1701 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Congreve

Richard Steele, "Epistle to Mr. Congreve, occasion'd by his Comedy call'd, The Way of the World" Gildon, A New Miscellany of Original Poems (1701) 335-38.



When Pleasure is fallen to the low delight,
In the vain Joys of the uncertain Sight,
No sense of Wit when rude Spectators know,
But in distorted Gesture, Farce and Show;
How could, Great Author, thy Aspiring mind
Dare to Write only to the few refin'd!
Yet tho' that Nice Ambition you pursue,
'Tis not in Congreve's power to please but few,
Implicitly devoted to his fame,
Well-dress't Barbarians know his awful Name;
Tho' senseless they're of Mirth, but when they Laugh,
As they feel Wine, but when till Drunk they Quaff.

Forgotten Author's, who have lately Writ,
Despair now to revive their fame of Wit;
Hard fate, that all Poetick hopes are fled,
Spite of that help to Glory being Dead;
On thee from fate, a lavish portion fell
In ev'ry way of Writing to excell.
Thy Muse applause to Arabella brings,
In Notes as sweet as Arabella Sings.
When e're you sigh an undissembled Woe,
With sweet distress your rural Numbers flow,
Pastora's the Complaint of ev'ry Swain,
Pastora still the Eccho of the plain!
Or if thy Muse describe with warming force,
The Wounded French-man falling from his Horse;
And her own William glorious in the strife,
Bestowing on the prostrate Foe his Life,
You the great Act as generously rehearse,
And all the English fire is in thy Verse:
By thy selected Scenes and handsome Choice,
Ennobled Comedy exalts her Voice;
You check unjust Esteem and fond desire,
And teach to Scorn, where else we should Admire;
The just Impression by thee we hear,
The Player Acts the World, the World the Player.
Whom still the World unjustly disesteems,
Tho' he, alone, professes what he seems;
But when thy Muse assumes her Tragick part,
She Conquers and she Reigns in ev'ry Heart;
To mourn with her Men cheat their private Woe,
And generous pity's all the Grief they know;
The Widow, who impatient of delay,
From the Town-joys must Mask it to the Play,
Joyns with thy Mourning-Bride's resistless moan,
And Weeps a loss she slighted, when her own;
You give us Torment, and you give us Ease,
And vary our Afflictions as you please;
Is not a Heart so kind as yours in pain,
To load your Friends with care you only feign;
Your Friends in Grief, compos'd your self to leave,
But 'tis the only way you'll e're deceive?
Then still great Sir, your moving power employ,
To lull our Sorrow and Correct our Joy.