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If yet a just coherence be not made
Between each thought; and the whole model laid
So right, that every line may higher rise,
Like goodly mountains, till they reach the skies :
Such trifles may perhaps of late have paft,
And may be lik'd awhile, but never last ;
'Tis epigram, 'tis point, 'tis what you will,
But not an elegy, nor writ with skill,
No * Panegyrick, nor a + Cooper's-Hill,
A higher flight, and of a happier force,
Are Odes : the Muses' most unruly horse,
That bounds fo fierce, the rider has no rest,
Here foams at mouth, and moves like one poffcmd.
The poet here must be indeed inspir’d,
With fury too, as well as fancy fir'd.
Cowley might boast to have perform’d this part,
Had he with nature join’d the rules of art ;
But sometimes diction mean, or verse ill-wrought,
Deadens, or clouds, his noble frame of thought.
Though all appear in heat and fury done,
The language still must foft and easy run.
These laws may found a little too severe ;
But judgment yields, and fancy governs here,
Which, though extravagant, this Muse allows,
And makes the work much easier than it shows,
Of all the ways that wiseft men could find
To mend the age, and mortify mankind,
Satire well-writ has most successful prov'd,
And cures, because the remedy is lovod.
'Tis hard to write on such a subject more,
Without repeating things said oft before:
Some vulgar errors only we'll remove,
That stain a beauty which we so much love.
Of chosen words fome take not care enough,,
And think they should be as the subject rough ;
must be more exactly made,
And sharpest thoughts in smoothest words convey'd.
Some think, if sharp enough, they cannot fail,
As if their only business was to rail :
But human frailty nicely to unfold,
Distinguishes a fatyr from a scold.
Rage you must hide, and prejudice lay down;
A satyr's smile is sharper than his frown;
So while you seem to flight some rival youth,
Malice itself may pass sometimes for truth.
The Laureat * here may justly claim our praise,
Crown'd by Mack-Fleckno + with immortal bays ;
Yet once his Pegasus 8 has borne dead weight,
Rid by some lumpish minister of state.
Here rest, my Muse, suspend thy cares awhile,
A more important talk attends thy toil.
As some young eagle, that designs to fly
A long unwonted journey through the sky,
Weighs all the dangerous enterprize before,
O'er what wide lands and seas she is to soar,
* Mr. Dryden.
+ A famous satirical Poem of his.
* A poem call'd The Hind and Panther.
Doubts her own strength fo far, and justly fears
The lofty road of airy travellers ;
But yet incited by some bold design,
That does her hopes beyond her fears incline,
Prunes every feather, views herself with care,
At last, resolv'd, she cleaves the yielding air ;
Away she Alies, fo strong, fo high, so fast,
She lefsens to us, and is lost at last :
So (though too weak for such a weighty thing)
The Muse inspires a sharper note to sing.
And why should truth offend, when only told
To guide the ignorant, and warn the bold ?
On then, my Muse, adventurously engage
To give instructions that concern the Stage.
The unities of action, time, and place,
Which, if observ’d, give plays so great a grace,
Are, though but little practis'd, too well known
To be taught here, where we pretend alone
From nicer faults to purge the present age,
Lefs obvious errors of the English itage.
First then, Soliloquies had need be few,
Extremely short, and spoke in passion too.
Our lovers talking to themselves, for want
Of others, make the pit their confidant
Nor is the matter mended yet, if thus
They trust a friend, only to tell it us ;
Th’occasion should as naturally fall,
As when Bellario * confesses all.
* In Philaster, a play of Beaumont and Fletcher. 5
Figures of speech, which poets think so fine,
(Art's needless varnish to inake nature shine)
All are but paint upon a beauteous face,
And in descriptions only claim a place :
But, to make rage declaim, and grief discourse,
From lovers in despair fine things to force,
Must needs succeed ; for who can chufe but pity
A dying hero, miserably witty?
But oh! the Dialogues, where just and mock
Is held up like a rest at shittle-cock;
Or else, like bells, eternally they chime,
They sigh in Simile, and die in Rhyme.
What things are these who would be poets thought,
By nature not inspir’d, nor learning taught ?
Some wit they have, and therefore
A better course than this, by which they starve :
But to write plays ! why, 'tis a bold pretence
To judgment, breeding, wit, and eloquence :
Nay more ; for they must look within, to find
Those secret turns of nature in the mind :
Without this part, in vain would be the whole,
And but a body all, without a soul.
All this united yet, but makes a part
Of Dialogue, that great and powerful ait,
Now almost lost, which the old Grecians knew,
From whom the Romans fainter copies drew,
Scarce comprehended since, but by a few.
Plato and Lucian are the best remains
Of all the wonders which this art contains;
Yet to ourselves we justice must allow,
Shaktspeare and Fletcher are the wonders now:
Consider them, and read them o'er and o'er,
Go see them play’d; then read them as before;
For though in many things they grofsly fail,
Over our passions still they fo prevail,
That our own grief by theirs is rock'd asleep;
The dull are forc'd to feel, the wise to weep.
Their beauties imitate, avoid their faults;
First, on a plot employ thy careful thoughts ;
Turn it, with time, a thousand several ways;
This oft', alone, has given success to plays.
Reject that vulgar error (which appears
So fair) of making perfect characters ;
There's no such thing in nature, and you ’ll draw
A faultless monster which the world ne'er faw.
Some faults must be, that his misfortunes drew,
But such as may deserve compassion too.
Besides the main design compos'd with art,
Each moving scene must be a plot apart;
Contrive cach little turn, mark every place,
As painters first chalk out the future face :
Yet be not fondly your own Nave for this,
But change hereafter what appears amiss.
Think not so much where shining thoughts to places
As what a man would say in such a case :
Neither in comedy will this suffice,
The player too must be before your eyes :
And, though 'tis drudgery to stoop so low,
To him you must your secret meaning show.