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A neighbour's madness, or his spouse's,
Our friend Dan Prior told (you know)
yet very many noble and finished passages, and which has been so elegantly and classically translated by Dobson, as to reflect honour on the college of Winchester, where he was educated, and where he translated the first book as a school-exercise. I once heard him lament, that he had not at that time read Lucretius, which would have given a richness, and variety, and force to his verses ; the only fault of which, seems to be a monotony and want of different pauses, occasioned by translating a poem in rhyme, which he avoided in his Milton. It is one mark of a poem being intrinsically good, that it is capable of being well translated. The political conduct of Prior was blamed on account of the part he took in the famous Partition-Treaty; but in some valuable memoirs of his life, written by the Honourable Mr. Montague, his friend, which were also in the possession of the Duchess Dowager of Portland, this conduct is clearly accounted for, and amply defended. In those memoirs are many curious and interesting particulars of the history of that time.
This beautiful fable, not so much now admired, because so well known, is not in the collection of those called Æsop's, whose composition it certainly was, as appears from the collection of the VOL. VI.
Rusticus urbanum murem mus paupere fertur
fragments of Babrius, which the learned Mr. Tyrrwhit published, and which are a most valuable curiosity.
Warton. The reader, perhaps, will be pleased to peruse the following letter from Prior; the original of which is among the Townsend papers, communicated by the kindness of Mr. Coxe. At the time when Pope paid Prior this compliment, Prior was envoy at Paris.
Bowles. “ MY LORD,
Fontainbleau, Oct. -, 1714. “ I am sure you will not think I make a compliment of form only, when I congratulate you on the honour of being Secretary of State; for, bonâ fide, I had rather you had the seals than any man in England, except myself, and I wish you most sincerely all satisfaction and prosperity in the course of your business, and in every part of your private life. I need not ask you for your favour, for taking it for granted that you
think me an honest man, I assure myself of every thing from you that is good-natured and generous. How I am, or am not to be, HERE, or when I am to be recalled, your Lordship will soonest know. Pray, my Lord, do me all the good you can, and if, as we say here, the names of party and faction are to be lost, pray get me pricked down for one of the first that is desirous to come into so happy an agreement ;
Once on a time (so runs the fable)
and as I know so good a design as the obtaining an ensuing PEACE, * suits admirably well with the sweetness of your Lordship’s temper, I'll take my oath on it, it graduates extremely well with my present disposition and circumstances. I cannot presume to hope the happiness of seeing you very soon, for though I should be recalled to-morrow, I shall savour so strong of a French court, that
I must make my quarantine in some Kentish village, before I aare - come near the Cockpit. In every place and estate, I am,
My Lord, &c. &c.
“ M. Prior.”
* The Peace of Utrecht.
Vis tu homines urbemque feris præponere sylvis ?
Ver. 177. like men, must die,] The parody on Dryden's poem on the Hind and Panther, alluding to the City and Country Mouse, was the first of Prior's performances, in conjunction with his friend Montague.
Consider, mice, like men, must die,
185 When all their Lordships had sate late.
Behold the place, where, if a poet Shined in description, he might show it; Tell how the moonbeam trembling falls, And tips with silver all the walls;
190 Palladian walls, Venetian doors, Grotesco roofs, and stucco floors : But let it, in a word, be said, The moon was up, and men a-bed, The napkins white, the carpet red; 195 The guests withdrawn had left the treat, And down the mice sat, téte à tête.
Our courtier walks from dish to dish, Tastes for his friend of fowl and fish; Tells all their names, lays down the law, 200
Que ça est bon! Ah, goutez ça! That jelly's rich, this Malmsey healing, Pray, dip your whiskers and your tail in.” Was ever such a happy swain? He stuffs and swills, and stuffs again. 205 “ I'm quite ashamed—’tis mighty rude To eat so much-but all's so good.