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ΤΟ

MR DRYDEN,

ON HIS

POEM OF PARADISE.

FORGIVE me, awful poet, if a muse,
Whom artless nature did for plainness chuse,
In loose attire presents her humble thought,
Of this best poem that you ever wrought.
This fairest labour of your teeming brain
I would embrace, but not with flatt'ry stain.
Something I would to your vast virtue raise,
But scorn to daub it with a fulsome praise;
That would but blot the work I would commend,
And shew a court-admirer, not a friend.
To the dead bard your fame a little owes,
For Milton did the wealthy mine disclose,
And rudely cast what you could well dispose:
He roughly drew, on an old-fashion'd ground,
A chaos; for no perfect world was found,
Till through the heap your mighty genius shined:
He was the golden ore, which you refined.
He first beheld the beauteous rustic maid,

And to a place of strength the prize convey'd :
You took her thence; to court this virgin brought,
Drest her with gems, new weaved her hard-spun thought,
And softest language sweetest manners taught;

Till from a comet she a star doth rise,

Not to affright, but please, our wondering eyes.
Betwixt you both is framed a nobler piece,

Than e'er was drawn in Italy or Greece.

Thou from his source of thoughts even souls dost bring,
As smiling gods from sullen Saturn spring.
When night's dull mask the face of heaven does wear,
'Tis doubtful light, but here and there a star,

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Which serves the dreadful shadows to display,
That vanish at the rising of the day;
But then bright robes the meadows all adorn,
And the world looks as it were newly born.
So, when your sense his mystic reason clear'd,
The melancholy scene all gay appear'd;
Now light leapt up, and a new glory smiled,
And all throughout was mighty, all was mild.
Before this palace, which thy wit did build,
Which various fancy did so gaudy gild,
And judgment has with solid riches fill'd,
My humbler muse begs she may sentry stand,
Amongst the rest that guard this Eden land.
But there's no need, for even thy foes conspire
Thy praise, and, hating thee, thy work admire.
On then, O mightiest of the inspired men !
Monarch of verse! new themes employ thy pen.
The troubles of majestic Charles set down;
Not David vanquish'd more to reach a crown.
Praise him as Cowley did that Hebrew king:
Thy theme's as great; do thou as greatly sing.
Then thou may'st boldly to his favour rise,
Look down, and the base serpent's hiss despise ;
From thund'ring envy safe in laurel sit,
While clam'rous critics their vile heads submit,
Condemn'd for treason at the bar of wit.

:

NAT. LEE.

THE

AUTHOR'S APOLOGY

FOR

HEROIC POETRY, AND POETIC LICENCE.

To o satisfy the curiosity of those, who will give themselves the trouble of reading the ensuing poem, I think myself obliged to render them a reason why I publish an opera which was never acted. In the first place, I shall not be ashamed to own, that my chiefest motive was, the ambition which I acknowledged in the Epistle. I was desirous to lay at the feet of so beautiful and excellent a princess, a work, which, I confess, was unworthy her, but which, I hope, she will have the goodness to forgive. I was also induced to it in my own defence; many hundred copies of it being dispersed abroad without my knowledge or consent; so that every one gathering new faults, it became at length a libel against me; and I saw, with some disdain, more nonsense than either I, or as bad a poet, could have crammed into it, at a month's warning; in which time it was wholly written, and not since revised.

After this, I cannot, without injury to the deceased author of "Paradise Lost," but acknowledge, that this poem has received its entire foundation, part of the design, and many of the ornaments, from him. What I have borrowed will be so easily discerned from my mean productions, that I shall not need to point the reader to the places: And truly I should be sorry, for my own sake, that any one should take the pains to compare them together; the original being undoubtedly one of the greatest, most noble, and most sublime poems, which either this age or nation has produced. And though I could not refuse the partiality of my friend, who is pleased to commend me in his verses, I hope they will rather be esteemed the effect of his love to me, than of his deliberate and sober judgment. His genius is able to make beautiful what he pleases: Yet, as he has been too favourable to me, I doubt not but he will hear of his kindness from many of our cotemporaries; for we are fallen into an age of illiterate, censorious, and detracting people, who, thus qualified, set up for critics.

In the first place, I must take leave to tell them, that they wholly mistake the nature of criticism, who think its business is principally to find fault. Criticism, as it was first instituted by Aristotle, was meant a standard of judging well; the chiefest part of which is, to observe those excellencies which should delight a reasonable reader. If the design, the conduct, the thoughts, and the expressions of a poem, be generally such as proceed from a true genius of poetry, the critic ought to pass his judg ment in favour of the author. It is malicious and unmanly to snarl at the little lapses of a pen, from which Virgil himself stands not exempted. Horace acknowledges, that honest Homer nods sometimes:

He is not equally awake in every line; but he leaves it also as a standing measure for our judgments,

-Non, ubi plura nitent in carmine, paucis
Offendi maculis, quas aut incuria fudit,
Aut humana parùm cavit natura.-

And Longinus, who was undoubtedly, after Aristotle, the greatest critic amongst the Greeks, in his twenty-seventh chapter, ПEPI YorΣ, has judiciously preferred the sublime genius that sometimes errs, to the middling or indifferent one, which makes few faults, but. seldom or never rises to any excellence. He compares the first to a man of large possessions, who has not leisure to consider of every slight expence, will not debase himself to the management of every trifle: Particular sums are not laid out, or spared, to the greatest advantage in his economy; but are sometimes suffered to run to waste, while he is only careful of the main. On the other side, he likens the mediocrity of wit, to one of a mean fortune, who manages his store with extreme frugality, or rather parsimony; but who, with fear of running into profuseness, never arrives to the magnificence of living. This kind of genius writes indeed correctly. A wary man he is in grammar, very nice as to solecism or barbarism, judges to a hair of little decencies, knows better than any man what is not to be written, and never hazards himself so far as to fall, but plods on deliberately, and, as a grave man ought, is sure to put his staff before him. In short, he sets his heart upon it, and with wonderful care makes his business sure; that is, in plain English, neither to be blamed nor praised.-I could, says my author, find out some blemishes in Homer; and am perhaps as naturally inclined to be disgusted at a fault as another man ; but, after all, to speak impartially, his failings are

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