Thus has thy Muse at once improved and marr’d
Our sport in plays, by rend’ring it too hard!
So when a sort of lusty shepherds throw
The bar by turns, and none the rest outgo 20
So far, but that the best are measuring casts,
Their emulation and their pastime lasts;
But if some brawny yeoman of the guard
Step in, and toss the axletree a yard,
Or more, beyond the furthest mark, the rest
Despairing stand; their sport is at the best.
 ‘Inimitable Maid’: the Maid’s
Tragedy, the joint production
of Beaumont and Fletcher.
Rome was not better by her Horace taught,
Than we are here to comprehend his thought;
The poet writ to noble Piso there;
A noble Piso does instruct us here,
Gives us a pattern in his flowing style,
And with rich precepts does oblige our isle:
Britain! whose genius is in verse express’d,
Bold and sublime, but negligently dress’d.
Horace will our superfluous branches prune,
Give us new rules, and set our harp in tune;
Direct us how to back the winged horse,
Favour his flight, and moderate his force.
Though poets may of inspiration boast,
Their rage, ill-govern’d, in the clouds is lost.
He that proportion’d wonders can disclose,
At once his fancy and his judgment shows.
Chaste moral writing we may learn from hence,
Neglect of which no wit can recompense.
The fountain which from Helicon proceeds,
That sacred stream! should never water weeds, 20
Nor make the crop of thorns and thistles grow,
Which envy or perverted nature sow.
Well-sounding verses are the charm we use,
Heroic thoughts and virtue to infuse;
Things of deep sense we may in prose unfold,
But they move more in lofty numbers told.
By the loud trumpet, which our courage aids,
We learn that sound, as well as sense, persuades.
The Muses’ friend, unto himself severe,
With silent pity looks on all that err; 30
But where a brave, a public action shines,
That he rewards with his immortal lines.
Whether it be in council or in fight,
His country’s honour is his chief delight;
Praise of great acts he scatters as a seed,
Which may the like in coming ages breed.
Here taught the fate of verses (always prized
With admiration, or as much despised),
Men will be less indulgent to their faults,
And patience have to cultivate their thoughts. 40
Poets lose half the praise they should have got,
Could it be known what they discreetly blot;
Finding new words, that to the ravish’d ear
May like the language of the gods appear,