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He writes, “ Fame is a revenue payable only to our ghosts; and to deny ourselves all present satisfaction, or to expose ourselves to so much hazard for this, were as great madness as to starve ourselves, or fight desperately for food, to be laid on our tombs after our death."
Dryden, in his “ Absalom and Achitophel,” saysof the Earl of Shaftesbury,
“ David for him his tuneful harp had strung,
And Heaven had wanted one immortal song."
This verse was ringing in the ear of Pope, when with equal modesty and felicity he adopted it, in addressing his friend Dr. Arbuthnot,
“ Friend of my life! which did not you prolong,
The world had wanted
many an idle
Howell has prefixed to his Letters a tedious poem, written in the taste of the times, and he there says of letters, that they are
« The heralds and sweet harbingers that move
From East to West, on embassies of love ;
It is probable that Pope had noted this thought, for the following lines seem a beautiful heightening of the idea:
“Heaven first taught letters, for some wretch's aid,
Some banish'd lover, or some captive maid.”
Then he adds, they
Speed the soft intercourse from soul to soul,
There is another passage in " Howell's Letters,” which has a great affinity with a thought of Pope, who, in “ the Rape of the Lock," says,
“ Fair tresses man's imperial race ensnare,
And beauty draws us with a single hair.”
Howell writes, p. 290, “ 'Tis a powerful sex :they were too strong for the first, the strongest and wisest man that was; they must needs þe strong, when one hair of a woman can draw more than an hundred pair of oxen.”
Pope's description of the death of the lamb, in his “ Essay on Man,” is finished with the nicest touches, and is one of the finest pictures our poetry exhibits. Even familiar as it is to our ear, we never examine it but with undiminished admiration.
“ The lamb, thy riot dooms to bleed to-day,
Had he thy reason, would he skip and play?
After pausing on the last two fine verses, will not the reader smile that I should conjecture the image might originally have been discovered in the follewing humble verses in a poem once considered not as contemptible :
“A gentle lamb has rhetoric to plead,
And when she sees the butcher's knife decreed,
Dr. King's “Mully of Mountown."
This natural and affecting image might certainly have been observed by Pope, without his having perceived it through the less polished lens of the telescope of Dr. King. It is, however, a similarity, though it may not be an imitation; and is given as an example of that art in composition, which can ornament the humblest conception, like the graceful vest thrown over naked and sordid beggary.
I consider the following lines as strictly copied by Thomas Warton:
The daring artist
T. WARTON on Shakspeare.
Sir Philip Sidney, in his “ Defence of Poesie,” has the same image. He writes, “ Tragedy openeth the greatest wounds, and showeth forth the ulcers that are covered with tissue.”
The same appropriation of thought will attach to the following lines of Tickell:
« While the charm'd reader with thy thought complies, And views thy Rosamond with Henry's eyes."
TICKELL to ADDISON.
Evidently from the French Horace:
« En vain contre le Cid, un ministre se ligue ;
Oldham, the satirist, says in his satires upon the Jesuits that had Сain been of this black fraternity, he had not been content with a quarter of mankind.
Had he been Jesuit, had he but put on
Doubtless at that moment echoed in his poetical ear the energetic and caustic epigram of Andrew Marvel, against Blood stealing the crown dressed in a parson's cassock, and sparing the life of the keeper :
“ With the Priest's vestment had he but put on
The Prelate's cruelty, -the Crown had gone!"
The following passages seem echoes to each other, and it is but justice due to Oldham, the satirist, to acknowledge him as the parent of this antithesis :
« On Butler who can think without just rage,
Satire against Poetry.
It seems evidently borrowed by Pope, when he applies the thought to Erasmus :
“ At length Erasmus, that great injured name,
The glory of the priesthood and the shame !" Young remembered the antithesis when he said,
“ Of some for glory such the boundless rage,
That they're the blackest scandal of the age.”
Voltaire, a great reader of Pope, seems to have borrowed part of the expression :
“ Scandale d'Eglise, et des rois le modelle."
De Caux, an old French poet, in one of his moral poems on an hour-glass, inserted in modern collections, has many ingenious thoughts. That this poem was read and admired by Goldsmith, the following beautiful image seems to indicate. De Caux, comparing the world to his hour-glass, says beautifully,
“ C'est un verre qui luit
Goldsmith applies the thought very happily:
“ Princes and lords may
flourish or may fade;
I do not know whether we might not read, for modern copies are sometimes incorrect,
“ A breath unmakes them, as a breath has made.”