The Poetry Corner

Moral Essays. Epistle IV. - To Richard Boyle, Earl Of Burlington.

By Alexander Pope

ARGUMENT. OF THE USE OF RICHES. The vanity of expense in people of wealth and quality. The abuse of the word 'taste,' ver. 13. That the first principle and foundation, in this as in every thing else, is good sense, ver. 40. The chief proof of it is to follow nature, even in works of mere luxury and elegance. Instanced in architecture and gardening, where all must be adapted to the genius and use of the place, and the beauties not forced into it, but resulting from it, ver. 50. How men are disappointed in their most expensive undertakings, for want of this true foundation, without which nothing can please long, if at all; and the best examples and rules will but be perverted into something burdensome or ridiculous, ver. 65 to 92. A description of the false taste of magnificence; the first grand error of which is to imagine that greatness consists in the size and dimension, instead of the proportion and harmony of the whole, ver. 97; and the second, either in joining together parts incoherent, or too minutely resembling, or in the repetition of the same too frequently, ver. 105, &c. A word or two of false taste in books, in music, in painting, even in preaching and prayer, and lastly in entertainments, ver. 133, &c. Yet Providence is justified in giving wealth to be squandered in this manner, since it is dispersed to the poor and laborious part of mankind, ver. 169 [recurring to what is laid down in the 'Essay on Man,' ep. ii. and in the epistle preceding this, ver. 159, &c.] What are the proper objects of magnificence, and a proper field for the expense of great men, ver. 177, &c.; and finally, the great and public works which become a prince, ver. 191, to the end. 'Tis strange, the miser should his cares employ To gain those riches he can ne'er enjoy: Is it less strange, the prodigal should waste His wealth, to purchase what he ne'er can taste? Not for himself he sees, or hears, or eats; Artists must choose his pictures, music, meats; He buys for Topham[45] drawings and designs, For Pembroke statues, dirty gods, and coins; Rare monkish manuscripts for Hearne[46] alone, And books for Mead, and butterflies for Sloane. Think we all these are for himself? no more Than his fine wife, alas! or finer whore. For what has Virro painted, built, and planted? Only to show how many tastes he wanted. What brought Sir Visto's ill-got wealth to waste? Some demon whisper'd, 'Visto! have a taste.' Heaven visits with a taste the wealthy fool, And needs no rod but Ripley[47] with a rule. See! sportive fate, to punish awkward pride, Bids Bubo[48] build, and sends him such a guide: A standing sermon, at each year's expense, That never coxcomb reach'd magnificence! You show us, Rome was glorious, not profuse, And pompous buildings once were things of use. Yet shall (my lord) your just, your noble rules Fill half the land with imitating fools, Who random drawings from your sheets shall take, And of one beauty many blunders make; Load some vain church with old theatric state, Turn arcs of triumph to a garden-gate; Reverse your ornaments, and hang them all On some patch'd dog-hole eked with ends of wall; Then clap four slices of pilaster on't, That, laced with bits of rustic, makes a front. Shall call the winds through long arcades to roar, Proud to catch cold at a Venetian door; Conscious they act a true Palladian part. And if they starve, they starve by rules of art. Oft have you hinted to your brother peer, A certain truth, which many buy too dear: Something there is more needful than expense, And something previous even to taste--'tis sense: Good sense, which only is the gift of Heaven, And though no science, fairly worth the seven: A light, which in yourself you must perceive; Jones and Le Ntre have it not to give. To build, to plant, whatever you intend, To rear the column, or the arch to bend, To swell the terrace, or to sink the grot; In all, let Nature never be forgot. But treat the goddess like a modest fair, Nor overdress, nor leave her wholly bare; Let not each beauty everywhere be spied, Where half the skill is decently to hide. He gains all points, who pleasingly confounds, Surprises, varies, and conceals the bounds. Consult the genius of the place in all; That tells the waters or to rise, or fall; Or helps the ambitious hill the heavens to scale, Or scoops in circling theatres the vale; Calls in the country, catches opening glades, Joins willing woods, and varies shades from shades; Now breaks, or now directs, the intending lines; Paints as you plant, and, as you work, designs. Still follow sense, of every art the soul, Parts answering parts shall slide into a whole, Spontaneous beauties all around advance, Start even from difficulty, strike from chance; Nature shall join you; time shall make it grow A work to wonder at--perhaps a Stowe. Without it, proud Versailles! thy glory falls; And Nero's terraces desert their walls: The vast parterres a thousand hands shall make, Lo! Cobham comes, and floats them with a lake: Or cut wide views through mountains to the plain, You'll wish your hill or shelter'd seat again. Even in an ornament its place remark, Nor in an hermitage set Dr Clarke.