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The vivid green his shining plumes unfold,
His painted wings, and breast that flames with gold!
In 1713, the period to which our remarks have now brought us down, Pope commenced the translation of the 'Iliad.' At first the gigantic task which he had undertaken oppressed him with its difficulty, but he gradually became more familiar with the language and imagery of the original, and in a short time was able to write fifty lines a day. From this translation he realized nearly six thousand pounds; but his fame was not advanced in an equal proportion by his labors as a translator. The facility of his rhyme, the additional false ornaments which he imparted to the ancient Greek, and his departure from the nice discrimination of character and speech which prevails in Homer, are faults now universally admitted. Cowper, therefore, justly remarks, that the Iliad and Odyssey in Pope's hands' have no more the air of antiquity than if he had himself invented them.' The success which attended the Iliad led to the translation of the Odyssey; but Pope now called in his friends, Broome and Fenton, to aid him. The labor was so arranged that the assistants performed one half of the task, but the compensation for the work was by no means so equally shared. Fenton, who was a poor country tutor, received three hundred pounds, and Broome, five hundred; while Pope obtained from his contract nearly three thousand.
Pope's Homeric labors lasted twelve years; and such was the improvement which his pecuniary resources derived from them, that he was enabled to remove from the shades of Windsor Forest to a situation nearer the metropolis. He purchased the lease of a house and grounds at Twickenham, to which he removed, with his father and mother, and where he continued to reside during the remainder of his life. This classic spot which Pope delighted to improve, and where he was visited by ministers of state, by wits, by poets, and by beauties, now bears few marks of its former elegance and
In 1716, while Pope was engaged in his translation of the Iliad, he wrote, during a visit to Oxford, the Epistle of Eloisa to Abelard-a production which is the most highly poetical and passionate of all his works. The delicacy of the poet, in vailing over the circumstances of the story, and at the same time preserving the ardor of Eloisa's passion, the beauty of his imagery and descriptions, the exquisite melody of his versification, rising and falling like the tones of an Eolian harp, as he successively portrays the tumults of guilty love, the deepest penitence, and the highest devotional rapture, have scarcely ever been equalled. What could be sweeter than the following lines?
In these deep solitudes and awful cells,
And ever-musing melancholy reigns,
What means this tumult in a vestal's veins ?
Why rove my thoughts beyond this last retreat?
Dear, fatal name! rest ever unrevealed,
Her heart still dictates, and her hand obeys.
Ye rugged rocks, which holy knees have worn!
All is not heaven's while Abelard has part,
Soon as thy letters trembling I unclose,
Still breathed in sighs, still ushered with a tear!
I tremble, too, where'er my own I find,
Line after line my gushing eyes o'erflow,
Now warm in love, now withering in my bloom,
There stern religion quenched the unwilling flame,
Yet write, oh write me all, that I may join
If less genial tastes, and a love of satire withdrew Pope from those fountain-springs of the Muse, it was evidently from no want of power in the poet to display the richest hues of imagination, or the finest impulses of the human heart.
In 1733, he published his Essay on Man, the subject having been suggested to him by Lord Bolingbroke. The 'Essay' was intended as part of a system of ethics in verse, which the poet had projected: it is now read, not for its philosophy, but for its poetry. Its metaphysical distinctions are neg
lected for those splendid passages and striking incidents which irradiate the whole poem. In lines like the following, he speaks with a mingled sweetness and dignity, superior even to his great master Dryden :—
Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Lo! the poor Indian, whose untutored mind
Yet simple nature to his hope has given
He asks no angel's wing, no seraph's fire;
But thinks, admitted to that equal sky,
The poetic labors of Pope during the last few years of his life were confined chiefly to satire. In 1727, he had published, in conjunction with Swift, three volumes of Miscellanies in prose and verse, which drew down, upon the authors, a torrent of invectives and lampoons, and which eventually led to the production of Pope's Dunciad. This elaborate satire displays the fertile invention of the poet, the variety of his illustration, and the force and facility of his diction; but the work is now read with a feeling more allied to pity than to admiration-pity that one so highly gifted should have allowed himself to descend to things so mean, and to devote the close of a great literary life to the infliction of unnecessary pain on every humble aspirant in the world of letters. 'I have often wondered,' says Cowper, 'that the same poet who wrote the 'Dunciad' should have written these lines:
That mercy I to others show,
Alas for Pope, if the mercy he showed to others was the measure of the mercy he received.'
