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mankind may be refined from its dross, their memories furnished with the best notions, their judgments strengthened, and their conceptions enlarged, by which means the mind will be raised to the most perfect ideas it is capable of in this degenerate state. But as others have laboured to carry out our thoughts, and to entertain them with all manner of delights abroad; it is the peculiar character of this author, that he has taught us (with Antoninus) to meditate upon ourselves; that he has disclosed to us greater secrets at home; self-reflection being the only way to valuable and true knowledge, which consists in that rare science of a man's self, which the moral philosopher loses in a crowd of definitions, divisions, and distinctions: the historian cannot find it amongst all his musty records, being far better acquainted with the transactions of a thousand years past, than with the present age, or with himself: the writer of fables and romances wanders from it, in following the delusions of a wild fancy, chimeras and fictions that do not only exceed the works, but also the possibility of nature. Whereas the resemblance of truth is the utmost limit of poetical liberty, which our author has very religiously observed; for he has not only placed and connected together the most amiable images of all those powers that are in our souls, but he has furnished and squared his matter like a true philosopher; that is, he has made both body and soul, colour and shadow, of his poem out of the storehouse of his own mind, which gives the whole work a real and natural beauty; when that which is borrowed out of books (the boxes of counterfeit complexion) shows well or ill as it has more or less likeness to the natural. But our author is beholding to none but himself; and by knowing himself thoroughly, he has arrived to know much; which appears in his admirable variety of well-chosen metaphors and similitudes, that cannot be found within the compass of a narrow knowledge. For this reason the poem, on account of its intrinsic worth, would be as lasting as the Iliad, or the AEneid, if the language it is wrote in were as immutable as that of the Greeks and Romans. Now it would be of great benefit to the beaux of our age to carry this glass in their pocket, whereby they might learn to think, rather than dress well: it would be of use also to the wits and virtuosoes to carry this antidote about them against the poison they have sucked in from Lucretius or Hobbs. This would acquaint them with some principles of religion; for in old times the poets were their divines, and exercised a kind of spiritual authority amongst the people. Verse in those days was the sacred style, the style of oracles and laws. The vows and thanks of the people were recommended to their gods in songs and hymns. Why may they not retain this privilege for if prose should contend with verse, it would be upon unequal terms, and, as it were, on foot against the wings of Pegasus. With what delight are we touched in hearing the stories of Hercules, Achilles, Cyrus, and Eneas Because in their characters we have wisdom, honour, fortitude, and justice, set before our eyes. It was Plato's opinion, that if a man could see virtue, he would be strangely enamoured on her person. Which is the reason why Horace and Virgil have
continued so long in reputation, because they have drawn her in all the charms of poetry. No man is so senseless of rational impressions, as not to be wonderfully affected with the pastorals of the ancients, when, under the stories of wolves and sheep, they describe the misery of people under hard masters, and their happiness under good. So the bitter but wholesome iambic was wont to make villainy blush; the satire incited men to laugh at folly; the comedian chastised the common errors of life; and the tragedian made kings afraid to be tyrants, and tyrants to be their own tormentors. Wherefore, as sir Philip Sidney said of Chaucer, that he knew not which he should most wonder at, either that he in his dark time should see so distinctly, or that we in this clear age should go so stumblingly after him; so may we marvel at and bewail the low condition of poetry now, when in our plays scarce any one rule of decorum is observed, but in the space of two hours and an half we pass through all the fits of Bedlam; in one scene we are all in mirth, in the next we are sunk into sadness; whilst even the most laboured parts are commonly starved for want of thought; a confused heap of words, and empty sound of rhyme. This very consideration should advance the esteem of the following poem, wherein are represented the various movements of the mind; at which we are as much transported as with the most excellent scenes of passion in Shakespeare, or Fletcher: for in this, as in a mirror (that will not flatter) we see how the soul arbitrates in the understanding upon the various reports of sense, and all the changes of imagination: how compliant the
will is to her dictates, and obeys her as a queen:
does her king. At the same time acknowledging a subjection, and yet retaining a majesty. How the passions move at her command, like a well disciplined army; from which regular composure of the faculties, all operating in their proper time and place, there arises a complacency upon the whole soul, that infinitely transcends all other pleasures. What deep philosophy is this! to discover the process of God's art in fashioning the soul of man after his own image; by remarking how one part moves another, and how those motions are varied by several positions of each part, from the first springs and plummets, to the very hand that points out the visible and last effects. What eloquence and force of wit to convey these profound speculations in the easiest language, expressed in words so vulgarly received, that they are understood by the meanest capacities! For the poet takes care in every line to satisfy the understandings of mankind: he follows step by step the workings of the mind from the first strokes of sense, then of fancy, afterwards of judgment, into the principles both of natural and supernatural motives: hereby the soul is made intelligible, which comprehends all things besides; the boundless tracks of sea and land, and the vaster spaces of Heaven; that vital principle of action, which has always been busied in inquiries abroad, is now made known to itself; insomuch that we may find out what we ourselves are, from whence we came, and whither we must go; we may perceive what noble guests those arc, which we lodge in our bosoms, Vol. IV, B
which are nearer to us than all other things, and yet nothing further from our acquaintance.
But here all the labyrinths and windings of the human frame are laid open: it is seen by what pullies and wheels the work is carried on, as plainly as if a window were opened into our breast: for it is the work of God alone to create a mind. The next to this is to show how its operations are performed.