To the Reader


I desire all those which read this part of my book to consider that it is thick of fancies, and therefore requires the more study. But if they understand them not,2 I desire they would do as those which have a troubled conscience, and cannot resolve themselves of some doubts, and therefore3 are required by the church to go to a minister4 to have them explained, and not to interpret them5 according to their own imaginations. So I entreat those that cannot find out the conceit of my fancies to ask a poet where the conceit lies before they censure, and not to accuse my book for nonsense, condemning it with a false construction, through an ignorant zeal of malice. But I desire them not to6 mistake and7 ask a rhymer instead of a poet, lest8 I be condemned as a traitor to sense through the blindness of the judge’s understanding. But9 if the judge be learned in the laws of poetry and honesty, and is free from10 bribes of envy, I shall not need to fear but that the truth will be found out, and its innocence will be freed11 at the bar of censure and be sent home with the acquittance12 of applause. Yet pray13 do not think I am so presumptuous as to14 compare myself15 to the church; I only16 compare truth to the church, and truth may be compared from the lowest subject17 to the highest.

At last I must entreat you18 to read this part of my book very slowly,19 and to observe very strictly every word you20 read, because in most of these poems, every word is a fancy. Wherefore if you21 lose by not marking, or skip by too hasty reading, you22 will entangle the sense of the whole poem.23

  1. In 1653, there is only a paragraph break rather than the beginning of a new (separately titled) letter.
  2. them not,] not, 1653
  3. and therefore] wherefore they 1653
  4. minister] Minister thereof, 1653
  5. interpret them] Interpret 1653
  6. But I desire them not to] nor do not 1653
  7. and] nor 1653
  8. lest] least 1653
  9. But] And 1664, 1668
  10. and is free from] from 1653, 1664
  11. will be freed] freed 1664, 1668
  12. acquittance] Acquaintance 1664, 1668. I have preserved the unusual form “acquittance” rather than modernizing to acquittal in an attempt to preserve the echo with the later correction.
  13. pray] I pray 1664, 1668
  14. as to] to 1653
  15. myself] my selfe in this Comparison 1653
  16. I only] but I onely here 1653
  17. subject] Subject, or Object 1653
  18. At last I must entreat you] I must intreat my Noble Reader, 1653. These words begin a paragraph break in 1653; in 1664 and 1668 the text is continuous.
  19. slowly,] slow, 1653
  20. you] they 1653
  21. you] they 1653
  22. you] they 1653
  23. poem.] Copy. 1653