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manifesting of your Christian and civil virtues. To you, therefore, this Year of Wonders is justly dedicated, because you have made it so: you, who are to stand a wonder to

all years and ages, and who have built your selves an immortal 5 monument on your own ruins. You are now a phænix in her ashes, and, as far as humanity can approach, a great emblem of the suffering Deity. But Heaven never made so much piety and virtue to leave it miserable. I have

heard indeed of some virtuous persons who have ended 10 unfortunately, but never of any virtuous nation. Providence

is engaged too deeply, when the cause becomes so general; and I cannot imagine it has resolved the ruin of that people at home, which it has blessed abroad with such successes.

I am, therefore, to conclude that your sufferings are at an 15 end, and that one part of my poem has not been more an

history of your destruction, than the other a prophecy of your restoration. The accomplishment of which happiness, as it is the wish of all true Englishmen, so is by none more passionately desired than by

The greatest of your admirers
and most humble of your servants,

JOHN DRYDEN.

20

AN ACCOUNT OF THE ENSUING POEM,

IN A LETTER TO THE HONOURABLE SIR ROBERT HOWARD.

SIR,

I am so many ways obliged to you and so little able to return your favours that, like those who owe too much, 5 I can only live by getting farther into your debt. You have not only been careful of my fortune, which was the effect of your nobleness, but you have been solicitous of my reputation, which is that of your kindness. It is not long since I gave you the trouble of perusing a play for me; 10 and now, instead of an acknowledgment, I have given you a greater in the correction of a poem. But since you are to bear this persecution, I will at least give you the encouragement of a martyr; you could never suffer in a nobler cause. For I have chosen the most heroic subject which 15 any poet could desire: I have taken upon me to describe the motives, the beginning, progress, and successes of a most just and necessary war; in it the care, management, and prudence of our King; the conduct and valour of a royal Admiral and of two incomparable Generals; the invincible 20 courage of our captains and seamen, and three glorious victories, the result of all. After this, I have in the fire the most deplorable, but withal the greatest argument that can be imagined; the destruction being so swift, so sudden, so vast and miserable, as nothing can parallel in story. The 25 former part of this poem, relating to the war, is but a due expiation for my not serving my King and country in it. All gentlemen are almost obliged to it: and I know no reason we should give that advantage to the commonalty of England, to be foremost in brave actions, which the 30 noblesse of France would never suffer in their peasants. I should not have written this but to a person who has been ever forward to appear in all employments, whither his honour

and generosity have called him. The latter part of my poem, which describes the fire, I owe, first, to the piety and fatherly affection of our Monarch to his suffering subjects; and, in

the second place, to the courage, loyalty, and magnanimity 5 of the City; both which were so conspicuous that I have

wanted words to celebrate them as they deserve. I have called my poem historical, not epic, though both the actions and actors are as much heroic as any poem can contain.

But since the action is not properly one, nor that accom10 plished in the last successes, I have judged it too bold a

title for a few stanzas, which are little more in number than a single Iliad or the longest of the Æneids. For this reason (I mean not of length, but broken action, tied too severely

to the laws of history) I am apt to agree with those who 15 rank Lucan rather among historians in verse than epic poets;

in whose room, if I am not deceived, Silius Italicus, though a worse writer, may more justly be admitted. I have chosen to write my poem in quatrains or stanzas of four in alternate

rhyme, because I have ever judged them more noble and of 20 greater dignity both for the sound and number than any

other verse in use amongst us; in which I am sure I have your approbation. The learned languages have certainly a great advantage of us in not being tied to the slavery of

any rhyme, and were less constrained in the quantity of 25 every syllable, which they might vary with spondees or

dactyls, besides so many other helps of grammatical figures for the lengthening or abbreviation of them, than the modern are in the close of that one syllable, which often confines,

and more often corrupts, the sense of all the rest. But in 30 this necessity of our rhymes, I have always found the couplet

