Unblemish'd let me live, or die unknown; O grant an honest fame, or grant me none!
Absent or dead, still let a friend be dear.
Happy the man whose wish and care A few paternal acres bound, Content to breathe his native air In his own ground.
"Ode on Solitude", st. 1 (c. 1700).
For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight; His can't be wrong whose life is in the right.
"An Essay on Man"
Thus let me live, unseen, unknown; Thus unlamented let me die; Steal from the world, and not a stone Tell where I lie.
"Ode on Solitude", st. 5 (c. 1700).
A little Learning is a dang'rous Thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring: There shallow Draughts intoxicate the Brain, And drinking largely sobers us again.
"An Essay on Criticism", (1709)
They dream in Courtship, but in Wedlock wake.
"The Wife of Bath her Prologue, from Chaucer" (c.1704, published 1713), line 103.
The mouse that always trusts to one poor hole Can never be a mouse of any soul.
"The Wife of Bath her Prologue, from Chaucer" (c.1704, published 1713), lines 298-299. Compare: "I hold a mouses wit not worth a leke, That hath but on hole for to sterten to", Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, "The Wif of Bathes Prologue", line 6154; "The mouse that hath but one hole is quickly taken", George Herbert, Jacula Prudentum.
Love seldom haunts the breast where learning lies, And Venus sets ere Mercury can rise.
"The Wife of Bath her Prologue, from Chaucer" (c.1704, published 1713), line 369.
Histories are more full of Examples of the Fidelity of dogs than of Friends.
Letter to Henry Cromwell (19 October 1709).
I am his Highness' dog at Kew; Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?
"On the Collar of a Dog".
Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night: God said, "Let Newton be!" and all was light.
Nothing can be more shocking and horrid than one of our kitchens sprinkled with blood, and abounding with the cries of expiring victims, or with the limbs of dead animals scattered or hung up here and there. It gives one the image of a giant's den in a romance, bestrewed with scattered heads and mangled limbs.
I find myself just in the same situation of mind you describe as your own, heartily wishing the good, that is the quiet of my country, and hoping a total end of all the unhappy divisions of mankind by party-spirit, which at best is but the madness of many for the gain of a few.
Letter to Edward Blount (27 August 1714); a similar expression in "Thoughts on Various Subjects" in Swift's Miscellanies (1727): Party is the madness of many, for the gain of a few.
The stoic husband was the glorious thing. The man had courage, was a sage, 'tis true, And lov'd his country.
Epilogue to Rowe's Jane Shore (1714).
Well, if our author in the wife offends He has a husband that will make amends; He draws him gentle, tender, and forgiving, And sure such kind good creatures may be living.
Epilogue to Rowe's Jane Shore (1714).
Luxurious lobster-nights, farewell, For sober, studious days!
"A Farewell to London" (1715), st. 1.
Dear, damned, distracting town, farewell! Thy fools no more I'll tease: This year in peace, ye critics, dwell, Ye harlots, sleep at ease!
"A Farewell to London" (1715), st. 12.
I am growing fit, I hope, for a better world, of which light of the sun is but a shadow: for I doubt not but God's works here, are what comes nearest to his works there; and that a true relish of the beauties of nature is the most easy preparation and gentlest transition to an enjoyment of those of heaven; as on the contrary a true town life of hurry, confusion, noise, slander, and dissension, is a fort of apprenticeship to hell and its furies... The separation of my soul and body is what I could think of with less pain; for I sm very sure he that made it will take care of it, and in whatever state he pleases it shall be, that state must be right; but I cannot think without tears of beingseparated from my friends, when their condition is so douubtful, that they may want even such assistance as mine
In a 1715 letter (LXXVII), as found in Letters of Mr. Alexander Pope: And Several of His Friends. 1737.
I think it was a generous thought, and one that fow'd from an exalted mind, that it was not improbable but God might be delighted with the various methods of worshipping him, which divided the whole world.
Letter, February 10, 1715, 16.
Each finding like a friend Something to blame, and something to commend.
"Epistle to Mr. Jervas" (1717), lines 21–22.
Who ne'er knew joy but friendship might divide, Or gave his father grief but when he died.
