"We hang one jingling padlock on the mind"

— Pope, Alexander (1688-1744)

Place of Publication
Printed for M. Cooper
"We hang one jingling padlock on the mind"
Metaphor in Context
Then thus. Since Man from beast by Words is known,
Words are Man's province, Words we teach alone.
When Reason doubtful, like the Samian letter,
Points him two ways, the narrower is the better.
Plac'd at the door of Learning, youth to guide,
We never suffer it to stand too wide.
To ask, to guess, to know, as they commence,
As Fancy opens the quick springs of Sense,
We ply the Memory, we load the brain,
Bind rebel Wit, and double chain on chain,
Confine the thought, to exercise the breath;
And keep them in the pale of Words till death.
Whate'er the talents, or howe'er design'd,
We hang one jingling padlock on the mind:
A Poet the first day, he dips his quill;
And what the last? a very Poet still.
Pity! the charm works only in our wall,
Lost, lost too soon in yonder House or Hall.
There truant Wyndham ev'ry Muse gave o'er,
There Talbot sunk, and was a Wit no more!
How sweet an Ovid, Murray was our boast!
How many Martials were in Pult'ney lost!
Else sure some Bard, to our eternal praise,
In twice ten thousand rhyming nights and days,
Had reach'd the Work, the All that mortal can;
And South beheld that Master-piece of Man.


Ver. 151. like the Samian letter ,]

The letter Y, used by Pythagoras as an emblem of the different roads of Vir
Et tibi quae Samios diduxit litera ramos.


Ver. 153. Plac'd at the door, &c. ] This circumstance of the Genius Loci (with that of the Index-hand before) seems to be an allusion to the Table of Cebes , where the Genius of human Nature points out the road to be pursued by those entering into life. O dh gerwn o anw esthkwV ecwn carthn tina en) thi ceiri, kai thi eterai wsper deiknuwn ti outoV Daimwn kaleitai, &c.

Ver. 159. to exercise the breath ;] By obliging them to get the classic poets by heart, which furnishes them with endless matter for Conversation, and Verbal amusement for their whole lives.

Ver. 162. We hang one jingling padlock, &c. ] For youth being used like Pack-horses and beaten on under a heavy load of Words, lest they should tire, their instructors contrive to make the Words jingle in rhyme or metre.

Ver. 165. in yonder House or Hall .] Westminster-hall and the House of Commons.

Ver. 174. that Master-piece of Man .] viz. an Epigram . The famous Dr. South declared a perfect Epigram to be as difficult a performance as an Epic Poem. And the Critics say, "an Epic Poem is the greatest work human nature is capable of."

At least 19 entries in the ESTC (1742, 1743, 1744, 1749, 1756, 1776, 1777).

The Dunciad, in Four Books. Printed According to the Complete Copy Found in the Year 1742. With the Prolegomena of Scriblerus, and Notes Variorum. to Which Are Added, Several Notes Now First Publish'd, the Hypercritics of Aristarchus, and His Dissertation on the Hero of the Poem. (London: Printed for M. Cooper at the Globe in Pater-noster-row, 1743). [2 issues in 1743] <Link to ESTC><Link to ESTC><Link to ECCO>

Reading The Dunciad in Four Books, ed. Valerie Rumbold (New York: Pearson Longman, 2009).
Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.