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gined the deftruction being fo fwift, fo fudden, fo
poem in quatrains, or ftanzas of four in alternate rhyme, because I have ever judged them more noble, and of greater dignity, both for the found and number, than any other verse in ufe amongst us; in which I am furé I have your approbation. The learned languages have certainly a great advantage of us, in not being tied to the flavery of any rhyme; and were lefs conftrained in the quantity of every fyllable, which they might vary with fpondees or dactyls, befides fo many other helps of grammatical figures, for the lengthening or abbreviation of them, than the modern are in the close of that one fyllable, which often confines, and more often corrupts, the fenfe of all the reft. But in this neceffity of our rhymes, I have always found the couplet verfe moft ealy, though not fo proper for this occafion: for there the work is fooner at an end, every two lines concluding the labour of the poet; but in quatrains he is to carry it farther on, and not only fo, but to bear along in his head the troublesome fenfe of four lines together. For thofe, who write correctly in this kind, muft needs acknowledge, that the last line of the stanza is to be confidered in the compofition of the firft. Neither can we give ourselves the liberty of making any part of a verfe for the fake of rhyme, or concluding with a word which is not current English, or ufing the variety of female rhymes; all which our fathers practifed and for the female rhymes, they are still in use amongst other nations; with the Italian in every line, with the Spaniard promifcuously, with the French alternately; as those who have read the Alarique, the
Pucelle, or any of their later poems, will agree with me. And befides this, they write in Alexandrins, or verfes of fix feet; fuch as amongst us is the old tranflation of Homer by Chapman: all which, by lengthning of their chain, makes the sphere 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 say, I have never yet feen the defcription of any naval fight in the proper terms which are used at fea: 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. We 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.
Defcriptas fervare vices operumque colores, "Cur ego, fi nequeo ignoroque, Poeta falutor ?" For my own part, if I had little knowledge of the sea, 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 witness, because I have wanted opportunity to correct them; the whole poem being first written, and now
fent you from a place where I have not fo much as the converfe of any feaman. Yet though the trouble I had in writing it was great, it was no more than recompenfed by the pleasure. I found myself fo warm in celebrating the praises of military men, two fuch especially as the prince and general, that it is no wonder if they inspired me with thoughts above my ordi-, nary level. And I am well fatisfied, that, as they are incomparably the best subject I ever had, excepting only the royal family, fo alfo, that this I have written of them is much better than what I have performed on any other. I have been forced to help out other arguments; but this has been bountiful to me: they have been low and barren of praise, and I have exalted them, and made them fruitful; but here-"Omnia fponte fua "reddit juftiffima tellus." I have had a large, a fair, and a pleasant field; fo fertile, that without my cultivating, it has given me two harvests in a fummer, and in both oppreffed the reaper. All other greatnefs in fubjects is only counterfeit : it will not endure the test of danger; the greatness of arms is only real other greatness burdens a nation with its weight; this fupports it with its ftrength. And as it is the happiness of the age, fo it is the peculiar goodness of the beft of kings, that we may praise his fubjects without offending him. Doubtless it proceeds from a juft confidence of his own virtue, which the luftre of no other can be fo great as to darken in him; for the good or the valiant are never fafely praised under a bad or a degenerate prince. But to return from this digreffion to a farther account of
my poem; I must crave leave to tell you, that as I have endeavoured to adorn it with noble thoughts, fo much more to exprefs thofe thoughts with elocution. The compofition of all poems is, or ought to be, of wit; and wit in the poet, or wit-writing (if you will give me leave to use a school-diftinction) is no other than the faculty of imagination in the writer, which, like a nimble spaniel, beats over and ranges through the field of memory, till it fprings the quarry it hunted after or, without metaphor, which fearches over all the memory for the fpecies or ideas of thofe things which it defigns to reprefent. Wit written is that which is well defined, the happy refult of thought, or product of imagination. But to proceed from wit, in the general notion of it, to the proper wit of an heroic or hiftorical poem; I judge it chiefly to confift in the delightful imaging of perfons, actions, paffions, or things. It is not the jerk or fting of an epigram, nor the feeming contradiction of a poor antithefis (the delight of an ill-judging audience in a play of rhyme), nor the gingle of a more poor Paranomafia; neither is it fo much the morality of a grave sentence, affected by Lucan, but more fparingly used by Virgil; but it is fome lively and apt defcription, dreffed in fuch colours of fpeech, that it fets before your eyes the absent object, as perfectly, and more delightfully than nature. So then the first happinefs of the poet's imagination is properly invention or finding of the thought; the second is fancy, or the variation, deriving or moulding of that thought as the judgment reprefents it proper to