Series Two: Essays on Poetry
Samuel Wesley's Epistle to a Friend concerning Poetry (1700) and the Essay on Heroic Poetry (second edition, 1697)
With an Introduction by Edward N. Hooker
The Augustan Reprint Society January, 1947 Price: 75c
GENERAL EDITORS: Richard C. Boys, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Edward N. Hooker, H.T. Swedenberg, Jr., University of California, Los Angeles 24, California.
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EDITORIAL ADVISORS: Louis I. Bredvold, University of Michigan; James L. Clifford, Columbia University; Benjamin Boyce, University of Nebraska; Cleanth Brooks, Louisiana State University; Arthur Friedman, University of Chicago; James R. Sutherland, Queen Mary College, University of London; Emmett L. Avery, State College of Washington; Samuel Monk, Southwestern University.
Lithoprinted from Author's Typescript EDWARDS BROTHERS, INC. Lithoprinters ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN 1947
We remember Samuel Wesley (1662-1735), if at all, as the father of a great religious leader. In his own time he was known to many as a poet and a writer of controversial prose. His poetic career began in 1685 with the publication of Maggots, a collection of juvenile verses on trivial subjects, the preface to which, a frothy concoction, apologizes to the reader because the book is neither grave nor gay. The first poem, "On a Maggot," is composed in hudibrastics, with a diction obviously Butlerian, and it is followed by facetious poetic dialogues and by Pindarics of the Cowleian sort but on such subjects as "On the Grunting of a Hog." In 1688 Wesley took his B.A. at Exeter College, Oxford, following which he became a naval chaplain and, in 1690, rector of South Ormsby; he became rector of Epworth in 1695. During the run of the Athenian Gazette (1691-1697) he joined with Richard Sault and John Norris in assisting John Dunton, the promoter of the undertaking. His second venture in poetry, the Life of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour, an epic largely in heroic couplets with a prefatory discourse on heroic poetry, appeared in 1693, was reissued in 1694, and was honored with a second edition in 1697. In 1695 he dutifully came forward with Elegies, lamenting the deaths of Queen Mary and Archbishop Tillotson. An Epistle to a Friend concerning Poetry (1700) was followed by at least four other volumes of verse, the last of which was issued in 1717. His poetry appears to have had readers on a certain level, but it stirred up little pleasure among wits, writers, or critics. Judith Drake confessed that she was lulled to sleep by Blackmore's Prince Arthur and by Wesley's "heroics" (Essay in Defence of the Female Sex, 1696, p. 50). And he was satirized as a mare poetaster in Garth's Dispensary, in Swift's The Battle of the Books, and in the earliest issues of the Dunciad. Nobody today would care to defend his poetry for its esthetic merits.
For a few years in the early eighteenth century Wesley found himself in the vortex of controversy. Brought up in the dissenting tradition, he had swerved into conformity at some point during the 1680's, possibly under the influence of Tillotson, whom he greatly admired (cf. Epistle to a Friend, pp. 5-6). In 1702 there appeared his Letter from a Country Divine to his friend in London concerning the education of dissenters in their private academies, apparently written about 1693. This attack upon dissenting academies was published at an unfortunate time, when the public mind was inflamed by the intolerance of overzealous churchmen. Wesley was furiously answered; he replied in A Defence of a Letter (1704), and again in A Reply to Mr. Palmer's Vindication (1707). It is scarcely to Wesley's credit that in this quarrel he stood shoulder to shoulder with that most hot-headed of all contemporary bigots, Henry Sacheverell. His prominence in the controversy earned him the ironic compliments of Defoe, who recalled that our "Mighty Champion of this very High-Church Cause" had once written a poem to satirize frenzied Tories (Review, II, no. 87, Sept. 22, 1705). About a week later Defoe, having got wind of a collection being taken up for Wesley—who in consequence of a series of misfortunes was badly in debt—intimated that High-Church pamphleteering had turned out very profitably for both Lesley and Wesley (Oct. 2, 1705). But in such snarling and bickering Wesley was out of his element, and he seems to have avoided future quarrels.
His literary criticism is small in bulk. But though it is neither brilliant nor well written (Wesley apparently composed at a break-neck clip), it is not without interest. Pope observed in 1730 that he was a "learned" man (letter to Swift, in Works, ed. Elwin-Courthope, VII, 184). The observation was correct, but it should be added that Wesley matured at the end of an age famous for its great learning, an age whose most distinguished poet was so much the scholar that he appeared more the pedant than the gentleman to critics of the succeeding era; Wesley was not singular for erudition among his seventeenth-century contemporaries.
The "Essay on Heroic Poetry," serving as Preface to The Life of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour, reveals something of its author's erudition. Among the critics, he was familiar with Aristotle, Horace, Longinus, Dionysius of Halicarnasseus, Heinsius, Bochart, Balzac, Rapin, Le Bossu, and Boileau. But this barely hints at the extent of his learning. In the notes on the poem itself the author displays an interest in classical scholarship, Biblical commentary, ecclesiastical history, scientific inquiry, linguistics and philology, British antiquities, and research into the history, customs, architecture, and geography of the Holy Land; he shows, an intimate acquaintance with Grotius, Henry Hammond, Joseph Mede, Spanheim, Sherlock, Lightfoot, and Gregory, with Philo, Josephus, Fuller, Walker, Camden, and Kircher; and he shows an equal readiness to draw upon Cudworth's True Intellectual System and Boyle's new theories concerning the nature of light. In view of such a breadth of knowledge it is somewhat surprising to find him quoting as extensively as he does in the "Essay" from Le Bossu and Rapin, and apparently leaning heavily upon them.
The "Essay" was composed at a time when the prestige of Rymer and neo-Aristotelianism in England was already declining, and though Wesley expressed some admiration for Rapin and Le Bossu, he is by no means docile under their authority. Whatever the weight of authority, he says, "I see no cause why Poetry should not be brought to the Test [of reason], as well as Divinity...." As to the sacred example of Homer, who based his great epic on mythology, Wesley remarks, "But this [mythology] being now antiquated, I cannot think we are oblig'd superstitiously to follow his Example, any more than to make Horses speak, as he does that of Achilles." To the question of the formidable Boileau, "What Pleasure can it be to hear the howlings of repining Lucifer?" our critic responds flippantly, "I think 'tis easier to answer than to find out what shew of Reason he had for asking it, or why Lucifer mayn't howl as pleasantly as either Cerberus, or Enceladus." Without hesitation or apology he takes issue with Rapin's conception of Decorum in the epic. But Wesley is empiricist as well as rationalist, and the judgment of authority can be upset by appeal to the court of experience. To Balzac's suggestion that, to avoid difficult and local proper names in poetry, generalized terms be used, such as Ill-luck for the Fates and the Foul Fiend for Lucifer, our critic replies with jaunty irony, "... and whether this wou'd not sound extreamly Heroical, I leave any Man to judge," and thus he dismisses the matter. Similarly, when Rapin objects to Tasso's mingling of lyric softness in the majesty of the epic, Wesley points out sharply that no man of taste will part with the fine scenes of tender love in Tasso, Dryden, Ovid, Ariosto, and Spenser "for the sake of a fancied Regularity." He had set out to defend the Biblical epic, the Christian epic, and the propriety of Christian machines in epic, and no rules or authority could deter him. As good an example as any of his independence of mind can be seen in a note on Bk. I, apropos of the poet's use of obsolete words (Life of Our Blessed Lord, 1697, p. 27): it may be in vicious imitation of Milton and Spenser, he says in effect, but I have a fondness for old words, they please my ear, and that is all the reason I can give for employing them.
Wesley's resistance to a strict application of authority and the rules grew partly out of the rationalistic and empirical temper of Englishmen in his age, but it also sprang from his learning. From various sources he drew the theory that Greek and Latin were but corrupted forms of ancient Phoenician, and that the degeneracy of Greek and Latin in turn had produced all, or most, of the present European tongues (ibid., p. 354). In addition, he believed that the Greeks had derived some of their thought from older civilizations, and specifically that Plato had received many of his notions from the Jews (ibid., p. 230)—an idea which recalls the argument that Dryden in Religio Laici had employed against the deists. Furthermore, he had, like many of his learned contemporaries, a profound respect for Hebrew culture and the sublimity of the Hebrew scriptures, going so far as to remark in the "Essay on Heroic Poetry" that "most, even of [the heathen poets'] best Fancies and Images, as well as Names, were borrow'd from the Antient Hebrew Poetry and Divinity." In short, however faulty his particular conclusions, he had arrived at an historical viewpoint, from which it was no longer possible to regard the classical standards—much less the standards of French critics—as having the holy sanction of Nature herself.
Some light is shed on the literary tastes of his period by Wesley's two essays here reproduced, which with a few exceptions were in accord with the prevailing current. The Life of Our Blessed Lord shows strongly the influence of Cowley's Davideis. Wesley's great admiration persisted after the tide had turned away from Cowley; and his liking for the "divine Herbert" and for Crashaw represented the tastes of sober and unfashionable readers. In spite of the fact that he professed unbounded admiration for Homer as the greatest genius in nature, in practise he seemed more inclined to follow the lead of Cowley, Virgil, and Vida. Although there was much in Ariosto that he enjoyed, he preferred Tasso; the irregularities in both, however, he felt bound to deplore. To Spenser's Faerie Queene he allowed extraordinary merit. If the plan of it was noble, he thought, and the mark of a comprehensive genius, yet the action of the poem seemed confused. Nevertheless, like Prior later, Wesley was inclined to suspend judgment on this point because the poem had been left incomplete. To Spenser's "thoughts" he paid the highest tribute, and to his "Expressions flowing natural and easie, with such a prodigious Poetical Copia as never any other must expect to enjoy." Like most of the Augustans Wesley did not care greatly for Paradise Regained, but he partly atoned by his praise for Paradise Lost, which was an "original" and therefore "above the common Rules." Though defective in its action, it was resplendent with sublime thoughts perhaps superior to any in Virgil or Homer, and full of incomparable and exquisitely moving passages. In spite of his belief that Milton's blank verse was a mistake, making for looseness and incorrectness, he borrowed lines and images from it, and in Bk. IV of The Life of Our Blessed Lord he incorporated a whole passage of Milton's blank verse in the midst of his heroic couplets.
