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mire, that not only to those who know, or at least have had time enough to learn, what sense is, but also to a people who, of all nations in the world, pretend to understand best what belongs to shipping, our poet should dare to offer this fustian for sense and a description of ships; a description so ridiculous, that Mulylabas, as errant a fool, and as ignorant of ships as he is, must needs discover, that he is abused, and that ships cannot be such things as the poet makes them. But the poet has not only been so impudent to expose all this stuff, but so arrogant to defend it with an Epistle; like a saucy boothkeeper, that when he had put a cheat upon the people, would wrangle and fight with any that would not like it, or would offer to discover it; for which arrogance our poet receives this correction; and to jerk him a little the sharper, I will not transpose his verse, but by the help of his own words transnonsense sense, that, by my stuff, people may judge the better what his is:
Great Boy, thy tragedy and sculptures done,
From press and plates, in fleets do homeward run:
As if that rhyme and bombast lent a soul;
To whom by instinct all thy stuff is dear ;
Thus I have daubed him with his own puddle. And now we are come from aboard his dancing, masquing, rebounding, breathing fleet; and as if we had landed at Gotham, we meet nothing but fools and nonsense.
Order and harmony in each appear,
Their lofty bulks the flaming billows bear;
* These lines are a parody on the following passage in “The Empress of Morocco,” (act ii. sc. 1.) which, we are told in the Remarks, was much admired.
The scene opened, is represented the prospect of a large river, with
a glorious fleet of ships, supposed to be the navy of Muly Hamet. After the sound of trumpets, and the discharging of guns,
Enter King, young Queen, HAMETALHAZ, and Attendants.
Hamet. Great Sir, your royal father's general
Their course up the great river Tensift guide,
As if they would their general's worth enhance,
Some who are pleased with the bare sound of verse, or the rumbling of robustious nonsense, will be apt to think Mr Settle too severely handled in this pamphlet; but I do assure the reader, that there are a vast number of errors passed by, perhaps as many, or more, than are taken notice of, both to avoid the tediousness of the work, and the greatness. It might have occasioned a volume upon such a trifle. I dare affirm, that no objections in this book are fruitless cavils: but if, through too much haste, Mr Settle may be accused of any seeming fault, which may reasonably be defended, let the passing by many gross errors without reprehension compound for it. I am not ignorant, that his admirers, who most commonly are women, will resent this very ill; and some little friends of his, who are smatterers in poetry, will be ready for most of his gross errors to use that much mistaken plea of poetica licentia, which words fools are apt to use for the palliating the most absurd nonsense in any poem. I cannot find when poets had liberty, from any authority, to write nonsense, more than any other men. Nor is that plea of poetica licentia used as a subterfuge by any but weak professors of that art, who are commonly given over to a mist of
fancy, a buzzing of invention, and a sound of something like sense, and have no use of judgment. They never think thoroughly, but the best of their thoughts are like those we have in dreams, imperfect; which though perhaps we are often pleased with sleeping, we blush at waking. The licentious wildness and extravagance of such men's conceits have made poetry contemned by some, though it be very unjust for any to condemn the science for the weakness of some of the professors.
Men that are given over to fancy only, are little better than madmen. What people say of fire, viz. that it is a good servant, but an ill master, may not unaptly be applied to fancy; which, when it is too active, rages, but when cooled and allayed by the judgment, produces admirable effects. But this rage of fancy is never Mr Settle's crime; he has too much phlegm, and too little choler, to be accused of this. He has all the pangs and throes of a fanciful poet, but is never delivered of any more perfect issue of his phlegmatic brain, than a dull Dutchwoman's sooterkin is of her body.
His style is very muddy, and yet much laboured; for his meaning (for sense there is not much) is most commonly obscure, but never by reason of too much height, but lowness. His fancy never flies out of sight, but often sinks out of sight:-but now I hope the reader will excuse some digression upon the extravagant use of fancy and poetical li
Fanciful poetry and music, used with moderation, are good; but men who are wholly given over to either of them, are commonly as full of whimsies as diseased and splenetic men can be. Their heads are continually hot, and they have the same elevation of fancy sober, which men of sense have when they drink. So wine used moderately does not take
away the judgment, but used continually, debauches men's understandings, and turns them into sots, making their heads continually hot by accident, as the others are by nature; so, mere poets and mere musicians are as sottish as mere drunkards are, who live in a continual mist, without seeing or judging any thing clearly.
A man should be learned in several sciences, and should have a reasonable, philosophical, and in some measure a mathematical head, to be a complete and excellent poet; and besides this, should have experience in all sorts of humours and manners of men; should be thoroughly skilled in conversation, and should have a great knowledge of mankind in general. Mr Settle having never studied any sort of learning but poetry, and that but slenderly, as you may find by his writings, and having besides no other advantages, must make very lame work on't; he himself declares, he neither reads, nor cares for conversation; so that he would persuade us he is a kind of fanatic in poetry, and has a light within him, and writes by an inspiration; which (like that of the heathen prophets) a man must have no sense of his own when he receives; and no doubt he would be thought inspired, and would be reverenced extremely in the country where Santons are worshipped. But some will, I doubt not, object, that poetry should not be reduced to the strictness of mathematics; to which I answer, it ought to be so far mathematical as to have likeness and proportion, since they will all confess that it is a kind of painting. But they will perhaps say, that a poem is a picture to be seen at a distance, and therefore ought to be bigger than the life. I confess there must be a due distance allowed for the seeing of any thing in the world; for an object can no more