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The book thus put in every vulgar hand,
Which each prefum'd he best could understand,
The common rule was made the common prey;
And at the mercy of the rabble lay.
The tender page with horny fifts was gall'd;
And he was gifted moft that loudest baul'd :
The spirit gave the doctoral degree :
And every member of a company
Was of his trade, and of the Bible free.
Plain truths enough for needful ufe they found;
But men would still be itching to expound :
Each was ambitious of th' obfcurest place,
No measure ta'en from knowledge, all from grace.
Study and pains were now no more their care;
Texts were explain'd by fasting and by prayer :
This was the fruit the private spirit brought;
Occafion'd' by great zeal and little thought.
While crouds unlearn'd, with rude devotion warm,
About the facred viands buz and fwarm.
The fly-blown text creates a crawling brood;
And turns to maggots what was meant for food.
A thousand daily fects rife up and die;
A thousand more the perish'd race fupply:
So all we make of heaven's difcover'd will,
Is not to have it, or to ufe it ill.
The danger's much the fame; on feveral fhelves
If others wreck us, or we wreck ourselves.
What then remains, but, waving each extreme,
The tides of ignorance and pride to stem?
Neither fo rich a treasure to forego;
Nor proudly feek beyond our power to know:
Faith is not built on difquifitions vain;
The things we must believe are few and plain :
But, fince men will believe more than they need,
And every man will make himself a creed,
In doubtful questions 'tis the safest way
To learn what unsuspected ancients say :
For 'tis not likely we should higher foar
In fearch of heaven, than all the church before :
Nor can we be deceiv'd, unless we fee
The fcripture and the fathers disagree.
If after all they stand suspected still,
For no man's faith depends upon his will ;
'Tis fome relief, that points not clearly known
Without much hazard may be let alone :
And, after hearing what our church can say,
If still our reafon runs another way,
That private reafon 'tis more juft to curb,
Than by difputes the public peace difturb,
For points obfcure are of finall ufe to learn:
But common quiet is mankind's concern.
Thus have I made my own opinions clear:
Yet neither praise expect, nor cenfure fear :
And this unpolish'd rugged verfe I chofe;
As fitteft for difcourfe, and nearest profe:
For while from facred truth I do not fwerve,
Tom Sternhold's or Tom Shadwell's rhymes will ferve.
HIS tranflation of monfieur Boileau's Art of Poetry was made in the year 1680, by Sir William Soame of Suffolk, Baronet; who being very intimately acquainted with Mr. Dryden, defired his revifal of it. I faw the manufcript lie in Mr. Dryden's hands for above fix months, who made very confiderable alterations in it, particularly the beginning of the fourth Canto and it being his opinion that it would be better to apply the poem to English writers, than keep to the French names, as it was first tranflated, Sir William defired he would take the pains to make that alteration; and accordingly that was entirely done by Mr. Dryden.
The poem was first published in the year 1683; Sir William was after fent ambaffador to Conftantinople, in the reign of king James, but died in the voyage. J. TONSON.
CAN Tо I.
ASH author, 'tis a vain prefumptuous crime,
To undertake the facred art of rhyme;
If at thy birth the stars that rul'd thy sense
Shone not with a poetic influence;
In thy ftrait genius thou wilt ftill be bound,
Find Phoebus deaf, and Pegasus unfound.
You then that burn with the defire to try
The dangerous courfe of charming poetry;
Forbear in fruitlefs verfe to lofe your time,
Or take for genius the defire of rhyme :
Fear the allurements of a fpecious bait,
And well confider your own force and weight.
Nature abounds in wits of every kind,
And for each author can a talent find:
One may in verse describe an amorous flame,
Another sharpen a fhort epigram
Waller a hero's mighty acts extol,
Spenfer fing Rofalind in pastoral:
But authors that themfelves too much esteem,
Lose their own genius, and mistake their theme;
Thus in times paft Dubartas vainly writ,
Allaying facred truth with trifling wit,
Impertinently, and without delight,
Defcrib'd the Ifraelites triumphant flight,
And following Mofes o'er the fandy plain,
Perish'd with Pharaoh in th' Arabian main.
Whate'er you write of pleasant or fublime,
Always let fenfe accompany your rhyme :
Falfely they seem each other to oppofe ;
Rhyme must be made with reason's laws to close:
And when to conquer her you bend your force,
The mind will triumph in the noble course;
To reason's yoke fhe quickly will incline,
Which, far from hurting, renders her divine
But if neglected will as easily stray,
And mafter reafon which the fhould obey.
Love reafon then; and let whate'er you write
Borrow from her its beauty, force, and light.
Moft writers mounted on a refty Mufe,
Extravagant and fenfelefs objects chufe;
They think they err, if in their verse they fall
On any thought that's plain or natural :
Fly this excefs; and let Italians be
Vain authors of falfe glittering poetry.
All ought to aim at fenfe; but most in vain
Strive the hard pass and flippery path to gain :
You drown, if to the right or left you stray;
Reafon to go has often but one way.
Sometimes an author, fond of his own thought,
Purfues its object till it's over-wrought :
If he defcribes a house, he fhews the face,
And after walks you round from place to place;
Here is a vifta, there the doors unfold,
Balconies here are balluftred with gold;
Then counts the rounds and ovals in the halls,
"The feftoons, freezes, and the aftragals:"
Tir'd with his tedious pomp, away I run,
And skip o'er twenty pages to be gone.
Of fuch defcriptions the vain folly fee,
And fhun their barren fuperfluity.
All that is needlefs carefully avoid;
The mind once fatisfy'd is quickly cloy'd :
He cannot write who knows not to give o'er;
To mend one fault, he makes a hundred more: