Nov 15, 2021
In this sixth season of The Well Read Poem, we will read a
number of examples of classic satire in verse. English poetry is
particularly rich in satire, and we will take a close look at some
of the best instances of literary mockery that the past several
centuries have bequeathed to us. Some of these are playfully teasing, while others are deliberately savage. All of them taken together, I trust, will provide a happy introduction to the fine art of verbal annihilation. Today’s poem is a portrait piece by the preeminent neoclassical poet, Alexander Pope. Poem begins at timestamp 13:38.
by Alexander Pope
Peace to all such! but were there one whose fire
True genius kindles, and fair fame inspires;
Blest with each talent, and each art to please,
And born to write, converse, and live with ease
Should such a man, too fond to rule alone,
Bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne,
View him with scornful, yet with jealous eyes,
And hate for arts that caused himself to rise;
Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And, without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike;
Alike reserved to blame, or to commend,
A timorous foe, and a suspicious friend;
Dreading e'en fools, by flatterers besieged,
And so obliging, that he ne'er obliged;
Like Cato, give his little senate laws,
And sit attentive to his own applause:
While wits and Templars every sentence raise.
And wonder with a foolish face of praise--
Who but must laugh, if such a man there be?
Who would not weep, if Atticus were he?