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EARL of ABINGDON, &e.
HE commands, with which you honored
me some months ago, are now performed: they had been sooner ; but betwixt ill health, some business, and many troubles, I was forced to defer them till this time. Ovid, going to his banishment, and writing from on shipboard to his friends, excused the faults of his poetry by his misfortunes; and told them, that good verses never flow, but from a serene and composed spirit. Wit, which is a kind of Mercury; with wings fastened to his head and heels, can fly but slowly in a damp air. I therefore chose rather to obey you late than ill : if at least I am capable of writing any thing, at any time, which is worthy your perusal and your patronage. I cannot say that I have escaped from a shipwreck; but have only gained a rock by hard swimming; where I may pant a while and gather breath : for the doctors give me a sad assurance, that my disease never took its leave of any man, but with a purpofe to teturn. However, my lord, I have laid hold on
the interval, and managed the finall stock, which age has left me, to the best advantage, in performing this inconsiderable service to my lady's memory. We, who are priests of Apollo, have not the inspiration when we please ; but must wait till the God comes rushing on us, and invades us with a fury, which we are not able to resist: which gives us double strength while the fit continues, and leaves us languishing and spent, at its departure. Let me not seem to boast, ny lord, for I have really felt it on this occasion, and prophesied beyond my
power. Let me add, and hope to be believed, that the excellency of the subject contributed much to the happiness of the execution ; and that the weight of thirty years was taken off me, while I was writing. I swam with the tide, and the water under me was buoyant. The reader will easily observe, that I was transported by the multitude and variety of my fimilitudes; which are generally the product of a luxuriant sancy, and the wantonness of wit. Had I called in my judgment to my aslistance, I had certainly retrenched many of them. But I defend them not; let them pass for beautiful faults amongst the better fort of critics : for the 6
thọ written in that which they call Heroic versc, is of the Findaric nature, as well in the thought as the expression; and, as such, requires the same grains of allowance for it. It was intended, as your lordship fees in the title,
not for an elegy, but a panegyric : a kind of hyi pothesis, indeed, if a heathen word
applied to a christian use. And on all occasions of praise, if we take the ancients for cur patterns, we are bound by prescription to employ the magnificence of words, and the force of figures, to adorn the sublimity of thoughts. Ifocrates amongst the Grecian orators, and Cicero, and the younger Pliny, amongst the Romans, have left us their precedents for our security : for I think I need not mention the inimitable Pindar, who stretches on these pinions out of sight, and is carried upward, as it were, into another world.
This, at least, my lord, I may justly plead, that, if I have not perform’d so well as I think I have, yet I have used my best endeavors to excel myself. One disadvantage I have had; which is, never to have known or seen my lady: and to draw the lineaments of her mind, from the defcription, which I have received from others, is VOL. II,