[49] Behold Villario's ten years' toil complete; His quincunx darkens, his espaliers meet; The wood supports the plain, the parts unite, And strength of shade contends with strength of light; A waving glow the blooming beds display, Blushing in bright diversities of day, With silver-quivering rills meander'd o'er-- Enjoy them, you! Villario can no more; Tired of the scene parterres and fountains yield, He finds at last he better likes a field. Through his young woods how pleased Sabinus stray'd, Or sat delighted in the thickening shade, With annual joy the reddening shoots to greet, Or see the stretching branches long to meet! His son's fine taste an opener vista loves, Foe to the Dryads of his father's groves; One boundless green, or flourish'd carpet views, With all the mournful family of yews; The thriving plants, ignoble broomsticks made, Now sweep those alleys they were born to shade. At Timon's villa[50] let us pass a day, Where all cry out, 'What sums are thrown away!' So proud, so grand; of that stupendous air, Soft and agreeable come never there. Greatness, with Timon, dwells in such a draught As brings all Brobdignag before your thought. To compass this, his building is a town, His pond an ocean, his parterre a down: Who but must laugh, the master when he sees, A puny insect, shivering at a breeze! Lo, what huge heaps of littleness around! The whole a labour'd quarry above ground; Two Cupids squirt before: a lake behind Improves the keenness of the northern wind. His gardens next your admiration call, On every side you look, behold the wall! No pleasing intricacies intervene, No artful wildness to perplex the scene; Grove nods at grove, each alley has a brother, And half the platform just reflects the other. The suffering eye inverted nature sees, Trees cut to statues, statues thick as trees; With here a fountain, never to be play'd; And there a summer-house, that knows no shade; Here Amphitrit sails through myrtle bowers; There gladiators fight, or die in flowers; Unwater'd see the drooping sea-horse mourn, And swallows roost in Nilus' dusty urn. My lord advances with majestic mien, Smit with the mighty pleasure, to be seen: But soft--by regular approach--not yet-- First through the length of yon hot terrace sweat; And when up ten steep slopes you've dragg'd your thighs, Just at his study-door he'll bless your eyes. His study! with what authors is it stored? In books, not authors, curious is my lord; To all their dated backs he turns you round: These Aldus printed, those Du Sueil has bound. Lo! some are vellum, and the rest as good For all his lordship knows, but they are wood. For Locke or Milton 'tis in vain to look, These shelves admit not any modern book. And now the chapel's silver bell you hear, That summons you to all the pride of prayer: Light quirks of music, broken and uneven, Make the soul dance upon a jig to heaven. On painted ceilings you devoutly stare, Where sprawl the saints of Verrio or Laguerre,[51] On gilded clouds in fair expansion lie, And bring all Paradise before your eye. To rest, the cushion and soft dean invite, Who never mentions hell[51] to ears polite. But hark! the chiming clocks to dinner call; A hundred footsteps scrape the marble hall: The rich buffet well-colour'd serpents grace, And gaping Tritons spew to wash your face. Is this a dinner? this a genial room? No, 'tis a temple, and a hecatomb. A solemn sacrifice, perform'd in state, You drink by measure, and to minutes eat. So quick retires each flying course, you'd swear Sancho's dread doctor[53] and his wand were there. Between each act the trembling salvers ring, From soup to sweet-vine, and God bless the king. In plenty starving, tantalised in state, And complaisantly help'd to all I hate, Treated, caress'd, and tired, I take my leave, Sick of his civil pride from morn to eve; I curse such lavish cost, and little skill, And swear no day was ever pass'd so ill. Yet hence the poor are clothed, the hungry fed; Health to himself, and to his infants bread The labourer bears: what his hard heart denies, His charitable vanity supplies. Another age shall see the golden ear Imbrown the slope, and nod on the parterre, Deep harvests bury all his pride has plann'd, And laughing Ceres reassume the land. Who then shall grace, or who improve the soil?-- Who plants like Bathurst, or who builds like Boyle. 'Tis use alone that sanctifies expense, And splendour borrows all her rays from sense. His father's acres who enjoys in peace, Or makes his neighbours glad, if he increase: Whose cheerful tenants bless their yearly toil, Yet to their lord owe more than to the soil; Whose ample lawns are not ashamed to feed The milky heifer and deserving steed; Whose rising forests, not for pride or show, But future buildings, future navies, grow: Let his plantations stretch from down to down, First shade a country, and then raise a town. You, too, proceed! make falling arts your care, Erect new wonders, and the old repair; Jones and Palladio to themselves restore, And be whate'er Vitruvius was before: Till kings call forth the ideas of your mind, (Proud to accomplish what such hands design'd.) Bid harbours open, public ways extend, Bid temples, worthier of the god, ascend; Bid the broad arch the dangerous flood contain, The mole projected break the roaring main; Back to his bonds their subject sea command, And roll obedient rivers through the land; These honours, peace to happy Britain brings, These are imperial works, and worthy kings. VARIATION. After VER. 22 in the MS.-- Must bishops, lawyers, statesmen have the skill To build, to plant, judge paintings, what you will? Then why not Kent as well our treaties draw, Bridginan explain the gospel, Gibs the law?