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Poet's Complaint


_Introduction and Notes by_







William E. Conway, _William Andrews Clark Memorial Library_
George Robert Guffey, _University of California, Los Angeles_
Maximillian E. Novak, _University of California, Los Angeles_


David S. Rodes, _University of California, Los Angeles_


Richard C. Boys, _University of Michigan_
James L. Clifford, _Columbia University_
Ralph Cohen, _University of Virginia_
Vinton A. Dearing, _University of California, Los Angeles_
Arthur Friedman, _University of Chicago_
Louis A. Landa, _Princeton University_
Earl Miner, _University of California, Los Angeles_
Samuel H. Monk, _University of Minnesota_
Everett T. Moore, _University of California, Los Angeles_
Lawrence Clark Powell, _William Andrews Clark Memorial Library_
James Sutherland, _University College, London_
H. T. Swedenberg, Jr., _University of California, Los Angeles_
Robert Vosper, _William Andrews Clark Memorial Library_
Curt A. Zimansky, _State University of Iowa_


Edna C. Davis, _William Andrews Clark Memorial Library_


Lilly Kurahashi, _William Andrews Clark Memorial Library_


_Poeta de Tristibus: or, the Poet's Complaint (PdT)_ was published by
two newly established booksellers, Henry Faithorne and John Kersey,
early in November 1681 (title-page dated 1682). The poem is only one of
a large number of Restoration satires on writers as a group, its nearest
neighbors in time being the pseudo-Rochester "A Session of the Poets,"
the anonymous "Advice to Apollo," Mulgrave's "An Essay upon Satyr,"
Otway's _The Poet's Complaint_, Robert Gould's "To Julian, Secretary to
the Muses," the anonymous "Satire on the Poets," Shadwell's _The Tory
Poets_, and Thomas Wood's _Juvenalis Redivivus_. It differs from these
in its Hudibrastic meter, the richness of its biographical detail, and a
relatively mild degree of animus against its victims, though there is
quite a deal against poetry as art and trade.

In the two introductory epistles, we are asked to believe first that the
poem is the work of a young writer driven into exile by his poverty and
secondly that the manuscript was sent from Dover to a relative on 10
January 1681 in acknowledgment of a piece of gold. It is possible, as
will be seen, that this reflects an actual history; however, the matter
is complicated by the existence of a second text, published by 12
November 1681 (Luttrell's date on his copy, now at Harvard, and
apparently the only one still extant) as _The Poet's Complaint (PC)_ in
which the story is presented in a slightly different form and the text
of the poem is little more than a third the length of _PdT_. An
advertisement placed in Nathaniel Thompson's _Loyal Protestant and True
Domestick Intelligence_ on 19 November 1681 claims that the rival
version, published by Dan Brown, was printed from a "spurious and very
imperfect Copy which contains only the first Part of the said Poem, the
three last Parts (which are the most considerable) being wholly left
out, excepting some few lines of them foisted in here and there without
any Sense or Coherence" and describes the Faithorne and Kersey
manuscript as "from the Authors Original Copy in four parts (together
with several Additions and Corrections by an Ingenious Person)." In a
recent article (_PQ_, XLVII [1968], 547-562) the present editor has
argued against this account of the poem's genesis, and has proposed the
following hypothetical order of versions. (For the details of the
argument the reader is referred to the article.)

(1) An impromptu written as _The Poet's Complaint_ on or about 30
December 1680, for despatch to "a Person of Quality," using
materials from a commonplace book dating from circa 1677. This
assumption is based on the terminal dates of its collection of
quotations from other writers which differs from that of _PdT_, and
a disparity between the times of composition alleged in the
epistles to the two poems - _PdT_ claiming "less than a fortnight's
space" and _PC_ "less than three days space."

(2) An enlarged version of #1 in four cantos completed by 10
January 1681. (The "Authors Original Copy.")

(3) The version of #2 revised and augmented by "The Ingenious
Person," who may or may not have been identical with the
"Publisher," and printed as _Poeta de Tristibus_.

