1712 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. William Coward

Thomas Newcomb, in Bibliotheca, 1712; Nichols, Select Collection of Poems (1780-82) 3:51-53.



A Proteus Wit almost escapes,
That writes and fools in fifty shapes;
To please in every art prepar'd,
An Atheist now, and now a Bard,
Physician strait, another time
Projecting tools to work in rhyme;
Or forging odd receipts to make
Verse, duller than his Worship's, take.
Horace, most courtly grown and kind.
Exactly speaks the Poet's mind,
Stands sponsor, by his worth and fame,
To guard his infant Muse from shame:
Whilst he in mighty secrets deals,
And beauties long obscur'd reveals,
Does from his own prescriptions fall,
Gives fifty rules, and breaks them all;
Though he that farthest from them strays
Bids fairest much to win the bays.
From verse be hastens to dispute
Himself into a nobler brute,
Greatly resolv'd his murdering quill
Should, certain as his physick, kill:
He needs would have mankind control
The universe without a soul;
That matter, nicely wrought and spun,
Might all those mighty feats have done,
Which antient dotards were inclin'd
To attribute to Thought and Mind;
Thus, as the threads are drawn, it hits,
The coarse are fools, the fine ones wits;
While others, of a middle size,
Prove harmless things, not dull nor wise,
And hence it plainly comes to pass,
That Coward's now what Sternhold was,
Because, in Nature's forming list,
His threads were of a clumsy twist;
And Chance had so contriv'd his doom,
To draw him from a hobbling loom.
A proof within himself he feels,
That all mankind is mov'd by wheels:
That chains, and pendulums, and springs,
With twenty other curious things,
Were first by artful Nature made,
Ere clocks and watches form'd a trade.
Exchange, great sir, a word or two,
And your fam'd thefts still may do;
"Thou art thyself compleat and whole,
Thy verses only want a soul,
While both a different fate shall try,
Thou half, and they entirely die,
Condemn'd by thee, not partial Fate,
E'er to behold a future state!"