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proper an instance of poetick licence, as it is of variety of idiom in languages.
Horace a little explains himself on this subject of Licentia Poetica in verses :
Pictoribus atque Poetis
Serpentes avibus geminentur, tigribus hædi. He would have a poem of a piece; not to begin one thing, and end with another. He restrains it so far, that thoughts of an unlike nature ought not to be joined together. That were indeed to make a chaos. He taxed not Homer, nor the divine Virgil, for interessing their gods in the wars of Troy and Italy; neither, had he now lived, would he have taxed Milton, as our false criticks have presumed to do, for his choice of a supernatural argument; but he would have blamed my author, who was a Christian, had he introduced into his poems heathen deities, as Tasso is condemned by Rapin on the like occasion ; and as Camoëns, the author of the Lusiads, ought to be censured by all his readers, when he brings in Bacchus and Christ into the same adventure of his fable.
From that which has been said, it may be collected, that the definition of wit (which has been so often attempted, and ever unsuccessfully, by many poets) is only this,—that it is a propriety of thoughts and words ; or in other terms, thoughts and words elegantly adapted to the subject. If
our criticks will join issue on this definition, that we may convenire in aliquo tertio ; if they will take it as a granted principle, it will be easy to put an end to the dispute. No man will disagree from another's judgment, concerning this dignity of style in Heroick Poetry ; but all reasonable men will conclude it necessary, that sublimest subjects ought to be adorned with the sublimest, and consequently often, with the most figurative expressions. In the mean time, I will not run into their fault of imposing my opinions on other men, any more than I would my writings on their taste: I have only laid down, and that superficially enough, my present thoughts ; and shall be glad to be taught better by those who pretend to reform our poetry.
AUR ENG Z E B E.'
TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
JOHN, EARL OF MULGRAVE, GENTLEMAN OF HIS MAJESTY'S BEDCHAMBER, AND KNIGHT OF THE MOST NOBLE ORDER OF THE GARTER.
It is a severe reflection which Montaigne has made on Princes, that we ought not, in reason, to have any expectations from them; and that it is kindness enough, if they leave us in possession of our own. The boldness of the censure shews the free spirit of the author ; and the subjects of England may justly congratulate to themselves,
s This tragedy, which is written in rhyme, was first printed in 1676.
o John Sheffield, Earl of Mulgrave, was born in 1649, and was son of Edmund, earl of Mulgrave, who died in 1658. His mother was Elizabeth, one of the daughters of Lionel, earl of Middlesex, by his first wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Sheppard, a merchant of London. He was now, therefore, twenty-seven years old.
“ His character (says Dr. Johnson) is not to be pro. : posed as worthy of imitation. His religion he may be
that both the nature of our government, and the clemency of our King, secure us from any such complaint. I in particular, who subsist wholly by his bounty, am obliged to give posterity a far other account of my Royal Master, than what Montagne has left of his. Those accusations had been more reasonable, if they had been placed on inferior persons ; for in all courts there are too
supposed to have learned from Hobbes, and his morality was such as naturally proceeds from loose opinions. His sentiments with respect to women he picked up in the court of Charles, and his principles concerning property were such as a gaming table supplies. He was censured as covetous, and has been defended by an instance of inattention to his affairs ; as if a man might not at once be corrupted by avarice and idleness. He is said, however, to have had much tenderness, and to have been very ready to apologize for his violences of passion. -..
“In the EssAY ON SATIRE, he was always supposed to have the help of Dryden. His Essay on Poetry is the great work for which he was praised by Roscommon, Dryden, and Pope, and doubtless by many more whose eulogies have perished.” Life of SHEFFIELD.
Pope observed to Mr. Spence, that “ he was superficial in every thing, even in poetry, which was his forte.”
“ His famous Essay (said Dr. Lockier, Dean of Peterborough, who had personally known Dryden) has cer. tainly been cried up much more than it deserves, though corrected a good deal by Dryden. It was this which set him up for a poet, and he resolved to keep up that character, if he could by any means, fair or foul. Could any thing be more impudent than his publishing that Satire, for writing which Dryden was beaten in Rose Alley, (and