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And now as to the publishing of this piece, thougla I have in a literal sense observed Horace's “ Nonuin 66
prematur in annum ;" yet have I by no means obeyed our poetical Lawgiver, according to the spirit of the precept. The Poem has indeed been written and laid aside much longer than the term prescribed; but in the mean time I had little leisure, and less inclination, to revise or print it. The frequent interruptions I have met with in my private studies, and great variety of public life in which I have been employed ; my thoughts (such as they are) having generally been exprefled in foreign language, and even formed by a habitude
different from what the beauty and elegance , of English Poetry requires : all these, and some other circumstances which we had as good pass by at present, do justly contribute to make my excuse in this behalf very plausible. Far indeed from designing to print, I had locked up these papers in my scritoire, there to lie in peace till my executors might have taken them
What altered this design, or how my scritoire came to be unlocked before my coffin was nailed, is the question. The true reason I take to be the best: many
my friends of the first quality, finest learning, and greatest understanding, have wrested the key from my hands by a very kind and irresistible violence: and the poein is published, not without my consent indeed, but a little againtt my opinion; and with an implicit submillion to the partiality of their judgement. As I give up here the fruits of many of iny vacant hours to their amusement and pleasure; I shall always think
myself happy, if I may dedicate my most serious endeavours to their interest 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 recompensed by the goodness of more friends, whom I can never sufficiently oblige. And if I here assume 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 disobey their positive order, whilst I make even this small acr knowledgement of their particular kindness.
* As subscribers to the cdition in folio, 1713.
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, saying, Lo, I am
“ come to great estate, and have gotten more wis. “ dom than all they that have been before me in ^ Jerusalem : yea my heart had great experience of
“ wisdom and knowledge.” Ver. 16. “ He spake of trees, from the Cedar-tree that is in
Lebanon, even unto the Hyslop that springeth out “ of the wall: he spake also of bealts, and of fowl, “ and of creeping things, and of fishes.” 1 Kings,
chap. iv, ver. 33. “ I know, that whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for
nothing can be put to it, nor any thing “ taken from it ; and God doeth it, that men should
66 fear before him.” Ecclesiastes, chap. iii. ver. 14. “ He hath made every thing beautiful in his time : “ also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no
man can find out the work that God maketh from “ the beginning to the end.” Ver. 11. - For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that
“ incrcaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow.” Chap i.
ver. 18. 66 And further, by these, my son, be admonished : of "making many books there is no end : and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” Chap. xii. ver. 12.
K N O W L E D G E:
Τ Η Ε Α R G Ο Μ Ε Ν Τ.
Solomon, seeking happiness from knowledge, convenes
the learned men of his kingdom ; requires them to explain to him the various operations and effects of Nature; discourses of vegetables, animals, and man; proposes fome questions concerning the origin and situation 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 imperfe&tly answered by the Rabbins and Doctors; blames his own curiofity; and concludes, that, as to Human Science, All is Vanity.
VE Sons of Men, with just regard attend,
Observe the Preacher, and believe the Friend,
5 O'er rocks of perils, and through vales of tears,
Destin'd to march, our doubtful steps we tend,
Happiness, object of that waking dream,
But O! ere yet original man was made ;
Born as I was, great David's favourite son,