THE CONTENTS OF THE Essay on Criticism.
2. The variety of men’s Tastes; of a true Taste, how rare to be found.
3. That most men are born with some Taste, but spoil’d by false education.
4. The multitude of Critics, and causes of ’em.
5. That we are to study our own Taste, and know the limits of it.
6. Nature the best guide of Judgment.
7. Improv’d by Art, and Rules, which are but methodiz’d Nature.
8. Rules deriv’d from the Practice of the ancient Poets.
9. That therefore the Ancients are necessary to be study’d by a Critic, particularly Homer and Virgil.
10. Of Licenses, and the use of ’em by the Ancients.
11. Reverence due to the Ancients, and praise of ’em.
PART II. Ver. 204, &c.
PART III. Ver. 565, &c.
1 ‘Tis hard to say, if greater want of skill
2 Appear in writing or in judging ill;
3 But, of the two, less dang’rous is th’offence
4 To tire our patience, than mislead our sense.
5 Some few in that, but numbers err in this,
6 Ten censure wrong for one who writes amiss;
7 A fool might once himself alone expose,
8 Now one in verse makes many more in prose.
9 ‘Tis with our judgments as our watches, none
10 Go just alike, yet each believes his own.
11 In Poets as true Genius is but rare,
12 True Taste as seldom is the Critic’s share;
13 Both must alike from heav’n derive their light,
14 These born to judge, as well as those to write.
15 Let such teach others who themselves excel,
16 And censure freely who have written well.
17 Authors are partial to their wit, ’tis true,
18 But are not Critics to their judgment too?
19 Yet if we look more closely, we shall find
20 Most have the seeds of judgment in their mind:
21 Nature affords at least a glimm’ring light;
22 The lines, tho’ touch’d but faintly, are drawn right.
23 But as the slightest sketch, if justly trac’d,
24 Is by ill-colouring but the more disgrac’d,
25 So by false learning is good sense defac’d:
26 Some are bewilder’d in the maze of schools,
27 And some made coxcombs Nature meant but fools.
28 In search of wit these lose their common sense,
29 And then turn Critics in their own defence:
30 Each burns alike, who can, or cannot write,
31 Or with a Rival’s, or an Eunuch’s spite.
32 All fools have still an itching to deride,
33 And fain would be upon the laughing side.
34 If Mævius scribble in Apollo‘s spight,
35 There are, who judge still worse than he can write.
36 Some have at first for Wits, then Poets past,
37 Turn’d Critics next, and prov’d plain fools at last.
38 Some neither can for Wits nor Critics pass,
39 As heavy mules are neither horse nor ass.
40 Those half-learn’d witlings, num’rous in our isle,
41 As half-form’d insects on the banks of Nile;
42 Unfinish’d things, one knows not what to call,
43 Their generation’s so equivocal:
44 To tell ’em, would a hundred tongues require,
45 Or one vain wit’s, that might a hundred tire.
46 But you who seek to give and merit fame,
47 And justly bear a Critic’s noble name,
48 Be sure yourself and your own reach to know,
49 How far your genius, taste, and learning go;
50 Launch not beyond your depth, but be discreet,
51 And mark that point where sense and dulness meet.
52 Nature to all things fix’d the limits fit,
53 And wisely curb’d proud man’s pretending wit.
54 As on the land while here the Ocean gains,
55 In other parts it leaves wide sandy plains;
56 Thus in the soul while memory prevails,
57 The solid pow’r of understanding fails;
58 Where beams of warm imagination play,
59 The memory’s soft figures melt away.
60 One science only will one genius fit;
61 So vast is art, so narrow human wit:
62 Not only bounded to peculiar arts,
63 But oft’ in those confin’d to single parts.
64 Like Kings we lose the conquests gain’d before,
65 By vain ambition still to make them more;
66 Each might his sev’ral province well command,
67 Would all but stoop to what they understand.
68 First follow Nature, and your judgment frame
69 By her just standard, which is still the same:
70 Unerring Nature, still divinely bright,
71 One clear, unchang’d, and universal light,
72 Life, force, and beauty, must to all impart,
73 At once the source, and end, and test of art.
74 Art from that fund each just supply provides,
75 Works without show, and without pomp presides:
