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Her birth, her beauty, crowds and courts confess, Chaste matrons praise her, and grave bishops bless';
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 abandoned li
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 shewed the least desola• tion for the public scandal. They all drove to Court so precipi
tately, 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 shewed 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
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.
In golden chains, the willing world she draws,
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.” Repub. des Lett. 1684.
Warton. Ver. 148. And hers the Gospel is, und 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.
In soldier, churchman, patriot, man in power,
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 villuny.") From the conclusion of this satire, which is highly poetical and animated, one might suppose that there was neither honesty, honour, public spi, rit, 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, more lofty indignation, more animated appeals, and more rich personifications, never adorned the page of the Satiric Muse.
WRITTEN IN MDCCXXXVIII.
Fr. 'Tis all a libel-Paxton (Sir) will say.
P. Not yet, my friend! to-morrow, 'faith, it may; And for that very cause I print to-day. How should I fret to mangle every line, In reverence to the sins of Thirty-nine !
5 Vice with such giant strides comes on amain, Invention strives to be before in vain;
Ver. 1. 'Tis all a libel] The liberty of the press was about this time thought to be in danger; and Milton's noble and nervous discourse on this subject, intitled, Areopagitica, was reprinted in an octavo pamphlet, with a preface written by Thomson, the poet. “ If we think to regulate printing," says Milton, " thereby to rectify manners, we must regulate all recreations and pastimes, all that is delightful to man.
No music must be heard, no song be set or sung, but what is grave and Doric. He who is made judge to sit upon the birth or death of books, whether they may be wafted into this world or not, had need to be a man above the common measure, both studious, learned, and judicious."
Warton. Ver. 1. Paxton] Late solicitor to the Treasury. Warburton.
Feign what I will, and paint it e'er so strong,
F. Yet ñone but you by name the guilty lash; 10
dice? Come on then, Satire! general, unconfined, Spread thy broad wing, and souse on all the kind. Ye statesmen, priests, of one religion all! Ye tradesmen, vile, in army, court, or hall! Ye reverend atheists! F. Scandal! name them!
Who? P. Why that's the thing you bid me not to do.
Ver. 8. Feign what I will, 8c.] The Poet has here introduced an oblique apology for himself with great art. You attack per-. sonal characters, say his enemies. No, replies he, I paint merely from my invention; and then, to prevent a likeness, I aggravate the features. But alas! the growth of vice is so monstrously sudden, that it rises up to a resemblance before I can get from the press.
Warburton. Ver. 11. Even Guthry] The Ordinary of Newgate, who publishes the Memoirs of the Malefactors, and is often prevailed upon to be so tender of their reputation, as to set down no more than the initials of their name.
Pope. Ver. 13. How, Sir! not damn the sharper, but the dice?] It is pity that the liveliness of the reply cannot excuse the bad reasoning: the dice, though they rhyme to vice, can never stand for it;. which his argument requires they should do. For dice are only the instruments of fraud; but the question is not, whether the instrument, but whether the act committed by it, should be exposed, instead of the person.