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of SOLONON's time. Poets are allowed the fame liberty in their defcriptions and comparisons, as painters in their draperies and ornaments : their perfonages may be dress’d, not exactly in the fame habits which they wore; but in such as inake them appear most graceful. In this case probability must atone for the want of truth. This liberty has indeed been abused by eminent masters in either science. RAPHAEĽ and TASSO have fewed their discretion, where FAUL VERONese and ARIOSTO are to arri swer for their extravagancies. It is the excess, not the thing itself, that is blameable.
I would say one word of the measure, in which this, and most poems of the age are written. Heroic with continued shime, as DONNE and his contemporaries used it, carrying the sense of one verse most commonly into another, was found too diffolute and wild, and came very often too near prose. As DAVENANT and WALLER corrected, and DRYDEN perfected it; it is too confined : it cuts off the sense at the end of every first line, which must always shine to the next following: and consequently produces too frequent an identity in the found, and brings every coupler to the point of an epigram. It is indeed too bro.. ken and weak to convey the sentiments and repree: sent the images proper for Epic. And as it tires the writer while he composes, it must do the same to the reader while he repeats, especially in a poem of any confiderable length.
If striking out into Blank Verse, as MILTON did, (and in this kind Mr. PHILIPS, had he lived, would have excelled), or running the thought into Alternate
and Stanza, which allows a greater variety, and still preserves the dignity of the verfe ; as SPENSÉR and FAIRFAX have done ; if either of these, I say, be a proper remedy for my poetical complaint, or if any other may be found, I dare not determine: I am only inquiring, in order to be better informed ; without presuming to direct the judgment of others. And while I am speaking of the verse itself, I give all just praise to many of my friends now living; who have in Epic carried the harmony of their numbers as far, as the nature of this measure will permit. But once more; he that writes in thimes, dances in fetters: and as his chain is more extended, he may certainly take larger steps.
I need make no apology for the short digrellive Panegyric upon GREAT BRITAIN, in the first book: I am glad to have it obferved, that there appears throughout all my verfes a zeal for the honour of my country: and I had rather be thought a good Englishman, than the best poet, or greatest scholar that ever wrote.
And now as to the publihing of this piece, tho' I have in a literal sense observed Horace's nonum 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 alide much longer than the terin 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
expreffed in foreign language, and even formed by a : habitude very different from what the beauty and ele-gance 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 lock'd up these papers in my scritoire, there to lie in peace till my executors might have taken them out. What alter'd this design; or how my scritore came to be unlocked before my coffin : was nailed ; is the question. The true reason I take to be the best: many of my friends of the first quality, finest learning, and greatest understanding, have wrest. ed the key from my hands by a very kind and irreftible violence : and the poem is published, not without my consent indeed, but a little against my opinion: and with an implicit submission to the partiality of their judgment. As I give up here the fruits of many of my vacant hours to their amusement and pleasure ; I fall always think myself happy, if I may dedicate my moft serious endeavours to their interest and service. And I am proud to finish this preface by saying, that the violence of many enemies, whom I never jully of fended, 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 in the beginning of my book, in the folio edition : these two only ought to be angry with me : for I disobey their politive order, whilft I make even this small acknowledgment of their particular kindness.
II R S T
THE A R G U M E N T.
SOLOMON seeking happiness from knowledge, con
venes the learned men of his kingdom ; requires them to explain to him the various operations and effects of nature ; difcourses of vegetables, animals, and man; proposes fome questions concerning the origin, and situation of the habitable : carth; proceeds to examine the System of the vifible heaven ; doubts if there may not be a plum rality of worlds ; enquires into the nature of /pie Fits and angels ; and wishes to be more fully in= formed, as to the attributes of the supreme Being. He is imperfectly answered by the Rabbins, and doctors ; blames his own curiosity; and concludes, that, as to human science, ALL IS TANITY.
TEXTS chiefly alluded to in this BOOK.
The words of the Preacher, the fon of David King of Jerusalem. Ee
clesiastes, Chap, I. verse 1, Vanity of vanities, faith the Preacher, vanity of vanities, all is vanity,
I communed with mine own heart, saying, ló, I am come to great co'
fiate, and have gotten more wisdom, 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 hyssop that springeth out of the wall; he spake also of beastso and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes, 1 Kings, Chap. IV..
I know that whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever : nothing can be
put to it, nor any thing taken from it ; and God doth it, that men.
should fear before him, Ecclefiaftes, Chap. III. ver. 14. He hath made every thing beautiful in his time; also he hath set the
world in their heart, fo that no man can find out the work that God:
naketh from the beginning to the end: For-in much wisdom is much grief; and he that increaseth knowledge,
increaseth forrow. Chap. I. ver. 18. And further, by these, my fon, be admonished ; of making many books
there is no end; and much study is a wcariness of the Aclo Chape XII, ver. I Zain