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5.-CATO'S SOLILOQUY ON IMMORTALITY.
[This celebrated soliloquy forms the finest passage in Addison's tragedy of Cato, respecting which see page 108. It will be interesting to make a close comparison of its reasonings and reflections with those in the preceding essay.]
It must be so Plato, thou reasonest well!1
1 Plato, thou reasonest well! | 2 falling into naught. SubstiIn the drama Cato is represented tute a synonymous expression. as seated, perusing the volume of 3 the Divinity. Explain. Plato (a famous Greek philosopher 4 Nature cries. What is the about B.C. 429-348) on the Immor- figure of speech? (See Def. 4.) tality of the Soul.
5 virtue. See Glossary.
But when ? or where? 1 This world was made for
(Laying his hand on his sword.)
1 when? where? Supply the termined to die rather than sur. ellipses.
render; and, after spending the 2 was made for Cæsar. Cato night in reading Plato's Phædo, (named Cato the Younger, and born committed suicide by stabbing him95 B.C.) sided with Pompey against self in the breast. Cæsar; but after the latter's deci- 8 bane and antidote. Explain sive victory at Thapsus (46 B.C.), these antithetical words. See GlosCato (then at Utica in Africa) de- sary for derivation.
LIFE AND WORKS.
The year in which the English law gave final judgment against the divine right of kings (1688), witnessed also the birth of Alexander Pope. He was his mother's only child, though he had a half-sister on his father's side. His father, from whom he inherited his crooked figure, was a London linendraper and a devout Roman Catholic.
Alexander was excluded by his religion from the ordinary schools, and at the age of twelve became his own teacher at home. He naturally chose the flowergardens rather than the plowed fields of literature, and tells us that before seventeen he had gone through the French, English, and Latin poets of name, Homer and the greater Greek poets in the original, and Tasso and Ariosto in translations. Of his own efforts at writing, he informs us in the familiar couplet,
"As yet a child, nor yet a fool to fame,
The history of Pope the author is the history of Pope the man. It divides itself into three periods, the middle one of which (1715–1725) was occupied by his translation of Homer.
His chief works, before he devoted himself to his translation, are the Essay on Criticism, Windsor Castle, and the elaborate and polished trifle which celebrates Lord Petre's stealing a lock of Miss Fermor's hair.
The plane of thought of these poems is commonplace enough, but the epigrams of even the Essay on Criticism are household words. The Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady, and the Eloisa to Abelard (1717), are Pope's chief sentimental performances.
Pope's publication of his first and second Iliad (1715) led to a quarrel with Addison. Tickell, one of Addison's "little senate," put forth at the same time a translation of the first Iliad, which our poet worked himself into the belief had been written by Addison. In revenge for this fancied effort to forestall him, Pope drew with inimitable satire his character of Atticus (Addison), which there is good reason to believe its victim never saw.
The translation of the epics of the Father of Poetry, who begged his bread through the cities of Greece, brought Pope in a profit of nearly nine thousand pounds. As to its literary value, the opinion of scholars has always been the same as that then expressed by Bentley: “A pretty poem, Mr. Pope, but you must not call it Homer.” Its merits are Pope's, not Homer's; but they are by no means trifling. Transform the Greek warriors into English statesmen, and the oratory in which The Iliad abounds is admirable. The Odyssey, of which half was written by assistants, is throughout inferior to The Iliad.
With his profits, Pope on the death of his father (1718) bought a villa at Twickenham, which has ever since been one of the chimney-corners of literature. Pope passed the last twenty-five years of his life (1719– 1744) at this villa. Here, after The Odyssey, he de
clared a war of extermination against dunces by the publication of The Dunciad, a poem in the spirit of Dean Swift. Poor writers have no better tempers than good ones; and the abuse which Pope hurled upon the paupers and idiots of Grub Street was re-directed against his own physical and moral defects.
Pope's best works, the Epistles and Satires, were his last. Between these and The Dunciad, appeared the Essay on Man, which sought to
“ Vindicate the ways of God to man.”
Unfortunately the brilliant quotable lines with which this essay sparkles are held together rather by rhetorical art than by any natural cohesion. Against his Epistles and Satires, however, it is hard to say a word. These forms of composition require little unity of argument, and were well fitted for the display of the electric flashes of Pope's genius and of his keen knowledge of human nature. In the Epistle to Arbuthnot and the Epilogue to the Satires, we see metrical satire at its best, polished epigrammatic prose, sometimes rising into genuine poetry.
During the last six years of his life (1738–1744), Pope, though his intellect was still vigorous, produced nothing but the fourth Dunciad. His health now began to fail. In the spring of 1744 he was visibly breaking up from the effects of a dropsical asthma complicated by a quack. “Here I am, dying of a hundred good symptoms,” he said to his friends who had gathered about him. He died May 30, 1744, and was buried in a vault in Twickenham church.