Alexander Pope


An Epistle to Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington

Of the Use of Riches

     ’Tis strange, the miser should his cares employ
    To gain those riches he can ne’er enjoy.
    Is it less strange, the prodigal should waste
    His wealth, to purchase what he ne’er can taste?
5   Not for himself he sees, or hears, or eats;
    Artists must choose his pictures, music, meats:
    He buys for Topham, drawings and designs,
    For Pembroke statues, dirty gods, and coins;
    Rare monkish manuscripts for Hearne alone,
10   And books for Mead, and butterflies for Sloane.
    Think we all these are for himself? no more
    Than his fine wife, alas! or finer whore.
    For what has Virro painted, built, and planted?
    Only to show, how many tastes he wanted.
15   What brought Sir Visto’s ill got wealth to waste?
    Some demon whispered, ‘Visto! have a taste.’
    Heaven visits with a taste the wealthy fool,
    And needs no rod but Ripley with a rule.
    See! sportive fate, to punish awkward pride,
20   Bids Bubo build, and sends him such a Guide:
    A standing sermon, at each year’s expense,
    That never coxcomb reached magnificence!
               You show us, Rome was glorious, not profuse,
    And pompous buildings once were things of use.
25   Yet shall (my Lord) your just, your noble rules
    Fill half the land with imitating fools;
    Who random drawings from your sheets shall take,
    And of one beauty many blunders make;
    Load some vain church with old theatric state,
30   Turn arcs of triumph to a garden-gate;
    Reverse your ornaments, and hang them all
    On some patched dog-hole eked with ends of wall,
    Then clap four slices of pilaster on’t,
    That, laced with bits of rustic, makes a front:
35   Or call the winds through long arcades to roar,
    Proud to catch cold at a Venetian door;
    Conscious they act a true Palladian part,
    And if they starve, they starve by rules of art.
              Oft have you hinted to your brother peer,
40   A certain truth, which many buy too dear:
    Something there is, more needful than expense,
    And something previous ev’n to taste – ’tis sense:
    Good sense, which only is the gift of heaven,
    And though no science, fairly worth the seven:
45   A light, which in yourself you must perceive;
    Jones and Le Nôtre have it not to give.
               To build, to plant, whatever you intend,
    To rear the column, or the arch to bend,
    To swell the terrace, or to sink the grot;
50   In all, let nature never be forgot.
    But treat the goddess like a modest fair,
    Nor over-dress, nor leave her wholly bare;
    Let not each beauty everywhere be spied,
    Where half the skill is decently to hide.
55   He gains all points, who pleasingly confounds,
    Surprises, varies, and conceals the bounds.
                Consult the genius of the place in all;
    That tells the waters or to rise, or fall,
    Or helps th’ambitious hill the heavens to scale,
60   Or scoops in circling theatres the vale;
    Calls in the country, catches opening glades,
    Joins willing woods, and varies shades from shades;
    Now breaks, or now directs, th’ intending lines,
    Paints as you plant, and as you work, designs.
65               Still follow sense, of every art the soul,
    Parts answering parts shall slide into a whole,
    Spontaneous beauties all around advance,
    Start ev’n from difficulty, strike from chance;
    Nature shall join you; time shall make it grow
70   A work to wonder at – perhaps a Stowe.
    Without it, proud Versailles! thy glory falls,
    And Nero’s terraces desert their walls:
    The vast parterres a thousand hands shall make,
    Lo! Cobham comes, and floats them with a lake:
75   Or cut wide views through mountains to the plain,
    You’ll wish your hill or sheltered seat again.
    Ev’n in an ornament its place remark,
    Nor in an hermitage set Dr Clarke.
                Behold Villario’s ten-years’ toil complete;
80   His arbours darken, his espaliers meet;
    The wood supports the plain, the parts unite,
    And strength of shade contends with strength of light:
    A waving glow the bloomy beds display,
    Blushing in bright diversities of day,
85   With silver-quivering rills meand o’er –
    Enjoy them, you! Villario can no more;
    Tired of the scene parterres and fountains yield,
    He finds at last he better likes a field.
         Through his young woods how pleased Sabinus strayed
90   Or sat delighted in the thickening shade,
    With annual joy the reddening shoots to greet,
    Or see the stretching branches long to meet.
    His son’s fine taste an opener vista loves,
    Foe to the dryads of his father’s groves,
95   One boundless green, or flourished carpet views,
    With all the mournful family of yews;
    The thriving plants ignoble broomsticks made,
    Now sweep those alleys they were born to shade.
    At Timon’s villa let us pass a day,
100   Where all cry out, ‘What sums are thrown away!’
    So proud, so grand, of that stupendous air,
