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“ You, Mr. Dean, frequent the great;
115 Faith, Sir, you know as much as I. “ Ah Doctor, how you love to jest ? 'Tis now no secret”—I protest 'Tis one to me—“ Then tell us, pray, When are the troops to have their pay?" 120 And, though I solemnly declare I know no more than my Lord Mayor, They stand amazed, and think me grown The closest mortal ever known. Thus in a sea of folly toss'd,
125 My choicest hours of life are lost; Yet always wishing to retreat, Oh, could I see my country seat ! There leaning near a gentle brook, Sleep, or peruse some ancient book, 130 And there in sweet oblivion drown Those cares that haunt the court and town. O charming noons ! and nights divine ! Or when I sup, or when I dine, My friends above, my folks below,
135 Chatting and laughing all-a-row, The beans and bacon set before 'em, The Grace-cup served with all decorum : Each willing to be pleased, and please, And even the very dogs at ease!
140 Here no man prates of idle things, How this or that Italian sings,
Nec malè necne Lepos saltet : sed quod magis ad
Pertinet, et nescire malum est, agitamus; utrumne
Ver. 153. Our friend Dan Prior] I have frequently wondered how sparing Pope has been in general in his praises of Prior, especially as the latter was the intimate friend of Swift and Lord Oxford. I imagine this reserve is owing principally to some satirical epigrams that Prior wrote on Atterbury. The Alma is not the only composition of Prior, in which he has displayed a knowledge of the world and of human nature; for I was once permitted to read a curious manuscript, late in the hands of her Grace the Duchess Dowager of Portland, containing essays and dialogues of the dead, on the following subjects, by Prior:
1. Heads for a Treatise on Learning. 2. Essay on Opinion. 3. A Dialogue betwixt Charles the Fifth and Clenard the
Grammarian. 4. Betwixt Locke and Montaigne. 5. The Vicar of Bray and Sir Thomas More. 6. Oliver Cromwell and his Porter.
If these pieces were published, Prior would appear to be as good a prose-writer as a poet. It seems to be growing a little fashionable to decry his great merits as a poet. They who do this, seem not sufficiently to have attended to his admirable Ode to Mr. Charles Montague, afterwards Earl of Halifax; his Ode to the Queen, 1706; his Epistle and Ode to Boileau; most of his Tales; the Alma, here mentioned; the Henry and Emma, (in which surely are many strokes of true tenderness and pathos); and his Solomon, a poem which, however faulty in its plan, has
A neighbour's madness, or his spouse's,
best of all ?
yet very many noble and finished passages, and which has been so elegantly and classically translated by Dobson, as to reflect honour on the college of Winchester, where he was educated, and where he translated the first book as a school-exercise. I once heard him lament, that he had not at that time read Lucretius, which would have given a richness, and variety, and force to his verses ; the only fault of which, seems to be a monotony and want of different pauses, occasioned by translating a poem in rhyme, which he avoided in his Milton. It is one mark of a poem being intrinsically good, that it is capable of being well translated. The political conduct of Prior was blamed on account of the part he took in the famous Partition-Treaty; but in some valuable memoirs of his life, written by the Honourable Mr. Montague, his friend, which were also in the possession of the Duchess Dowager of Portland, this conduct is clearly accounted for, and amply defended. In those memoirs are many curious and interesting particulars of the history of that time.
This beautiful fable, not so much now admired, because so well known, is not in the collection of those called Æsop's, whose composition it certainly was, as appears from the collection of the VOL. TI.
Rusticus urbanum murem mus paupere fertur
fragments of Babrius, which the learned Mr. Tyrrwhit published, and which are a most valuable curiosity.
Warton. The reader, perhaps, will be pleased to peruse the following letter from Prior; the original of which is among the Townsend papers, cominunicated by the kindness of Mr. Coxe. At the time when Pope paid Prior this compliment, Prior was envoy at Paris.
Bowles. “ My LORD,
Fontainbleau, Oct. -, 1714. I am sure you will not think I make a compliment of form only, when I congratulate you on the honour of being Secretary of State ; for, bonâ fide, I had rather you had the seals than any man in England, except myself, and I wish you most sincerely all satisfaction and prosperity in the course of your business, and in every part of your private life. I need not ask you for your favour, for taking it for granted that you think me an honest man, I assure myself of every thing from you that is good-natured and generous. How I am, or am not to be, HERE, or when I am to be recalled, your Lordship will soonest know. Pray, my Lord, do me all the good you can, and if, as we say here, the names of party and faction are to be lost, pray get me pricked down for one of the first that is desirous to come into so happy an agreement;
Once on a time (so runs the fable)
170 Our courtier scarce could touch a bit, But show'd his breeding and his wit ;, He did his best to seem to eat, And cried, “I vow you're mighty neat. But Lord, my friend, this savage scene! 175 For God's sake, come, and live with men :
and as I know so good a design as the obtaining an ensuing PEACE, * suits admirably well with the sweetness of your Lordship’s temper, I'll take my oath on it, it graduates extremely well with my present disposition and circumstances. I cannot presume to hope the happiness of seeing you very soon, for though I should be recalled to-morrow, I shall savour so strong of a French court, that I must make my quarantine in some Kentish village, before I dare come near the Cockpit. In every place and estate, I am,
· My Lord, &c. &c.
6 M. Prior."
* The Peace of Utrecht.