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AN EPISTLE TO Sir Richard Blackmore.
1 NOT that you need Assistance in your Wars,
2 Or have receiv'd dishonourable Scars,
3 By Criticks worried, as by Beasts of Prey,
4 Men void of Sense, and full as wild as they;
5 Who against Wit Infernal Batt'ries raise,
6 And tear with Envy what they ought to praise.
7 Yet tho undaunted you maintain the Fight,
8 And force your Foes within the Shades of Night,
9 Groveling far distant from the Realms of Light,
10 Suffer an humble Unexperienc'd Muse
11 Your sacred Harp and trembling Strings to use
12 (A Muse was only by your Self inspir'd,
13 And only by the Heat you gave her, fir'd)
14 Who owns what Merit may to her belong,
15 Is always due to your Immortal Song.
16 How blest, how happy were the Infant days,
17 When Poets only sang their Maker's Praise?
18 When in united Notes they did reherse
19 The mighty Founder of the Universe,[Page 4]
20 Who forc'd out Light from the Abyss of Shade,
21 And this vast Orb of slender nothing made;
22 Whose Surface, water'd with Celestial Dew,
23 Unto our sight most pleasing Objects threw;
24 Of Flow'rs and Herbs a Treasure did unfold,
25 Wondrous in shape, and beauteous to behold;
26 Whose fertil Womb did every thing produce,
27 Which might suffice for Ornament or Use?
28 They saw with wonder the amazing Sea,
29 How near the Earth it kept its rapid Sway,
30 And yet eternal Orders did obey;
31 How its vast Waves in wat'ry Mountains rise,
32 Whose foaming Pyramids do threat the Skies;
33 Lash'd by the Winds, how bulky Billows roar,
34 Yet know their Bounds, and break upon the Shoar:
35 They saw the Rack dividing from afar
36 With weighty Clouds the thinner space of Air;
37 Thunder they heard, which thro the Aether rang;
38 They saw God's Works, and what they saw, they sang.
39 The self-same God in antient times did raise
40 The Heathen Bards to celebrate his Praise.
41 Tho by Eternal Wisdom he was seen
42 Only to them with a thick Veil between;
43 Yet such their Knowledg, that their Harps they strung,
44 And an Eternal Deity they sung;[Page 5]
45 They taught the Nations its indulgent Sway,
46 And by Example drew them to obey:
47 They kept their Passions in severest awe,
48 And made Lust stoop unto impartial Law;
49 When men grew vicious, and enclin'd to Hell,
50 They did the Lash of pointed Satyr feel.
51 Both for their Counsel and their Justice fear'd,
52 No vicious Kings or Potentates they spar'd:
53 To future Times they did the Truth declare,
54 Which were the Lewd, and which the Virtuous were.
55 So much we now decline from Virtue's ways,
56 The Poet works his Labours into Plays;
57 Each Bard is grown a Mimick or Buffoon,
58 And what was Satyr once, is now Lampoon:
59 They meanly flatter for the Bread they eat,
60 And not by Virtue, but by Crimes grow great.
61 'Tis true, your Genius was by Fate design'd
62 To shew us Virtue and exalted Mind;
63 And those blest Paths, alas! we seldom find.
64 Like Daedalus, an equal distance show,
65 You neither soar too high, nor creep too low;
66 'Tis natural all, and not attain'd by Force,
67 You guide with steddy Reins th' unruly Horse;[Page 6]
68 Whilst those who neither Rule nor Distance keep,
69 Like Icarus descend into the Deep.
70 To move their Rubbish you your self demean,
71 Yet cannot this Augean Stable clean;
72 The nest of Viper-Criticks there you found,
73 Their snaky Heads erect, and hissing round;
74 Like the old Serpent, ne'er will they grow wise,
75 Nor quit their Venom, but retain their Vice.
76 Of all your Foes, the Rhymer of most note
77 Is he who the new Session lately wrote,
78 Who, that his Lines may better pass for Wit,
79 Has stamp'd with Honour all the stuff he writ.
80 If we mistrust him, we are not to blame,
