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It was your love before made discord cease;
SATIRE ON THE DUTCH.
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR M.DC.LXII.
As needy gallants, in the scrivener's hands,
Some are resolv'd not to find out the cheat,
ANNUS MIRABILIS :
THE YEAR OF WONDERS, M.DC.LXTI.
AN HISTORICAL POEM.
AN ACCOUNT OF
TAE ENSUING POEM.
LETTER TO THE HON. SIR ROBERT HOWARD
I AM so many ways obliged to you, and so little able to return your favours, that, like those who owe too much, I can only live by getting farther into your debt. You have not only been careful of my fortune, which was the effect of your nobleness, but you have been solicitous of my reputation, which is that of your kindness. It is not long since I gave you the trouble of perusing a play for me,* and now, instead of an acknowledgment, I have given you a greater, in the correction of a Poem. But since you are to bear this persecution, I will at at least give you the encouragement of a martyr; ---you could never suffer in a nobler cause. For I *Conjectured to be “ The Indian Queen."
have chosen the most heroic subject which any Poet could desire: I have taken upon me to describe the motives, the beginning, progress, and successes, of a most just and necessary war; in it, the care, management, and prudence of our King ; the conduct and valour of a royal admiral,* and of two incomparable generals ;t the invincible courage of our captains and seamen ; and three glorious victories, the result of all. After this, I have in the firet the most deplorable, but, withal, the greatest argument that can be imagined; the destruction being so swift, so sudden, so vast and miserable, as nothing can parallel in story. The former part of this Poem, relating to the war, is but a due expiation for my not serving my king and country in it, All gentlemen are almost obliged to it; and I know no reason we should give that advantage to the commonalty of England, to be foremost in brave actions, which the nobles of France would never suffer in their peasants. I should not have written this, but to a person who has been ever forward to appear in all employments whither his honour and generosity have called him. The latter part of my Poem, which describes the fire, I owe first to the piety and fatherly affection of our Monarch to his suffering subjects; and, in the second place, to the courage, loyalty, and magnanimity of the City : both which were so conspicuous, that I have want. ed words to celebrate them as they deserve.
* James, Duke of York.
The fire of London, which destroyed more than 13,000 houses.
I have called my Poem Historical, not epic; though both the actions and actors are as much heroic as any poem can contain. But, since the action is not properly one, nor that accomplished in the last successes, I have judged it too bold a title for a few stanzas, which are little more in number than a single Iliad, or the longest of the Æneids. For this reason (I mean not of length, but broken action, tied too severely to the laws of History) I am apt to agree with those who rank Lucan rather among Historians in verse, than epic poets; in whose room, if I am not deceived, Silius Italicus, though a worse writer, may more justly be admitted.
I have chosen to write my Poem in quatrains, or stanzas of four in alternate rhyme, because I have ever judged them more noble, and of greater dignity, both for the sound and number, than any other verse in use amongst us; in which I am sure I have your approbation. The learned languages have, certainly, a great advantage of us, in not being tied to the slavery of any rhyme, and were less constrained in the quantity of every syllable, which they might vary with spondees or dactyls, besides so many other helps of grammatical figures, for the lengthening or abbreviation of them, than the modern are in the close of that one syllable, which often confines and more often corrupts the sense of all the rest. But in this necessity of our rhymes, I have always found the couplet-verse most easy, (though not so proper for this occasion) for there the work is sooner at an end, every two lines concluding the labour of the poet; but in quatrains he: