Page images

our common Authors, as will be plain from his Words, which I fhall quote before I have done this Preface.

To remove therefore this Ignorance of our Writers and Readers of Poefy, which has debas'd the Honour of this Mother of all Learning, was the Caufe of my Undertaking, by giving our English World thofe Rules, by the Obfervation of which, < Homer, Virgil, and the reft of the Antients gain'd immortal Reputation.

On the other fide, I knew very well that it was a Matter of no fmall difficulty to reafon People, out of Follies establish'd by Cuftom; and that the general Run of a noify Party, was against all Inftructions in this Kind, which they branded with the unpopular Name of Criticifm, which by the Ignorant Writers in Vogue, has been mifre- < prefented as an ill-natur'd Thing; and that too many Learned Men in feveral Languages, by a jejune way of handling this Art, had incumber'd its Maxims with Abundance of hard Terms, which not being obvious to to every Reader, render'd their Discoveries however valuable, rot fo inviting as to engage the Perufal of those who stood moft in need of them.

Monfieur Fontenelle's Book of the Plurality of Worlds, fo much prais'd by Sir William


Temple in his Elays, and plac'd by him in the next Form to the Antients, made me think of another Method than had hitherto generally been follow'd by the Critical Writers. For he has brought the three Systems of Aftronomy by a pleafing and familiar Drefs to the Capacity of a Lady, who had not any Learning, and nothing but good Senfe to direct her.

I have endeavor'd in the following Sheets, to come as near his Method as the Diffe rence of my Subje& from his would bear; where I was upon Generals, as the defence of Poetry, and the neceffity of the Rules, I hope I have shown this; but being in other Parts oblig'd to fpeak of the particular Rules of every fort of Poetry, all I could do was to deliver them as plainly, and as difencumber'd from Terms of Art as I poffibly cou'd, and I think through the whole I have made ufe of no Word which is not familiar to every Capacity, that knows any thing of the World. In the laft Dialogue indeed, where I was oblig'd to fpeak of the feveral Poetical Feet of the Greek and Latin Verfe, there was no avoiding putting their proper Names, but I have taken care fo to explain them, that every one, may be Master of what I advance.


I am far from aiming to impofe what I deliver as all my own. I write the Complete Art of Poetry, and therefore am under a neceffity to give the Rules convey'd down to us, which have been establifh'd thefe two Thou fand Years and upwards. All I pretend to, is, that I hope I have done this in a plain and eafy Manner, fo as not to tire my Reader, and yet give him a full Inftruction in the Art. And this leads me to the Authors I have confulted. Whatever I found of use to my Design in Ariftotle (chiefly) in Horace, Dionyfius of Halicarnaffs, Boileau, Rapin, Dar cier, Gerard Veffius's Poetical Inftitutions, the late Duke of Buckingham's Rehearsal, Mt. Rimer, the prefent Duke of Buckinghamshire's most excellent Essay on Poetry, Mr. Dennis, or any other I have made bold with; fo that my Reader will have the Satisfaction of great and illuftrious Inftructors, when he perufes my Book.

Having gone through the three Heads propofed by me for this Preface, I find I am oblig'd to add fomething more on Account of another Book in our Tongue, which at first View may feem to be of the fame Nature, and that is Mr. Byfshe's Art of English Poetry, with a Collection, &c. But I had no Thoughts of interfering with him, and indeed I do not; we propofe quite different


Ends, and therefore have purfued quite different Methods. He (tho' he calls his Book the Art of English Poetry) aims only at giving Rules for the Structure of an English Verse, at Rime, and the like. And thus in his Collection, he aims at fettling a fort of Dictionary of Epithets and Synonymous Words, which he tells us is the End of his Collection. But the Defign of my Collection, is to give the Reader the great Images that are to be found in thofe of our Poets, who are truly great, as well as their Topics and Moral Reflections. And for this Reason I have been pretty large in my Quotations, from Spenfer, whom he has rejected, and have gone through Shakespear, whom he feems willing to exclude, being fatisfy'd that the Charms of thefe two great Poets are too strong not to touch the Soul of any one who has a true Genius for Poetry, and by Confequence enlarge that Imagination, which is fo very neceffary for all Poetical Performances. And fince Milton and Waller were made Poets by Spenfer, I do fuppofe the fame Caufe may in all Probability have the fame Effect When I fay that Spenfer made thofe two great Men Poets, I only, mean that the true Ethereal Fire that they found in him, rous'd that Genius, which each of them had by Nature, into A&t.


If in this Collection any of the fame Verfes fhould happen to be found, it is not because they were in Mr. Byfshe's, but because they were found in the Poets as I read them, and as free for me to quote as for him. 'Tis plain I follow him not, when of all his Lift of Names I have fearce medled with above four.

This Gentleman indeed, and I are of quite a different Opinion of Poetry, he tells us in his Preface. For upon the whole Matter (fays he) it was not my Business to judge any further, than on the Vigour and Force of Thought, of the Purity of the Language, of the Aptnefs and Propriety of Expreffion, and above all of the Beauty of Colouring, in which the Poet's Art chiefly confifts:

But I have in the Body of the Book prov'd that the Poet's Art does not chiefly confift in the Colouring, any more than that of the Painter, but in the Defign. Which puts me in Mind of a Repartee of Michael Angelo, on Titian, who feeing the Pieces of the former, faid he would be an excellent Painter if he understood Colouring: And Titian reply'd, the other would be a very good Painter if he understood Defigning..


I will not oppofe to him Ariftotle, Horace, Boffu, Dacier, and other great Men among Antients and Moderns, left he should ex


« PreviousContinue »