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Howl to the roarings of the northern deep;
Yes, lest you think I rally more than teach,
But not this part of the poetic state
1 A building in the royal gardens at Richmond, where there was a small but choice collection of books.
My liege! why writers little claim your thought I guess, and, with their leave, will tell the fault. We poets are (upon a poet's word) Of all mankind the creatures most absurd : The season when to come, and when to go, To sing, or cease to sing, we never know; And if we will recite nine hours in ten, You lose your patience just like other men. Then, too, we hurt ourselves when, to defend A single verse, we quarrel with a friend; Repeat, unask'd; lament, the wit's too fine For vulgar eyes, and point out every line : But most when straining with too weak a wing We needs will write epistles to the king; And from the moment we oblige the town, Expect a place or pension from the crown; Or dubb’d historians by express command, T'enrol your triumphs o'er the seas and land, Be call'd to court to plan some work divine, As once for Louis, Boileau and Racine.
Yet think, great sir! (so many virtues shown) An! think what poet best may make them known: Or choose at least some minister of grace, Fit to bestow the laureate's weighty place.
Charles, to late times to be transmitted fair, Assign'd his figure to Bernini's care ; And great Nassau to Kneller's hand decreed To fix him graceful on the bounding steed; So well in paint and stone they judg'd of merit: But kings in wit may want discerning spirit.
The hero William, and the martyr Charles,
Not with such majesty, such bold relief, The forms august of king, or conquering chief, E'er swellid on marble, as in verse have shin'd (In polish'd verse) the manners and the mind. 0! could I mount on the Mæonian wing, Your arms, your actions, your repose, to sing ! What seas you travers’d, and what fields you fought! Your country's peace how oft, how dearly bought! How barbarous rage subsided at your word, And nations wonder'd while they dropp'd the sword! How, when you nodded, o'er the land and deep Peace stole her wing, and wrapt the world in sleep, Till earth's extremes your mediation own, And Asia's tyrants tremble at your throne : But verse, alas! your majesty disdains ; And I'm not us’d to panegyric strains. The zeal of fools offends at any time, But most of all the zeal of fools in rhyme. Besides, a fate attends on all I write, That when I aim at praise they say I bite. A vile encomium doubly ridicules ; There's nothing blackens like the ink of fools. If true, a woful likeness; and, if lies,
Praise undeserv'd is scandal in disguise.' Well may he blush who gives it, or receives ;
And when I flatter, let my dirty leaves
THE SECOND EPISTLE OF THE SECOND BOOK
Ludentis speciem dabit, et torquebitur.
Dear colonel,1 Cobham's and your country's
friend! You love a verse; take such as I can send.
A Frenchman comes, presents you with his boy, Bows and begins—This lad, sir, is of Blois : Observe his shape how clean! his locks how curl'd! My only son, I'd have him see the world : His French is pure; his voice too—you shall hear. Sir, he's your slave for twenty pound a-year. Mere wax as yet, you fashion him with ease, Your barber, cook, upholsterer; what you please: A perfect genius at an opera songTo say too much might do my honour wrong. Take him with all his virtues on my word; His whole ambition was to serve a lord.
i Colonel Cotterell, of Rousham, near Oxford.
But, sir, to you with what would I not part?
If, after this, you took the graceless lad,
Consider then, and judge me in this light; I told you when I went I could not write; You said the same; and are you discontent With laws to which you gave your own assent? Nay, worse, to ask for verse at such a time ! D'ye think me good for nothing but to rhyme ?
In Anna's wars a soldier, poor and old, Had dearly earn’d a little purse of gold : Tir'd in a tedious march, one luckless night He slept, (poor dog !) and lost it to a doit. This put the man in such a desperate mind, Between revenge, and grief, and hunger join'd, Against the foe, himself, and all mankind, He leap'd the trenches, scal'd a castle wall, Tore down a standard, took the fort and all.'
Prodigious well!' his great commander cried, Gave him much praise, and some reward beside.
> Sir Godfrey Kneller.