1693 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Congreve

Thomas Yalden, "To Mr. Congreve. An Epistolary Ode occasion'd by his late Play" Examen Poeticum: being the Third Part of Miscellany Poems (1693) 343-48.



Fam'd Wits and Beauties, share this common fate,
To stand expos'd to publick Love and Hate,
In ev'ry Breast they diff'rent Passions raise,
At once our Envy, and our Praise.
For when, like you, some noble Youth appears,
For Wit and Humour fam'd above his Years:
Each emulous Muse, that views the Laurel won,
Must praise the worth so much transcends their own,
And, while his Fame they envy, add to his renown.
But sure like you, no youth, cou'd please,
Nor at his first attempt boast such success:
Where all Mankind have fail'd, you glories won:
Triumphant are in this alone,
In this, have all the Bards of old outdone.

Then may'st thou rule our Stage in triumph long,
May'st thou its injur'd Fame revive,
And matchless proofs of Wit, and Humour give,
Reforming with thy Scenes, and Charming with thy Song.
And tho' a Curse ill-fated Wit pursues,
And waits the Fatal Dowry of a Muse:
Yet may thy rising Fortunes be
Secure from all the blasts of Poetry;
As thy own Laurels flourishing appear,
Unsully'd still with Cares, nor clog'd with Hope and Fear.
As from its want's be from its Vices free,
From nauseous servil Flattery;
Nor to a Patron prostitute thy Mind,
Though like Augustus Great, as Fam'd Maecenas kind.

Though great in Fame! believe me, generous Youth,
Believe this oft experienc'd Truth,
From him that knows thy Virtues, and admires their worth.
Tho' Thou'rt above what vulgar Poets fear,
Trust not the ungrateful World too far;
Trust not the Smiles of the inconstant Town;
Trust not the Plaudits of a Theater,
(Which D-rfey shall with thee and Dryden share;
Nor to a Stages int'rest Sacrifice thy own.
Thy Genius, that's for Nobler things design'd,
May at loose Hours oblige Mankind:
Then great as is thy Fame, thy Fortunes raise,
Joyn thriving int'rest to thy barren Bays,
And teach the World to envy, as thou do'st to praise.
The World, that does like common Whores embrace,
Injurious still to those it does caress:
Injurious as the tainted Breath of Fame,
That blasts a Poet's Fortunes, while it sounds his Name.

When first a Muse inflames some Youthful Breast,
Like an unpractis'd Virgin, still she's kind:
Adorn'd with Graces then, and Beauties blest,
She charms the Ear with Fame, with Raptures fills the Mind.
Then from all Cares the happy Youth is free,
But those of Love and Poetry:
Cares, still allay'd with pleasing Charms,
That Crown the Head with Bays, with Beauty fill the Arms.
But all a Woman's Frailties soon she shows,
Too soon a stale domestick Creature grows:
Then, wedded to a Muse that's nauseous grown
We loath what we enjoy, drudge when the Pleasure's gon.
For, tempted with imaginary Bays,
Fed with immortal Hopes, and empty Praise:
He Fame pursues, that fair, but treacherous, bait,
Grows wise, when he's undone, repents when 'tis too late.

Small are the Trophies of his boasted Bays,
The Great Man's promise, for his flattering Toyl,
Fame in reversion, and the publick smile,
All vainer than his Hopes, uncertain as his Praise.
'Twas thus in mournful Numbers heretofore,
Neglected Spencer did his Fate deplore:
Long did his injur'd Muse complain,
Admir'd in midst of Wants, and Charming still in vain.
Long did the Generous Cowley Mourn,
And long oblig'd the Age without return:
Deny'd what every Wretch obtains of Fate,
An humble Roof, and an obscure retreat,
Condemn'd to needy Fame, and to be miserably great.
Thus did the World thy great Fore-Fathers use,
Thus all the inspir'd Bards before
Did their hereditary Ills deplore:
From tuneful Chaucer's, down to thy own Dryden's Muse.

Yet pleas'd with gaudy ruin Youth will on,
As proud by publick Fame to be undone:
Pleas'd tho' he does the worst of Labours chuse,
To serve a Barb'rous Age, and an ungrateful Muse.
Since Dryden's self, to Wit's great Empire born,
Whose Genius and exalted Name
Triumph with all the Spoils of Wit and Fame;
Must 'midst the loud Applause, his barren Laurels mourn.
Ev'n that Fam'd man, whom all the World admires,
Whom every Grace adorns, and Muse inspires:
Like the great injur'd Tasso shows
Triumphant in the midst of Woes;
In all his Wants Majestick still appears,
Charming the Age to which he ows his Cares,
And cherishing that Muse whose fatal Curse he bears.