"Epitaph on the Hon. S. Harcourt" (1720).
Methinks God has punish'd the Avaritious as he often punishes sinners, in their own way, in the ver sin itself: the thrist of gain was their crime, that thrist continued became their punishment and ruin. As for the few who have the good fortune to remain with half of what they imagined they had (among whom is your humble servantl, I would have them sensible of their felicity, and convinced of the truth of old Hesiod's maxim, who, after half his estate was swallowed by the Directors of those days, resolv'd, that half to be more than the whole.
In his letter to Atterbury Bishop of Rochester. Sept. 23. 1720.
Such were the notes thy once lov'd poet sung, Till death untimely stopp'd his tuneful tongue.
"Epistle to Robert, Earl of Oxford and Mortimer" preface to Thomas Parnell's Poems on Several Occasions (1721).
Absent or dead, still let a friend be dear.
"Epistle to Robert, Earl of Oxford and Mortimer" (1721).
"Blessed is the man who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed" was the ninth Beatitude which a man of wit (who, like a man of wit, was a long time in gaol) added to the eighth.
Letter, written in collaboration with John Gay, to William Fortescue (23 September 1725).
A similar remark was made in a letter to John Gay (16 October 1727): "I have many years magnify'd in my own mind, and repeated to you a ninth Beatitude, added to the eight in the Scripture: Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed."
Let me tell you I am better acquainted with you for a long Absence, as men are with themselves for a long affliction: Absence does but hold off a friend, to make one see him the truer.
Of Manners gentle, of Affections mild; In Wit, a Man; Simplicity, a Child.
"Epitaph on Gay" (1733), lines 1-2. Reported in The Poems of Alexander Pope, ed. John Butt, sixth edition (Yale University Press, 1970), p. 818. Compare: "Her wit was more than man, her innocence a child", John Dryden, Elegy on Mrs. Killegrew, line 70.
For he lives twice who can at once employ The present well, and e'en the past enjoy.
Imitation of Martial, reported in Mr. Pope's Literary Correspondence (1737), Vol. V, p. 232; The Poems of Alexander Pope, ed. John Butt, sixth edition (Yale University Press, 1970), p. 117. Compare: "Ampliat ætatis spatium sibi vir bonus; hoc est Vivere bis vita posse priore frui" (Translated: "The good man prolongs his life; to be able to enjoy one's past life is to live twice"), Martial, X, 237.; "Thus would I double my life's fading space; For he that runs it well, runs twice his race", Abraham Cowley, Discourse XI, Of Myself, stanza xi.
There, take (says Justice), take ye each a shell: We thrive at Westminster on fools like you; 'T was a fat oyster,—live in peace,—adieu.
Reported in The Poems of Alexander Pope, ed. John Butt, sixth edition (Yale University Press, 1970), p. 832: "Verbatim from Boileau", written c. 1740, published 1741.. Compare: "Tenez voilà", dit-elle, "à chacun une écaille, Des sottises d'autrui nous vivons au Palais; Messieurs, l'huître étoit bonne. Adieu. Vivez en paix", Nicholas Boileau-Despreaux, Epître II. (à M. l'Abbé des Roches).
Let such, such only tread this sacred floor, Who dare to love their country and be poor.
Inscription on the entrance to his grotto in Twickenham, published in "Verses on a Grotto by the River Thames at Twickenham, composed of Marbles, Spars and Minerals", line 14, (written 1740, published 1741); also quoted as "Who dared to love their country, and be poor."
Vain was the chief's, the sage's pride! They had no poet, and they died. In vain they schem'd, in vain they bled! They had no poet, and are dead.
Odes, Book iv, Ode 9, reported in William Warburton, The Works of Alexander Pope, Esq (1751) p. 31.
Ye Gods! annihilate but space and time, And make two lovers happy.
Martinus Scriblerus on the Art of Sinking in Poetry, Chap. xi, reported in William Warburton, The Works of Alexander Pope, Esq (1751) p. 196.
Here am I, dying of a hundred good symptoms.
Pope's reply when told by his physician that he was better, on the morning of his death (30 May 1744), as quoted by Owen Ruffhead in The Life of Alexander Pope; With a Critical Essay on His Writings and Genius (1769), p. 475.
