on the Sovereign, to whom it is addressed, but on the whole tribe of poetical parasites, who flatter the vices, corrupt the principles, and debase the taste of a monarch; and even on Horace himself.

Ver. 37. Chaucer's worst ribaldry] The laws of the Decemviri

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After a life of generous toils endured,
The Gaul subdued, or property secured,
Ambition humbled, mighty cities storm'd,
Or laws establish'd, and the world reform'd;
Closed their long glories, with a sigh, to find
The unwilling gratitude of base mankind!
All human virtue, to its latest breath,
'Finds envy never conquer'd, but by death.
The great Alcides, every labour past,
Had still this monster to subdue at last.
"Sure fate of all, beneath whose rising ray
Each star of meaner merit fades away!
Oppress'd we feel the beam directly beat;
Those suns of glory please not till they set.
To thee, the world its present homage pays,
The harvest early, "but mature the praise:
Great friend of LIBERTY! in Kings a name
Above all Greek, above all Roman fame:*
Whose word is truth, as sacred and revered,
¡As heaven's own oracles from altars heard.
Wonder of kings! like whom, to mortal eyes
*None e'er has risen, and none e'er shall rise. 30
Just in one instance, be it yet confess'd

Your people, Sir, are partial in the rest:
Foes to all living worth except your own,

And advocates for folly dead and gone.

25

Authors, like coins, grow dear as they grow old; 35 It is the rust we value, not the gold.

'Chaucer's worst ribaldry is learn'd by rote, And beastly Skelton Heads of Houses quote;

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Quas bis quinque viri sanxerunt, fœdera regum, Vel Gabiis, vel cum rigidis æquata Sabinis, Pontificum libros, annosa volumina Vatum, Dictitet Albano Musas in monte locutas.

Si, quia "Graiorum sunt antiquissima quæque Scripta vel optima, Romani pensantur eâdem

NOTES.

do not at all answer to Chaucer; nor the annosa volumina vatum to Spenser and Ben Jonson. Nor in verse below, 48, tumbling through a hoop, to luctamur. Dr. Hurd gives a forced meaning to Achivis unctis, and says it means, the unwearied assiduity of the Greek artists; the practice of anointing being essential to their agonistic trials, and that Horace puts the attending circumstances for the thing itself. Warton.

Ver. 38. And beastly Skelton, &c.] Skelton, poet laureat to Henry VIII. a volume of whose verses has been lately reprinted, consisting almost wholly of ribaldry, obscenity, and scurrilous language.

Pope.

His poems, says Dr. Farmer, are printed, 1736, with the title of "Pithy, Pleausant, and Profitable Workes of Maister Skelton, Poete Laureate." But, says Cibber, after several other writers: "How, or by what interest he was made Laureat, or whether it was a title he assumed to himself, cannot be determined." This is an error pretty generally received, and it may be worth our while to remove it.

A facetious author says, That a Poet Laureat, in the modern idea, is a gentleman who hath an annual stipend for reminding us of the new-year and the birth-day: but formerly a Poet Laureat was a real university graduate.

"Skelton wore lawrell wreath

And past in schoels ye knoe,"

says Churchyarde, in the poem prefixed to his works. And Master Caxton, in his preface to the Boke of Eneydos, 1490, hath a passage, which well deserves to be quoted without abridgment: "I praye mayster John Skelton late created Poet Laureate in the Unyversite of Oxenforde, to oversee and correcte thys sayd

booke,

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