A MASTY of our English breed


The MASTIFF and CURS, A Fable inscrib'd to Mr. POPE. By the same hand.

Primary Text:

No MS; 1717 Pope's Own (rpt 1935/75 Ault), 131-3*.

A MASTY of our English breed
Allow'd all others to exceed,
In ample head and solid heart;
Strong, stately, true in ev'ry part;
March'd through the town with stedfast pace,
Like former heroes of his race.
Offending none; for in his mind
Candor with resolution join'd.
Yet over ev'ry threshold leapt
The little dogs by ladies kept,
Who snarl or flatter for reward,
The tea-pot and the slippers guard.
Whilst butchers curs forsake the stalls,
And each upon the masty falls,
With distant noise and threat'ning grin,
Tho' none durst fasten on his skin.
So well his greater strength they knew,
Who dirt and scandal on him threw.
For not a cat that had been torn,
Or hen that from the roost was born,
But to his charge they barking lay:
Tho' he despis'd that vulgar play,
Nor cou'd by ought be mov'd to rage,
But what was fit for Hockley's stage.
Who when he careless tost or rowl'd,
Was still superiour, stern and gold.
Couch'd at the door or on the green,
In him the masty still was seen.
Tho' now those rude assaults he bore,
And every moment look'd for more.
'Till on a day some gen'rous man,
To rouze his anger thus began.
How long will you endure these yelps,
From danes and lap-dogs, heartless whelps!
Revenge your self, amongst them start,
Break at each bite some lady's heart.
Make Sharper, Cupid, Fop and Beau,
Stretcht at your feet their folly know.
Or smartly crush each paper scull,
With such a pinch as mads the bull.
The masty now 'twas worth his while,
Reply'd with a disdainful smile.
To you, Sir, who our fate command,
Loo or restrain us with your hand.
Tis fit that some account I yield,
Why I'm so slow to take the field;
Or to employ my well known pow'r,
Such carping vermin to devour.
But whilst I keep them all in awe,
From their assaults this good I draw;
To make you men the diff'rence see,
Between this bawling troop and me.
Comparison your observation stirs,
I were no masty if there were no curs.


Derives from Aesopic fables of fighting cocks, vicious dogs and pyrrhic victories; e.g, Rhys, "The Fighting Cocks and the Eagle," 16, "The Mischievous Dog," 43. The situation and (justified) misanthropy at the core of the piece is found in La Fontaine, "Le Perdrix et Les Coqs", Bk 10, No. 7, but the particulars come from another tradition (not large fierce/magnficent dogs. The masculine/feminine opposition is also not in Finch and she would have picked it up; nonetheless, there is a parallel here. Perhaps Gay imitated and reversed Finch's text in his "The Mastiffs," No. 34 (the mastiff does not, however, emerge an unqualified victor, but must "limp" and "sneak" away from the "fray."


If Pope is meant to be seen as the mastiff, we have here a new attitude towards the satiric wit Finch so harshly criticized in "The Lord and the Bramble" (an earlier fable); she now sees the attitude from Pope's point of view (as in say, The Dunciad): Pope need not, and, therefore, ought not to conscend to quarrel with vermin. Perhaps the presence of these poems in Pope's book confirms that he and had Ardelia had made up their quarrel. For Finch's prefatory panegyric for Pope's acknowledged 1717 Mr Pope's Works, see " THE Muse, of ev'ry heav'nly gift allow'd".


Harsh in the manner of "The Toad Undrest" (Annotated Chronology No 238), which it appeared with.
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Page Last Updated 8 January 2003