To His Noble Friend, Mr. Richard Lovelace, Upon His Poems by Andrew Marvell
Sir, Our times are much degenerate from those Which your sweet muse with your fair fortune chose, And as complexions alter with the climes, Our wits have drawn the infection of our times. That candid age no other way could tell To be ingenious, but by speaking well. Who best could praise had then the greatest praise, 'Twas more esteemed to give than bear the bays: Modest ambition studied only then To honour not herself but worthy men. These virtues now are banished out of town, Our Civil Wars have lost the civic crown. He highest builds, who with most art destroys, And against others' fame his own employs. I see the envious caterpillar sit On the fair blossom of each growing wit.
The air's already tainted with the swarms Of insects which against you rise in arms: Word-peckers, paper-rats, book-scorpions, Of wit corrupted, the unfashioned sons. The barbÐ¸d censurers begin to look Like the grim consistory on thy book; And on each line cast a reforming eye, Severer than the young presbytery. Till when in vain they have thee all perused, You shall, for being faultless, be accused. Some reading your Lucasta will allege You wronged in her the House's privelege. Some that you under sequestration are, And one the book prohibits, because Kent Their first petition by the author sent.
But when the beauteous ladies came to know That their dear Lovelace was endangered so: Lovelace that thawed the most congealÐ¸d breast -- He who loved best and them defended best, Whose hand so rudely grasps the steely brand, Whose hand most gently melts the lady's hand -- They all in mutiny though yet undressed Sallied, and would in his defence contest. And one, the loveliest that was yet e'er seen, Thinking that I too of the rout had been, Mine eyes invaded with a female spite, (She knew what pain 'twould cause to lose that sight.) `O no, mistake not,' I replied, `for I In your defence, or in his cause, would die.' But he, secure of glory and of time, Above their envy, or mine aid, doth climb. Him valiant'st men and fairest nymphs approve; His book in them finds judgement, with you love.