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FIRST EDITION OF MR. WALLER'S POEMS,
AFTER THE RESTORATION:
PRINTED IN THE YEAR 1664.
When the author of these verses (written only to please himself, and such particular persons to whom they were directed) returned from abroad some years since, he was troubled to find his name in print; bat, somewhat satisfied, to see his lines so ill rendered, that he might justly disown them, and say to a mistaking printer, as one ' did to an ill reciter,
Male dum recitas, incipit esse tuus. Having been ever since pressed to correct the many and gross faults, (such as use to be in impressions wholly neglected by the authors) his answer was, that he made these when ill verses had more favour, and escaped better than good ones do in this age; the severity whereof he thought not unhappily diverted by those faults in the impression, which hitherto have hung upon his book, as the Turks hang old rags, or such-like ugly things, upon their fairest horses, and other goodly creatures, to secure them against fascination. And, for those of a more confined understanding, who pretend not to censure, as they admire most what they least comprehend; so, his verses (maimed to that degree, that himself scarce knew what to make of many of them) might, that way at least, have a title to some admiration : which is no small matter, if what an old author observes be true, that the aim of orators, is victory; of historians, truth; and of poets, admiration. He had reason therefore to indulge those faults in his book, whereby it might be reconciled to some, and commended to others.
The printer also, he thought, would fare the worse, if those faults were amended: for we see maimed statues sell better than whole ones ; and clipped and washed money goes about, when the entire and weighty lies hoarded up.
These are the reasons which for above twelve years past he has opposed to our request; to which it was replied, that as it would be too late to recall that, which had so long been made public; so, might it find excuse from his youth, the season it was produced in. And, for what had been done since, and now added, if it commend not his poetry, it might his philosophy, which teaches him so cheerfully to bear so great a calamity, as the loss of the best part of his fortune, torn from him in prison, (in which, and in banishment, the best portion of his life hath also been spent) that he can still sing under the barthen, not unlike that Roman?,
Quem dimisere Philippi
And him of his old patrimony stripp'd: who yet not long after could say,
Musis amicus, tristitiam et metus
Lib. I. Carm. xxvi.
Not so much moved with these reasons of ours (or pleased with our rhymes) as wearied with our importunity, he has at last given us leave to assure the reader, that the poems, which have been so long, and so ill set forth under his name, are here to be found as he first writ them : as also, to add some others, which have since been composed by him. And though his advice to the contrary might have discouraged us; yet, observing how often they have been reprinted, what price they have borne, and how earnestly they have been always inquired after, but especially of late; (making good that of Horace, Meliora dies, ut vina, poemata reddit:
Lib. II. Epist. I. “Some verses being, like some vines, recommended to our taste by time and age,") we have adventured upon this new and well-corrected edition; which, for our own sakes as well as thine, we hope will succeed better than he apprehended. Vivitur ingenio, cætera mortis erunt.
SECOND PART OF MR. WALLER’S POEMS:
PRINTED IN THE YEAR 1690.
The reader needs be told no more in commendation of these Poems, than that they are Mr. Wal
ler's: a name that carries every thing in it, that is either great, or graceful, in poetry. He was inideed the parent of English verse, and the first that showed us our tongue had beauty, and num
bers, in it. Our language owes more to him than the French does to cardinal Richelieu and the | whole academy. A poet cannot think of him, without being in the same rapture Lucretius is in, when Epicurus comes in his way: '
Tu pater, et rerum inventor; Tu patria nobis
Lib. III. ver. 9. The tongue came into his hands like a rongh diamond : he polished it first; and to that degree, that all artists since him have admired the workmanship, without pretending to mend it. Suckling and Carew, I must confess, wrote some few things smoothly enough: but, as all they did in this kind was not very considerable; so it was a little later than the earliest pieces of Mr. Waller. He undoubtedly stands first in the list of refiners; and, for aught I know, last too : for I question, whe. ther in Charles the Second's reign, English did not come to its full perfection; and whether it has not had its Augustan age, as well as the Latin. It seems to be already mixed with foreign languages as far as its purity will bear; and, as chymists say of their menstruums, to be quite sated with the infusion. But posterity will best judge of this. In the mean time, it is a surprising reflection, that between what Spenser wrote last, and Waller first, there should not be much above twenty years distance: and yet the one's language, like the money of that time, is as current now as ever ; whilst
the other's words are like old coins, one must go to an antiquary to understand their true meaning and value. Such advances may a great genius make, when it undertakes any thing in earnest !
