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HY should the world be fo averse
To plagiary privateers,
That all men's sense and fancy seize,
And make free prize of what they please ?
As if, because they huff and swell,
Like pilferers, full of what they steal,
Others might equal power assume,
To pay them with as hard a doom ;
To shut them up, like beasts in pounds,
For breaking into others' grounds;
Mark them with characters and brands,
Like other forgers of men's hands,
* It is not improbable but that Butler, in this satire, or sneering apology for the plagiary, obliquely hints at Sir John Denham, whom he has directly attacked in a preceding poem.
Butler was not pleased with the two first lines of this compofition, as appears by his altering them in the margin, thus :
Why should the world be so severe
To every small-wit privateer? And indeed the alteration is much for the better ; but, as it would not connect grammatically with what fol. lows, I did not think proper to adopt ite
And in effigie hang and draw
The poor delinquents by club-law,
When no indictment justly lies,
But where the theft will bear a price.
For though wit never can be learn’d,
It may b' assum'd, and own'd, and earn'd,
And, like our noblest fruits, improv'd,
By being transplanted and remov'd;
And, as it bears no certain rate,
Nor pays one penny to the state,
With which it turns no more t' account
Than virtue, faith, and merit 's wont;
Is neither moveable nor rent,
Nor chattel, goods, nor tenement,
Nor was it ever pass’d b'entail,
Nor settled upon heirs-male ;
Or if it were, like ill-got land,
Did never fall t'a second hand;
So 'tis no more to be engross'd
Than sunshine, or the air inclos'd,
Or to propriety confin'd,
Than th' uncontrol'd and scatter'd wind.
For why should that which Nature meant
To owe its being to its vent ;
That has no value of its own,
But as it is divulg'd and known ;
Is perishable and destroy'd,
As long as it lies unenjoy’d;
Be scanted of that liberal use,
Which all mankind is free to chuse,
And idly hoarded where 'twas bred,
Instead of being dispers’d and spread ?
And, the more lavish and profuse,
'Tis of the nobler general ufe ;.
As riots, though supply'd by stealth,
Are wholesome to the commonwealth,
And men spend freelier what they wing.
Than what they ’ave freely coming in.
The world 's as full of curious wit,
Which those that father never writ,
As 'tis of bastards, which the sot
And cuckold owns that ne'er begot ;.
Yet pass as well as if the one
And th' other bye-blow were their own..
For why should he that 's- impotent
To judge, and fancy, and invent,
For that impediment be stopt
To own, and challenge, and adopt,
At least th' expos'd and fatherless
Poor orphans of the pen and press,
Whose parents are obscure, or dead,
Or in far countries born and bred ?
As none but kings have power to raise
A levy, which the subject pays,
And though they call that tax a loan,
Yet when 'tis gather'd 'tis their own ;
So he that 's able to impose
A wit-excise on verse or prose,
And ftill, the abler authors are,
Can make them pay the greater bare,
*Is prince of poets of his time,
And they his vassals that supply' him ;
+Can judge more juftly' of what he takes
Than any of the best he makes,
And more impartially conceive
What's fit to chuse, and what to leave.
For men reflect more strictly' upon
The sense of others than their own ;
And wit, that 's made of wit and steight,
Is richer than the plain downright :
As salt, that's made of salt, 's more fine,
Than when it first came from the brine;
And spirits of a nobler nature
Drawn from the dull ingredient matter.
Hence mighty Virgil 's faid, of old,
From dung to have extracted gold
(As many a lout and lilly clown
By his instructions since has done);
And grew more lofty by that means,
Than by his livery-oats and beans,
When-from his carts and country farms
He rose a mighty man at arms ;
To whom th' Heroics ever since
Have sworn allegiance, as their prince,
And faithfully have in all times
Observ'd his cuftoms in their rhymes.
'Twas counted learning once, and wit,
To void but what some author writ,
And what men understood by rote,
By as implicit sense to quote :
S POEM S.
Then many a magisterial clerk
Was taught, like singing-birds, i' th’ dark,
And understood as much of things,
As th' ableft blackbird: what it fings;
And yet was honour'd and renown'd
For grave, and folid, and profound.
Then why should those who pick and chuse
The best of all the best compose,
And join it by Mosaic art,
In graceful order, part to part,
To make the whole in beauty suit,
Not merit as complete repute
As those who with less art and pains.
Can do it with their native brains,
And make the home-fpun business fit.
As freely with their mother wit ;
Since, what by Nature was deny'd
By art and industry 's supply'd,
Both which are more our own, and brave,
Than all the alms that Nature gave ?
For what w' acquire by pains and art
Is only due t' our own desert;
While all th' endowments. The confers.
Are not so much our own as her's,
That, like good fortune, unawares
Fall not t'our virtue, but our shares,
And all we can pretend to merit
We do not purchase, but inherit.
Thus all the great'st inventions, when
They first were found out, were so mean,