To The Five Members Of The Honourable House Of Commons ,The Humble Petition Of The Poets Poem by John Denham

To The Five Members Of The Honourable House Of Commons ,The Humble Petition Of The Poets

After so many concurring petitions
From all ages and sexes, and all conditions,
We come in the rear to present our follies
To Pym, Stroud, Haslerig, Hampden, and Hollis.
Though set form of prayer be an abomination,
Set forms of petitions find great approbation;
Therefore, as others from th'bottom of their souls,
So we from the depth and bottom of our bowels,
According unto the bless'd form you have taught us,
We thank you first for the ills you have brought us:
For the good we receive we thank him that gave it,
And you for the confidence only to crave it.
Next in course, we complain of the great violation
Of privilege (like the rest of our nation),
But 'tis none of yours of which we have spoken,
Which never had being until they were broken;
But ours is a privilege ancient and native,
Hangs not on an ord'nance, or power legislative.
And, first, 'tis to speak whatever we please,
Without fear of a prison or pursuivants' fees.
Next, that we only may lie by authority;
But in that also you have got the priority.
Next, an old custom, our fathers did name it
Poetical license, and always did claim it.
By this we have power to change age into youth,
Turn nonsense to sense, and falsehood to truth;
In brief, to make good whatsoever is faulty;
This art some poet, or the devil, has taught ye:
And this our property you have invaded,
And a privilege of both Houses have made it.
But that trust above all in poets reposed,
That kings by them only are made and deposed,
This though you cannot do, yet you are willing:
But when we undertake deposing or killing,
They're tyrants and monsters; and yet then the poet
Takes full revenge on the villains that do it:
And when we resume a sceptre or crown,
We are modest, and seek not to make it our own.
But is't not presumption to write verses to you,
Who make better poems by far of the two?
For all those pretty knacks you compose,
Alas! what are they but poems in prose?
And between those and ours there's no difference,
But that yours want the rhyme, the wit, and the sense:
But for lying (the most noble part of a poet)
You have it abundantly, and yourselves know it;
And though you are modest and seem to abhor it,
'T has done you good service, and thank Hell for it:
Although the old maxim remains still in force,
That a sanctified cause must have a sanctified course,
If poverty be a part of our trade,
So far the whole kingdom poets you have made,
Nay, even so far as undoing will do it,
You have made King Charles himself a poet:
But provoke not his Muse, for all the world knows,
Already you have had too much of his prose.

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