Where'er you walk, cool gales shall fan the glade, Trees, where you sit, shall crowd into a shade: Where'er you tread, the blushing flow'rs shall rise, And all things flourish where you turn your eyes.
Summer, line 73.
To err is human, to forgive divine.
Say, is not absence death to those who love?
Let opening roses knotted oaks adorn, And liquid amber drop from every thorn.
Autumn, line 36.
The garlands fade, the vows are worn away; So dies her love, and so my hopes decay.
There various news I heard of love and strife, Of peace and war, health, sickness, death, and life, Of loss and gain, of famine and of store, Of storms at sea, and travels on the shore, Of prodigies, and portents seen in air, Of fires and plagues, and stars with blazing hair, Of turns of fortune, changes in the state, The fall of favourites, projects of the great, Of aid mismanagements, taxations new: All neither wholly false, nor wholly true.
The flying Rumours gather'd as they roll'd, Scarce any Tale was sooner heard than told; And all who told it, added something new, And all who heard it, made Enlargements too, In ev'ry Ear it spread, on ev'ry Tongue it grew.
Nor Fame I slight, nor for her favors call; She comes unlooked for, if she comes at all.
Unblemish'd let me live, or die unknown; O grant an honest fame, or grant me none!
Here hills and vales, the woodland and the plain, Here earth and water seem to strive again, Not chaos-like together crushed and bruised, But, as the world, harmoniously confused: Where order in variety we see, And where, though all things differ, all agree.
Not chaos-like together crush'd and bruis'd, But as the world, harmoniously confus'd, Where order in variety we see, And where, though all things differ, all agree.
Proud Nimrod first the bloody chase began A mighty hunter, and his prey was man.
Oft, as in airy rings they skim the heath, The clam'rous lapwings feel the leaden death; Oft, as the mounting larks their notes prepare, They fall, and leave their little lives in air.
To wake the soul by tender strokes of art, To raise the genius, and to mend the heart; To make mankind, in conscious virtue bold, Live o'er each scene, and be what they behold: For this the Tragic Muse first trod the stage.
A brave man struggling in the storms of fate, And greatly falling with a falling state. While Cato gives his little senate laws, What bosom beats not in his country's cause?
Line 21. Pope also uses the reference, "Like Cato, give his little Senate laws", in his Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot (1734), Prologue to Imitations of Horace.
What dire offence from amorous causes springs, What mighty contests rise from trivial things!
Canto I, line 1.
Now lap-dogs give themselves the rousing shake, And sleepless lovers, just at twelve, awake.
Canto I, line 15.
They shift the moving toyshop of their heart.
Canto I, line 100.
This casket India's glowing gems unlocks And all Arabia breathes from yonder box.
Canto I, line 134.
On her white breast a sparkling cross she wore Which Jews might kiss, and infidels adore.
Canto II, line 7.
Bright as the sun, her eyes the gazers strike, And, like the sun, they shine on all alike.
Canto II, line 13.
If to her share some female errors fall, Look on her face, and you'll forget 'em all.
Canto II, line 17.
Fair tresses man's imperial race ensnare, And beauty draws us with a single hair.
Canto II, line 27. Compare: "No cord nor cable can so forcibly draw, or hold so fast, as love can do with a twined thread", Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, Part iii, Section 2, Membrane 1, Subsection 2.
Belinda smiled, and all the world was gay.
Canto II, line 52.
Whether the nymph shall break Diana's law, Or some frail China jar receive a flaw, Or stain her honour, or her new brocade, Forget her prayers, or miss a masquerade.
Canto II, line 105.
Here thou, great Anna! whom three realms obey, Dost sometimes counsel take — and sometimes tea.
Canto III, line 7.
At every word a reputation dies.
Canto III, line 16.
The hungry judges soon the sentence sign, And wretches hang that jurymen may dine.
Canto III, line 21.
Let spades be trumps! she said, and trumps they were.
Canto III, line 46.
Coffee, which makes the politician wise, And see through all things with his half-shut eyes.
Canto III, line 117.
But when mischief mortals bend their will, How soon they find fit instruments of ill!
Canto III, line 125.
