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believe too, more than both. And upon these considerations I have been persuaded to overcome all the just repugnances of my own modesty, and to produce these poems to the light and view of the world; not as a thing that I approved of in itself, but as a less evil, which I chose rather than to stay till it were done for me by somebody else, either surreptitiously before, or avowedly after, my death ; and this will be the more excusable, when the reader shall know in what respects he may look upon me as a dead, or at least a dying person, and upon my Muse in this action, as appearing, like the emperor Charles the fifth, and assisting at her own funeral.
For, to make myself absolutely dead in a poetical capacity, my resolution at present is, never to exercise any more that faculty. It is, I confess, but seldom seen that the poet dies before the man; for, when we once fall in love with that bewitching art, we do not use to court it as a mistress, but marry it as a wife, and take it for better or worse, as an inseparable companion of our whole life. But, as the marriages of infants do but rarely prosper, so no man ought to wonder at the diminution or decay of my affection to poesy; to which I had contracted myself so much under age, and so much to my own prejudice in regard of those more profitable matches, which I might have made among the richer sciences. As for the portion which this brings of fame, it is an estate (if it be any, for men are not oftener deceived in their hopes of widows, than in their opinion of * Exegi monumentum aere perennius—”) that hardly ever comes in whilst we are living to enjoy it, but is a fantastical kind of reversion to our own selves: neither ought any man to envy poets this posthumous and imaginary happiness, since they find commonly so little in present, that it may be truly applied to them, which St. Paul speaks of the first Christians, * If their reward be in this life, they are of all men “ the most miserable.”
And, if in quiet and flourishing times they meet with so small encouragement, what are they to expect in rough and troubled ones? If wit be such a plant, that it scarce receives heat enough to preserve it alive even in the summer of our cold climate, how can it choose but wither in a long and a sharp winter? A warlike, various, and a tragical age is best to write of, but worst to write in. And I may, though in a very unequal proportion, assume that to myself, which was spoken by Tully to a much better person, upon occasion of the civil wars and revolutions in his time: “Sed in te intuens, Brute, doleo: cujus in adolescen
“ tiam, per medias laudes, quasi quadrigis vehentem, “ transversa incurrit misera fortuna reipublicae".”
Neither is the present constitution of my mind more proper than that of the times for this exercise, or rather divertisement. There is nothing that requires so much serenity and cheerfulness of spirit; it must not be either overwhelmed with the cares of life, or overcast with the clouds of melancholy and sorrow, or shaken and disturbed by the storms of injurious fortune; it must, like the halcyon, have fair weather to breed in. The soul must be filled with bright and delightful ideas, when it undertakes to communicate delight to others; which is the main end of poesy. One may see through the style of Ovid de Trist. the humbled and dejected condition of spirit with which he wrote it; there scarce remains any footstep of that genius,
The cold of the country had strucken through all his faculties, and benumbed the very feet of his verses. He is himself, methinks, like one of the stories of his own Metamorphosis; and, though there remain some weak resemblances of Ovid at Rome, it is but, as he says of Niobef,
* Cic. de Clar. Orator. §331. + Metam. l. xv. 871.
1. Metam. l. vi. 304.
“In vultu colorest sine sanguine: lumina moestis “Stant immota genis : nihilest in imagine vivi.* Flet tamen—”
The truth is, for a man to write well, it is necessary to be in good humour; neither is wit less eclipsed with the unquietness of mind, than beauty with the indisposition of body. So that it is almost as hard a thing to be a poet in despite of fortune, as it is in despite of nature. For my own part, neither my obligations to the Muses, nor expectations from them, are so great, as that I should suffer myself on no considerations to be divorced, or that I should say like Horace*,
“Quisquis erit vitae, scribam, color.”
“Barbiton hic paries habebit.”
And this resolution of mine does the more befit me, because my desire has been for some years past (though the execution has been accidentally diverted) and does still vehemently continue, to retire myself to some of our American plantations, not to seek for gold, or enrich myself with the traffic of those parts (which is the end of most men that travel thither; so that of these Indies it is truer than it was of the former,
* Hor. 2 Sat. i. 60. 1 3 Carm. Ode xxvi. “Vixi puellis,” &c.
“Impiger extremos currit mercator ad Indos,
but to forsake this world for ever, with all the vanities and vexations of it, and to bury myself there in some obscure retreat (but not without the consolation of letters and philosophy)
as my former author speaks too, who has enticed me here, I know not how, into the pedantry of this heap of Latin sentences. And I think Dr. Donne's Sundyal in a grave is not more useless and ridiculous, than poetry would be in that retirement. As this there
fore is in a true sense a kind of death to the Muses, and a real literal quitting of this world; so, methinks, I may make a just claim to the undoubted privilege of deceased poets, which is, to be read with more favour than the living;