76 In some fair body thus th’informing soul
77 With spirits feeds, with vigour fills the whole,
78 Each motion guides, and ev’ry nerve sustains;
79 Itself unseen, but in th’effects, remains.
80 There are whom heav’n has blest with store of wit,
81 Yet want as much again to manage it;
82 For wit and judgment ever are at strife,
83 Tho’ meant each other’s aid, like man and wife.
84 ‘Tis more to guide, than spur the Muse’s steed;
85 Restrain his fury, than provoke his speed;
86 The winged courser, like a gen’rous horse,
87 Shows most true mettle when you check his course.
88 Those Rules of old discover’d, not devis’d,
89 Are nature still, but nature methodiz’d;
90 Nature, like Monarchy, is but restrain’d
91 By the same laws which first herself ordain’d.
92 Hear how learn’d Greece her useful rules indites,
93 When to repress, and when indulge our flights!
94 High on Parnassus’ top her sons she show’d,
95 And pointed out those arduous paths they trod,
96 Held from afar, aloft, th’immortal prize,
97 And urg’d the rest by equal steps to rise.
98 Just precepts thus from great examples giv’n,
99 She drew from them what they deriv’d from heav’n.
100 The gen’rous Critic fann’d the Poet’s fire,
101 And taught the world with reason to admire.
102 Then Criticism the Muses handmaid prov’d,
103 To dress her charms, and make her more belov’d:
104 But following wits from that intention stray’d,
105 Who cou’d not win the mistress, woo’d the maid;
106 Against the Poets their own arms they turn’d,
107 Sure to hate most the men from whom they learn’d.
108 So modern ‘Pothecaries, taught the art
109 By Doctor’s bills to play the Doctor’s part,
110 Bold in the practice of mistaken rules,
111 Prescribe, apply, and call their masters fools.
112 Some on the leaves of antient authors prey,
113 Nor time nor moths e’er spoil’d so much as they.
114 Some drily plain, without invention’s aid,
115 Write dull receits how poems may be made.
116 These lose the sense, their learning to display,
117 And those explain the meaning quite away.
118 You then whose judgment the right course would steer,
119 Know well each Ancient’s proper character;
120 His Fable, Subject, scope in every page;
121 Religion, Country, genius of his Age:
122 Without all these at once before your eyes,
123 Cavil you may, but never criticize.
124 Be Homer‘s works your study, and delight,
125 Read them by day, and meditate by night;
126 Thence form your judgment, thence your notions bring,
127 And trace the Muses upward to their spring.
128 Still with itself compar’d, his text peruse;
129 Or let your comment be the Mantuan Muse.
130 When first young Maro sung of Kings and wars,
131 E’er warning Phoebus touch’d his trembling ears,
132 Perhaps he seem’d above the Critic’s law,
133 And but from Nature’s fountains scorn’d to draw:
134 But when t’examine ev’ry part he came,
135 Nature and Homer were, he found, the same:
136 Convinc’d, amaz’d, he checks the bold design;
137 And rules as strict his labour’d work confine,
138 As if the Stagyrite o’erlook’d each line.
139 Learn hence for ancient rules a just esteem;
140 To copy nature is to copy them.
141 Some beauties yet no precepts can declare,
142 For there’s a happiness as well as care.
143 Music resembles Poetry, in each
144 Are nameless graces which no methods teach,
145 And which a master-hand alone can reach.
146 If, where the rules not far enough extend,
147 (Since rules were made but to promote their end)
148 Some lucky Licence answers to the full
149 Th’intent propos’d, that Licence is a rule.
150 Thus Pegasus, a nearer way to take,
151 May boldly deviate from the common track.
152 Great Wits sometimes may gloriously offend,
153 And rise to faults true Critics dare not mend,
154 From vulgar bounds with brave disorder part,
155 And snatch a grace beyond the reach of art,
156 Which without passing thro’ the judgment, gains
157 The heart, and all its end at once attains.
158 In prospects, thus, some objects please our eyes,
159 Which out of nature’s common order rise,
160 The shapeless rock, or hanging precipice.
161 But care in poetry must still be had,
162 It asks discretion ev’n in running mad:
163 And tho’ the Ancients thus their rules invade,
164 (As Kings dispense with laws themselves have made)