81 Who shews his Honour, but conceals his Name;
82 No Suit of Scandal can we undergo,
83 His mighty Honour being incognito.
84 And cou'd we see this wondrous Son of Wit,
85 Who late as Scribe did to Apollo sit,
86 I dare believe his Title he'd disown,
87 Nor call himself Apollo's hopeful Son:
88 In thredbare Verse, perhaps in thredbare Clothes,
89 He do's his honourable Wit impose;
90 Whose show of Honour signifies as much
91 As Citt's confin'd within a Booby-Hutch.[Page 7]
92 Tho he attempts the Regions of the Sky,
93 Flutters o'er Earth, nor can ascend on high;
94 His Pinions broken, and his Lute unstrung,
95 He sings a horrid and confounded Song.
96 His mighty Dr—n to the Shades is gone,
97 And Con—ve leaves Successor of his Throne:
98 Tho long before his final Exit hence
99 He was himself an abdicated Prince,
100 Disrob'd of all Regalities of State,
101 Drawn by a Hind and Panther from his Seat:
102 Heir to his Plays, his Fables and his Tales,
103 Con— is the Poetick Prince of Wales;
104 Not at St. Germains, but at Will's his Court,
105 Whither the Subjects of his Dad resort;
106 Where Plots are hatch'd, and Councils yet unknown,
107 How young Ascanius may ascend the Throne,
108 That in despite of all the Muses Laws
109 He may revenge his injur'd Father's Cause.
110 Go nauseous Rhymers, into Darkness go,
111 And view your Monarch in the Shades below,
112 Who takes not now from Helicon his Drink,
113 But sips from Styx a Liquor black as Ink;
114 Like Sisyphus a restless Stone he turns,
115 And in a Pile of his own Labours burns;[Page 8]
116 Whose curling Flames most ghastly Fiends do raise,
117 Supply'd with Fuel from his impious Plays;
118 And when he fain would puff away the Flame,
119 One stops his Mouth with bawdy Limberham:
120 There, to augment the Terrors of the Place,
121 His Hind and Panther stare him in the Face;
122 They grin like Devils at the cursed Toad,
123 Who made 'em draw on Earth so vile a Load.
124 Cou'd some Infernal Painter draw the Sight,
125 And once transmit it to the Realms of Light,
126 It might our Poets from their Sins afright:
127 Or cou'd they hear how there the Sons of Verse
128 In dismal Yells their Tortures do express;
129 How scorch'd with Ballads on the Stygian Shoar,
130 They Horrors in a dismal Chorus roar;
131 Or see how th' Lawreat do's his Grandeur bear,
132 Crown'd with a Wreath of flaming Sulphur there.
133 Tho Con— may in time, when he has merit,
134 The Prophet's Throne in peaceful sway inherit,
135 The Poets all with one consent agree
136 His Mantle falls to G— by Destiny,
137 Who did whilst living wear his Livery;
138 Who never did a Hero form in Verse,
139 But what he fashion'd still in Dr—n's Dress;[Page 9]
140 Like him's ill-natur'd, and abounds in spleen,
141 As if his nat'ral Issue he had been;
142 Like him's Malicious, Envious, and Uncivil,
143 The three good Properties of Mr. Devil,
144 Which Dr—n held unto the very last,
145 Improv'd in Malice as his Life did wast:
146 His dying Epilogue with Curses cramm'd,
147 Has both the Arthurs, and their Author damn'd.
148 No one so fit as G— in all the Nation
149 T' harangue the Crowd in Funeral Oration:
150 That nauseous Crowd of Mourners, void of Brains,
151 Stood more in need of Ty—ns Bedlam Pains.
152 The former Times produc'd prodigious Men
153 During the Reigns of Chaucer and of Ben,
154 Who show'd a Virtuous and exalted Mind,
155 Which from that time has ever since declin'd.
156 Cowley indeed endeavour'd to retrieve
157 The Fame of Verse, and Life to Virtue give;
158 But that vile Age was in a League with Hell,
159 And he in the Attempt successless fell.
160 A Court debauch'd, a Theatre profane,
161 Were all the Blessings of that virtuous Reign:
162 Poets themselves by Lewdness then did raise,
