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TAERE is a natural love and fondness in Englishmen for whatever was done in the reign of queen Elizabeth; we look upon her time as our golden age; and the great men who lived in it, as our chiefest heroes of virtue, and greatest examples of wisdom, courage, integrity and learning.
Among many others, the author of this poem me. rits a lasting honour ; for, as he was a most eloquent lawyer, so, in the composition of this piece, we admire him for a good poet, and exact philosopher. It is not rhyming that makes a poet, but the true and impartial representing of virtue and vice, so as to instruct mankind in matters of greatest importance. And this observation has been made of our countrymen, that sir John Suckling wrote in the most courtly and gentleman-like style; Waller in the most sweet and flowing numbers; Denham with the most accurate judgment and correctness; Cowley with pleasing softness, and plenty of imagination: none ever uttered more divine thought than Mr. Herbert; none more philosophical than sir John Davies. His thoughts are moulded into easy and significant words ; his rhymes never mislead the sense, but are led and governed by it: so that in reading such useful performances, the wit of
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 store. house of his own mind, which gives the whole work a real and natural beauty; when that which is borPowed 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 behold. ing 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 Æneid, 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 Æneas ? Because in their characters we have wisdom, honour, forti. tude, 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