1713 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Joseph Addison

George Jeffreys, "To Mr. Addison, on his Tragedy of Cato. 1713" Jeffreys, Miscellanies (1754) 41-43.



Now we may speak, since Cato speaks no more;
'Tis praise at length! 'twas rapture all before!
When crouded Theatres with Io's rung,
Sent to the Skies from whence thy Genius sprung:
Ev'n civil rage a while in thine was lost,
And Factions strove but to applaud thee most:
Nor could enjoyment pall our longing taste,
But every night was dearer than the last.

As when old Rome, in a malignant hour,
Depriv'd of some returning Conqueror,
Her debt of Triumph to the Dead discharg'd,
For Fame, for Treasure, and her Bounds enlarg'd;
And, while his Godlike Figure mov'd along,
Alternate Passions fir'd th' adoring Throng,
Tears flow'd from every eye, and shouts from every tongue.
So in Thy pompous Lines has Cato far'd,
Grac'd with an ample, though a late, Reward;
A greater Victor we in Him revere,
A nobler Triumph crowns his Image here.

With wonder, as with pleasure, we survey
A theme so scanty wrought into a Play;
So vast a Pile on such foundations plac'd,
Like Ammon's temple rear'd, on Libya's Waste.
Behold its glowing paint! its easy weight!
Its nice proportions! and stupendous height!
How chaste the conduct! how divine the rage!
A Roman Worthy on a Grecian Stage!

But where shall Cato's praise begin, or end?
Inclin'd to melt, and yet untaught to bend;
The firmest Patriot, and the gentlest Friend?
How great his Genius, when the Traitor Croud,
Ready to strike the blow their fury vow'd,
Quell'd by his look, and list'ning to his lore,
Learn, like the Passions, to rebel no more!
When, slavish of his boiling blood, to prove
The cure of slavish Life, and slighted Love,
Brave Marcus now in early death appears,
While Cato counts his wounds, and not his years;
Who, checking private grief, the Public mourns,
Commands the Pity he so greatly scorns:
But when he strikes (to crown his gen'rous part)
That honest, staunch, impracticable Heart,
No tears, no sobs, pursue his parting breath;
The dying Roman shames the pomp of Death.

O sacred Freedom! which the Powers bestow
To season Blessings, and to soften Woe,
Plant of our growth, and aim of all our cares,
The toil of ages, and the crown of wars!
If, taught by thee, thy Poet's wit has flow'd
In strains as precious as his Hero's blood;
Preserve those strains an everlasting charm,
To keep that blood, and Thy remembrance, warm;
Be this thy Guardian Image still secure;
In vain shall force invade, or fraud allure:
Our great Palladium shall perform its part,
Fix'd and inshrin'd in every British heart.