Verse > Alexander Pope > Complete Poetical Works
Alexander Pope (1688–1744).  Complete Poetical Works.  1903.
Satires, Epistles, and Odes of Horace Imitated
Satires of Dr. John Donne, Dean of St. Paul’s, Versified
        Quid vetat et nosmet Lucili scripta legentes
Quærere, num illius, num rerum dura negarit
Versiculos natura magis factos, et euntes
  The paraphrases of Donne were, by Pope’s statement, done several years before their publication in 1735.
Satire II

YES, thank my stars! as early as I knew
This town, I had the sense to hate it too;
Yet here, as ev’n in Hell, there must be still
One giant vice, so excellently ill,
That all beside one pities, not abhors;        5
As who knows Sappho, smiles at other whores.
  I grant that Poetry ’s a crying sin;
It brought (no doubt) th’ excise and army in:
Catch’d like the plague, or love, the Lord knows how,
But that the cure is starving, all allow.        10
Yet like the Papist’s is the Poet’s state,
Poor and disarm’d, and hardly worth your hate!
  Here a lean bard, whose wit could never give
Himself a dinner, makes an actor live:
The thief condemn’d, in law already dead,        15
So prompts and saves a rogue who cannot read.
Thus as the pipes of some carv’d organ move,
The gilded puppets dance and mount above,
Heav’d by the breath th’ inspiring bellows blow:
Th’ inspiring bellows lie and pant below.        20
  One sings the Fair; but songs no longer move;
No rat is rhymed to death, nor maid to love:
In Love’s, in Nature’s spite the siege they hold,
And scorn the flesh, the Devil, and all but gold.
  These write to Lords, some mean reward to get,        25
As needy beggars sing at doors for meat:
Those write because all write, and so have still
Excuse for writing, and for writing ill.
  Wretched, indeed! but far more wretched yet
Is he who makes his meal on others’ wit:        30
’T is changed, no doubt, from what it was before;
His rank digestion makes it wit no more:
Sense pass’d thro’ him no longer is the same;
For food digested takes another name.
  I pass o’er all those confessors and martyrs,        35
Who live like S[u]tt[o]n, or who die like Chartres,
Out-cant old Esdras, or out-drink his heir,
Out-usure Jews, or Irishmen out-swear;
Wicked as pages, who in early years
Act sins which Prisca’s confessor scarce hears.        40
Ev’n those I pardon, for whose sinful sake
Schoolmen new tenements in hell must make;
Of whose strange crimes no canonist can tell
In what commandment’s large contents they dwell.
  One, one man only breeds my just offence,        45
Whom crimes gave wealth, and wealth gave impudence:
Time, that at last matures a clap to pox,
Whose gentle progress makes a calf an ox,
And brings all natural events to pass,
Hath made him an attorney of an ass.        50
No young Divine, new beneficed, can be
More pert, more proud, more positive than he.
What further could I wish the fop to do,
But turn a Wit, and scribble verses too?
Pierce the soft labyrinth of a lady’s ear        55
With rhymes of this per cent. and that per year;
Or court a wife, spread out his wily parts,
Like nets, or lime twigs, for rich widows’ hearts;
Call himself barrister to ev’ry wench,
And woo in language of the Pleas and Bench;        60
Language which Boreas might to Auster hold,
More rough than forty Germans when they scold.
  Curs’d be the wretch, so venal and so vain,
Paltry and proud as drabs in Drury Lane.
’T is such a bounty as was never known,        65
If Peter deigns to help you to your own.
What thanks, what praise, if Peter but supplies!
And what a solemn face if he denies!
Grave, as when pris’ners shake the head, and swear
’T was only suretyship that brought them there.        70
His office keeps your parchment fates entire,
He starves with cold to save them from the fire;
For you he walks the streets thro’ rain or dust,
For not in chariots Peter puts his trust;
For you he sweats and labours at the laws,        75
Takes God to witness he affects your cause,
And lies to ev’ry Lord in ev’rything,
Like a King’s favourite—or like a King.
These are the talents that adorn them all,
From wicked Waters ev’n to godly [Paul].        80
Not more of simony beneath black gowns,
Nor more of bastardy in heirs to crowns.
In shillings and in pence at first they deal,
And steal so little, few perceive they steal;
Till like the sea, they compass all the land,        85
From Scots to Wight, from Mount to Dover strand;
And when rank widows purchase luscious nights,
Or when a Duke to Jansen punts at White’s,
Or city heir in mortgage melts away,
Satan himself feels far less joy than they.        90
Piecemeal they win this acre first, then that,
Glean on, and gather up the whole estate;
Then strongly fencing ill-got wealth by law,
Indentures, cov’nants, articles, they draw,
Large as the fields themselves, and larger far        95
Than civil codes, with all their glosses, are;
So vast, our new divines, we must confess,
Are fathers of the church for writing less.
