The Poetry Corner

Epilogue[177] To The Satires. In Two Dialogues.

By Alexander Pope

(WRITTEN IN MDCCXXXVIII.) DIALOGUE I. Fr. Not twice a twelvemonth you appear in print, And when it comes, the court see nothing in 't. You grow correct, that once with rapture writ, And are, besides, too moral for a wit. Decay of parts, alas! we all must feel-- Why now, this moment, don't I see you steal? 'Tis all from Horace; Horace long before ye Said, 'Tories call'd him Whig, and Whigs a Tory;' And taught his Romans, in much better metre, 'To laugh at fools who put their trust in Peter.' But, Horace, sir, was delicate, was nice; Bubo[178] observes, he lash'd no sort of vice: Horace would say, Sir Billy[179] served the crown, Blunt could do business, Huggins[180] knew the town; In Sappho touch the failings of the sex, In reverend bishops note some small neglects, And own, the Spaniard did a waggish thing, Who cropp'd our ears,[181] and sent them to the king. His sly, polite, insinuating style Could please at court, and make Augustus smile: An artful manager, that crept between His friend and shame, and was a kind of screen. But, faith, your very friends will soon be sore; Patriots there are, who wish you'd jest no more-- And where's the glory? 'twill be only thought The great man[182] never offer'd you a groat. Go see Sir Robert-- P. See Sir Robert!--hum-- And never laugh--for all my life to come? Seen him I have,[183] but in his happier hour Of social pleasure, ill-exchanged for power; Seen him, uncumber'd with the venal tribe, Smile without art, and win without a bribe. Would he oblige me? let me only find, He does not think me what he thinks mankind. Come, come, at all I laugh he laughs, no doubt; The only difference is, I dare laugh out. F. Why, yes: with Scripture still you may be free; A horse-laugh, if you please, at honesty; A joke on Jekyl,[184] or some odd old Whig Who never changed his principle, or wig: A patriot is a fool in every age, Whom all Lord Chamberlains allow the stage: These nothing hurts; they keep their fashion still, And wear their strange old virtue, as they will. If any ask you, 'Who's the man, so near His prince, that writes in verse, and has his ear?' Why, answer, Lyttleton,[185] and I'll engage The worthy youth shall ne'er be in a rage: But were his verses vile, his whisper base, You'd quickly find him in Lord Fanny's case. Sejanus, Wolsey,[186] hurt not honest Fleury,[187] But well may put some statesmen in a fury. Laugh then at any, but at fools or foes; These you but anger, and you mend not those. Laugh at your friends, and, if your friends are sore, So much the better, you may laugh the more. To vice and folly to confine the jest, Sets half the world, God knows, against the rest; Did not the sneer of more impartial men At sense and virtue, balance all again. Judicious wits spread wide the ridicule, And charitably comfort knave and fool. P. Dear sir, forgive the prejudice of youth: Adieu distinction, satire, warmth, and truth! Come, harmless characters that no one hit; Come, Henley's oratory, Osborn's[188] wit! The honey dropping from Favonio's tongue, The flowers of Bubo, and the flow of Yonge! The gracious dew of pulpit eloquence, And all the well-whipt cream of courtly sense, That first was Hervy's, Fox's next, and then The senate's, and then Hervy's once again. Oh come, that easy, Ciceronian style, So Latin, yet so English all the while, As, though the pride of Middleton and Bland, All boys may read, and girls may understand! Then might I sing, without the least offence, And all I sung should be the nation's sense;[189] Or teach the melancholy Muse to mourn, Hang the sad verse on Carolina's[190] urn, And hail her passage to the realms of rest, All parts perform'd, and all her children bless'd! So--satire is no more--I feel it die-- No gazetteer[191] more innocent than I-- And let, a-God's-name! every fool and knave Be graced through life, and flatter'd in his grave. F. Why so? if satire knows its time and place, You still may lash the greatest--in disgrace: For merit will by turns forsake them all; Would you know when exactly when they fall. But let all satire in all changes spare Immortal Selkirk,[192] and grave Delaware.