165 Moderns beware! or if you must offend
166 Against the precept, ne’er trangress its end:
167 Let it be seldom, and compell’d by need;
168 And have, at least, their precedent to plead.
169 The Critic else proceeds without remorse,
170 Seizes your fame, and puts his laws in force.
171 I know there are, to whose presumptuous thoughts
172 Those freer beauties, ev’n in them, seem faults.
173 Some figures monstrous and mishap’d appear,
174 Consider’d singly, or beheld too near,
175 Which, but proportion’d to their light, or place,
176 Due distance reconciles to form and grace.
177 A prudent chief not always must display
178 His pow’rs in equal ranks, and fair array,
179 But with th’occasion and the place comply,
180 Conceal his force, nay seem sometimes to fly.
181 Those oft’ are stratagems which errors seem,
182 Nor is it Homer nods, but we that dream.
183 Still green with bays each ancient Altar stands,
184 Above the reach of sacrilegious hands;
185 Secure from flames, from envy’s fiercer rage,
186 Destructive war, and all-devouring age.
187 See, from each clime the learn’d their incense bring:
188 Hear, in all tongues consenting Pæans ring!
189 In praise so just let ev’ry voice be join’d,
190 And fill the gen’ral Chorus of mankind!
191 Hail, Bards triumphant! born in happier days;
192 Immortal heirs of universal praise!
193 Whose honours with increase of ages grow,
194 As streams roll down, enlarging as they flow!
195 Nations unborn your mighty names shall sound,
196 And worlds applaud that must not yet be found!
197 Oh may some spark of your celestial fire,
198 The last, the meanest of your sons inspire,
199 (That on weak wings, from far, pursues your flights;
200 Glows while he reads, but trembles as he writes)
201 To teach vain Wits a science little known,
202 T’admire superiour sense, and doubt their own!
203 Of all the causes which conspire to blind
204 Man’s erring judgment, and misguide the mind,
205 What the weak head with strongest biass rules,
206 Is Pride, the never-failing vice of fools.
207 Whatever nature has in worth deny’d,
208 She gives in large recr[illeg.]s of needful pride;
209 For as in bodies, thus in souls we find
210 What wants in blood and spirits, swell’d with wind:
211 Pride, where Wit fails, steps in to our defence,
212 And fills up all the mighty void of sense.
213 If once right reason drives that cloud away,
214 Truth breaks upon us with resistless day.
215 Trust not yourself; but your defects to know,
216 Make use of ev’ry friend—and ev’ry foe.
217 A little Learning is a dang’rous thing;
218 Drink deep, or taste not the Piërian spring:
219 There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
220 And drinking largely sobers us again.
221 Fir’d at first sight with what the Muse imparts,
222 In fearless youth we tempt the heights of Arts,
223 While from the bounded level of our mind,
224 Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind,
225 But more advanc’d, behold with strange surprize
226 New distant scenes of endless science rise!
227 So pleas’d at first the tow’ring Alps we try,
228 Mount o’er the vales, and seem to tread the sky,
229 Th’eternal snows appear already past,
230 And the first clouds and mountains seem the last:
231 But those attain’d, we tremble to survey
232 The growing labours of the lengthen’d way,
233 Th’increasing prospect tires our wand’ring eyes,
234 Hills peep o’er hills, and Alps on Alps arise!
235 A perfect Judge will read each work of wit,
236 With the same spirit that its author writ,
237 Survey the Whole, nor seek slight faults to find
238 Where nature moves, and rapture warms the mind;
239 Nor lose, for that malignant dull delight,
240 The gen’rous pleasure to be charm’d with wit.
241 But in such lays as neither ebb, nor flow,
242 Correctly cold, and regularly low,
243 That shunning faults, one quiet tenour keep;
244 We cannot blame indeed—but we may sleep.
245 In wit, as nature, what affects our hearts
246 Is not th’exactness of peculiar parts;
247 ‘Tis not a lip, or eye, we beauty call,
248 But the joint force and full result of all.
249 Thus when we view some well-proportion’d dome,
250 (The world’s just wonder, and ev’n thine, O Rome!)
251 No single parts unequally surprize,
252 All comes united to th’admiring eyes;
253 No monstrous height, or breadth, or length appear;
254 The Whole at once is bold, and regular.
255 Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see,
256 Thinks what ne’er was, nor is, nor e’er shall be.
257 In ev’ry work regard the writer’s End,
258 Since none can compass more than they intend;
259 And if the means be just, the conduct true,
260 Applause, in spight of trivial faults, is due.
261 As men of breeding, sometimes men of wit,
262 T’avoid great errors, must the less commit.
263 Neglect the rules each verbal Critic lays,
264 For not to know some trifles, is a praise.
265 Most Critics, fond of some subservient art,
266 Still make the whole depend upon a part:
267 They talk of principles, but notions prize,
268 And all to one lov’d Folly sacrifice.
269 Once on a time, La Mancha‘s Knight, they say,
270 A certain Bard encount’ring on the way,
271 Discours’d in terms as just, with looks as sage,
272 As e’er could Dennis, of the laws o’th’ stage;
273 Concluding all were desp’rate sots and fools,
274 Who durst depart from Aristotle‘s rules.
275 Our author, happy in a judge so nice,
276 Produc’d his Play, and begg’d the Knight’s advice;
277 Made him observe the subject and the plot,
278 The manners, passions, unities; what not?
279 All which, exact to rule, were brought about,
280 Were but a Combate in the lists left out.
281 “What! leave the combate out?” exclaims the knight;
282 Yes, or we must renounce the Stagyrite.
283 “Not so by heav’n” (he answers in a rage)
284 “Knights, squires, and steeds, must enter on the stage.”
