The Art of Poetry
by John Dryden (1631-1700)
A poem, where we all perfections find,
Is not the work of a fantastic mind;
There must be care, and time, and skill, and pains;
Not the first head of inexperienced brains.
Yet sometimes artless poets, when the rage
Of a warm fancy does their minds engage,
Puffed with vain pride, presume they understand,
And boldly take the trumpet in their hand:
Their fustian muse each accident confounds;
Nor can she fly, but rise by leaps and bounds,
Till, their small stock of learning quickly spent,
Their poem dies for want of nourishment.
In vain mankind the hot-brained fool decries,
No branding censures can unveil his eyes;
With impudence the laurel they invade,
Resolved to like the monsters they have made.
Virgil, compared to them, is flat and dry;
And Homer understood not poetry:
Against their merit if this age rebel,
To future times for justice they appeal.
But waiting till mankind shall do them right,
And bring their works triumphantly to light,
Neglected heaps we in bye-corners lay,
Where they become to worms and moths a prey.