Wesley's attitude toward Dryden deserves a moment's pause. In the "Essay on Heroic Poetry" he observed that a speech of Satan's in Paradise Lost is nearly equalled in Dryden's State of Innocence. Later in the same essay he credited a passage in Dryden's King Arthur with showing an improvement upon Tasso. There is no doubt as to his vast respect for the greatest living poet, but his remarks do not indicate that he ranked Dryden with Virgil, Tasso, or Milton; for he recognized as well as we that the power to embellish and to imitate successfully does not constitute the highest excellence in poetry. In the Epistle to a Friend he affirmed his admiration for Dryden's matchless style, his harmony, his lofty strains, his youthful fire, and even his wit—in the main, qualities of style and expression. But by 1700 Wesley had absorbed enough of the new puritanism that was rising in England to qualify his praise; now he deprecated the looseness and indecency of the poetry, and called upon the poet to repent. One other point calls for comment. Wesley's scheme for Christian machinery in the epic, as described in the "Essay on Heroic Poetry," is remarkably similar to Dryden's. Dryden's had appeared in the essay on satire prefaced to his translation of Juvenal, published late in October, 1692; Wesley's scheme appeared soon after June, 1693.
The Epistle to a Friend concerning Poetry is neither startling nor contemptible; it has, in fact, much more to say than the rhymed treatises on verse by Roscommon and Buckinghamshire. Its remarks on Genius are fresh, though tantalizing in their brevity, and it defends the Moderns with both neatness and energy. Much of its advice is cautious and commonplace—but such was the tradition of the poetical treatise on verse. Appearing within two years of Collier's first attack upon the stage, it reinforces some of that worthy's contentions, but we are not aware of its having had much effect.
The Epistle to a Friend concerning Poetry is here reproduced, with permission, from the copy at Harvard. The "Essay on Heroic Poetry" is reproduced, with permission, from a copy of the 1697 edition of The Life of Our Blessed Lord owned by the Henry E. Huntington Library, at San Marino, California. Our reproduction of the second item was made from a typescript because the printing of the original lacks the size and clarity which are necessary for satisfactory results In lithoprinting. The typescript follows the original accurately except that italics (crazily profuse in the 1697 edition) are omitted, the use of quotation marks is normalized, and three obvious typographical errors are silently emended.
Edward Niles Hooker
AN EPISTLE TO A FRIEND CONCERNING POETRY.
By SAMUEL WESLEY.
Fungor vice Cotis.
Printed for CHARLES HARPER, at the Flower de Luce in Fleetstreet. MDCC. 25. Aprill.
I have not much to say of this Poem, before I leave it to the Mercy of the Reader. There's no need of looking far into it, to find out that the direct Design of a great part of it, is to Serve the Cause of Religion and Virtue; tho' 'twas necessary for that End to dispose the whole in such a manner as might be agreeable to the Tast of the present Age, and of those who usually give such sort of Books the Reading. If there be any Thoughts in it relating to Poetry, that either are not known to all Persons, or are tolerably ranged and expressed, the Reader is welcome to 'em for Over-weight: If there are too few of these, I yet hope the Pardon of all candid Judges, because I've done the best I cou'd on this Argument. I can't be angry with any Person for ranking me amongst the Ogylbys; my Quarrel is with these that rank themselves amongst Atheists, and impudently defend and propagate that ridiculous Opinion of the Eternity of the World, and a fatal invincible Chain of Things, which, it seems, is now most commonly made use of to destroy the Faith, as our lewd Plays are to corrupt the Morals of the Nation: An Opinion, big with more Absurdities than Transubstantiation it self, and of far more fatal Consequence, if receiv'd and believ'd: For besides its extremely weakening, if not destroying, the Belief of the Being and Providence of God, it utterly takes away any sort of Freedom in Humane Actions, reduces Mankind beneath the Brute Creation; perfectly excuses the greatest Villanies in this World, and entirely vacates all Retribution hereafter. One wou'd wonder with what Face or Conscience such a Sett of Men shou'd hope to be treated by the Rules of Civility, when they themselves break through those of Society, and common Humanity: How they can expect any fairer Quarter than Wolves or Tygers; or what Reason they can give why a Price should not be sett upon their Heads, as well as on the Others; or at least why they should not be securely hamper'd and muzzled, and led about for a Sight, like other Monsters. 'Tis the fatal and spreading Poyson of these Mens Examples and Principles which has extorted these warm Expressions from me; I cannot with Patience see my Countrey ruin'd by the prodigious increase of Infidelity and Immorality, nor forbear crying out with some Vehemence, when I am giving Warning to all honest Men to stand up in the Defence of it, when it is in greater and more eminent danger than it wou'd have been formerly, if the Spanish Armada had made a Descent amongst us: I don't speak of these things by distant Hear-say, or only from our publick Prints, but from my own Knowledg and little Acquaintance in the World, and therefore others must have observ'd much more, and cannot but fear, that if things go on as they now are, without a greater Check, and more severe Laws against these wide and contagious Mischiefs, at least without a more general united Endeavour to put those Laws already made in strict Execution, we are in a fair way to become a Nation of Atheists. 'Tis now no difficult matter to meet with those who pretend to be lewd upon Principles; They'll talk very gravely, look as if they were in earnest, and come sobrii ad perdendam Rempublicam: they wou'd be Criticks too, and Philosophers: They attack Religion in Form and batter it from every Quarter; they wou'd turn the very Scriptures against themselves, and labour hard to remove a Supreme Being out of the World; or if they do vouchsafe him any room in it, 'tis only that they may find Fault with his Works, which they think, with that Blasphemer of old, might have been much better order'd, had they themselves stood by and directed the Architect. They'll tell you the Errors of Nature are every where plain and visible, all monstrous, here too much and there too little; or, as one of their own Poets,
Here she's too sparing, there profusely vain.
What would these Men have, or why can't they be content to sink single into the bottomless Gulph, without dragging so much Company thither with 'em? Can they grapple Omnipotence, or are they sure they can be too hard for Heaven? Can they Thunder with a Voice like God, and cast abroad the Rage of their Wrath? Cou'd they annihilate Hell, indeed, or did it only consist of such painted Flames as they'd fain believe it, they might make a shift to be tolerably happy, more quietly rake through the World, and sink into Nothing. There's too great reason to apprehend, that this Infection is spred among Persons of almost all Ranks and Qualities; and that tho' some may think it decent to keep on the Masque, yet if they were search'd to the bottom, all their Religion wou'd be found that which they most blasphemously assert of Religion in general, only a State Engin to keep the World in Order. This is Hypocrisie with a Witness; the basest and meanest of Vices; and how come Men to fall into these damnable Errors in Faith, but by Lewdness of Life? The Cowards wou'd not believe a God because they dare not do it, for Woe be to 'em if there be one, and consequently any Future Punishments. From such as these, I desire no Favour, but that of their Ill Word, as their Crimes must expect none from me, whose Character obliges me to declare an eternal War against Vice and Infidelity, tho' at the same time heartily to pity those who are infected with it. If I cou'd be ambitious of a Name in the World, it shou'd be that I might sacrifice it in so glorious a Cause as that of Religion and Virtue: If none but Generals must fight in this sacred War, when there are such infernal Hosts on the other side, they cou'd never prevail without one of the antient Miracles: If little People can but well discharge the Place of a private Centinel, 'tis all that's expected from us. I hope I shall never let the Enemies of God and my Countrey come on without Fireing, tho' it serve but to give the Alarm, and if I dye without quitting my Post, I desire no greater Glory. I have endeavour'd to shew that I had no Personal Pique against any whose Characters I may have given in this Poem, nor think the worse of them for their Thoughts of me. I hope I have every where done 'em Justice, and as well as I cou'd, have given 'em Commendation where they deserve it; which may also, on the other side, acquit me of Flattery with all Impartial Judges; for 'tis not only the Great whose Characters I have here attempted. And if what I have written may be any ways useful, or innocently diverting to the virtuous and ingenious Readers, he has his End, who is
Their Humble Servant
AN EPISTLE TO A FRIEND CONCERNING POETRY.
