The Poetry Corner

Moral Essays. Epistle III.[20] - To Allen Lord Bathurst.

By Alexander Pope

ARGUMENT. OF THE USE OF RICHES. That it is known to few, most falling into one of the extremes, avarice or profusion, ver. 1., &c. The point discussed, whether the invention of money has been more commodious, or pernicious to mankind, ver. 21 to 77. That riches, either to the avaricious or the prodigal, cannot afford happiness, scarcely necessaries, ver. 89 to 160. That avarice is an absolute frenzy, without an end or purpose, ver. 113 to 152. Conjectures about the motives of avaricious men, ver. 121 to 153. That the conduct of men, with respect to riches, can only be accounted for by the order of Providence, which works the general good out of extremes, and brings all to its great end by perpetual revolutions, ver. 161 to 178. How a miser acts upon principles which appear to him reasonable, ver. 179. How a prodigal does the same, ver. l99. The due medium, and true use of riches, ver. 219. The Man of Ross, ver. 250. The fate of the profuse and the covetous, in two examples; both miserable in life and in death, ver. 300, &c. The story of Sir Balaam, ver. 339 to the end. P. Who shall decide, when doctors disagree, And soundest casuists doubt, like you and me? You hold the word, from Jove to Momus given, That man was made the standing jest of Heaven; And gold but sent to keep the fools in play, For some to heap, and some to throw away. But I, who think more highly of our kind, (And, surely, Heaven and I are of a mind) Opine, that Nature, as in duty bound, Deep hid the shining mischief under ground: But when, by man's audacious labour won, Flamed forth this rival to its sire, the Sun, Then careful Heaven supplied two sorts of men, To squander these, and those to hide again. Like doctors thus, when much dispute has pass'd, We find our tenets just the same at last. Both fairly owning, riches, in effect, No grace of Heaven or token of the elect; Given to the fool, the mad, the vain, the evil, To Ward,[21] to Waters, Chartres,[22] and the devil. B. What nature wants, commodious gold bestows, 'Tis thus we eat the bread another sows. P. But how unequal it bestows, observe, Tis thus we riot, while who sow it starve: What nature wants (a phrase I much distrust) Extends to luxury, extends to lust: Useful, I grant, it serves what life requires, But dreadful too, the dark assassin hires: B. Trade it may help, society extend. P. But lures the pirate, and corrupts the friend. B. It raises armies in a nation's aid. P. But bribes a senate, and the land's betray'd. In vain may heroes fight, and patriots rave; If secret gold sap on from knave to knave. Once, we confess, beneath the patriot's cloak,[23] From the crack'd bag the dropping guinea spoke, And jingling down the back-stairs, told the crew, 'Old Cato is as great a rogue as you.' Blest paper-credit! last and best supply! That lends corruption lighter wings to fly! Gold imp'd by thee, can compass hardest things, Can pocket states, can fetch or carry kings; A single leaf shall waft an army o'er, Or ship off senates[24] to a distant shore; A leaf, like Sibyl's, scatter to and fro Our fates and fortunes, as the winds shall blow: Pregnant with thousands flits the scrap unseen, And silent sells a king, or buys a queen, Oh! that such bulky bribes as all might see, Still, as of old, encumber'd villainy! Could France or Rome divert our brave designs, With all their brandies, or with all their wines? What could they more than knights and squires confound, Or water all the quorum ten miles round? A statesman's slumbers how this speech would spoil! 'Sir, Spain has sent a thousand jars of oil; Huge bales of British cloth blockade the door; A hundred oxen at your leve roar.' Poor avarice one torment more would find; Nor could profusion squander all in kind. Astride his cheese, Sir Morgan might we meet; And Worldly crying coals[25] from street to street, Whom, with a wig so wild, and mien so mazed, Pity mistakes for some poor tradesman crazed. Had Colepepper's[26] whole wealth been hops and hogs, Could he himself have sent it to the dogs? His Grace will game: to White's a bull be led, With spurning heels, and with a butting head: To White's be carried, as to ancient games, Fair coursers, vases, and alluring dames. Shall then Uxorio, if the stakes he sweep, Bear home six whores and make his lady weep? Or soft Adonis, so perfumed and fine, Drive to St James's a whole herd of swine? Oh filthy check on all industrious skill, To spoil the nation's last great trade--quadrille? Since then, my lord, on such a world we fall, What say you? B.Say! Why, take it, gold and all. P. What riches give us, let us then inquire: Meat, fire, and clothes. B.What more? P.Meat, clothes, and fire. Is this too little? would you more than live? Alas! 'tis more than Turner[27] finds they give. Alas! 