Some painters will hit the chief lines and master-strokes of a face so truly, that through all the differences of age, the picture shall still bear a resemblance. This art was Mr. Waller's: he sought out, in this flowing tongue of ours, what parts would last, and be of standing use and ornament: and this he did so successfully, that his language is now as fresh, as it was at first setting out. Were we to judge barely by the wording, we could not know what was wrote at twenty, and what at fourscore. He complains, indeed, of a tide of words, that comes in upon the English poet, and overflows whatever he builds: but this was less his case than any man's that ever wrote; and the mischief of it is, this very complaint will last long enough to confute itself: for, though English be mouldering stone, as he tells us there, yet he has certainly picked the best out of a bad quarry.
We are no less beholden to him for the new turn of verse, which he brought in, and the improve- , ment he made in our numbers. Before his time, men rhymed indeed, and that was all: as for the harmony of measure, and that dance of words, which good ears are so much pleased with, they knew nothing of it. Their poetry then was made up almost entirely of monosyllables ; which, when they come together in any cluster, are certainly the most harsh untuneable things in the world. If any man doubts of this, let him read ten lines in Donne, and he will be quickly convinced. Besides, their verses ran all into one another; and hung together, throughout a whole copy, like the booked atoms that compose a body in Descartes. There was no distinction of parts, no regular stops, nothing for the ear to rest npon: but, as soon as the copy began, down it went, like a larum, incessantly; and the reader was sure to be ont of breath, before he got to the end of it. So that really verse in those days was but down-right prose, tagged with rhymes. Mr. Waller removed all these faults ; brought in more polysyllables, and smoother measures ; bound up his thoughts better, and in a cadence more agreeable to the nature of the verse he wrote in: so that wherever the natural stops of that were, he contrived the little breakings of his sense so as to fall in with them. And for that reason, since the stress of our verse lies commonly upon the last syllable, you will hardly ever find him using a word of no force there, I would say, if I were not afraid the reader would think me too nice, that he commonly closes with verbs; in which we know the life of language consists.
Among other improvements, we may reckon that of his rhymes: which are always good, and very often the better for being new. He had a fine ear, and knew how quickly that sense was cloyed by the same round of chiming words still returning upon it. It is a decided case by the great master of writing', “ Quæ sunt ampla, et pulchra, diu placere possunt ; quæ lepida et concinna,“ (amongst which rhyme must, whether it will or no, take its place) “ cito satietate afficiunt aurium sensum fastidiosissimum.” This he understood very well: and therefore, to take off the danger of a surfeit that way, strove to please by variety, and new sounds. Had he carried this observation, among others, as far as it would go, it must, methinks, have shown him the incurable fault of this jingling kind of poetry; and have led his later judgment to blank verse. But he continued an obstinate lover of rhyme to the very last: it was a mistress that never appeared unhandsome in his eyes, and was courted by him long after Sacharissa was forsaken. He had raised it, and brought it to that perfection we now enjoy it in ; and the poet's temper (which has always a little vanity in it) would not suffer him ever to slight a thing he had taken so much pains to adorn. My lord Roscommon was more impartial : no man ever rhymed truer and evener than he: yet he is so just as to confess, that it is but a trifle ; and to wish the tyrant dethroned, and blank verse set up in its room. There is a third person’, the living glory of our English poetry, who has disclaimed the nse of it upon the stage; though no man ever employed it there so happily as he. It was the strength of his genias, that first brought it into credit in plays; and it is the force of his example, that has thrown it out again. In other kinds of writing, it continues still; and will do so, till some excellent spirit arises, that has leisure enough, and resolution to break the charm, and free us from the troublesome bondage of rhyming, as Mr. Milton very well calls it; and has proved it as well, by what he has wrote in another way. But this is a thought for times at some distance; the present age is a little too warlike; it may perhaps furnish out matter for a good poem in the next, but it will hardly encourage one now: without prophesying, a man may easily know what sort of laurels are like to be in request.
Whilst I am talking of verse, I find myself, I do not know how, betrayed into a great deal of prose. I intended no more than to put the reader in mind what respect was due to any thing that
fell from the pen of Mr. Waller. I have heard his last printed copies, which are added in the seve. ral'editions of his poems, very slightly spoken of; but certainly they do not deserve it. They do indeed discover themselves to be his last, and that is the worst we can say of them. He is there
Jam senior; sed cruda Deo viridisque senectus 3. The same censure perhaps will be passed on the pieces of this Second Part. I shall not so far engage for them, as to pretend they are all equal to whatever he wrote in the vigour of his youth: yet, they are so much of a piece with the rest, that any man will at first sight know them to be Mr. Waller's. Some of them were wrote very early, but not put into former collections, for reasons obvious enough, but which are now ceased. The play 4 was altered to please the court: it is not to be doubted who sat for the two brothers' characters. It was agreeable to the sweetness of Mr. Waller's temper, to soften the rigour of the tragedy, as he expresses it: but, whether it be so agreeable to the nature of tragedy itself, to make every thing come off easily, I leave to the critics. In the Prologue, and Epilogue, there are a few verses that he has made use of upon another occasion : but, the reader may be pleased to allow that in him, that has been allowed so long in Homer, and Lucretius. Exact writers dress up their thoughts so very well always, that, when they have need of the same sense, they cannot put it into other words, but it must be to its prejudice. Care has been taken in this book to get together every thing of Mr. Waller's, that is not put into the former collection: so that between both, the reader may make the set complete.
