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TO MY LADY. MADAM, Your commands for the gathering of these sticks. into a faggot had sooner been obeyed, but intending to present you with my whole vintage, I stayed till the latest grapes were ripe, for here your ladyship hath not only all I have done, but all I ever meant to do in this kind. Not but that I may defend the attempt I have made upon Poetry by the examples (not to trouble you with history) of many wise and worthy persons of our own times : as Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Francis Bacon, Cardinal Perron (the ablest of his countrymen) and the former Pope, who, they say, instead of the triple crown, wore sometimes the Poet's ivy, as an ornament perhaps of lesser weight and trouble. But, madam, these nightingales sung only in the spring; it was the diversion of their youth : as ladies learn to sing and play, when they are children, what they forget when they are women. The resemblance holds further : for as you quit the lute the sooner because the posture is suspected to draw the body away, so this is not always practised without some villany' to the mind wresting it from present occasions, and accustoming us to a still somewhat removed froni common use. But that you may not think his case deplorable who had made verses, we are told that Tully (the greatest wit among the
I Qu. violence?
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 virtnes, 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 endeav. oured 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,
TO THE EDITION OF 1664.
When 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 liis 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.
9 Horace, lib, ii. ep. 2.