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tibi de nato, ditissima mater, egeno
Tam malè formatam, dissimilemque tuæ ?
Tu speculum poteris hic reperire tuum? Post longum, dices, Coulei, sic mihi tempus? Sic mihi speranti, perfide, multa redis? Quæ, dices, Saga Lemuresque Deæque, nocentes, Hunc mihi in infantis supposuêre loco? At tu, sancta parens, crudelis tu quoque, nati Ne tractes dextrâ vulnera cruda rudi. Hei mihi, quid fato genetrix accedis iniquo?
Sit sors, sed non sis, ipsa, noverca mihi. Si mihi natali Musarum adolescere in arvo,
Si benè dilecto luxuriare solo,
Si mihi de doctâ licuisset pleniùs undâ
Nec legeres nomen fusa rubore meum.
Nec pede adhuc firmo, nec firmo dente, negati
Et vi victa cadunt; arbor & ipsa gemit.
Splendida paupertas, ingenuùsque decor!
O chara ante alias, magnorum nomine regum
Quas recreant avium Pieridúmque chori! O Camus! Phobo nullus quo gratior amnis! Amnibus auriferis invidiosus inops ! Ah mihi si vestræ reddat bona gaudia sedis,
Detque Deus doctâ posse quiete frui ! Qualis eram, cum me tranquillâ mente sedentem Vidisti in ripâ, Came serene, tuâ; Mulcentem audîsti puerili flumina cantu ;
Ille quidem immerito, sed tibi gratus erat. Nam, memini ripâ cum tu dignatus utrâque,
Dignatum est totum verba referre nemus. Tunc liquidis tacitisque simul mea vita diebus, Et similis vestræ candida fluxit aquæ. At nunc cœnosæ luces, atque obice multo Rumpitur ætatis turbidus ordo meæ. [unda? Quid mihi Sequanâ opus, Tamesisve ant Thybridis Tu potis es nostram tollere, Came, sitim. Felix, qui nunquam plus uno viderit amne!
Quique eadem Salicis littora more colit!
Et cui pauperies nota nitere potest;
Et documentorum satque supérque dedit.
Quis poterit fragilem post talia credere puppim
Et timuit fulmen laurea sancta novum.
AT my return lately into England', I met by great accident (for such I account it to be, that any copy of
it should be extant any where so long, unless at his house who printed it) a book entituled The Iron Age, and published under my name, during the time of my absence. I wondered very much how one who could be so foolish to write so ill verses, should yet be so wise to set them forth as another man's rather than his own; though perhaps he might have made a better choice, and not fathered the bastard upon such a person, whose stock of reputation is, I fear, little enough for maintenance of his own numerous legitimate offspring of that kind. It would have been much less injurious, if it had pleased the author to put forth some of my writings under his own name, rather than his own under mine: he had been in that a more pardonable plagiary, and had done less wrong by robbery,than he does by such a bounty; for nobody can be justified by the imputation even of another's merit; and our own coarse clothes are like to become us better than those of another man, though never so rich: but these, to say the truth, were so beggarly, that I myself was ashamed to wear hem. It was in vain for me, that I avoided censure by the concealment of my own writings, if my reputation could be thus executed in effigie; and impossible it is for any good name to be in safety, if the malice of witches have the power to consume and destroy it in an image of their own making. Ta's indeed was so ill made, and so unlike, that I hope the charm took no effect. So that I esteem my e'f less prejudiced by it, than by that which has been done to me since, almost in the same kind; which is, the publication of some things of mine without my consent or knowledge, and those so mangled and imperfect, that I could neither with honour acknowledge, nor with honesty quite disavow
Of which sort, was a comedy called The Guardian, printed in the year 1650; but made and acted before the prince, in his passage through Cambridge towards York, at the beginning of the late unhappy war; or rather neither made nor acted, but rough-drawn only, and repeated; for the haste was so great, that it could neither be revised or perfected by the author,nor learned without book by the actors, nor set forth in any measure tolerably by the officers of the college. After the representation (which, I confess, was somewhat of the latest) I began to look it over, and changed it very much, striking out some whole parts, as that of the poet and the soldier; but I have lost the copy, and dare not think it deserves the pains to write it again, which makes me omit it in this publication, though there be some things in it which I am not ashamed of, taking the excuse of my age and small experience in human conversation when I made it. But, as it is, it is only the hasty first-sitting of a picture, and therefore like to resemble me accordingly.
