by Lord John Wilmot
I heare this Towne does soe abound,
With sawcy Censurers, that faults are found,
With what of late wee (in Poetique Rage)
Bestowing, threw away on the dull Age;
But (howsoe're Envy, their Spleen may raise,
To Robb my Brow, of the deserved Bays)
Their thanks at least I merit since through me,
They are Partakers of your Poetry;
And this is all, I'll say in my defence,
T'obtaine one Line, of your well worded Sense
I'd be content t'have writ the Brittish Prince.
I'm none of those who thinke themselves inspir'd,
Nor write with the vaine hopes to be admir'd;
But from a Rule (I have upon long tryall)
T'avoyd with care, all sort of self denyall.
Which way soe're desire and fancy leade
(Contemning Fame) that Path I boldly tread;
And if exposeing what I take for Witt,
To my deare self, a Pleasure I beget,
Noe matter tho' the Censring Crittique fret.
Those whom my Muse displeases, are at strife
With equall Spleene, against my Course of life,
The least delight of which, I'd not forgoe,
For all the flatt'ring Praise, Man can bestow.
If I designd to please the way were then,
To mend my Manners, rather than my Pen;
The first's unnaturall, therefore unfit,
And for the Second, I despair of it,
Since Grace, is not soe hard to get as Witt.
Perhaps ill Verses, ought to be confin'd,
In meere good Breeding, like unsav'ry Wind;
Were Reading forc'd, I shou'd be apt to thinke
Men might noe more write scurvily, than stinke:
But 'tis your choyce, whether you'll Read, or noe,
If likewise of your smelling it were soe,
I'd Fart just as I write, for my owne ease,
Nor shou'd you be concern'd, unlesse you please:
I'll owne, that you write better than I doe,
But I have as much need to write, as you.
What though the Excrement of my dull Braine,
Runns in a harsh, insipid Straine,
Whilst your rich Head, eases it self of Witt?
Must none but Civet-Catts, have leave to shit?
In all I write, shou'd Sense, and Witt, and Rhyme
Faile me at once, yet something soe Sublime,
Shall stamp my Poem, that the World may see,
It cou'd have beene produc'd, by none but me.
And that's my end, for Man, can wish noe more,
Then soe to write, as none ere writ before.
Yet why am I noe Poet, of the tymes?
I have Allusions, Similies and Rhymes,
And Witt, or else 'tis hard that I alone,
Of the whole Race of Mankind, shou'd have none.
Unequally, the Partiall Hand of Heav'n,
Has all but this one only Blessing giv'n;
The World appeares like a great Family,
Whose Lord opprest with Pride, and Poverty,
(That to a few, great Plenty he may show)
Is faine to starve the Num'rous Traine below:
Just soe seemes Providence, as poor and vaine,
Keeping more Creatures, than it can maintaine.
Here 'tis profuse, and there it meanly saves,
And for One Prince, it makes Ten Thousand Slaves:
In Witt alone, it has beene Magnificent,
Of which, soe just a share, to each is sent
That the most Avaricious are content.
For none e're thought, (the due Division's such),
His owne too little, or his Friends too much.
Yet most Men shew, or find great want of Witt,
Writeing themselves, or Judging what is writ:
But I, who am of sprightly Vigour full
Looke on Mankind, as Envious, and dull.
Borne to my self, my self I like alone,
And must conclude my Judgment good, or none.
(For shou'd my Sense be nought, how cou'd I know,
Whether another Man's, were good, or noe?)
Thus, I resolve of my owne Poetry,
That 'tis the best, and there's a Fame for me.
If then I'm happy, what does it advance,
Whether to merit due, or Arrogance?
Oh! but the World will take offence thereby,
Why then the World, shall suffer for't, not I.
Did e're this sawcy World, and I agree?
To let it have its Beastly will on me?
Why shou'd my Prostituted Sense, be drawne,
To ev'ry Rule, their musty Customes spawne?
But Men, will Censure you; Tis Two to one
When e're they Censure, they'll be in the wrong.
There's not a thing on Earth, that I can name
Soe foolish, and soe false, as Common Fame.
It calls the Courtier Knave, the plaine Man rude,
Haughty the grave, and the delightfull Lewd.
Impertinent the briske, Morosse the sad,
Meane the Familiar, the Reserv'd one Mad.
Poor helplesse Woman, is not favour'd more
She's a slye Hipocryte, or Publique Whore.
Then who the Devill, wou'd give this -- to be free
From th'Innocent Reproach of Infamy?
These things consider'd, make me (in despight
Of idle Rumour,) keepe at home, and write.