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With less 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,
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.
Thus Itys first was kill'd, and after dress'd
For his own fire, the chief invited guest.
I say not this of thy fuccessful scenes,
Where thine was all the glory, theirs the gains.
With length of time, much judgment, and moretoit,
Not ill they acted, what they could not spoil.
Their setting-fun still shoots a glimmering ray,
Like ancient Rome, majestic in decay.:
And better gleanings their worn foil can boast,
Than the crab-vintage of the neighb’ring coast.
This diff'rence yet the judging world will fee;
Thou copiest Homer, and they copy thee. .
IS hard, my friend, to write in such an age,
As damns, not only poets, but the stage. That sacred art, by heaven itself infus’d, Which Moses, David, Solomon have us’d,
Is now to be no more : the muses' foes,
Would sink their Maker's praises into prose.
Were they content to prune the lavish vine
Of straggling branches, and improve the wine,
Who, but a madman, would his thoughts defend?
All would submit; for all but fools will mend.
But when to common sense they give the lye,
And turn distorted words to blasphemy.
They give the scandal ; and the wise discern,
Their glosses teach an age, too apt to learn.
What I have loosely, or prophanely, writ,
Let them to fires, their due desert, commit:
Nor, when accus’d by me, let them complain :
Their faults, and not their function, I arraign.
Rebellion, worse than witchcraft, they pursu'd ;
The pulpit preach'd the crime, the people ru’d.
The stage was filenc'd; for the saints would see
In fields, perform’d their plotted tragedy.
But let us first reform, and then so live,
That we may teach our teachers to forgive :
Our desk be plac'd below their lofty chairs;
Ours be the practice, as the precept theirs,
The moral part, at least, we may divide,
Humility reward, and punish pride ;
Ambition, int'rest, avarice, accuse':
These are the province of a-tragic muse.
These halt thou chufen ; and the public voice
Has equall'd thy performance with thy choice.
Time, action, place, are so preserv'd by thee,
That e'en Cornëille might with envy
see Th'alliance of his Tripled Unity. Thy incidents, perhaps, too thick are fown; But too much plenty is thy fault alone. At least but two can that good crime commit, Thou in design, and Wycherly in wit. Let thy own Gauls condemn thee, if they dare ; Contented to be thinly regular : Born there, but not for them, our fruitful foil With more increase rewards thy happy toil. Their tongue, enfeebled, is refin'd too much; And, like pure gold, it bends at ev'ry touch: Our sturdy Teuton yet will art obey, More fit for manly thought, and strengthen’d with
allay. But whence art thou infpir’d, and thou alone, To flourish in an idiom not thy own? It moves our wonder, that a foreign guest Should over-match the most, and match the
In under-praising thy deserts, I wrong;
Here find the first deficience of our tongue :
Words, once my stock, are wanting, to commend
So great a poet, and so good a friend.
CHESTERTON, in the County of HuN
TINGDON, Efq; OW bless'd' is he, who leads a country life, How Unyex'd with anxious cares, and void of
Itrife! Who studying peace, and shunning civil rage, Enjoy'd his youth, and now enjoys his age ; All who deferve his love, he makes his own; And, to be lov'd himself, needs only to be known. Just, good and wise, contending neighbors ?
come, From your award to wait their final doom And, foes before, return in friendship home.