It will perhaps be contended after all, that some of these ought not to have been published: and Mr. Cowley's 5 decision will be urged, that a neat tomb of marble is a better monument than a great pile of rubbish. It might be answered to this, that the pictures and poems of great masters have been always valued, though the last band were not put to them. And I believe none of those gentlemen, that will make the objection, would refuse a sketch of Raphael's, or one of Titian's draughts of the first sitting. I might tell them too, what care has been taken by the learned, to preserve the fragments of the antient Greek and Latin poets: there has been thought to be a divinity in what they said ; and therefore the least pieces of it have been kept up, and reverenced like religious relics. And, I am sure, take away the “mille anni®;" and impartial reasoning will tell us there is as much due to the memory of Mr. Waller, as to the most celebrated names of antiquity.
But, to wave the dispute now, of what ought to have been done, I can assure the reader, what would have been, had this edition been delayed. The following Poems were got abroad, and in a great many hands : it were vain to expect, that, among so many admirers of Mr. Waller, they should not meet with one fond enough to publish them. They might have staid, indeed, till by frequent transcriptions they had been corrupted extremely, and jumbled together with things of another kind: but then they would have found their way into the world. So it was thought a greater piece of kindness to the author, to put them out whilst they continue genuine and unmixed, and such as he himself, were be alive, might own.
3 Virg. Aan vi. 304.
...... Et uni cedit Homero
Mr. C. Dryden.
OF THE DANGER
These mighty peers plac'd in the gilded barge, HIS MAJESTY (BEING PRINCE)
Proud with the burtben of so brave a charge;
With painted oars the youths begin to sweep
Neptune's smooth face, and cleave the yielding deep:
Between the wind and tide, that fiercely jar.
And reach'd the sphere of his own power, the As when a sort of lasty shepherds try With British bounty in his ship he feasts [main; Their force at foot-ball
, care of victory Th' Hesperian princes, bis amazed guests,
Makes them salute so rudely breast to breast, To find that watery wilderness exceed
That their encounter seems too rough for jest; The entertainment of their great Madrid.
They ply their feet, and still the restless ball, Healths to both kings, attended with the roar Tost to and fro, is urged by them all : Of cannons echoed from th' affrighted shore, So fares the doubtful barge 'twixt tide and winds, With loud resemblance of his thunder, prove
And like effect of their contention finds. Bacchus the seed of cloud-compelling Jove:
Yet the bold Britons still securely row'd; While to his barp divine Arion sings
Charles and his virtue was their sacred load : The loves, and conquests, of our Abhion kings. Than which a greater pledge Heaven could not give,
Of the fourth Edward was his noble song, That the good boat this tempest should outlive. Fierce, goodly, valiant, beautiful, and young:
But storms increase! and now no hope of grace He rent the crown from vanquish'd Henry's head; Among them shines, save in the prince's face ; Rais'd the White Rose, and trampled on the Red :
The rest resign their courage, skill, and sight, Till Love, triumphing o'er the victor's pride, To danger, horrour, and unwelcome night. Brought Mars and Warwick to the conquer'd side: The gentle vessel (wont with state and pride Neglected Warwick, (whose bold hand, like Fate, On the smooth back of silver Thames to ride) Gives and resumes the sceptre of our state)
Wanders astonish'd in the angry main, Wooes for his master; and, with double shame, As Titan's car did, while the golden rein Himself deluded, mocks the princely dame, Fill'd the young hand of his adventurous son', The lady Bona: whom just anger burns,
When the whole world an equal hazard run And foreign war with civil rage returns.
To this of ours, the light of whose desire, Ah! spare your swords, where beauty is to blame; Waves threaten now, as that was scar'd by fire. Love gave th' affront, and must repair the same: Th' impatient sea grows impotent, and raves, When France shall boast of her whose conquering That, night assisting, his impetuous waves eyes
Should find resistance from so light a thing;
Th' oppressed vessel doth the charge abide,
So men, with rage and passion set on fire,
With the sweet sound of this harmonious lay, The pale Iberians had expir'd with fear, Aboat the keel delighted dolphins play ;
But that their wonder did divert their care; Too sure a sign of sea's ensuing rage,
To see the prince with danger mov'd no more, Which must anon this royal troop engage:
Than with the pleasures of their court before: To whom soft sleep seems more secure and sweet, Within the town commanded by our fleet.