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P R E F A C E.
O fave from the wreck of time a few of the best poetical compositions on divine and
moral subjects, was the intent of this collection. Whether the Editor has been happy in his choice, must be left to the decision of the candid reader.
To render the undertaking worthy the regard of persons seriously disposed, I have taken much pains in selecting pieces both of a pleasing and instructive nature. Some of them it is true, are not, in point of beauty, equal to productions of a different kind that might be mentioned ; though I trust, that even those of the lowest rank have some degree of merit. To procure matter every way suited to my wishes, I found extremely difficult: and, after all my searches, was reduced to the neceflity of printing several pieces that would have been rejected, had I met with others more deserving.
The scarcity of fine poems on divine subjects, is, I presume, much greater than is generally imagined : and probably this will best account for the rubbish found in almost every collection of this kind, unless we can suppose the Editors deftitute both of taste and judgment.
In compiling this volume, I had one difficulty to encounter respecting the right of literary property,
which few collectors have ever thought of, or at least have not regarded. And had not a due regard to this, limited my enquiries, I might have selected many valuable pieces that would have been acceptable to the christian world. For leave to print those of a modern date, I am indebted to several of my ingenious friends, and even for some, which under the fanction of the law, I might have taken.
One thing very desirable in the pieces I have chosen, was uniformity of sentiment; but this was found impracticable. They are in general therefore printed as I found them, except fuch inaccuracies as could hardly be excused. In copying the pieces from ARWAKER's translation of Hugo's Psa DesideRIA*, I have taken uncommon liberty. Some of the lines were very loose, and many of the fimilies low and trifting.---These I have either wholly omitted or attempted to correct.
A few pieces of my own are thus distinguished *** .--They were written at different times, just as leifure and inclination offered. A love of poetry, I believe, first induced me to attempt any thing in verse; and, as is very common, without a previous enquiry whether I was properly qualified for the undertaking. A due regard to this, and to the many beauties requisite to constitute a fine poem, it is more
* From this ingenious performance, the celebrated Mr. QUARLES took his emblems; but forgot, as we may charitably suppose, to men țion this circumstance in his preface to the book in which they are published.
than probable would have excluded them from a place in this collection. Were it needful to apologize for printing them, I might plead a desire of gratifying the curiosity of my friends, who, from the nature of the undertaking, will no doubt expect some originals from the Editor. However, I cannot wish to avail myself of any excuse, in order to escape the censure they deserve.---Criticisms, if well founded, cannot be too severe; and as we are most likely to profit by a display of failures not suspected, every attempt of that kind cannot but inspire the warmest thankfulness and gratitude.
The poem, entitled Deity, by Mr. Boyse, I esteem a valuable acquisition. It is, perhaps, one of the finest pieces on that subject, in the English language. When it was first published, Mr. Pope was asked, whether he was not the author of it? To which he replied, " that he was not indeed the author of it, but that there were many lines in it of which he should not be ashamed.” And he might have added, “nor of the whole performance."
The late ingenious Mr. HERVEY, in a letter to Mr. Boyse, dated August 8, 1747, says, “ Give me leave to add my acknowledgements for the perusal of your poem, entitled Deity. It is a noble piece, quite poetical, truly evangelical, and admirably fitted to alarm and comfort the heart, to delight and improve the reader---I must desire to read it again.” And in a letter to a friend, dated June 7, 1759, speaking of the same poem, he says, “I really
think it is as useful and fine a piece of poetry as most in the English language.---I so much admire it, that I have insensibly as it were got it by heart. God grant that it may be influential on every reader."
Mr. Boyse was the son of a diffenting minister at Dublin. He was born in the year 1708. As he was intended for the ministry, he was sent at the age of eighteen, to the University of GLASGOW. But in less than a year he married a tradesman's daughter of that city. This interrupted his studies, and immediately after he became wholly dependent on his father. By a series of extravagancies, he soon squandered away a little eftate which had supported his father and family, so that the old man in his last fickness was intirely supported by presents from his congregation, and buried after his death at their expence. In 1726, and 1731, Mr. Boyse wrote several poems which gained him much credit. He was caressed by fome of the first families in Scotland, and by them recommended to the patronage of several noblemen of the first rank in England. Among other men of learning, Mr. Pope was one to whom he was strongly recommended. However, by neglecting the many favorable opportunities he had of preferment, and by a life of indolence and extravagance, he was, about the year 1740, reduced to such an extremity of human wretchedness, that he had neither shirt, coat, nor any other kind of apparel to put on. The sheets in which he lay were carried to the pawnbroker's; and he was obliged to be confined to his bed with no
other covering than a blanket. He supported himself fix weeks in this distressful situation, by writing verses for the magazines; and must certainly have continued in it much longer, if he had not been relieved by the generosity of some gentlemen who knew him to be a man of parts. In the latter part of his life, his behavior was more decent than it had formerly been, which induced his friends to hope, that in the evening of life a reformation might be expected.
Among the many friends who generously contributed to his relief, he was in a peculiar manner indebted to the liberality of Mr. SANDBY, who, in order to make provision for his future wants, employed him to translate a treatise on the EXISTENCE of God, written in French by the ARCHBISHOP of CAMBRAY, Mr. Boyse, however, did not live to complete his undertaking, as he left behind him three sheets unfinished. He died in the performance of this work with a pen in his hand, as he fat in his bed in a garret in White Friars, and was afterwards buried at the expence of the parish +.
Thus, after many years spent in indolence and extravagance, this unhappy man was reduced to the lowest ebb of human wretchedness. In the early and middle part of life, he had many pleafing pros
+ For this account, I am partly indebted to the writer of the Biographical Dictionary, and partly to Mr. Sandby, who was well acquainted with Mr. Boyse, and a witness of that wretchedness and misery to which he was at last reduced,