285 The stage can ne’er so vast a throng contain.
286 “Then build a new, or act it in a Plain.
287 Thus Critics, of less judgment than caprice,
288 Curious, not knowing, not exact, but nice,
289 Form short Ideas; and offend in arts
290 (As most in manners) by a love to parts.
291 Some to Conceit alone their taste confine,
292 And glitt’ring thoughts struck out at ev’ry line;
293 Pleas’d with a work where nothing’s just or fit;
294 One glaring Chaos and wild heap of wit.
295 Poets like painters, thus, unskill’d to trace
296 The naked nature and the living grace,
297 With gold and jewels cover ev’ry part,
298 And hide with Ornaments their want of art.
299 True wit is nature to advantage dress’d,
300 What oft’ was thought, but ne’er so well express’d;
301 Something, whose truth convinc’d at sight we find,
302 That gives us back the image of our mind.
303 As shades more sweetly recommend the light,
304 So modest plainness sets off sprightly wit:
305 For works may have more wit than does ’em good,
306 As bodies perish thro’ excess of blood.
307 Others for Language all their care express,
308 And value books, as women men, for Dress:
309 Their praise is still, the Style is excellent:
310 The Sense, they humbly take upon content.
311 Words are like leaves; and where they most abound,
312 Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found.
313 False Eloquence, like the Prismatic glass,
314 Its gaudy colours spreads on ev’ry place;
315 The face of nature we no more survey,
316 All glares alike, without distinction gay:
317 But true Expression, like th’unchanging Sun,
318 Clears, and improves whate’er it shines upon,
319 It gilds all objects, but it alters none.
320 Expression is the dress of thought, and still
321 Appears more decent, as more suitable;
322 A vile conceit in pompous words express’d,
323 Is like a clown in regal purple dress’d:
324 For diff’rent styles with diff’rent subjects sort,
325 As several garbs with country, town, and court.
326 Some by old words to fame have made pretence:
327 Ancients in phrase, meer moderns in their sense!
328 Such labour’d nothings, in so strange a style,
329 Amaze th’unlearn’d, and make the learned smile.
330 Unlucky, as Fungoso in the Play,
331 These sparks with aukward vanity display
332 What the fine Gentleman wore yesterday,
333 And but so mimic ancient wits at best,
334 As apes our grandsires, in their doublets drest.
335 In words, as fashions, the same rule will hold;
336 Alike fantastic, if too new, or old;
337 Be not the first by whom the new are try’d,
338 Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.