'tis more than (all his visions past) Unhappy Wharton, waking, found at last! What can they give? to dying Hopkins,[28] heirs; To Chartres, vigour; Japhet,[29] nose and ears? Can they in gems bid pallid Hippia glow, In Fulvia's buckle ease the throbs below; Or heal, old Narses, thy obscener ail, With all the embroidery plaster'd at thy tail? They might (were Harpax not too wise to spend) Give Harpax' self the blessing of a friend; Or find some doctor that would save the life Of wretched Shylock, spite of Shylock's wife: But thousands die, without or this or that, Die, and endow a college, or a cat.[30] To some, indeed, Heaven grants the happier fate, T' enrich a bastard, or a son they hate. Perhaps you think the poor might have their part? Bond[31] damns the poor, and hates them from his heart: The grave Sir Gilbert holds it for a rule, That 'every man in want is knave or fool:' 'God cannot love' (says Blunt, with tearless eyes) 'The wretch he starves'--and piously denies: But the good bishop, with a meeker air, Admits, and leaves them, Providence's care. Yet, to be just to these poor men of pelf, Each does but hate his neighbour as himself: Damn'd to the mines, an equal fate betides The slave that digs it, and the slave that hides. B. Who suffer thus, mere charity should own, Must act on motives powerful, though unknown. P. Some war, some plague, or famine, they foresee, Some revelation hid from you and me. Why Shylock wants a meal, the cause is found, He thinks a loaf will rise to fifty pound. What made directors cheat in South-sea year? To live on venison[32] when it sold so dear. Ask you why Phryne the whole auction buys? Phryne foresees a general excise.[33] Why she and Sappho raise that monstrous sum? Alas! they fear a man will cost a plum. Wise Peter[34] sees the world's respect for gold, And therefore hopes this nation may be sold: Glorious ambition! Peter, swell thy store, And be what Rome's great Didius[35] was before. The crown of Poland, venal twice an age, To just three millions stinted modest Gage. But nobler scenes Maria's dreams unfold, Hereditary realms, and worlds of gold. Congenial souls! whose life one avarice joins, And one fate buries in the Asturian mines. Much-injured Blunt![36] why bears he Britain's hate? A wizard told him in these words our fate: 'At length corruption, like a general flood, (So long by watchful ministers withstood) Shall deluge all; and avarice creeping on, Spread like a low-born mist, and blot the sun, Statesman and patriot ply alike the stocks, Peeress and butler share alike the box, And judges job, and bishops bite the town, And mighty dukes pack cards for half-a-crown. See Britain sunk in lucre's sordid charms, And France revenged of Anne's and Edward's arms!' 'Twas no court-badge, great scrivener! fired thy brain, Nor lordly luxury, nor city gain: No, 'twas thy righteous end, ashamed to see Senates degenerate, patriots disagree, And nobly wishing party-rage to cease, To buy both sides, and give thy country peace. 'All this is madness,' cries a sober sage: But who, my friend, has reason in his rage? 'The ruling passion, be it what it will, The ruling passion conquers reason still.' Less mad the wildest whimsy we can frame, Than even that passion, if it has no aim; For though such motives folly you may call, The folly's greater to have none at all. Hear, then, the truth: ''Tis Heaven each passion sends, And different men directs to different ends. Extremes in Nature equal good produce, Extremes in man concur to general use.' Ask we what makes one keep, and one bestow? That Power who bids the ocean ebb and flow, Bids seed-time, harvest, equal course maintain, Through reconciled extremes of drought and rain. Builds life on death, on change duration founds, And gives the eternal wheels to know their rounds. Riches, like insects, when conceal'd they lie, Wait but for wings, and in their season fly. Who sees pale Mammon pine amidst his store, Sees but a backward steward for the poor; This year a reservoir, to keep and spare; The next a fountain, spouting through his heir, In lavish streams to quench a country's thirst, And men and dogs shall drink him till they burst. Old Cotta shamed his fortune and his birth, Yet was not Cotta void of wit or worth: What though (the use of barbarous spits forgot) His kitchen vied in coolness with his grot? His court with nettles, moats with cresses stored, With soups unbought and salads bless'd his board? If Cotta lived on pulse, it was no more Than Brahmins, saints, and sages did before; To cram the rich was prodigal expense, And who would take the poor from Providence? Like some lone Chartreux stands the good old Hall, Silence without, and fasts within the wall; No rafter'd roofs with dance and tabor sound, No noontide-bell invites the country round: Tenants with sighs the smokeless towers survey, And turn the unwilling steeds another way: Benighted wanderers, the forest o'er, Curse the saved candle, and unopening door; While the gaunt mastiff growling at the gate, Affrights the beggar whom he longs to eat. Not so his son; he mark'd this oversight, And then mistook reverse of wrong for right. (For what to shun will no great knowledge need, But what to follow, is a task indeed). Yet sure, of qualities deserving praise, More go to ruin