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ofto are to anfwer for their extravagancies. It is the excefs, not the thing itfelf, that is blameable. I would fay one word of the meafure, in which this, and moft poems of the age are written. Heroic with continued rhime, as Donne and his contemporaries ufed it, carrying the fenfe of one verfe moft commonly into another, was found too diffolute and wild, and came very often too near profe. As Davenant and Waller corre&ted, and Dryden perfe&ted it ; it is too confined : it cuts off the fenfe at the end of every firft line, which muft always rhime to the next following ; and confequently, produces too frequent an identity in the found, and brings every couplet to the point of an epigram. It is indeed too broken and weak, to convey the fentiments and reprefent the images proper for Epic. And, as it tires the writer while he com_ pofes, it muft do the fame to the reader while he repeats ; efpecially in a poem of any confiderable length. If ftriking out into blank verfe, 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 ftill preferves the dignity
dignity of the verfe, as Spencer and Fairfax have done ; if either of thefe, I fay, be a proper remedy for my poetical complaint, or if any other may be found, I dare not determine: Iam only enquiring, in order to be better informed ; without prefuming to dire&t the judgment of others. And while I am fpeaking of the verfe itfelf, I give ail juft praife to many of my friends now living ; who have in Epic carried the harmony of their numbers as far, as the nature of this meafure will permit. But once more: he that writes in rhymes, dances in fetvers: and as his chain is more extended, he may certainly take larger fteps. I need make no apology for the fhort digreffive Panegyric upon Great Britain, in the Firft Book: Iam 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 Englifhman, than the beft poet, or greateft £cholar that ever wrote. And now as to the publifhing of this piece, though I have in a literal fenfe obferved Horace*s INonum prematur in Annum ; yet have I by no means obeyed our poetical lawgiver, according to the fpirit of the precept. The poem has indeed been written and laid afide much longer ' * than :
than the term prefcribed ; but in the mean time I had little leifure, and lefs inclination to revife or print it. The frequent interruptions I have met with in my private ftudies, and great variety of publick life in which I have been employed ; mythoughts (fuch as they are) having generally been expreffed in foreign language, and even formed by a habitude very different from what the beauty and elegance of Englifh Poetry requires: all thefe, and fome other circumftances which we had as good pafs by at prefent, dojuftly contribute to make my excufe in this behalf very plaufible. Far indecd from defigning to print I had locked up thefe papers in my fcritoire, there to lie in peace *till my executors might have taken them out. What altered this defign , or how my fcritoire came to be unlocked before my coffin was nailed, is the queftion. The true reafon I take to be the beft : many of my friends of the firft quality, fineft learning, and greateft underftanding, have wrefted the key from my hands by a very kind and irrefiftible viofence: and the poem is publifhed, not without my confent indeed, but a little againft my opinion ; and with an implicit fubmiffion to the partiality of their judgment. As I give up here the fruits of many of my vacant hours to their amufement
amufement and pleafure ; I fhall always think
myfelf happy, if I may dedicate my moft ferious
endeavours to their intereft and fervice. And I
am proud to finifh this preface by faying, that
the violence of many enemies, whom I never
juftly offended, is abundantly recompenfed by
the goodnefs of more friends, whom I can never
fufficiently oblige. And if I here affume the Jiberty of mentioning my Lord Harley and Lord Bathurft as the authors of this amicable confederacy, among all thofe whofe names do me great honour at the beginning of my book, *
thefe two only ought to be angry with me ;
for I difobey their pofitive order, whilft I make
even this fmall acknowledgment of thcir parti-. cular kindnefs.
* As fubfcribers to the edition in folio, 17 18.