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(3) His next great work after the Iliad and Odyssey were completed was the Dunciad. In 1727 he had ridiculed, in his Treatise on the Bathos, or Art of Sinking in Poetry, many of the poetasters of the day. Not unnaturally, these gentlemen retaliated to the best of their ability. Pope-not, probably, without hints and instigations from Swift-replied, in 1728, with his famous Satire epic. In the following year he re-issued it with copious notes, that secured his sarcasms their proper application. From 1730–7 he continued his war with the Dunces by various contributions to the Grub Street Journal. In 1742 he republished the Dunciad, with the addition of another book. In 1743 appeared another edition, with Cibber substituted for Theobald as the hero-a change not made without damage to the unity of the poem.
Meanwhile, he had been more nobly busy. The earliest of his Moral Essays (the one usually printed last) was published in 1731 ; the latest (the one printed as Epistle II.) in 1735. In 1732 came out the first two books of the Essay on Man; in 1733 and 1734 the third and fourth books. To this same period belong the Satires, the earliest of which appeared in 1733; the Epilogue came out in 1738. In 1737 and in 1741 Pope issued his Letters, copies of which had already in some mysterious way been procured and published without authority.
Besides this list of works there is not much more to record. The friends whose successive influence is especially discernible in his post-Homeric works are Swift, Bolingbroke, and Warburton. All these survived him; but the “thin partition” which latterly divided Swift's "great wit" from madness was broken down in 1740, and converse between the two foremost geniuses of their time for ever closed. Gay and Arbuthnot had passed away some years before. Pope's mother died in 1733. Pope, though not old as years go, began to find himselı alone. He saw a new race springing up around him. In 1738, the year in which Pope finished his last poem-the fourth book of the Dunciad-appeared Johnson's London. In 1741 commenced with Pamela the æra of the modern novel.
Pope died on May 30, 1744.
Perhaps no poet ever expressed more successfully what he had to express than Pope.* Many have been gifted with a loftier imagination, with a profounder intuition, with nobler and more passionate sentiments ; but in few have their gifts been more clearly understood and represented. Pope knew his strength, and acted accordingly. He did not waste many long years of his life, as did Dryden, on a kind of literature in which he was not competent to excel; he scarcely essayed the drama. He quickly abandoned lyric poetry, in spite of injudicious praises given to his Ode for Musick on St. Cecilia's Day.
His great aim was to express himself clearly and smoothly. He was ready to receive subjects from his friends, or from preceding writers. He did not care to originate. His business was attractive and lucid expression ; it was to "set" gems, not to create them. When he was yet a youth, his friend Walsh remarked to him that “though we had several great poets, we never had any one great poet that was correct ;” “and he desired me,” Pope told Spence, "to make that my study and aim.” And so Pope made it ; and few men have succeeded in their “study and aim ” as Pope succeeded. Nor is the lesson which Pope's literary life conveys to be undervalued—the lesson of careful and conscientious workmanship
, Pope gave always his best. His view of the poetic art may have been narrow, but he acted up to it with a most dutiful observance.
He adopted at an early time one particular metrical form-the heroic couplet, and adhere i to it to the end. Perhaps no poet has been so completely a man of one metre. He is said to
Comp. Browning's Andrea del Sarto:
"I can do with my pencil what I know,
I do not boast perhaps.”
have contemplated writing an epic poem on Brutus, the mythical cuionizer of Britain, in blank verse.
There are some few blank verses of his composing in Thomson's Seasons. But he never really quitted the one vehicle of which he had made himself so famous a master.
Dryden was his great model. Perhaps his highest excellence lies in the same direction as that of Dryden lay–in the power of sketching characters. He, too, was a skilful. portraitpainter ; but his style is very different from Dryden's. In one instance he has ventured to challenge comparison with his master, in his picture of Villiers, of Zimri, forlorn and dying. A careful juxtaposition of the two masterpieces will well illustrate the affinities and the differences of their authors.
RAPE OF THE LOCK.
A QUARREL had arisen between the family of Miss Arabella Fermor and that of Lord Petre "on the trifling occasion of his having cut off a lock of her hair.” One of their and of Pope's friends, a Mr. Caryl, laid the matter before the poet, that his wit might laugh away the clouds that had gathered. The result was a poem of two cantos, describing in a mock-heroic manner the circumstances of the robbery and the battle which ensued. This was published in a fiscellany of Bernard Lintot's in 1711.
“It was received so well,” says Pope, in his note to the poem, "that he (the author] made it more considerable the next year by the addition of the machinery of the Sylphs, and extended it to five cantos.” The game at Ombre was also inserted, as also the picture of the Cave of Spleen. The piece grew, in fact, from an amusing sketch into an epic on a small scale. Pope's models for this work were Tassoni's Rape of the Bucket, and Boileau's Lectern; but indeed there is no work of his that belongs more truly to his age than this one. The exquisite raillery with which the poem perpetually sparkles, the familiarity which it exhibits with the epics of antiquity, and the use to which that familiarity is turned, the finished ease of its style, all at once connect it with the age which produced it. Addison called it merum sal, that is, “pure wit," in its earlier form. Certainly the additions made, if they do in some degree impair its unity, must not be allowed to deprive it of that happy title.