But let them write; for you each rogue impairs
The deeds, and dext’rously omits ses heires:        100
No commentator can more slily pass
O’er a learn’d unintelligible place;
Or in quotation shrewd divines leave out
Those words that would against them clear the doubt.
  So Luther thought the Paternoster long,        105
When doom’d to say his beads and even-song;
But having cast his cowl, and left those laws,
Adds to Christ’s prayer, the Power and Glory clause.
  The lands are bought; but where are to be found
Those ancient woods that shaded all the ground?        110
We see no new-built palaces aspire,
No kitchens emulate the vestal fire.
Where are those troops of Poor, that throng’d of yore
The good old Landlord’s hospitable door?
Well I could wish that still, in lordly domes,        115
Some beasts were kill’d, tho’ not whole hecatombs;
That both extremes were banish’d from their walls,
Carthusian fasts and fulsome Bacchanals;
And all mankind might that just mean observe,
In which none e’er could surfeit, none could starve.        120
These are good works, ’t is true, we all allow,
But, oh! these works are not in fashion now:
Like rich old wardrobes, things extremely rare,
Extremely fine, but what no man will wear.
  Thus much I ’ve said, I trust without offence;        125
Let no Court Sycophant pervert my sense,
Nor sly informer watch, these words to draw
Within the reach of Treason or the Law.
Satire IV

WELL, if it be my time to quit the stage,
Adieu to all the follies of the age!        130
I die in charity with fool and knave,
Secure of peace at least beyond the grave.
I ’ve had my Purgatory here betimes,
And paid for all my satires, all my rhymes.
The poet’s Hell, its tortures, fiends, and flames,        135
To this were trifles, toys, and empty names.
  With foolish pride my heart was never fired,
Nor the vain itch t’ admire or be admired:
I hoped for no commission from His Grace;
I bought no benefice, I begg’d no place;        140
Had no new verses nor new suit to show,
Yet went to Court!—the Devil would have it so.
But as the fool that in reforming days
Would go to mass in jest (as story says)
Could not but think to pay his fine was odd,        145
Since ’t was no form’d design of serving God;
So was I punish’d, as if full as proud
As prone to ill, as negligent of good,
As deep in debt, without a thought to pay,
As vain, as idle, and as false as they        150
Who live at Court, for going once that way!
Scarce was I enter’d, when, behold! there came
A thing which Adam had been posed to name;
Noah had refused it lodging in his ark,
Where all the race of reptiles might embark;        155
A verier monster than on Afric’s shore
The sun e’er got, or slimy Nilus bore,
Or Sloane or Woodward’s wondrous shelves contain,
Nay, all that lying travellers can feign.
The watch would hardly let him pass at noon,        160
At night would swear him dropp’d out of the moon:
One whom the Mob, when next we find or make
A Popish plot, shall for a Jesuit take,
And the wise justice, starting from his chair,
Cry, ‘By your priesthood, tell me what you are!’        165
  Such was the wight: th’ apparel on his back,
Tho’ coarse, was rev’rend, and tho’ bare, was black.
The suit, if by the fashion one might guess,
Was velvet in the youth of good Queen Bess,
But mere tuff-taffety what now remain’d:        170
So Time, that changes all things, had ordain’d!
Our sons shall see it leisurely decay,
First turn plain rash, then vanish quite away.
  This thing has travell’d, speaks each language too,
And knows what ’s fit for ev’ry state to do;        175
Of whose best phrase and courtly accent join’d
He forms one tongue, exotic and refin’d.
Talkers I ’ve learn’d to bear; Motteux I knew,
Henley himself I ’ve heard, and Budgell too,
The Doctor’s wormwood style, the hash of tongues        180
A Pedant makes, the storm of Gonson’s lungs,
The whole artill’ry of the terms of War,
And (all those plagues in one) the bawling Bar:
These I could bear; but not a rogue so civil
Whose tongue will compliment you to the Devil:        185
A tongue that can cheat widows, cancel scores,
Make Scots speak treason, cozen subtlest whores,
With royal favourites in flatt’ry vie,
And Oldmixon and Burnet both outlie.
  He spies me out; I whisper, ‘Gracious God!        190
What sin of mine could merit such a rod,
That all the shot of dulness now must be
From this thy blunderbuss discharged on me!’
‘Permit,’ he cries, ‘no stranger to your fame,
To crave your sentiment, if —— ’s your name.        195
What speech esteem you most? ‘The King’s,’ said I.
But the best words?—‘O, sir, the Diction’ry.’
You miss my aim; I mean the most acute,
And perfect speaker?—‘Onslow, past dispute.’
But, Sir, of writers?—‘Swift, for closer style,        200
But Hoadley for a period of a mile.’