fortunes, than to raise. What slaughter'd hecatombs, what floods of wine, Fill the capacious squire, and deep divine! Yet no mean motive this profusion draws, His oxen perish in his country's cause; 'Tis George and Liberty that crowns the cup, And zeal for that great house which eats him up. The woods recede around the naked seat, The silvans groan--no matter--for the fleet; Next goes his wool--to clothe our valiant bands, Last, for his country's love, he sells his lands. To town he comes, completes the nation's hope, And heads the bold train-bands, and burns a pope. And shall not Britain now reward his toils, Britain, that pays her patriots with her spoils? In vain at court the bankrupt pleads his cause, His thankless country leaves him to her laws. The sense to value riches, with the art To enjoy them, and the virtue to impart, Not meanly, nor ambitiously pursued, Not sunk by sloth, nor raised by servitude: To balance fortune by a just expense, Join with economy, magnificence; With splendour, charity; with plenty, health; Oh teach us, Bathurst! yet unspoil'd by wealth! That secret rare, between the extremes to move Of mad good-nature and of mean self-love. B. To worth or want well-weigh'd, be bounty given, And ease, or emulate, the care of Heaven; (Whose measure full o'erflows on human race) Mend Fortune's fault, and justify her grace. Wealth in the gross is death, but life, diffused; As poison heals, in just proportion used: In heaps, like ambergris, a stink it lies, But well-dispersed, is incense to the skies. P. Who starves by nobles, or with nobles eats? The wretch that trusts them, and the rogue that cheats. Is there a lord, who knows a cheerful noon Without a fiddler, flatterer, or buffoon? Whose table, wit, or modest merit share, Unelbow'd by a gamester, pimp, or player? Who copies yours, or Oxford's better part,[37] To ease the oppress'd, and raise the sinking heart? Where'er he shines, O Fortune! gild the scene, And angels guard him in the golden mean! There, English bounty yet awhile may stand, And honour linger ere it leaves the land. But all our praises why should lords engross? Rise, honest Muse! and sing the Man of Ross:[38] Pleased Vaga echoes through her winding bounds, And rapid Severn hoarse applause resounds. Who hung with woods yon mountain's sultry brow? From the dry rock who bade the waters flow? Not to the skies in useless columns toss'd, Or in proud falls magnificently lost, But clear and artless pouring through the plain Health to the sick, and solace to the swain. Whose causeway parts the vale with shady rows? Whose seats the weary traveller repose? Who taught that heaven-directed spire to rise? 'The Man of Ross,' each lisping babe replies. Behold the market-place with poor o'erspread! The Man of Ross divides the weekly bread: He feeds yon alms-house, neat, but void of state, Where Age and Want sit smiling at the gate: Him portion'd maids, apprenticed orphans bless'd, The young who labour, and the old who rest. Is any sick? the Man of Ross relieves, Prescribes, attends, the medicine makes, and gives. Is there a variance? enter but his door, Balk'd are the courts, and contest is no more. Despairing quacks with curses fled the place, And vile attorneys, now a useless race. B. Thrice happy man! enabled to pursue What all so wish, but want the power to do! Oh say, what sums that generous hand supply? What mines, to swell that boundless charity? P. Of debts and taxes, wife and children clear, This man possess'd--five hundred pounds a-year. Blush, Grandeur, blush! proud courts, withdraw your blaze! Ye little stars, hide your diminish'd rays! B. And what? no monument, inscription, stone? His race, his form, his name almost unknown? P. Who builds a church to God, and not to fame, Will never mark the marble with his name: Go, search it there,[39] where to be born and die, Of rich and poor makes all the history; Enough, that virtue fill'd the space between; Proved, by the ends of being, to have been. When Hopkins dies, a thousand lights attend The wretch who, living, saved a candle's end: Shouldering God's altar a vile image stands, Belies his features, nay, extends his hands; That live-long wig which Gorgon's self might own, Eternal buckle takes in Parian stone.[40] Behold what blessings wealth to life can lend! And see what comfort it affords our end! In the worst inn's worst room, with mat half-hung, The floors of plaster, and the walls of dung, On once a flock-bed, but repair'd with straw, With tape-tied curtains, never meant to draw, The George and Garter dangling from that bed Where tawdry yellow strove with dirty red, Great Villiers[41] lies--alas! how changed from him, That life of pleasure, and that soul of whim! Gallant and gay, in Cliveden's proud alcove, The bower of wanton Shrewsbury,[42] and love; Or just as gay, at council, in a ring Of mimick'd statesmen, and their merry king. No wit to flatter, left of all his store; No fool to laugh at, which he valued more. There, victor of his health, of fortune, friends, And fame, this lord of useless thousands ends. His Grace's