The spirit of that age found its most complete embodiment in burlesque poetry. It was then in perfect accordance with that spirit that Pope developed and expanded his jeu d'esprit into its fuller form. It was thought that supernatural agents were essential to an epic poem. Pope was particularly happy in his selection of such beings. He made use, with certain modifications, of the spiritual system of the Rosicrucians, a sect well known throughout Western Europe in the seventeenth century. This, too, he used with the characteristic light mockery of his age.
The idea of the game at Ombre was suggested by Vida's Scacchia Ludus.* Vida was a Latinwriting poet who flourished under the smile of Leo X. See Essay on Criticism, 697-708. Pope's age, in the somewhat indiscriminate ardour of its Roman classicism, embraced even the Latin poets of the Renaissance. The game Ombre was introduced into England about the middle of the seventeenth century from Spain, as its name and the names of its cards show. In Queen Anne's time it was the favourite ladies' game, as Piquet was the gentlemen's, Whist or Whisk that of clergymen and country squires. When it fell into disuse Quadrille, which was a species of it, “obtained vogue, which it maintained till Whisk was introduced, which now," says Barrington, writing in 1787 (quoted in Chatto's Facts and Speculations on the Origin and History of Playing Cards), "prevails not only in England, but in most of the civilized parts of Europe.”
* Vida was not the first verse-maker who celebrated the favourite old game of Chess. A catalogue of the library of Peterborough Abbey mentions "Versus de ludo Scaccorum.' See Warton's Hist. Eng. Poetry, i. 81, note, Ed. 1840.
CANTO I. 39. 1. Comp. beginning of Pope's translation of the Iliad.
3. This verse, &c. See Introd, 39. 4. [What is the force of ev'n here? What part of speech is it?]
5. Comp. Virg. Georg. iv. 6, 7.
6. [Would there be any difference in the sense if he had written inspires and approves ?]
8. Belle. Beau (1. 23, &c.) is almost fallen out of use.
13. Sol. The tendency to classical names and titles was beginning to be excessive in the early part of the eighteenth century. Phoebus, Titan, Sol, were superseding the simple sun ; Chloe, Mary, &c. Cowper may be said to have commenced for us that deliverance from such classicism which Wordsworth completed.
14. must = are ordained. See Lycidas, 38.
15. lap-dogs. There are many references in our literature to these pets of the ladies, from Chaucer's Prologue (see the description of the Prioress) downwards.
(What is the force of the here ?)
16. [What part of speech is just here? How can he say they awake, if they were sleepless ?]
17. It would seem that three rings of the bell with a tap on the floor were the signal that the sleeper had arisen.
rung. See note on blow, Hymn Nat. 130. 18. The watch was what we should call "a repeater." 19. prest. In the preceding line the past participle is spelt pressed. 20. Sylph. See Introd. 22. Comp. Il Penseroso, 147.
23. a Birth-night Beau, i.e. a fine gentleman, such as were to be seen at the state ball given on the anniversary of the royal birthday. See Satires of Dr. Donne versified, iv, 130 :
“Mere household trash ! of birthnights, balls, and shows
More than ten Holinsheds, or Halls, or Stowes,
When the Queen frown'd or smiled, he knows." Spectator, No. 15: A ball is a great help to discourse, and a birthnight furnishes conversation for a twelvemonth after.” See Spectator, No. 294, for Feb. 6 (Queen Anne's birthday). 27. He is parodying Paradise Lost, v. 35 et seq.
See note on sorrow, in Lycidas, 166. 40. 29.
touch'd. Comp. Lat. tango; e.g. Hor. A. P. 98.
30. the Nurse, &c., the Priest, &c. This conjunction is not insignificant of the age Comp. Dryden's Hind and Panther, Part III. 1686:
“ The priest continues what the nurse began,
And thus the child imposes on the man.”
[What is the force of by here ?]
“And though they sweepe the hearths no lesse
Than maides were wont to doe,
Findes sixpence in her shoe?"
and Poole's English Parnassus, of Queen Mab:
“But if so they chance to feast her,
In their shoe she drops a tester.” See Ellis's Brand's Pop. Ant., Notes to Fairy Mythology. Comp. the Story of the Pixies in Keightley's Fairy Mythology, p. 303 of Bohn's Edition.
40. 32. the circled green. See Tennyson's Gardener's Daughter; Dryden's Hind and Panther, Part I. 212:
“ As where in fields the fairy rounds are seen," &c. For many other allusions, see Ellis's Brand's Pop. Ant.