As Brother Pryme of old from Mount Orgueil, So I to you from Epworth and the Isle: Harsh Northern Fruits from our cold Heav'ns I send, Yet, since the best they yield, they'll please a Friend. You ask me, What's the readiest way to Fame, And how to gain a Poet's sacred Name? For Saffold send, your Choice were full as just, When burning Fevers fry your Limbs to Dust! Yet, lest you angry grow at your Defeat, } And me as ill as that fierce Spark should treat } 10 Who did the Farrier into Doctor beat; } You to my little Quantum, Sir, are free, Which I from HORACE glean or NORMANDY; These with some grains of Common Sense unite, Then freely think, and as I think I write. First poize your Genius, nor presume to write If Phoebus smile not, or some Muse invite: Nature refuses Force, you strive in vain, She will not drag, but struggling breaks the Chain. How bright a Spark of Heav'nly Fire must warm! 20 What Blessings meet a Poet's Mind to form! How oft must he for those Life-Touches sit, Genius, Invention, Memory, Judgment, Wit? There's here no Middle-State, you must excel; Wit has no Half-way-House 'twixt Heav'n and Hell All cannot All things, lest you mourn too late, Remember Phaeton's unhappy Fate! Eager to guide the Coursers of the Day, } Beneath their Brazen Hoofs he trampled lay, } And his bright Ruines mark'd their flaming Way. } 30 [Sidenote: Genius.] You'll ask, What GENIUS is, and Where to find? 'Tis the full Power and Energy of Mind: A Reach of Thought that skims all Nature o'er, Exhausts this narrow World, and asks for more: Through every Rank of Beings when't has flown, Can frame a New Creation of its own: By Possible and Future unconfin'd: Can stubborn Contradictions yoke, and bind Through Fancy's Realms, with Number, Time and Place, Chimera-Forms, a thin, an airy Race; 40 Then with a secret conscious Pride surveys The Enchanted Castles which't had Power to raise. [Sidenote: Wit.] As Genius is the Strength, be WIT defin'd The Beauty and the Harmony of Mind: Beauty's Proportion, Air, each lively Grace The Soul diffuses round the Heav'nly Face: 'Tis various, yet 'tis equal, still the same In Alpine Snows, or Ethiopian Flame; While glaring Colours short-liv'd Grace supply, Nor Frost nor Sun they bear, but scorch and die. 50 [Sidenote: Judgment.] Nor these alone, tho much they can, suffice, JUDGMENT must join, or never hope the Prize: Those Headstrong Coursers scowr along the Plains, The Rider's down, if once he lose the Reins: Soon the Mad Mixture will to all give Law, And for the Laurel Wreaths present thee Wreaths of Straw. Judgment's the Act of Reason; that which brings Fit Thoughts to Thoughts, and argues Things from Things, True, Decent, Just, are in its Balance try'd, And thence we learn to Range, Compound, Divide. 60 [Sidenote: Invention and Memory.] A Cave there is wherein those Nymphs reside Who all the Realms of Sense and Fancy guide; Nay some affirm that in the deepest Cell Imperial Reason's self does not disdain to dwell: With Living Reed 'tis thatch'd and guarded round, Which mov'd by Winds emit a Silver Sound: Two Crystal Fountains near its Entrance play, } Wide scatt'ring Golden Streams which ne'er decay, } Two Labyrinths behind harmonious Sounds convey: } Chiefly, within, the Room of State is fam'd 70 Of rich Mosaick Work divinely fram'd: Of small Extent to view, 'twill all things hide, Heav'n's Azure Arch it self not half so wide: Here all the Arts their sacred Mansion chuse, Here dwells the MOTHER of the Heav'n-born Muse: With wond'rous mystic Figures round 'tis wrought Inlaid with FANCY, and anneal'd with Thought: With more than humane Skill depicted here The various Images of Things appear; What Was, or Is, or labours yet to Be 80 Within the Womb of Dark Futurity, May Stowage in this wondrous Storehouse find, Yet leave unnumber'd empty Cells behind: But ah! as fast they come, they fly too fast, Not Life or Happiness are more in haste: Only the First Great Mind himself can stay The Fugitives and at one Glance survey; But those whom he disdains not to befriend, } Uncommon Souls, who nearest Heav'n ascend } Far more, at once, than others comprehend: } 90 Whate'er within this sacred Hall you find, } Whate'er will lodge in your capacious Mind } Let Judgment sort, and skilful Method bind; } And as from these you draw your antient Store Daily supply the Magazine with more. Furnish'd with such Materials he'll excel Who when he works is sure to work 'em well; This ART alone, as Nature that bestows, And in Perfection both, th' accomplish'd Verser knows. Knows to persuade, and how to speak, and when; 100 The Rules of Life, and Manners knows and Men: Those narrow Lines which Good and Ill divide; [Sidenote: Learning.] And by what Balance Just and Right are try'd: How Kindred-Things with Things are closely join'd; } How Bodies act, and by what Laws confin'd, } Supported, mov'd and rul'd by th' Universal Mind. } When the moist Kids or burning Sirius rise; } Through what ambiguous Ways Hyperion flies, } And marks our Upper or the Nether Skies. } He knows those Strings to touch with artful Hand 110 Which rule Mankind, and all the World command: What moves the Soul, and every secret Cell Where Pity, Love, and all the Passions dwell. The Music of his Verse can Anger raise, Which with a softer Stroak he smooths and lays: Can Emulation, Terror, all excite, Compress the Soul with Grief, or swell with vast Delight. If this you can, your Care you'll well bestow, And some new Milton or a Spencer grow; If not, a Poet ne'er expect to be, 120 Content to Rime, like D——y or like me. But here perhaps you'll stop me, and complain, To such Impracticable Heights I strain A Poet's Notion, that if This be He, There ne'er was one, nor e'er is like to be. —But soft, my Friend! may we not copy well Tho far th' Original our Art excel? Divine Perfection we our Pattern make Th' Idea thence of Goodness justly take; But they who copy nearest, still must fall 130 Immensely short of their Original; [Sidenote: Converse.] But Wit and Genius, Sense and Learning join'd, Will all come short if crude and unrefin'd; 'Tis CONVERSE only melts the stubborn Ore And polishes the Gold, too rough before: So fierce the Natural Taste, 'twill ne'er b' endur'd, The Wine is strong, but never rightly cur'd. [Sidenote: Style.] STYLE is the Dress of Thought; a modest Dress, Neat, but not gaudy, will true Critics please: Not Fleckno's Drugget, nor a worse Extream 140 All daub'd with Point and Gold at every Seam: Who only Antique Words affects, appears Like old King Harry's Court, all Face and Ears; Nor in a Load of Wig thy Visage shrowd, Like Hairy Meteors glimm'ring through a Cloud: Happy are those who here the Medium know, We hate alike a Sloven and a Beau. I would not follow Fashion to the height Close at the Heels, not yet be out of Sight: Words alter, like our Garments, every day, 150 Now thrive and bloom, now wither and decay. Let those of greater Genius new invent, Be you with those in Common Use content. A different Style's for Prose and Verse requir'd, Strong figures here, Neat Plainness there desir'd: A different Set of Words to both belong; What shines in Prose, is, flat and mean in Song. The Turn, the Numbers must be vary'd here, And all things in a different Dress appear. This every School Boy lash'd at Eaton knows, } 160 Yet Men of Sense forget when they compose, } And Father DRYDEN's Lines are sometimes Prose. } A vary'd Stile do various Works require, This soft as Air, and tow'ring that as Fire. None than th' Epistle goes more humbly drest, Tho neat 'twou'd be, and decent as the best. Such as th' ingenious Censor may invite } Oft to return with eager Appetite; } So HORACE wrote, and so I'd wish to write. } Nor creeps it always, but can mount and rise, 170 And with bold Pinions sail along the Skies. The self-same Work of different Style admits, Now soft, now loud, as best the Matter fits: So Father THAMES from unexhausted Veins, Moves clean and equable along the Plains; Yet still of different Depth and Breadth is found, And humours still the Nature of the Ground. [Sidenote: Reading.] READING will mend your Style and raise it higher, And Matter find to feed th' Immortal Fire: But if you would the Vulgar Herd excel, 180 And justly gain the Palm of Writing well, Wast not your Lamp in scanning Vulgar Lines, Where groveling all, or One in twenty shines; With Prudence first among the Antients chuse, The noblest only, and the best peruse; Such HOMER is, such VIRGIL's sacred Page, Which Death defie, nor yield to Time or Age; New Beauties still their Vigorous Works display, Their Fruit still mellows, but can ne'er decay. The Modern Pens not altogether slight, 190 Be Master of your Language e'er you write! Immortal TILLOTSON with Judgment scan, "That Man of Praise, that something more than Man!" Ev'n those who hate his Ashes this advise, } As from black Shades resplendent Lightning flies, } Unwilling Truths break through a Cloud of Lies. } He Words and Things for mutual Aid design'd, Before at Variance, in just Numbers join'd; He always soars, but never's out of sight, He taught us how to Speak, and Think, and Write. 200 If English Verse you'd in Perfection see, ROSCOMMON read, and Noble NORMANDY: We borrow all from their exhaustless Store, Or little say they have not said before. Poor Insects of a Day, we toil and strive To creep from Dust to Dust, and think we live; These weak imperfect Beings scarce enjoy E'er Death's rude Hand our blooming Hopes destroy: With Lynx's Eyes each others Faults we find, But to our own how few who are not blind? 210 How long is Art, how short, alas! our Time! } How few who can above the Vulgar climb, } Whose stronger Genius reach the True Sublime! } With tedious Rules which we our selves transgress, We make the Trouble more who strive to make it less. But meanly why do you your Fate deplore, Yet still write on?—Why do a Thousand more, Who for their own or some Forefathers Crime Are doom'd to wear their Days in beating Rhime? But this a Noble Patron will redress, 220 And make you better write, tho you write less: Whate'er a discontented Mind pretends, Distinguish'd Worth can rarely miss of Friends: Do but excel, and he'll at last arise Who from the Dust may lift thee to the Skies; For his own Sake will his Protection grant; What Horace e'er did yet Mecaenas want? Or if the World its Favours should refuse, With barren Smiles alone reward thy Muse; Be thy own Patron, thou no more wilt need, 230 For all will court thee if thy Works succeed; At least the few Good Judges will commend, And secret growing Praise thy Steps attend. Who shew'd Columbus where the Indies lay? True to thy self, charge through, and force to Fame the way! If Envy snarl, indulge it no Reply, Write better still, and let it burst and die! Rest pleas'd if you can please the Wiser Few, Since to please all is more than Heav'n it self can do. There are who can whate'er they will believe, 240 That Bail's too hard for Beady, Three are Five: That Nature, Justice, Reason, Truth must fall, With Clear Idea's they'll confound 'em all: That Parallels may travel till they meet; Faith they can find in L——, no Sense in STILLINGFLEET. Disturb 'em not, but let 'em still enjoy Th' unenvy'd Charms of their Eternal Moi. If to the craggy Top of Fame you rise, Those who are lab'ring after ne'er despise. Nor those above on Honours dazling Seat } 250 Tho disoblig'd, with sawcy Rudeness treat, } Revenge not always is below the Great. } Their Stronger Genius may o'er thine prevail: Wit, Power and Anger join'd but rarely fail. Tho Eagles would not chuse to hawk at Flies } They'd snap 'em, should their buzzing Swarms arise } Importunate, and hurt their Sun bright Eyes. } Nor should the Muses Birds at random fly, And strike at all, lest if they strike they die. Why should we still be lazily content 260 With thredbare Schemes, and nothing new invent? All Arts besides improve, Sea, Air and Land } Are every day with nicer Judgment scan'd, } And why should this alone be at a stand? } Or Nature largely to the Ancients gave And little did for younger Children save; Or rather we impartial Nature blame To hide our Sloth, and cover o'er our Shame; As Sinners, when their Reason's drown'd in Sense, Fall out with Heav'n, and quarrel Providence. 