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pretensions, 'tis an obedience so lukewarm and languishing, that it merits not the name of passion; their addresses are so faint, and their vows so hollow to their sovereigns, that they seem only to maintain their faith out of a sense of honour; they are ashamed to desist, and yet grow careless to obtain. Like despairing combatants, they strive against you as if they had beheld unveiled the magical shield of your Ariosto, which dazzled the beholders with too much brightness. They can no longer hold up their arms; they have read their destiny in your eyes :
Splende lo scudo, a guisa di piropo;
And yet, madam, if I could find in myself the power to leave this argument of your incomparable beauty, I might turn to one which would equally oppress me with its greatness ; for your conjugal virtues have deserved to be set as an example, to a less degenerate, less tainted age. They approach so near to singularity in ours, that I can scarcely make a panegyric to your Royal Highness, without a satire on many others. But your person is a paradise, and your soul a cherubim within, to guard it. If the excellence of the outside invite the beholders, the majesty of your mind deters them from too bold approaches, and turns their admiration into religion. Moral perfections are raised higher by you in the softer sex; as if men were of too coarse a mould for heaven to work on, and that the image of divinity could not be cast to likeness in so harsh a metal. Your person is so admirable, that it can scarce receive addition, when it shall be glorified; and your soul, which shines through it, finds it of a substance so near her own, that she will be pleased to pass an age within it, and to be confined to such a palace.
I know not how I am hurried back to my former theme; I ought and purposed to have celebrated those endowments and qualities of your mind, which were sufficient, even without the graces of your person, to render you, as you are, the ornament of the court, and the object of wonder to three kingdoms. But all my praises are but as a bull-rush cast upon a stream ; if they sink not, ’tis because they are borne up by the strength of the current, which supports their lightness; but they are carried round again, and return on the eddy where they first began. I can proceed no farther than your beauty; and even on that too I have said so little, considering the greatness of the subject, that, like him who would lodge a bowl upon a precipice, either my praise falls back, by the weakness of the delivery, or stays not on the top, but rolls over, and is lost on the other side. I intended this a dedication ; but how can I consider what belongs to myself, when I have been so long contemplating on you! Be pleased then, madam, to receive this poem, without entitling so much excellency as yours, to the faults and imperfections of so mean a writer; and instead of being favourable to the piece, which merits nothing, forgive the presumption of the au
who is, with all possible veneration,
Your Royal Highness's
Most obedient, most humble,
Most devoted servant,
POEM OF PARADISE.
FORGIVE me, awful poet, if a muse,
refined. He first beheld the beauteous rustic maid, And to a place of strength the prize convey'd : You took her thence; to court this virgin brought, Drest her with gems, new weaved her hard-spun thought, And softest language sweetest manners taught ; Till from a comet she a star doth rise, Not to affright, but please, our wondering eyes. Betwixt you both is framed a nobler piece, Than e'er was drawn in Italy or Greece. Thou from his source of thoughts even souls dost bring, As smiling gods from sullen Saturn spring. When night's dull mask the face of heaven does wear, 'Tis doubtful light, but here and there a star,
Which serves the dreadful shadows to display,
NAT. LEE. THE
HEROIC POETRY, AND POETIC LICENCE
To satisfy the curiosity of those, who will give themselves the trouble of reading the ensuing poem, I think myself obliged to render them a reason why I publish an opera which was never acted. In the first place, I shall not be ashamed to own, that my chiefest motive was, the ambition which I acknowledged in the Epistle. I was desirous to lay at the feet of so beautiful and excellent a princess, a work, which, I confess, was unworthy her, but which, I hope, she will have the goodness to forgive. I was also induced to it in my own defence; many hundred copies of it being dispersed abroad without my knowledge or consent; so that every one gathering new faults, it became at length a libeł against me; and I saw, with some disdain, more nonsense than either I, or as bad a poet, could have crammed into it, at a month's warning; in which time it was wholly written, and not since revised.