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touching wherefore is so distasteful and disquietous to a number of men; as by what hath been said I may deserve of charitable readers to be credited, that neither envy nor gall hath entered me upon this controversy, but the enforcement of conscience only, and a preventive fear lest this duty should be against me, when 1 would store up to myself the good provision of peaceful hours; so, lest it should be still imputed to me, as I have found it hath been, that some self-pleasing humors of vain-glory hath incited me to contest with men of high estimation, now while green years are upon my head; from this needless surmisal I shall hope to dissuade the intelligent and equal auditor, if I can but say successfully that which in this exigent behooves me; although I would be heard only, if it might be, by the elegant and learned reader, to whom principally for a while I shall beg leave I may address myself. ■
To him it will be no new thing, though I tell him that if I hunted after praise, by the estimation of wit and learning, I should not write thus out of mine own season, when I have neither yet completed to my mind the full circle of my private studies, although I complain not of any insufficiency to the matter in hand; or were I ready to my wishes, it were a folly to commit any thing elaborately composed to the careless and interrupted listening of these tumultuous times. * *
I must say, therefore, that after I had for my first years, by the ceaseless diligence and care of my father, (whom God recompense,) been exercised to the tongues, and some sciences, as my age would suffer, by sundry masters and teachers at home and at the school, it was found, that whether aught was imposed me by them that had the overlooking, or betaken to of my own choice in English, or other tongue, prosing or versing, but chiefly this latter, the style, by certain vital signs it had, was likely to live.
But much lateher in the private academies of Italy, whither I was favored to resort, perceiving that some trifles which I had in memory, composed at under twenty or thereabout, (for the manner is, that every one must give some proof of his wit and reading there,) met with acceptance above what was looked for;""and other things, which I had shifted in scarcity of books and conveniences to pack up amongst them, were received with written encomiums, which the Italian is not forward to bestow on men of this side the Alps; I began thus far to assent both to them and divers of my friends here at home, and not less to an inward prompting, which now grew daily upon me, that with labor and intense study, (which I take to be my portion in this life,) joined with the strong propensity of nature, I might perhaps leave something so written to aftertimes, as they should not willingly let it die. •
These thoughts at once possessed me; and these other, that if 1 were certain to write as men buy leases, for three lives and downward, there ought no regard he sooner had, than to God's glory, by the honor and instruction of my country.
For which cause, and not only for that I knew it would be hard to arrive at the second rank among the Latins, I applied myself to that resolution which Ariosto followed against the persuasions of Bembo, to fix all the industry and art I could unite to the adorning of my native tongue; not to make verbal curiosities the end, (that were a toilsome vanity,) but to be an interpreter and relater of the best and sagest things, among mine own citizens throughout this island in the mother dialect: that, what the greatest and choicest wits of Athens, Rome, or modern Italy, and those Hebrews of old, did for their country, I, in my proportion, with this over and above, of being a Christian, might do for mine; not caring to be once named abroad, though perhaps I could attain to that; but content with these British islands as my world; whose fortune hath hitherto been, that, if the Athenians, as some say, made their small deeds great and renowned by their eloquent writers, England hath had her noble achievements made small by the unskilful handling of monks and mechanics.
Time serves not now, and perhaps I might seem too profuse to give any certain account of what the mind at home, in the spacious circuits of her musing, hath liberty to propose to herself,1 though of highest hope and hardest attempting; whether that epic form whereof the two poems of Homer, and those other two of Virgil and Tasso, are a diffuse, and the Book of Job a brief model;—or whether the rules of Aristotle herein are strictly to be kept, or nature to be followed, which in them that show art, and use judgment, is no transgression, but an enriching of art: or, lastly, what king, or knight, before the Conquest, might be chosen in whom to lay the pattern of a Christian hero.
And, as Tasso gave to a prince of Italy his choice, whether he would command him to write of Godfrey's expedition against the infidels, or Belisarius against the Goths, or Charlemagne against the Lombards; if to the instinct of nature and emboldening of art aught may be trusted, and there be nothing adverse in our climate or the fate of this age, it haply would be no rashness, from an equal diligence and inclination, to present the like offer in our own ancient stories; or whether those dramatic compositions, wherein Sophocles and Euripides reign, shall be found more doctrinal and exemplary to a nation.
The Scripture also affords us a divine pastoral drama in the "Song of Solomon," consisting of two persons, and a double cho
1 Here in evidence ot his first conception* of his Immortal Epic.
rus, as Origen rightly judges: and the "Apocalypse" of St. John is the majestic image of a high and stately tragedy, shutting up and intermingling her solemn scenes and acts with a sevenfold chorus of hallelujahs and harping symphonies; and this, my opinion, the grave authority of Paraus, commenting that book, is sufficient to confirm.
Or, if occasion shall lead to imitate those magnific odes and hymns, wherein Pindarus and Callimachus are, in most things, worthy; some others in their frame judicious, in their matter most an end faulty.
But those frequent songs throughout the law and prophets, beyond all these, not in their divine arguments alone, but in the verycritical art of composition, may be easily made appear over all kinds of lyric poesy to be incomparable.