163 By servile Flatt'ry, and by fulsom Praise;
164 He then wrote best, that made the lewdest Plays.
165 The Poet now the self-same method takes,
166 His Reason, Virtue, and his God forsakes,
167 Declines Instructions of the Good and Wise,
168 By Vanity and Vice attempts to rise;
169 Some Packhorse for a Pegasus he strides,
170 And stumbles on Preferment as he rides.
171 No matter how unfurnish'd be his Scull,
172 Be he a Sot, incorrigibly dull:
173 If some lewd Courtier he can meanly praise,
174 He never fails of Honour and the Bays.
175 Thus St—ey rose to be a Chit of State,
176 And Pr—r grew magnificently great;
177 P—r, who was with M—ue ally'd,
178 For by their Hands the Hind and Panther dy'd;
179 They both in Partnership the Monsters shot,
180 But M—ue the praise of Conquest got.
181 Great M—ue, the wonder of the Nation,
182 Only a Poet is by Imputation,
183 And others Works of Supererrogation.
184 Haughty and proud, he highly do's disdain
185 To bless us with the Labours of his Brain.
186 When e'er we see a Comet in the Sky,
187 We strait conclude some Potentate will die;[Page 11]
188 So when the stormy Winds come puffing on,
189 Disturb the Waters of smooth Helicon,
190 This Mountain Poet does bring forth a Mouse,
191 Larger and bigger than a Souldiers Louse.
192 What need he write to make Mankind abhor him,
193 Who has so many Bards to scribble for him?
194 Not one dares boggle, or his Patron lash,
195 Who has the hap to keep the Muses Cash,
196 Which bribes into his Service all the Rhymers,
197 The Sonneteers and little Dogrel Chimers;
198 Yet always culls amidst the Multitude
199 Such as are very dull, or very lewd.
200 He plants fresh Laurels for each Impious Head,
201 And builds fine Tombs and Statues for the Dead.
202 But what vile Bard will e'er lament his Fall,
203 Or write a Poem on his Funeral?
204 He like a Tyrant on the Earth will drop,
205 And no one deign to take the Monster up.
206 Some Fumes of Claret do from Hogsheads drown,
207 Such as Ned W—d, or libelling Tom Br—n;
208 Others being made of different sort of Metal,
209 Are leud as De—is, or as dull as Sc—le;
210 Yet all in Council do together sit
211 How to dethrone the beamy God of Wit;[Page 12]
212 How to defame all virtuous Men that write,
213 They rally Forces, and their Strength unite.
214 This, Sir's your Fate, curs'd Criticks you oppose,
215 The most Tyrannical and cruel Foes:
216 Dr—n their Huntsman dead, no more he wounds,
217 But now you must engage his Pack of Hounds.
218 So have I seen an English Mastiff pass
219 Along the Streets with a Majestick Grace;
220 The little Dogs come barking from their Cell,
221 And whine and growl with a confounded Yell;
222 The num'rous Crowd on the bold Mastiff stare,
223 And think each minute he the Curs will tear,
224 When he who with his Jaws might have undone 'em,
225 Lift up his Leg, and only piss'd upon 'em.
226 You need not value what the Criticks say,
227 Keep on your Course, and lead in Virtue's way:
228 Col—r already has undone the Stage;
229 But if you strive to mend this vicious Age,
230 You must with Ty—n, Sir, employ your Pains,
231 And try if you can cure their want of Brains.
About this text
Author: Sir Richard Blackmore
Genres: heroic couplet; epistle
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Blackmore, Richard, Sir, d. 1729. An Epistle to Sr. Richard Blackmore occasion'd by the new session of the poets. London: Printed for A. Baldwin ..., 1700, pp. 3-12. 12p.
Typography, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation have been cautiously modernized. The source of the text is given and all significant editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. This ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 4.0.0.