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TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
LADY ANNA MARIA STANHOPE.
WHOM Courts caress, and Homage distant views,
Will STANHOPE, fam'd of Beauty's virgin throng,
Won by the warbling of poetic song, Crown with her smiles no unambitious Muse ? Than thine, what fairer name should Fancy choose,
On which her notes delighted to prolong;
Thee, whom indeed her sweetest praise might wrong, Though love the raptur'd theme the bard pursues !
Yet, not thy Charms this plausive strain command : Goodness with rank, with virtue Taste allied, These, or than storied state or blooming pride,
Grace best the daughters of thy native land. Lady! for these, such meed the Fates inspire, Now at thy feet submiss Love lays his Lyre.
Some remarks on the English Amatory Poets, while they will best explain the principles by which it has been directed, seem naturally introductory of the Selection now submitted to the public.
I. To the laws of Chivalry, which demanded that a knight should be qualified to sing the praises of her for whom he aspired to contend, is probably to be ascribed the partiality for amatorial composition so observable in our early bards. Their songs, however, occupied with descriptive eulogium, or an ostentatious display of the attractions and qualifications of their mistresses, seldom breathe that fervour of heart, that seductive tenderness, which, as it constitutes the highest charm of such effusions, is indispensibly required in the poetical addresses of the present times.
II. During the reign of Henry the Eighth, by whose example the current of fashion became diverted in favour of gallantry, Petrarch was accordingly studied, and not unsuccessfully imitated, by Surrey and Wyat. Suckling, deviating notwithstanding from the general practice, though with questionable merit, gave a novel turn to familiar feelings; and, if he failed to gratify the votaries of sensibility, he at least amused the admirers of humour and ingenuity. Perhaps it is to be suspected that he was not innocent of designing to ridicule the serious productions of his contemporaries.
III. Queen Elizabeth, while she fettered the originality of description, by expecting adulatory allusions to herself, nevertheless encouraged the prevailing predilection for love verses. Harrington, Sidney, Raleigh, Spenser, Daniel, Drayton, Shakspeare, Donne, Jonson, assiduously courted, under her auspices, the smiles of the softer muse. Cowley, in a succeeding age, affirms that “poets are scarcely thought freemen of their company without paying some duties, or obliging themselves to be true to love." He might have added, however, that it was not every
freeman who was qualified to take up his livery.
Neither the pedantry of James the First, nor the turbulence experienced under his unfortunate Successor in the throne, appear to have silenced the strains dedicated by genius to beauty. Drummond, Carew, Walter, Habington, Lovelace, Herrick, and