Pope's satire is very different from that of Dryden. It is neither so keen nor so bright. Whom he attacks, he butchers; whom he cuts, he mangles. He shows us not the lifeless corpse of his victim, but the writhings and the tortured limbs. For the object of Dryden's satire we never feel any thing like sympathy. His fiat seems the fiat of unerring justice, which it would be almost impiety to dispute. Pope exhibits more of the accuser than of the judge. Petty interests and personal malice, instead of love of justice, VOL. II.-D.
and hatred of vice, appear to be the powers which nerve his arm. The victim is sure to fall beneath his blow, but the deed, however righteous, inspires us with no regard for the executioner.
Sir Walter Scott has very justly remarked that Pope must have suffered more from these wretched contentions than his antagonists. It is well-known that his temper was ultimately much changed for the worse. Misfortunes were also now gathering round him. Swift, his dearest friend, was fast verging on insanity, and was lost to the world. Atterbury and Gay died in 1732; and soon after his venerable mother, whose declining years he had watched with such affectionate solicitude, also expired. To this accumulation of sorrows we may add an important political event. The anticipated approach of the Pretender induced the government to issue a proclamation prohibiting every Roman Catholic from appearing within ten miles of London. Pope complied with the proclamation; and he was soon afterward too ill to be in town. This 'additional proclamation from the Highest of all Powers,' as he termed his sickness, he submitted to without murmuring. A constant state of excitement, added to a life of ceaseless study and contemplation, operating on a frame naturally delicate, and even deformed from birth, had completely exhausted the sinking poet's powers. He complained of want of ability to think; yet a short time before his death he said, 'I am so certain of the soul's being immortal, that I seem to feel it within me as it were by intuition.' Another of his dying remarks was, 'There is nothing that is meritorious but virtue and friendship; and, indeed, friendship itself is only a part of virtue.' Pope died at Twickenham, on the thirtieth of May, 1744, having just passed the fifty-sixth year of his age.
As a poet, it would be improper to rank Pope with those great masters of the lyre-Chaucer, Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton. He belongs to the school of Dryden, and was more the poet of artificial life and manners, than the poet of nature. In comparing his versification with that of his great master, it is difficult to determine to which the preference belongs. In ease and sweetness, Pope has the advantage; but in majesty and power, Dryden left our versification at a point from which it has since rather receded than advanced. Pope, it is true, levelled and polished it; but he levelled the rocks that impelled, as well as the stones that impeded its majestic current, and he polished away much of its grandeur, as well as of its roughness. Pope, however, had a finer fancy than Dryden, and we are almost inclined to say, in opposition to the popular opinion, that he possessed more genius. We know of nothing so original and imaginative in the whole range of Dryden's poetry as the 'Rape of the Lock;' no descriptions of nature that can compare with those in the Windsor Forest;' and nothing so tender and feeling as many parts of the 'Elegy on an Unfortunate Lady,' and the 'Epistle from Eloisa to Abelard.' With that 'Elegy,' and the Messiah, we shall close our remarks upon this interesting author :
ELEGY ON AN UNFORTUNATE LADY.
What beck'ning ghost, along the moonlight shade,
Is it in heaven, a crime to love too well?
Is there no bright reversion in the sky
Why bade ye else, ye powers! her soul aspire
From these, perhaps, (ere nature bade her die)
And separate from their kindred dregs below;
Nor left one virtue to redeem her race.
But thou, false guardian of a charge too good, Thou mean deserter of thy brother's blood! See on these ruby lips the trembling breath, These cheeks now fading at the blast of death; Cold is that breast which warmed the world before, And those love-darting eyes must roll no more. Thus, if eternal justice rules the ball,
Thus shall your wives, and thus your children fall: On all the line a sudden vengeance waits;
And frequent hearses shall besiege your gates:
The gaze of fools, and pageant of a day!
What can atone (0 ever injured shade!)
By foreign hands thy decent limbs composed,