It would follow that the near-simultaneous publication of versions #1
and #3 in November 1681 was wholly coincidental. My initial assumption
that _PC_ represents an early draft rather than a truncated copy of
_PdT_ has been reviewed with approval by my colleague David Bradley,
using criteria developed during a study of analogous situations among
Elizabethan dramatic texts. One of his most valuable observations is
that the two versions are thematically distinct, _PC_ being a satire on
backbiting, attacking those who abuse poets and poetry, and _PdT_ a more
general study of the notion "Wit versus Wealth." It is unfortunately
impossible to reproduce his more detailed comments since this would also
involve reproducing sizeable sections of _PC_; however, the basic point
concerning the direction of copying can be made in another way through
the pattern of variants revealed in extracts from the epilogue to Lacy's
_The Old Troop_ and Dryden's prologue to _Aureng-Zebe_ which are quoted
in both _PC_ and _PdT_. Collation shows that both texts are derived
from a lost intermediary which was in close though not complete
agreement with _PC_ against _PdT_. This rules out any chance that this
section of _PC_ could be derived from the printer's copy of _PdT_, and
suggests that the intermediary is more likely to have been the
hypothetical commonplace book or the MS of _PC_ than any four-canto
text, though the second possibility cannot be dismissed on textual
grounds alone.

The only real clues to the authorship of the poem are the biographical
details of the preface and the signature initials "T.W." following the
author's epistle of _PC_ - either or both of which may of course result
from a conscious intention to deceive. Surprisingly, both seem to be
relevant to the history of Thomas Ward, the author of the hudibrastic
anti-protestant satire, _England's Reformation_ (1719), who is known to
have left England at roughly the time suggested as that of the poem's
composition. In the life of Ward prefixed to _An Interesting Controversy
with Mr. Ritschel, Vicar of Hexham_ (1819), which appears to be based at
an unknown degree of removal on a personal memoir, he is said to have
been born on 13 April 1652, and to have returned to England in the
thirty-fourth year of his age after at least "five or six years" abroad,
a figure which may just be reconciled with a departure date in January
1680/1. However, other details of the case do not fit so well. To start
with, it is hard to see how a man of twenty-eight could refer, as the
author does in both epistles, to his "want of years, and a necessary
Experience in the Ages humour." Nor is it easy to reconcile Ward's
fervent Catholicism with a satiric allusion in _PC_ to non-preaching
bishops - a favorite topic of Puritan polemic - or with a reference to the
Pope as "Rome's great Idol." Ward is said in the _Life_ to have been a
Catholic before his departure, and writes movingly in _England's
Reformation_ of his friendship with the Yorkshire anchorite Father
Posket, executed in March 1679. The matter is further complicated by the
appearance of the initials "T.W." together with the dateline "Rome, June
10. 79. Stilo Novo." on a broadsheet of 1679, _A letter from Rome to a
Friend in London in Relation to the Jesuits Executed, and those that are
to be Executed in the Countryes_, which is in fact an anti-Catholic
tract vigorously supporting the executions. For this to have been the
work of Ward we would have to assume that he had set out for Rome at
least two years before the departure of the Poeta and then suffered a
violent relapse into Puritanism. On the other hand, if the pamphlet, as
is quite probable, was really the work of one of Shaftesbury's
propagandists in London, there would have been excellent reasons for
attaching the initials of a known Catholic exile. As the year 1679 is
also within the stated date-range of Ward's departure, the existence of
the broadsheet must count marginally against his being the author of

I can cast no further light on this mystery beyond proposing that if the
story of the exiled poet is in fact a fabrication, the poem may have
been the work of a younger (b. 1661) and Protestant "T.W." in the person
of Thomas Wood, Anthony à Wood's nephew, later celebrated as a legal
writer, poet, and controversialist and for his fondness for anonymous
and pseudonymous publication. Two of Wood's poems, _Juvenalis Redivivus_
(published anonymously in 1683) and an elegy on the death of Oldham
(included with Dryden's lines in the _Remains_ of 1684), are satires on
the poets of a similar kind to _PdT_, while the second has a striking
structural similarity to its opening canto. Neither _PdT_ nor _PC_ is
included in Wood's list of his writings sent to his uncle in 1692 for
inclusion in _Athenae Oxonienses_ (Bodl. MS. Wood F.45, f.#229), nor do
they appear in _A Catalogue of Part of the Library of the Reverend Dr.
Wood_ (London, 1723); however, neither omission need be significant. A
third possibility is Thomas Walters, claimed by Anthony à Wood as the
true author of William Bedloe's tragedy, _The Excommunicated Prince_
(1679); but I have found nothing beyond the fact he was an author to
connect him with _PdT_, nor any evidence that either he or Thomas Wood
spent the years 1681-1682 otherwise than accumulating time for their
degrees at Oxford.