[193] Silent and soft, as saints remove to heaven, All ties dissolved, and every sin forgiven, These may some gentle ministerial wing Receive, and place for ever near a king! There, where no passion, pride, or shame transport, Lull'd with the sweet nepenthe of a court; There, where no father's, brother's, friend's disgrace Once break their rest, or stir them from their place: But past the sense of human miseries, All tears are wiped for ever from all eyes; No cheek is known to blush, no heart to throb, Save when they lose a question, or a job. P. Good Heaven forbid that I should blast their glory, Who know how like Whig ministers to Tory, And when three sovereigns died, could scarce be vex'd, Considering what a gracious prince was next. Have I, in silent wonder, seen such things As pride in slaves, and avarice in kings; And at a peer, or peeress, shall I fret, Who starves a sister,[194] or forswears a debt? Virtue, I grant you, is an empty boast; But shall the dignity of vice be lost? Ye gods! shall Cibber's son,[195] without rebuke, Swear like a lord, or Rich[195] out-whore a duke? A favourite's porter with his master vie, Be bribed as often, and as often lie? Shall Ward draw contracts with a statesman's skill? Or Japhet pocket, like his Grace, a will? Is it for Bond, or Peter, (paltry things) To pay their debts, or keep their faith, like kings? If Blount[196] dispatch'd himself, he play'd the man, And so may'st thou, illustrious Passeran![197] But shall a printer,[198] weary of his life, Learn from their books to hang himself and wife? This, this, my friend, I cannot, must not bear: Vice thus abused, demands a nation's care: This calls the Church to deprecate our sin, And hurls the thunder of the laws on gin,[199] Let modest Foster, if he will, excel Ten metropolitans in preaching well; A simple Quaker, or a Quaker's wife,[200] Outdo Landaff[201] in doctrine,--yea, in life: Let humble Allen,[202] with an awkward shame, Do good by stealth, and blush to find it fame. Virtue may choose the high or low degree, 'Tis just alike to virtue, and to me; Dwell in a monk, or light upon a king, She's still the same beloved, contented thing. Vice is undone, if she forgets her birth, And stoops from angels to the dregs of earth: But 'tis the fall degrades her to a whore; Let greatness own her, and she's mean no more: Her birth, her beauty, crowds and courts confess, Chaste matrons praise her, and grave bishops bless: In golden chains the willing world she draws, And hers the gospel is, and hers the laws, Mounts the tribunal, lifts her scarlet head, And sees pale virtue carted in her stead. Lo! at the wheels of her triumphal car, Old England's genius, rough with many a scar, Dragg'd in the dust! his arms hang idly round, His flag inverted trails along the ground! Our youth, all liveried o'er with foreign gold, Before her dance: behind her, crawl the old! See thronging millions to the pagod run, And offer country, parent, wife, or son! Hear her black trumpet through the land proclaim, That NOT TO BE CORRUPTED IS THE SHAME! In soldier, churchman, patriot, man in power, 'Tis avarice all, ambition is no more! See, all our nobles begging to be slaves! See, all our fools aspiring to be knaves! The wit of cheats, the courage of a whore, Are what ten thousand envy and adore! All, all look up with reverential awe, At crimes that 'scape, or triumph o'er the law: While truth, worth, wisdom, daily they decry 'Nothing is sacred now but villany.' Yet may this verse (if such a verse remain) Show, there was one who held it in disdain. * * * * * VARIATIONS. After VER. 2 in the MS.-- You don't, I hope, pretend to quit the trade, Because you think your reputation made: Like good Sir Paul, of whom so much was said, That when his name was up, he lay a-bed. Come, come, refresh us with a livelier song, Or, like Sir Paul, you'll lie a-bed too long. P. Sir, what I write, should be correctly writ. F. Correct! 'tis what no genius can admit. Besides, you grow too moral for a wit. VER. 112 in some editions--'Who starves a mother.'