The meeting points the sacred hair dissever From the fair head, forever, and forever! Then flashed the living lightning from her eyes, And screams of horror rend th' affrighted skies.
Canto III, line 153.
Not louder shrieks to pitying heav'n are cast, When husbands, or when lapdogs, breathe their last.
Canto III, line 157.
Sir Plume, of amber snuff-box justly vain, And the nice conduct of a clouded cane.
Canto IV, line 123.
Beauties in vain their pretty eyes may roll; Charms strike the sight, but merit wins the soul.
Canto V, line 33.
"Boast not my fall (he cried), insulting foe! Thou by some other shalt be laid as low; Nor think to die dejects my lofty mind; All that I dread is leaving you behind! Rather than so, ah let me still survive, And burn in Cupid's flames — but burn alive."
I think a good deal may be said to extenuate the fault of bad Poets. What we call a Genius, is hard to be distinguish'd by a man himself, from a strong inclination: and if his genius be ever so great, he can not at first discover it any other way, than by giving way to that prevalent propensity which renders him the more liable to be mistaken.
Therefore they who say our thoughts are not our own because they resemble the Ancients, may as well say our faces are not our own, because they are like our Fathers: And indeed it is very unreasonable, that people should expect us to be Scholars, and yet be angry to find us so.
I would not be like those Authors, who forgive themselves some particular lines for the sake of a whole Poem, and vice versa a whole Poem for the sake of some particular lines. I believe no one qualification is so likely to make a good writer, as the power of rejecting his own thoughts.
What beck'ning ghost, along the moonlight shade Invites my steps, and points to yonder glade?
Line 1. Compare: "What gentle ghost, besprent with April dew, Hails me so solemnly to yonder yew?", Ben Jonson, Elegy on the Lady Jane Pawlet.
Is it, in Heav'n, a crime to love too well? To bear too tender, or too firm a heart, To act a lover's or a Roman's part? Is there no bright reversion in the sky, For those who greatly think, or bravely die?
Ambition first sprung from your blest abodes; The glorious fault of Angels and of Gods.
On all the line a sudden vengeance waits, And frequent hearses shall besiege your gates.
Lo these were they, whose souls the Furies steel'd, And curs'd with hearts unknowing how to yield. Thus unlamented pass the proud away, The gaze of fools, and pageant of a day! So perish all, whose breast ne'er learn'd to glow For others' good, or melt at others' woe.
Line 45. Compare Pope's The Odyssey of Homer, Book XVIII, line 269.
By foreign hands thy dying eyes were closed, By foreign hands thy decent limbs composed, By foreign hands thy humble grave adorned, By strangers honored, and by strangers mourned.
And bear about the mockery of woe To midnight dances and the public show.
How loved, how honored once, avails thee not, To whom related, or by whom begot; A heap of dust alone remains of thee; 'Tis all thou art, and all the proud shall be!
To endeavour to work upon the vulgar with fine sense, is like attempting to hew blocks with a razor.
I never knew any man in my life who could not bear another's misfortunes perfectly like a Christian.
A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.
It is with narrow-souled people as with narrow necked bottles: the less they have in them, the more noise they make in pouring it out.
When men grow virtuous in their old age, they only make a sacrifice to God of the devil's leavings.
For, as blushing will sometimes make a whore pass for a virtuous woman, so modesty may make a fool seem a man of sense.
A person who is too nice an observer of the business of the crowd, like one who is too curious in observing the labour of the bees, will often be stung for his curiosity.
He who tells a lie, is not sensible how great a task he undertakes; for he must be forced to invent twenty more to maintain that one.
Our passions are like convulsion-fits, which, though they make us stronger for the time, leave us the weaker ever after.
Some old men, by continually praising the time of their youth, would almost persuade us that there were no fools in those days; but unluckily they are left themselves for examples.
Some people will never learn anything, for this reason, because they understand everything too soon.
The most positive men are the most credulous…
To be angry, is to revenge the fault of others upon ourselves.
Party is the madness of many, for the gain of a few.
From Roscoe's edition of Pope, vol. v. p. 376; originally printed in Motte's Miscellanies (1727). In the edition of 1736 Pope says, "I must own that the prose part (the Thought on Various Subjects), at the end of the second volume, was wholly mine. January, 1734".
