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The book thus put in every vulgar hand,
Which each presum'd he best could understand,
The common rule was made the common prey ;
And at the mercy of the rabble lay.
The tender page with horny fists was gall’d;
And he was gifted most that loudest baul'd :
The spirit gave the doctoral degree :
And every member of a company
Was of his trade, and of the Bible free.
Plain truths enough for needful use they found ;
But men would still be itching to expound :
Each was ambitious of th'obscurest place,
No measure ta’en from knowledge, all from grace.
Study and pains were now no more their care;
Texts were explain’d by fasting and by prayer :
This was the fruit the private fpirit brought ;
Occalion'd' by great zeal and little thought.
While crouds unlearn'd, with rude devotion warm,
About the facred viands buz and swarm.
The fly-blown text creates a crawling brood ;
And turns to maggots what was meant for food.
A thousand daily fects rise up and die ;
A thousand more the perih'd race supply :
So all we make of heaven's discover'd will,
Is not to have it, or to use it ill.
The danger 's much the same ; on several shelves
If others wreck us, or we wreck ourselves.
What then remains, but, waving each extreme,
The tides of ignorance and pride to ftem ?
Neither so rich a treasure to forego ;
Nor proudly seek beyond our power to know:
Faith is not built on disquisitions vain;
The things we must believe are few and plain :
But, since men will believe more than they need,
And every man will make himself a creed,
In doubtful questions 'tis the safest way
To learn what unsuspected ancients say:
For 'tis not likely we should higher foar
In search of heaven, than all the church before :
Nor can we be deceiv’d, unless we fee
The scripture and the fathers disagree.
If after all they stand suspected still,
For no man's faith depends upon his will ;
'Tis some relief, that points not clearly known
Without much hazard may be let alone :
And, after hearing what our church can say,
If Itill our reason runs another way,
That private reason ’tis more just to curb,
Than by disputes the public peace disturb,
For points obscure are of finall use to learn :
But common quiet is mankind's concern.
Thus have I made my own opinions clear :
Yet neither praise expect, nor censure fear :
And this unpolish'd rugged verse I chose ;
As fittest for discourse, and nearest prose :
For while from facred truth I do not swerve,
Tom Sternhold's or Tom Shadwell's rhymes will serve.
HIS translation of monsieur Boileau's Art of
Poetry was made in the year 1680, by Sir William Soame of Suffolk, Baronet ; who being very intimately acquainted with Mr. Dryden, desired his revisal of it. I saw the manuseript lie in Mr. Dryden's hands for above six months, who made very confiderable alterations in it, particularly the beginning of the fourth Canto : and it being his opinion that it would be better to apply the poem to English writers, than keep to the French names, as it was first translated, Sir William desired he would take the pains to make that alteration; and accordingly that was entirely done by Mr. Dryden.
The poem was first published in the year 1683 ; Sir William was after fent ambassador to Constantinople, in the reign of king James, but died in the voyage.
C Α Ν Τ ο Ι.
ASH author, 'tis a vain presumptuous crime,
To undertake the art of rhyme ;
If at thy birth the stars that ruld thy sense
Shone not with a poetic influence ;
In thy strait genius thou wilt Aill be bound,
Find Phoebus deaf, and Pegasus unfound.
You then that burn with the desire to try
The dangerous course of charming poetry;
Forbear in fruitless verse to lose your time,
Or take for genius the desire of rhyme :
Fear the allurements of a fpecious hait,
And well consider your own force and weight.
Nature abounds in wits of every kind,
And for each author can a talent find :
One may in verse describe an amorous flame,
Another sharpen a short epigram :
Waller a hero's mighty acts extol,
Spenser fing Rosalind in pastoral :
But authors that themselves too much esteem,
Lose their own genius, and mistake their theme ;
Thus in times past Dubartas vainly writ,
Allaying facred truth with trifling wit,
Impertinently, and without delight,'
Describ'd the Israelites triumphant flight,
And following Moses o'er the fandy plain,
Perish'd with Pharaoh in th' Arabian main.
write of pleasant or sublime,
Always let sense accompany your rhyme :
Falsely they seem each other to oppose ;
Rhyme must be made with reason's laws to close :
And when to conquer
The mind will triumph in the noble course ;
To reason's yoke she quickly will incline,
Which, far from hurting, renders her divine :
But if neglected will as easily stray,
And master reason which she should obey.
Love reason then ; and let whate'er
write Borrow from her its beauty, force, and light. Most writers mounted on a resty Muse, Extravagant and senseless objects chule ; They think they err, if in their verse they fall On any thought that's plain or natural : Fly this excess ; and let Italians be Vain authors of false glittering poetry. All ought to aim at sense ; but most in vain Strive the hard pass and slippery path to gain : You drown, if to the right or left you stray ; Reason to
has often but one way.
go Sometimes an author, fond of his own thought, Pursues its object till it's over-wrought : If he describes a house, he shews the face, And after walks you round froin place to place ; Here is a vista, there the doors unfold, Balconies here are ballustred with gold; Then counts the rounds and ovals in the halls, “ The festoons, freezes, and the astragals:” Tir'd with his tedious pomp, away I run, And skip o'er twenty pages to be gone. Of such descriptions the vain folly fee, And shun their barren fuperfluity. All that is needless carefully avoid ; The mind once satisfy'd is quickly cloy'd : He cannot write who knows not to give o'er; To mend one fault, he makes a hundred more :