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For Indian spices, for Peruvian gold,
But if to power and place your passion lie,
Or if your life be one continued treat,
Or shall we every decency confound;
BOOK II.-EPISTLE I.
ADVERTISEMENT. The reflections of Horace, and the judgments passed in
his Episile to Augustus, seemed so seasonable to the present times, that I could not help applying them to the use of iny own country. The author thought them considerable enough to address them to his prince, whom he paints with all the great and good qualities of a monarch, npon whon the Romans dejxnded for
the increase of an absolute empire. But to make the poem entirely English, I was willing to add one or two of those which contribute to the happiness of a free people, and are more consistent with the welfare of our neighbours.
This Epistle will show the learned world to have fallen into two mistakes: one, that A ugustus was the patron of poets in general ; whereas he not only prohibited all but the best writers to name him, but recommended that care even to the civil magistrate : Admonebat prætores, ne paterentur nomen obsolesieri, &c. The other, that this piece was only a general discourse of poetry; whereas it was an apology for the poets, in order to render Augustus more their patron.
Horace here pleads the cause of his contemporaries, first against the taste of the town, whose humour it was to magnify the authors of the preceding age; secondly, against the court and nobility, who encourage only the writers for the theatre; and lastly, against the emperor himself, who had conceived them of little use to the government. He shows (by a view of the progress of learning, and the change of taste among the Romans) that the introduction of the polite arts of Greece had given the writers of his time great advantages over their predecessors ; that their morals were much improved, and the licence of those ancient poets restrained; that satire and comedy were become more just and useful; that whatever extravagances were left on the stage, were owing to the ill taste of the nobility; that poets, under due regulations, were in many respects useful to the state; and concludes, that it was upon them the emperor himself must depend for his fame with posterity.
We may further learn from this Epistle, that Horace made his court to this great prince, by riting with a decent freedom towards him, with a just contempt of his low flatterers, and with a manly regard to his own character,
WHILE you, great patron of mankind ! sustain "The balanced 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 fatore,
envý never conquer'd but by deaik.
To thee the world its present homage pays,
Just in one instance, be it yet confess'd, 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's It is the rust we value, not the gold. Chaucer?s worst ribaldry is learn'd by rote, And beastly Skekon heads of houses quote:
One likes no language but the Fairy Queen :
Though justly Greece her eldest sons admires,
If time improve our wits as well as wine,
Who lasts a century can have no fiaw ;
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.'
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.
Shakspeare (whom you and every playhouse-pill Style the divine, the matchless, what you will) For gain, not glory, wing'd his roving flight, And grew immortal in his own despite. Ben, old and poor, as little seem'd to heed The life to come in every poct's creed. Who now reads Cowley ? if he pleases yet, His moral pleases, not his pointed wit;