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For, to make myself abfolutely dead in a poetical capacity, my resolution at present is, never to exercise any more that faculty. It is, I confefs, but feldom feen that the poet dies before the man; for, when we once fall in love with that bewitching art, we do not ufe to court it as a mistress, but marry it as a wife, and take it for better or worse, as an infeparable companion of our whole life. But, as the marriages of infants do but rarely profper, fo no man ought to wonder at the diminution or decay of my affection to poesy; to which I had contracted myself fo much under age, and fo much to my own prejudice in regard of those more profitable matches, which I might have made among the richer fciences. As for the portion which this brings of fame, it is an estate (if it be any, for men are not oftener deceived in their hopes of widows, than in their opinion of," Exegi monumentum ære perennius—”). that hardly ever comes in whilft we are living to enjoy it, but is a fantastical kind of reverfion to our own felves neither ought any man to envy poets this pofthumous and imaginary happiness, fince they find commonly fo little in prefent, that it may be truly applied to them, which St. Paul speaks of the first Christians, "If their reward be in this life, they are of all men "the most miferable."
And, if in quiet and flourishing times they meet with so small encouragement, what are they to expect in rough and troubled ones? If wit be fuch a plant, that it scarce receives heat enough to preserve it alive even in the fummer of our cold climate, how can it
choose but wither in a long and a fharp winter? A warlike, various, and a tragical age is beft to write of, but worst to write in. And I may, though in a very unequal proportion, affume that to myself, which was spoken by Tully to a much better perfon, upon occafion of the civil wars and revolutions in his time: "Sed ❝ in te intuens, Brute, doleo : cujus in adolescentiam, " per medias laudes, quafi quadrigis vehentem, tranf"verfa incurrit mifera fortuna reipublicæ *."
Neither is the prefent conftitution of my mind more proper than that of the times for this exercise, or rather divertisement. There is nothing that requires fo much ferenity and chearfulness of fpirit; it must not be either overwhelmed with the cares of life, or overcaft with the clouds of melancholy and forrow, or fhaken and difturbed with the ftorms of injurious fortune; it muft, like the halcyon, have fair weather to breed in. The foul must be filled with bright and delightful ideas, when it undertakes to communicate delight to others; which is the main end of poefy. One may fee through the style of Ovid de Trift. the humbled and dejected condition of fpirit with which he wrote it; there fcarce remains any footstep of that genius,
quem nec Jovis ira, nec ignes †, &c.”
The cold of the country had ftrucken through all his faculties, and benumbed the very feet of his verses. He is himself, methinks, like one of the stories of his
*Cic. de Clar. Orator. § 331.
+ Metam. 1. xv. 871.
own Metamorphofis; and, though there remain fome weak refemblances of Ovid at Rome, it is but, as he fays of Niobe *,
"In vultu color eft fine fanguine: lumina moftis "Stant immota genis: nihil eft in imagine vivi.— "Flet tamen-"
The truth is, for a man to write well, it is neceffary to be in good humour; neither is wit lefs eclipfed with the unquietnefs of mind, than beauty with the indifpofition of body. So that it is almost as hard a thing to be a poet in despite of fortune, as it is in defpite of For my own part, neither my obligations to the Mufes, nor expectations from them, are so great, as that I should fuffer myself on no confiderations to be divorced, or that I fhould fay like Horace †, "Quifquis erit vitæ, fcribam, color."
I fhall rather use his words in another place ‡, "Vixi Camenis nuper idoneus,
"Et militavi non fine gloriâ :
"Nunc arma, defunctúmque bello
"Barbiton hic paries habebit.'
And this refolution of mine does the more befit me, because my defire has been for fome years past (though the execution has been accidentally diverted) and does ftill vehemently continue, to retire myself to fome of
* Metam. 1. vi. 304.
"Vixi puellis," &c.
our American plantations, not to seek for gold, or enrich myself with the traffic of thofe parts (which is the end of moft men that travel thither; so that of these Indies it is truer than it was of the former,
"Impiger extremos currit mercator ad Indos, "Per mare pauperiem fugiens-*)"
but to forfake this world for ever, with all the vanities and vexations of it, and to bury myself there in fome obfcure retreat (but not without the confolation of letters and philofophy)
Oblitúfque meorum, oblivifcendus & illis-+"
as my former author fpeaks too, who has enticed me here, I know not how, into the pedantry of this heap of Latin fentences. And I think Dr. Donne's Sundyal in a grave is not more ufelefs and ridiculous, than poetry would be in that retirement. As this therefore is in a true fense a kind of death to the Muses, and a real literal quitting of this world; fo, methinks, I may make a juft claim to the undoubted privilege of deceased poets, which is, to be read with more favour than the living;
"Tanti eft ut placeam tibi, perire ‡."
Having been forced, for my own neceffary juftification, to trouble the reader with this long difcourfe of the reafons why I trouble him alfo with all the reft of
*Hor. 1 Ep. i. 45.
+ Hor. Ep. xi. 9.
Martial. lib. viii. ep. 69.
the book; I fhall only add fomewhat concerning the feveral parts of it, and some other pieces, which I have thought fit to reject in this publication: as, firft, all those which I wrote at school, from the age of ten years, till after fifteen; for even fo far backward there remain yet some traces of me in the little footsteps of a child; which, though they were then looked upon as commendable extravagancies in a boy (men fetting a value upon any kind of fruit before the ufual feason of it) yet I would be loth to be bound now to read them all over myself; and therefore fhould do ill to expect that patience from others. Befides, they have already paft through feveral editions, which is a longer life than uses to be enjoyed by infants that are born before the ordinary terms. They had the good fortune then to find the world fo indulgent (for, confidering the time of their production, who could be so hard-hearted to be fevere ?) that I scarce yet apprehend fo much to be cenfured for them, as for not having made advances afterwards proportionable to the speed of my fetting out; and am obliged too in a manner by difcretion to conceal and fupprefs them, as promises and inftruments under my own hand, whereby I ftood engaged for more than I have been able to perform; in which truly if I have failed, I have the real excufe of the honefteft fort of bankrupts, which is, to have been made unfolvable not so much by their own negligence and illhusbandry, as by fome notorious accidents and public difafters. In the next place, I have caft away all fuch pieces as I wrote during the time of the late troubles,