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On sure foundations let your fabric rise,
And with attractive majesty surprise ;
Not by affected, meretricious arts,
But strict harmonious symmetry of parts,
Which through the whole insensibly must pass,
With vital heat to animate the mass ;
A pure, an active, an auspicious flame,
And bright as heaven, from whence the blessing came ;
But few, few spirits, pre-ordained by fate,
The race of gods, have reached that envied height;
No rebel Titan's sacrilegious crime,
By heaping hills on hills, can thither climb.
The grisly ferry-man of hell denied
Æneas entrance, till he knew his guide ;
How justly then will impious mortals fall,
Whose pride would soar to heaven without a call ?
Pride, of all others the most dangerous fault,
Proceeds from want of sense, or want of thought ;
The men who labour and digest things most
Will be much apter to despond than boast;
For if your author be profoundly good,
'Twill cost you dear before he's understood.
How many ages since has Virgil writ?
How few are they who understand him yet?
Approach his altars with religious fear,
No vulgar deity inhabits there ;
Heav'n shakes not more at Jove's imperial nod,
Than poets should before their Mantuan god.
Hail, mighty Maro! may that sacred name
Kindle my breast with thy celestial flame;
Sublime ideas and apt words infuse,
The Muse instruct my voice, and thou inspire the Muse!


[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



To all you Ladies now at land

We men at sea indite;
But first would have you understand

How hard it is to write ;
The Muses now, and Neptune too,
We must implore to write to you.

For though the Muses should prove kind,

And fill our empty brain,
Yet if rough Neptune rouse the wind

To wave the azure main,
Our paper, pen, and ink, and we,
Roll up and down our ships at sea.

Then if we write not by each post,

Think not we are unkind,
Nor yet conclude our ships are lost

By Dutchmen, or by wind;
Our tears we 'll send a speedier way,
The tide shall waft them twice a day.

The King with wonder and surprise

Will swear the seas grow bold,
Because the tides will higher rise,

Than e'er they did of old ;
But let him know it is our tears
Bring floods of grief to Whitehall-stairs.

Should foggy Opdam chance to know

Our sad and dismal story,
The Dutch would scorn so weak a foe,

And quit their fort at Goree,
For what resistance can they find
From men who've left their hearts behind ?

Let wind and weather do its worst,

Be you to us but kind,
Let Dutchmen vapour, Spaniards curse,

No sorrow we shall find ;
'Tis then no matter how things go,
Or who's our friend, or who's our foc.
To pass our tedious hours away,

We throw a merry main,
Or else at serious ombre play,

But why should we in vain
Each other's ruin thus pursue ?
We were undone when we left you !

But now our fears tempestuous grow

And cast our hopes away, Whilst you, regardless of our woe,

Sit careless at a play,–
Perhaps permit some happier man
To kiss your hand or flirt your fan.
When any mournful tune you hear,

That dies in every note,
As if it sighed with each man's care,

For being so remote,
Think then how often love we've made
To you, when all those tunes were played.
In justice you can not refuse

To think of our distress,
When we for hopes of honour lose

Our certain happiness;
All those designs are but to prove
Ourselves more worthy of your love.

And now we've told you all our loves,

And likewise all our fears,
In hopes this declaration moves

Some pity from your tears :
Let's hear of no inconstancy,
We have too much of that at sea.


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
To let that fop, Discretion, ride

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.

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