Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TO MY FRIEND MR. THOMAS FLATMAN, UPON THE PUBLICATION OF HIS POEMS, by ROBERT THOMPSON



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TO MY FRIEND MR. THOMAS FLATMAN, UPON THE PUBLICATION OF HIS POEMS, by            
First Line: As when a prince his standard does erect
Last Line: Your readers, learning, wit, and judgement too.
Subject(s): Flatman, Thomas (1637-1688)


I.

As when a Prince his standard does erect,
And calls his subjects to the field,
From such as early take his side,
And readily obedience yield,
He is instructed where he may suspect,
And where he safely may confide:
So, mighty friend,
That you may see
A perfect evidence of loyalty,
No business I pretend;
From all th' incumbrances of human life,
From nourishing the sinful people's strife,
And the increasing weaknesses of age.

II.

Domestic care, the mind's incurable disease,
I am resolv'd I will forget.
Ah! could I hope the restless pain
Would now entirely cease,
And never more return again,
My thoughts I would in other order set;
By more than protestations I would show,
Not the sum total only of the debt,
But the particulars of all I owe.

III.

This I would do: but what will our desire avail
When active heat and vigour fail?
'Tis well thou hast more youthful combatants than I,
Right able to protect thy immortality:
If envy should attack thy spotless name
(And that attacks the best of things
And into rigid censure brings
The most undoubted registers of fame),
Their fond artillery let them dispense,
Piercing wit and murd'ring eloquence,
Noble conceit and manly sense,
Charming numbers let 'em shine
And dazzle dead in ev'ry line
The most malicious of thy foes,
Though Hell itself should offer to oppose;
I (thy decrepit subject) only can resign
The little life of art is left, to ransom thine:
Fumbling's as bad in poetry,
And as ridiculous, as'tis in gallantry:
But if a dart I may prevent,
Which at my friend's repute was meant,
Let them then direct at me;
By dying in so just a war,
I possibly may share
In thy infallible eternity.

IV.

But, dearest friend
(Before it be too late),
Let us a while expostulate,
What heat of glory call'd you on,
Your learned empire to extend
Beyond the limits of your own dominion?
At home, you were already crown'd with bays:
Why foreign trophies do you seek to raise?
Poets arcanas have of government,
And tho' the homagers of your own continent
Out of a sense of duty do submit,
Yet public print a jealousy creates,
And intimates a laid design
Unto the neigh b'ring potentates.
Now into all your secret arts they pry,
And weigh each hint by rules of policy,
Offensive leagues they twine,
In councils, rotas, and cabals they sit,
Each petty burgess thinks it fit
The Corporation should combine
Against the Universal Monarchy of Wit,
And straight declare for quite abjuring it.

V.

Hence then must you prepare for an invasion:
Tho' not from such as are reclaim'd by education;
In the main points all European wits agree,
All allow order, art, and rules of decency,
And to be absolutely perfect, ne'er was yet
A beauty such, or such a wit.
I fear the Pagan and the barbarous,
A nation quite Antipodes to us;
The infidel unletter'd crew (I mean)
Who call that only wit,
Which is indeed but the reverse of it;
Creatures in whom civility ne'er shone,
But (unto Nature's contradiction)
It is their glory to be so obscene,
You'd think the legion of th' unclean
Were from the swine (to which they were condemn'd) releas'd,
And had these verier swine (than them) possess'd.

VI.

If these should an advantage take
And on thy fame a depredation make,
You must submit to the unhappiness;
These are the common enemies of our belief and art,
And by hostility possess'd
The world's much greater part:
All things with them are measur'd by success:
If the battle be not won;
If the author do not sell;
Into their dull capacities it will not sink,
They cannot with deliberation think
How bravely the commander led them on,
No nor wherein the book was written well:
When ('tis a thing impossible to do)
He cannot find his army courage (Sir), nor you
Your readers, learning, wit, and judgement too.





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