339 But most by Numbers judge a Poet’s song,
340 And smooth or rough, with them, is right or wrong;
341 In the bright Muse tho’ thousand charms conspire,
342 Her Voice is all these tuneful fools admire;
343 Who haunt Parnassus but to please their ear,
344 Not mend their minds; as some to Church repair,
345 Not for the doctrine, but the music there.
346 These equal syllables alone require,
347 Tho’ oft’ the ear the open vowels tire;
348 While expletives their feeble aid do join;
349 And ten low words oft’ creep in one dull line;
350 While they ring round the same unvary’d chimes,
351 With sure returns of still-expected rhymes.
352 Where-e’er you find the cooling western breeze,
353 In the next line, it whispers thro’ the trees;
354 If crystal streams with pleasing murmurs creep,
355 The reader’s threaten’d (not in vain) with sleep.
356 Then, at the last and only couplet fraught
357 With some unmeaning thing they call a thought,
358 A needless Alexandrine ends the song,
359 That like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along.
360 Leave such to tune their own dull rhimes, and know
361 What’s roundly smooth, or languishingly slow;
362 And praise the easy vigour of a line,
363 Where Denham‘s strength, and Waller‘s sweetness join.
364 True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
365 As those move easiest who have learn’d to dance.
366 ‘Tis not enough no harshness gives offence,
367 The sound must seem an echo to the sense.
368 Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows,
369 And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows;
370 But when loud surges lash the sounding shore,
371 The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent roar.
372 When Ajax strives, some rock’s vast weight to throw,
373 The line too labours, and the words move slow;
374 Not so, when swift Camilla scours the plain,
375 Flies o’er th’unbending corn, and skims along the main.
376 Hear how Timotheus’ vary’d lays surprize,
377 And bid alternate passions fall and rise!
378 While, at each change, the son of Libyan Jove
379 Now burns with glory, and then melts with love:
380 Now his fierce eyes with sparkling fury glow,
381 Now sighs steal out, and tears begin to flow:
382 Persians and Greeks like turns of nature found,
383 And the World’s victor stood subdu’d by Sound!
384 The pow’r of Music all our hearts allow;
385 And what Timotheus was, is Dryden now.
386 Avoid Extremes; and shun the fault of such,
387 Who still are pleas’d too little or too much.
388 At ev’ry trifle scorn to take offence,
389 That always shows great pride, or little sense;
390 Those heads, as stomachs, are not sure the best,
391 Which nauseate all, and nothing can digest.
392 Yet let not each gay Turn thy rapture move,
393 For fools admire, but men of sense approve.
394 As things seem large which we thro’ mists descry,
395 Dulness is ever apt to magnify.
396 Some the French writers, some our own despise;
397 The Ancients only, or the Moderns prize.
398 (Thus Wit, like Faith, by each man is apply’d
399 To one small sect, and all are damn’d beside.)
400 Meanly they seek the blessing to confine,
401 And force that sun but on a part to shine,
402 Which not alone the southern wit sublimes,
403 But ripens spirits in cold northern climes;
404 Which from the first has shone on ages past,
405 Enlights the present, and shall warm the last:
406 (Tho’ each may feel encreases and decays,
407 And see now clearer and now darker days)
408 Regard not then if wit be old or new,
409 But blame the false, and value still the true.
410 Some ne’er advance a judgment of their own,
411 But catch the spreading notion of the town;
412 They reason and conclude by precedent,
413 And own stale nonsense which they ne’er invent.
414 Some judge of authors names, not works, and then
415 Nor praise nor blame the writings, but the men.
416 Of all this servile herd, the worst is he
417 That in proud dulness joins with Quality,
418 A constant Critic at the great man’s board,
419 To fetch and carry nonsense for my Lord.
420 What woful stuff this madrigal would be,
421 In some starv’d hackney sonneteer, or me?
422 But let a Lord once own the happy lines,
423 How the wit brightens! how the style refines!
424 Before his sacred name flies ev’ry fault,
425 And each exalted stanza teems with thought!
426 The Vulgar thus through Imitation err;
427 As oft’ the Learn’d by being singular;
428 So much they scorn the croud, that if the throng
429 By chance go right, they purposely go wrong:
430 So Schismatics the plain believers quit,
431 And are but damn’d for having too much wit.
432 Some praise at morning what they blame at night;
433 But always think the last opinion right.
434 A Muse by these is like a mistress us’d,
435 This hour she’s idoliz’d, the next abus’d;
436 While their weak heads, like towns unfortify’d,
437 ‘Twixt sense and nonsense daily change their side.