270 Yet should you our Galenic Way despise, And some new Colbatch of the Muses rise; No Quarter from the College hope, who sit Infallible at Will's and judg of Sense and Wit: Keep fair with these, or Fame you court in vain, A strict Neutrality at least maintain! Speak, like the wise Italian, well of all; Who knows into what Hands he's doom'd to fall? Write oft and much, at first, if you'd write well, For he who ne'er attempts will ne'er excel; 280 Practice will file your Verse, your Thoughts refine, And Beauty give, and Grace to every Line: The Gnat to fam'd AEneis led the way, And our Immortal COWLEY once did play. Let not the Sun of Life in vain decline, Or Time run waste; No Day without a Line. Yet learn by me, my Friend, from Errors past; O never write, or never Print in Haste! The worst Excuse Ill Authors e'er advance, Which does, like Lies, a single Guilt enhance. 290 Lay by your Work, and leave it on the Loom, Which if at mod'rate distance you resume, A Father's Fondness you'll with Ease look through, And Objects in a proper Medium view. 'Tis Time alone can Strength and Ripeness give; A Hasty Birth can ne'er expect to live. Fly, low at first, you'll with Advantage rise; This pleases all, as that will all surprize. [Sidenote: The Subject.] No Work attempt but where your Strength you know, Be Master of your Subject, Thoughts will flow: 300 The newer 'tis, the choicer Fruit 'twill yield, More Room you have to work if large your Field; The Sponge you oftner than the Pen will want, And rather Reason see to prune than plant; Yet where the Thoughts are barren, weak and thin, New Cyons should be neatly grafted in. [Sidenote: A Judge.] If you with Friend or Enemy are blest, Your Fancy's Offspring ne'er can want a Test, Tho Both, perhaps may overshoot the Mark: First Spite with Envy charges in the Dark; 310 Unread they damn, and into Passion fall, 'Tis Stuff, 'tis Blasphemy 'tis Nonsense all; They sleep (when doz'd before) at every Line, } While your more dang'rous Friend exclaims,—'Tis fine, } 'Tis furiously Delightful, 'tis Divine; } Th' inspiring God's in ev'ry Page confess'd; A COWLEY or a DRYDEN at the least! Yet you'll from both an equal Judgment frame And stand the nearest Candidate for Fame: What Envy praises, or what Friends dislike, 320 This bears the Test, and that the Sponge should strike. Chuse to be absent when your Cause is try'd, Lest Favour should the partial Judge misguide; Not others Thoughts implicitly prefer, Your Friend's a Mortal, and like you, may err. Upon the last Appeal let Reason sit, And here, let all Authority submit. Divest your self of self whate'er you can, And think the Author now some other Man. A thousand trivial Lumber-Thoughts will come, 330 A thousand Fagot-Lines will crowd for room; Reform your Troops, and no Exemption grant, You'll gain in Strength, what you in Numbers want. Nor yet Infallibility pretend; He still errs on who thinks he ne'er can mend: Reject that hasty, that presumptuous Thought! None e'er but VIRGIL wrote without a Fault; (Or none he has, or none that I can find, Who, dazzled with his Beauties, to his Moles am blind.) Who has the least is happiest, he the best, 340 Who owns and mends where he has once transgrest. Nor will good Writers smaller Blots despise, Lest those neglected should to Crimes arise; Such Venial Sins indulg'd will mortal prove, At least they from Perfection far remove. Nor Critical Exactness here deride, It looks like Sloth or Ignorance, or Pride; Good Sense is spoild in Words unapt exprest, And Beauty pleases more when 'tis well drest. [Sidenote: Method.] Forget not METHOD if the Prize you'd gain, 350 'Twill cost you Thought, but richly pays the Pain; What first, what second, or what last to place, What here will shine, and there the Work disgrace. Before you build, your MODEL justly lay, And ev'ry Part in Miniature survey; Where airy Terraces shall threat the Skies, Where Columns tow'r, or neat Pilasters rise; Where cool Cascades come roaring down the Hill, Or where the Crystal Nymph a mossie Bason fill: What Statues are to grace the Front design'd, 360 And how to throw the meaner Rooms behind. Draw the Main Strokes at first, 'twill shew your Skill, Life-Touches you may add whene'er you will. Ev'n Chance will sometimes all our Art excel, The angry Foam we ne'er can hit so well. A sudden Thought, all beautiful and bright, Shoots in and stunns us with amazing Light; Secure the happy Moment e'er 'tis past, Not Time more swift, or Lightning flies so fast. All must be free and easie, or in vain 370 You whip and spur, and the wing'd Courser strain: When foggy Clouds hang bellying in the Skies, Or fleety Boreas through th' Horizon flies; He then, whose Muse produces ought that's fine, His Head must have a stronger Turn than mine: Like Sybils Leaves the Train of Thoughts are rang'd, Which by rude Winds disturb'd, are nothing if they're chang'd. Or are there too in Writing softer Hours? Or is't that Matter nobler Mind o'erpow'rs, Which boasts her native Liberty in vain, 380 In Mortal Fetters and a Slavish Chain? Death only can the Gordian Knot divide, } Tho by what secret wondrous Bands 'tis ty'd, } Ev'n Reason's self must own she can't decide: } For as the rapid Tides of Matter turn } We're fann'd with Pleasure or with Anger burn, } We Love and Hate again, we Joy and Mourn. } Now the swift Torrent high and headstrong grows, Shoots through the Dykes, and all the Banks o'erflows; Strait the capricious Waters backward fly, The Pebbles rake and leave the Bottom dry; 390 Watch the kind Hour and seize the rising Flood, Else will your dreggy Poem taste of Mud. Hence old and batter'd Hackneys of the Stage, By long Experience render'd Wise and Sage, With pow'rful Juices restive Nature urge, Or else with Bays of old, they bleed and purge; Thence, as the Priestess from her Cave inspir'd, When to his Cell the rancid God retir'd, Double Entendres their fond Audience blind, Their boasted Oracles abuse Mankind: 400 False Joys around their Hearts in Slumbers play, And the warm tingling Blood steals fast away; The Soul grows dizzy, lost in Senses Night, And melts in pleasing Pain and vain Delight. Not that the sowrest Critick can reprove The soft the moving Scenes of Virtuous Love: Life's Sunny Morn, which wears, alas! too fast; Pity it e'er should hurt, or should not always last! Has Bankrupt Nature then no more to give, Or by a Trick persuades Mankind to live? 410 No—when with Prudence join'd 'tis still the same } Or ripens into Friendship's nobler Name, } The Matter pure, immortal is the Flame. } No Fool, no Debauchee could ever prove The honest Luxury of Virtuous Love; Then curs'd are those who that fair Name abuse, And holy Hymen's sacred Fillets loose; Who poison Fountains, and infect the Air, Ruine the Witty, and debauch the Fair; With nauseous Images their Scenes debase 420 At once their Country's Ruine and Disgrace. Weigh well each Thought if all be Just and Right, For those must clearly think who clearly write. Nothing obscure, equivocal, or mean, Much less what is or impious or obscene: Altho the tempting Serpent play his part, And wind in glitt'ring Folds around thy Heart; Reject the trait'rous Charmer, tear him thence, And keep thy Vertue and thy Innocence. [Sidenote: The Manchinel, or Eves Apple.] In wild America's rank Champaign grows 430 A Tree which Europe oft too dearly knows; It rises high in cool inchanting Groves, Whose green broad Leaves the fainting Trav'ler loves; Fair is the treach'rous Fruit, and charms your Eye, But ah! beware! for if you taste you die. Too well alas! it thrives when planted here, Its deadly Branches shade our Theatre. Of Mesures, Numbers, Pauses next I sing, And rest the breathless Muse with cautious Wing: Of Embryo Thoughts, unripen'd yet by Time, 440 The Rules of Verse, of Quantity and Rhime: With trembling Steps through Shades unknown I stray, And mark a rugged and a dubious way; Yet some small glimm'ring Light will hence be show'd, And future Trav'lers may enlarge the Road. [Sidenote: Measure.] Of CHAUCER'S Verse we scarce the Measures know, So rough the Lines, and so unequal flow; Whether by Injury of Time defac'd, Or careless at the first, and writ in haste; Or coursly, like old Ennius, he design'd 450 What After-days have polish'd and refin'd. SPENCER more smooth and neat, and none than He Could better skill of English Quantity; Tho by his Stanza cramp'd, his Rhimes less chast, And antique Words affected all disgrac'd; Yet vast his Genius, noble were his Thoughts, Whence equal Readers wink at lesser Faults. From France their Alexandrins we receive Which more of Liberty and Compass give; Hence by our dull Translators were they us'd, 460 Nor CHAPMAN nor old STERNHOLD these refus'd; They borrow from Hexameters their Feet, Which with Asclepiads and Iambicks meet; Yet in the midst we still a Weakness see, Their Music gives us no Variety. More num'rous the Pentameter and strong, Which to our Saxon Fathers did belong. In this their antient Edda seems to write, Mysterious Rhimes, and horrid to the sight: Their Runic Staves in this on Rocks engrav'd, 470 Which long th' Assaults of Time it self have brav'd. In this our antient British Bards delight; } And, if I measure his rough Numbers right, } In this old Taliessin us'd to Write. } This still Possession keeps, few else we read, And Right as well as Fact may justly plead; Altho the French Intruders oft pursue Their baffled Title, and their Claim renew; Too oft Impressions on our Armies make, Cut off our Straglers and our Out-Guards take, 480 Which lazily our Authors now admit, And call th' Excursions of Luxuriant Wit; With Badger-Feet the two-top'd Mount we climb, And stalk from Peak to Peak on Stilts of Rime. Sweet WALLER'S Dimeter we most approve For cheerful Songs and moving Tales of Love, Which for Heroic Subjects wants of Strength, Too short, as Alexandrins err in Length. Our Ear's the Judge of Cadence; nicely weigh What Consonants; rebel, and what obey; 490 What Vowels mixt compose a pleasing Sound, And what the tender Organs grate and wound. Nor at thy Reader's Mercy chuse to lie, Nor let his Judgment want of thine supply: So easie let thy Verse so smoothly fall, They must be read aright if read at all. [Sidenote: Numbers.] Nor equal Numbers will for all suffice, The Sock creeps low, the Tragic Bushkins rife; None knew this Art so well, so well did use As did the Mantuan Shepherd's Heav'nly Muse: 500 He marry'd Sound and Sense, at odds before, We hear his Scylla bark, Charybdis roar; And when in Fields his Fiery Coursers meet The hollow Ground shakes underneath their feet: Yet nicer Ears can taste a Diff'rence when Of Flocks and Fields he sings or Arms and Men. If I our English Numbers taste aright, We in the grave Iambic most delight: Each second Syllable the Voice should rest, Spondees may serve, but still th' Iambic's best: 510 Th' unpleasing Trochee always makes a Blot, And lames the Numbers; or, if this forgot, A strong Spondaic should the next succeed, The feeble Wall will a good Buttress need: Long Writing, Observation, Art and Pain Must here unite if you the Prize would gain. [Sidenote: Pauses.] Pause is the Rest of Voice, the poor Remains Of antient Song that still our Verse retains: The second Foot or third's our usual Rest, Tho more of Art's in varying oft exprest. 