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God, that we may be capable of his favour, and partakers of his felicity. The divine nature is the only perfect idea of happiness, and nothing but our conformity to it can make us happy. I have been so long upon this argument, on purpose to convince men of the necessity of holiness and goodness, and all other virtues, to our present and future happiness. They understand not the nature of happiness, who hope for it, or imagine they can attain it in any other way. The author and the fountain of happiness, he that made us, and alone can make us happy, cannot make us so in any other way, than by planting in us such a disposition of mind, as is in truth a participation of the divine nature, and by endowing us with such qualities as are the necessary materials and ingredients of happiness. There is no way to partake of the felicity of God blessed for ever, but by becoming holy and righteous, good and merciful as he is. All men naturally desire happiness, and seek after it, and are as they think travelling towards it, but generally they mistake their way. Many are eager in the pursuit of the things of this world, and greedily catch at pleasures and riches and honour, as if these could make them happy; but when they come to embrace them, they find that they are but clouds and shadows, and that there is no real and substantial felicity in them. “ Many say, who will shew us any good?” Meaning the good things of this world, corn, and wine, and oil; but wouldst thou be happy indeed? endeavour to be like the pattern of happiness, and the fountain of it; address thyself to him in the prayer of the psalmist, “Lord, lift thou up upon me the light of thy countenance, and thou shalt put more joy and gladness into my heart,” than the men of the world can have, when their corn and their wine increaseth. Many say, Lo here, and lo there ! that happiness is in a great place, or in a plentiful estate, or in the enjoyment of sensual pleasures and delight; but believe them not; happiness is something that is nearer and more intimate to us, than any of the things of this world; it is within thee, in thine heart, and in the very inward frame and disposition of thy mind.
In a word, if ever we would be happy, we must be like the blessed God, we must be holy, and merciful, and good, and just, as he is, and then we are secure of his favour; for “the righteous Lord loveth righteousness, and his countenance will behold the upright.” Then we shall be qualified for the enjoyment of him, and take pleasure in communion with him, because we shall be like him. For the surest foundation of love and friendship is a similitude of temper and disposition; every thing naturally affects its own likeness, and moves towards it, and greedily catcheth at it; and gladly runs into the embraces of it. God and man must be like one another, before they can take pleasure in one another: if we be unlike to God, it is in the nature of the thing impossible that we should be happy in one another, and therefore there must be a change either in God or us, to bring about this likeness. The nature of God is inflexible, fixed, and unchangeable; therefore change thyself, sinner, and endeavour to be like God; for since he cannot depart from his holiness, and purity, thou must leave thy sins, and be holy as he is holy, if ever thou hopest to be happy, as he is: “every man that hath this hope in him,” must “purify himself, even as he is pure.”
The advantages which rhyme has over blank verse, are so many, that it were lost time to name them. Sir Philip Sydney, in his Defence of Poesy, gives us one, which, in my opinion, is not the least considerable ; I mean the help it brings to memory: which rhyme so knits up by the affinity of sounds, that by remembering the last word in one line, we often call to mind both the verses. Then in the quickness of repartees which in discoursive scenes fall very often, it has so
particular a grace, and is so aptly suited to them, that the sudden smartness of the answer, and the sweetness of the rhyme, set off the beauty of each other. But that benefit which I consider most in it, because I have not seldom found it, is, that it bounds and circumscribes the fancy: for imagination in a poet is a faculty so wild and lawless, that like an high-ranging spaniel, it must have clogs tied to it, lest it outrun the judgment. The great easiness of blank verse renders the poet too luxuriant; he is tempted to say many things which might better be omitted, or at least shut up in fewer words: but when the difficulty of artful rhyming is interposed, where the poet commonly confines his sense to his couplet, and must contrive that sense into such words, that the rhyme shall naturally follow them, not they the rhyme; the fancy then gives leisure to the judgment to come in ; which seeing so heavy a tax imposed, is ready to cut off all unnecessary expences. This last consideration has already answered an objection which some have made; that rhyme is only an embroidery of sense, to make that which is ordinary in itself, pass for excellent with less examination. But certainly, that which most regulates the fancy, and gives the judgment its busiest employment, is like to bring forth the richest and clearest thoughts. The poet examines that most which he produceth with the greatest leisure, and which, he knows, must pass the severest test of the audience, because they are aptest to have it ever in their memory; as the stomach makes the best concoction, when it strictly embraces the nourishment, and takes account of every little particle as it passes through. But as the best medicines may lose their virtue by being ill applied, so is it with verse, if a fit subject be not chosen for it. Neither must the argument alone, but the characters and persons, be great and noble; otherwise, as Scaliger says of Claudian, the poet will be ignobiliore materiff depressus. The scenes, which, in my opinion, most commend it, are those of argumentation and discourse, on the result of which the doing or not doing some considerable action should depend.