Why, yes, ’t is granted, these indeed may pass;
Good common linguists, and so Panurge was;
Nay, troth, th’ Apostles (tho’ perhaps too rough)
Had once a pretty gift of tongues enough:        205
Yet these were all poor gentlemen! I dare
Affirm ’t was Travel made them what they were.
Thus others’ talents having nicely shown,
He came by sure transition to his own;
Till I cried out, ‘You prove yourself so able,        210
Pity you was not druggerman at Babel;
For had they found a linguist half so good,
I make no question but the tower had stood.’
‘Obliging Sir! for courts you sure were made,
Why then for ever buried in the shade?        215
Spirits like you should see and should be seen;
The King would smile on you—at least the Queen.
Ah, gentle Sir! you courtiers so cajole us—
But Tully has it Nunquam minus solus:
And as for courts, forgive me if I say,        220
No lessons now are taught the Spartan way.
Tho’ in his pictures lust be full display’d,
Few are the converts Aretine has made;
And tho’ the court show Vice exceeding clear,
None should, by my advice, learn Virtue there.’        225
At this entranc’d, he lifts his hands and eyes,
Squeaks like a high-stretch’d lutestring, and replies,
‘Oh! ’t is the sweetest of all earthly things
To gaze on Princes, and to talk of Kings!’
‘Then, happy man who shows the tombs! (said I)        230
He dwells amidst the royal family;
He ev’ry day from King to King can walk,
Of all our Harries, all our Edwards talk,
And get, by speaking truth of monarchs dead,
What few can of the living: Ease and Bread.’        235
‘Lord, Sir, a mere mechanic! strangely low.
And coarse of phrase—your English all are so.
How elegant your Frenchmen!’—‘Mine, d’ ye mean?
I have but one; I hope the fellow ’s clean.’
‘O Sir, politely so! nay, let me die,        240
Your only wearing is your paduasoy.’
‘Not, Sir, my only; I have better still,
And this you see is but my dishabille.’—
Wild to get loose, his patience I provoke,
Mistake, confound, object at all he spoke:        245
But as coarse iron, sharpen’d, mangles more,
And itch most hurts when anger’d to a sore,
So when you plague a fool, ’t is still the curse,
You only make the matter worse and worse.
He pass’d it o’er; affects an easy smile        250
At all my peevishness, and turns his style.
He asks, ‘What news?’ I tell him of new Plays,
New Eunuchs, Harlequins, and Operas.
He hears, and as a still, with simples in it,
Between each drop it gives stays half a minute,        255
Loath to enrich me with too quick replies,
By little and by little drops his lies.
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, and what        260
A subtle minister may make of that:
Who sins, with whom: who got his pension rug,
Or quicken’d a reversion by a drug:
Whose place is quarter’d but three parts in four,
And whether to a Bishop or a Whore:        265
Who having lost his credit, pawn’d his rent,
Is therefore fit to have a government:
Who, in the secret, deals in stocks secure,
And cheats th’ unknowing widow and the poor:
Who makes a trust or charity a job,        270
And gets an act of Parliament to rob:
Why turnpikes rise, and how no cit nor clown
Can gratis see the country or the town:
Shortly no lad shall chuck, or lady vole,
But some excising courtier will have toll:        275
He tells what strumpet places sells for life,
What ’squire his lands, what citizen his wife:
And last (which proves him wiser still than all)
What lady’s face is not a whited wall.
  As one of Woodward’s patients, sick, and sore,        280
I puke, I nauseate—yet he thrusts in more;
Trims Europe’s balance, tops the statesman’s part,
And talks Gazettes and Postboys o’er by heart.
Like a big wife at sight of loathsome meat
Ready to cast, I yawn, I sigh, and sweat.        285
Then as a licens’d spy, whom nothing can
Silence or hurt, he libels the great man;
Swears ev’ry place entail’d for years to come,
In sure succession to the day of doom.
He names the price for every office paid,        290
And says our wars thrive ill because delay’d:
Nay, hints ’t is by connivance of the Court
That Spain robs on, and Dunkirk’s still a port.
Not more amazement seiz’d on Circe’s guests
To see themselves fall endlong into beasts,        295
Than mine, to find a subject staid and wise
Already half turn’d traitor by surprise.
I felt th’ infection slide from him to me,
As in the pox some give it to get free;
And quick to swallow me, methought I saw        300
One of our Giant Statues ope its jaw.
  In that nice moment, as another lie
Stood just a-tilt, the Minister came by.
To him he flies, and bows and bows again,
Then, close as Umbra, joins the dirty train,        305
Not Fannius’ self more impudently near,
When half his nose is in his prince’s ear.
I quaked at heart; and, still afraid to see
All the court fill’d with stranger things than he,
Ran out as fast as one that pays his bail        310
And dreads more actions, hurries from a jail.