Father of all! in every age, In every clime adored, By saint, by savage, and by sage, Jehovah, Jove, or Lord!
Thou Great First Cause, least understood Who all my sense confined To know but this, that Thou art good And that myself am blind.
And binding Nature fast in fate, Left free the human will.
Let not this weak, unknowing hand Presume Thy bolts to throw, And deal damnation round the land On each I judge Thy foe.
If I am right, Thy grace import Still in the right to stay; If I am wrong, oh teach my heart To find that better way!
Teach me to feel another's woe, To right the fault I see; That mercy I to others show, That mercy show to me.
Stanza 10; this extends upon the theme evident in the lines of Edmund Spenser in The Faerie Queene (1596), Book V, Canto ii, Stanza 42: "Who will not mercie unto others show, How can he mercy ever hope to have?"
As quoted in various reports, including Charles Wells Moulton, The Library of Literary Criticism of English and American Authors (1901), p. 342; William Dunlap, The Life of George Frederick Cooke (1815), p. 26 (quoting an apparently contemporaneous journal account by the subject). Bartlett's Quotations, 10th edition (1919), reports that on the 14th of February, 1741, Macklin established his fame as an actor in the character of Shylock, in the "Merchant of Venice". Macklin's performance of this character so forcibly struck a gentleman in the pit that he, as it were involuntarily, exclaimed,— “This is the Jew That Shakespeare drew!” It has been said that this gentleman was Mr. Pope, and that he meant his panegyric on Macklin as a satire against Lord Lansdowne", Biographia Dramatica, vol. i. part II. p. 469.
What terrible moments does one feel after one has engaged for a large work! In the beginning of my translating the Iliad, I wished any body would hang me a hundred times. It sat so heavily on my mind at first, that I often used to dream of it; and do so sometimes still. When I fell into the method of translating 30 or 40 verses before I got up, and piddled with it the rest of the morning, it went on easily enough; and when I was thoroughly got into the way of it, I did the rest with pleasure. [...] The Iliad took me up six years, and during that time, and particularly the first part of it, I was often under great pain and apprehensions. Though I conquered the thoughts of it in the day, they would frighten me in the night. I dreamed often of being engaged in a long journey, and that I should never get to the end of it. This made so strong an impression upon me, that I sometimes dream of it still; of being engaged in that translation, of having got about half way through it, and being embarrassed, and under dread of never completing it.
As quoted in Observations, Anecdotes, and Characters, of Books and Men (1820) by Joseph Spence [arranged, with notes, by the late Edmund Malone], pp. 28–29 & 53–54.
The famous Lord Hallifax (though so much talked of) was rather a pretender to taste, than really possessed of it.—When I had finished the two or three first books of my translation of the Iliad, that lord, "desired to have the pleasure of hearing them read at his house." Addison, Congreve, and Garth, were there at the reading.—In four or five places, Lord Hallifax stopped me very civilly; and with a speech, each time of much the same kind: "I beg your pardon, Mr. Pope, but there is something in that passage that does not quite please me.—Be so good as to mark the place, and consider it a little at your leisure.—I am sure you can give it a little turn."—I returned from Lord Hallifax's with Dr. Garth, in his chariot; and as we were going along, was saying to the doctor, that my lord had laid me under a good deal of difficulty, by such loose and general observations; that I had been thinking over the passages almost ever since, and could not guess at what it was that offended his lordship in either of them.—Garth laughed heartily at my embarrassment; said, I had not been long enough acquainted with Lord Hallifax, to know his way yet: that I need not puzzle myself in looking those places over and over when I got home. "All you need do, (said he) is to leave them just as they are; call on Lord Hallifax two or three months hence, thank him for his kind observations on those passages; and then read them to him as altered. I have known him much longer than you have, and will be answerable for the event."—I followed his advice; waited on Lord Hallifax some time after: said, I hoped he would find his objections to those passages removed[;] read them to him exactly as they were at first; and his lordship was extremely pleased with them, and cried out, "Ay now, Mr. Pope, they are perfectly right! nothing can be better."
