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The name of ALEXANDER POPE, (1688-1744), is in separably connected with that of Swift. The poetical genius of Pope, however, was of an order greatly superior to that of his friend. Indeed, in some species of writing, he stands confessedly unequalled. For elegance, and the easy flow of his verse, he is without a competitor among English poets. He is, too, fully equal to Dryden, perhaps superior to him, in the power of arguing in verse. He consequently excels very much in his didactic pieces. It would be difficult to conceive an argument put with greater force or with more condensation of thought and expression than is done in many parts of his Essays and Epistles. At the same time, it would be ridiculous to rank Pope in the same class with Shakspeare or Milton. He has none of the magnificent sublimity of the latter, none of the universality of the former. He is eminently the poet of artificial life and manners, always polished and brilliant, but seldom truly great. He had in an eminent degree the irritability characteristic of the poetical temperament. A large portion of his works consists of satire upon his contemporaries. The Dunciad, which was written to satirize the inferior writers of his own day, was very celebrated in its time. It is now little read. Those of his poems which have been most read are his Essay on Man, Rape of the Lock, Messiah, Eloisa and Abelard, his Epistles, and his Translation of Homer.
(From the Iliad.)
The troops exulting sat in order round,
(From the Rape of the Lock.)
And now, unveiled, the toilet stands displayed, Each silver vase in mystic order laid; First, robed in white, the nymph intent adores, With head uncovered, the cosmetic powers. A heavenly image in the glass appears, To that she bends, to that her eye she rears; The inferior priestess, at her altar's side, Trembling begins the sacred rites of pride. Unnumbered treasures ope at once, and here The various offerings of the world appear; From each she nicely culls with curious toil, And decks the goddess with the glittering spoil. This casket India's glowing gems unlocks, And all Arabia breathes from yonder box: The tortoise here and elephant unite, Transformed to combs, the speckled and the white. Here files of pins extend their shining rows, Puffs, powders, patches, bibles, billet-doux. Now awful beauty puts on all its arms; The fair each moment rises in her charms, Repairs her smiles, awakens every grace, Ánd calls forth all the wonders of her face; Sees by degrees a purer blush arise, And keener lightnings quicken in her eyes. The busy sylphs surround their darling care, These set the head, and those divide the hair. Some fold the sleeve, whilst others plait the gown, And Betty's praised for labours not her own.
SATIRICAL PORTRAIT OF ADDISON.
Were there one whose fires True genius kindles, and fair fame inspires ; Blest with each talent and each art to please, And born to write, converse, and live with ease: Should such a man, too fond to rule alone, Bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne, View him with scornful, yet with jealous eyes, And hate for arts that caused himself to rise ; Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer, And, without sneering, teach the rest to sneer; Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike, Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike; Alike reserved to blame, or to commend, A timorous foe, and a suspicious friend; Dreading even fools, by flatterers besieged, And so obliging, that he ne'er obliged; Like Cato, give his little senate laws, And sit attentive to his own applause; While wits and Templars every sentence raise, And wonder with a foolish face of praise. Who but must laugh, if such a man there be ? Who would not weep, if Atticus were he ?
THE DYING CHRISTIAN TO HIS SOUL.
Vital spark of heavenly flame,
Cease, fond Nature, cease thy strife,
Hark! they whisper; angels say,
Steals my senses, shuts my sight,
With sounds seraphic ring:
O Death! where is thy sting ?
All the extracts which follow are from the Essay on Man.
THE PRESUMPTION OF CONDEMNING PROVIDENCE FOR
MAN'S APPARENT CONDITION.
Respecting man, whatever wrong we call,