Page images
PDF
EPUB

A fimple Quaker, or a Quaker's Wife,
Out-do Landaffe in Doctrine,---yea in Life:
Lethumble ALLEN, with an aukward Shame, 135
Do good by stealth, and blush to find it Fame.

NOTES.

few Bifhors that at a fermon fo well, as divers Prefbyterians ard fanatic Preachers can do. Hift. of Civ. Wars, p. 62. SCRIB. VER. 134. Landaffe.] A poor Bishoprick in Wales, as poorly fupplied.

P.

VER. 135. Let humble ALLEN-] Mr. Pope, on the republication of this Poem, in a letter to Mr. Allen, writes thus" I am going to infert, in the body of my works, my "two last poems in quarto. I always profit myself of the "opinion of the public, to correct myself on fuch occafions; "and fometimes the merits of particular men, whofe names "I have made free with, for examples either of good or bad,

determine me to alterations. I have found a virtue in you "more than I certainly knew before, till I had made expe"riment of it, I mean Humility. I must therefore in juftice "to my own confcience of it, bear teftimony to it, and "change the epithet I first gave you of low-born, to humbl. "I fhall take care to do you the juftice to tell every body, "this change was not made at your's, or at any friend's request for you, but my own knowledge, you merited " it," &c. Twit. Nov. 2. VER. ib.-With aukward Shame,

66

Do good by Stealth] The exquifite fenfe, the elegance of phrase, and exactness of expreffion, are all here very remarkable. We are fo much governed by custom, that to act contrary to it, creates even in virtuous men (who are ever modeft) a kind of diffidence, which is the parent of Shame. But when to this, there is joined a consciousness that, in forfaking custom, we follow truth and reason, the indignation arifing from fuch a confcious virtue, mixing with fhame, produces that amiable aukwardn fs in going out of the fashion, which the Poet here celebrates.

VER. 136.—and blush to find it Fame.] He is reprefented as blufking at the degeneracy of his times, which, at best, gavs

[ocr errors]

Virtue may chufe the high or low Degree, 'Tis juft alike to Virtue, and to me;

NOTES.

his goodness its due commendation (the thing he never aimed at) inftead of following and imitating his example, which was the reafon why fome acts of it were not done by stealth, but more openly.

VER. 137. Virtue may ch fe the high er Low Degree.] This line, and those which precede and follow it, contain an ironical neglect of Virtue, and an ironical concern and care for Vice; therefore the Poet's elegant correctnefs required, that his language, in the firft cafe, fhould have the appearance of negligence and cenfure; and this is admirably fuftained in the expreffion,

"Let humble Allen," &c.

But the beauty of this not being understood, the lines have been publicly cenfured for an ungenerous backwardness in doing justice to a man whom our Poet truly believed to be one of the greateft characters in private life that ever was, and known by him to be in fact, all and much more than he had feigned in the imaginary virtues of the Man of Rofs. who, whether he be confidered in his civil, focial, domeftic, or religious capacity, is an ornament to human nature.

The true character of our Author's moral pieces, confidered as a Supplement to human Laws (the force and dignity of which they have defervedly obtained) is, that his praife is always delicate, and his reproof never unjust. And therefore, the first not reaching the head, and the latter too fenfibly touching the heart, of his vulgar Readers, he has been cenfured for a cold Panegyrift, and a cauftic Satirift; whereas he was, indeed, the warmest Friend, and moft placable Enemy, that ever lived.

VER. 138. 'Tis just alike, to Virtue and to me;] He gives the reafon for it, in the line that presently follows,

"She's ftill the fame, belov'd, contented thing."

So that the Senfe is this," It is all one to Virtue on whom her influence falls, whether on high or low, because it still

[ocr errors]

I

Dwell in a Monk, or light upon a King,
She's still the fame, belov'd, contented thing. 140
Vice is undone, if the forgets her Birth,
And stoops from Angels to the Dregs of Earth:
But 'tis the Fall degrades her to a Whore;
Let Greatness owN HER, and fhe's mean no more,

NOTES.

produces the fame effect, their content; and it is all one to me, because it still produces the fame effect, my love.”