As quoted in Anecdotes, Observations, and Characters, of Books and Men (1820) by Joseph Spence [published from the original papers; with notes, and a life of the author, by Samuel Weller Singer]; "Spence's Anecdotes", Section IV. 1734...36. pp. 134–136.
True politeness consists in the being easy one-self, and making every body about one as easy as we can.
Statement of 1739, as quoted in Observations, Anecdotes, and Characters, of Books and Men (1820) by Joseph Spence, p. 286.
Variant reported in Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men (1887) by Samuel Arthur Bent, p. 451: "True politeness consists in being easy one's self, and in making every one about one as easy as one can."
You beat your pate, and fancy wit will come; Knock as you please, there's nobody at home.
Credited as Epigram: An Empty House (1727), or On a Dull Writer; alternately attributed to Jonathan Swift in John Hawkesworth, The Works of Jonathan Swift, D.D., Dean of St. Patrick's, Dublin (1754), p. 265. Compare: "His wit invites you by his looks to come, But when you knock, it never is at home", William Cowper, Conversation, line 303.
Lull'd in the countless chambers of the brain, Our thoughts are link'd by many a hidden chain. Awake but one, and lo, what myriads rise! Each stamps its image as the other flies!
I look upon a proper appreciation of Pope as a touchstone of taste.
Lord Byron, letter to Octavius Gilchrist (5 September 1821), in Byron: A Self-Portrait (1950), p. 665
The Iliad and the Odyssey, in his hands, have no more the air of antiquity than if he had himself invented them.
William Cowper, "Critical Remarks on Pope's Homer", in The Edinburgh Magazine for September 1785, p. 165
A young, squab, short gentleman, whose outward form, though it should be that of downright monkey, would not differ so much from human shape as his unthinking immaterial part does from human understanding. ... As there is no creature in nature so venomous, there is nothing so stupid and so impotent as a hunch-back'd toad. ... This little author may extol the ancients as much and as long as he pleases, but he has reason to thank the good gods that he was born a modern. For had he been born of Grecian parents, and his father by consequence had by law the absolute disposal of him, his life had been no longer than that of one of his poems,—the life of half a day.
John Dennis, Reflections Critical and Satyrical, upon a Late Rhapsody, Call'd, An Essay upon Criticism (1711).
The little gentleman ... with a most comical and unparalleled assurance, has undertaken to translate Homer from Greek, of which he does not know one word, into English, which he understands almost as little.
John Dennis, Remarks upon Mr. Pope's Translation of Homer (1717).
Who is this Pope that I hear so much about? I cannot discover what is his merit. Why will not my subjects write in prose?
Pope was not content to satisfy; he desired to excel, and therefore always endeavoured to do his best: he did not court the candour, but dared the judgement of his reader, and, expecting no indulgence from others, he shewed none to himself. He examined lines and words with minute and punctilious observation, and retouched every part with indefatigable diligence, till he had left nothing to be forgiven.
Pope had, in proportions very nicely adjusted to each other, all the qualities that constitute genius. He had Invention, by which new trains of events are formed and new scenes of imagery displayed, as in The Rape of the Lock, and by which extrinsick and adventitious embellishments and illustrations are connected with a known subject, as in the Essay on Criticism; he had Imagination, which strongly impresses on the writer's mind and enables him to convey to the reader the various forms of nature, incidents of life, and energies of passion, as in his Eloisa, Windsor Forest, and the Ethick Epistles; he had Judgement, which selects from life or nature what the present purpose requires, and, by separating the essence of things from its concomitants, often makes the representation more powerful than the reality; and he had colours of language always before him ready to decorate his matter with every grace of elegant expression, as when he accommodates his diction to the wonderful multiplicity of Homer's sentiments and descriptions.
The verses, when they were written, resemble nothing so much as spoonfuls of boiling oil, ladled out by a fiendish monkey at an upstairs window upon such passers-by whom the wretch had a grudge against.
Lytton Strachey, Pope: The Leslie Stephen Lecture for 1925 (pamphlet, 1925).
In Pope, I cannot read a line, But with a sigh, I wish it mine: When he can in one couplet fix More sense than I can do in six: It gives me such a jealous fit, I cry, Pox take him, and his wit.