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WHEN at the first I took my pen in hand
Thus for to write, I did not understand
That I at all should make a little book
In such a mode; nay, I had undertook
To make another; which, when almost done,
Before I was aware I this begun.
And thus it was: I writing of the way
And race of saints in this our gospel-day,
Fell suddenly into an allegory
About their journey, and the way to glory,
In more than twenty things which I set down:
This done, I twenty more had in my crown;
And they again began to multiply,
Like sparks that from the coals of fire do fly.
Nay, then, thought I, if that you breed so fast
I'll put you by yourselves, lest you at last
Should prove ad infinitum, and eat out
The book that I already am about.
Well, so I did; but yet I did not think
To show to all the world my pen and ink
In such a mode; I only thought to make
I knew not what: nor did I undertake
Thereby to please my neighbor: no, not I;
I did it my own self to gratify
Neither did I but vacant seasons spend In this my scribble: nor did I intend
But to divert myself in doing this,
From worser thoughts which make me do amiss.
Thus I set pen to paper with delight,
And quickly had my thoughts in black and white.
For having now my method by the end,
Still as I pull'd, it came; and so I penn'd
It down until it came at last to be,
For length and breadth, the bigness which you see.
Well, when i had thus put my ends together,
I shew'd them others, that I might see whether
They would condemn them, or them justify:
And some said, Let them live; some, Let them die;
Some said, John, print it; others said, Not so;
Some said, It may do good; others said, No.
Now I was in a strait, and did not see
Which was the best thing to be done by me :
At last I thought, Since ye are thus divided,
I print it will; and so the case decided.
For, thought I, some I see would have it done,
Though others in that channel do not run :
To prove then, who advised for the best,
Thus I thought fit to put it to the test.
I farther thought, if now I did deny
Those that would have it, thus to gratify;
I did not know, but hinder them I might
Of that which would be to them great delight.
For those who were not for its coming forth,
I said to them, Offend you I am loath:
Yet since your brethren pleased with it be,
Forbear to judge, till you do farther see.
If that thou wilt not read, let it alone;
Some love the meat, some love to pick a bone.
Yea, that I might them better moderate,
I did too with them thus expostulate :
May I not write in such a style as this?
In such a method too, and yet not miss
My end-thy good? Why may it not be done?
Dark clouds bring water, when the bright bring noue,
Yea, dark or bright, if they their silver drops
Cause to descend, the earth, by yielding crops,
Gives praise to both, and carpeth not at either,
But treasures up the fruit they yield together;
Yea, so commixes both, that in their fruit
None can distinguish this from that; they suit
Her well when hungry; but if she be full,
She spews out both, and makes their blessing null
You see the ways the fisherman doth take
To catch the fish; what engines doth he make!
Behold how he engageth all his wits;
Also his snares, lines, angles, hooks, and nets;
Yet fish there be, that neither hook nor line,
Nor snare, nor net, nor engine can make thine:
They must be grop'd for, and be tickled too,
Or they will not be catch'd, whate'er you do.
How does the fowler seek to catch his game
By divers means! all which one cannot name:
His gun, his nets, his lime-twigs, light, and bell:
He creeps, he goes, he stands; yea, who can tell
Of all his postures? Yet there's none of these
Will make him master of what fowls he please.
Yea, he must pipe and whistle, to catch this;
Yet if he does so, that bird he will miss.
If that a pearl may in a toad's head dwell,
And may be found too in an oyster-shell
If things that promise nothing do contain
What better is than gold; who will disdain,
That have an inkling of it, there to look,
That they may find it? Now my little book,
(Though void of all these paintings that may make
It with this or the other man to take,)
Is not without those things that do excel
What do in brave, but empty notions dwell.
'Well, yet I am not fully satisfied,
That this your book will stand, when soundly tried.'
Why, what's the matter? It is dark.' What though?
'But it is feigned.' What of that? I trow
Some men by feigned words, as dark as mine,
Make truth to spangle, and its rays to shine.
'But they want solidness.' Speak, man, thy mind.
'They drown the weak; us metaphors make blind.'
Solidity, indeed, becomes the pen
Of him that writeth things divine to men :
But must I needs want solidness, because
By metaphors I speak? Were not God's laws,
His gospel laws in older times held forth
By types, shadows, and metaphors? Yet loath
Will any sober man be to find fault
With them, lest he be found for to assault
The highest wisdom? No, he rather stoops,
And seeks to find out by what pins and loops,
By calves and sheep, by heifers and by rams,
By birds and herbs, and by the blood of lambs,
God speaketh to him; and happy is he
That finds the light and grace that in them be.
Be not to forward therefore to conclude
That I want solidness-that I am rude:
All things solid in show, not solid be;
All things in parables despise not we,
Lest things most hurtful lightly we receive,
And things that good are of our souls bereave.
My dark and cloudy words, they do but hold
The truth, as cabinets inclose the gold.
The prophets used much by metaphors To set forth truth: yea whoso considers Christ, his apostles too, shall plainly see, That truths to this day in such mantles be.
Am I afraid to say, that holy writ,
Which for its style and praise puts down all wit,
Is every where so full of all these things,
Dark figures, allegories? Yet there springs
From that same book, that lustre, and those rays
Of light, that turn our darkest nights to days.
Come, let my carper to his life now look,
And find there darker lines than in my book
He findeth any: yea, and let him know,
That in his best things there are worse lines too.
May we but stand before impartial men, To his poor one I dare adventure ten,
That they will take my meaning in these lines
Far better than his lies in silver shrines.
Come, truth, although in swaddling clothes, 1 and
Informs the judgment, rectifies the mind;
Pleases the understanding, makes the will
Submit, the memory too it doth fill
With what doth our imagination please;
Likewise it tends our troubles to appease.
Sound words, I know, Timothy is to use,
And old wives' fables he is to refuse ;
But yet grave Paul him no where did forbid
The use of parables; in which lay hid
That gold, those pearls, and precious stones that were
Worth digging for, and that with greatest care.