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our common Authors, as will be plain from his Words, which I shall quote before I have done this Preface.
To remove therefore this Ignorance of our Writers and Readers of Poesy, which has debas'd the Honour of this Mother of all Learning, was the Cause of my Undertaking, by giving our English World those Rules, by the Observation of which, Homer, Virgil, and the rest of the Antients gain'd immortal Reputation.
On the other side, I knew very well that it was a Matter of no small difficulty to reason People, out of Follies establish'd by Custom; and that the general Run of a roify Party, was against all Instructions in this Kind, which they branded with the unpcpular Name of Criticism, which by the Ignorant Writers in Vogue, has been misrepresented as an ill-natur’d Thing; and that too many Learned Men in several Languages, by a jejune way of handling this Art, had incumber'd its Maxims with Abundance of hard Terms, which not being obvious to to every Reader, render'd their Discoveries however valuable, ror to inviting as to engage the Perusal of those who stood most in need of them.
Monsieur Fontennelle's Book of the Plurality of Worlds, so much prais’d by Sir William
Temple Temple in his Essays, and plac'd by him in the next Form to the Antients, made me think of another Method than had hitherto generally been follow'd by the Critical Writers. For he has brought the three Systems of Aftronomy by a pleasing and familiar Dress to the Capacity of a Lady, who had not any Learning, and nothing but good Senfe to direct her.
I have endeavor'd in the following Sheets, to come as near his Method as the Diffe rence of my Subject from his would bear; where I was upon Generals, as the defence of Poetry, and the necessity of the Rules, I hope I have thown this; bur being in other Parts oblig'd to speak of the particular Rules of every sort of Poetry, all I could do was to deliver them as plainly, and as difencumber'd from Terms of Art as I possibly cou'd, and I think through the whole I have made use of no Word which is not familiar to every Capacity, that knows any thing of the World." In the last Dialogue indeed, where I was oblig'd to speak of the several Poetical Feet of the Greek and Latin Verse, there was no avoiding putting their proper Names, but I have taken care so to explain them, that every one may be Master of what I advance.
I ain far from aiming to impose what I deliver as all my own. I write the Complete Art of Poetry, and therefore an under a neceffity to give the Rules convey'd down to us, which have been establish'd these two Thousand Years and upwards. All I pretend to; is, that I hope I have done this in a plain and easy Manner, so as not to tire my Reader, and yet give him a full Inftrucion in the Art. And this leads me to the Authors I have consulted. Whatever I found of use to my Design in Aristotle (chicfly) in Horace, Dionyfius of Halicarnaffus, Boileau, Rapin, Dar cier, Gerard Velius's Poetical Institutions, the late Duke of Buckingham's Rehearsal, Mi. Rimer, the present Duke of Buckinghamshire's moft excellent Elay on Poetry, Mr. Dennis, or any other I have made bold with; so that my Reader will have the Satisfaction of great and illustrious Inftru&ors, when he perufes my Book.
Having gone through the three Heads proposed by me for this Preface, I find I ain oblig'd to add something more on Account of another Book in our Tongue, which at first View may seem to be of the same Nature, ard that is Mr. Bysshe's Art of Englih Poetry, with a Collection, &C. But I had no Thoughts of interfering with him, and indeed I do not ;'we propofe quite different
Ends, and therefore have pursued quite different Methods. He (tho' he calls his Book the Art of English Poetry) aims only at giving Rules for the Structure of an English Verfe, at Rime, and the like. And thus in his Collection, he aims ar settling a sort of Dictionary of Epithets and Synonyinous Words, which he tells us is the End of his Collection. But the Design of my Collection, is to give the Reader the great Images that are to be found in those of our Poets, who are truly great, as well as their Topics and Moral Reflections. And for this Reason I have been pretty large in my Quotations from Spenser, whom he bas "rejected, and have gone through Shakefpear, whom he seems willing to exclude , being satisfy'd that the Charms of these two great Poets are too strong not to touch the Soul of any one who has a true Genius for Poetry, and. by Consequence enlarge that Imagination, which is so very necessary for all Poetical Performances. And since Milton and Wab. ler were made Poets by Spenser, I do suppose the same Cause may in all Probability have the same Efect When I say that Spen-, Jer made those two great Men Pcets, I only mean that the true Ethereal Fire that they found in him, rous'd that Genius, which each of them had by Nature, into A&t.
If in this Collection any of the same Verses should happen to be found, it is not because they were in Mr. Bysshe's, but because they were found in the Poets as I read them, and as free for me to quote as for him. 'Tis plain I follow him not, when of all his List of Names I have scarce medled with above four.
This Gentleman indeed, and I are of quite a different Opinion of Poetry, he tells us in his Preface. For upon the whole Matter (says he) it was not my Business to judge any further, than on the Vigour and Force of Thought, of the Purity of the Language, of the Aptness and Propriety of Expression, and above all of the Beauty of Colouring, in which the Poet's Art chiefly confifts
But I have in the Body of the Book prov'd that the poet's Art does not chiefly consist in the Colouring, any more than that of the Painter, but in the Design. Which puts me in-Mind of a Repartee of Michael Angelo, on Titian, who feeing the pieces of the former, said he would be an excellent Painter if he understood Colouring : And Titian reply'd, the other would be a very good Painter if he understood Designing.
I will not oppose to him Aristotle, HoFitce, Bolu, Dacier, and other great
great Men among the Antients and Moderns, lest he should ex