33. See Chaucer's Secounde Nonnes Tale, 12, 146, et seq. Ed. Wright.
36. narrow is used here “proleptically,” or anticipatingly, as adjectives are often used in Latin and in Greek. So propitious in Canto ii.
[What is the force of bound here ?]
37. He does not shrink from parodying the New Testament. See St. Matthew's Gospei, xi. 25.
40. (What does still mean here?)
42. Militia. There was scarcely yet that sharp antithesis between “the militia” and the army” which prevailed afterwards. The idea of “a standing army” was scarcely yet altogether accepted by the nation. The first “Mutiny Act” was passed in 1689.
44. the Box : i.e. at the opera. See below.
the Ring = our “Row.” See below, and Spectator, No. 15: “She thinks life lost in her own family, and fancies herself out of the world when she is not in the Ring, the playhouse, or the drawing-room.” See Swift's Cadenus and Vanessa :
“To scandal next: 'What awkward thing
Was that last Sunday in the Ring ?'”. &c. &c. 46. See Dryden's Juvenal, ist Sat. 184:
“ Some beg for absent persons, feign them sick,
Close-mew'd in their sedans for want of air,
And for their wives produce an empty chair." 47. "The poet here forsakes the Rosicrucian system, which in this part is too extravagant even for ludicrous poetry, and gives a beautiful fiction of his own on the Platonic Theology of the continuance of the Passions in another state, when the mind before its leaving this has not been well purged and purified by philosophy ; which furnishes an occasion for much useful satire.” (Warburton.)
55. See Virg. Æn. vi. 653-5. For the passion of the ladies for fine equipages see Tatler and Spectator, passim.
56. Ombre. See below. 41. 73. [What part of the sentence is safe?]
spark. Comp. “Hame."
87. 'Trs these. Comp. Greek é o tiv oi. So in Latin, but perhaps the instance is unique, Prop. IV. ix. 17, 18:
Est quibus Eleæ concurrit palma quadrigæ ;
Est quibus in celeres gloria nata pedes." Dr. Johnson, in his Plan of a Dictionary of the English Language, 1747, quotes this line as erroneous in syntax, to illustrate the unsettled, ill-regulated state of our language ; but his objection would not seem well-founded. Comp. the Greek idiom. 'Tis here, as often, is used in a purely rhetorical manner; 'tis these that is but a more emphatic form of these. In such uses 'tis and 'twas do not necessarily require numerical inflexion. They serve just to introduce the subject of the sentence; they need not vary in form according to the number of that subject.
94. [What does impertinence mean here? What is its etymological meaning?]
96. [What is meant by treat ?] See below, and Prior to Swift: “I have treated Lady Harriot at Cambridge, (a Fellow of a College treat !) and spoke verses to her in a gown and cap, 41. 100. They keep re-arranging the affections, so to speak.
Comp. Addison : “Fans, silks, ribbands, laces, and gewgaws lay so thick together, that the heart was nothing else but a toyshop."
[What is the sense of moving here ?] 101. Warburton quotes from Statius :
'Jam clypeus clypeis, umbone repellitur umbo,
Ense minax ensis, pede pes, et cuspide cuspis." 102. Beau had been so completely adopted that it formed its plural according to the English rule. In Warburton's edition the French plural appears.
drive : i.e. drive out, expel. 105. [What is meant by thy protection claim? What other meaning might the words have, not here, but with another context ?)
108. “The language of the Platonists, the writers of the intelligible world of spirits," &c. (Pope.)
110. We should rather say “this morning's sun.”
113. all thy guardian can = all that is in thy guardian's power. Comp. Dryden apud Johnson :
“Mæcenas and Agrippa, who can most
With Cæsar, are his foes.” “ The Rosicrucian doctrine was delivered only to Adepts, with the utmost caution, and under the most solemn injunctions of secrecy.” (Warburton.)
42. 115. Shock “A rough-coated dog." (Halliwell's Dict.) “Shoughs" are mentioned as a species of dog in Macbeth, III. i. 94. “I would fain know," writes Locke, why a shock and a hound are not distinct species.” The word is cognate with shaggy, shag-haired. (Shakspere, 2 Henry VI. III. i. 367.)
[What difference would our modern usage make in this line ?] 121. Toilet is strictly the cloth covering the dressing-table; a diminutive of French toile. 128. Pride. Comp. Piers Ploughman, Prol. 23:
“And some putten hem to pruyde ; apparailed hem thereafter
In contenaunce of clothing comen disguised."
131. [What is meant by nicely?]
See Spectator, No. 478 ; Prior's Hans Carvel:
“ An untouch'd Bible grac'd her toilet ;
No fear that hand of hers should spoil it.
“Dear madam, let me set your head.”
the silver Thames. See Spenser's Proth. 11. ? 161. [What is meant by strike ?]