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Are idly bent on him that enters next,
Even so, or with much more contempt, men's eyes
To speak justly of this whole matter: 'tis neither height of thought that is discommended, nor pathetic vehemence, nor any nobleness of expression in its 15 proper place; but 'tis a false measure of all these, something which is like them, and is not them; 'tis the Bristol-stone, which appears like a diamond; 'tis an extravagant thought, instead of a sublime one; 'tis roaring madness, instead of vehemence; and a sound 20 of words, instead of sense. If Shakespeare were stripped of all the bombasts in his passions, and dressed in the most vulgar words, we should find the beauties of his thoughts remaining; if his embroideries were burnt down, there would still be silver at the bottom of 25 the melting-pot: but I fear (at least let me fear it for myself) that we, who ape his sounding words, have nothing of his thought, but are all outside; there is not so much as a dwarf within our giant's clothes. Therefore, let not Shakespeare suffer for our sakes; 'tis our 30 fault, who succeed him in an age which is more refined, if we imitate him so ill, that we copy his failings only, and make a virtue of that in our writings which in his was an imperfection.
For what remains, the excellency of that poet was, as 35 I have said, in the more manly passions; Fletcher's in the softer: Shakespeare writ better betwixt man and
man; Fletcher, betwixt man and woman: consequently, the one described friendship better; the other love: yet Shakespeare taught Fletcher to write love and Juliet and Desdemona are originals. 'Tis true, the 5 scholar had the softer soul; but the master had the kinder. Friendship is both a virtue and a passion essentially; love is a passion only in its nature, and is not a virtue but by accident: good nature makes friendship; but effeminacy love. Shakespeare had an Io universal mind, which comprehended all characters and passions; Fletcher a more confined and limited: for though he treated love in perfection, yet honour, ambition, revenge, and generally all the stronger passions, he either touched not, or not masterly. To conclude all, he was a limb of Shakespeare.
I had intended to have proceeded to the last property of manners, which is, that they must be constant, and the characters maintained the same from the beginning to the end; and from thence to have proceeded to the 20 thoughts and expressions suitable to a tragedy: but I will first see how this will relish with the age. It is, I confess, but cursorily written; yet the judgment, which is given here, is generally founded upon experience: but because many men are shocked at the 25 name of rules, as if they were a kind of magisterial prescription upon poets, I will conclude with the words of Rapin, in his Reflections on Aristotle's work of Poetry: If the rules be well considered, we shall find them to be made only to reduce Nature into method, to 30 trace her step by step, and not to suffer the least mark of her to escape us: 'tis only by these, that probability in fiction is maintained, which is the soul of poetry. They are founded upon good sense, and sound reason, rather than on authority; for though Aristotle and 35 Horace are produced, yet no man must argue, that
what they write is true, because they writ it; but 'tis evident, by the ridiculous mistakes and gross absurdities which have been made by those poets who have taken their fancy only for their guide, that if this fancy be not regulated, it is a mere caprice, and utterly in- 5 capable to produce a reasonable and judicious poem.'
TRANSLATION OF OVID'S EPISTLES
THE Life of Ovid being already written in our language, before the translation of his Metamorphoses, I will not presume so far upon myself, to think I can add any thing to Mr. Sandys his undertaking. The 5 English reader may there be satisfied, that he flourished in the reign of Augustus Cæsar; that he was extracted from an ancient family of Roman knights; that he was born to the inheritance of a splendid fortune; that he was designed to the study of the Law, and had made Io considerable progress in it, before he quitted that profession, for this of Poetry, to which he was more naturally formed. The cause of his banishment is unknown; because he was himself unwilling further to provoke the Emperor, by ascribing it to any other 15 reason than what was pretended by Augustus, which was, the lasciviousness of his Elegies, and his Art of Love. 'Tis true, they are not to be excused in the severity of manners, as being able to corrupt a larger Empire, if there were any, than that of Rome; yet this 20 may be said in behalf of Ovid, that no man has ever treated the passion of love with so much delicacy of
thought, and of expression, or searched into the nature of it more philosophically than he. And the Emperor who condemned him had as little reason as another man to punish that fault with so much severity, if at least he were the author of a certain epigram, which is 5 ascribed to him, relating to the cause of the first civil war betwixt himself and Mark Anthony the Triumvir, which is more fulsome than any passage I have met with in our poet. To pass by the naked familiarity of his expressions to Horace, which are cited in that 10 author's life, I need only mention one notorious act of his, in taking Livia to his bed, when she was not only married, but with child by her husband then living. But deeds, it seems, may be justified by arbitrary power, when words are questioned in a poet. There is another guess of the grammarians, as far from truth as the first from reason; they will have him banished for some favours, which they say he received from Julia, the daughter of Augustus, whom they think he celebrates under the name of Corinna in his Elegies. 20 But he who will observe the verses which are made to that mistress, may gather from the whole contexture of them, that Corinna was not a woman of the highest quality. If Julia were then married to Agrippa, why should our poet make his petition to Isis for her safe 25 delivery, and afterwards condole her miscarriage; which for aught he knew, might be by her own husband? Or indeed how durst he be so bold to make the least discovery of such a crime, which was no less than capital, especially committed against a person of Agrippa's 30 rank? Or if it were before her marriage, he would surely have been more discreet, than to have published an accident which must have been fatal to them both. But what most confirms me against this opinion is, that Ovid himself complains that the true person of Corinna