To Mr Edward Howard...

Charles Sackville

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Come on, ye critics! Find one fault who dare,
For, read it backward like a witch's prayer,
'Twill do as well; throw not away your jests
On solid nonsense that abides all tests.
Wit, like tierce claret, when 't begins to pall,
Neglected lies and's of no use at all;
But in its full perfection of decay,
Turns vinegar and comes again in play.
This simile shall stand in thy defence
'Gainst such dull rogues as now and then write sense.
He lies, dear Ned, who says thy brain is barren,
Where deep conceits, like vermin, breed in carrion;
Thou hast a brain, such as thou hast, indeed --
On what else should thy worm of fancy feed?
Yet in a filbert I have often known
Maggots survive when all the kernel's gone.
Thy style's the same whatever be the theme,
As some digestions turn all meat to phlegm:
Thy stumbling, founder'd jade can trot as high
As any other Pegasus can fly.
As skillful divers to the bottom fall
Sooner than those that cannot swim at all,
So in this way of writing without thinking
Thou hast a strange alacrity in sinking:
Thou writest below e'en thy own natural parts
And with acquired dullness and new arts
Of studied nonsense tak'st kind readers' heart.
So the dull eel moves nimbler in the mud
Than all the swift-finn'd racers of the flood.
Therefore, dear Ned, at my advice forbear

Such loud complaints 'gainst critics to prefer,
Since thou art turn'd an arrant libeller:
Thou sett'st thy name to what thyself dost write;
Did ever libel yet so sharply bite?

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