Monash University


This facsimile of _Poeta de Tristibus_ (1682) is reproduced from a copy
(*PR3291/P795) in the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library.



Poet's Complaint.



_In Four_ CANTO'S.

_Ovid de Trist._

_Parve, nec invideo, sine me Liber ibis in Urbem:
Hei mihi! quò_ - -


Printed for _Henry Faitborne_ and _John Kersey_, at the
_Rose_ in St. _Paul_'s Church-Yard. 1682.

_The Publisher's Epistle to the_


_Courteous Reader_,

The following Poem was presented me about a year ago; and (as it appears
by the Author's Epistle to me) was designed only for my Private
Divertisement: But numerous Draughts being dispers'd abroad, by the
Unworthiness of a Gentleman I Trusted it withal, I was more easily
perswaded to Publish the Original, to prevent the Inconveniencies of a
Surreptitious Copy, which, without my Allowance, was designed for the

The Author being out of _England_, I would not venture to set his Name
to it; nor have I presumed thus far, without extraordinary regret; not
that I know any other Reason that enforces a concealment, besides that
it was sent to me with such a Bond. I am sure no particular Person can
pretend to any distaste; and _Satyr_ on general Subjects was ever
Allowable, _Religion_ and _Government_ only excepted.

But I must Confess, that in the Third Part of this Poem, there were some
Capital Letters which began the Names of certain Poets of this Age, but
them I have so altered, lest any Offence should be given, that by them I
am sure no Discovery can be made. I will no longer detain you from your
better Divertisement in the following Poem; which, if you have any good
Nature, you cannot chuse but favour, especially if you carry along with
you those several Circumstances which in the way will offer themselves
to you in the Author's behalf.


The Author's Epistle.


_My Obedience to your desire so happily concentring with my Inclination
to this Subject, has in less than a fortnight's space produc'd what here
you see. To you I need not make any Apology for its Artless Habit, who
very well know my want of years, and a necessary Experience in the Ages
humour; nor can you reasonably expect any extraordinary strokes from one
whose thoughts are divided between so many various Afflictions; since_
Ovid _himself, when Condemn'd to Banishment, was forc'd to resign that
Spirit of Poetry, which animated all his Works, besides that of his_ De
Tristibus. _Besides, I must desire your Patience to observe, that (the
Verse I use being a kind of Doggrel) it is but Natural that now and then
it should run harsh and rugged; nor do I believe I have done amiss by
forcing my self sometimes to be so very plain and familiar. As for the
Rhyme and Measure, though perhaps they may not always answer the
strictest Law, yet I do not think it worth the while to make any excuse
for that, being faults so inconsiderable, that they are seldom reflected
on, but by the meanest sort of Criticks, who want judgment to discern
the Intrigues of Humour and Invention, which are the Principal
Ingredients of a Poem, and which I must needs confess are here extreamly
deficient: For as this little Poem was written_ extempore, _so it
presumes to kiss your hand in its Native unpolish'd shape, not having
the least thought or word of it Corrected; for to Morrow being the time
we design to take Shipping, I had not so much leisure as to Transcribe

_I must Confess, it seems unnatural, that one who pretends to the Title
of a Poet, should endeavour, as I have done, to disparage his own
Profession. However, the Poets of this Age, whom it most concerns, I
hope will not take it unkindly of me, since doing thus, I only follow
the Example they have given me; for in that short time of my Residence
in_ London, _among all the Poets I was in Company with, I heard little
else besides their Complaints, and unmerciful damnings both of the Times
and one another. Neither have I seen a Modern Play but either began or
ended in the same Tune. Some few of which I have, for Example-sake, here
presumed to quote._

In the Prologue to _Aurenzebe_.

_The Clergy thrives, and the Litigious Bar,_
_Dull Heroes fatten by the Spoils of War._
_All Southern Vices (Heav'n be prais'd) are here,_
_But Wit's a Luxury you count too dear._

In the Epilogue to the _Libertine_.

_S Death! What a Devil would you have us do?_}
_Each take a Prison, and there humbly sue,_ }
_Angling for single Money in a Shoe?_ }

In the Epilogue to _Monsieur Rogooe_.

_I Am a Poet, and I'll prove it plain,_
_Both by my empty Purse, and empty Brain._
_I've other Reasons to confirm it too;_
_I've great, and self-conceits of all I do._
_As for my Play, I Pawn'd it to some Cit,_
_At least six Months before my Play was writ._
_But when the third day comes, away I run,_
_Knowing that then in sholes come all my Duns._
_If these things make me not a proper Poet,_
_He that has better Title, let him shew it._

In the Prologue to _Theodosius_; Or the Force of Love.

