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AN

E S S A Y

ON

PO E T RY.

OF

F all those arts in which the wise excel,

Nature's chief master.piece is writing well : No writing lifts exalted man so high, As sacred and soul-moving poesy: No kind of work requires so nice a touch, And, if well finish'd, nothing shines so much. But heav'n forbid we shou'd be so profane, To grace the vulgar with that noble name. 'Tis not a flash of fancy, which sometimes, Dazling our minds, fets off the flightest rhimes; Bright as a blaze, but in a moment done: True wit is everlasting, like the sun, Which, tho' sometimes behind a cloud retird, Breaks out again, and is by all admir'd. Number and rhime, and that harmonious sound, Which not the nicest ear with harshness wound,

Are necessary, yet but vulgar arts;
And all in vain these superficial parts
Contribute to the structure of the whole,
Without a Genius too; for that's the Soul:
A spirit which inspires the work throughout,
As that of nature moves the world about;
A flame that glows amidst conceptions fit;
Ev'n something of divine, and more than wit;
Itself unseen, yet all things by it shown,
Describing all men, but defcrib'd by none.
Where dost thou dwell? What caverns of the brain
Can such a vast and mighty thing contain?
When I, at vacant bours, in vain thy absence moura,
Oh! where dost thou retire? and why dost thou return,
Sometimes with pow'rful charms to hurry me away,
'From pleafures of the night, and bus'ness of the day
Ev'n now, too far transported, I am fain
To check thy course, and use the need ful rein.
As all is dulness, when the fancy's bad;
So, without judgment, fancy is but mad:
And judgment has a boundless influence
Not only in the choice of words, or sense,
But on the world, on manners, and on men ;
Fancy is but the feather of the pen ;
Reason is that substantial useful part,
Which gains the head, while t’other wins the heart.

Here I should all the various sorts of verse,
And the whole art of poetry rehearse ;
But who that task would after Horace do?
The best of masters, and examples too!
Echoes at best, all we can say is vain;
Dull the design, and fruitless were the pain.

'Tis

true, the ancients we may rob with ease;
But who with that mean shift himself can please,
Without an actor's pride? A player's art
Is above his, who writes a borrow'd part.
Yet modern laws are made for later faults,
And new absurdities inspire new thoughts ;
What need has satire then to live on theft,
When so much fresh occasion still is left?
Fertile our soil, and full of rankest weeds,
And monsters worse than ever Nilus breeds.
But hold, the fools shall bave no cause to fear;
'Tis wit and sense that is the subject here:
Defects of witty men deserve a cure,
And those who are so, will ev'n this endure.

First then, of SONGS, which now so much abound,
Without his song no fop is to be found;
A most offensive weapon, which he draws
On all he meets, against Apollo's laws.
Tho' nothing seems more easy, yet no part
Of poetry requires a nicer art;
For as in rows of richest pearl there lies
Many a blemish that escapes our eyes,
The least of which defects is plainly shown
In one small ring, and brings the value down :
So songs should be to just perfection wrought;
Yet where can one be seen without a fault?
Exact propriety of words and thought;
Expression easy, and the fancy high;
Yet that not seem to creep, nor this to Ay;
No words transpos'd, but in such order all,
As wrought with care, yet seem by chance to fall,

Here, as in all things else, is most unfit,
Bare ribaldry, that poor pretence to wit;
Such nauseous songs by a * late author made,
Call an unwilling censure on his shade.
Not that warm thoughts of the transporting joy
Can shock the chastest, or the nicest cloy ;
But words obscene, too gross to move desire,
Like heaps of fuel, only choak the fire.
On other themes he well deserves our praise ;
But palls that appetite he meant to raise.

Next, ELEGY, of sweet, but folemn voice,
And of a subject grave, exacts the choice;
The praise of beauty, valour, wit contains;
And there too oft despairing love complains :
In vain, alas ! for who by wit is mov'd?
That Phenix-lhe deserves to be belov'd;
But noisy nonsense, and such fops as vex
Mankind, take most with that fantastick sex.
This to the praise of those who better knew;
The many raise the value of the few.
But here (as all our fex too oft have try’d)
Women have drawn my wandring thoughts aside.
Their greatest fault, who in this kind have writ,
Is not defect in words, or want of wit ;
But should this muse harmonious numbers yield,
And ev'ry couplet be with fancy fill'd;
If yet a just coherence be not made
Between each thought, and the whole model laid
So right, that ev'ry line may higher rise,
Like goodly mountains, till they reach the skies :

The E. of R.

}

Such trifles may, perhaps, of late bave past,
And may be lik'd a while, but never last;
'Tis epigram, 'tis point, 'tis what you will,
But not an elegy, nor writ with skill,
No * Panegyrick, nor a + Cooper's-Hill.

A higher flight, and of a happier force,
Are ODES: "the muses' most unruly horse,
That bounds fo fierce, the rider has no rest,
Here foams at mouth, and moves like one poffess’d.
The Poet here must be indeed inspir’d,
With fury too, as well as fancy fir’d.
Cowley might boast to have perform'd this part,
Had he with nature join'd the rules of art;
But sometimes diction mean, or verse ill-wrought,
Deadens, or clouds, his noble flame of thought.
Tho' all appear in heat and fury done,
The language still must foft and easy run,
These laws may sound a little too severe;
But judgment yields, and fancy governs here,
Which, tho' extravagant, this muse allows,
And makes the work much easier than it shows.

Of all the ways that wisest men could find To mend the age, and mortify mankind, SATIRE well-writ has most successful prov'd,

because the remedy is lov’d. 'Tis hard to write on such a subject more, Without repeating things said oft before : Some vulgar errors only we'll remove, That stain a beauty which we so much love. of chosen words some take not care enough, And think they should be as the subject rough;

And cures,

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