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Virtue may choose the high or low degree,
have found a virtue in you more than I certainly knew before, till I had made experiment of it, I mean humility. I must therefore in justice to my own conscience of it, bear testimony to it, and change the epithet I first gave you of low-born, to humble. I shall take care to do you the justice to tell every body, this change was not made at yours, or at any friend's request for you, but my own knowledge you merited it,” &c. Twit. Nov. 2. -Warburton.
Ver. 144. Let Greatness OWN HER, and she's mean no more,] The poet, in this whole passage, was willing to be understood as alluding to a very extraordinary story told by Procopius, in his Secret History; the sum of which is as follows:
The Empress TheODORA was the daughter of one Acaces, who had the care of the wild beasts, which the Green Faction kept for the entertainment of the people. For the empire was, at that time, divided between the two factions of the Green and Blue. But Acaces dying in the infancy of Theodora, and her two sisters, his place of Master of the Bears was disposed of to a stranger : and his widow had no other way of supporting herself than by prostituting her three daughters (who were all very pretty) on the public theatre. Thither she brought them in their turns, as they came to years of puberty. Theodora first attended her sisters in the habit and quality of a slave. And when it came to her turn to mount the stage, as she could neither dance nor play on the fute, she was put into the lowest class of buffoons, to make diversion for the rabble ; which she did in so arch a manner, and complained of the indignities she suffered in so ridiculous a tone, that she became an absolute favourite of the people. After a complete course of infamy and prostitution, the next place we hear of her is at Alexandria, in great poverty and distress : from whence (as it was no wonder) she was willing to remove. And to Constantinople she came; but after a large circuit through the east, where she worked her way by a free course of prostitution. JUSTINIAN was at this time consort in the empire with his uncle Justin ; and the management of affairs entirely in his hands. He no sooner saw Theodora, than he fell desperately in love with her ; and would have married her immediately, but that the Empress Euphemia, a Barbarian, and unpolite, but not illiberal in her nature, was then alive. And she, although she rarely denied him any thing, yet obstinately refused giving him this instance of her complaisance. But she did not live long : and then nothing but the ancient Laws, which forbad a senator to marry with a common prostitute, hindered Justinian from executing this extraordinary project.' These he obliged Justin to revoke ; and then, in the face of the sun, married his dear Theodora. A terrible example (says the historian) and an encouragement to the most
Her birth, her beauty, crowds and courts confess, 145
abandoned licence. And now, no sooner was THEODORA (in the poet's phrase) OWNED by Greatness, than she, whom not long before it was thought unlucky to meet, and a pollution to touch, became the idol of the Court. There was not a single magistrate (says Procopius) that expressed the least indignation at the shame and dishonour brought upon the state ; not a single prelate that showed the least desolation for the public scandal. They all drove to Court so precipitately, as if they were striving to prevent one another in her good graces. Nay, the very soldiers were emulous of the honour of becoming the champions of her virtue. As for the common people, who had so long been the spectators of her servility, her buffoonery, and her prostitution, they all in a body threw themselves at her feet, as slaves at the footstool of their mistress. In a word, there was no man, of what condition soever, who showed the least dislike of so monstrous an elevation. In the mean time, Theodora's first care was to fill her coffers, which she soon did, with immense wealth. To this end, Justinian and she pretended to differ in their party principles. The one protected the blue, and the other the green faction; till in a long course of intrigue, by sometimes giving up the one to plunder and confiscation, and sometimes the other, they left nothing to either. See Procop. Anec. c. ix. X.-Warburton.
Upon this note Gibbon observes, vol. iv. p. 26 : “ Without Warburton's critical Telescope, I should never have seen, in this general picture of triumphant vice, any personal allusion to Theodora. Her infamous conduct may be read in the fourth volume of the Menagiana. What Bayle says of J. Scaliger may be justly applied to many of Warburton's notes : " Les commentaires qui viennent de lui, sont pleines de conjectures hardies, ingénieuses, et fort savantes ; mais il n'est guères apparent, que les auteurs ayent songés à tout de ce qu'il leur fait dire. On s'éloigne de leur sens aussi bien, quand on a beaucoup d'esprit, que quand on n'en a pas.” Répub. des Lett. 1684.-Warton.
Ver. 148. And hers the Gospel is, and hers the laws,] i. e. She disposed of the honours of both.-Warburton.
Ver. 149. scarlet head,] Alluding to the scarlet whore of the Apocalypse. -Warburton.
Ver. 151. Lo! at the wheels] A group of allegorical persons, worthy the pencil of Rubens ! and described in expressions worthy of Virgil! This is perhaps the noblest passage in all his works, without any exception whatever.- Wartor.
Our youth, all liveried o'er with foreign gold, 155
160 In soldier, churchman, patriot, man in power, 'Tis avarice all, ambition is no more! See all our nobles begging to be slaves ! See all our fools aspiring to be knaves ! The wit of cheats, the courage of a whore,
165 Are what ten thousand envy and adore: All, all look up, with reverential awe, At crimes that 'scape, or triumph o'er the law: While truth, worth, wisdom, daily they decry“ Nothing is sacred now but villany."
170 Yet may this verse (if such a verse remain) Show there was one who held it in disdain.
Ver. 162. 'Tis avarice all] “ So far from having the virtues, we have not even the vices of our ancestors,” says Bolingbroke.-Warton.
Ver. 170. “ Nothing is sacred now but villany.") From the conclusion of this satire, which is highly poetical and animated, one might suppose that there was neither honesty, honour, public spirit, nor virtue, in the nation. We should,
however, always keep in mind the agitated state of parties at the time. Tories, Jacobites, disappointed Whigs, all under the name of Patriot, united in one cry against the administration of Walpole, who most truly deserved that distinguished appellation, and by whose firmness, wisdom, and integrity, under Providence, the Protestant succession was in great measure sustained, in the most trying periods, and with it our laws and liberties.
