Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Feast of Reason and the Flow of the Soul

From Alexander Pope, Imitations of Horace, II.1:

What? arm'd for Virtue when I point the pen,
Brand the bold front of shameless, guilty men,
Dash the proud Gamester in his gilded car,
Bare the mean heart that lurks beneath a Star;
Can there be wanting, to defend Her cause,
Lights of the Church, or Guardians of the Laws?
Could pension'd Boileau lash in honest strain
Flatt'rers and bigots ev'n in Louis' reign?
Could Laureate Dryden Pimp and Fry'r engage,
Yet neither Charles nor James be in a rage?
And I not strip the gilding off a Knave,
Unplac'd, unpension'd, no man's heir, or slave?
I will, or perish in the gen'rous cause:
Hear this and tremble! you who 'scape the laws.
Yes, while I live, no rich or noble knave
Shall walk in peace, and credit, to his grave.
To Virtue only and her friends a friend,
The World beside may murmur, or commend.
Know, all the distant din that world can keep
Rolls o'er my Grotto, and but sooths my sleep.
There, my retreat the best companions grace,
Chiefs out of war, and Statesmen out of place.
There St. John mingles with my friendly bowl,
The Feast of Reason and the Flow of soul:
And He, whose lightning pierc'd th'Iberian lines,
Now forms my Quincunx, and now ranks my Vines,
Or tames the Genius of the stubborn plain,
Almost as quickly, as he conquer'd Spain.

Envy must own, I live among the Great,
No Pimp of pleasure, and no Spy of state,
With eyes that pry not, tongue that ne'er repeats,
Fond to spread friendships, but to cover heats,
To help who want, to forward who excel;
This, all who know me, know; who love me, tell;
And who unknown defame me, let them be
Scriblers or Peers, alike are Mob to me.
This is my plea, on this I rest my cause —
What saith my Council learned in the laws?

The corresponding passage in Horace (John Conington's translation):

What? when Lucilius first with dauntless brow
Addressed him to his task, as I do now,
And from each hypocrite stripped off the skin
He flaunted to the world, though foul within,
Did Laelius, or the chief who took his name
Prom conquered Carthage, grudge him his fair game?

Felt they for Lupus or Metellus, when
Whole floods of satire drenched the wretched men?
He took no count of persons: man by man
He scourged the proudest chiefs of each proud clan,
Nor spared delinquents of a humbler birth,
Kind but to worth and to the friends of worth.
And yet, when Scipio brave and Laelius sage
Stepped down awhile like actors from the stage,
They would unbend with him, and laugh and joke
While his pot boiled, like other simple folk.
Well, rate me at my lowest, far below
Lucilius' rank and talent, yet e'en so
Envy herself shall own that to the end
I lived with men of mark as friend with friend,
And, when she fain on living flesh and bone
Would try her teeth, shall close them on a stone;
That is, if grave Trebatius will concur--

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