    Soft and agreeable come never there.
    Greatness, with Timon, dwells in such a draught
    As brings all Brobdignag before your thought.
105   To compass this, his building is a town,
    His pond an ocean, his parterre a down:
    Who but must laugh, the master when he sees?
    A puny insect, shivering at a breeze.
    Lo! what huge heaps of littleness around!
110   The whole, a laboured quarry above ground.
    Two cupids squirt before: a lake behind
    Improves the keenness of the northern wind.
    His gardens next your admiration call,
    On every side you look, behold the wall!
115   No pleasing intricacies intervene,
    No artful wildness to perplex the scene;
    Grove nods at grove, each alley has a brother,
    And half the platform just reflects the other.
    The suffering eye inverted nature sees,
120   Trees cut to statues, statues thick as trees,
    With here a fountain, never to be played,
    And there a summer-house, that knows no shade.
    Here Amphitrite sails through myrtle bowers;
    There gladiators fight, or die, in flowers;
125   Un-watered see the drooping sea-horse mourn,
    And swallows roost in Nilus’ dusty urn.
               My Lord advances with majestic mien,
    Smit with the mighty pleasure, to be seen:
    But soft – by regular approach – not yet –
130   First through the length of yon hot terrace sweat,
    And when up ten steep slopes you’ve dragged your thighs,
    Just at his study-door he’ll bless your eyes.
              His study! with what authors is it stored?
    In books, not authors, curious is my lord;
135   To all their dated backs he turns you round:
    These Aldus printed, those Du Suëil has bound.
    Lo some are vellum, and the rest as good
    For all his Lordship knows, but they are wood.
    For Locke or Milton ’tis in vain to look,
140   These shelves admit not any modern book.
    And now the chapel’s silver bell you hear,
    That summons you to all the pride of prayer:
    Light quirks of music, broken and uneven,
    Make the soul dance upon a jig to heaven.
145   On painted ceilings you devoutly stare,
    Where sprawl the saints of Verrio or Laguerre,
    On gilded clouds in fair expansion lie,
    And bring all paradise before your eye.
    To rest, the cushion and soft dean invite,
150   Who never mentions hell to ears polite.
               But hark! the chiming clocks to dinner call;
    A hundred footsteps scrape the marble hall:
    The rich buffet well-coloured serpents grace,
    And gaping Tritons spew to wash your face.
155   Is this a dinner? this a genial room?
    No, ’tis a temple, and a hecatomb,
    A solemn sacrifice, performed in state,
    You drink by measure, and to minutes eat.
    So quick retires each flying course, you’d swear
160   Sancho’s dread doctor and his wand were there.
    Between each act the trembling salvers ring,
    From soup to sweet-wine, and ‘God bless the King’.
    In plenty starving, tantalized in state,
    And complaisantly helped to all I hate,
165   Treated, caressed, and tired, I take my leave,
    Sick of his civil pride from morn to eve;
    I curse such lavish cost, and little skill,
    And swear no day was ever passed so ill.
               Yet hence the poor are clothed, the hungry fed;
170   Health to himself, and to his infants bread
    The labourer bears: what his hard heart denies,
    His charitable vanity supplies.
               Another age shall see the golden ear
    Imbrown the slope, and nod on the parterre,
175   Deep harvests bury all his pride has planned,
    And laughing Ceres reassume the land.
               Who then shall grace, or who improve the soil?
    Who plants like Bathurst, or who builds like Boyle.
    ’Tis use alone that sanctifies expense,
180   And splendour borrows all her rays from sense.
               His father’s acres who enjoys in peace,
    Or makes his neighbours glad, if he increase;
    Whose cheerful tenants bless their yearly toll,
    Yet to their Lord owe more than to the soil;
185   Whose ample lawns are not ashamed to feed
    The milky heifer and deserving steed;
    Whose rising forests, not for pride or show,
    But future buildings, future navies grow:
    Let his plantations stretch from down to down,
190   First shade a country, and then raise a town.
               You too proceed! make falling arts your care,
    Erect new wonders, and the old repair;
    Jones and Palladio to themselves restore,
    And be whate’er Vitruvius was before:
195   Till Kings call forth th’ idea’s of your mind,
    Proud to accomplish what such hands design’d,
    Bid harbors open, public ways extend,
    Bid temples, worthier of the God, ascend;
    Bid the broad arch the dang’rous flood contain,
200   The mole projected break the roaring main;
    Back to his bounds their subject sea command,
    And roll the obedient rivers thro’ the land;
    These honours, peace to happy Britain brings,
    These are imperial works, and worthy kings.

First published 1731.

Contributed by Robert Clark.