VER. 144. Let Greatness OWN HER, and she's mean no more.] The Poet, in this whole paffage, was willing to be under. ftood as alluding to a very extraordinary ftory told by Procepius, in his Secret Hiftory; the fum of which is as follows:

The Emprefs THEODORA was the daughter of one Acaces, who had the care of the wild beasts, which the Green Faction kept for the entertainment of the people. For the Empire was, at that time, divided between the two Factions of the Green and Blue. But Acaces dying in the infancy of Theodora, and her two Sifters, his place of Mafter of the Bears was difpofed of to a ftranger: and his widow hd no other way of fupporting herself than by proftituting her three daughters (who were all very pretty) on the public Theatre. Thither fhe brought them in their turns, as they came to years of puberty. Theodora first attended her Sifters, in the habit and quality of a flave. And when it came to her turn to mount the stage, as fhe could neither dance nor play on the Alute, fhe was put into the lowest clafs of Buffoons, to make diverfion for the Rabble; which fhe did in fo arch a manner, and complained of the indignities fhe fuffered in fo ridiculous. a tone, that the became an abfolute favourite of the people. After a complete courfe of infamy and proftitution, the next place we hear of her is at Alexandria, in great poverty and diftrefs from whence (as it was no wonder) fhe was willing to remove. And to Conftantinople fhe came; but after a large circuit through the Eaft; where the worked her way by a free courfe of proftitution. JUSTINIAN was at this time. confort in the Empire with his Uncle fufin; and the ma

Her Birth, her Beauty, Crowds and Courts con

fefs,

145

Chafte Matrons praise her, and grave Bishops bless;

NOTES.

nagement of affairs entirely in his hands He no fooner faw Theodora than he fell defperately in love with her; and would have married her immediately, but that the Emprefs Euphemia, a Barbarian, and unpolite, but not illiberal in her nature, was then alive. And fhe, although fhe rarely denied him any thing, yet obftinately refused giving him this inftance of her complaifance. But he did not live long: and then nothing but the antient Laws, which forbad a Senator to marry with a common prostitute, hindered Juftinian from executing this extraordinary project. Thefe he obliged Juftin to revoke; and then, in the face of the fun, married his dear Theodora. A terrible example (fays the Hiflorian) and an encouragement to the most abandoned licence. And now, no fooner was THEODORA (in the Poet's phrafe) OWNED by Greatness, than the, whom not long before it was thought unlucky to meet, and a pollution to touch, became the idol of the Court. There was not a fingle Magiftrate (fays Procopius) that expreffed the leaft indignation at the fhame and dishonour brought upon the state; not a fingle Prelate that fhewed the leaft defolation for the public fcandal. They all drove to Court fo precipitately, as if they were ftriving to prevent one another, in her good graces. Nay, the very Soldiers were emulous of the honour of becoming the Champions of her virtue. As for the common People, who had fo long been the fpectators of her fervility, her buffoonry, and her proflitution, they all in a body threw themselves at her feet, as flaves at the footstool of their Mistress. In a word, there was no man, of what condition foever, who shewed the leaft diflike of fo monftrous an elevation. In the mean time, Theodora's first care was to fill her Coffers, which the foon did, with immenfe wealth. To this end, Juftinian and fhe pretended to differ in their party principles. The one protected the blue, and the other the green Faction; till in a long courfe of intrigue, by fometimes giving up the one to plunder and confifcation, and fometimes the other, they left nothing to either. See Procop, Ance. c. ix-x.

In golden Chains the willing World she draws,
And hers the Gospel is, and hers the Laws,
Mounts the Tribunal, lifts her fcarlet head,
And fees pale Virtue carted in her stead.
Lo! at the wheels of her Triumphal Car,
Old England's Genius, rough with many a Scar,
Dragg'd in the Duft! his arms hang idly round,
His Flag inverted trails along the ground!
Our Youth, all liv'ry'd o'er with foreign Gold, 155
Before her dance: behind her, crawl the Old!
See thronging Millions to the Pagod run,
And offer Country, Parent, Wife, or Son!
Hear her black Trumpet thro' the Land proclaim,
That NOT TO BE CORRUPTED IS THE SHAME.
In Soldier, Churchman, Patriot, Man in Pow'r, 161
'Tis Av'rice all, Ambition is no more!
See, all our Nobles begging to be Slaves!
See, all our Fools afpiring to be Knaves!

150

NOTES.

VER 148. And hers the Gospel is, and hers the Laws,] i. e.
She difpofed of the honours of both.

VER. 149. Scarlet head] Alluding to the Scarlet Whore of
the Apocalypfe.

VER. 164. See, all our Fools afpiring to be Knaves!] This
will always be the cafe when knavery is in fashion; because
fools always dread the being unfashionable.

« EelmineJätka »