« AnteriorContinuar »
ean hope, is but to be read in one island, and to be thrown afide at the end of one age.
All that is left us is to recommend our productions by the imitation of the antients: and it will be found true, that, in every age, the highest character for sense and learning has been obtained by those who have been most indebted to them. For, to say truth, whatever is very good sense, must have been common sense in all times; and what we call learning, is but the knowledge of the sense of our predecessors. Therefore they who say our thoughts are not our own, because they resemble the antients, may as well say our faces are not our own, because they are like our fathers : and indeed it is very unreasonable, that people should expect us to be scholars, and yet be angry to find us fo.
I fairly confess that I have served myself all I could by reading; that I made use of the judgment of authors dead and living; that I omitted no means in my power to be informed of my errors, both by my friends and enemies : but the true reason these pieces are not more corre&t, is owing to the confideration how short a time they and I have to live: one may be ashamed to consume half one's days in bringing fenfc and rhyme together; and what critic can be fo unreafonable, as not to leave a man time enough for any more serious employment, or more agreeable amusement?
The only plea I shall use for the favour of the public, is, that I have as great a respect for it, as most authors have for themselves; and that I have sacrificed much of my own self-love for its fake, in preventing not only many mean things from feeing the light, but many which I thought tolerable. I would not be like those authors, who forgive themselves fome particular lines for the sake of a whole poem, and, vice versa, a whole poem for the fake of some particular lines. I believe, no one qualification is so likely to make a good writer, as the
power of rejecting his own thoughts; and it must be this (if any thing) that can give me a chance to be one.
For what I have published, I can only hope to be pardoned; but for what I have burned, I deserve to be praised. On this account the world is under some obligation to me, and owes me the justice in return, to look upon no verses as mine that are not inserted in this collection. And perhaps nothing could make it worth my while to own what are really so, but to avoid the imputation of so many dull and immoral things, as partly by malice, and partly by ignorance, have been ascribed to me. I must further acquit myself of the presumption of having lent my name to recommend any miscellanies, or works of other men; a thing I never thought becoming a person who has hardly credit enough to answer for his
In this office of collecting my pieces, I am altogether uncertain, whether to look upon myself as a man building a monument, or burying the dead. If time shall make it the former, may these poems (as
, long as they last) remain as a testimony that their author never made his talents subservient to the mean and unworthy ends of party or self-interest; the gratification of public prejudices or private passions ; the flattery of the undeserving, or the insult of the unfortunate. If I have written well, let it be considered that it is what no man can do without good sense, a quality that not only renders one capable of being a good writer, but a good man. And if I have made any acquisition in the opinion of any one under the notion of the former, let it be continued to me under no other title than that of the latter.
But if this publication be only a more solemn funeral of my remains, I desire it may be known that I die in charity, and in my senses; without any murmurs against the justice of this age, or any mad appeals to posterity. I declare I shall think the world in the right, and quietly submit to every truth which time shall discover to the prejudice of these writings; not so much as wishing so irrational a thing, as that every body should be deceived merely for my credit. However, I desire it may then 3
be considered, That there are very few things in this collection which were not written under the age of five and twenty : so that my youth may be made (as it never fails to be in executions) a case of compassion. That I was never so concerned about my works as to vindicate them in print, believing, if any thing was good, it would defend itself, and what was bad could never be defended. That I used no artifice to raise or continue a reputation, depreciated no dead author I was obliged to, bribed so living one with unjust praise, insulted no adversary with ill language; or when I could not attack a rival's works, encouraged reports against his morals. To conclude, if this volume perish, let it serve as a warning to the critics, not to take too much pains for the future to destroy such things as will die of themselves; and a memento mori to fome of my vain cotemporaries the poets, to teach them that, when real merit is wanting, it avails nothing to have been encouraged by the great, commended by the eminent, and favoured by the public iq general.
TITH age decay'd, with courts and bus'ness tir’d,
Caring for nothing but what ease requir'd;
5 Amidst advent'rous rovers of the pen ; And after so much undeferv'd success, Thus hazarding at last to make it less. : Encomiums suit not this cenforious time, Itself a subject for satiric rhyme;
IO Ignorance honour'd, wit and worth defam'd, Folly triumphant, and ev’n Homer blam'd!
But to this Genius, join'd with so much art, Such various learning mix'd in ev'ry part, Poets are bound a loud applause to pay;
15 Apollo bids it, and they must obey.
And yet so wonderful, sublime a thing,
20 One moral, or a mere well-natur'd deed Can all desert in sciences exceed.
'Tis great delight to laugh at some men's ways, But a much greater to give merit praise. Vol. I. b