1740 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Pope

Mr. Price, "To Mr. Pope" General Evening Post (24 January 1740)



Oft have I wish'd, whene'er with kindling Thought,
I view'd the wondrous ILIAD Homer wrote,
That some great Genius, whose distinguish'd Name
Shall share with Addison's an equal Fame,
Wou'd sing the Wrath of Peleus' haughty Son,
And finish that which Dryden had begun;
But when I see what num'rous Beauties shine
In ev'ry chosen Word, in ev'ry nervous Line;
How the bold Bard, impetuous, wings his Way
From this low World to distant Realms of Day,
I gaze in Silence on th' exalted Strain,
And Conscious think that I shall wish in vain:
For who in bounded Verse, and measur'd Rhimes,
Can tell the glorious Deeds of ancient Times?
Can paint the Gods descending from above?
Or pierce, like him, the dark Decrees of Jove?

And yet how clearly have thy Lines display'd
Pelides Mourning for the ravish'd Maid?
How is his Grief augmented by the Blow,
That sends Patroclus to the Shades below?
When with her heav'nly Armour Thetis stands,
And drops the radiant Burden from her Hands;
Astonish'd, back we shrink with dread Surprize,
And from the broad effulgence turn our Eyes!
Strait the mad Youth his fateful Javelin wields,
And slaughter'd Heroes groan thro' all the Fields;
Strait the pale Trojans skulk behind their Walls,
And Priam grieves, and hapless Hector falls.

Long had th' immortal Work of Homer lain,
Disgrac'd and injur'd by a servile Train
Of groveling Pedants whose unhallowed Rage,
Perplex'd and darken'd ev'ry shining Page;
But now at length, thro' your officious Cares,
Drawn forth to View the genuine Greek appears;
To him the Laurels you again restore,
Which by Translators he had lost before.

In this the Fav'rites of the Nine have fail'd,
This mighty Toil o'er learned Hobbes prevail'd:
Dryden this Task alone could ne'er subdue,
Yet we behold it now perform'd by you:
You then let ev'ry grateful Briton Praise,
And deck your Temples with Eternal Bays.