« PoprzedniaDalej »
Fa che la povertà meno m'incresca,
"I wish not riches; peace is all I ask;
And warn me not to wealth so far to be
Devoted, as to risk my much-loved liberty."
The same reluctance to sacrifice the powers of the mind to external circumstances, is beautifully expressed by Pope in his imitation of Horace :
"Slow as to him who works for debt the day," &c.
It is from these touches of character that we form our attachment to individuals, and feel ourselves attracted by a charm which neither distance of time, nor difference of country and manners can wholly destroy.
Unwilling as the world is to concede to the pretensions of any individual those merits which he has himself presumed openly to claim, yet few will be found to deny that Pope has made good his title to the characteristics he assumes, even by the manner in which he has asserted them; and that the courage, the frankness, the irony, the wit, the alternate earnestness and indifference, elevation and ridicule, with which he treats the various subjects that occur in his Satires, entitle him at once to our admiration, our confidence, and our esteem.
PROLOGUE TO THE SATIRES.
Neque sermonibus vulgi dederis te, nec in præmiis humanis spem posueris rerum tuarum; suis te oportet illecebris ipsa virtus trahat ad verum decus. Quid de te alii loquantur, ipsi videant, sed loquentur tamen."
Ar the time of publishing this Epistle, the poet's patience was exhausted by the endless impertinence of poetasters of all ranks and conditions; as well those who courted his favour, as those who envied his reputation. So that now he had resolved to quit his hands of both together, by the publication of a DUNCIAD. This design he communicated to his excellent friend Dr. Arbuthnot; who, although as a man of wit and learning he might not have been displeased to see their common injuries revenged on this pernicious tribe; yet, as our author's friend and physician, he was solicitous of his ease and health; and therefore unwilling he should provoke so large and powerful a party.
Their difference of opinion, in this matter, gives occasion to the following Dialogue; where, in a natural and familiar detail of all his provocations, both from flatterers and slanderers, our author has artfully interwoven an apology for his moral and poetic character.
For after having told his case, and humorously applied to his physician in the manner one would ask for a receipt to kill vermin, he straight goes on, in the common character of askers of advice, to tell his doctor that he had already taken his party, and determined of his remedy. But using a preamble, and introducing it (in the way of poets), with a simile, in which the names of Kings, Queens, and Ministers of State happen to be mentioned, his friend takes the alarm, and begs him to forbear; advises him to stick to his subject, and to be easy under so common a calamity.
To make so light of his disaster provokes the poet: he breaks the thread of his discourse, which was to lead his friend gently, and by degrees, into his project; and abruptly tells him the application of his simile at once:
"Out with it, DUNCIAD! let the secret pass," &c.
But recollecting the humanity and tenderness of his friend, which, he apprehends, might be a little shocked at the apparent severity of such a proceeding, he assures him that his good-nature is alarmed without cause; for that nothing has less feeling than this sort of offenders; which he illustrates in the examples of a damned Poet, a detected Slanderer, a Table-Parasite, a Church-Buffoon, and a Party-Writer (from ver. 1 to 101).
But, in this enumeration, coming again to Names, his friend once more stops him, and bids him consider what hostilities this VOL. VI.
general attack would set on foot. So much the better, replies the poet; for, considering the strong antipathy of bad to good, enemies they will always be, either open or secret; and it admits of no question, but a slanderer is less hurtful than a flatterer. For, says he, (in a pleasant simile addressed to his friend's profession),
"Of all mad creatures, if the learn'd are right,
It is the slaver kills, and not the bite."
And how abject and excessive the flattery of these creatures was, he shews, by observing that they praised him even for his infirmities, his bad health, and his inconvenient shape (ver. 100 to 125).
But still it might be said, that if he could bear this evil annexed to authorship no better, he should not have written at all. To this he answers, by lamenting the natural bent of his disposition; which, from his very birth, had drawn him towards Poetry so strongly, as if it were in execution of some secret decree of Heaven for crimes unknown. But though he offended in becoming an author, he offended in nothing else. For his early verses were perfectly innocent and harmless:
"Like gentle Fanny's was my flowing theme,
A painted mistress, or a purling stream."
Yet even then, he tells us, two enraged and hungry critics fell upon him without any provocation. But this might have been borne, as the common lot of distinction. But it was his peculiar illfortune to create a jealousy in one, whom, not only many good offices done by our author to him and his friends, but a similitude of genius and studies, might have inclined to a reciprocal affection and support. On the contrary, that otherwise amiable person, being, by nature, timorous and suspicious; by education, a partyman; and, by circumstances of fortune, beset with flatterers and pick-thanks, regarded our author as his rival, set up by a contrary faction, with views destructive of public liberty and that person's reputation. And all this, with as little provocation from Mr. Pope's conduct in his poetic, as in his civil character.
For though he had got a name (the reputation of which he agreeably rallies, in the description he gives of it) yet he never, even when most in fashion, set up for a patron, or a dictator amongst the wits; but still kept retired in his usual privacy; leaving the whole Castalian state, as he calls it, to a Mock-Mæcenas, whom he next describes (ver. 124 to 261).