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CHARACTER OF ATOSSA

FROM EPISTLE II. OF THE CHARACTERS OF WOMEN

115

But what are these to great Atossa's mind? Scarce once herself, by turns all womenkind ! Who, with herself, or others, from her birth Finds all her life one warfare upon earth:

Shines, in exposing knaves, and painting fools, 120 Yet is, whate'er she hates and ridicules.

No thought advances, but her eddy brain
Whisks it about, and down it goes again.
Full sixty years the world has been her trade,

The wisest fool much time has ever made. 125 From loveless youth to unrespected age,

No passion gratified, except her rage,
So much the fury still outran the wit,
The pleasure missed her, and the scandal hit.

Who breaks with her, provokes revenge from hell, 130 But he's a bolder man who dares be well.

Her every turn with violence pursued,
No more a storm her hate than gratitude:
To that each passion turns, or soon or late;

Love, if it makes her yield, must make her hate: 135 Superiors ? death! and equals? what a curse !

But an inferior not dependent? worse.

140

Offend her, and she knows not to forgive;
Oblige her, and she'll hate you while you live;
But die, and she'll adore you — then the bust
And temple rise — then fall again to dust.
Last night her lord was all that's good and great ;
A knave this morning, and his will a cheat.
Strange! by the means defeated of the ends,
By spirit robbed of power, by warmth of friends,
By wealth of followers ! without one distress,
Sick of herself through very selfishness !
Atossa, cursed with every granted prayer,
Childless with all her children, wants an heir.
To heirs unknown descends the unguarded store,
Or wanders, heaven-directed, to the poor.

145

150

EPISTLE TO DR. ARBUTHNOT

5

P. Shut, shut the door, good John! fatigued I said:
Tie up the knocker, say I'm sick, I'm dead.
The Dog-star rages ! nay, 'tis past a doubt,
All Bedlam, or Parnassus, is let out:
Fire in each eye, and papers in each hand,
They rave, recite, and madden round the land.

What walls can guard me, or what shades can hide?
They pierce my thickets, through my grot they glide,
By land, by water, they renew the charge,
They stop the chariot, and they board the barge.

IO

No place is sacred, not the church is free,
Ev'n Sunday shines no Sabbath-day to me:
Then from the Mint walks forth the man of rhyme,

Happy! to catch me just at dinner-time.
15 Is there a parson, much bemused in beer,

A maudlin poetess, a rhyming peer,
A clerk, foredoomed his father's soul to cross,
Who pens a stanza, when he should engross?

Is there, who, locked from ink and paper, scrawls 20 With desperate charcoal round his darkened walls ?

All fly to Twit'nam, and in humble strain
Apply to me, to keep them mad or vain.
Arthur, whose giddy son neglects the laws,

Imputes to me and my damned works the cause: 25 Poor Cornus sees his frantic wife elope, And curses wit, and poetry, and Pope.

Friend to my life! (which did not you prolong, The world had wanted many an idle song),

What drop or nostrum can this plague remove? 30 Or which must end me, a fool's wrath or love?

A dire dilemma! either way I'm sped,
If foes, they write, if friends, they read me dead.
Seized and tied down to judge, how wretched I!

Who can't be silent, and who will not lie:
35 To laugh, were want of goodness and of grace,

And to be grave, exceeds all power of face.
I sit with sad civility, I read
With honest anguish, and an aching head;

45

And drop at last, but in unwilling ears,
This saving counsel — “Keep your piece nine years. ” 40

“Nine years !” cries he, who, high in Drury Lane,
Lulled by soft zephyrs through the broken pane,
Rhymes ere he wakes, and prints before Term ends,
Obliged by hunger and request of friends :

“The piece, you think, is incorrect? why take it; I'm all submission; what you'd have it, make it."

Three things another's modest wishes bound, My friendship, and a prologue, and ten pound.

Pitholeon sends to me: “You know his Grace, I want a patron; ask him for a place.”

50 Pitholeon libelled me -“but here's a letter Informs you, sir, 'twas when he knew no better. Dare you refuse him? Curll invites to dine; He'll write a journal, or he'll turn divine." Bless me! a packet. "'Tis a stranger sues,

55 A virgin tragedy, an orphan Muse.” If I dislike it, “Furies, death and rage !" If I approve, “Commend it to the stage.” There (thank my stars) my whole commission ends, The players and I are, luckily, no friends. Fired that the house reject him, “'Sdeath I'll print it, And shame the fools – Your interest, sir, with Lintot.” Lintot, dull rogue, will think your price too much: “Not, sir, if you revise it, and retouch." All my demurs but double his attacks:

65 At last he whispers, “Do; and we go snacks."

60

Glad of a quarrel, straight I clap the door:
“Sir, let me see your works and you no more.

115

One dedicates in high heroic prose, 110 And ridicules beyond a hundred foes:

One from all Grub Street will my fame defend,
And, more abusive, calls himself my friend.
This prints my letters, that expects a bribe,
And others roar aloud, “Subscribe, subscribe !"

There are who to my person pay their court:
I cough like Horace, and, though lean, am short.
Ammon's great son one shoulder had too high,
Such Ovid's nose, — and, “Sir, you have an eye.”

Go on, obliging creatures, make me see 120 All that disgraced my betters met in me.

Say, for my comfort, languishing in bed,
“Just so immortal Maro held his head;"
And, when I die, be sure you let me know

Great Homer died three thousand years ago. 125 Why did I write? what sin to me unknown

Dipped me in ink? my parents', or my own?
As yet a child, nor yet a fool to fame,
I lisped in numbers, for the numbers came.

I left no calling for this idle trade, 130 No duty broke, no father disobeyed :

The Muse but served to ease some friend, not wife,
To help me through this long disease, my life;
To second, Arbuthnot ! thy art and care,

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