From this which has happened to myself, I began to reflect on the fortune of almost all writers, and especially poets, whose works (commonly printed after their deaths) we find stuffed out, either with counterfeit pieces, like false money put in to fill up the bag, though it add nothing to the sum; or wit
such, which, though of their own coin, they would have called in themselves, for the baseness of the allay: whether this proceed from the indiscretion of their friends, who think a vast heap of stones or rubbish a better monument than a little tomb of marble; or by the unworthy avarice of some stationers, who are content to diminish the value of the author, so they may increase the price of the book; and, like vintners, with sophisticate mixtures, spoil the whole vessel of wine, to make it yield more profit. This has been the case with Shakespeare, Fletcher, Jonson, and many others; part of whose poems I should take the boldness to prune and lop away, if the care of replanting them in print did belong to me: neither would I make any scruple to cut off from some the unnecessary young suckers, and from others the old withered branches; for a great wit is no more tied to live in a vast volume, than in a gigantic body; on the contrary, it is commonly more vigorous, the less space it animates. And, as Statius says of little Tydeus',
-Totos infusa per artus
Major in exiguo regnabat corpore virtus.
I am not ignorant, that by saying this of others, I expose myself to some raillery, for not using the same severe discretion in my own case, where it concerns me nearer: but though I publish here more than in strict wisdom I ought to have done, yet I have supprest and cast away more than I publish; and, for the ease of myself and others, have lost, I believe too, more than both. And upon these considerations I have been persuaded to overcome all the just repugnancies of my own modesty, and to produce these poems to the light and view of the world; not as a thing that I approved of in itself, but as a less evil, which I chose rather than to stay till it were done for me by some body else, either surreptitiously before, or avowedly after, my death: and this will be the more excusable, when the reader shall know in what respects he may look upon me as a dead, or at least a dying person, and upon my muse in this action, as appearing, like the emperor Charles the Fifth, and assisting at her own funeral.
For, to make myself absolutely dead in a poetical capacity, my resolution at present is, never to exercise any more that faculty. It is, I confess, but seldom seen, that the poet dies before the man ; for, when we once fall in love with that bewitching art, we do not use to court it as a mistress, but marry it as a wife, and take it for better or worse, as an inseparable companion of our whole life. But, as the marriages of infants do but rarely prosper, so no man ought to wonder at the diminution or decay of my affection to poesy; to which I had contracted myself so much under age, and so much to my own prejudice in regard of those more profitable matches, which I might have made among the richer sciences. As for the portion which this brings of fame, it is an estate (if it be any, for men are not oftener deceived in their hopes of widows, than in their opinion of exegi monumentum ære perennius) that hardly ever comes in whilst we are living to enjoy it, but is a fantastical kind of reversion to our own-selves: neither ought any man to envy poets this posthumous and imaginary happiness, since they find commonly so little in present, that it may be truly applied to them, which St. Paul speaks of the first Christians, “If their reward be in this life, they are of all men the most miserable."
And, if in quiet and flourishing times they meet with so small encouragement, what are they to expect in rough and troubled ones? If wit be such a plant, that it scarce receives heat enough to preserve it alive even in the summer of our cold climate, how can it choose but wither in a long and a sharp winter? A warlike, various, and a tragical age is best to write of, but worst to write in. And I may, though in a very unequal proportion, assume that to myself, which was spoken by Tully to a much better person, upon occasion of the civil wars and revolutions in his time: Sed in te intuens, Brute, doleo: cujus in adolescentiam, per medias laudes, quasi quadrigis vehentem, transversa incurrit misera fortuna reipublicæ.3
Neither is the present constitution of my mind more proper than that of the times for this exercise, or rather divertisement. There is nothing that requires so much serenity and chearfulness of spirit; it must not be either overwhelmed with the cares of life, or overcast with the clouds of melancholy and sorrow, or shaken and disturbed by the storms of injurious fortune; it must, like the halcyon, have fair weather to breed in. The soul must be filled with bright and delightful ideas, when it undertakes to communicate delight to others; which is the main end of poesy. One may see through the style of Ovid
3 Stat. Theb. lib. 1. 416.
3 Cic. de Clar. Orator. § 331.
de Trist. the humble and dejected condition of spirit with which he wrote it; there scarce remains any footstep of that genius,
-quem nec Jovis ira, nec ignes 4, &c.
The cold of the country had strucken through all his faculties, and benumbed the very feet of his verses. He is himself, methinks, like one of the stories of his own Metamorphosis; and, though there remain some weak resemblances of Ovid at Rome, it is but, as he says of Niobe, 5
In vultu color est sine sanguine: lumina mœstis
The truth is, for a man to write well, it is necessary to be in good humour; neither is wit less eclipsed with the unquietness of mind, than beauty with the indisposition of body. So that it is almost as hard a thing to be a poet in despite of fortune, as it is despite of nature. For my own part, neither my obligations to the Muses, nor expectations from them, are so great, as that I should suffer myself on no considerations to be divorced, or that I should say like Horace, 6
Quisquis erit vitæ, scribam, color.
