Of Poets and their Theft

As birds to hatch their young ones sit i’th’spring,1
So do some ages2 broods of poets bring,
Which to the world in verse do sweetly sing.

And as their notes not art but Nature taught,3
So fancies in the brain that4 Nature wrought,                      5
Are best; what imitation makes is5 naught.

For though these6 sing as well as well may be,
And make their notes of what they learn agree,
Yet he that teaches has the7 mastery,

And ought to have the crown of praise and fame,              10
In the long roll of time to write his name,
But8 those that steal from him are much to blame.9

There’s none should places have in Fame’s high court,
But those that first do win Invention’s fort,
Not messengers, which10 only make report.                         15

To messengers rewards of thanks are due
For their great pains, telling their message true—
But not the honor of11 invention new.

Many there are that suits will make to wear
Of several patches stol’n,12 both here and there,                 20
That to the world they gallants might13 appear.

And the poor vulgar, which but little know,
Do reverence all that makes a glist’ring show,
Examine not how it comes to be so.14

Then do they call their friends and all their kin;                 25
They15 factions make, the ignorant to win,16
With whose help they to Fame’s high court crowd in.17

  1. ones sit i’th’spring,] do sit in Spring, 1653
  2. So do some ages] Some Ages severall 1653
  3. And as their notes not art but Nature taught,] Their Notes great Nature set, not Art so taught: 1653
  4. that] by 1664, 1668
  5. is] are 1653
  6. these] they 1653
  7. has the] still, hath 1653
  8. But] And 1653
  9. from him are much to blame.] it out to blame. 1653. Though we do not typically record differences in spelling, the 1664 Errata list asks the reader to correct the spelling “too” to “to”.
  10. which] that 1653
  11. of] to 1653
  12. stol’n,] stole, 1653 stolen 1664
  13. might] may 1653
  14. Examine not how it comes to be so.] Examines not, the same how they came to. 1653
  15. They] And 1664, 1668
  16. win,] bring: 1653
  17. With whose help they to Fame’s high court crowd in.] And with their help, into Fames Court get in. 1653