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Dwell in a Monk, or light upon a King,
NOTES. These lines, and those which precede and follow them, contain an ironical neglect of Virtue, and an ironical concern and care for Vice. So that the Poet's elegant correctness of composition required, that his language, in the first case, should present something of negligence and censure; which is admirably implied in the expression of the thought.
Ver. 138. 'Tis juft alike to Virtue, and to me;] He gives the reason for it, in the line that presently follows,
She's still the fame, belov'd, contented thing. So that the fense of the text is this, “ It is all one to Virtue on " whom her infuence falls, whether on high or low, because " it still produces the same effect, their content; and it is all « one to me, because it still produces the same effect, my love."
Ver. 144. Let Greatness own her, and he's mean no more, ] The Poet, in this whole paffage, would be understood to allude to a very extraordinary story told by Procopius in his Secret hiftory: the sum of which is as follows.
The Empress THEODOR A 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 Sisters, his place of Master of the Bears was disposed of to a stranger; and his widow had no other way of supporting herself than by prostituting her three Daughters, who were all very pretty, on the public Theatre. Thither the brought
, them in their turns as they came to years of puberty. Theodcra firit attended her Sisters in the habit and quality of a
Her Birth, her Beauty, Crowds and Courts confess, Chaste Matrons praise her, and grave Bishops bless;
NOTES. pave. And when it came to her turn to mount the stage, as the could neither dance, nor play on the Aute, she was put into the lowest class of Buffoons to make diversion for the Rabble; which she did in fo arch a manner, and complained of the indignities she suffered in so ridiculous a tone, that she became the absolute favourite of the people. After a complete course of infamy and prostitution, the next place we hear of her is at Alexandria, in great poverty and distress: from whence (as it was no wonder) she was willing to remove. And to Conftanținople she came, but after a large circuit thro' the East, where he worked her way, by a free course of prostitution. JustiNIAN was at this time confort in the Empire with his Uncle Juftin, and the management of affairs entirely in his hands. He no sooner saw Theodora than he fell desperately in love with her, and would have married her immediately, but that the Empress Euphemia, a barbarian, and unpolite, but not illiberal in her nature, was then alive. And the, altho’ she rarely deņied him any thing, yet obstinately refused giving him this instance of her complaisance. But she did not live long : and then, nothing but the ancient Laws, which forbad a senator to marry with a common prostitute, hindered Juftinian from executing this extraordinary project. These, he obliged Justin to revoke; and then, in the face of the fun, married his dear Theodora. A terrible example (says the Historian) and an encouragement to the most shameless licence.
And now no
THEODORA (in the Poet's phrase) owned by Greatness, than fhe, 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 single Magistrate (says Procopius) that expressed the least indignation at the shame and dishonour brought upon the state; not a single Prelate that shewed the least desolation for the public scandal. They all drove to court so precipitately, as if they were striving 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 so long been the spectators of her servility, her Buffoonry,
In golden Chains the willing World she draws,
NOTE s. and her Prostitution, they all in a body threw themselves at her feet, as slaves at the footstool of their Mistress. In a word, there was no man, of what condition soever, that shewed the least dislike of so monstrous an elevation. In the mean time, Theodora's first care was to fill her Coffers, which she soon did, with immense wealth. To this end, Justinian and she pretended to differ in their principles. The one protected the blue, and the other, the green faction; till in a long course of intrigue, by sometimes giving up the one to plunder and confiscation, and sometimes the other, they left nothing to either party. See Procop. Anec, c. ix.-X.
VER. 148. And hers the Gospel is, and hers the Laws,] i. e. She disposed of the honours of both.
Ver. 149. scarlet head] Alluding to the scarlet Whore of the Apocalypse.
In Soldier, Churchman, Patriot, Man in Pow'r,
with reverential Awe, At Crimes that 'scape, or triumph o'er the Law: While 'Truth, Worth, Wisdom, daily they decry--
Nothing is Sacred now but Villainy." 170
this Verse (if fuch a Verfe remain) Show, there was one who held it in difdain.
NOTES. VER. 164. See, all our fools aspiring to be Knaves ! ] This will always be the case when knavery is in fashion, because fools always dread the being unfashionable.
VER. 165. The Wit of Cheats, the Courage of a Whore; -- Are what ten thousand envy and adore :] And no wonder, for the wit of Cheats being the evasion of Justice, and the Courage of a Whore the contempt for reputation; these emancipate men from the two tyrannical restraints upon free fpirits, fear of punishment, and dread of shame. SCRIBI,
IS all a Libel Paxton (Sir) will say
P. Not yet, my Friend! to morrow 'faith
And for that very cause I print to day.
VER. 8. Feign what I will, etc.] The Poet has here introduced an oblique apology for himself with great art. You attack personal characters, fay his enemies. No, replies he, I paint merely from my invention; and, to prevent a likeness, I then aggravate the features. But alas! the growth of vice