438 Ask them the cause; they’re wiser still, they say;
439 And still to-morrow’s wiser than to-day.
440 We think our fathers fools, so wise we grow;
441 Our wiser sons, no doubt, will think us so.
442 Once School-divines this zealous isle o’er-spread;
443 Who knew most Sentences, was deepest read;
444 Faith, Gospel, all, seem’d made to be disputed,
445 And none had sense enough to be confuted:
446 Scotists and Thomists, now, in peace remain,
447 Amidst their kindred cobwebs in Duck-lane.
448 If Faith itself has diff’rent dresses worn,
449 What wonder Modes in Wit should take their turn?
450 Oft’, leaving what is natural and fit,
451 The current folly proves the ready wit;
452 And authors think their reputation safe,
453 Which lives as long as fools are pleas’d to laugh.
454 Some valuing those of their own side or mind,
455 Still make themselves the measure of mankind:
456 Fondly we think we honour merit then,
457 When we but praise our selves in other men.
458 Parties in Wit attend on those of State,
459 And publick faction doubles private hate.
460 Pride, Malice, Folly, against Dryden rose,
461 In various shapes of Parsons, Critics, Beaus;
462 But sense surviv’d, when merry jests were past;
463 For rising merit will buoy up at last.
464 Might he return, and bless once more our eyes,
465 New Blackmores and new Milbourns must arise:
466 Nay should great Homer lift his awful head,
467 Zoilus again would start up from the dead.
468 Envy will merit, as its shade, pursue;
469 But like a shadow, proves the substance true;
470 For envy’d Wit, like Sol eclips’d, makes known
471 Th’opposing body’s grossness, not its own.
472 When first that sun too pow’rful beams displays,
473 It draws up vapours which obscure its rays;
474 But ev’n those clouds at last adorn its way,
475 Reflect new glories, and augment the day.
476 Be thou the first true merit to befriend,
477 His praise is lost, who stays ’till all commend.
478 Short is the date, alas, of modern rhymes,
479 And ’tis but just to let ’em live betimes.
480 No longer now that golden age appears,
481 When Patriarch-wits surviv’d a thousand years:
482 Now length of fame (our second life) is lost,
483 And bare threescore is all ev’n that can boast:
484 Our sons their fathers failing language see,
485 And such as Chaucer is, shall Dryden be.
486 So when the faithful pencil has design’d
487 Some bright Idea of the master’s mind,
488 Where a new world leaps out at his command,
489 And ready nature waits upon his hand;
490 When the ripe colours soften and unite,
491 And sweetly melt into just shade and light,
492 When mellowing years their full perfection give,
493 And each bold figure just begins to live;
494 The treach’rous colours the fair art betray,
495 And all the bright creation fades away!
496 Unhappy Wit, like most mistaken things,
497 Attones not for that envy which it brings.
498 In youth alone its empty praise we boast,
499 But soon the short-liv’d vanity is lost!
500 Like some fair flow’r the early spring supplies,
501 That gayly blooms, but ev’n in blooming dies.
502 What is this wit, which must our cares employ?
503 The owner’s wife, that other men enjoy;
504 The most our trouble still when most admir’d;
505 The more we give, the more is still requir’d;
506 The fame with pains we gain, but lose with ease;
507 Sure some to vex, but never all to please;
508 ‘Tis what the vicious fear, the virtuous shun,
509 By fools ’tis hated, and by knaves undone!
510 If wit so much from ign’rance undergo,
511 Ah let not learning too commence its foe!
512 Of old, those met rewards who could excel,
513 And such were prais’d who but endeavour’d well:
514 Tho’ Triumphs were to Gen’rals only due,
515 Crowns were reserv’d to grace the soldiers too.
516 Now, they who reach Parnassus’ lofty crown,
517 Employ their pains to spurn some others down;
518 And while self-love each jealous writer rules,
519 Contending wits become the sport of fools.
520 But still the worst with most regret commend,
521 For each ill Author is as bad a Friend.
522 To what base ends, and by what abject ways,
523 Are mortals urg’d thro’ sacred Lust of praise!
524 Ah ne’er so dire a thirst of glory boast,
525 Nor in the Critic let the Man be lost!
526 Good-nature and good-sense must ever join;
527 To err is humane, to forgive, divine.
528 But if in noble minds some dregs remain,
529 Not yet purg’d off, of spleen and sour disdain;
530 Discharge that rage on more provoking crimes,
531 Nor fear a dearth in these flagitious times.
532 No pardon vile Obscenity should find,
533 Tho’ wit and art conspire to move your mind;
534 But Dulness with obscenity must prove
535 As shameful sure as Impotence in love.
536 In the fat age of pleasure, wealth, and ease,
537 Sprung the rank weed, and thriv’d with large increase;
538 When Love was all an easy Monarch’s care;
539 Seldom at council, never in a war:
540 Jilts rul’d the state, and statesmen Farces writ;
541 Nay wits had pensions, and young Lords had wit:
542 The Fair sate panting at a Courtier’s play,
543 And not a Mask went unimprov’d away:
544 The modest fan was lifted up no more,
545 And Virgins smil’d at what they blush’d before.
546 The following licence of a Foreign reign
547 Did all the dregs of bold Socinus drain;
548 Then unbelieving Priests reform’d the nation,
549 And taught more pleasant methods of salvation;
550 Where heav’ns free subjects might their rights dispute,
551 Lest God himself should seem too Absolute:
552 Pulpits their sacred satire learn’d to spare,
553 And Vice admir’d to find a flatt’rer there!
554 Encourag’d thus, Wit’s Titans brav’d the skies,
555 And the Press groan’d with licens’d blasphemies.
556 These monsters, Critics! with your darts engage,
557 Here point your thunder, and exhaust your rage!
558 Yet shun their fault, who, scandalously nice,
559 Will needs mistake an author into vice;
560 All seems infected that th’infected spy,
561 As all looks yellow to the jaundic’d eye.
562 Learn then what Morals Critics ought to show,
563 For ’tis but half a judge’s task, to know.
564 ‘Tis not enough, wit, art, and learning join;
565 In all you speak, let truth and candour shine:
566 That not alone what to your judgment’s due
567 All may allow; but seek your friendship too.
568 Be silent always when you doubt your sense;
569 And speak, tho’ sure, with seeming diffidence:
570 Some positive, persisting fops we know,
571 That, if once wrong, will needs be always so;
572 But you, with pleasure own your errors past,
573 And make each day a Critic on the last.
574 ‘Tis not enough, your counsel still be true;
575 Blunt truths more mischief than nice falshoods do;
576 Men must be taught as if you taught them not,
577 And things unknown propos’d as things forgot.
578 Without good-breeding, truth is disapprov’d;
579 That only makes superiour sense belov’d.
580 Be niggards of advice on no pretence;
581 For the worst avarice is that of sense.
582 With mean complacence ne’er betray your trust,
583 Nor be so civil as to prove unjust.
584 Fear not the anger of the wise to raise;
585 Those best can bear reproof, who merit praise.
586 ‘Twere well might Critics still this freedom take;
