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F all the tedious things in the world, I was ever
the least friend to long Prefaces; and therefore I shall only commend to your hands this Collection of Miscellanies, occasionally composed at several times, as my humour and leisure fery'd me, with a brief account of my design, as to both parts of the Collection.
Not to trouble you with a pompous discourse of the nature of Poetry, its measures of Criticism, its variety, antiquity, its
great use and excellence, and the like, which have been at large set forth by many curious pens; I have only leisure at present to observe, that Poetry is of late mightily fallin from the beauty of its idea, and from its ancient majesty and grandeur, as well as credit and reputation.
It may appear ftrange indeed, that in such a refining age as this, wherein all things seem ready to receive their last turn and finishing stroke, Poetry should be the only thing that remains un improv'd. And yet fo it happens, that which we generally have now a days, is no more like the thing it was formerly, than modern religion is like primitive christianity:
'Tis with this as with our Mufick. From grave, majestick, folemn strains, where deep instruc
tive fense is sweetly convey'd in charming numbers, where equal address is made to the judgment and the imagination, and where beauty and strength go hand in hand; 'tis now for the most part dwindled down to light, frothy ftuff, consisting either of mad, extravagant rants, or slight witticisms, and little amorous conceits, fit only for a Tavern entertainment; and that too among Readers of a Dutch palate.
The truth is, this most exceldent and divine art has of late been fo cheapned and depretiated by the bungling performances of some who thought themfelves inspired, and whose readers too have been more kind to them than their planets, that Poetry is almost grown out of repute ; and men come strongly prejudiced against any thing of
this kind, as expecting nothing but froth and emptiness; and to be a Poet, goes for little more than a Countrey Fidler.
But certainly he had once another character, and that in as nice and wise an age as this. If we may believe the great Horace he was one,
---- Cui mens divinior, atque os Magna locuturum
He had then his Temple surrounded with a divine glory spoke like the Oracle of the God of Wisdom, and could describe no Hero greater than himself. Poetry was once the mistress of all the arts in the circle, that which held the reins of the world in her hand, and which gave the first, and (if we may judge by the effects) perhaps the best institutes
for the moralizing and governing the passions of mankind.
The design therefore of the present undertaking, is to restore the declining genius of Poetry to its primitive andgenuine greatnefs, to wind up the strings of the Muses lyre, and to shew that fense and gracefulness are as consistent in these as in any other compositions. I design here all the masculine sense and argument of a dissertation, with the advantage of poetick fineness, beauty and spirit; and accordingly I have made choice for the most part of divine and moral subjects; and if I meddle with any other fort, I commonly turn the stream another way, as particularly in those two Poems callid Beauty and Love, which I have rescued from those fordid abuses they have hitherto suffer'd.