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THE AUTHOR'S PREFACE.
That this kingdom hath abounded with those ingenious persons which in the late notion are termed wits, is too well known, many
of them having cast away all their fair portion of time in no better imployments than a deliberate search or excogitation of idle words, and a most vain, insatiable desire to be reputed poets ; leaving behinde them no other monuments of those excellent abilities conferred upon them, but such as they may (with a predecessor of theirs) term parricides, and a soul-killing issue; for that is the Bpaßɛlov, and laureate crown, which idle poems will certainly bring to their unrelenting authors.
And well it were for them, if those willingly studied and wilfully-published vanities could defile no spirits but their own; but the case is far worse. These vipers survive their parents, and for many ages after (like epidemic diseases) infect whole generations, corrupting always and unhallowing the best-gifted souls and the most capable vessels; for whose sanctification and wellfare the glorious Son of God laid down his life, and suffered the pretious blood of his blessed and innocent heart to be poured out. In the meantime it cannot be denyed but these men are had in remembrance, though we cannot say, with any comfort, their memorial is blessed; for, that I may speak no more than the truth (let their passionate worshippers say what they please), all the commendations that can be justly given them will amount to no more than what Prudentius the Christian sacred poet bestowed upon Symmachus:--
Os dignum æterno tinctum quod fulgeat auro
In English thus:
A wit most worthy in tryed gold to shire,
This comparison is nothing odious, and it is as true as it is apposite; for a good wit in a bad subject is, as Solomon said of the fair and foolish woman,“ like a jewel of gold in a swine's snowt, Prov. xi. 22. Nay, the more acute the author is, there is so much the more danger and death in the work. Where the sun is busie upon a dunghill, the issue is always some unclean vermine. Divers persons of eminent piety and learning (I meddle not with the seditious and schismatical) have, long before my time, taken notice of this malady ; for the complaint against vitious verse, even by peaceful and obedient spirits, is of some antiquity in this kingdom. And yet, as if the evil consequence attending this inveterate error were but a small thing, there is sprung very lately another prosperous device to assist it in the subversion of souls. Those that want the genius of verse fall to translating; and the people are every term plentifully furnished with various foraign vanities ; so that the most lascivious compositions of France and Italy are here naturalized and made English; and this, as it is sadly observed, with so much favor and success, that nothing takes (as they rightly phrase it) like a romance. And
frequently, if that character be not an ivybush, the buyer receives this lewd ware from persons of honor; who want not reason to forbear, much private misfortune having sprung from no other seed at first, than some infectious and dissolving legend.
To continue, after years of discretion, in this vanity, is an inexcusable desertion of pious sobriety ; and to persist so to the end is a wilful despising of God's sacred exhortations, by a constant, sensual
volutation or wallowing in impure thoughts and scurrilous conceits, which both desile their authors, and as many more as they are communicated to. If every idle word shall be accounted for, and if no corrupt communication should proceed out of our mouths, how desperate, I beseech you, is their condition, who all their life-time, and out of meer design, study lascivious fictions, then carefully record and publish them, that, instead of grace and life, they may minister sin and death unto their readers! It was wisely considered and piously. said by one,“ That he would read no idle books, both in regard of love to his own soul, and pity unto his that made them; for,” said he, “if I be corrupted by them, their composer is immediately a cause of my ill; and at the day of reckoning, though now dead, must give an account for it, because I am corrupted by his bad example, which, he left behinde him. I will write none, lest I burt them that come after me; I will read none, lest I augment his punishment that is gone before me. I will neither write nor read, lest I prove a foe to my own soul: while I live, I sin too much ; let me not continue longer in wickedness than I do in life.” It is a sentence of sacred authority, that " he that is dead is freed from sin ;” because he cannot in that state, which is without the body, sin any more ; but he that writes idle books makes for himself another body, in which he always lives, and sins after death as fast and as foul as ever, he did in his life; which very consideration de serves to be a sufficient antidote against this evil disease.
And here, because I would prevent a just censure by my free confession, I must remember, that I myself have, for many years together, languished of this very sickness; and it is no long time since I have recovered. But, [blessed be God for it!] I have by his saving assistance supprest my greatest follies, and those which escaped from me are, I think, as innoxious as most of that vein use to be; besides, they are interlined with many virtuous and some pious mixtures. What I speak of them is truth; but let no man mistake it for an extenuation of faults, as if I intended an apology for them, or myself, who am conscious of so much guilt in both as can never be expiated without special sorrows, and that cleansing and pretious effusion of my Almighty Redeemer. And if the world will be so charitable as to grant my request, I do here most humbly and earnestly beg that none would read them.
But an idle or sensual subject is not all the poyson in these pamphlets. Certain authors have been so irreverendly bold as to dash Scriptures and the sacred relatives of God with their impious conceits; and (which I cannot speak without grief of heart) some of those desperate adventurers may, I think, le reckoned amongst the principal or most learned writers of English verse.