587 But Appius reddens at each word you speak,
588 And stares, tremendous, with a threat’ning eye,
589 Like some fierce Tyrant in old Tapestry.
590 Fear most to tax an Honourable fool,
591 Whose right it is, uncensur’d to be dull;
592 Such without wit are Poets when they please,
593 As without learning they can take Degrees.
594 Leave dang’rous truths to unsuccessful Satyrs,
595 And flattery to fulsome Dedicators,
596 Whom, when they praise, the world believes no more,
597 Than when they promise to give scribling o’er.
598 ‘Tis best sometimes your censure to restrain,
599 And charitably let the dull be vain:
600 Your silence there is better than your spite,
601 For who can rail so long as they can write?
602 Still humming on, their drouzy course they keep,
603 And lash’d so long, like Tops, are lash’d asleep.
604 False steps but help them to renew the race,
605 As after stumbling, Jades will mend their pace.
606 What crouds of these, impenitently bold,
607 In sounds and jingling syllables grown old,
608 Still run on Poets, in a raging vein,
609 Ev’n to the dregs and squeezings of the brain,
610 Strain out the last dull droppings of their sense,
611 And rhyme with all the rage of Impotence.
612 Such shameless Bards we have; and yet ’tis true,
613 There are as mad, abandon’d Critics too.
614 The bookful blockhead, ignorantly read,
615 With loads of learned lumber in his head,
616 With his own tongue still edifies his ears,
617 And always list’ning to himself appears.
618 All books he reads, and all he reads assails,
619 From Dryden‘s Fables down to Durfey‘s Tales.
620 With him, most authors steal their works, or buy;
621 Garth did not write his own Dispensary.
622 Name a new Play, and he’s the Poet’s friend,
623 Nay show’d his faults—but when wou’d Poets mend?
624 No place so sacred from such fops is barr’d,
625 Nor is Paul‘s church more safe than Paul‘s church-yard:
626 Nay, fly to altars; there they’ll talk you dead;
627 For Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread.
628 Distrustful sense with modest caution speaks,
629 It still looks home, and short excursions makes;
630 But rattling nonsense in full vollies breaks,
631 And never shock’d, and never turn’d aside,
632 Bursts out, resistless, with a thund’ring tyde.
633 But where’s the man, who counsel can bestow,
634 Still pleas’d to teach, and yet not proud to know?
635 Unbiass’d, or by favour, or by spite;
636 Not dully prepossess’d; or blindly right;
637 Tho’ learn’d, well-bred; and tho’ well-bred, sincere;
638 Modestly bold, and humanly severe:
639 Who to a friend his faults can freely show,
640 And gladly praise the merit of a foe?
641 Blest with a taste exact, yet unconfin’d;
642 A knowledge both of books and human-kind;
643 Gen’rous converse; a soul exempt from pride;
644 And love to praise, with reason on his side?
645 Such once were Critics; such the happy few,
646 Athens and Rome in better ages knew.
647 The mighty Stagyrite first left the shore,
648 Spread all his sails, and durst the deeps explore;
649 He steer’d securely, and discover’d far,
650 Led by the light of the Mæonian Star.
651 Poets, a race long unconfin’d, and free,
652 Still fond and proud of savage liberty,
653 Receiv’d his laws; and stood convinc’d ’twas fit
654 Who conquer’d Nature, should preside o’er Wit.
655 Horace still charms with graceful negligence,
656 And without method talks us into sense,
657 Will like a friend, familiarly convey
658 The truest notions in the easiest way.
659 He, who supreme in judgment, as in wit,
660 Might boldly censure, as he boldly writ,
661 Yet judg’d with coolness, tho’ he sung with fire,
662 His Precepts teach but what his works inspire.
663 Our Critics take a contrary extreme,
664 They judge with fury, but they write with fle’me:
665 Nor suffers Horace more in wrong Translations
666 By Wits, than Critics in as wrong Quotations.
