Imitations of Horace

Alexander Pope

Edited and annotated by Jack Lynch

Pope published imitations of many of the works of Horace. Here are two of the more famous renderings of Horace's Satires. They originally appeared with Horace's Latin originals on the facing pages.

The First Satire of the Second
Book of Horace, Imitated

P. There are (I scarce can think it, but am told)
There are to whom my Satire seems too bold:
Scarce to wise Peter complaisant enough,
And something said of Chartres
much too rough.
The lines are weak, another's pleas'd to say, [5]
Lord Fanny spins a thousand such a day.
Tim'rous by nature, of the Rich in awe,
I come to Council learned in the Law.
You'll give me, like a friend both sage and free,
Advice; and (as you use) without a Fee. [10]

F. I'd write no more.
        P. Not write? but then I think,
And for my soul I cannot sleep a wink.
I nod in company, I wake at night,
Fools rush into my head, and so I write. [15]

F. You could not do a worse thing for your life.
Why, if the nights seem tedious — take a wife:
Or rather truly, if your point be rest,
Lettuce and cowslip wine: Probatum est.
But talk with Celsus, Celsus will advise [20]
Hartshorn, or something that shall close your eyes.
Or, if you needs must write, write Caesar's praise:
You'll gain at least a Knighthood, or the Bays.

P. What? like Sir Richard, rumbling, rough, and fierce,
With Arms, and George, and Brunswick, crowd the verse, [25]
Rend with tremendous sound your ears asunder,
With Gun, drum, trumpet, blunderbuss, and thunder?
Or nobly wild, with Budgell's fire and force,
Paint Angels trembling round his falling Horse?

F. Then all your Muse's softer art display, [30]
Let Carolina smooth the tuneful lay,
Lull with Amelia's liquid name the nine,
And sweetly flow through all the Royal Line.

P. Alas! few verses touch their nicer ear;
They scarce can bear their Laureate twice a year: [35]
And justly Caesar scorns the Poet's lays,
It is to History he trusts for Praise.

F. Better be Cibber, I'll maintain it still,
Than ridicule all Taste, blaspheme Quadrille,
Abuse the City's best good men in metre, [40]
And laugh at Peers that put their trust in Peter.
Ev'n those you touch not, hate you.
       P. What should ail 'em?
F. A hundred smart in Timon and in Balaam:
The fewer still you name, you wound the more; [45]
Bond is but one, but Harpax is a score.

P. Each mortal has his pleasure: none deny
Scarsdale his bottle, Darty his Ham-pye;
Ridotta sips and dances, till she see
The doubling Lustres dance as fast as she; [50]
F— loves the Senate, Hockley-hole his brother,
Like in all else, as one egg to another.
I love to pour out all my self, as plain
As downright Shippen, or as old Montagne.
In them, as certain to be lov'd as seen, [55]
The Soul stood forth, not kept a thought within;
In me, what spots (for spots I have) appear,
Will prove at least the Medium must be clear.
In this impartial glass, my Muse intends
Fair to expose my self, my foes, my friends; [60]
Publish the present age; but where my text
Is vice too high, reserve it for the next:
My foes shall wish my life a longer date,
And ev'ry friend the less lament my fate.

My head and heart thus flowing thro' my quill, [65]
Verse-man or Prose-man, term me which you will,
Papist or Protestant, or both between,
Like good Erasmus in an honest mean,
In moderation placing all my glory,
While Tories call me Whig, and Whigs a Tory. [70]

Satire's my weapon, but I'm too discreet
To run a muck, and tilt at all I meet;
I only wear it in a land of Hectors,
Thieves, Supercargoes, Sharpers, and Directors,
Save but our Army! and let Jove incrust [75]
Swords, pikes, and guns, with everlasting rust!
Peace is my dear delight — not Fleury's more:
But touch me, and no Minister so sore.
Whoe'er offends, at some unlucky time
Slides into verse, and hitches in a rhyme, [80]
Sacred to ridicule his whole life long,
And the sad burthen of some merry song.