ESSAY ON DRAMATIC POESY.
It was that memorable day, in the first summer of the late war, when our navy engaged the Dutch; a day wherein the two most mighty and best apppointed fleets which any age had ever seen, disputed the command of the greater half of the globe, the commerce of nations, and the riches of the universe: while these vast floating bodies, on either side, moved against each other in parallel lines, and our countrymen, under the happy conduct of his royal highness, went breaking, by little and little, into the line of the enemies; the noise of the cannon from both navies reached our ears about the city, so that all men being alarmed with it, and in a dreadful suspense of the event, which they knew was then deciding, every one went following the sound as his fancy led him ; and leaving the town almost empty, some took towards the park, some cross the river, others down it; all seeking the noise in the depth of silence.
Amongst the rest, it was the fortune of Eugenius, Crites, Lisideius, and Neander, to be in company together; three of them persons whom their wit and quality have made known to all the town ; and whom I have chose to hide under these borrowed names, that they may not suffer by so ill a relation as I am going to make of their discourse.
Taking then a barge, which a servant of Lisideius had provided for them, they made haste to shoot the bridge, and left behind them that great fall of waters which hindered them from hearing what they desired: after which, having disengaged themselves from many vessels which rode at anchor in the Thames, and almost blocked up the passage towards Greenwich, they ordered the watermen to let fall their oars more gently ; and then, every one favouring his own curiosity with a strict silence, it was not long ere they perceived the air to break about them like the noise of distant thunder, or of swallows in a chimney: those little undulations of sound, though almost vanishing before they reached them, yet still seeming to retain somewhat of their first horror, which they had betwixt the fleets. After they had attentively listened till such time as the sound by little and little went from them, Eugenius, lifting up his head, and taking notice of it, was the first who congratulated to the rest that happy omen of our nation's victory: adding, that we had but this to desire in confirmation of it, that we might hear no more of that noise, which was now leaving the English coast. When the rest had concurred in the same opinion, Crites, a person of a sharp judgment, and somewhat too delicate a taste in wit, which the world have mistaken in him for ill-nature, said, smiling to us, that if the concernment of this battle had not been so exceeding great, he could scarce have wished the victory at the price he knew he must pay for it, in being subject to the reading and hearing of so many ill verses as he was sure would be made on that subject. Adding, that no argument could scape some of those eternal rhymers, who watch a battle with more diligence than the ravens and birds of prey; and the worst of them surest to be first in upon the quarry : while the better able, either out of modesty writ not at all, or set that due value upon their poems, as to let them be often desired and long expected. There are some of those impertinent people of whom you speak, answered Lisideius, who to my knowledge are already so provided, either way, that they can produce not only a panegyric upon the victory, but, if need be, a funeral elegy on the duke; wherein, after they have crowned his valour with many laurels, they will at last deplore the odds under which he fell, concluding that his courage deserved a better destiny. All the company smiled at the conceit of Lisideius; but Crites, more eager than before, began to make particular exceptions against some writers, and said, the public magistrate ought to send betimes to forbid them ; and that it concerned the peace and quiet of all honest people, that ill poets should be as well silenced as seditious preachers.