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The wealthy Tagus, and the wealthier Rhine, The glory of their towns no more shall boast, And Seine, that would with Belgian rivers join, Shall find her lustre stain'd, and traffic lost.
The venturous merchant, who design'd more far,
Our powerful navy shall no longer meet,
The wealth of France or Holland to invade; The beauty of this Town, without a fleet,
From all the world shall vindicate her trade.
And while this fam'd emporium we prepare,
The British ocean shall such triumphs boast, That those who now disdain our trade to share, Shall rob, like pirates, on our wealthy coast.
Already we have conquer'd half the war,
And the less dangerous part is left behind; Our trouble now is but to make them dare, And not so great to vanquish as to find.
Thus to the eastern wealth through storms we go, But now the Cape once doubled, fear no more; A constant trade-wind will securely blow,*
And gently lay us on the spicy shore.
* Alluding to the Monsoons, which blow near the Cape of Good Hope.
ABSALOM AND ACHITOPHEL.
IN TWO PARTS.
TO THE READER.
r is not my intention to make an apology for my Poem: some will think it needs no excuse, and others will receive none. The design, I am sure, is honest; but he who draws his pen for one party must expect to make enemies of the other: for wit and fools are consequents of Whig and Tory; and every man is a knave or an ass to the contrary side. There is a treasury of merits in the Fanatic church, as well as in the Popish, and a penny-worth to be had of saintship, honesty, and poetry, for the lewd, the factious, and the blockheads: but the longest chapter in Deuteronomy has not curses enough for an Anti-Bromingham. My comfort is, their manifest prejudice to my cause will render their judgment of less authority against me. Yet, if a poem have a genius, it will force its own reception in the world: for there is a sweetness in good verse which tickles even while it hurts; and no man can be heartily angry with him who pleases him against his will. The commendation of adversaries is the
greatest triumph of a writer, because it never comes unless extorted. But I can be satisfied on more easy terms; if I happen to please the more moderate sort, I shall be sure of an honest party, and, in all probability, of the best judges; for the least concerned are commonly the least corrupt. And I confess I have laid in for those, by rebating the satire (where justice would allow it) from carrying too sharp an edge. They who can criticise so weakly as to imagine I have done my worst, may be convinced, at their own cost, that I can write severely with more ease than I can gently. I have but laughed at some men's follies, when I could have declaimed against their vices; and other men's virtues I have commended as freely as I have taxed their crimes.
And now, if you are a malicious reader, I expect you should return upon me, that affect to be thought more impartial than I am. But if men are not to be judged by their professions, God forgive you Commonwealths-men for professing so plausibly for the government! You cannot be so unconcionable as to charge me for not subscribing my name; for that would reflect too grossly upon your own party, who never dare, though they have the advantage of a jury to secure them. If you like not my Poem, the fault may possibly be in my writing, though it is hard for an author to judge against himself; but more probably, it is in your morals, which cannot bear the truth of it. The violent on both sides will condemn the character of Absalom,* as either too favourably or too hardly drawn: but they
The Duke of Monmouth.
are not the violent whom I desire to please. The fault, on the other hand, is to extenuate, palliate, and indulge; and, to confess freely, I have endeavoured to commit it. Besides the respect which I owe his birth, I have a greater for his heroic virtues; and David* himself could not be more tender of the young man's life, than I would be of his reputation. But since the most excellent natures are always the most easy, and, as being such, are the soonest perverted by ill counsels, especially when baited with fame and glory; it is no more a wonder, that he withstood not the temptations of Achitophel,† than it was for Adam not to have resisted the two devils, the serpent and the woman. The conclusion of the story I purposely forebore to prosecute, because I could not obtain from myself to show Absalom unfortunate. The frame of it was cut out, but for a picture to the waist; and if the draught be so far true, it is as much as I designed.
Were I the inventor, who am only the historian, I should certainly conclude the piece with the reconcilement of Absalom to David; and who knows but this may come to pass? Things were not brought to an extremity where I left the story; there seems yet to be room left for a composure; hereafter, there may be only for pity. I have not so much as an uncharitable wish against Achitophel, but am content to be accused of a good-natured error, and to hope, with Origen, that the devil himself may at last be saved for which reason, in this Poem, he is neither brought to set his house in order, nor to dispose of his person afterwards as he in wisdom shall
* Charles the Second.
† Earl of Shaftesbury.