Slander or poyson dread from Delia's rage,
Hard words or hanging, if your Judge be
From furious Sappho scarce a milder fate, [85]
P—x'd by her love, or libell'd by her hate.
Its proper pow'r to hurt, each creature feels,
Bulls aim their horns, and asses lift their heels,
'Tis a bear's talent not to kick but hug,
And no man wonders he's not stung by Pug: [90]
So drink with Waters, or with Chartres eat,
They'll never poyson you, they'll only cheat.

Then, learned Sir! (to cut the matter short)
Whate'er my fate, or well or ill at Court,
Whether old age with faint, but chearful ray, [95]
Attends to gild the Evening of my day,
Or death's black wing already be display'd
To wrap me in the universal shade;
Whether the darken'd room to muse invite,
Or whiten'd wall provoke the skew'r to write; [100]
In durance, exile, Bedlam, or the Mint,
Like Lee or Budgell, I will rhyme, and print.

F. Alas young man! your days can ne'er be long,
In flow'r of age you perish for a song!
Plums and Directors, Shylock and his Wife, [105]
Will club their testers, now, to take your life!

P. 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; [110]
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, [115]
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. [120]
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 [125]
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: [130]
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, [135]
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; [140]
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?

F. Your Plea is good; but still, I say, beware! [145]
Laws are explain'd by Men — so have a care.
It stands on record, that in Richard's times
A man was hang'd for very honest rhymes.
Consult the Statute: quart. I think it is,
Edwardi sext. or prim. & quint. Eliz. [150]
See Libels, Satires — here you have it — read.

P. Libels and Satires! lawless things indeed!
But grave Epistles, bringing vice to light,
Such as a King might read, a Bishop write,
Such as Sir Robert would approve — [155]
       F. Indeed?
The Case is alter'd — you may then proceed;
In such a cause the Plaintiff will be hiss'd,
My Lords the Judges laugh, and you're dismiss'd.

The Second Satire of the Second
Book of Horace, Paraphrased

What, and how great, the Virtue and the Art
To live on little with a chearful heart,
(A doctrine sage, but truly none of mine)
Let's talk, my friends, but talk before we dine:
Not when a gilt Buffet's reflected pride [5]
Turns you from sound Philosophy aside:
Not when from plate to plate your eyeballs roll,
And the brain dances to the mantling bowl.

Hear Bethel's Sermon, one not vers'd in schools,
But strong in sense, and wise without the rules. [10]

Go work, hunt, exercise! (he thus began)
Then scorn a homely dinner if you can.
Your wine lock'd up, your Butler stroll'd abroad,
Or kept from fish, (the river yet unthaw'd)
If then plain bread and milk will do the feat, [15]
The pleasure lies in you, and not the meat.
Preach as I please, I doubt our curious men
Will chuse a pheasant still before a hen;
Yet hens of Guinea full as good I hold,
Except you eat the feathers green and gold. [20]
Of Carps and Mullets why prefer the great,
(Tho' cut in pieces 'ere my Lord can eat)
Yet for small Turbots such esteem profess?
Because God made these large, the other less.

Oldfield, with more than Harpy throat endu'd, [25]
Cries, "Send me, Gods! a whole Hog barbecu'd!"
Oh blast it, south-winds! till a stench exhale
Rank as the ripeness of a rabbit's tail.
By what Criterion do ye eat, d'ye think,
If this is priz'd for sweetness, that for stink? [30]
When the tir'd glutton labours thro' a treat,
He'll find no relish in the sweetest meat,
He calls for something bitter, something sour,
And the rich feast concludes extremely poor:
Cheap eggs, and herbs, and olives, still we see, [35]
Thus much is left of old Simplicity!

