Turn in a new Epilogue, and have so much Work upon their Hands to damn moderns, that they have none to read them; it is not to be expected, that they will either read or can understand the Antients; neither was it for such Sparks that this piece of Antiquity was reviv’d. But Persons of an extensive Fancy and just Relish, who can discover Nature in the lowest Scene of life, and receive pleasure from the meanest Views; who prie into all the Variety of Places and Humours at present, and think nothing unworthy their Notice; and not only so, but with a contracting Eye, survey the Times past, and live over those Ages which were before their Birth; it is in Respect to them, and for a Moment’s Amusement that this merry old Tale is reviv’d. The Subject is low, it’s true; and so is Chaucer’s Old Widow; yet the Description of her Hovel pleases as much in it’s Way, as a more lofty Theme.
(a) From ‘Imitations of Horace’ by Alexander Pope (1688- 1744), originally published in 1737. The present text is that of the Twickenham Edition, edited by John Butt, 2nd ed. (London, 1953), pp. 196-7.
Authors, like Coins, grow dear as they grow old;
It is the rust we value, not the gold.
Chaucer’s worst ribaldry is learn’d by rote,
And beastly Skelton Heads of Houses quote:
[Pope adds the following note on the phrase ‘beastly Skelton’:]
Poet Laureat to Hen. 8. a Volume of whose Verses has been Lately reprinted, consisting almost wholly of Ribaldry, Obscenity, and Billingsgate Language.