  Bear me, some God! Oh, quickly bear me hence
To wholesome Solitude, the nurse of sense,
Where contemplation prunes her ruffled wings,
And the free soul looks down to pity Kings!        315
There sober thought pursued th’ amusing theme,
Till Fancy colour’d it, and form’d a dream:
A vision hermits can to Hell transport,
And forced ev’n me to see the damn’d at court.
Not Dante, dreaming all th’ infernal state,        320
Beheld such scenes of envy, sin, and hate.
Base fear becomes the guilty, not the free,
Suits tyrants, plunderers, but suits not me:
Shall I, the terror of this sinful town,
Care if a liv’ried Lord or smile or frown?        325
Who cannot flatter, and detest who can,
Tremble before a noble serving man?
O my fair mistress, Truth! shall I quit thee
For huffing, braggart, puff nobility?
Thou who, since yesterday, hast roll’d o’er all        330
The busy idle blockheads of the ball,
Hast thou, O sun! beheld an emptier sort
Than such as swell this bladder of a court?
Now pox on those who show a Court in Wax!
It ought to bring all courtiers on their backs;        335
Such painted puppets! such a varnish’d race
Of hollow gewgaws, only dress and face!
Such waxen noses, stately staring things
No wonder some folks bow, and think them Kings.
  See! where the British youth, engaged no more        340
At Fig’s, at White’s, with felons, or a whore,
Pay their last duty to the Court, and come
All fresh and fragrant to the drawing room;
In hues as gay, and odours as divine,
As the fair fields they sold to look so fine.        345
‘That ’s velvet for a king!’ the flatt’rer swears;
’T is true, for ten days hence ’t will be King Lear’s.
Our Court may justly to our Stage give rules,
That helps it both to fools’ coats and to fools.
And why not players strut in courtiers’ clothes?        350
For these are actors too as well as those:
Wants reach all states; they beg but better drest,
And all is splendid poverty at best.
  Painted for sight, and essenced for the smell,
Like frigates fraught with spice and cochineal,        355
Sail in the Ladies: how each pirate eyes
So weak a vessel and so rich a prize!
Top-gallant he, and she in all her trim:
He boarding her, she striking sail to him.
‘Dear countess! you have charms all hearts to hit!’        360
And, ‘Sweet Sir Fopling! you have so much wit!’
Such wits and beauties are not prais’d for nought,
For both the beauty and the wit are bought.
’T would burst ev’n Heraclitus with the spleen
To see those antics, Fopling and Courtin:        365
The Presence seems, with things so richly odd,
The mosque of Mahound, or some queer pagod.
See them survey their limbs by Durer’s rules,
Of all beau-kind the best proportion’d fools!
Adjust their clothes, and to confession draw        370
Those venial sins, an atom, or a straw:
But oh! what terrors must distract the soul
Convicted of that mortal crime, a hole;
Or should one pound of powder less bespread
Those monkey tails that wag behind their head!        375
Thus finish’d, and corrected to a hair,
They march, to prate their hour before the Fair.
So first to preach a white-glov’d Chaplain goes,
With band of lily, and with cheek of rose,
Sweeter than Sharon, in immaculate trim,        380
Neatness itself impertinent in him.
Let but the ladies smile, and they are blest:
Prodigious! how the things protest, protest.
Peace, fools! or Gonson will for papists seize you,
If once he catch you at your Jesu! Jesu!        385
  Nature made ev’ry Fop to plague his brother,
Just as one Beauty mortifies another.
But here ’s the captain that will plague them both;
Whose air cries, Arm! whose very look’s an oath.
The captain’s honest, Sirs, and that ’s enough,        390
Tho’ his soul’s bullet, and his body buff.
He spits foreright; his haughty chest before,
Like batt’ring rams, beats open ev’ry door;
And with a face as red, and as awry,
As Herod’s hang-dogs in old tapestry,        395
Scarecrow to boys, the breeding woman’s curse,
Has yet a strange ambition to look worse;
Confounds the civil, keeps the rude in awe,
Jests like a licens’d Fool, commands like law.
  Frighted, I quit the room, but leave it so        400
As men from jails to execution go;
For hung with deadly sins I see the wall,
And lin’d with giants deadlier than them all.
Each man an Ask apart, of strength to toss,
For quoits, both Temple-bar and Charing-cross.        405
Scared at the grisly forms, I sweat, I fly,
And shake all o’er, like a discover’d spy.
  Courts are too much for wits so weak as mine;
Charge them with Heav’n’s Artill’ry, bold Divine!
From such alone the Great rebukes endure,        410
Whose satire’s sacred, and whose rage secure:
’T is mine to wash a few light stains, but theirs
To deluge sin, and drown a Court in tears.
Howe’er, what ’s now apocrypha, my wit,
In time to come, may pass for Holy Writ.        415

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