The Robin-red-breast till of late had rest,
And children sacred held a Martin's nest,
Till Becca-ficos sold so dev'lish dear,
To one that was, and would have been, a Peer. [40]
Let me extoll a Cat, on oysters fed,
I'll have a party at the Bedford-Head,
Or ev'n to crack live crawfish recommend,
I'd never doubt at Court to make a friend.

'Tis yet in vain, I own, to keep a pother [45]
About one vice, and fall into the other:
Between excess and famine lies a mean,
Plain, but not sordid; tho' not splendid, clean.
Avidien, or his Wife (no matter which,
For him you'll call a dog, and her a bitch) [50]
Sell their presented partridges, and fruits,
And humbly live on rabbits and on roots:
One half-point bottle serves them both to dine,
And is at once their vinegar and wine.
But on some lucky day (as when they found [55]
A lost bank-bill, or heard their Son was drown'd)
At such a feast, old vinegar to spare,
Is what two souls so gen'rous cannot bear;
Oyl, tho' it stink, they drop by drop impart,
But sowse the cabbage with a bounteous heart. [60]

He knows to live, who keeps the middle state,
And neither leans on this side, nor on that:
Nor stops, for one bad cork, his butler's pay,
Swears, like Albutius, a good Cook away;
Nor lets, like Nævius, ev'ry error pass, [65]
The musty wine, foul cloth, or greasy glass.

Now hear what blessings Temperance can bring:
(Thus said our friend, and what he said I sing)
First Health: The stomach (cramm'd from ev'ry dish,
A tomb of boil'd, and roast, and flesh, and fish, [70]
Where bile, and wind, and phlegm, and acid jar,
And all the man is one intestine war)
Remembers oft the school-boys simple fare,
The temp'rate sleeps, and spirits light as air.

How pale, each worshipful and rev'rend guest [75]
Rise from a clergy, or a city feast!
What life in all that ample body, say,
What heav'nly particle inspires the clay?
The soul subsides, and wickedly inclines
To seem but mortal, ev'n in sound divines. [80]
On morning wings how active springs the mind
That leaves the load of yesterday behind?
How easy ev'ry labour it pursues?
How coming to the Poet ev'ry Muse?
Not but we may exceed, some holy time, [85]
Or tir'd in search of Truth, or search of rhyme;
Ill health some just indulgence may engage,
And more, the sickness of long life, old age;
For fainting age what cordial drop remains,
If our intemp'rate youth the vessel drains? [90]

Our fathers prais'd rank Ven'son. You suppose
Perhaps, young men! our fathers had no nose?
Not so: a Buck was then a week's repast,
And 'twas their point, I ween, to make it last:
More pleas'd to keep it till their friends could come, [95]
Than eat the sweetest by themselves at home.
Why had not I in those good times my birth,
Ere coxcomb pyes or coxcombs were on earth?

Unworthy he, the voice of Fame to hear,
That sweetest musick to an honest ear; [100]
For 'faith Lord Fanny! you are in the wrong,
The world's good word is better than a song)
Who has not learn'd, fresh sturgeon and ham-pye
Are no rewards for want, and infamy!
When luxury has lick'd up all thy pelf, [105]
Curs'd by thy neighbours, thy trustees, thyself,
To friends, to fortune, to mankind a shame,
Think how posterity will treat thy name;
And buy a rope, that future times may tell
Thou hast at least bestow'd one penny well. [110]

"Right, cries his Lordship, for a rogue in need
"To have a Taste, is insolence indeed:
"In me 'tis noble, suits my birth and state,
"My wealth unwieldy, and my heap too great."
Then, like the Sun, let Bounty spread her ray, [115]
And shine that superfluity away.
Oh impudence of wealth! with all thy store,
How dar'st thou let one worthy man be poor?
Shall half the new-built churches round thee fall?
Make Keys, build Bridges, or repair White-hall: [120]
Or to thy country let that heap be lent,
As M—o's was, but not a five per cent.

