"A Patriot Is A Fool In Every Age"

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Last Updated on January 19, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 172

Context: The name of patriot in Pope's time was generally given to those persons in opposition to the court, according to the poet's own notes. Some of them, he adds in the note, and implies in the text of the poem, had "views too mean and interested to deserve that name." The "Jekyl" of the context is Sir Joseph Jekyl, Master of the Rolls, who was solid in his political persuasion as a Whig. In a note to the poem, Pope said of him, "He sometimes voted against the Court, which drew upon him the laugh here described of ONE who bestowed it equally upon Religion and Honesty." Pope wrote:

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. . . with Scripture still you may be free;
A horse-laugh, if you please, at Honesty;
A joke on Jekyl, or some odd Old Whig,
Who never changed his principle or wig.
A patriot is a fool in ev'ry age,
Whom all Lord Chamberlains allow the stage:
These nothing hurts; they keep their fashion still,
And wear their strange old virtue as they will.

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