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But still expounded what she sold or gave,
To keep it in her power to damn and save.
Scripture was scarce, and, as the market went,
Poor laymen took salvation on content,
As needy men take money, good or bad;

God's word they had not, but the priest's they had.
Yet whate'er false conveyances they made,

The lawyer still was certain to be paid.

In those dark times they learned their knack so well
That by long use they grew infallible.

At last a knowing age began t' inquire

If they the Book or that did them inspire;

And, making narrower search, they found, though late,
That what they thought the priest's was their estate,
Taught by the will produced, the written word,
How long they had been cheated on record.
Then every man, who saw the title fair,
Claimed a child's part and put in for a share,
Consulted soberly his private good,
And saved himself as cheap as e'er he could.

'Tis true, my friend (and far be flattery hence),
This good had full as bad a consequence:
The Book thus put in every vulgar hand,
Which each presumed 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 galled,
And he was gifted most that loudest bawled;
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 explained by fasting and by prayer.
This was the fruit the private spirit brought,
Occasioned by great zeal and little thought.
While crowds unlearned, with rude devotion warm,









About the sacred viands buzz and swarm,
The fly-blown text creates a crawling brood,
And turns to maggots what was meant for food.
A thousand daily sects rise up and die;

thousand more the perished race supply.
So all we make of Heaven's discovered 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, waiving each extreme,
The tides of ignorance and pride to stem?
Neither so rich a treasure to forego,

Nor proudly seek beyond our pow'r 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 't is the safest way
To learn what unsuspected ancients say;
For 't is not likely we should higher soar,
In search of heav'n, than all the Church before,
Nor can we be deceived unless we see
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 still our reason runs another way,

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That private reason 't is more just to curb
Than by disputes the public peace disturb,
For points obscure are of small 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 unpolished, rugged verse I chose,
As fittest for discourse and nearest prose;
For while from sacred truth I do not swerve,
Tom Sternhold's or Tom Shadwell's rhymes will serve.









Thou youngest virgin-daughter of the skies,
Made in the last promotion of the blest,
Whose palms, new plucked from Paradise,
In spreading branches more sublimely rise,

Rich with immortal green above the rest;
Whether, adopted to some neighbouring star,
Thou roll'st above us in thy wand'ring race,
Or, in procession fixed and regular,

Moved with the heaven's majestic pace,
Or, called to more superior bliss,
Thou tread'st, with seraphims, the vast abyss;
Whatever happy region is thy place,
Cease thy celestial song a little space:
Thou wilt have time enough for hymns divine,
Since heav'n's eternal year is thine.
Hear, then, a mortal Muse thy praise rehearse,
In no ignoble verse,

But such as thy own voice did practise here,
When thy first-fruits of poesy were giv❜n,
To make thyself a welcome inmate there,
While yet a young probationer

And candidate of heav'n.


If by traduction came thy mind,
Our wonder is the less to find

A soul so charming from a stock so good:
Thy father was transfused into thy blood;
So wert thou born into a tuneful strain,
An early, rich, and inexhausted vein.

But if thy pre-existing soul
Was formed at first, with myriads more,
It did through all the mighty poets roll,
Who Greek or Latin laurels wore,







And was that Sappho last which once it was before.
If so, then cease thy flight, O heaven-born mind!
Thou hast no dross to purge from thy rich ore,
Nor can thy soul a fairer mansion find
Than was the beauteous frame she left behind:
Return, to fill or mend the choir of thy celestial kind!



May we presume to say that at thy birth

New joy was sprung in heav'n as well as here on earth? 40

For sure the milder planets did combine

On thy auspicious horoscope to shine,

And ev'n the most malicious were in trine.
Thy brother-angels at thy birth

Strung each his lyre, and tuned it high,
That all the people of the sky

Might know a poetess was born on earth;
And then, if ever, mortal ears

Had heard the music of the spheres.
And if no clust'ring swarm of bees

On thy sweet mouth distilled their golden dew,

'T was that such vulgar miracles Heav'n had not leisure to renew; For all the blest fraternity of love

Solemnized there thy birth, and kept thy holiday above. 55


O gracious God! how far have we
Profaned thy heav'nly gift of poesy!
Made prostitute and profligate the Muse,
Debased to each obscene and impious use,
Whose harmony was first ordained above
For tongues of angels and for hymns of love!
Oh, wretched we! why were we hurried down
This lubric and adult'rate age
(Nay, added fat pollutions of our own),

T' increase the steaming ordures of the stage?
What can we say t' excuse our second fall?
Let this thy vestal, Heaven, atone for all:
Her Arethusian stream remains unsoiled,
Unmixed with foreign filth, and undefiled;
Her wit was more than man, her innocence a child.







Art she had none, yet wanted none,
For Nature did that want supply;
So rich in treasures of her own

She might our boasted stores defy:
Such noble vigour did her verse adorn
That it seemed borrowed where 't was only born.
Her morals too were in her bosom bred,

By great examples daily fed,

What in the best of books, her father's life, she read.
And to be read herself she need not fear;
Each test and ev'ry light her Muse will bear,
Though Epictetus with his lamp were there.
Ev'n love (for love sometimes her Muse exprest)
Was but a lambent flame which played about her breast,
Light as the vapours of a morning dream;
So cold herself, whilst she such warmth exprest,

'T was Cupid bathing in Diana's stream.


Born to the spacious empire of the Nine,

One would have thought she should have been


To manage well that mighty government; But what can young ambitious souls confine? To the next realm she stretched her sway, For Painture near adjoining lay,

A plenteous province and alluring prey:
A Chamber of Dependences was framed
(As conquerors will never want pretence,
When armed to justify th' offence),
And the whole fief in right of Poetry she claimed.
The country open lay without defence,

For poets frequent inroads there had made,







And perfectly could represent

The shape, the face, with ev'ry lineament, And all the large demains which the dumb Sister swayed; All bowed beneath her government, Received in triumph wheresoe'er she went. Her pencil drew whate'er her soul designed,


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