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In 1660, John Locke was aged twenty eight and a newly appointed tutor in Greek at Oxford. Oxford and Locke prudently rejoiced in the Restoration in a commissioned book of poetry: “Our prayers are heard,” penned Locke – but so had he and his Oxford colleagues praised Cromwell’s rule, “You, mighty Prince!” (V) Initially, Locke was unwilling to add to the political controversies of the era, until he penned his first two Tracts on Government . The occasion was a highly controversial reversal of policy on the part of Charles’s government.
Some to Conceit alone their Taste confine,
And glitt'ring Thoughts struck out at ev'ry Line;
Pleas'd with a Work where nothing's just or fit;
One glaring Chaos and wild Heap of Wit;
Poets like Painters, thus, unskill'd to trace
The naked Nature and the living Grace,
With Gold and Jewels cover ev'ry Part,
And hide with Ornaments their Want of Art.
True Wit is Nature to Advantage drest,
What oft was Thought, but ne'er so well Exprest,
Something, whose Truth convinc'd at Sight we find,
That gives us back the Image of our Mind:
As Shades more sweetly recommend the Light,
So modest Plainness sets off sprightly Wit:
For Works may have more Wit than does 'em good,
As Bodies perish through Excess of Blood.