1674 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Flatman

Charles Cotton, "On the excellent Poems of my most worthy Friend, Mr. Thomas Flatman" Flatman, Poems (1674; 1686) sigs A8-av.



You happy Issue of a happy wit,
As ever yet in charming numbers writ,
Welcom into the Light, and may we be
Worthy so happy a Posterity.
We long have wish'd for something Excellent;
But ne'r till now knew rightly what it meant:
For though we have been gratified, 'tis true,
From several hands with things both fine and new,
The Wits must pardon me, if I profess,
That till this time the over-teeming Press
Ne'er set out Poesie in so true a dress:
Nor is it all, to have a share of Wit,
There must be Judgment too to manage it;
For Fancy's like a rough, but ready Horse,
Whose mouth is govern'd more by skill than force;
Wherein (my Friend) you do a Maistry own,
If not particular to you alone;
Yet such at least as to all eyes declares
Your Pegasus the best performs his Ayres.
Your Muse can humour all her Subjects so,
That as we read we do both feel and know;
And the most firm impenetrable breast
With the same passion that you write's possest.
Your Lines are Rules, which who shall well observe
Shall even in their Errors praise deserve:
The boyling Youth, whose bloud is all on fire,
Push'd on by Vanity, and hot desire,
May learn such Conduct here, men may approve
And not excuse, but even applaud his Love.
Ovid, who made an ART of what to all
Is in itself but too too natural,
Had he but read your Verse, might then have seen
The Stile of which his Precepts should have been;
And (which it seems he knew not) learnt from thence
To reconcile Frailty with Innocence.
The Love you write Virgins and Boys may read,
And never be debaucht but better bred;
For without Love, Beauty would bear no price,
And dullness, than desire's a greater vice:
Your greater Subjects with such force are writ
So full of sinewy Strength, as well as Wit,
That when you are Religious, our Divines
May emulate, but not reprove your Lines:
And when you reason, there the learned Crew
May learn to speculate, and speak from you.
You no prophane, no obscene language use,
To smut your Paper, or defile your Muse.
Your gayest things, as well expresst, as meant
Are equally both Queint, and Innocent.
But your Pindarique Odes indeed are such
That Pindar's Lyre from his own skilful touch,
Ne're yielded such an Harmony, nor yet
Verse keep such time on so unequal feet.
So by his own generous confession
Great Tasso by Guarini was out-done:
And (which in Copying seldom does befal)
The Ectype's better than th' Original.

But whilst your Fame I labour to send forth,
By the ill-doing it I cloud your worth,
In something all mankind unhappy are,
And you as mortal too must have your share;
'Tis your misfortune to have found a Friend,
Who hurts and injures where he would commend.
But let this be your comfort, that your Bayes
Shall flourish green, maugre an ill-couch'd Praise.