1670 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Edward Howard

Samuel Butler, "To a Person of Honour: upon his Incomparable, Incomprehensible Poem" 1670 ca.; Examen Poeticum: being the Third Part of Miscellany Poems (1693) 159-61.



SIR,
You have oblig'd the Brittish Nation more
Than all the Bards cou'd ever do before:
And (at your own Charge) Monuments as hard
As Brass, or Marble, to your Fame, have rear'd.
For as all Warlike Nations take Delight
To hear how their brave Ancestors cou'd fight,
You have advanc'd to Wonder their Renown,
And no less Vertuously improv'd your own;
That 'twill be doubtful, whether you do write,
Or they have acted, at a Nobler height.
You (of your Ancient Princes) have retriev'd
More than the Ages knew in which they liv'd;
Explain'd their Customs, and their Rights anew,
Better than all their Druids ever knew:
Unriddled those dark Oracles as well
As those that made 'em, cou'd themselves foretell.
For as the Brittains long have hop'd in vain,
Arthur wou'd come to Govern them again:
You have fulfill'd that Prophesie alone,
And in your Poem plac'd him on his Throne.
Such Magick Power has your prodigious Pen,
To raise the Dead, and give new Life to Men;
Make Rival Princes meet in Arms and Love,
Whom distant Ages did so far remove.
For as Eternity has neither past,
Nor future, (Authors say) nor first, nor last;
But is all instant: Your Eternal Muse
All Ages can to any one reduce.
Then why should You (whose Miracles of Art
Can Life at Pleasure to the Dead impart)
Trouble in vain your better busi'd Head,
T' observe what times they liv'd in, or were dead.
For, since you have such Arbitrary Pow'r,
It were defect in Judgment to go low'r;
Or stoop to things so pitifully lewd,
As use to take the Vulgar Latitude.
For no Man's fit to read what you have writ,
That holds not some proportion with your Wit.
As Light can no way but by Light appear,
He must bring Sense, that understands it here.
[attributed here to Edmund Waller]