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Romans) was once sick of this disease; and yet recovered so well, that of almost as bad a poet as your servant, he became the most perfect orator in the world. So that, not so much to have made verses, as not to give over in time, leaves a man without excuse ; the former presenting us with an opportunity at least of doing wisely; that is, to conceal those we have made, which I shall yet do, if my humble request may be of as much force with your ladyship as your commands have been with me. Madam, I only whisper these in your ears ; if you publish them, they are your own; and therefore, as you apprehend the approach of a wit, and a poet, cast them into the fire: or if they come where green boughs are in the chimney, with the help of your fair friends (for, thus bound, it will be too hard a task for your hands alone) to tear them in pieces, wherein you shall honour me with the fate of Orpheus, for so his poems, whereof we only tear the form, (not his limbs, as the story will have it) I suppose were scattered by the Thracian dames. Here, madam, I might take an opportunity to celebrate your virtues, and to instruct you how unhappy you are, in that you know not who you are: how much you excel the most excellent of your own, and how much you amaze the least inclined to wonder of our sex. they will be apt to take your ladyship's for a Roman name, so would they believe that I endeavoured the character of a perfect nymph, worshipped an image of my own making, and dedicated this to the lady of my brain, not of the heart of your ladyship’s most humble servant,
Waen the Author of these verses (written only to please himself, and such particular persons to whom they were directed) returned from abroad some years since, he was troubled to find his name in print, but somewhat satisfied to see his lines so ill rendered that he might justly disown them, and say to a mistaking printer, as one did to an ill reciter,
Male dum recitas, incipit esse tuus.
Having been ever since pressed to correct the many and gross faults, (such as use to be in impressions wholly neglected by the authors) his answer was, that he made these when ill verses had more favour, and escaped better, than good ones do in this age; the severity whereof he thought not unhappily diverted by those faults in the impression which hitherto have hung upon his book, as the Turks hang old rags, or such like ugly things, upon their fairest horses and other goodly creatures, to secure them against fascination. And for those of a more confined understanding, who pretend not to censure, (as they admire most what they least comprehend) so his verses (maimed to that degree that himself scarce knew what to make of many of them) might, that way at least, have a title to some ad
Martial, lib, i, ep. 39.
miration ; which is no small matter, if what an old author observes be true, that the aim of orators is victory; of historians, truth ; and of poets, admiration. He had reason, therefore, to indulge those faults in his book, whereby it might be reconciled to some, and commended to others.
The printer also, he thought, would fare the worse if those faults were amended; for we see maimed statues sell better than whole ones; and clipped and washed money goes about, when the entire and weighty lies hoarded up.
These are the reasons which, for above twelve years past, he has opposed to our request; to which it was replied, that as it would be too late to recal that which had so long been made public, so might it find excuse from his youth, the season it was produced in: and for what had been done since, and now added, if it commend not his poetry, it might his philosophy, which teaches him so cheerfully to bear so great a calamity as the loss of the best part of his fortune, torn from him in prison, in which, and in banishment, the best portion of his life hath also been spent) that he can still sing under the burden, not unlike that Roman?, .
Quem demisere Philippi
And him of his old patrimony stripp'd.
Musis amicus, tristitiam et metus
Lib. i. ode 26.
Horace, lib, ii. ep. 2.
Not so much moved with these reasons of ours, or pleased with our rhymes, as wearied with our importunity, he bas at last given us leave to assure the reader that the Poems which have been so long and so ill set forth under his name, are here to be found as he first writ them; as also to add some others which have since been composed by him : and though his advice to the contrary might have discouraged us, yet observing how often they have been reprinted, what price they have borne, and how earnestly they have been always inquired after, but especially of late, (making good that of Horace,
Meliora dies, ut vina, poemata reddit. Lib. ii. ep. 1.
some verses being, like some wines, recommended to our taste by time and age') we have adventured upon this new and well-corrected edition, which, for our own sakes as well as thine, we hope will socceed better than he apprehended.
Vivitu ingenio, cætera mortis erunt.
TO THE SECOND PART OF THESE POEMS, IN 1690.
The reader needs be told no more in commendation of these Poems, than that they are Mr. Waller's; a name that carries every thing in it that is either great or graceful in poetry. He was, indeed, the parent of English verse, and the first that showed us our tongue had beauty and numbers in it. Our language owes more to him than the. French does to Cardinal Richelieu and the whole Academy. A poet cannot think of him without being in the same rapture Lucretius is in, when Epicurus comes in his way.
Tu pater, et rerum inventor ; to patria nobis
Lib. iii. ver. 9.
The tongue came into his hands like a rough diamond: he polished it first, and to that degree, that all artists since him have admired the workmanship, without pretending to mend it. Suckling and Carew, I must confess, wrote some few things smoothly enough; but as all they did in this kind was not very considerable, so it was a little later than the earliest pieces of Mr. Waller. He undoubtedly stands first in the list of refiners, and,