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Horace's wit, and Virgil's state,
As one of Denham's principal claims to the regard of posterity arises from his im. provement of our numbers, his versification ought to be considered. It will afford that pleasure which arises from the observation of a man of judgment, naturally right, forsaking bad copies by degrees, and advancing towards a better practice as he gains more confidence in himself.
In his translation of Virgil, written when he was about twenty-one years old, may be still found the old manner of continuing the sense upgracefully from verse to verse.
Then all those
From this kind of concatenated metre he afterwards refrained, and taught his fola lowers the art of concluding their sense in couplets; which has perhaps been with ra. ther too much constancy pursued.
This passage exhibits one of those triplets which are not unfrequent in this first essay, but which it is to be supposed his maturer judgment disapproved, since in his Jatter works he has totally forborn them.
His rhimes are such as secm found without difficulty, by following the sense; and are for the most part as exact at least as those of other pocts, though now and then the reader is shisted off with what he can get;
O how transform'd!
And again :
From thence a thousand lesser poets sprung
Sometimes the weight of rhime is laid upon a word too feeble to sustain it:
Troy confounded falls
He is not very careful to vary the ends of his verses; in one passage the word die rhymes three couplets in six.
Most of these petty faults are in his first productions, where he was less skilful, or at least less dextrous in the use of words; and though they had been more frequent, they could only have lessened the grace, not the strength of his composition. He is one of the writers that improved our taste, and advanced our language; and whom we ought therefore to read with gratitude, though, having done much, he left much to do.
SIR, AFTER the delivery of your royal father's person into the hands of the army, I undertaking to the queen-mother that I would find some means to get access to him, she was pleased to send me; and by the help of Hugh Peters I got my admittance, and coming well-instructed from the queen (bis majesty having been kept long in the dark) he was pleased to discourse very freely with me of the whole state of his affairs, But, sir, I will not lanch into an history, instead of an epistle. One morning waiting on him at Causham, smiling upon me, he said he could tell me some news of myself, which was, that he had seen some verses of mine the evening before (being those to sir R. Fanshaw); and asking me when I made them, I told hin two or three years since ; he was pleased to say, that having never seen them before, he was afraid I had written them since my return into England, and though he liked them well, he would advise me to write no more; alledging, that when mến are young, and have little else to do, they might vent the overflowings of their fancy that way; but when they were thought fit for more serious employments, if they still persisted in that course, it would look as if they minded not the way to any better.
Whereupon I stood corrected as long as I had the bonour to wait upon him, and at his departure from Hampton-Court, he was pleased to come mand me to stay privately at London, to send to him and receive from him all his letters from and to all his correspondents at home and abroad, and I was furnished with nine several cyphers in order to it: which trust I performed with great safety to the persons with whom we corresponded ; but about nine months after being discovered by their knowledge of Mr. Cowley's hand, I happily escaped both for myself, and those that held correspondence with me. That time was too hot and busy for such idle specu- • lations: but after I had the good fortune to wait upon your majesty in Holland and France, you were pleased sometimes to give me arguments to divert and put off the evil hours of our banishment, which now and then fell not short of your majesty's expectation.
After, when your majesty, departing from St. Germains to Jersey, was pleased freely (without my asking) to confer upon me that place wherein I have now the honour to serve you, I then gave over poetical lines, and made it my business to draw such others as might be more serviceable to your majesty, and I hope inore lasting. Since that time I never disobeyed my old master's commands till this summer at the Wells, my retirement there tempting me to divert those melancholy thoughts, which the new apparitions of foreign invasion and doinestic discontent gave us : but these clouds being now happily blown over, and our sun clearly shining out again, I have recovered the relapse, it being suspected that it would have proved the epidemical disease of age, which is apt to fall back into the follies of youth; yet Socrates, Aristotle, and Cato did the same; and Scaliger saith, that fragment of Aristotle was beyond any thing that Pindar or Homer ever wrote. I will not call this a dedication, for those epistles are commonly greater absurdities than any that come after; for what author can reasonably believe, that fixing the great name of some eminent patron in the forehead of his book can charm away censure, and that the first leaf should be curtain to draw over and hide all the deformities that stand behind it; neither have l any need of such shifts, for most of the parts of this body have already had your majesty's view, and baving past the test of so clear and sharp-sighted a judgment, which has as good a title to give law in matters of this nature as in any other, they who shall presume to dissent from your majesty, will do more wrong to their own judgment than their judgment can do to me: and for those latter parts which have not yet received your majesty's favourable aspect, if they who have seen them do not fatter me (for I dare not trust my own judgment) they will make it appear, that it is not with me as with most of mankind, who never forsake their darling vices, till their vices forsake them; and that this divorce was not frigiditatis causa, but an act of choice, and not of necessity. Therefore, sir, I shall only call it an humble petition, that your majesty will please to pardon this new amour to my old mistress, and iny disobedience to his commands, to whose memory I look