667 See Dionysius Homer‘s thoughts refine,
668 And call new beauties forth from ev’ry line!
669 Fancy and art in gay Petronius meet,
670 The scholar’s learning, with the courtier’s wit.
671 In grave Quintilian‘s copious work, we find
672 The justest rules, and clearest method join’d:
673 Thus useful arms in magazines we place,
674 All rang’d in order, and dispos’d with grace;
675 Nor thus alone the curious eye to please,
676 But to be found, when need requires, with ease.
677 Thee, bold Longinus! all the Nine inspire,
678 And bless their Critic with a Poet’s fire.
679 An ardent judge, who zealous in his trust,
680 With warmth gives sentence, yet is always just;
681 Whose own example strengthens all his laws,
682 And is himself that great Sublime he draws.
683 Thus long succeeding Critics justly reign’d,
684 Licence repress’d, and useful laws ordain’d.
685 Learning and Rome alike in empire grew,
686 And Arts still follow’d where her Eagles flew.
687 From the same foes, at last, both felt their doom,
688 And the same age saw Learning fall, and Rome.
689 With Tyranny, then Superstition join’d,
690 As that the body, this enslav’d the mind;
691 Much was believ’d, but little understood,
692 And to be dull was constru’d to be good;
693 A second deluge learning thus o’er-run,
694 And the Monks finish’d what the Goths begun.
695 At length Erasmus, that great, injur’d name,
696 (The glory of the Priesthood, and the shame!)
697 Stem’d the wild torrent of a barb’rous age,
698 And drove those holy Vandals off the stage.
699 But see! each Muse, in Leo‘s golden days,
700 Starts from her trance, and trims her wither’d bays!
701 Rome‘s ancient Genius, o’er its ruins spread,
702 Shakes off the dust, and rears his rev’rend head.
703 Then Sculpture and her sister-arts revive;
704 Stones leap’d to form, and rocks began to live;
705 With sweeter notes each rising Temple rung;
706 A Raphael painted, and a Vida sung.
707 Immortal Vida! on whose honour’d brow
708 The Poet’s bays and Critic’s ivy grow:
709 Cremona now shall ever boast thy name,
710 As next in place to Mantua, next in fame!
711 But soon by impious arms from Latium chas’d,
712 Their ancient bounds the banish’d Muses pass’d;
713 Thence arts o’er all the northern world advance;
714 But critic learning flourish’d most in France:
715 The rules, a nation born to serve, obeys;
716 And Boileau still in right of Horace sways.
717 But we, brave Britons, foreign laws despis’d,
718 And kept unconquer’d, and unciviliz’d,
719 Fierce for the liberties of wit, and bold,
720 We still defy’d the Romans, as of old.
721 Yet some there were, among the sounder few
722 Of those who less presum’d, and better knew,
723 Who durst assert the juster ancient cause,
724 And here restor’d Wit’s fundamental laws.
725 Such was the Muse, whose rules and practice tell,
726 Nature’s chief Master-piece is writing well.
727 Such was Roscommon—not more learn’d than good,
728 With manners gen’rous as his noble blood;
729 To him the wit of Greece and Rome was known,
730 And ev’ry author’s merit but his own.
731 Such late was Walsh,—the Muse’s judge and friend,
732 Who justly knew to blame or to commend;
733 To failings mild, but zealous for desert;
734 The clearest Head, and the sincerest Heart.
735 This humble praise, lamented Shade! receive,
736 This praise at least a grateful Muse may give:
737 The Muse, whose early voice you taught to sing,
738 Prescrib’d her heights, and prun’d her tender wing,
739 (Her guide now lost) no more attempts to rise,
740 But in low numbers short excursions tries:
741 Content, if hence th’unlearn’d their wants may view,
742 The learn’d reflect on what before they knew:
743 Careless of censure, nor too fond of fame;
744 Still pleas’d to praise, yet not afraid to blame;
745 Averse alike to flatter, or offend;
746 Not free from faults, nor yet too vain to mend.