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No wonder then, when all was love and sport,
But Britain, changeful as a child at play, 155
160 * Time was, a sober Englishman would knock His servants up, and rise by five o'clock, Instruct his family in every rule, And send his wife to church, his son to school. To 'worship like his fathers, was his care; 165 To teach their frugal virtues to his heir;
French manners, but for French government, into this country, full of low admiration of that vain, unfeeling, ambitious, profuse despot, Louis XIV.
Warton. Ver. 152. debauch'd at court :] In a letter to Lord Clarendon, January 27, 1658; the Duke of Ormond says of Charles II.: “I fear his immoderate delight in empty, effeminate, and vulgar conversations, is become an irresistible part of his nature, and will never suffer him to animate his own designs, and other actions, with that spirit which is requisite for his quality, and much more for his fortune.”
Warton. Ver. 153. On each enervate string, &c.] The Siege of Rhodes by Sir William Davenant, the first Opera sung in England.
Pope. Ver. 155. But Britain,] Our author has widely and improperly departed from the context and meaning of his original. Horace speaks only of a change of taste in works of art and literature. Pope has altered it to politics and disputes on government.
Mutavit mentem populus levis, "et calet uno
* Hic error tamen et levis hæc insania, quantas Virtutes habeat, sic collige: vatis ° avarus
Ver. 172. Our wives read Milton,) Our age deserves rather to be congratulated than satirized, for the general diffusion of knowledge and literature that has taken place, particularly among the fair sex; among whom may be found, not only many intelligent readers, but also able judges of poetry. See Mrs. Montagu's Essay on Shakespear.
Warton. A further alteration has now taken place, and our wives and daughters not only read and judge, but write poetry, in such a manner as to call for no little exertion on the part of the Lords of the creation, if they wish to avoid a literary Gynocracy.
Ver. 180. Ward] A famous empiric, whose pill and drop had several surprising effects, and were one of the principal subjects of writing and conversation at this time.
Pope. Ver. 186. Should Ripley venture,] Politics and partiality, says Lord Orford, in his Anecdotes on Painting, concurred to help on this censure. Ripley was employed by the minister, and had not the countenance of Lord Burlington, the patron of Pope. It is no less true, that the Admiralty is a most ugly edifice, and deservedly veiled by Mr. Adams's handsome screen. Yet Ripley in the mechanic part, and in the disposition of apartments and conveniences, was, unluckily, superior to the Earl himself. Lord Or
To prove that luxury could never hold;
*He served a 'prenticeship who sets up shop; Ward tried on puppies, and the poor, his drop; Even 'Radcliff's doctors travel first to France, Nor dare to practise till they've learn'd to dance. Who builds a bridge that never drove a pile ? 185 Should Ripley venture, all the world would smile; But *those who cannot write, and those who can, All rhyme, and scrawl, and scribble, to a man.
Yet, Sir, "reflect, the mischief is not great; These madmen never hurt the church or state: 190 Sometimes the folly benefits mankind; And rarely oavarice taints the tuneful mind.
ford's at Houghton, and Lord Walpole's at Woollerton, one of the best houses of the size in England, will, as long as they remain, acquit this artist of the charge of ignorance.
Warton. Ver. 191, the folly benefits mankind;] For the honour and de
Non temerè est animus; Pversus amat, hoc studet
fence of our favourite art, we must here add Dr. Hurd's note on this passage:
“ This apology for poets, and, in them, for poetry itself, though delivered with much apparent negligence and unconcern, yet, if considered, will be found to comprize in it every thing, that any, or all, of its most. zealous advocates have ever pretended in its behalf.
“ For it comprehends : I. (From Ver. 118 to 124.] The personal good qualities of the Poet. Nothing is more insisted on by those, who take upon themselves the patronage and recommendation of any art, than that it tends to raise in the professor of it all those virtues which contribute most to his own proper enjoyment, and render him most agreeable to others. Now this it seems may be urged on the side of poetry, with a peculiar force. For not only the study of this art hath a direct tendency to produce a neglect or disregard of worldly honours and emoluments (from the too eager appetite of which almost all the calamities, as well as the more unfriendly vices, of men arise), but he, whom the benign aspect of the muse hath glanced upon and destined for her peculiar service, is, by constitution, which is ever the best security, fortified against the attacks of them. Thus his raptures in the enjoyment of his muse, make him overlook the common accidents of life: (ver. 121.) he is generous, open, and undesigning by nature: (ver. 122.) to which we must not forget to add, that he is temperate, that is to say, poor by profession.
Vivit siliquis et pane secundo. “ II. (From ver. 124 to 139.) The Utility of the Poet to the State: and this both on a Civil and Moral Account. For, 1, the poets, whom we read in our younger years, and from whom we learn the power of words, and hidden harmony of numbers, that is, as a profound Scotchman teaches, the first and most essential principles of eloquenee, enable, by degrees, and instruct their pupil to appear with advantage in that extensively useful capacity of a public speaker.
And, indeed, graver writers than our poet have sent the ora
Allow him but his plaything of a pen,
tor to this school. But the pretensions of poetry go on much farther. It delights (from ver. 130 to 132,) to immortalize the triumphs of virtue; to record or feign illustrious examples of heroic worth, for the service of the rising age: and, which is the last and best fruit of philosophy itself, it can relieve even the languor of ill health, and sustain poverty herself under the scorn and insult of contumelious opulence.
“ 2. In a moral view its services are not less considerable; (for it
may be observed the poet was so far of a mind with the philosopher, to give no quarter to immoral poets ;) and to this end it serves, 1. (ver. 127) in turning the ear of youth from that early corruptor of its innocence, the seducement of a loose and impure communication.
" 2. Next, (ver. 128) in forming our riper age, (which it does with all the address and tenderness of friendship, Amicis præceptis) by the sanctity and wisdom of its precepts. And, 3, which is the proper office of tragedy, in correcting the excesses of the natural passions (ver. 122).
“ The reader who doth not turn himself to the original, will be apt to mistake this detail of the virtues of poetry, for an account of the policy and legislation of ancient and modern times; whose proudest boast, when the philanthropy of their enthusiastic projectors ran at the highest, was but to prevent the impressions of vice, to form the mind to habits of virtue, and to curb and regu. late the passions.
“ III. His Services to Religion. This might well enough be said, whether by religion we understand an internal reverence of the Gods, which poetry first and principally intended, or their popular adorations and worship, which by its fictions, as of necessity conforming to the received fancies of superstition, it must greatly tend to promote and establish; but the Poet, artfully seizing a circumstance, which supposes and concludes in it both these respects, renders his defence vastly interesting.
“ All the customary addresses of heathenism to its gods, more especially on any great and solemn emergency, were the work of