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Morace still charms with graceful negligence, And without method talks us into sense; Will, like a friend, familiarly convey The truest notions in the easiest way. He who, supreme in judgement as in wit, Might boldly censure, as he boldly writ, Yet judg'd with coolness, though he sung with fire; His precepts teach but what his works inspire. Our critics take a contrary extreme, They judge with fury, but they write with phlegm: Nor suffers Horace more in wrong translations By wits, than critics in as wrong quotations.
See Dionysius Homer's thoughts refine,
Fancy and art in gay Petronius please,
In grave Quintilian's copious work, we find
Thee, bold Longinus! all the Nine inspire,
Thus long succeeding critics justly reign'd,
At length Erasmus, that great injur'd name
But see! each muse, in Leo's golden days,
But soon, by impious arms from Latium chas'd, Their ancient bounds the banish'd muses pass'd: Thence arts o'er all the northern world advance, But critic learning flourish'd most in France; The rules a nation born to serve obeys, And Boileau still in right of Horace sways. But we, brave Britons, foreign laws despis'd, And kept unconquer'd and unciviliz'd; Fierce for the liberties of wit, and bold, We still defied the Romans, as of old. Yet some there were among the sounder few Of those who less presum'd, and better knew, Who durst assert the juster ancient cause, And here restor'd wit's fundamental laws. Such was the muse, whose rules and practice tell, • Nature's chief master-piece is writing well.' Such was Roscommon, not more learn'd than good, With manners generous as his noble blood; To him the wit of Greece and Rome was known, And every author's merit but his own. Such late was Walsh, the muse's judge and friend, Who justly knew to blame or to commend; To failings mild, but zealous for desert; The clearest head, and the sipcerest heart.
This humble praise, lamented shade! receive,
will be in vain to deny that I have some regard
for this piece, since I dedicate it to you; yet you . may bear me witness, it was intended only to divert a few young ladies, who have good sense and good humour enough to laugh not only at their sex's little unguarded follies, but at their own. But as it was communicated with the air of a secret, it soon found its way into the world. An imperfect copy having been offered to a bookseller, you had the good-nature for my sake to consent to the publica. tion of one more correct. This I was forced to before I had executed half my design, for the machinery was entirely wanting to complete it.
The machinery, madam, is a term invented by the critics, to signify that part which the deities, angels, or demons, are made to act in a poem: for the ancient poets are in one respect like many mo. dern ladies ; let an action be ever so trivial in itself, they always make it appear of the utmost importance. These machines I determined to raise
on a very new and odd foundation, the Rosicrusian doctrine of spirits.
I know how disagreeable it is to make use of hard words before a lady; but it is so much the concern of a poet to have his works understood, and particularly by your sex, that you must give me leave to explain two or three difficult terms.
The Rosicrusians are a people I must bring you acquainted with. The best account I know of them is in a French book called Le Comte de Gabalis, which, both in its title and size, is so like a novel, that many of the fair sex have read it for one by mistake. According to these gentlemen, the four elements are inhabited by spirits which they call Sylphs, Gnomes, Nymphs, and Salamanders. The Gnomes, or demons of earth, delight in mischief; but the Sylphs, whose habitation is in the air, are the best conditioned creatures imaginable; for, they say, any mortal may enjoy the most intimate fami. liarities with these gentle spirits, upon a condition very easy to all true adeptsoan inviolate preserva. tion of chastity.
As to the following cantos, all the passages of them are as fabulous as the vision at the beginning, or the transformation at the end (except the loss of your hair, which I always mention with reverence). The human persons are as fictitious as the airy ones; and the character of Belinda, as it is now managed, resembles you in nothing but in beauty.
If this poem had as many graces as there are in your person or in your mind, yet I could never hope it should pass through the world half so uncensured as you have done. But let its fortune be what it will, mine is happy enough to have given me this occasion of assuring you, that I am, with the truest esteem,