520 At ev'ry Word the Pause is sometimes made, And wond'rous Beauty every where displaid: —But here we guess, and wander in the dark; How should a hoodwink'd Archer hit the Mark? The little Glimpse that DRYDEN gives, is more Than all our careless Writers knew before; A few Chance Lines may smooth and roundly fly, But still no Thanks to us, we know not why. He finds Examples, we the Rule must make, Tho who without a Guide may not mistake? 530  "Tho deep yet clear, tho gentle yet not dull, Strong without Rage, without o'er flowing full." If we that famous Riddle can unty, Their brightest Beauties in the Pauses lie, To Admiration vary'd; next to these The Numbers justly order'd charm and please: Each Word, each happy Sound is big with Sense, They all deface who take one Letter thence. [Sidenote: Quantity.] But little more of Quantity we know Than what our Accent does, and Custom show: 540 The Latin Fountains often we forsake, As they the Greek; nay diff'rent Ages take A diff'rent Path; Perfume and Envy now We say, which Ages past would scarce allow: If no Position make our Accent strong Most Syllables are either short or long. [Sidenote: Rhime.] Primitive Verse was grac'd with pleasing Rhimes, The Blank a lazy Fault of After-times; Nor need we other proof of this to plead With those the sacred  Hebrew Hymns can read: 550 If this to lucky Chance alone be due, Why Rhime they not in Greek and Latin too?  PINDAR at first his ancient Copy trac'd, And sometimes equal Sounds his Numbers grac'd; Till with the more than human Labour tir'd, He drop'd his Rhime, and own'd him uninspir'd. ORPHEUS and HOMER too, who first did dream Of num'rous Gods, and left the One Supreme, Religion both and Poetry did wrong, Apostatiz'd from Rhime, and lost the Soul of Song. 560 Yet still some weak and glimm'ring Sparks remain'd, And still our Great Forefathers this retain'd; Nor Inundations of Barbarian Rome, Our ancient Rhime could wholly overcome. [Sidenote: Vide p. 13.] Ne'er cramp thy Reason for some paltry Chime, Nor sacrifice Good Sense to Numbers and to Rhime: Both may be sav'd and made good Friends; and here The Poets Art and Happiness appear: But when some stubborn Word denies to draw In Numbers, and defies the Muses Law, 570 Reject it strait, unworthy such a Grace, Another yoke which better fills the Place: Much Reading will thy Poverty amend And Taggs without the help of Crambo lend. The Double Rhime is antiquated grown, Or us'd in Satyr or Burlesque alone; Nor loves our stronger Tongue that tinkling Chime, The Darling of the French, a Female Rhime. Now, daring Muse! attempt a stronger Flight, Beyond a Vulgar Verser's cautious Height, 580 Beyond thy self, and consecrate to Fame } Those who a Title to the Laurel claim, } And may to after-times embalm thy Name; } Commend the Good, to all but Vice be kind, And cast the smaller Faults in shades behind; Who first, who next; the Balance justly hold, As that which shines above, and flames with Heav'nly Gold. Great N——BY the first, ROSCOMMON gone, He rules our Empire now of Wit alone: The Beauties he of Verse exactly knows, 590 The famous DRYDEN'S not more smoothly flows: Had ORPHEUS half so sweetly mourn'd his Fate, As VIRGIL sung, or Sh——d did translate; H' had made the Manes once again relent, They would again Eurydice have sent: Death's Temple we with sacred Aw survey, With Admiration read his Great Essay: Was Art or bounteous Nature here more kind? } Strong Sense! Uncommon Learning! Thoughts refin'd! } 600 A Godlike Person, and an equal Mind! } [Sidenote: Paraphrase on Psal. 148 O Azure Vaults, &c.] The next in Dignity, if not the same, Is Deathless Dorsot's lov'd and noble Name: How did he sing, (listen'd the Heav'nly Quire;) The Wond'rous Notes of DAVID's Royal Lyre! Ah! Why no more must we for ever long And vainly languish for so sweet a Song? The next is Tityrus, who not disdains To read his Name among the tuneful Swains; Unweary'd in his Prince's glorious Cause, 610 As he of Faith, Defender of the Laws; Easie to all but to himself, he shares His Monarch's Favours, and his Monarch's Cares: His flowing Language cloaths his massie Sense, } Nor makes with pompous Words a vain pretence, } Sound without Soul, to Wit and Eloquence. } Tho Great, he's still the same he was before: —I sue for nothing, and I'll say no more. Montague left the Muses peaceful Seat, And bore the Cares and Honours of the Great: 620 The Pollio he of our Augustan days, Who Wit rewards with more than hungry Praise; True Worth his Patronage can never miss, He has his Prince's Smiles and that has his. Nor should he pass unprais'd whom all admire, Who, mixt with Seraphs, rules the Western Quire; Flowing and pure his unexhausted Vein, As Silver Thames, which, rolling down the Plain, Salutes his Sacred Dome.—— But those profane who meanly thus commend, 630 Th' Immortal Cowley's and the Muses Friend. Of matchless DRYDEN only Dryden's Skill Could justly say enough,—of Good or Ill. Envy must own he has our Tongue refin'd, And manly Sense with tend'rest Softness join'd: His Verse would Stones and Trees with Soul inspire, As did the Theban and the Thracian Lyre: His youthful Fire within, like Etna, glows, Tho Venerable Age around his Temples snows: If from the modern or the antient Store 640 He borrows ought, he always pays 'em more: So much improv'd, each Thought, so fine appears, WALLER or OVID scarce durst own 'em theirs. The Learned Goth has scowr'd all Europe's Plains, } France, Spain, and fruitful Italy he drains, } From every Realm and every Language gains: } His Gains a Conquest are, and not a Theft; He wishes still new Worlds of Wit were left: Thus haughty Rome, when, all the Firm surpass'd, Her Eagles found our moated World at last; 650 Touching upon th' unhospitable Coast, Good Laws bestow'd for our wild Freedom lost; With Arts of Peace our stubborn Soil manur'd, And naked Limbs from Frost and Sun secur'd: —But ah' how dear the Price of all we gain! } What Shoals of Vices with 'em cross'd the Main? } What Pride, what Luxury, a foul, an odious Train? } Who weighs, like Galcacus, the Good with Ill, Would wish they'd let us been Barbarians still: Such thankless Pains Ignatian Firebrands take 660 An honest Pagan spoil, and a bad Christian make. Blest be kind Heav'n, which wrap'd me in a Gown, And drew me early from the fatal Town! And blest Her Name, to endless Ages blest, Who gave my weary Muse this calm Retreat and Rest. True to my God, my Country, and my Friend, } Here, may I Life, not wholly useless, spend, } Steal through the World, and smiling meet my End! } I envy not Great Dryden's loftier Strain } Of Arms and Men design'd to entertain, } 670 Princes and Courts, so I but please the Plain: } Nor would I barter Profit for Delight, Nor would have writ like him, like him to write. If there's Hereafter, and a last Great Day, What Fire's enough to purge his Stains away? How will he wish each lewd applauded Line } Which makes Vice pleasing, and Damnation shine, } Had been as dull as honest Quarles or mine! } With sixty Years of Lewdness rest content! It mayn't be yet too late, O yet Repent! 680 Ev'n Thee our injur'd Altar will receive; While yet there's Hopes fly to its Arms and live! So shall for Thee their Harps the Angels string, And the Returning Prodigal shall sing; New Joys through all the Heav'nly Host be shown In Numbers only sweeter than thy own. CONGREVE from Ireland wond'ring we receive, } Would he the Town's loose way of Writing leave, } More Worth than all their Forfeit Lands will give: } Justness of Thought, a Courtly Style, and clear, 690 And well-wrought Passions in his Works appear: None knows with finer Strokes our Souls to move, And as he please we smile, or weep, or love. When Dryden goes, 'tis he must fill the Chair, With Congreve only Congreve can compare. Yet, tho he natural is as untaught Loves, His Style as smooth as Cytherea's Doves, When e'er unbyass'd Judges read him o'er, He sometimes nodds, as Homer did before: Some Lines his most Admirers scarce would please, 700 Nor B——'s Verse alone could raise Disease. For smooth and well turn'd Lines we T—— admire, Who has in Justness what he wants in Fire: Each Rhime, each Syllable well-weigh'd and fair, His Life and Manners scarce more regular. With Strength and Flame prodigious D——s writes Of Loves lost Wars, and cruel martial Fights: Scarce LEE himself strove with a mightier Load, Or labour'd more beneath th' Incumbent God: Whate'er of old to Rome or Athens known, 710 What France or We have glean'd, 'tis all his own. How few can equal Praise with C——ch obtain, Who made Lucretius smooth, and chast, and plain? Courted by Fame he could her Charms despise, } Still woo'd by that false Fair he still denies, } And press'd, for Refuge to the Altar flies; } Like votive Tablets offers up his Bays, "And leaves to our lewd Town the Drudgery of Plays." In lofty Raptures, born on Angels Wings } Above the Clouds, above Castalian Springs, } 720 N—— inspir'd, of God and Nature sings; } And if one Glance on this poor World he throw, If e'er he mind the Croud and Buzz below; Pities our fruitless Pains for Fame and Praise, And wonders why we drudge for Crowns and Bays. Could B—— be sober, many he'd excel, Few know the Antients, or could use so well; But ah! his Genius with his Virtue's fled, Condemn'd to Want of Grace and Want of Bread. Ev'n Envy B——re's Subject must confess } 730 Exact and rare, a curious Happiness, } Nor many could the Fable better dress: } Of Words what Compass, and how vast a Store! His Courage and his Vertue's only more: More various Scenes of Death his Fights display Then Aghrim's Field or London's fatal Day: Let beauteous Elda's