_On Poets only no kind Star e're smil'd,_
_Curst Fate has damn'd 'em every Mothers Child._
_Therefore he warns his Brothers of the Stage_
_To write no more to an ingrateful Age._
_Think what penurious Masters you have serv'd;_
Tasso _ran mad, and Noble_ Spencer _starv'd_.
_Turn then, who e're thou art, that canst Write well,_
_Thy ink to Gall, and in Lampoons excell._
_Forswear all Honesty, traduce the Great,_
_Grow Impudent, and rail against the State;_
_Bursting with Spleen, abroad thy Pasquils send,_
_And choose some Libel-spreader for thy Friend._
_The Wit and Want of_ Timon _point thy Mind,_
_And for thy Satyr-subject chuse Mankind._

In the Prologue to the Unhappy Favourite; or the Earl of _Essex_.

_The Merchant, joyful with th' hopes of Gain,_
_Ventures his Life and Fortunes on the Main;_
_But the poor Poet oft'ner does expose_
_More than his Life, his Credit, for Applause._

In the Epilogue to the same Play.

_Let those who call us Wicked, change their Sence,_
_For never Men liv'd more on Providence:_
_Not Lott'ry Cavaliers are half so poor,_
_Nor broken Cits, nor a Vacation Whore;_
_Not Courts, nor Courtiers living on the Rents_
_Of the three last ungiving Parliaments._
_So Wretched, that if_ Pharaoh _could Divine,_ }
_He might have spar'd his Dream of seven lean Kine,_}
_And chang'd the Vision for the Muses Nine._ }

And a little after.

_'Tis not our want of Wit that keeps us poor,_
_For then the Printer's Press would suffer more:_
_Their Pamphleteers their Venom daily spit,_
_They thrive by Treason, and we starve by Wit._

_Now I do not blame these Ingenuous Gentlemen for inveighing against the
thing to which they owe their Ruin; nor were it to any purpose to
endeavour to conceal a Truth so generally taken notice of: For who is
Ignorant of this, that a Man, in all Professions, except that of Poetry,
may with Honour advance a Livelihood? But that (though it may be
sometimes found proper for the Divertisement of those few who have
leisure to read it) was ever known to be most unprofitable to the
Authors; for few or none have been Advanced by it, though many have been
hindred by this Art of Versifying, from making their Fortune otherwise
in the World. Yea, this Profession is grown so Vile and abject, that
whereas others count it an Honour to be stiled Physicians, Barristers,
or the like; these are offended with the very Name of Poet: And that
with good Reason too, since Poetry only glories in Disguising the Truth;
for which cause it begins to be Banished even from Theatres, to which
alone it was Destinated; and Prose is now come in request, being
prefer'd for its Gracefulness and Naturalness above it: By which means
this Art is in danger to be confin'd to the Corners of Streets; to serve
only for Songs and Ballads. Hence it was that_ Ovid _was so severely
Punished by his Father, to make him leave off this Art, which proved so
unlucky to him, that he became of a Rich_ Roman _Knight, a Miserable
Exile among_ Barbarians. _Hence_ Plato _was pleased to Banish it out of
his imaginary Common-Wealth. And_ Philip, _the first Christian Emperour,
denied them those Immunities which he granted to all others. Numerous
Instances of this Nature offer themselves to my Pen, but I must take
care not to stretch my Epistle too far, for fear you should Reflect on
it, what was formerly said on Sir_ William D'avenant's _Preface before
his_ Gondibert,

A Preface to no Book, a Porch to no House,
Here is the Mountain, but where is the Mouse?

_However, I must not neglect to desire this one Favour of you, that
after you have taken the pains to peruse these undigested Lines, you
would be pleased to bestow on them a Funeral Fire; or if you apprehend
that Sentence to be too severe, I do most earnestly beg of you to keep
them Secret to your self, without shewing them to your trustiest Friend,
at least, with my Name_ _to them. It were superfluous now to engage you
not to convey them to the Censorious World through the Press, since
that, and more was already by the precedent Caution imply'd; besides,
the Opinion I have of your Candour, is better grounded, than to admit of
any such Jealousie._

_I will now only add my most hearty Thanks for all your Favours,
particularly for the Piece of Gold I Received inclosed in your last
Letter; and had some others of my Relations proved as kind to me as your
self, or had I in my own Countrey met with encouragement any way sutable
to my Endeavours, I had not in this Passion shaken hands with it. But
now I am in hast to be gone, yet will for ever remain,_

_Dearest Cousin!_

Your assured, Faithful Friend,
and most Humble Servant.

