Page:Poems of Anne Countess of Winchilsea 1903.djvu/115

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INTRODUCTION cxi ���fables are of importance for various reasons. They show her first in the field with a poetic form destined to great popularity in succeeding years; they reveal her opinions; they are vignettes of social satire ; and they are interesting examples of versification. �One line of reading in which Lady Winchilsea was much interested was the critical literature of her own day. Verse Boileau's L'Art Poeiique (1673) had stimu- �Criticism lated verse criticism in England as well as in �France. The Earl of Mulgrave's Essay on Satire (1679), his Essay on Poetry (1682), Roscommon's Essay on Trans- lated Verse (1681), his translation of Horace's Ars Poetica (1680), Sir William Soame's paraphrase and adaptation of Boileau's IS Art Poetique (1683), were verse renderings of the critical dicta counted most authoritative by the late seventeenth century writers. All of these, with the addition of Rapin and Madame Dacier, Lady Winchilsea knew well. Horace and the Stagirite are the critical law-givers, but Mulgrave is their prophet, and she finds his Essay on Poetry as "delightsome" as it is instructive. But it is Dryden, she thinks, who has laid open the very mysteries of poetry and made the whole art so clear that even females should be held accountable if they transgress the rules. �Of critical work on her own account Lady Winchilsea gives us little, but that little is not without interest. Poets should " teach while they divert" is her creed. Poetry may be allowed to "stir up soft thoughts," but this must be delicately and modestly done so as to cause no blushes, and poetry most successfully responds to its divine origin when it leads men "back to the Blissful Seats Above." Yet she seems to refer with some regret to the days of Charles II, when �Witty beggars were in fashion, And learning had o're-run the Nation. �The Merry Monarch, "so nice himself," and the " refin'der ��� �