Tears and Passion prove His Soul is not unknowing how to love: Disrob'd of Clouds he view'd the Stagyrite As Nature he, confess'd to Human sight: His Rules surveys, and traces to their Springs, } 740 Where the blind Bard of flaming Ilium sings; } Thence with the Mantuan Swan in narrower Rings, } Tho more exact, he, stooping from his height, Reviews the same fierce Wars and Gods and Heroes fight: That beauteous antient Palace he surveys } Which Maro's Hands had only Strength to raise, } Models from thence, and copies every Grace: } Each Page is big with Virgil's Manly Thought, To follow him too near's a glorious Fault. He dar'd be virtuous in the World's Despite, 750 While D——n lives he dar'd a Modest Poem write. Who can th' ingenious S——y's Praise refuse, Who serves a grateful Prince, and grateful Muse? Or P——r read unmov'd, whose every Page So just a Standard to the opening Age? Neat S——n's courtly Vein's correct and clear, Nor shall he miss his Praise and Station here: Nor should the rest whom I unnam'd must leave, (Tho such Omission they'll with ease forgive:) 760 Unknown to me, let each his Works commend, Since Virtue, Praise, as Shame does Vice attend. Poets, like Leaves and Words, their Periods know, Now fresh and green, now sear and wither'd grow; Or burnt by Autumn's Heat, and Winter's Cold, Or a new hasty Birth shoves off the old. Happy are those, and such are some of ours, } Who blest by bounteous Heav'n's indulgent Show'rs } Bear wholsome Fruit, and not gay pois'nous Flow'rs: } Who would not ev'n a Lawreat's self commence 770 Or at their Virtue's or their Faith's Expence: Renounce their Creed to save a wretched Play, } And for a crowded House and full Third Day } At one bold Stroke throw all their Heav'n away. } What gain'd Euripides by all his Sense, Who madly rail'd against a Providence? Apostate Poets first seduc'd Mankind, But ours upon the Pagan Herd refin'd; They Vertue prais'd at least, which ours abuse, And more than Paganize the Heav'n-born Muse: 780 No Signs of Grace, or of Repentance show, Like Strumpets lash'd, more impudent they grow. Now learn, my Friend, and freely I'll impart My little All in this delightful Art: Of Poetry the various Forms and Kinds, The widest, strongest Grasp of human Minds: Not all from all, but some from each I take, Since we a Garland not a Garden make. [Sidenote: Epic.] EPIC's the first and best, which mounting sings } In Mighty Numbers worthy mighty Things, } 790 Of High Adventures, Heroes, Gods and Kings: } By lively Schemes the Mind to Vertue forms, And far beyond unactive Precept warms. The Subject may be either feign'd or true, Too Old it should not be, but less too New: Narration mixt with Action most delights, Intrigues and Councils, vary'd Games and Fights: Nothing so long as may the Reader tire, But all the just well-mingled Scenes admire. Your Heroe may be virtuous, must be brave; Nothing that's mean should his great Soul enslave: Yet Heav'ns unequal Anger he may fear, And for his suffering Friends indulge a Tear: Thus when the Trojans Navy scatter'd lay He wept, he trembled, and to Heav'n did pray; But when bright Glory beckon'd from afar, And Honour call'd him out to meet the War; Like a fierce Torrent pouring o'er the Banks, Or Mars himself, he thunders through the Ranks; Death walks before, while he a Foe could find, 810 Horror and Ruine mark long frightful Lanes behind. [Sidenote: Machines.] For worn and old MACHINES few Readers care, They're like the Pastboard Chaos in the Fair: If ought surprizing you expect to shew, The Scenes if not the Persons should be new: With both does MILTON'S wondrous Scheme begin, The Pandemonium, Chaos, Death and Sin; Which D——s had with like Success assay'd, } Had not the Porch of Death's Grim Court been made } Too wide, and there th' impatient Reader staid. } 820 And G——h, tho barren is his Theme and mean, By this has reach'd at least the fam'd Lutrine. If tir'd with such a plenteous Feast you call For a far meaner Banquet, Meal and Wall; The best I have is yours, tho 'tis too long, And what's behind will into Corners throng. A Place there is, if Place 'tis nam'd aright, } Where scatter'd Rays of pale and sickly Light, } Fringe o'er the Confines of Eternal Night. } Shorn of their Beams the Sun and Phoebe here 830 Like the fix'd Stars, through Glasses view'd, appear; Or those faint Seeds of Light, which just display Ambiguous Splendor round the milky Way; The Waste of Chaos, whose Auguster Reign Does those more barren doubtful Realms disdain: Here dwell those hideous Forms which oft repair } To breath our upper World's more chearful Air } Bleak Envy, grinding Pain, and meagre Care; } Disease and Death, the Goddess of the place, Death, the least frightful Form of all their Race; 840 Ambition, Pride, false Joys and Hopes as vain, Lewdness and Luxury compose her Train: How large their Interest, and how vast their Sway Amid the wide invaded Realms of Day! Soon would they our frail Race of Mortals end, Did not kind Heav'n auspicious Succours lend; Sweet Angel-Forms, Peace, Virtue, Health and Love, How near ally'd, how like to those above! These often drive the Air, those Furies chace And fetter in their own infernal Place: 850 These lent at once NASSAW and ENGLAND Aid, And bright MARIA to our Shores convey'd: Her, all their Pow'r and all their Charms they gave, To govern what her Heroe came to save. Nor Envy this, who in her noisome Cell By Traitors in their swift Descent to Hell, Her rising Glories heard, then with a Groan She crawl'd before her Sov'reign's direful Throne: A Pile of Sculls the odious Fantom bore, With Bones half-naked mixt, and dropping putrid Gore; 860 There thus—Shall Heav'n defraud us of our Reign, And BRITAIN, only BRITAIN break her Chain? What can we there, while more than mortal Grace Forbids our Entrance, and secures the Place? Awhile I gaz'd and viewed her as I fled, When first she came, till half my Snakes were dead; And had I tarry'd longer near her Throne, Had soon some base insipid Vertue grown: So fast the wide progressive Ills increase, } If longer unoppos'd our Power will cease; } 870 The base degenerate World dissolve to Peace; } Our boasted Empire there will soon be o'er, And Mortals tremble at our Arms no more. She said, her Tidings all the Court affright, And doubled Horror fill'd the Realms of Night: Till out foul Lewdness leap'd, and shook the Place. } The fulsom'st Fiend of all th' infernal Race; } A crusted Leprosie deform'd her Face; } With half a bloodshot Eye the Fury glar'd, Yet when for Mischief she above prepar'd, 880 She painted and she dress'd, those Arts she knew, And to her self her self a Stranger grew, (Thus old and batter'd Bawds behind the Scenes, New rigg'd and dawb'd, pass on the Stage for Queens;) Nor yet, she cries, of Britain we'll despair } I've yet some trusty Friends in Ambush there, } All is not lost, we've still the Theatre: } I'll batter Virtue thence, nor fear to gain } New Subjects daily from her hated Reign; } Is not Great D—— ours and all his Train? } He knows he has new Laurels here prepar'd, } 890 For those he lost above, a just Reward, } For his wide Conquests he'll command the Guard: } Headed by him one Foot we'll scorn to yield, Tho Virtue's glitt'ring Squadrons drive the Field: Grant me, Dread Sov'reign! a Detachment hence } We'll not be long alone on our Defence, } But hope to drive the proud Assailants thence. } Bold Blasphemy shall lead our black Forlorn, With Colours from Heav'n's Crystal Ramparts torn, And Anti-Thunderrs arm'd; Profaneness next 900 Their Canon seize, and turn the Sacred Text Against th' Assailants; brave Revenge and Rage Shall our main Batt'ry ply, and guard the Stage. —But most I on dear Ribaldry depend, We've not a surer or a stronger Friend. Now shall she broad and open to the Skie, Now close behind some double Meaning lye; Now with sulphureous Rivers lave the French, And choak th' Assailants with infernal Stench; Each nicer Vertue from the Walls repel, 910 And Heav'n it self regale with the Perfumes of Hell. This from the World our dreaded Foe will drive, As murm'ring Bees are forc'd to leave their Hive; Souls so refin'd such Vapours cannot bear, But seek their native Heav'n and purer Air: When She and all her heav'nly Guards are gone And her bright Heroe absent, all's our own: If any pious Fools should make a stand, To stop our Progress through the conquer'd Land, They soon shall pass for hot-brain'd Visionairs, 920 We'll run 'em down with Ridicule and Farce. Must they reform the World! A likely Task! Tis Vizard all, and them we'll soon unmask. The rest will tumble in, or if they stay And loiter in Damnation's ample Way, I've one Expedient left, which can't but take, My last Reserve; From yon black brimstone Lake, Whence two Canals thro subterranean Veins Are drawn to Sodom and Campania's Plains, My self I'll fill a Vial, and infuse 930 My very Soul amid the potent Juice: This Essence near my Heart I'll with me bear, } And this among my dearest Fav'rites share, } Already tutor'd by the Theatre; } Who pass'd those Bugbears Conscience, Law and Shame Have there been taught that Virtue's but a Name: Exalted Souls who vulgar Sins despise; Fit for some new discover'd nobler Vice; One Drop of this their frozen Blood shall warm, And frighted Nature's feebler Guards disarm 930 Till their chill Veins with hotter Fevers glow } Than any Etna or Vesuvius know, } Scarce equal'd by their Parent Flames below; } Till wide around the gen'rous Canker spread, And Vengeance draw on each devoted Head: Impatient Heav'n it self our Arms shall join, The Skies again with forky Lightnings shine; Till glutted Desolation pants for Breath, And guilty Shades shall croud the Realms of Death. —She said, the Motion pleas'd she wings away 940 And in blue pois'nous Foggs invades the Day: Part of her direful Threats too true we find, And Heav'n avert the Plagues that yet remain behind! [Sidenote: Tragedy.] The Path which Epic treads the TRAGIC Muse With daring tho unequal Steps pursues, A little Epic shines through every Scene, Tho more of Life appears, and less Machine; More Action, less Narration, more Delight; We see the Gods descend, and Heroes fight. While Oedipus is raving on the Stage, 950 Mild Pity enters and dissolves our Rage; We low'r our haughty Spirits, our Pride and Hate, And learn to fear the sad Reverse of Fate. A Tyrant's Fall, a treach'rous Statesman's End Clear the Just Gods, and equal Heav'n defend: Ungrateful Factions here themselves torment, And bring those very Ills they would prevent: Nor think the lost Intrigues of Love too mean To fill the Stage and grace toe Tragic Scene! Who from the World this Salt of Nature takes, 960 Twice Slaves of Kings of Life a Desart makes. The Moral and Pathetick neatly join'd, Are best for Pleasure and for life design'd. Be this in Tragic an Eternal Law; Bold Strokes and larger than the Life to draw: Let all be Great; when here a Woman's seen, Paint her a Fury, or a Heroine: Slaves, Spendthrifts, angry Fathers, better fit The meaner Sallies of COMEDIAN Wit; But Courtly HORACE did their Stage refuse, 970 Nor was it trod by Maro's heav'nly Muse: A Walk so low their nobler Minds disdain, Where sordid Mirth's exchang'd for sordid Gain; Where, in false Pleasure all the Profit's drown'd, Nor Authors with just Admiration crown'd: Hence was the Sock a Task for servile Wit, Course PLAUTUS hence, and neater TERENCE writ: Yet if you still your Fortune long to take, And long to hear the crouded Benches shake; 980 If you'd reform the Mob, lov'd Vice restrain, The Pulpits break, and neighb'ring B—— drain; Let Heav'n at least, if not its Priests, be free, The Bible sures's too grave for Comedy: If she nor lewdly nor profanely talk She'll have a cleaner, tho a narrower Walk. Our Nation's endless Humour will supply So large a Fund as never can be dry; Why then should Vice be bare and open shown, And with such Nauseous Scenes affront the Town? 990 Why thrive the Lewd, their Wishes seldom crost, And why Poetic Justice often lost? They plead they copy Nature.