Who thinks that Fortune cannot change her mind,
Prepares a dreadful jest for all mankind!
And who stands safest, tell me? is it he [125]
That spreads and swells in puff'd prosperity,
Or blest with little, whose preventing care
In peace provides fit arms against a war?

Thus Bethel spoke, who always speaks his thought,
And always thinks the very thing he ought. [130]
His equal mind I copy what I can,
And as I love, would imitate the man.
In South-sea days not happier, when surmis'd
The Lord of thousands, than if now Excis'd;
In forests planted by a Father's hand, [135]
Than in five acres now of rented land.
Content with little, I can piddle here
On brocoli and mutton, round the year;
But ancient friends (tho' poor, or out of play)
That touch my bell, I cannot turn away. [140]
'Tis true, no Turbots dignify my boards,
But gudgeons, flounders, what my Thames affords:
To Hounslow-heath I point, and Bansted-down,
Thence comes your mutton, and these chicks my own:
From yon old walnut-tree, a show'r shall fall; [145]
And grapes, long-lingring on my only wall,
And figs, from standard and espalier join:
The dev'l is in you if you cannot dine.
Then chearful healths (your Mistress shall have place)
And, what's more rare, a Poet shall say Grace. [150]
Fortune not much of humbling me can boast;
Tho' double tax'd, how little have I lost?
My life's amusements have been just the same,
Before, and after Standing Armies came.
My lands are sold, my father's house is gone; [155]
I'll hire another's: is not that my own?
And yours, my friends? thro' whose free-opening gate
None comes too early, none departs too late;
(For I, who hold sage Homer's rule the best,
Welcome the coming, speed the going guest.) [160]
"Pray heav'n it last! (cries Swift) as you go on;
"I wish to God this house had been your own.
"Pity! to build, without a son or wife:
"Why, you'll enjoy it only all your life." —
Well, if the use be mine, can it concern one [165]
Whether the name belong to Pope or Vernon?
What's Property? dear Swift! you see it alter
From you to me, from me to Peter Walter,
Or, in a mortgage, prove the Lawyer's share,
Or, in a jointure, vanish from the heir, [170]
Or in pure equity (the case not clear)
The Chanc'ry takes your rents for twenty year:
At best, it falls to some ungracious son,
Who cries, my father's damn'd, and all's my own.
Shades, that to Ba—n could retreat afford, [175]
Are now the portion of a booby lord;
And Hemsley, once proud Buckingham's delight,
Slides to a Scriv'ner or a city Knight.
Let lands and houses have what lords they will,
Let Us be fix'd, and our own masters still. [180]


