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EPISTLE I.

TO

A U GUSTU S.

W

HIL E 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
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 endur'd,
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 ligh, to find
Th’unwilling gratitude of base mankind!
All human virtue, to its lateft breath,
Finds envy never conquer'd, but by death.
The great Alcides, ev'ry labour past,
Had still this monster to fubdue at last.
Sure fate of all, beneath whose rising ray
Each star of meaner merit fades away
Oppress'd we feel the beam dire&ly beat
Those suns of glory pleafe 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 Above all Greek, above all Roman fame : Whose word is truth, as facred and rever'd, As heay'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.

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. Chaucer's worst ribaldry is learn'd by rote, And beastly Sk elton Heads of Houses quote: One likes no language but the Fairy Queen ; A Scot will fight for Christ's Kirk of the Green: And each true Briton is to Ben so civil, He swears the Muses met him at the Devil.

Tho' justly Greece her eldest sons admires,
Why should not we be wiser than our fires?
In ev'ry publick virtue we excell:
We build, we paint, we fing, we dance as well,
And learned Athens to our art must stoop,
Could she behold us tumbling thro' a hoop.

If time improve our wits as well as wine,
Say at what age a poet grows divine ?
Shall we, or shall we not, account him fo,
Who dy'd, perhaps, an hundred years ago ?
End all dispute ; and fix the year precise

When British bards begin t' immortalize?

» Who lasts a century can have no flaw, » 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?

» We shall not quarrel for a year or two; » By courtesy of England, he may do c.

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 : While you , to measure merits , look in Stowe, And estimating authors by the year , Bestow a garland only on a bier.

Shakespear ( whom you and ev'ry play-house bill Style the divine , the matchless, what you will ) For gain, not glory , wing'd his roving flight, And grew immortal in his own despight. Ben , old and poor , as little feem'd to heed The life to come, in ev'ry poet's creed. Who now reads Cowley? if he pleases yet, His moral pleafes, 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: » In all debates where critics bear a part, » Not one but nods, and talks of Johnson's art, » Of Shakespear's nature, and of Cowley's wit; (writ; » How Beaumont's judgment check'd what Fletcher

» How Shadwell hasty, Wycherley was Now;
» But for the passions , Southern sure and Rowe.
» These, only these , support the crouded stage,
» From eldest Heywood to Cibber's age.

All this may be; the people's voice is odd,
It is, and it is not, the voice of God.
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
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 ferpent-like, in profe he sweeps the ground,
In quibbles, Angel and Archangel join,
And God the Father turns a school-divine.
Not that I'd lop the beauties from his book ,
Like flashing Bentley with his desp'rate hook,
Or damn all Shakespear, 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 ) One fimile, that solitary shines In the dry desert of a thousand lines, ( a page, Or lengthen'd thought that gleams through mana Has fan&tify'd whole poems for an age. I lose my patience, and I own it too

When works are censurd, not as bad but new;
While if our elders break all reason's laws,
These fools demand not pardon, but applause.

On Avon's bank, where flow'rs eternal blow,
If I but ask , if any weed can grow?
One tragic sentence if I dare deride,
Which Berterton's grave action dignify'd,
Or well-mouth'd Booth with emphasis proclaims,
( Tho' but, perhaps, a muster-roll of names )
How will our fathers rise up in a rage,
And swear , all shane is lost in George's age !
You'd think no fools disgrac'd the former reign,
Did not some grave examples yet remain,
Who scorn a lad should teach his father skill,
And , having once been wrong, will be so still.
He, who to seem more deep than you or I,
Extols old bards, or Merlin's prophecy,
Mistake him not; he envies, not admires,
And to debase the sons, exalts the fires.
Had ancient times conspir'd to disallow
What then was new , what had been ancient now?
Or what remain’d, so worthy to be read
By learned critics , of the mighty dead?
In days of ease, when now the weary

sword Was sheath’d, and luxury with Charles restord; In ev'ry taste of foreign courts improv'd, » All, by the king's example , liv'd and lov’da. Then peers grew proud in horsemanship t excell, Newmarket's glory rose, as Britain's fell; The soldier breath'd the gallantries of France, And ev'ry flow'ry courtier writ romance.

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