Dated at _Dover_ the Tenth
day of _January, 1680/1_.



Poet's Complaint.



_The First CANTO._

Since here I'm bandy'd up and down
By the keen blows of Fortunes frown,
Whil'st Art and Nature vainly strive
To make th' unhappy Poet live;
I'le fly such Native Plagues as these
For Refuge, to the calmer Seas:
And try if boading Stars dispence
Ev'ry where the same influence.
Climes vary Constitutions, so
Why may not they change Fortunes too?
Through th' habitable World I'le go,
And if that fails, I'le search for new.
Wit somewhere has a happy Reign,
Or Nature gives us Thoughts in vain.
Tho' here her bounty she provides
For ev'ry thing which breaths besides.

The Dunce made Batchelor of Art,
Some Fustian Sermon learns by heart,
Then Preaches 'fore a Country Squire,}
Who his deep Learning does admire, }
And gives him sixscore pounds a year.}
But he must Marry th' Chamber-Maid,
Who is, forsooth, a Mistress made:
So he goes on with a fair hope,
And of his Pulpit makes a Shop.

So Quacks as eas'ly as they will,
Can get Licenses to kill,
Whil'st the hungry Poet may }
For an _Imprimatur_ stay, }
Till h'has eaten up his Play.}

Yet since the Press has lately had
Its Liberty, 'tis near as bad.
For scarce a broken Shop-keeper,
Or a cast Serving man grown bare,
But herds among our starved Crew,
And falls a Writing Poems too.
The Plot, the Jesuit, and the Pope
Are now grown Theams for ev'ry Fop.
Who by such wretched, Ballad-ware,
Makes Writing cheap, and Paper dear.

See how the gaping Merchants range,
Hunting their Chapmen on the Change,
Whose Various Voices frame a sound,
Like Billows when their Ships are drown'd,
And in one hour more fat do sweat
Than th' Poet in a year can get.
Those worst of Atheists! who do hold
There is no Deity but Gold!
They hate the Poet 'cause he's poor,
And only th' Golden Calf adore.
Our Plays, they say, are wicked dear,
Th' expence in Ballads will go far.
Nay, I protest I've heard some say
Plays are a kind of Popery.
I'th' City-shops they're thought Profane,
As were Minc'd-pies in _Cromwel_'s Reign.
Where, when for _Dryden_'s Works I came,
They vow'd they never heard his Name.
But they had _Baxter_'s, if you please,
And such-like precious things as these.
Bless 'em from Plays; they'd rather go
Unto a Conventicle, or so.

The Stationer grows fat on th' gain,
He sucks from the poor Poet's brain.
He, and the Printer, who does know
Nothing beyond the Cris-cros-row,
Do still their Heads together joyn
To cheat the Poet of his Coyn.
Whil'st he, poor Drudge! must toil and sweat
Honourable stabs to get;
And is forc'd to sigh, and stay
For the Lawrel 'till he's gray:
And at last together come
To his Honour, and his Tomb.
Tho' when dead, his Friends may'nt raise
Enough to gild his Fun'ral Bays.

The Players, who scarce know to write
Their Names, or spell one word aright,
Or read their Parts, unless writ fair
In a large _Roman_ Character,
Call us their Slaves, who for their gain
Must toil, and all their faults sustain.
In gay Attire each day they shine;
Eat well, and drink the Richest Wine,
All fat and plump, except some few
The _French-man_ prov'd invet'rate to.
Look how they strut it as they go! }
And in the streets make such a show,}
As if they'ld there Act Princes too!}
While th' Poet sneaking all alone
In some by-lane where he's unknown;
No farther than his Pot can go,
And has a Pipe to th' bargain too.

I hardly a poor Lawyer know,
Unless some who are Poets too.
They thrive by Rapine and Revenge,
And making Enemies of Friends:
Feeding on others hopes and fears,
On Orphants groans, and Widows tears.
In short, the World it self; and all
We Trade, and Art, and Science call,
Are grand Impostures; false and vain,
Invented but to bring in gain.

Astronomy does our Faith engage,
And with dark Notions cheats the Age:

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