1717 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Pope

Thomas Parnell, "To Mr. Pope" Pope, Works (1717) sigs f-f1.



To praise, and still with just respect to praise
A Bard triumphant in immortal bays,
The Learn'd to show, the Sensible commend,
Yet still preserve the province of the Friend;
What life, what vigour must the lines require?
What Music tune them, what Affection fire?

O might thy Genius in my bosom shine!
Thou should'st not fail of numbers worthy thine;
The brightest Ancients might at once agree
To sing within my lays, and sing of thee.

Horace himself wou'd own thou dost excell
In candid arts to play the Critic well.
Ovid himself might wish to sing the Dame,
Whom Windsor-Forest sees a gliding stream:
On silver feet, with annual Osier crown'd,
She runs for ever thro' Poetic ground.

How flame the glories of Belinda's Hair,
Made by thy Muse the envy of the Fair?
Less shone the tresses Aegypt's Princess wore,
Which sweet Callimachus so sung before.
Here courtly trifles set the world at odds;
Belles war with Beaus, and Whims descend for Gods.
The new Machines, in names of ridicule,
Mock the grave frenzy of the Chimick fool.
But know, ye Fair, a point conceal'd with art,
The Sylphs and Gnomes are but a woman's heart.
The Graces stand in sight; a Satyr-train
Peeps o'er their head, and laughs behind the scene.

In Fame's fair Temple, o'er the boldest wits
Inshrin'd on high, the sacred Virgil sits;
And sits in measures, such as Virgil's Muse
To place thee near him, might be fond to chuse.
How might he tune th' alternate reed with thee,
Perhaps a Strephon thou, a Daphnis he;
While some old Damon, o'er the vulgar wise,
Thinks he deserves, and thou deserv'st the Prize.
Rapt with the thought, my fancy seeks the plains,
And turns me shepherd while I hear the strains.
Indulgent nurse of ev'ry tender gale,
Parent of flowrets, old Arcadia hail!
Here in the cool my limbs at ease I spread,
Here let thy Poplars whisper o'er my head!
Still slide thy waters, soft among the trees,
Thy Aspins quiver in a breathing breeze!
Smile all ye valleys, in eternal spring,
Be hush'd, ye winds, while Pope and Virgil sing.

In English lays, and all sublimely great,
Thy Homer warms with all his ancient heat;
He shines in Council, thunders in the fight,
And flames with ev'ry sense of great delight.
Long has that Poet reign'd, and long unknown,
Like Monarchs sparkling on a distant throne;
In all the majesty of Greek retir'd,
Himself unknown, his mighty name admir'd;
His language failing, wrapt him round with night;
Thine, rais'd by thee, recalls the work to light.
So wealthy Mines, that ages long before
Fed the large realms around with golden Oar,
When choak'd by sinking banks, no more appear,
And shepherds only say, The mines were here:
Should some rich youth (if nature warm his heart,
And all his projects stand inform'd with art)
Here clear the caves, there ope the leading vein;
The mines detected flame with gold again.

How vast, how copious, are thy new designs!
How ev'ry Music varies in thy lines!
Still, as I read, I feel my bosom beat,
And rise in raptures by another's heat.
Thus in the wood, when summer dress'd the days,
While Windsor lent us tuneful hours of ease,
Our ears the lark, the thrush, the turtle blest,
And Philomela sweetest o'er the rest:
The shades resound with song — O softly tread,
While a whole season warbles round my head.

This to my friend — and when a friend inspires,
My silent harp its master's hand requires,
Shakes off the dust, and makes these rocks resound;
For fortune plac'd me in unfertile ground.
Far from the joys that with my soul agree,
From wit, from learning — very far from thee.
Here moss-grown trees expand the smallest leaf;
Here half an Acre's corn is half a sheaf;
Here hills with naked heads the tempest meet,
Rocks at their sides, and torrents at their feet;
Or lazy lakes, unconscious of a flood,
Whose dull brown Naiads ever sleep in mud.
Yet here Content can dwell, and learned ease,
A Friend delight me, and an Author please;
Ev'n here I sing, when Pope supplies the theme,
Shew my own love, tho' not increase his fame.