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Stunu'd and worn out with endless chat Of Will did this, and Nan said that ; She finds, poor thing, some little crack, Which Nature, forc’d by Time, must make, Through which she wings her destin’d way: Upward she soars; and down drops clay : While some surviving friend supplies Hic jacet, and a hundred lies. O Richard, till that day appears, Which must decide our hopes and fears, Would fortune calm her present rage, And give us playthings for our age : Would Clotho wash her hands in milk, And twist our thread with gold and silk; Would she, in friendship, peace, and plenty Spin out our years to four times twenty; And should we both in this condition Have conquer'd love, and worse ambition : (Else those two passions, by the way, May chance to show us scurvy play); Then, Richard, then should we sit down. Far from the tumult of this town I fond of my well-chosen seat, My pictures, medals, books complete. Or, should we mix our friendly talk, O'ershaded in that favourite walk, Which thy own hand had whilom planted, Both pleas'd with all we thought we wanted: Yet then, ev’n then, one cross reflection Would spoil thy grove, and my collection : Thy son, and his, ere that may die,
And Time some uncouth heir supply, Who shall for nothing else be known & But spoiling all that thou hast done. Who set the twigs, shall he remember That is in haste to sell the timber 2 And what shall of thy woods remain, Except the box that threw the main P Nay, may not Time and Death remove The near relations whom I love 2 And my coz Tom, or his coz Mary, (Who hold the plough, or skim the dairy) My favourite books and pictures sell To Smart, or Doiley, by the ell? Kindly throw in a little figure, And set the price upon the bigger? Those who could never read the grammar, When my dear volumes touch the hammer, May think books best, as richest bound; My copper medals by the pound May be with learned justice weigh’d ; To turn the balance, Otho's head May be thrown in ; and for the metal, The coin may mend a tinker's kettle— Tir'd with these thoughts—Less tir'd than I, Quoth Dick, with your philosophy— That people live and die, I knew An hour ago, as well as you. And, if Fate spins us longer years, Or is in haste to take the shears, I know we must both fortunes try, And bear our evils, wet or dry.
Yet, let the goddess smile or frown,
1 Humphrey Wanley, librarian to the Earl of Oxford. 2 Mr. Prior's Secretary and Executor.
Siquis Deus mihi largiatur, ut ex hac aetate repuerascam, et in cunis vagiam, Valde recusem. Cic. de Senect.
The bewailing of man's miseries hath been elegantly and copiously set forth by many, in the writings as well of philosophers, as of divines. And it is both a pleasant and a profitable contemplation. Lord Bacon’s Advancement of Learning.
IT is hard for a man to speak of himself with any tolerable satisfaction or success: he can be no more pleased in blaming himself, than in reading a satire made on him by another: and though he may justly desire, that a friend should praise him; yet, if he makes his own panegyric, he will get very few to read it. It is harder for him to speak of his own writings. An author is in the condition of a culprit: the public are his judges: by allowing too much, and condescending too far, he may injure his own cause, and become a kind of felo de se : and by pleading and asserting too boldly, he may displease the court that sits upon him: his apology may only heighten his accusation. I would avoid those extremes; and though, I grant, it would not be very civil to trouble the reader with a long preface, before he enters upon an indifferent poem; I would say something to persuade him to take it as it is, or to excuse it for not being better. The noble images and reflections, the profound reasonings upon human actions, and excellent precepts for the government of life, which are found in the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and other books, commonly attributed to Solomon, afford subjects for finer poems in every kind, than have, I think, yet appeared in the Greek, Latin, or any modern language: how far they were verse in their original, is a dissertation not to be entered into at present. Out of this great treasure, which lies heaped up together, in a confused magnificence, above all order, I had a mind to collect and digest such observations, and apophthegms, as most particularly tend to the proof of that great assertion, laid down in the beginning of the Ecclesiastes, “all is vanity.” Upon the subject thus chosen, such various images present themselves to a writer's mind, that he must find it easier to judge what should be rejected, than what ought to be received. The difficulty lies in drawing and disposing: or (as painters term it) in grouping such a multitude of different objects, preserving still the justice and conformity of style and colouring, the simplea dumtawat et unum, which Horace prescribes, as requisite to make the whole picture beautiful and perfect. As precept, however true in theory, or useful in practice, would be but dry and tedious in verse, especially is the recital be long, I found it necessary to form some story, and give a kind of body to the poem. Under what species it may be comprehended, whether didascalic or heroic, I leave to the judgment of the critics; desiring them to be favourable in their censure; and not solicitous what the poem is called, provided it may be accepted. The chief personage or character in the epic, is always proportioned to the design of the work, to carry on the narration and the moral. Homer intended to show us in his Iliad, that dissensions amongst great men obstruct the execution of the noblest enterprises, and tend to the ruin of a state or kingdom. His Achilles, therefore, is haughty and passionate, impatient of any restraint by laws, and arrogant in arms. In his Odysses the same poet endeavours to explain, that the hardest difficulties may be overcome by