These abilities,1 wheresoever they be found, are the inspired gift of God, rarely bestowed, but yet to some, though most abused, in every nation; and are of power, beside the office of a pulpit, to imbreed and cherish in a great people the seeds of virtue and public civility; to allay the perturbations of the mind, and set the affections in right tune; to celebrate in glorious and lofty hymns the throne and equipage of God's almightiness, and what he works, and what he suffers to be wrought with high providence in his church; to sing victorious agonies of martyrs and saints, the deeds and triumphs of just and pious nations, doing valiantlythrough faith against the enemies of Christ; to deplore the general relapses of kingdoms and states from justice and God's true worship.
Lastly, whatsoever in religion is holy and sublime; in virtue amiable or grave; whatsoever hath passion or admiration in all the changes of that which is called fortune from without, or the wily subtleties and refluxes of man's thoughts from within; all these things with a solid and treatable smoothness to paint out and describe: tracking over the whole book of sanctity and virtue, through all the instances of example, with such delight to those especially of soft and delicious temper, who will not so much as look upon truth herself, unless they see her elegantly dressed; that, whereas the paths of honesty and good life appear now rugged and difficult, though they be indeed easy and pleasant, they will then appear to all men both easy and pleasant, though they were rugged and difficult indeed.
And what a benefit this would be to our youth and gentry, may be soon guessed by what we know of the corruption and bane, which they suck in daily from the writings and interludes of libidinous and ignorant poetasters, who having scarce ever heard of
1 To rue, tills has ever teemed the loftiest paragraph In EngUkh prose literature
that which is the main consistence of a true poem, the choice of such persons as they ought to introduce, and what is moral and decent to each one; do for the most part lay up vicious principles in sweet pills to be swallowed down, and make the taste of virtuous documents harsh and sour. * *
Neither do I think it shame to covenant with my knowing reader, that for some few years yet, I may go on trust with him toward the payment of what I am now indebted; as being a work not to be raised from the heat of youth, or the vapours of wine, like that which flows at waste from the pen of some vulgar amorist, or the trencher fury of a rhyming parasite; nor to be obtained from the invocation of dame Memory and her siren daughters; but by devout prayer to that eternal Spirit,1 who can enrich with all utterance and knowledge, and sends out his Seraphim with the hallowed fire of his altar to touch and purify the lips of whom he pleases.
To this must be added industrious and select reading, steady observation, insight into all seemly and generous arts and affairs; till which in some measure be compassed, at my own peril and cost. I refuse not to sustain this expectation from as many as are not loath to hazard so much credulity upon the best pledges that I can give them.
ARGUMENT FOR THE LIBERTY OF THE PRESS.
Lest some should persuade ye, Lords and Commons, that these arguments of learned men's discouragement at this your order are mere nourishes, and not real, I could recount what I have seen and heard in other countries, where this kind of inquisition tyrannizes; when I have sat among their learned men, (for that honor I had,) and been counted happy to be born in such a place of philosophic freedom, as they supposed England was, while themselves did nothing but bemoan the servile condition into which learning amongst them was brought; that this was it which had damped the glory of Italian wits; that nothing had been there written now these many years but flattery and fustian. There it was that I found and visited the famous Galileo, grown old, a prisoner to the inquisition, for thinking in astronomy otherwise than the Franciscan and Dominican licensers thought. And though I knew that England then was groaning loudest under the prelatical yoke, nevertheless I took it as a pledge of future happiness that other nations were so persuaded of her liberty. Yet it was be yond my hope that those worthies were then breathing in her air,
1 "And chiefly thou, O Spirit tlwt dost prefer
who should be her leaders to such a deliverance, as shall never be forgotten by any revolution of time that this world hath to finish.
ENGLAND AND LONDON.
Lords and Commons of England! consider what nation it is whereof ye are, and whereof ye are the governors: a nation not slow and dull, but of a quick, ingenious, and piercing spirit; acute to invent, subtle and sinewy to discourse, not beneath the reach of any point the highest that human capacity can soar to. Therefore the studies of learning in her deepest .sciences have been so ancient and so eminent among us, that writers of good antiquity and able judgment have been persuaded that even the school of Pythagoras and the Persian wisdom took beginning from the old philosophy of this island. And that wise and civil Roman, Julius Agricola, who governed once here for Caesar, preferred the natural wits of Britain, before the labored studies of the French. Behold now this vast city; a city of refuge, the mansion-house of liberty, encompassed and surrounded with his protection; the shop of war hath not there more anvils and hammers waking, to fashion out the plates and instruments of armed justice in defence of beleaguered truth, than there be pens and heads there, sitting by their studious lamps, musing, searching, revolving new notions and ideas, wherewith to present, as with their homage and their fealty, the approaching reformation; others as fast reading, trying all things, assenting to the force of reason and convinceroent. What could a man require more from a nation so pliant and so prone to seek after knowledge? What wants there to such a towardly and pregnant soil, but wise and faithful laborers, to make a knowing people, a nation of prophets, of sages, and of worthies? we reckon more than five months yet to harvest; there need not be five weeks, had we but eyes to lift up; the fields are white already.
Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant nation rousing herself like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks; methinks I see her as an eagle muing her mighty youth, and kindling her dazzled eyes at the full mid-day beam; purging and unsealing her long abused sight at the fountain itself of heavenly radiance; while the whole noise of timorous and flocking birds, with those also that love the twilight, flutter about, amazed at what she means, and in their envious gabble would prognosticate a year of sects and schisms.
Error supports custom, custom countenances error: and these two between them would persecute and chase away all truth and solid wisdom out of human life, were it not that God, rather than 'nan, once in many ages calls together the prudent and religious