Wise Peter . . . Chartres
References to Pope's other satirical poems.
Lord Fanny
Lord Hervey, whom Pope also attacks in the Epistle to Arbuthnot.
William Fortescue, Pope's friend. In the poem, P. indicates Pope is speaking, F. Fortescue.
Probatum est
Latin for "It is proven."
A Roman physician. Pope refers to Fortescue's doctor, Hollins.
Hartshorn was used as a medical stimulant.
The Bays
The crown of laurel traditionally rewarded to the poet laureate. The poet laureate at the time was Colley Cibber, whom Pope, who never received the honor, later savaged in The Dunciad.
Sir Richard
Sir Richard Blackmore, a second-rate poet.
George, and Brunswick
References to George I and II, monarchs during Pope's career. Pope did not often praise the powerful in his poems.
Eustace Budgell, whose Poem upon His Majesty's Late Journey to Cambridge and Newmarket describes the death of George II's horse.
Queen Caroline, wife of George II.
Princess Sophia Eleanora, daughter of George II and Queen Caroline.
Laureate twice a year
The poet laureate's official duties included writing odes on the new year and on the king's birthday.
Colley Cibber, actor, playwright, and poet, and then poet laureate.
A fashionable card game which Pope had ridiculed.
Peter Walter, a wealthy moneylender.
In Timon and in Balaam
Pope had used these names — Timon is classical, Balaam biblical — to satirize his enemies in his Moral Essays.
F— loves the Senate, Hockley-hole his brother
Politicians, Stephen Fox and his brother Henry. Hockley Hole was a disreputable "bear-garden" in London, known for its violent sports.
Desiderius Erasmus, sixteenth-century Dutch scholar and author of The Praise of Folly. He was renowned for his integrity and moderation.
Tories call me Whig
The two political parties in eighteenth-century Britain.
Hector, "A bully; a blustering, turbulent, pervicacious, noisy fellow" (Johnson).
Delia's rage
A coded reference to Mary Howard, the Countess of Delorain.
Sappho is Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Pope's former friend.
That is, "poxed" — infected with venereal disease.
A common name for a dog.
Another reference to Peter Walter; Pope insisted on the misspelling.
Bedlam, or the Mint
Bedlam, "Corrupted from Bethlehem, the name of a religious house in London, converted afterwards into an hospital for the mad and lunatick. A madhouse; a place appointed for the cure of lunacy" (Johnson). The Mint was a section in London where people could not be arrested for debt; it was naturally filled with lowlife of all sorts.
Lee or Budgell
Bad poets.
A plum was a fortune of £100,000, or a person who has such a fortune. The word was used like the modern word millionaire.
Wanting here means "lacking."
A seventeenth-century French poet, during the reign of Louis XIV.
John Dryden lived during the reigns of Charles II and James II.
Pope built an underground grotto at his estate at Twickenham.
St. John
Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke. Pronounced "SIN-jun."
An arrangement of trees, with four in the corners of a square and one at the center.
Own, "To acknowledge; to avow for one's own" (Johnson) — in other words, to admit.
Hang'd for very honest rhymes
The first law against libel was passed in the reign of Edward I.
Edwardi sext. or prim. & quint. Eliz.
The usual way of citing law books, by the year of a monarch's reign.
Sir Robert
Sir Robert Walpole, the prime minister.
Hugh Bethel, a close friend of Pope.
Pope's first editor, William Warburton, explains: "This eminent Glutton ran thro' a fortune of fifteen hundred pounds a year in the simple luxury of good eating."
Barbecue was still a new word in English, prompting Pope to add a note: "A West-Indian Term of Gluttony, a Hog roasted whole, stuff'd with Spice, and basted with Madera Wine."
Small birds.
Pope adds a note: "A famous Eating-house and Tavern."
A dog, and her a bitch
Apparently Edward Wortley Montagu and his wife, Lady Mary.
The names Albutius and Nævius come from Horace's original.
Lord Fanny
Lord Hervey, one of Pope's favorite satirical targets.
New-built churches
Pope often complained about the sad state of many of London's churches.
Keys, build Bridges, or repair White-hall
"Keys" means quais, or an embankment on the River Thames. "Bridges" refers to the recent planning of Westminster Bridge, the second bridge across the River Thames in London. Whitehall was the king's palace, but most of it was destroyed by re in the 1690s.
M—o is the Duchess of Marlborough, who lent money to the government.
South-sea days
A reference to the "South-Sea Bubble" of 1720, one of the first great stock market crashes.
Rented land
A reference to Pope's estate at Twickenham, just outside London.
Espalier means a fruit tree grown on a lattice.
Welcome the coming, speed the going guest
A reference to Homer's Odyssey, 15:83-84. Pope translated the passage, "True friendship's laws are by this rule exprest,/Welcome the coming, speed the parting guest."
Jonathan Swift, Pope's friend and fellow satirist.
Thomas Vernon, who owned the Twickenham estate Pope rented.
"Estate settled on a wife to be enjoyed after her husband's decease" (Johnson).
The Courts of Chancery settled most lawsuits over property.
A reference to Sir Nicholas Bacon, the father of Sir Francis Bacon, who was often satirized as a "booby Lord."
Proud Buckingham's delight
Helmsley was a fabulously expensive estate in Yorkshire owned by the Duke of Buckingham.