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EPISTLE the TENTH.

TO MY DEAR FRIEND

Mr. C O N G R E V E,

ON

HIS

Comedy call’d, The Double Deale R.

WELL

ELL then, the promis'd hour is come at last,

The present age of wit obscures the past : Strong were our fires, and as they fought they writ, Conqu’ring with force of arms, and dint of wit : Theirs was the giant race, before the flood; And thus, when Charles return’d, our empire stood. Like Janus he the stubborn foil manur’d, With rules of husbandry the rankness cur'd; Tam'd us to manners, when the stage was rude; And boistrous English wit with art indu'd. Our age was cultivated thus at length; But what we gain'd in skill we lost in strength. Our builders were with want of genius curst ; The second temple was not like the first : Till you,

the best Vitruvius, come at length; Our beauties equal, but excel our strength. VOL. II.

N

Firm Doric pillars found your

solid base : The fair Corinthian crowns the higher space: Thus all below is strength, and all above is grace.

.
In easy dialogue is Fletcher's praise ;
He mov'd the mind, but had not power to raise.
Great Johnson did by strength of judgment please;
Yet, doubling Fletcher's force, he wants his ease.
In diff'ring talents both adorn'd their age;
One for the study, t’other for the stage.
But both to Congreve justly shall submit,
One match'd in judgment, both o'ermatch'd in wit.
In him all beauties of this age we see,
Etherege his courtship, Southern's purity,
The satire, wit, and strength of manly Wycherly.
All this in blooming youth you have atchiev'd:
Nor are your foil'd contemporaries griev'd.
So much the sweetness of your manners move,
We cannot envy you, because we love.
Fabius might joy in Scipio; when he saw
A beardless consul made against the law,
And join his suffrage to the votes of Rome;
Though he with Hannibal was overcome.
Thus old Romano bow'd to Raphael's fame,
And scholar to the youth he taught became.
O that

your
brows

my

laurel had sustain'd!: Well had I been depos’d, if you had reign'd:

The father had descended for the fon;
For only you are lineal to the throne.
Thus, when the state one Edward did depose,
A
greater

Edward in his room arose.
But now, not I, but poetry is curs'd ;
For Tom the second reigns like Tom the first.
But let them not mistake my patron's part,
Nor call his charity their own desert.
Yet this I prophesy; thou shalt be seen,
(Tho with some short parenthesis between)
High on the throne of wit, and, seated there,
Not mine, that's little, but thy laurel wear.
Thy first attempt an early promise made;
That early promise this has more than paid.

so judiciously you dare,

least praise is to be regular.
Time, place, and action, may with pains be wrought;
But genius must be born, and never can be taught.
This is your portion ;

this
your native store;

2 Heaven, that but once was prodigal before, To Shakespear gave as much ; she could not

give him more. Maintain your post : That's all the fame you

So bold, yet That your

need ;

For 'tis impossible you should proceed.

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you, whom

Already I am worn with cares and age,
And just abandoning th' ungrateful stage:
Unprofitably kept at heaven's expence,
I live a rent-charge on his providence:
But

every

mufe and grace adorn,
Whom I foresee to better fortune born,
Be kind to my remains; and 0 defend,
Against your judgment, your departed friend!
Let not th’insulting foe my

fame pursue,
But shade those laurels which descend to you:
And take for tribute what these lines express:
You merit more ; nor could my love do lefs.

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A Vfpicious poet, wert thou not my friend,

How could I envy, what I must commend!
But since 'tis nature's law in love and wit,
That youth should reign, and withering age submit,

With lefs regret those laurels I resign,
Which, dying on my brows, revive on thine.
With better grace an ancient chief may yield
The long contended honors of the field,
Than venture all his fortune at a cast,
And fight, like Hannibal, to lose at last.
Young princes, obstinate to win the prize,
Tho yearly, beaten, yearly yet they rise :
Old monarchs, tho successful, still in doubt,
Catch at a peace, and wisely turn devout.
Thine be the laurel then ; thy blooming age
Can best, if any can, support the stage ;
Which so declines, that shortly we may

see
Players and plays reduc'd to second infancy.
Sharp to the world, but thoughtless of renown,
They plot not on the stage, but on the town,
And, in despair their empty pit to fill,
Set

up some foreign monster in a bill. Thus they jog on, still tricking, never thriving, And murd’ring plays, which they miscal reviving: Our sense is nonsense, thro their pipes convey'd; Scarce can a poet know the play he made ; 'Tis so disguis’d in death ; nor thinks ’tis he That suffers in the mangled tragedy.

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