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comes unless extorted. But I can be satisfied on more easy terms : if I happen to please the more moderate fort, I shall be sure of an honeft party, and, in all probability, of the best judges : for the least concerned are commonly the least corrupt. And I confess I have laid in for those, by rebating the satire, where justice would allow it, from carrying too sharp an 'edge. They who can criticise so weakly, as to . imagine I have done my worst, may be convinced at their own cost that I can write severely, with more ease than I can gently. I have but laughed at fome men's follies, when I could have declaimed against their vices : and other men's virtues I have commend. ed, as freely as I have taxed their crimes. And now, if you are a malicious reader, I expect you should return upon me that I affect to be thought more impartial than I am: but if men are not to be judged by
their professions, God forgive you commonwealth’s- men for profeffing so plauibly for the government.
You cannot be so unconscionable as to charge me for not subscribing my name; for that would reflect too grolly upon your own party, who never dare, though they have the advantage of a jury to secure them. If you like not my poem, the fault may posibly be in my writing; though it is hard for an author to judge against himself. But more probably it is in your morals, which cannot bear the truth of it. The violent on both sides will condemn the charalier of Absalom, as either too favourably or too hardly drawn. But they are not the violent whom I desire to please. The fault on the right hand is to extenuate, palliate, and
indulge; and to confess freely, I have endeavoured to commit it. Besides the respect which I owe his birth, I have a greater for his heroic virtues; and David himself could not be more tender of the young man's life, than I would be of his reputation. But since the most excellent natures are always the most easy, and, as being such, are the soonest perverted by ill counsels, especially when baited with fame and glory; it is no more a wonder that he withstood not the temptations of Achitophel, than it was for Adam not to have refifted the two devils, the serpent and the woman. The conclusion of the story I purposely forbore to prosecute, because I could not obtain from myself to thew Absalom unfortunate. The frame of it was cut out but for a picture to the waist; and if the draught be so far true, it is as much as I designed.
Were I the inventor, who am only the historian, I should certainly conclude the piece, with the reconcilement of Absalom to David. And who knows but this may come to pass ? Things were not brought to an extremity where I left the story: there seems yet to be room left for a composure; hereafter there may be only for pity. I have not so much as an uncharitable with against Achitophel ; but am content to he accused of a good-natured error, and to hope with Origen, that the devil himself may at last be saved.
For which reason, in this poem, he is neither brought to let his house in order, nor to dispose of his person afterwards as he in wildom thall think fit.
God is infinitely merciful; and his vicegerent is only not so, becaule he is not infinite.
The true end of satire is the amendment of vices by correction. And he, who writes honestly, is no more an enemy to the offender, than the physician to the patient, when he prescribes harsh remedies to an inveterate disease ; for those are only in order to prevent the chirurgeon's work of an Ense rescindendum, which I with not to my very enemies. To conclude all ; if the body politic have any analogy to the natural, in my weak judgment, an act of oblivion were as necefsary in a hot distempered state, as an opiate would be in a raging fever.
ABSALOM AND ACHITOPHE L.
Before polygamy was made a sin;
Of all the numerous progeny was none
peace the thoughts of war he could remove,
God's pamper'd people, whom debauch'd with ease,