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And just abandoning the ungrateful stage:
Unprofitably kept at heaven's expense,
I live a rent-charge on his providence:
whom every muse and grace adorn,
Whom I foresee to better fortune born,
Be kind to my remains; and 0 defend,
Against your judgment, your departed friend !
Let not the exulting foe my
pursue, But shade those laurels which descend to you: 75 And take for tribute what these lines express : You merit more; nor could my love do less.
TO MR. GRANVILLE, ON HIS EXCELLENT TRAGEDY, CALLED
AUSPICIOUS poet, wert thou not my friend,
How could I envy what I must commend !
But since 'tis nature's law, in love and wit,
That youth should reign, and withering age submit,
With less regret those laurels I resign,
Which, dying on my brows, revive on thine.
With better grace an ancient chief may yield
The long contended honours of the field,
Than venture all his fortune at a cast,
And fight, like Hannibal, to lose at last.
Young princes, obstinate to win the prize,
Though yearly beaten, yearly yet they rise:
Old monarchs, though successful, still in doubt,
Catch at a peace, and wisely turn devout.
Thine be the laurel then ; thy blooming age
Can best, if any can, support the stage ;
Which so declines, that shortly we may see
Players and plays reduc'd to second infancy.
Sharp to the world, but thoughtless of renown,
They plot not on the stage, but on the town,
And, in despair their empty pit to fill,
Set up some foreign monster in a bill.
Thus they jog on, still tricking, never thriving,
And murdering plays, which they miscall reviving.
Our sense is nonsense, through their pipes convey'd;
Scarce can a poet know the play he made,
'Tis so disguis’d in death ; nor thinks 'tis he
That suffers in the mangled tragedy.
Thus Itys first was kill'd, and after dressid
For his own sire, the chief invited guest.
I say not this of thy successful scenes,
Where thine was all the glory, theirs the gains.
With length of time, much judgment, and more toil,
Not ill they acted, what they could not spoil.
Their setting sun still shoots a glimmering ray, 35
Like ancient Rome, majestic in decay:
And better gleanings their worn soil can boast,
Than the crab-vintage of the neighbouring coast.
This difference yet the judging world will see;
Thou copiest Homer, and they copy thee.
TO MY FRIEND MR. MOTTEUX,* ON HIS TRAGEDY CALLED
'Tis hard, my friend, to write in such an age,
As damns, not only poets, but the stage.
That sacred art, by heaven itself infus’d,
Which Moses, David, Solomon have us’d,
Is now to be no more: the muses' foes
Would sink their Maker's praises into prose.
Were they content to prune the lavish vine
Of straggling branches, and improve the wine,
Who but a madman would his thoughts defend ?
All would submit; for all but fools will mend. 10
But when to common sense they give the lie,
And turn distorted words to blasphemy,
They give the scandal; and the wise discern,
Their glosses teach an age, too apt to learn.
What I have loosely, or profanely, writ,
Let them to fires, their due desert, commit:
* Peter Motteux, to whom this piece is addressed, was born in Normandy, but settled as a merchant in London very young, and lived in repute. He died in a house of ill fame near the Strand, and was supposed to have been murdered, in 1718. He produced cleven dramatic pieces, and his Beauty in Distress is thought much the best of them: it was played in Lincoln's-inn-fields by Betterton's company in 1698. D.
Nor, when accus'd by me, let them complain :
Their faults, and not their function, I arraign.
Rebellion, worse than witchcraft, they pursu'd;
The pulpit preach'd the crime, the people rued. 20
The stage was silenc'd; for the saints would see
In fields perform'd their plotted tragedy.
But let us first reform, and then so live,
That we may teach our teachers to forgive :
Our desk be plac'd below their lofty chairs ;
Ours be the practice, as the precept theirs.
The moral part, at least, we may divide,
Humility reward, and punish pride ;
Ambition, interest, avarice, accuse:
These are the province of a tragic muse.
These hast thou chosen ; and the public voice
Has equallid thy performance with thy choice.
Time, action, place, are so preserv’d by thee,
That e'en Corneille might with envy see
The alliance of his Tripled Unity.
Thy incidents, perhaps, too thick are sown;
But too much plenty is thy fault alone.
At least but two can that good crime commit,
Thou in design, and Wycherly in wit.
Let thy own Gauls condemn thee, if they dare; 40
Contented to be thinly regular:
Born there, but not for them, our fruitful soil
With more increase rewards thy happy toil.
Their tongue, enfeebled, is refin'd too much;
V. 19. Rebellion, worse than witchcraft] From 1 Sam. xv. 23. 'For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,' &c. T.
And, like pure gold, it bends at every touch:
Our sturdy Teuton yet will art obey,
More fit for manly thought, and strengthen'd with
But whence art thou inspir'd, and thou alone,
To flourish in an idiom not thy own?
It moves our wonder, that a foreign guest
Should overmatch the most, and match the best.
In underpraising thy deserts, I wrong;
Here find the first deficience of our tongue :
Words, once my stock, are wanting, to commend
So great a poet and so good a friend.
TO MY HONOURED KINSMAN JOHN DRYDEN, OF CHESTERTON,
IN THE COUNTY OF HUNTINGDON, ESQ.
How bless'd is he, who leads a country life,
Unvex'd with anxious cares, and void of strife!