Í shall rather use his words in another place, ,
Vixi camenis nuper idoneus,
And this resolution of mine does the more befit me, because my desire has been for some years past (though the execution has been accidentally diverted) and does still vehemently continue, to retire myself to some of our American plantations, not to seek for gold, or enrich myself with the traffic of those parts, (which is the end of most men that travel thither; so that of these Indies it is truer than it was of the former,
Impiger extremos currit mercator ad Indos,
but to forsake this world for ever, with all the vanities and vexations of it, and to bury myself there in some obscure retreat, (but not without the consolation of letters and philosophy)
Oblitusque meorum, obliviscendus & illis-9
as my former author speaks too, who has enticed me here, I know not how, into the pedantry of this heap of Latin sentences. And I think Dr. Donne's sun-dyal in a grave is not more useless and ridiculous, than poetry would be in that retirement. As this therefore is in a true sense a kind of death to the Muses, and a real literal quitting of this world; so, methinks, I may make a just claim to the undoubted privilege of deceased poets, which is, to be read with more favour than the living;
Tanti est ut placeam tibi, perire. 1
Having been forced, for my own necessary justification, to trouble the reader with this long discourse
4 Metam. 1. xv. 871.
Hor. 1 Ep. i. 45.
5 Metam. 1. vi. 304.
Hor. 1 Ep. xi. 9.
Hor. 2 Sat. i. 60.
▾ Hor. 3 Carm. xxvi. Vixi puellis, &e.
of the reasons why I trouble him also with all the rest of the book; I shall only add somewhat concerning the several parts of it, and some other pieces, which I have thought fit to reject in this publication: as, first, all those which I wrote at school, from the age of ten years, till after fifteen; for even so far backward there remain yet some traces of me in the little footsteps of a child; which, though they were then looked upon as commendable extravagancies in a boy, (men setting a value upon any kind of fruit before the usual season of it) yet I would be loth to be bound now to read them all over myself; and therefore should do ill to expect that patience from others. Besides, they have already past through several editions, which is a longer life than uses to be enjoyed by infants that are born before the ordinary terms. They had the good fortune then to find the world so indulgent (for, considering the time of their production, who could be so hard-hearted to be severe ?) that I scarce yet apprehend so much to be censured for them, as for not having made advances afterwards proportionable to the speed of my setting out; and am obliged too in a manner by discretion to conceal and suppress them, as promises and instruments under my own hand, whereby I stood engaged for more than I have been able to perform; in which truly, if I have failed, I have the real excuse of the honestest sort of bankrupts which is, to have been made unsolvable not so much by their own negligence and ill husbandry, as by In the next place, I have cast away all such pieces as I some notorious accidents and public disasters. wrote during the time of the late troubles, with any relation to the differences that caused them; as, among others, three books of the civil war itself, reaching as far as the first battle of Newbury, where the succeeding misfortunes of the party stopt the work.
The first is a miscellany of several subjects, and As for the ensuing book, it consists of four parts. some of them made when I was very young, which it is perhaps superfluous to tell the reader: I know not by what chance I have kept copies of them; for they are but a very few in comparison of those which I have lost; and I think they have no extraordinary virtue in them, to deserve more care in preservation, than was bestowed upon their brethren; for which I am so little concerned, that I am ashamed of the arrogancy of the word, when I said I had lost them.
The second, is called, The Mistress, or Love-Verses; for so it is, that poets are scarce thought freemen of their company, without paying some duties, and óbliging themselves to be true to love. Sooner or later they must all pass through that trial, like some Mahometan monks, that are bound by their order, once at least in their life, to make a pilgrimage to Mecca:
In furias ignemque ruunt: amor omnibus idem3.
But we must not always make a judgment of their manners from their writings of this kind; as the Romanists uncharitably do of Beza, for a few lascivious sonnets composed by him in his youth. It is not in this sense that poesy is said to be a kind of painting; it is not the picture of the poet, but of things and persons imagined by him. He may be in his own practice and disposition a philosopher, nay a stoic, and yet speak sometimes with the softness of an amorous Sappho,
ferat & rubus asper amomum.
He professes too much the use of fables (though without the malice of deceiving) to have his testimony taken even against himself. Neither would I here be misunderstood, as if I affected so much gravity as to be ashamed to be thought really in love. On the contrary, I cannot have a good opinion of any man, But I speak it to excuse some expressions (if such there be) who is not at least capable of being so. which may happen to offend the severity of supercilious readers: for much excess is to be allowed in love, and even more in poetry, so we avoid the two unpardonable vices in both, which are obscenity and profaneness, of which, I am sure, if my words be ever guilty, they have ill represented my thoughts and intentions. And if, notwithstanding all this, the lightness of the matter here displease any body, he may find wherewithal to content his more serious inclinations in the weight and height of the ensuing arguments.
In the present collection, there are five parts; the first of which contains the juvenile poems mentioned in p. 15. Their history may be seen in the prefaces prefixed to them.
Virg. Georg. iii. 244. 4 Virg. Eel. iii. 89.