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But since 'tis nature's law in love and wit,
That youth should reign, and withering age submit,
With less regret those laurels I refign,
Which, dying on my brows, revive on thine.
With better grace an ancient chief may yield
The long contended honours of the field,
Than venture all his fortune at a cast,
And fight, like Hannibal, to lose at last.
Young princes, obstinate to win the prize,
Tho' yearly beaten, yearly yet they rise :
Old monarchs, tho' successful, still in doubt,
Catch at a peace, and wisely turn devout.
Thine be the laurel then; thy blooming age
Can belt, if any can, support the stage ;
Which so declines, that shortly we may fee
Players and plays reduc'd to second infancy.
Sharp to the world, but thoughtless of renown,
They plot not on the stage, but on the town,
And, in despair their empty pît to fill,
some foreign monster in a bill.
Thus they jog on, still tricking, never thriving,
And murd'ring plays, which they miscal reviving.
Our sense is nonsense, thro' their pipes convey'd;
Scarce can a poet know the play he made ;
'Tis so disguis’d in death ; nor thinks 'tis he
That suffers in the mangled tragedy.
Thus Itys first was kill'd, and after dress'd
For his own fire, the chief invited guest.
I say not this of thy successful scenes,
Where thine was all the glory, theirs the gains.
With length of time, much judgment, and more toil,
Not ill they acted, what they could not spoil.
Their setting fun 2 still shoots a glimmering ray,
Like ancient Rome, majestic in decay:
And better gleanings their worn foil can boast,
Than the crab-vintage of the neighb'ring coaft 3.
This diff'rence yet the judging world will see;
Thou copieft Homer, and they copy thee. .
2 Betterton who had muftered up a Company, and played in Lir coln's-Inn Fields.
3 Drury-lane play-house.
TRAGEDY call'd, BEAUTY IN DISTRESS.
IS hard, my friend, to write in such an age,
As damns, not poets, but the stage. That sacred art, by heaven itself infus’d, Which Moses, David, Solomon have us'd, Is now to be no more: the muses' foes Would fink their Maker's praises into prose. Were they content to prune the lavish vine Of ftraggling branches, and improve the wine, Who, but a madman, would his thoughts defend? All would submit ; for all but fools will mend. But when to common sense they give the lye, And turn distorted words to blasphemy. They give the scandal; and the wise discern, Their glosses teach an age, too apt to learn. What I have loosely, or prophanely, writ, Let them to fires, their due desert, commit: Nor, when accus'd by me, let them complain : Their faults, and not their function, I arraign. Rebellion, worse than witchcraft, they pursu'd ; The pulpit preach'd the crime, the people ru’d.
The stage was filenc'd; for the faints would see
In fields perform'd their plotted tragedy.
But let us first reform, and then so live,
That we may teach our teachers to forgive :
Our desk be plac'd below their lofty chairs ;
Ours be the practice, as the precept theirs.
The moral part, at least, we may divide,
Humility reward, and punish pride ;
Ambition, int'reft, avarice, accuse :
These are the province of a tragic muse.
These haft thou chosen ; and the public voice
Has equall'd thy performance with thy choice.
Time, action, place, are so preserv'd by thee,
That e'en Cornëille might with envy
Th'alliance of his Tripled Unity.
Thy incidents, perhaps, too thick are fown ;
But too much plenty is thy fault alone.
At least but two can that good crime commit,
Thou in design, and Wycherly in wit.
Let thy own Gauls condemn thee, if they dare;
Contented to be thinly regular :
Born there, but not for them, our fruitful soil
With more increase rewards thy happy toil.
Their tongue, enfeebled, is refin'd too much ;
And, like pure gold, it bends at ev'ry touch :
Our sturdy Teuton yet will art obey,
More fit for manly thought, and strengthen’d with allay.
But whence art thou infpir'd, and thou alone,
To flourish in an idiom not thy own!
It moves our wonder, that a foreign guest
Should over-match the most, and match the belt.
In under-praising thy deserts, I wrong;
Here find the firit deficience of our tongue :
Words, once my stock, are wanting, to commend
So great a poet, and so good a friend.
CHESTERTON, in the County of HUN.
Ow bless'd is he, who leads a country life,
Unvex'd with anxious cares, and void of strife!
Who studying peace, and thunning civil rage,
Enjoy'd his youth, and now enjoys his age :
All who deserve his love, he makes his own;
And, to be lov'd himself, needs only to be known.
Juft, good and wife, contending neighbours come,
From your award to wait their final doom;
And, foes before, return in friendship home.
Without their coft, you terminate the cause ;
And save th' expence of long litigious laws:
Where suits are travers’d; and so little won,
That he who conquers, is but last undone :
Such are not your decrees; but fo defign'd,
The sanction leaves a lasting peace behind ;
Like your own soul, serene; a pattern of your mind.
1 This poem was written in 1699. The person to whom it is addressed, was cousin German to the poet, and a younger brother of the baronet.