But whatever may be said of the political, of the poetical part, particularly the description of vice, and the noble conclusion, there can be but one opinion. More dignified and impressive numbers, inore lofty indignation, more animated appeals, and more rich personifications, never adorned the page of the Satiric Muse.—Bowles.
That first was H-vy's, F_'s next, and then
year 1595, layeth open the whole mystery. “The voice of a preacher (saith he, himselfe a powerful preacher,) ought to be the voice of a Crier, which should not pipe to make the people dance, but mourne to make
Hence it is, that in the oulde law, none that was blinde, or had anie blemishe in his eye, might serve at the aulter ; because for that impediment in his eye he could not well shew his inwarde sorrowing by his outward weeping. And when they offered up their first-borne, who was ordinarily in every family their prieste, or their preacher, they offered also with him a paire of turtle doves or two young pigeons. That paire of turtle-doves did signify a paire of mournfull eyes : those two younge pigeons did signifie likewise two weeping eyes : and at that offering they prayed for their first-borne, that afterwards he might have such eyes himselfe. For indeed, as Austin witnesseth, THERE IS MORE GOOD TO BE DONE with sighing than with speaking, with weeping than with words. Plus gemitibus quam sermonibus, plus fletu quam affatu.” Scribl.- Warburton.
Ver. 73. O come, that easy, Ciceronian style,] Dr. Bland, of Eton, was a very bad writer, Dr. Middleton a remarkable good one ; perhaps our best : but he was the friend of Pope's enemy, Lord Hervey : hinc illæ lachrymæ ! - Bennet.
Ver. 75. pride of Middleton] The life of Tully, the most important of his works, procured Dr. Middleton a great reputation, and a great sum of money, which he generously gave to his nieces. It is a most pleasing and useful work, and gives a comprehensive view of a most interesting period in the Roman history, and of the characters principally concerned in those important events. It may be worth observing, that he is much indebted, without acknowledging it, to a curious book little known, entitled, G. Bellendini, Scoti, de Tribus Luminibus Romanorum, Libri 16. Parisüis. Apud Tassanum du Bray: 1634, folio ; dedicated to King Charles. It comprehends a history of Rome from the foundation of the city to the time of Augustus, drawn up in the very words of Cicero, without any alteration of any expression. In this book Middleton found every part of Cicero's own history in his own words, and his works arranged in chronological order, without farther trouble. The impression of this work being shipped for England, was lost in the vessel, which was cast away, and only a few copies remained that had been left in France. I venture to say, that the style of Middleton, which is commonly esteemed very pure, is blemished with many vulgar and cant terms ; such as, Pompey had a month's mind; on that score; these advances ; this squeamishness,” &c. He has not been successful in the translations of those many Epistles of Tully which he has inserted; which, however curious, yet break the thread of the narration. Mongault and Melmoth have far exceeded him in their excellent translations of those pieces.—Warton.
The book mentioned by Warton, Bellendenus, has been edited by a profound scholar, and eloquent writer, Dr. Samuel Parr, whose animated preface, &c. is in the hands of every scholar. He speaks with a warmth
Then might I sing, without the least offence,
that does honour to his heart, respecting Dr. Middleton's conduct, in not avowing to whom he was so much indebted.-Bowles.
Ver. 75. and Bland,] He had been master of Eton College, and a friend of Sir Robert Walpole. He translated into Latin with much purity and elegance, the Soliloquy of Cato in the beginning of the fifth act of that Tragedy.- Warton.
Ver. 76. All boys may read, and girls may understand !] i. e. full of school phrases and Anglicisms.-Warburton.
Ver. 78. nation's sense ;] The cant of politics at that time.- Warburton.
Ver. 80. CAROLINA] Queen Consort to King George II. She died in 1737. Her death gave occasion, as is observed above, to many indiscreet and mean performances, unworthy of her memory, whose last moments manifested the utmost courage and resolution.—Pope.
Ver. 81. And hail her passage to the realms of rest,] Dryden has a passage similar to the former couplet in his Absalom and Achitophel, part i.
Or fled she with his life, and left this verse
To hang on her departed patron's hearse ? And a verse resembling the last of this quotation, a little earlier in the same poem :
All parts fulfilld of subject, and of son : as Cowley also, on the death of the Earl of Balcarras :
Perform'd all parts of virtue's vigorous life.—Wakefield. Ver. 82. and all her children bless'd!] No subtle commentary can torture these words to mean any thing but the most poignant sarcasm on the behaviour of this great personage to her son on her death-bed. A very severe copy of verses was circulated at the time, said to be written by Lord Chesterfield, which ended thus :
"And unforgiving, unforgiven died !" So that our author's own note is at variance with his text, as is a letter written to Mr. Allen. Warton.
Ver. 82. all her children bless'd!] Her memory has been vindicated in the most satisfactory manner by Mr. Coxe :
* The enemies of Queen Caroline have represented her as being of an unforgiving temper ; and even reproached her with want of maternal tenderness. It was maliciously suggested, that she fomented the misunderstanding between the King and the Prince of Wales ; but, on the contrary, she exerted her utmost influence to abate the petulance of the Son, and the irritability of the Father.
“ The tongue of slander has even reproached her with maintaining her implacability to the hour of her death, and refusing her pardon to the Prince, who had humbly requested to receive her blessing, To this imputation Lord Chesterfield alludes, in a copy of verses circulated at that time : “ And unforgiving, unforgiven dies !”
[ [Pope VOL. V.