1721 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Pope

Judith Cowper Madan, "To Mr. Pope" 1721; Works of the English Poets (1779) 32:xvi-xix.



O Pope, by what commanding wondrous art,
Dost thou each passion to each breast impart?
Our beating Hearts with sprightly measures move,
Or melt us with a tale of hapless Love!
Th' elated mind's impetuous starts control,
Or gently sooth to peace the troubled soul!
Graces till now that singly met our view,
And singly charm'd, unite at once in you:
A style polite, from affectation free,
Virgil's correctness, Homer's majesty!
Soft Waller's ease, with Milton's vigour wrought,
And Spenser's bold luxuriancy of thought.
In each bright page, Strength, Beauty, Genius shine,
While nervous Judgment guides each flowing Line.
No borrow'd Tinsel glitters o'er these Lays,
And to the Mind a false Delight conveys:
Throughout the whole with blended power is found,
The Weight of Sense, and Elegance of Sound.
A lavish Fancy, Wit, and Force, and Fire,
Graces each motion of th' immortal Lyre.
Thy matchless strains our ravish'd senses charm:
How great the thought! the images how warm!
How beautifully just the turns appear!
The language how majestically clear!
With energy divine each period swells,
And all the Bard th' inspiring God reveals.
Lost in delights, my dazzled eyes I turn,
Where Thames leans hoary o'er his ample urn;
Where his rich waves fair Windsor's towers surround,
And bounteous rush amid poetic ground.
O Windsor! sacred to thy blissful seats,
Thy sylvan shades, the Muses' lov'd retreats,
Thy rising hills, low vales, and waving woods,
Thy sunny glades, and celebrated floods!
But chief Lodona's silver tides, that flow
Cold and unsullied as the mountain snow;
Whose virgin name no time nor change can hide,
Though ev'n her spotless waves should cease to glide:
In mighty Pope's immortalizing strains,
Still shall she grace and range the verdant plains;
By him selected for the Muses' theme,
Still shine a blooming maid, and roll a limpid stream.

Go on, and, with thy rare resistless art,
Rule each emotion of the various heart;
The spring and test of verse unrival'd reign,
And the full honours of thy youth maintain;
Sooth with thy wonted ease and power divine,
Our souls, and our degenerate tastes refine;
In judgement o'er our favourite follies sit,
And soften Wisdom's harsh reproofs to Wit.

Now war and arms thy mighty aid demand,
And Homer wakes beneath thy powerful hand;
His vigour, genuine heat, and manly force,
In thee rise worthy of their sacred source;
His spirit heighten'd, yet his sense intire,
As gold runs purer from the trying fire.
O, for a Muse like thine, while I rehearse
Th' immortal beauties of thy various verse!
Now light as air th' enlivening numbers move,
Soft as the downy plumes of fabled Love,
Gay as the streaks that stain the gaudy bow,
Smooth as Meander's crystal Mirrours flow.

But, when Achilles, panting for the war,
Joins the fleet coursers to the whirling car;
When the warm hero, with celestial might,
Augments the terrour of the raging fight,
From his fierce eyes refulgent lightnings stream
(As Sol emerging darts a golden gleam);
In rough hoarse verse we see th' embattled foes;
In each loud strain the fiery onset glows;
With strength redoubled here Achilles shines,
And all the battle thunders in thy lines.

So the bright Magic of the Painter's hand,
Can cities, streams, tall towers, and far-stretch'd plains command;
Here spreading woods embrown the beauteous scene,
There the wide landscape smiles with livelier green;
The floating glass reflects the distant sky,
And o'er the whole the glancing sun-beams fly;
Buds open, and disclose the inmost shade;
The ripen'd harvest crowns the level glade.
But when the artist does a work design,
Where bolder rage informs each breathing line;
When the stretch'd cloth a rougher stroke receives,
And Caesar awful in the canvas lives;
When Art like lavish Nature's self supplies
Grace to the limbs, and spirit to the Eyes;
When ev'n the passions of the mind are seen,
And the Soul speaks in the exalted Mien;
When all is just, and regular, and great,
We own the mighty Master's skill, as boundless as complete.