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MY LADY ***
Your commands for the gathering these sticks into a faggot had sooner been obeyed; but, intending to present you with my whole vintage, I stayed till the latest grapes were ripe: for here your ladyship has not only all I have done, but all I ever mean to do of this kind. Not but that I may defend the attempt I have made upon poetry, by the examples (not to trouble you with history) of many wise and worthy persons of our own times ; as sir Philip Sidney, sir Francis Bacon, cardinal Perron, (the ablest of his countrymen) and the former pope ; who, they say, instead of the triple crown, wore sometimes the poet's ivy, as an ornament, perhaps, of lesser weight and trouble. But, madam, these nightingales sung only in the spring; it was the diversion of their youth ; as ladies learn to sing, and play, when they are children, what they forget when they are women. The resemblance bolds further; for as you quit the lute the sooner, because the posture is suspected to draw the body awry; so this is not always practised without some villany to the mind, wresting it from present occasions, and accustoming us to a style somewhat removed from common use. But, that you may not think his case deplorable who had made verses, we are told, that Tully (the greatest wit among the Romans) was once sick of this disease, and yet recovered so well, that, of almost as bad a poet as your servant, he became the most perfect orator in the world. So that, not so much to have made verses, as not to give over in time, leaves a man without excuse: the former presenting us with an opportunity at least of doing wisely, that is, to conceal those we have made; which I shall yet do, if my humble request may be of as much force with your ladyship, as your commands have been with me. Madam, I only whisper these in your ear; if you publish them, they are your own: and therefore, as you apprehend the reproach of a wit and a poet, cast them into the fire: or, if they come where green boughs are in the chimney, with the help of your fair friends, (for, thus bound, it will be too hard a task for your hands alone) tear them in pieces, wherein you will honour me with the fate of Orpheus ; for so his Poems, whereof we only hear the form, (not his limbs, as the story will have it) I suppose were scattered by the Thracian dames. Here, madam, I might take an opportunity to celebrate your virtues, and to instruct you how unhappy you are, in that you know not who you are: how much you excel the most excellent of your own, and how much you amaze the least inclined to wonder, of our sex. But as they will be apt to take your ladyship’s for a Roman name, so would they believe, that I endeavoured the character of a perfect nymph, worshipped an image of my own making, and dedicated this to the lady of the brain, not of the heart, of
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 wtoun they were directed) returned from abroad some years since, he was troubled to find his name in print; but, 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 favoar, and escaped better than good ones do in this age; the severity whereof he thought not untappily diverted by those faults in the impression, which hitherto have hung upon his book, as the Turks bang 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 aisa of orators, is victory; of historians, truth; and of poets, admiration. He had reason therefare to indulge those faults in his book, whereby it might be reconciled to some, and commended to others.
The printer also, he thonght, 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 stice, 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 burthen, not unlike that Roman?,
Quem dimisere Philippi
And him of his old patrimony stripp'd : abo yet not long after could say,
Musis amicus, tristitiam et metus
Lib. I. Carm. xxvi.
Not so much moved with these rcasons of ours (or pleased with our rhymes) as wearied with onr 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 zi" in bar 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. Waller's: a name that carries every thing in it, that is either great, or graceful, in poetry. He was indeed the parent of English verse, and the first that showed us our tongue had beauty, and numbers, 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 rough 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 andoubtedly stands first in the list of refiners; and, for aught I know, last too: for I question, whether 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 menstruuns, 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 ope's language, like the money of that time, is as current now as ever ; whilst
dre 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. Wallers: he sought ont, in this flowing tongue of ours, what parts would last, and be of standing use and ornament: and
this he did so soccessfully, that his language is now as fresh, as it was at first setting out. Were we i to jadge barely by the wording, we could not know what was wrote at twenty, and what at four
score. 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 stope, 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 improvemedi he made in our numbers. Before his time, men rhymed indeed, and that was all : as for the barmony 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 logether 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, througliout a whole copy, like the hooked atoms that compose a body in Descartes. There was no distinction of parts, no regular stops, nothing for the ear to rest upon : bat, as soon as the copy began, down it went, like a larum, incessantly; and the reader was sure to be out 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
more polysyllables, and smoother measures; bound up his thoughts better, and in a cadence more greeable to the nature of the verse he wrote in; so that wherever the natural stops of that were, be contrived the little breakings of his sense so as to fall in with them. And for that reason, since te stress of our verse lies commonly upon the last syllable, you will hardly ever find him using a Ford 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 efter 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 mas} tez of writing', “ Quæ sunt ampla, et pulchra, diu placere possunt; quæ lepida et concinna,"
amongst which rhyme must, whether it will or po, take its place) “ cito satietate afficiunt aurinm 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 ebstipate lover of rhyme to the very last: it was a mistress that never appeared unbandsome in bis 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 Rosretron was more impartial: no man ever rhymed truer and evener than he: yet he is so just as to enfess, 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 use of it upon the stage; though no man ever employed it there so happily as he. It was the strength of his genius, that tirst brought it into credit in plays; and it is the force of his example, that has thrown it eat 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 rhyuning, as Mr. Milton very well calis 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 Do#: 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 prase. I intended no more than to put the reader in mind what respect was due to any thing that
! Cicero ad Herennium, l. iv,
2 Mr. Dryden.