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of many rivals, who violently ravished and with-held you from him and certainly you have had your share in fufferings. But Providence has caft upon you want of trade, that you might appear bountiful to your country's neceffities; and the rest of your afflictions are not more the effects of God's difpleasure (frequent examples of them having been in the reign of the most excellent princes) than occafions for the manifefting of your christian and civil virtues. To you therefore this Year of Wonders is juftly dedicated, because you have made it fo. You, who are to ftand a wonder to all years and ages; and who have built yourselves an immortal monument on your own ruins. You are now a Phoenix in her afhes, and, as far as humanity can approach, a great emblem of the suffering Deity: but heaven never made fo much piety and virtue to leave it miferable. I have heard, indeed, of some virtuous perfons who have ended unfortunately, but never of any virtuous nation: Providence is engaged too deeply when the cause becomes fo general; and I cannot imagine it has refolved the ruin of that people at home, which it has bleffed abroad with fuch fucceffes. I am therefore to conclude, that your sufferings are at an end; and that one part of my poem has not been more an history of your deftruction, than the other a prophecy of your reftoration. The accomplishment of which happiness, as it is the wish of all true Englishmen, fo is it by none more paffionately desired, than by,
The greatest of your admirers,
And most humble of your fervants,
An ACCOUNT of the enfuing POEM,
In a LETTER to the
Hon. Sir ROBERT HOWARD.
AM fo many ways obliged to you, and fo little able to return your favours, that, like thofe who owe too much, I can only live by getting farther into your debt. You have not only been careful of my fortune, which was the effect of your noblenefs, but you have been folicitous of my reputation, which is that of your kindness. It is not long fince I gave you the trouble of perusing a play for me, and now, inftead of an acknowledgment, I have given you a greater, in the correction of a poem. But fince you are to bear this perfecution, I will at least give you the encouragement of a martyr; you could never fuffer in a nobler caufe. For I have chofen the most heroic fubject, which any poet could defire : have taken upon me to defcribe the motives, the beginning, progrefs, and fucceffes, of a moft juft and neceffary war; in it, the care, management, and prudence of our king; the conduct and valour of a royal admiral, and of two incomparable generals; the invincible courage of our captains and feamen; and three glorious victories, the refult of all. After this, I have, in the Fire, the most deplorable, but withal the greatest, argument that can be imaVOL. I.
gined the deftruction being fo fwift, fo fudden, fo vast and miserable, as nothing can parallel in ftory. The former part of this poem, relating to the war, is but a due expiation for my not having ferved my king and country in it. All gentlemen are almost obliged to it: and I know no reason we should give that advantage to the commonalty of England, to be foremost in brave actions, which the nobles of France would never fuffer in their peasants. I should not have written this but to a perfon who has been ever forward to appear in all employments whither his honour and generofity have called him. The latter part of my poem, which defcribes the Fire, I owe, first to the piety and fatherly affection of our monarch to his fuffering subjects; and, in the second place, to the courage, loyalty, and magnanimity of the city; both which were fo confpicuous, that I wanted words to celebrate them as they deferve. I have called my poem Hiftorical, not Epic, though both the actions and actors are as much heroic as any poem can contain. But fince the action is not properly one, nor that accomplished in the last fucceffes, I have judged it too bold a title for a few ftanzas, which are little more in number than a fingle Iliad, or the longest of the Eneids. For this reafon (I mean not of length, but broken action, tied too feverely to the laws of hiftory) I am apt to agree with those, who rank Lucan, rather among hiftorians in verfe, than Epic poets: in whofe room, if I am not deceived, Silius Italicus, though a worfe writer, mày more juftly be admitted. I have chofen to write my poem
poem in quatrains, or ftanzas of four in alternate rhyme,
Pucelle, or any of their later poems, will agree with me. And befides this, they write in Alexandrins, or verses of fix feet; fuch as amongst us is the old tranflation of Homer by Chapman: all which, by lengthning of their chain, makes the fphere of their activity the larger. I have dwelt too long upon the choice of my stanza, which you may remember is much better defended in the preface to Gondibert; and therefore I will haften to acquaint you with my endeavours in the writing. In general I will only fay, I have never yet feen the description of any naval fight in the proper terms which are used at sea: and if there be any fuch in another language, as that of Lucan in the third of his Pharfalia, yet I could not avail myself of it in the English; the terms of art in every tongue bearing more of the idiom of it than any other words. hear indeed among our poets, of the thundering of guns, the smoke, the disorder, and the flaughter; but all these are common notions. And certainly, as those who in a logical dispute keep in general terms, would hide a fallacy; fo those who do it in any poetical defcription, would veil their ignorance.
66 Defcriptas fervare vices operumque colores, * Cur ego, fi nequeo ignoroque, Poeta falutor?” For my own part, if I had little knowledge of the fea, yet I have thought it no fhame to learn: and if I have made fome few mistakes, it is only, as you can bear me witnefs, because I have wanted opportunity to correct them; the whole poem being first written, and now fent