—Don't abuse Her sacred Name with such a vile Excuse! She wisely hides what these, like Beasts display, } Ev'n Vice it self, less impudent than they, } Remote in Shades, and far from conscious Day. } From this Retrenchment by strong Reason beat, They next to poor Necessity retreat: The Murderers, Bawds and Robbers last pretence 1000 With equal Justice, equal Innocence! So Crack, in pious Fit, will plead she's poor, 'Tis a hard Choice, Good Sir, to starve or whore! —Is there no Third, or will such Reas'nings pass In Bridewel's rigid Court, or save the Lash? Where the stern Judge, like Radamanth, surveys The trembling Sinner, and each Action weighs. A lazy, black, encumber'd Stream rolls by, Whole thick sulphureous Vapours load the Sky; Near where, in Caves from Heav'n's sweet Light debar'd, 1010 Shrieks, Groans, and Iron Whips, and Clanks of Chains are heard. And can't you thrash, or trail a Pike or Pole? Are there no Jakes in Town, or Kennels foul? No honester Employment, that you chuse With such vile Drudgery t'abase the heav'n born Muse? The num'rous ODE in various Paths delights, Love, Friendship, Gods, and Heroes, Games and Fights: Her Age with Veneration is confess'd The first great Mother she of all the rest, This MOSES us'd, and DAVID'S Royal Lyre, } This he whom wond'ring Seraphs did inspire, } 1020 Whence PINDAR stole some Sparks of heav'nly Fire, } Who now by COWLEY's happy Muse improv'd, Is understood by some, by more belov'd: The Vastness of his Thought, the daring Range, That imperceptible and pleasing Change, Our jealous Neighbours must themselves confess The British Genius tracks with most Success; But still the Smoothness we of Verse desire, The Regulation of our Native Fire: This from experienc'd Masters we receive, 1030 Sweet FLATMAN'S Works, and DRYDEN'S this will give. If you in pointed SATYR most delight, Worry not, where you only ought to bite: Easie your Style, unstudy'd all and clear. Prosaic Lines are pardonable here. There are whose Breath would blast the brightest Fame, } Who from base Actions court an odious Name, } With Beauty and with Virtue War proclaim; } Who bundle up the Scandals of the Town, 1040 And in lewd Couplets make it all their own: Just Shame be theirs who thus debauch a Muse, To vile Lampoons a noble Art abuse: As ill be theirs, and half of DATS's Fate, Who always dully rail against the State. Kings are but Men, nor are their Councils more, Those Ills we can't avert we must deplore: Not many Poets were for Statesmen made, It asks more Brains than stocks the Rhiming Trade: (At least, when they the Ministry receive, 1050 To Poets Militant their Muse they leave.) All sordid Flat'ry hate, it pleases none But Tyrants grinning on their Iron Throne: Yet where wer'e rul'd with wise impartial Sway, The Muses should their grateful Homage pay: 'Tis base alike a Tyrant's Name to raise, And grudg a Parent Prince our tributary Praise. No wonder those who by Proscriptions gain } In Marian Days, or Sylla's bloody Reign, } Of the divine Augustus should complain; } 1060 Who stoops to wear a Crown's uneasie Weight, As Atlas under Heav'n, to prop the State: No Glory strikes his Great exalted Mind, No Pleasure like obliging all Mankind; He lets the Factious their weak Malice vent, Punish'd enough while they themselves torment: Satiate with Conquest, his dread Sword he sheaths, And with a Nod disbands ten thousand Deaths. Who dares Rebellious Arms against him move While his Praetorian Guard's his Subjects Love? 1070 Admir'd by all the bravest and the best, Who wear a Roman Soul within their ample Breast: Tho charm'd with both, which shall they more admire In Peace his Wisdom, or in War his Fire? —One Labour yet remains, and that they ask, Alcides never clear'd a nobler Task; O Father! banish'd Vertue O restore! Let Hydra Vice pollute thy Reign no more! Strike through the Monster-Form, which threatning stands, Fierce with a thousand Throats, a thousand Hands! 1080 Rescue once more thy Trojans sacred Line } From slavish Chains, so shall thy Temples shine } With Stars, and all Elysium shall be thine. }
 Vide Edda Samundi—apud Sheringham, de Gentis Anglorum Origine, pag. 28, 29.
Hiaelp beiter eitt eun thad thier hialpa mun Vid Sikum og Sottum goiru allum, Thad kenn eg aunad er thorfa Ita Syner their ed vilia lakner lisfa. [Transcriber's Note: extremely difficult to read in the original. Transcription may not be accurate.]
I know your only Help, the pow'rful Charm That aids in ev'ery Grief and every Harm, I know the Leaches Craft, and what they need Who Doctors in that Noble Art proceed.
 the Vide British Chronicle, and Taliessin's Prophecies;
Prryff fard l'yffred in ydwyfi i Elphin Am gwalad gynifio [indecipherable] Goribbin. Ionas ddewn am golwis Merddin Sebach Pob Brenmam geilw Taliesin. Gwea a gasgle elud Tra feyna bud, Gwererbin didd brawd in chospo i gnawd, Gwae ni cheidw i geil ag if yufug eil, Gwae in cheidw i ddefend chog bleiddna. [Transcriber's Note: extremely difficult to read in the original. Transcription may not be accurate.]
Me Elphin now his Bard may justly boast Who long of old amid the Fire-wing'd Host: Once Merlin was I call'd, well known to Fame, Whom future Kings shall Taliessin name. Wo to the Wretch who Wealth by Rapine gains, And wo to him who Fasts and Pray'rs refrains; Wo to the Shepherds who their Flocks betray, And will not drive the Ravish Wolves away.
 Olli sedaro rescondit corde Latinus. Virg.
 Mr. Dryden's Riddle, in his Preface to Virgil.
 This was observ'd before Mr. Le Clerc was born. Vide Song of the Well, Num. 21. 17.
Vide Psal. 80, & 81. Where some Verses have Treble, where Quadruple Rhimes, four in one Verse.
 Ode 1. [Greek: indecipherable]
 Vide Collier's Reflexions on Moarning Bride, and Garth's Dispensary.
 I know some have affirm'd that Moses's Song in the 14th of Exodus was writ in Hexameters, but I can't perceive any such thing in it, any more than in the 90th Psalm, or the Book of Job, which seem to be written about the same time with it. The Song of the Well, in Numbers, pag. 15. is clearly an Ode of unequal Measures.
THE LIFE OF OUR Blessed Lord & Saviour JESUS CHRIST.
AN HEROIC POEM: DEDICATED TO Her Most Sacred MAJESTY.
In Ten Books.
ATTEMPTED BY SAMUEL WESLEY, M.A. Chaplain to the most Honourable JOHN Lord Marquess of Normanby, and Rector of Epwerth in the County of Lincoln.
Each Book Illustrated by necessary Notes, explaining all the more difficult Matters in the whole History: Also a Prefatory Discourse concerning Heroic Poetry.
The Second Edition, revised by the Author, and improved with the addition of a large Map of the HOLY-LAND, and a table of the principal matters.
With Sixty Copper-Plates, by the celebrated Hand of W. Faithorn.
LONDON: Printed for Charles Harper, at the Flower-de-Luce over against St. Dunstan's Church, and are to be Sold by him, and Roger Clavel at the Peacock against Fetter-Lane, both in Fleetstreet, 1697.
THE PREFACE, Being an ESSAY on HEROIC POETRY
A Just Heroic Poem is so vast an Undertaking, requires so much both of Art and Genius for its Management, and carries such Difficulty in the Model of the Whole, and Disposition of the several Parts, that it's no Wonder, if not above One or Two of the Ancients, and hardly any of the Moderns, have succeeded in their Attempts of this Nature. Rapin, and other Masters of Epic, represent it as an Enterprize so hardy, that it can scarce enter into the Mind of a wise Man, without affrighting him, as being the most perfect Piece of Work that Art can produce. That Author has many excellent Reflexions and Rules concerning it in his Discourse sur la Poetique; but Bossu is the first I've seen who has writ a just and perfect Tract thereon, wherein he has in a clear and Scholastic Method amass'd together most that's to be found in Antiquity on that Subject, tho' chiefly keeping to the Observations of Aristotle, which he drew from Homer, and who seems the first that reduced Poetry to an Art. That Author defines Epic, "An Artificial Discourse, in order to form the Manners by Instructions, disguis'd under the Allegories of some one important Action, recited in Verse, in a manner probable, diverting and admirable;" which he thus himself abridges, "'Tis a Fable, agreeably imitated on some important Action, recited in Verse in a manner that's probable and admirable;" In which Definition are contain'd, as he afterwards explains it, the general Nature of Epic, and that double, Fable and Poem: The Matter, some one important Action probably feign'd and imitated: Its Form, Recitation or Narration: And lastly, its End, Instruction, which is aimed at in general by the Moral of the Fable; and besides in the particular Manners of the Persons who make the most considerable Figure in the Work.
To begin with Fable, which he makes included in the general Nature or Essence of Epic. This, he says, is the most essential Part of it; "That some Fables and Allegories scatter'd up and down in a Poem don't suffice to constitute Epic, if they are only the Ornaments, and not the very Foundation of it." And again, "That 'tis the very Fund and principal Action that ought to be Feign'd and Allegorical:" For which reason he expresly excludes hence all simple Histories, as by Name, Lucan's Pharsalia, Silius Italicus's Punic War, and all true Actions of particular Persons, without Fable: And still more home; that 'tis not a Relation of the Actions of any Hero, to form the Manners by his Example, but on the contrary, a Discourse invented to form the Manners by the Relation of some one feign'd Action, design'd to please, under the borrow'd Name of some illustrious Person, of whom Choice is made after we have fram'd the Plan of the Action which we design to attribute to him.
Nor indeed is Bossu singular in his Judgment on this Matter, there being few or none who have ever writ on the same Subject, but are of the same mind: For thus Boileau in his Art of Poetry,
Dans la vaste recit d'une longue action Se soutient par la Fable & vit de Fiction.
Which his Translator I think better;
In the Narration of some great Design, Invention, Art, and Fable, all must join.
