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FROM THE 'ESSAY ON TRANSLATED VERSE'
On sure foundations let your fabric rise,
[CHARLES SACKVILLE, Earl of Dorset, was born January 24, 1637. Immediately after the Restoration he was elected to represent East Grinstead in parliament, and distinguished himself in the House of Commons. He went as a volunteer to the First Dutch War in 1665, and after this devoted himself to a learned leisure. He succeeded to the earldom in 1677, and again took a part in public business till 1698, when his health failed. He died at Bath, January 29, 1705-6.]
It is recorded of Lord Dorset that he refused all offers of political preferment in early life that he might give his mind more thoroughly to study. He was the friend and patron of almost all the poets from Waller to Pope ; Dryden adored him in one generation, and Prior in the next : nor was the courtesy that produced this affection mere idle complaisance, for no one was more fierce than he in denouncing mediocrity and literary pretension. Of all the poetical noblemen of the Restoration, Lord Dorset alone reached old age, yet with all these opportunities and all this bias towards the art, the actual verse he has left behind him is miserably small. A splendid piece of society verse, a few songs, some extremely foul and violent satires, these are all that have survived to justify in the eyes of posterity the boundless reputation of Lord Dorset.
The famous song was written in 1665, when the author, at the age of twenty-eight, had volunteered under the Duke of York in the first Dutch war. It was composed at sea the night before the critical engagement in which the Dutch admiral Opdam was blown up, and thirty ships destroyed or taken. It may be considered as inaugurating the epoch of vers-de-société, as it has flourished from Prior down to Austin Dobson
EDMUND W. GOSSE.
SONG WRITTEN AT SEA.
To all you Ladies now at land
We men at sea indite;
How hard it is to write ;
For though the Muses should prove kind,
And fill our empty brain,
To wave the azure main,
Then if we write not by each post,
Think not we are unkind,
By Dutchmen, or by wind;
The King with wonder and surprise
Will swear the seas grow bold,
Than e'er they did of old ;
Should foggy Opdam chance to know
Our sad and dismal story,
And quit their fort at Goree,
Let wind and weather do its worst,
Be you to us but kind,
No sorrow we shall find ;
We throw a merry main,
But why should we in vain
But now our fears tempestuous grow
And cast our hopes away, Whilst you, regardless of our woe,
Sit careless at a play,–
That dies in every note,
For being so remote,
To think of our distress,
Our certain happiness;
And now we've told you all our loves,
And likewise all our fears,
Some pity from your tears :
Dorinda's sparkling wit and eyes
United cast too fierce a light, Which blazes high, but quickly dies,
Pains not the heart, but hurts the sight.
Love is a calmer, gentler joy,
Smooth are his looks, and soft his pace, Her Cupid is a blackguard boy,
That runs his link full in your face.
Phillis, for shame, let us improve
A thousand different ways Those few short moments snatched by love
From many tedious days. If you want courage to despise
The censure of the grave, Though love's a tyrant in your eyes,
Your heart is but a slave.
My love is full of noble pride,
Nor can it e'er submit
In triumph over it.
False friends I have, as well as you,
Who daily counsel me Fame and ambition to pursue,
And leave off loving thee.
But when the least regard I show
To fools who thus advise, May I be dull enough to grow
Most miserably wise.