verse most easy (though not so proper for this occasion), for there the work is sooner at an end, every two lines concluding the labour of the poet; but in quatrains he is to

carry it farther on, and not only so, but to bear along in his 35 head the troublesome sense of four lines together. For

those who write correctly in this kind must needs acknowledge that the last line of the stanza is to be considered in the composition of the first. Neither can we give ourselves the liberty of making any part of a verse for the sake of rhyme, or concluding with a word which is not current English, or using the variety of female rhymes; all which our fathers practised. And for the female rhymes, they are still in use amongst other nations: with the Italian in every 5 line, with the Spaniard promiscuously, with the French alternately, as those who have read the Alaric, the Pucelle, or any of their latter poems, will agree with me. And besides this, they write in Alexandrines or verses of six feet, such as, amongst us, is the old translation of Homer by Chapman; 10 all which by lengthening of their chain makes the sphere of their activity the larger. I have dwelt too long upon the choice of my stanza, which you may remember is much better defended in the Preface to Gondibert; and therefore I will hasten to acquaint you with my endeavours in the 15 writing. In general I will only say I have never yet seen the description of any naval fight in the proper terms which are used at sea; and if there be any such in another language, as that of Lucan in the third of his Pharsalia, yet I could not prevail myself of it in the English; the terms of arts 20 in every tongue bearing more of the idiom of it than any other words. We hear, indeed, among our poets, of the thundering of guns, the smoke, the disorder and the slaughter; but all these are common notions. And certainly as those who in a logical dispute keep in general terms would hide 23 a fallacy, so those who do it in any poetical description would veil their ignorance,

• Descriptas servare vices operumque colores

Cur ego, si nequeo ignoroque, poeta salutor ?' For my own part, if I had little knowledge of the sea, yet 30 I have thought it no shame to learn; and if I have made some few mistakes, it is only, as you can bear me witness, because I have wanted opportunity to correct them, the whole poem being first written, and now sent you from a place where I have not so much as the converse of any 35 seaman. Yet though the trouble I had in writing it was great, it was more than recompensed by the pleasure; I

found myself so warm in celebrating the praises of military men, two such especially as the Prince and General, that

it is no wonder if they inspired me with thoughts above my ordinary level. And I am well satisfied, that as they 5 are incomparably the best subject I have ever had, excepting only the royal family, so also that this I have written of them is much better than what I have performed on any other. I have been forced to help out other arguments; but this

has been bountiful to me: they have been low and barren 10 of praise, and I have exalted them and made them fruitful; but

here-Omnia sponte sua reddit justissima tellus. I have had a large, a fair, and a pleasant field; so fertile, that, without my cultivating, it has given me two harvests in a summer, and in

both oppressed the reaper. All other greatness in subjects is 15 only counterfeit, it will not endure the test of danger; the

greatness of arms is only real. Other greatness burdens a nation with its weight; this supports it with its strength. And as it is the happiness of the age, so is it the peculiar

goodness of the best of kings, that we may praise his subjects 20 without offending him. Doubtless it proceeds from a just

confidence of his own virtue, which the lustre of no other can be so great as to darken in him; for the good or the valiant are never safely praised under a bad or a degenerate

prince. But to return from this digression to a farther 25 account of my poem: I must crave leave to tell you, that,

as I have endeavoured to adorn it with noble thoughts, so much more to express those thoughts with elocution. The composition of all poems is or ought to be of wit; and wit

in the poet, or wit-writing (if you will give me leave to use a 30 school-distinction), is no other than the faculty of imagination

in the writer; which, like a nimble spaniel, beats over and ranges through the field of memory, till it springs the quarry it hunted after: or, without metaphor, which searches over

all the memory for the species or ideas of those things which 35 it designs to represent. Wit written is that which is well de

fined the happy result of thought, or product of that imagination. But to proceed from wit in the general notion of it to the proper wit of an heroic or historical poem, I judge

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