Letters on England
21. On The Earl Of Rochester And Mr. Waller
The Earl of Rochester's name is universally known. Mr. de St. Evremont has
made very frequent mention of him, but then he has represented this famous
nobleman in no other light than as the man of pleasure, as one who was the idol
of the fair; but, with regard to myself, I would willingly describe in him the man of
genius, the great poet. Among other pieces which display the shining
imagination, his lordship only could boast he wrote some satires on the same
subjects as those our celebrated Boileau made choice of. I do not know any
better method of improving the taste than to compare the productions of such
great geniuses as have exercised their talent on the same subject. Boileau
declaims as follows against human reason in his "Satire on Man:"
"Cependant a le voir plein de vapeurs legeres,
Soi-meme se bercer de ses propres chimeres,
Lui seul de la nature est la baze et l'appui,
Et le dixieme ciel ne tourne que pour lui.
De tous les animaux il est ici le maitre;
Qui pourroit le nier, poursuis tu? Moi peut-etre.
Ce maitre pretendu qui leur donne des loix,
Ce roi des animaux, combien a-t'il de rois?"
"Yet, pleased with idle whimsies of his brain,
And puffed with pride, this haughty thing would fain
Be think himself the only stay and prop
That holds the mighty frame of Nature up.
The skies and stars his properties must seem,
* * *
Of all the creatures he's the lord, he cries.
* * *
And who is there, say you, that dares deny
So owned a truth? That may be, sir, do I.
* * *
This boasted monarch of the world who awes
The creatures here, and with his nod gives laws
This self-named king, who thus pretends to be
The lord of all, how many lords has he?"
OLDHAM, a little altered.
The Lord Rochester expresses himself, in his "Satire against Man," in pretty near
the following manner. But I must first desire you always to remember that the
versions I give you from the English poets are written with freedom and latitude,
and that the restraint of our versification, and the delicacies of the French tongue,