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But following wits from that intention stray'd;
Who could not win the mistress, woo'd the maid;
Against the poets their own arms they turn’d,
Sure to hate most the men from whom they learn'd.
So modern ’pothecaries taught the art
By doctors' bills to play the doctor's part,
Bold in the practice of mistaken rules,
Prescribe, apply, and call their masters fools.
Some on the leaves of ancient authors prey;
Nor time nor moths e'er spoil'd so much as they:
Some dryly plain, without invention's aid,
Write dull receipts how poems may be made;
These leave the sense, their learning to display,
And those explain the meaning quite away.
You then whose judgment the right course would
Know well each ancient's proper character; (steer,
His fable, subject, scope, in every page;
Religion, country, genius of his age:
Without all these at once before your eyes,
Cavil you may, but never criticise.
Be Homer's works your study and delight,
Read them by day, and meditate by night;
Thence form your judgment, thence your maxims
And trace the Muses upward to their spring.
Still with itself compared, his text peruse;
And let your comment be the Mantuan Muse..
When first young Maro in his boundless mind
A work to' outlast immortal Rome design’d,
Perhaps he seem'd above the critic's law,
And but from Nature's fountains scorn'd to draw:
But when to' examine every part he came,
Nature and Homer were, he found, the same.
Convinced, amazed, he checks the bold design,
And rules as strict his labour'd work confine
As if the Stagirite o’erlook'd each line.
Learn hence for ancient rules a just esteem;
To copy Nature is to copy them.
Some beauties yet no precepts can declare,
For there's a happiness as well as care.
Music resembles poetry; in each
Are nameless graces which no methods teach,
And which a master-hand alone can reach.
If, where the rules not far enough extend,
(Since rules were made but to promote their end)
Some lucky license answer to the full
The' intent proposed, that license is a rule.
Thus Pegasus, a nearer way to take,
May boldly deviate from the common track.
Great wits sometimes may gloriously offend,
And rise to faults true critics dare not mend;
From vulgar bounds with brave disorder part,
And snatch a grace beyond the reach of art,
Which,without passing through the judgment, gains
The heart, and all its end at once attains.
In prospects thus some objects please our eyes, ..
Which out of Nature's common order rise,
The shapeless rock, or hanging precipice.
But though the ancients thus their rules invade,
(As kings dispense with laws themselves have
Moderns, beware! or if you must offend
Against the precept, ne'er transgress its end;
Let it be seldom, and compell’d by need;
And have at least the precedent to plead :
The critic else proceeds without remorse,
Seizes your fame, and puts his laws in force.
I know there are, to whose presumptuous thoughts Those freer beauties, e'en in them seem faults. Some figures monstrous and misshaped appear, Consider'd singly, or beheld too near, Which but proportion’d to their light or place, Due distance reconciles to form and grace. A prudent chief not always must display His powers in equal ranks and fair array, But with the occasion and the place comply, Conceal his force, nay seem sometimes to fly. Those oft are stratagems which errors seem, Nor is it Homer nods, but we that dream..
Still green with bays each ancient altar stands Above the reach of sacrilegious hands, Secure from flames, from Envy's fiercer rage, Destructive War, and all-involving Age. See from each clime the learn’d their incense bring! Hear in all tongues consenting pæans ring! In praise so just let every voice be join'd, And fill the general chorus of mankind. Hail, bards triumphant! born in happier days, Immortal heirs of universal praise ! Whose honours with increase of ages grow, As streams roll down, enlarging as they flow; Nations unborn your mighty names shall sound, And worlds applaud that must not yet be found! O may some spark of your celestial fire The last, the meanest, of your sons inspire, (Thaton weak wings, from far, pursues your flights, Glows while he reads, but trembles as he writes) To teach vain wits a science little known, To' adıoire superior sense, and doubt their own!
Causes hindering a true judgment.-Pride.--Imperfect learn
ing.-Judging by parts, and not by the whole.-Critics in wit, language, versification, only.—Being too hard to please, or too apt to admire.—Partiality—too much love to a sect-to the ancients or moderns.--Prejudice or prevention.--Singularity.--Inconstancy.--Party spirit Envy.-Against envy, and in praise of good-nature.When severity is chiefly to be used by critics.
Of all the causes which conspire to blind
Man's erring judgment, and misguide the mind,
What the weak head with strongest bias rules,
Is pride, the never-failing vice of fools.
Whatever Nature has in worth denied
She gives in large recruits of needful pride:
For as in bodies, thus in souls, we find
What wants in blood and spirits, swelld with wind:
Pride, where wit fails, steps in to our defence,
And fills up all the mighty void of sense:
If once right reason drives that cloud away,
Truth breaks upon us with resistless day.
Trust not yourself; but your defects to know,
Make use of every friend--and every foe.
A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Fired at first sight with what the Muse imparts,
In fearless youth we tempt the heights of arts,
While from the bounded level of our mind
Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind;
But more advanced, behold with strange surprise
New distant scenes of endless science rise !
So pleased at first the towering Alps we try,
Mount o'er the vales, and seem to tread the sky !
The' eternal snows appear already past,
And the first clouds and mountains seem the last:
But those attain'd, we tremble to survey
The growing labours of the lengthen'd way;
The' increasing prospect tires our wandering eyes,
Hills peep o'er bills, and Alps on Alps arise !
A perfect judge will read eachi work of wit
With the same spirit that its author writ;
Survey the whole, nor seek slight faults to find
Where nature moves, and rapture warms the mind;
Nor lose, for that malignant dull delight,
The generous pleasure to be charm’d with wit.
But in such lays as neither ebb nor flow,
Correctly cold, and regularly low,
That shunning faults one quiet tenor keep,
We cannot blame indeed-but we may sleep.
In wit, as nature, what affects our hearts
Is not the exactness of peculiar parts;
'Tis not a lip, or eye, we beauty call,
But the joint force and full result of all.
Thus when we view some well-proportion'd dome,
(The world's just wonder, and e'en thine, O Rome!)
No single parts unequally surprise,
All comes united to the' admiring eyes;
No monstrous height, or breadth, orlength, appear;
The whole at once is bold and regular.
Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see, Thinks what ne'er was, nor is, nor e'er shall be. In every work regard the writer's end, Since none can compass more than they intend;