Rapin too gives his Vote on the same side, Rien n'est, says he, plus essentiel au Poem Epique, que la Fiction; and quotes Petronius to that purpose, Per ambages, Deorumque ministeria praecipitandus est Liber Spiritus. Nor is't only the Moderns who are of this Opinion; for the Iliads are call'd in Horace, Fabula qua Paridis, &c. And lastly, even Aristotle himself tells us, "That Fable is the principal thing in an Heroic Poem; and, as it were, the very Soul of it." [Greek: Arche kai oion psyche.] And upon this occasion commends Homer for lying with the best Grace of any Man in the World: Authorities almost too big to admit any Examination of their Reason, or Opposition to their Sentiments. However, I see no cause why Poetry should not be brought to the Test, as well as Divinity, or any more than the other, be believed on its own bare ipse dixit.
Let us therefore examine the Plan which they lay for a Work of this Nature, and then we may be better able to guess at those Grounds and Reasons on which they proceed.
In forming an Heroic-Poem, the first thing they tell us we ought to do, is to pitch on some Moral Truth, which we desire to enforce on our Reader, as the Foundation of the whole work. Thus Virgil, as Bossu observes, designing to render the Roman People pleased and easie under the new Government of Augustus, laid down this Maxim, as the Foundation of his Divine AEneis: "That great and notable Changes of State are not accomplished but by the Order and Will of God: That those who oppose themselves against them are impious, and frequently punished as they deserve; and that Heaven is not wanting to take that Hero always under its particular Protection, whom it chuses for the Execution of such grand Designs." This for the Moral Truth; we must then, he says, go on to lay the general Plan of the Fiction, which, together with that Verity, makes the Fable and Soul of the Poem: And this he thinks Virgil did in this manner, "The Gods save a great Prince from the Ruines of his Country, and chuse him for the Preservation of Religion, and re-establishing a more glorious Empire than his former. The Hero is made a King, and arriving at his new Country, finds both God and Men dispos'd to receive him: But a neighbouring Prince, whose Eyes Ambition and Jealousie have closed against Justice and the Will of Heaven, opposes his Establishment, being assisted by another King despoil'd of his Estate for his Cruelty and Wickedness. Their Opposition, and the War on which this pious Prince is forc'd, render his Establishment more just by the Right of Conquest, and more glorious by his Victory and the Death of his Enemies." These are his own Words, as any may see who are at the pains to consult him; nor can I help it, if either Virgil or Bossu happen to be Prophets.
When the Poet has proceeded thus far, and as Bossu calls it, dress'd his Project, he's next to search in History or receiv'd Fable, for some Hero, whose Name he may borrow for his Work, and to whom he may suit his Persons. These are Bossu's Notions, and, indeed, very agreeable to Aristotle, who says, that Persons and Actions in this sort of Poetry must be feign'd, allegorical, and universal.
This is the Platform they lay; and let's now see if we can discover the Reasons whereon they found these Rules, being so unanimous for Fable rather than true History, as the Matter of an Heroic Poem; and, if I mistake not, these are some of the principal.
1. Because they had observ'd the best Models of Heroic Poems were laid after this manner; the greatest part of the Action both in Homer and Virgil being pure Fable. Homer beginning, and all the rest following his Steps.
2. Because no single Hero, or true History, which the Ancients knew was sufficient, without Fable, to furnish Matter for an Epic Poem. History, says Aristotle, treats of particular Things as they really are; Poetry, as they ought to be; and therefore he prefers Poetry as the more grave and more instructive; the Poets being forc'd to follow the same Methods with their Kindred-Art, that of the Painters, and gather a great many Beauties together, out of 'em all, to steal one Venus.
3. A third Reason may be, because, supposing they should have found some one Example from whence to enforce strongly any particular Point of Morality, yet it would have miss'd those other Characters of Epic, most of its Agreeableness, and all its Power to raise Admiration. A chast Historian must not go about to amuse his Reader with Machines; and a Poet that would imitate him, must have been forc'd to thin his Stage accordingly, and disband all his glorious Train of Gods and Godesses, which composes all that's admirable in his Work; according to that of Boileau; Chaque Virtue devient une divlnitie.
And these, if I mistake not, were the main Reasons on which the foremention'd Rules were grounded. Let's now enquire into the Strength and Validity of them: To begin with Homer, he wrote in that manner, because most of the ancient Eastern Learning, the Original of all others, was Mythology. But this being now antiquated, I cannot think we are oblig'd superstitiously to follow his Example, any more than to make Horses speak, as he does that of Achilles, 2. If a Poet lights on any single Hero, whose true Actions and History are as important as any that Fable ever did or can produce, I see no reason why he may not as well make use of him and his Example to form the Manners and enforce any Moral Truth, as seek for one in Fable for that purpose: Nay, he can scarce fail of persuading more strongly, because he has Truth it self; the other but the Image of Truth, especially if his History be, in the Third place, of it self diverting and admirable. If it has from its own Fund, and already made to his hand those Deorum Ministeria, which cost the Poet so much in the forming 'em out of his own Brain. Nor can we suppose Fiction it self pleases; no, 'tis the agreeable and the admirable, in the Dress of Truth; and such a Plan as this would effectually answer both the Ends of Poetry in general, delectari & monere, nay come up fuller to the End of Epic, which is agreeable Instruction; and thence it follows strongly, that a Poem written in such a manner, must, notwithstanding the foregoing Rules, be a true and proper Heroic Poem, especially if adorn'd with Poetical Colours and Circumstances through the whole Body thereof.
Now that all this is not gratis dictum, I think I can prove, even from most of those very Authors I've already produc'd, as of the contrary Opinion; and that I can make it appear, Bossu goes too far in fixing Fable as the Essential Fund and Soul of the principal Action in an Epic Poem. To begin with Rapin, who has this Passage, sur la Poetique, Reflex. 5. La Poesie Heroique, &c. "Heroique Poesie, according to Aristotle, is a Picture or Imitation of an Heroic Action; and the Qualities of the Action are, That it ought to be (among others) true, or at least, such as might pass for true;" Thus he. And hence it follows, according to him and Aristotle, that the principal Action in Heroic, not only ought to pass for Truth, but may be really true: For Horace, he does indeed call the Iliads a Fable; but then he does not oblige his Poet superstitiously to follow Homer in every thing, owning that he sometimes doats as well as other Men: Further, this may, and I think does, refer rather to the Dress and Turn of the Action, than to the Bottom and Ground of his History, which there's at least as much, if not more reason to believe true than false: And in the same Sense may we take Petronius and Boileau; nay, if we don't take 'em thus, I can't tell whether there were ever such a thing as a true Heroic Poem in the World; not so much as the Fairy-Queen, Gondibert, or Orlando Furioso; all which have Fable enough in 'em of any reason; but their principal Actions might be still true, as we are sure was that of the best Heroic that ever was written; (I need not say I mean Virgil) since few or no Authors ever deny'd that there was such a Man as AEneas, or even that he came into Italy, built Cities there, and erected a Kingdom, which Tully mentions, as a generally receiv'd Tradition in those Parts, and which it seems he thought not frivolous, but true and solid; otherwise he'd scarce have given it a place in his Argument for his Client. Of this Opinion too seems Horace himself, in his Art of Poetry, namely, That there's no necessity of the principal Action's being feign'd; for his Direction is, "Aut famam sequere, aut sibi convenientia finge; Either follow Tradition or Fame, or else feign what's agreeable thereunto." He makes not feigning essential to Heroic Action, but gives leave to follow Fame, who is not so great a Lyar, but that she is sometimes in the right. Nay, what if we should after all have Bossu himself on our side, which I'm mistaken if he be not; for these are his Expressions, Lib. 1. Cap. 7. Le Fiction, &c. "The Fiction may be so disguis'd under the Verity of the History, that those who are ignorant of the Art of the Poet, may believe it not a Fiction; and to make the Disguisement well, he ought to search into History for the Names of some Persons, to whom such an Action has probably or truly happen'd, &c." Hence 'tis evident, that according to Bossu's own Notion, the main Action may be true; which appears even from Aristotle himself, as quoted by him, 97. [Greek: Kan ara] &c. "An Author is not less a Poet, because the Incidents he recites have truly happen'd; if so be that which happen'd had the appearance of Truth, and all that Art demands, and be really such as it ought to have been feign'd." And this Bossu himself illustrates admirably well by an ingenious Simile; "A Statuary," says he, "first forms his Design, Posture, Altitudes which he intends for his Image; but if he then lights on any precious Material, Agate, or such like, where the Figure, the Colours, and Veins will not be accommodated to all he design'd, he regulates his Design and Imagination according to his Matter; nor ought we to believe, at the same time, that these singular lucky Hits condemn the Justness of his Art." From all which, I must leave it to the Reader, whether I han't sufficiently prov'd what I've undertaken; that Fiction is not necessary to the principal Action of our Heroic Poem; on which I've been something more large, not so much on my own account; for 'tis indifferent to me by what Name any Man calls my Poem, so it answers the great End of Epic, which is Instruction; but because I've heard some Persons have been so conceited as to criticise on our immortal Cowley for this very reason, and deny his Davideis the Honour of being an Heroic Poem, because the Subject thereof is a true History.
And here I should drop the Discourse of Fable, were there not another sort of Persons still to deal with, perhaps more importunate than the former: The first will not like a Piece unless 'tis all Fable, or at least the Foundation of it: These latter run into the contrary extreme, and seam unwilling or afraid to admit anything of Fable in a Christian Poem; and as Balzac in his Critics on Heinsius his Baptista, are frighted, as at some Magical Charm, if they find but one Word there which was made use of by the old Heathens; which, says he, (unluckily as things have since happened) is as preposterous as to see Turks wear Hats, and Frenchmen Turbants; the Flower-de-lis in the Musselmens Colours, or the Half-Moon on the Standard of France. He's, however, it must be granted, justly angry with Tasso, as Mr. Dryden since, for setting his Angels and Devils to stave and tail at one another; Alecto and Pluto on one side, and Gabriel and Raphael o' t'other; as well as with Sannazarius, for mingling Proteus and David, and calling the Muses and Nymphs to the Labour of the Blessed Virgin, Tho' the truth is, the Italian Poets seem more excusable, at least to a Papist, in this Case, than any other Nation, who parted with as little of their Idolatry as they could possibly, after they had kept it as long as they were able, making the Change very easie, and turning their Pantheon into an All Saints; much like the good Fathers in the Spanish Conquests in America, who suffer the Natives to keep their Old Idols, so they'll but pay for 'em, and get 'em christen'd; by this means making many a good Saint out of a very indifferent Devil. So far, I say, Balzac is undoubtedly in the right, that Christianity and Heathenism ought not to be confounded, nor the Pagan Gods mention'd, but as such, in Christian Poems. Of which Boileau also says, "They should not be Fill'd with the Fictions of Idolatry;" tho' he tells us just before,