fate sage Cutler[43] could foresee, And well (he thought) advised him, 'Live like me.' As well his Grace replied, 'Like you, Sir John? That I can do, when all I have is gone.' Resolve me, Reason, which of these is worse, Want with a full, or with an empty purse? Thy life more wretched, Cutler, was confess'd, Arise, and tell me, was thy death more bless'd? Cutler saw tenants break, and houses fall; For very want he could not build a wall. His only daughter in a stranger's power; For very want he could not pay a dower. A few gray hairs his reverend temples crown'd, 'Twas very want that sold them for two pound. What even denied a cordial at his end, Banish'd the doctor, and expell'd the friend? What but a want, which you perhaps think mad, Yet numbers feel--the want of what he had! Cutler and Brutus, dying, both exclaim, 'Virtue! and Wealth! what are ye but a name!' Say, for such worth are other worlds prepared Or are they both in this their own reward? A knotty point! to which we now proceed. But you are tired--I'll tell a tale-- B. Agreed. P. Where London's column,[44] pointing at the skies Like a tall bully, lifts the head, and lies; There dwelt a citizen of sober fame, A plain good man, and Balaam was his name; Religious, punctual, frugal, and so forth; His word would pass for more than he was worth. One solid dish his week-day meal affords, An added pudding solemnised the Lord's: Constant at church, and 'Change; his gains were sure, His givings rare, save farthings to the poor. The devil was piqued such saintship to behold, And long'd to tempt him like good Job of old: But Satan now is wiser than of yore, And tempts by making rich, not making poor. Roused by the Prince of Air, the whirlwinds sweep The surge, and plunge his father in the deep; Then lull against his Cornish lands they roar, And two rich shipwrecks bless the lucky shore. Sir Balaam now, he lives like other folks, He takes his chirping pint, and cracks his jokes: 'Live like yourself,' was soon my Lady's word; And, lo! two puddings smoked upon the board. Asleep and naked as an Indian lay, An honest factor stole a gem away: He pledged it to the knight; the knight had wit, So kept the diamond, and the rogue was bit. Some scruple rose, but thus he eased his thought-- 'I'll now give sixpence where I gave a groat; Where once I went to church, I'll now go twice-- And am so clear, too, of all other vice.' The Tempter saw his time; the work he plied; Stocks and subscriptions pour on every side, Till all the demon makes his full descent In one abundant shower of cent, per cent.; Sinks deep within him, and possesses whole, Then dubs director, and secures his soul. Behold Sir Balaam, now a man of spirit, Ascribes his gettings to his parts and merit; What late he call'd a blessing, now was wit, And God's good providence, a lucky hit. Things change their titles, as our manners turn: His counting-house employ'd the Sunday-morn; Seldom at church ('twas such a busy life) But duly sent his family and wife. There (so the devil ordain'd) one Christmas-tide, My good old lady catch'd a cold, and died. A nymph of quality admires our knight; He marries, bows at court, and grows polite: Leaves the dull cits, and joins (to please the fair) The well-bred cuckolds in St James's air: First, for his son a gay commission buys, Who drinks, whores, fights, and in a duel dies: His daughter flaunts a viscount's tawdry wife; She bears a coronet and pox for life. In Britain's senate he a seat obtains, And one more pensioner St Stephen gains. My lady falls to play; so bad her chance, He must repair it; takes a bribe from France; The House impeach him; Coningsby harangues; The court forsake him--and Sir Balaam hangs: Wife, son, and daughter, Satan! are thy own, His wealth, yet dearer, forfeit to the crown: The devil and the king divide the prize, And sad Sir Balaam curses God, and dies. VARIATIONS. After VER. 50, in the MS.-- To break a trust were Peter bribed with wine, Peter! 'twould pose as wise a head as thine. VER. 77, in the former edition-- Well then, since with the world we stand or fall, Come, take it as we find it, gold and all. After VER. 218 in the MS.-- Where one lean herring furnish'd Cotta's board, And nettles grew, fit porridge for their lord; Where mad good-nature, bounty misapplied, In lavish Curio blazed awhile and died; There Providence once more shall shift the scene, And showing H----y, teach the golden mean. After VER. 226, in the MS.-- That secret rare with affluence hardly join'd, Which W----n lost, yet B----y ne'er could find; Still miss'd by vice, and scarce by virtue hit, By G----'s goodness, or by S----'s wit. After VER. 250 in the MS-- Trace humble worth beyond Sabrina's shore, Who sings not him, oh, may he sing no more! VER. 287, thus in the MS.-- The register enrolls him with his poor, Tells he was born and died, and tells no more. Just as he ought, he fill'd the space between; Then stole to rest, unheeded and unseen. VER. 337, in the former editions-- That knotty point, my lord, shall I discuss Or tell a tale!--A tale.--It follows thus.