1694 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Edward Howard

Earl of Dorset, "To a Person of Honour: upon his incomprehensible Poems" The Annual Miscellany for the Year 1694 (1694) 298-300.



Come on you Criticks, find one fault who dares,
Or read it backwards, like a Witches Prayers,
'Twill do as well; Throw not away your jests
On solid Nonsense that abides all Tests.
Wit, like Terse Claret, when't begins to pall,
Neglected lies, and's of no use at all;
But in its full perfection of decay,
Turns Vinegar, and comes again in Play.
Thou hast a Brain, such as it is indeed;
On what else shou'd thy Worm of fancy feed?
Yet in a Filberd I have often known
Maggots survive, when all the Kernel's gone.
This Simile shall stand in thy defence,
'Gainst those dull Rogues who now and then write Sense.
Thy Wit's the same, whatever be thy Theam,
As some digestions turn all Meat to Phlegm:
They lie, dear Ned, who say thy Brain is barren,
Where deep Conceits like Maggots breed in Carrion;
Thy stumbling founder'd Muse can trot as high
As any other Pegasus can fly.
So the dull Eel moves nimbler in the Mud,
Than all the swif Finn'd Racers of the Flood.

As skillful Divers to the bottom fall
Sooner than those that cannot swim at all;
So in this way of Writing, without thinking,
Thou hast a strange agility in sinking.
Thou writest below ev'n thy own Natural parts,
And with acquired dulness and new Arts
Of Non-sense, seisest on kind Readers Hearts.
Therefore, dear Rogue, at my Advice forbear
Such loud Complaints 'gainst Criticks to prefer,
Since thou art turn'd an arrant Libeller.
Thou sett'st thy hand to what thyself does write,
Did ever Libel yet more sharply bite.