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gined : the destruction being so swift, so sudden, so vast and miserable, as nothing can parallel in story. The former part of this poem, relating to the war, is but a due expiation for my not having served my king and country in it. All gentlemen are almoft obliged to it: and I know no reason we should give that advantage to the commonalty of England, to be foremost in brave actions, which the nobles of France would never suffer in their peasants. I should not have written this but to a person who has been ever forward to appear in all employments whither his honour and generosity have called him. The latter part of my poem, which describes the Fire, I owe, first to the piety and fatherly affection of our monarch to his fuffering subjects; and, in the second place, to the courage, loyalty, and magnanimity of the city ; both which were so conspicuous, that I wanted words to celebrate them as they deserve. I have called my poem Historical, not Epic, though both the actions and actors are as much heroic as any poem can contain. But since the action is not properly one, nor that accomplished in the last successes, I have judged it too bold a title for a few stanzas, which are little more in number than a single Iliad, or the longest of the Æneids. For this reason (I mean not of length, but broken action, tied too severely to the laws of history) I am apt to agree with those, who rank Lucan, rather among historians in verse, than Epic poets : in whose room, if I am not deceived, Silius Italicus, though a worse writer, may more juftly be admitted. I have chosen to write my

poem in quatrains, or stanzas of four in alternate rhyme, because I have ever judged them more noble, and of greater dignity, both for the found and number, than any other verse in use amongst us; in which I am suré I have your approbation. The learned languages have .certainly a great advantage of us, in not being tied to the slavery of any rhyme; and were less constrained in the quantity of every syllable, which they might vary with spondees or dactyls, besides so many other helps of grammatical figures, for the lengthening or abbreviation of them, than the modern are in the close of that one syllable, which often confines, and more often corrupts, the sense of all the rest. But in this necefsity of our rhymes, I have always found the couplet verse most easy, though not so proper for this occasion : for there the work is sooner at an end, every two lines concluding the labour of the poet; but in quatrains he is to carry it farther on, and not only so, but to bear along in his head the troublesome sense of four lines together. For those, who write correctly in this kind, must needs acknowledge, that the last line of the stanza is to be confidered in the composition of the first. Neither can we give ourselves the liberty of making any part of a verse for the sake of rhyme, or concluding with a word which is not current English, or using the variety of female rhymes ; all' which our fathers practised : and for the female rhymes, they are still in use amongit other nations ; with the Italian in every line, with the Spaniard promiscuously, with the French al. ternately; as those who have read the Alarique, the

any such

Pucelle, or any of their later poems,


with me.. And besides this, they write in Alexandrins, or verses of fix feet; such as amongst us is the old translation of Homer by Chapman : all which, by lengthning of their chain, makes the sphere of their activity the larger. I have dwelt too long upon the choice of my stanza, which you may remember is much better defended in the preface to Gondibert ; and therefore I will hasten to acquaint you with my endeavours in the writing. In general I will only say, I have never yet seen the description of any naval fight in the proper terms which are used at fea : and if there be in another language, as that of Lucan in the third of his Pharfalia, yet I could not avail myself of it in the English ; the terms of art in every tongue bearing more of the idiom of it than any other words. We hear indeed among our poets, of the thundering of guns, the smoke, the disorder, and the Naughter; but all these are common notions. And certainly, as those who in a logical dispute keep in general terms, would hide a fallacy; so those who do it in any poetical defcription, would veil their ignorance.

“ Descriptas servare vices operumque colores,

“ Cur ego, fi nequeo ignoroque, Poeta salutor ?" For my own part, if I had little knowledge of the sea, yet I have thought it no shame to learn : and if I have made fome few mistakes, it is only, as you can bear me witness, because I have wanted opportunity to correct them; the whole poem being first written, and now 5


sent you from a place where I have not so much as the converse of any seaman. Yet though the trouble I had in writing it was great, it was no more than recompensed by the pleasure. I found myself so warm in celebrating the praises of military men, two such especially as the prince and general, that it is no wonder if they inspired me with thoughts above my ordi-, nary level. And I am well satisfied, that, as they are incomparably the best fubject I ever had, excepting only the royal family, so also, that this I have written of them is much better than what I have performed on any other. I have been forced to help out other arguments; but this has been bountiful to me: they have been low and barren of praise, and I have exalted them, and made them fruitful; but here~"Omnia sponte sua “ reddit juftiffima tellus." I have had a large, a fair, and a pleasant field; fo fertile, that without my cultivating, it has given me two harvests in a summer, and in both oppressed the reaper. All other greatness in subjects is only counterfeit : it will not endure the test of danger; the greatness of arms is only real : other greatness burdens a nation with its weight; this supports it with its strength. And as it is the happiness of the age, so it is the peculiar goodness of the best of kings, that we may praise his subjects without offending him. Doubtless it proceeds from a just confidence of his own virtue, which the lustre of no other can be so great as to darken in him ; for the good or the valiant are never safely praised under a bad or a degenerate prince. But to return from this digression to a farther account of

iny poem; I must crave leave to tell you, thať as I have endeavoured to adorn it with noble thoughts, fo much more to express those thoughts with elocution. The composition of all poems is, or ought to be, of wit ; and wit in the poet, or wit-writing (if you will give me leave to use a school-distinction) is no other than the faculty of imagination in the writer, which, like a nimble spaniel, beats over and ranges through the field of memory, till it springs the quarry it hunted after : or, without metaphor, which searches over all the

memory for the species or ideas of those things which it designs to represent. Wit written is that which is well defined, the happy result of thought, or product of imagination. But to proceed from wit, in the general notion of it, to the proper wit of an heroic or historical poem; I judge it chiefly to consist in the delightful imaging of perfons, actions, passions, or things. It is not the jerk or sting of an epigram, nor the seeming contradi&tion of a poor antithesis (the delight of an ill-judging audience in a play of rhyme), nor the gingle of a more poor Paranomasia ; neither is it so much the morality of a grave sentence, affected by Lucan, but more sparingly used by Virgil ; but it is some lively and apt description, dressed in such colours of speech, that it sets before your eyes the absent object, as perfectly, and more delightfully than nature. So then the first happiness of the poet's imagination is properly invention or finding of the thought; the fecond is fancy, or the variation, deriving or moulding of that thought as the judgment represents it proper to

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