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MR. HENRY SACHEVERELL,
APRIL 3, 1694.,
INCE, dearest Harry, you will needs request
A short account of all the Muse-pofleft,
That, down from Chaucer's days to Dryden's times,
Have spent their noble rage in British rhymes ;
Without more preface, writ in formal length,
To speak the undertaker's want of strength,
I'll try to make their several beauties known,
And show their verses worth, though not my own.
Long had our dull forefathers slept supine,
Nor felt the raptures of the tuneful Nine;
Till Chaucer first, a merry bard, arose,
Aud many a story told in rhyme and prose.
But age has rusted what the Poet writ,
Worn out his language, and obscur'd his wit :
In vain he jests in his unpolith'd strain,
And tries to make his readers laugh in vain.
O!! Spenser next, warm’d with poetic rage,
In ancient tales amus'd a barbarous age 1
that yet uncultivate and rude,
Where-e'er the poet's fancy led, pursued
Through pathless fields, and unfrequented floods,
To dens of dragons, and enchanted woods.
But now the mystic tale, that pleas’d of yord,
Can charm an understanding age no more ;
The long-spun allegories fulsome grow,
While the dull moral lies too plain below.
We view well-pleas'd at distance all the fights,
Of arms and palfries, battles, fields, and fights,
And damsels in distress, and courteous knights.
But when we look too near, the shades decay,
And all the pleasing landskip fades away.
Great Cowley then (a mighty genius) wrote,
O'er-run with wit, and lavish afubie thoughts
His turns too closely on the reader press :
He more had pleas’d us, had he pleas’d us less,
One glittering thought no fooner strikes our eyes,
With silent wonder, but new wonders rise.
As in the milky-way a shining white
O’erflows the heavens with one continued light ;.
That not a single star can fhew his rays,
Whilft jointly all promote the common blaze.
Pardon, great Poet, that I dare to name
Th' unnumber'd beauties of thy verie with blame;
Thy fault is only wit in its excess :
But wit like thine in any shape will please.
What Muse but thine can equal hints inspire,
And fit the deep-mouth'd Pindar to thy lyre ::
Pindar, whom others in a labour'd strain,
And forc'd expression, imitate in vain ?
Rules whose deep sense and heavenly numbers show
The best of critics, and of poets too.
Nor, Denham, must we e'er forget thy strains,
Jwhile Cooper's Hill commands the neighbouring plains.
But see where artful Dryden next appears,
Grown old in rhyme, but charming ev’n in years.
Great Dryden next, whose tuneful Mufe affords
The sweetest numbers, and the fittest words.
Whether in comic sounds or tragic airs
She forms her voice, she moves our finiles or tears.
If satire or heroic frains she writes,
Her hero pleases, and her satire bites.
From her no harsh unartful numbers fall,
She wears all dresses, and she charms in all.
How might we fear our English poetry,
That long has flouriih'd, should decay with thee;
Did not the Muses' other hope appear,
Harmonious Congreve, and forbid our fear:
Congreve ! whose fancy's unexhausted store
Has given already much, and promis’d more.
Congreve shall still preserve thy farne alive,
And Dryden's Muse shall in his friend survive.
I'm tir’d with rhyming, and would fain give o'er, But justice ftill demands one labour more : 1 The noble Montague remains unnamn d,
For wit, for humour, and for judgment fam’d;
To Dorset he directs his artful Muse,
In numbers such as Dorfet's self might use.
How negligently graceful he unreins
His verse, and writes in loose familiar strains ;
How Nassau’s godlike acts adorn his lines,
And all the hero in full glory shines !
We see his army set in just array,
And Boyne's dy'd waves run purple to the sea.
Nor Simois chok'd with men, and arms, and blood;
Nor rapid Xanthus' celebrated flood,
Shall longer be the Poet's highest themes,
Though gods and heroes fought promiscuous in their
But now, to Nassau's secret councils rais’d,
He aids the hero, whom before he prais’d.
I've done at length; and now, dear friend, receive The last poor present that my Muse can give. I leave the arts of poetry and verse To them that practise them with more success. Of greater truths I 'll now prepare to tell, And so at once, dear friend and Muse, farewel.
RIGHT HON. CHARLES LORD HALIFAX,
os Salve magna parens frugum Saturnia tellus,
“ Magna virûm! tibi res antiquæ laudis & artis
“ Aggredior, fan&tos ausus recludere fontes.”
Virg. Georg. ii.
HILE you, my Lord, the rural shades admire,
And from Britannia's public posts retire,
Nor longer, her ungrateful fons to please,
For their advantage sacrifice your
Me into foreign realms my
Through nations fruitful of immortal lays,
Where the soft season and inviting clime
Conspire to trouble your repose with rhyme.
For wherefoe'er I turn my ravish'd eyes,
Gay gilded scenes and shining prospects rise,
Poetic fields incompass me around,
And still I seem to tread on classic ground;
For here the Muse so oft her harp has ftrung,
That not a mountain rears its head unsung,
Renown’d in verse each shady thicket grows,
And every stream in heavenly numbers flows.
How am I pleas'd to search the hills and woods
For rising springs and celebrated floods !