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And now as to the publishing of this piece, though I have in a literal sense observed Horace's "Nonum
prematur in annum;" yet have I by no means obeyed our poetical Lawgiver, according to the fpirit of the precept. The Poem has indeed been written and laid afide much longer than the term prefcribed; but in the mean time I had little leifure, and lefs inclination, to revife or print it. The frequent interruptions I have met with in my private ftudies, and great variety of public life in which I have been employed; my thoughts (fuch as they are) having generally been expreffed in foreign language, and even formed by a habitude very different from what the beauty and elegance, of English Poetry requires : all these, and fome other circumstances which we had as good pass by at present, do justly contribute to make my excufe in this behalf very plaufible. Far indeed from defigning to print, I had locked up these papers in my fcritoire, there to lie in peace till my executors might have taken them out. What altered this defign, or how my fcritoire came to be unlocked before my coffin was nailed, is the queftion. The true reafon I take to be the best: many of my friends of the first quality, finest learning, and greatest understanding, have wrefted the key from my hands by a very kind and irrefiftible violence: and the poem is published, not without my confent indeed, but a little againft my opinion; and with an implicit fubmiffion to the partiality of their judgement. As I give up here the fruits of many of my vacant hours to their amufement and pleafure; I fhall always think myfelf
myself happy, if I may dedicate my moft ferious endeavours to their intereft and fervice. And I am proud to finish this preface by saying, that the violence of many enemies, whom I never justly offended, is abundantly recompenfed by the goodness of more friends, whom I can never fufficiently oblige. And if I here affume the liberty of mentioning my Lord Harley and Lord Bathurst as the authors of this amicable confederacy, among all those whose names do me great honour at the beginning of my book *; these two only ought to be angry with me: for I difobey their pofitive order, whilst I make even this small ac knowledgement of their particular kindness.
* As fubfcribers to the edition in folio, 1718.
TEXTS CHIEFLY ALLUDED TO IN BOOK I.
"The words of the Preacher the Son of David King of Jerufalem." Ecclefiaftes, Chap. i. ver. 1.
Vanity of vanities, fays the Preacher, vanity of "vanities, all is vanity.” Ver. 2.
"I communed with mine own heart, faying, Lo, I am "come to great estate, and have gotten more wis“dom than all they that have been before me in "Jerufalem: yea my heart had great experience of "wisdom and knowledge." Ver. 16.
"He fpake of trees, from the Cedar-tree that is in. "Lebanon, even unto the Hyffop that fpringeth out "of the wall: he fpake aifo of beafts, and of fowl, "and of creeping things, and of fishes." Kings, chap. iv. ver. 33.
"I know, that whatfoever God doeth, it fhall be for
"ever nothing can be put to it, nor any thing "taken from it; and God doeth it, that men should "fear before him." Ecclefiaftes, chap. iii. ver. 14. "He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: "alfo he hath fet the world in their heart, fo that no "man can find out the work that God maketh from "the beginning to the end." Ver. 11.
"For in much wifdom is much grief: and he that "increafeth knowledge, increaseth forrow." Chap i.
"And further, by thefe, my fon, be admonished: of making many books there is no end: and much "ftudy is a wearinefs of the flesh." Chap. xii. ver. 12.
THE FIRST BOOK.
Solomon, feeking happiness from knowledge, convenes the learned men of his kingdom; requires them to explain to him the various operations and effects of Nature; difcourfes of vegetables, animals, and man; proposes fome questions concerning the origin and fituation of the habitable earth; proceeds to examine the system of the visible Heaven; doubts if there may not be a plurality of worlds; enquires into the nature of Spirits and Angels; and wishes to be more fully informed as to the attributes of the Supreme Being. He is imperfectly anfwered by the Rabbins and Doctors; blames his own curiofity; and concludes, that, as to Human Science, All is Vanity.
E Sons of Men, with juft regard attend,
Deftin'd to march, our doubtful steps we tend,
Born as I was, great David's favourite fon,