Графични страници
PDF файл

the Town, whose humor it was to magnify the authors of the preceding age; secondly, against the court and nobility, who encouraged only the * writers for the Theatre ; and, lastly, against the Emperor himself, who had conceived them of little use to the government. He shews (by a view of the progress of learning, and the change

of taste, among the Romans) that the introduc. * tion of the polite arts of Greece had given the

writers of his time great advantages over their predecessors ; that their morals were much im.

proved, and the license of those ancient poets restrained ; that Satire and Comedy were become more just and useful; that whatever extravagancies were left on the stage, were owing to the ill taste of the nobility; that poets, under due regulations, were in many respects useful to the state ; and concludes, that it was upon shem the Emperor himself must depend for his fame with

posterity. We may further learn from this Epistle, that Ho.

race made his court to this great prince, by writing with a decent freedom towards him, with a just contempt of his low flatterers, and with a manly regard to his own characger. P.




While you, great Patron of mankind ! sustain
The balanc'd world, and open all the main,
Your country,

chief in arms, abroad defend,
At home with morals, arts, and laws amend;
How shall the Muse, from such a monarch, steal 5
An hour, and not defraud the public weal ?

Edward and Henry, now the boast of fame,
And virtuous Alfred, a more sacred name,
After a life of gen'rous toils endurid,
The Gaul subdu'd, or property secur’d,

Ambition humbled, mighty cities storm’d,
Or laws establish'd and the world reform'd;
Clos'd their long glories with a sigh, to find
Th’ unwilling gratitude of base mankind !
All human virtue, to its latest breath,

15 Finds Envy never conquer'd but by Death. The great Alcides, ev'ry labor past, Had still this monster to subdue at last : Sure fate of all, beneath whose rising ray Each star of meaner merit fades away! 20 Oppress'd we feel the beam directly beat ; Those suns of glory please not till they set.

To thee the world its present homage pays, The harvest early, but mature the praise :


Great friend of liberty ! in kings a name 25
Above all Greek, above all Roman, fame* ;
Whose word is truth, as sacred and rever'd
As Heav'n's own oracles from altars heard.
Wonder of kings ! like whom, to mortal eyes,
None e'er has risen, and none e'er shall rise. 30

Just in one instance, be it yet confest
Your people, Sir, are partial in the rest ;
Foes to all living worth except your own,
And advocates for folly dead and gone.
Authors, like coins, grow dear as they grow old;
It is the rust we value, not the gold.

36 Chaucer's worst ribaldry is learu'd by rote, And beastly Skelton heads of houses quote. One likes no language but the Fairy Queen; A Scot will fight for Christ's Kirk o’the Green; 40 And each true Briton is to Ben so civil, He swears the Muses met hiin at The Devil.

Though justly Greece her eldest sons admires, Why should not we be wiser than our sires ? In ev'ry public virtue we excel;

45 We build, we paint, we sing, we dance, as well; And learned Athens to our art must stoop, Could she behold us tumbling through a hoop.

If time improve our wits as well as wine, Say at v:hat age a poet grows divine ? 50 Shall we, or shall we not, account him so, Who dy'd, perlaps, an hundred ycars ago ?

• Te bostris ducibus, te Graiis antefetende.

End all dispute; and fix the year precise
When British Bards began t’immortalize ?

• Who lasts a century can have no flaw; 55 I hold that wit a classic, good in law.'

Suppose he wants a year, will you compound ? And shall we deem him ancient, right, and sound, Or damn to all eternity at once At ninety-nine a modern and a dunce ? 60

• We shall not quarrel for a year or two; . By courtesy of England he


do.' Then, by the rule that made the horse-tail bare, I pluck out year by year, as hair by hair, And melt down Ancients like a heap of snow, 63 While you, to measure merits, look in Stowe, And estimating authors by the year, Bestow a garland only on a bier.

Shakespeare (whom you and ev'ry play-house bill Style the Divine, the Matchless, what you will) 70 For gain, not glory, wing'd his roving flight, And grew

immortal in his own despight. Ben, old and poor, as little seem'd to heed The life to come, in ev'ry poet's creed. Who now reads Cowley ? if he pleases yet, 75 His moral pleases, not his pointed wit; Forgot his Epic, nay Pindaric art ; But still I love the language of his heart.

" Yet surely, surely, these were famous men! * What boy but hears the sayings of old Ben? 80' • In all debates where critics bear a part, "Not one but nods, and talks of Jonson's art,

• Of Shakespear's nature, and of Cowley's wil;
• How Beaumont's judgment check'd what Fletcher

' writ; • How Shadwell hasty, Wycherly was slow; 8.5 • But, for the passions, Southern sure and Rowe, • These, only these, support the crowded stage • From eldest Heywood down to Cibber's age.'

All this may be ; the people's voice is odd; It is, and it is not, the voice of God.

90 To Gammer Gurton, if it give the bays, And yet deny the Careless Husband praise, Or say our fathers never broke a rule, Why then, I say, the public is a fool. But let them own that greater faults than we 93 They had, and greater virtues, I'll agree. Spenser himself affects the obsolete, And Sydney's verse halts ill on Roman feet; Milton's strong pinion now not heav'n can bound, Now, serpent-like, in prose he sweeps the ground; In quibbles angel and archangel join, 101 And God the Father turns a school-divine. Not that I'd lop the beauties from his book, Like slashing Bentley with his desp’rate hook ; Or damn all Shakespeare, like th' affected fool At court, who hates whate'er he read at school.

But for the wits of either Charles's days, The mob of gentlemen who wrote with ease; Sprat, Carew, Sedley, and a hundred more, (Like twinkling stars the miscellanies o'er) 1104

« ПредишнаНапред »