Page images

All which, exact to rule, were brought about,
Were but a Combat in the lists left out.
What! leave the Combat out?” exclaims the

Knight ; Yes, or we must renounce the Stagirite. 280 “ Not so, by Heav'n” (he answers in a rage) “ Knights, fquires, and steeds, must enter on the


[ocr errors]

" stage."

So vast a throng the stage can ne'er contain. “ Then build a new, or act it on a plain.”

Thus Critics, of less judgment than caprice, 285 Curious not knowing, not exact but nice, Form short Ideas; and offend in arts (As most in manners) by a love to parts.

Some to Conceit alone their taste confine, And glitt'ring thoughts struck out at ev'ry line; 290 Pleas'd with a work where nothing's just or fit; One glaring Chaos and wild heap of wit.



VER. 285. Thus Critics of less judgment than caprice,

Curious nai knowing, not exact but nice.] In these two lines the poet finely describes the way in which bad writers are wont to imitate the qualities of good oncs. As true Judgmint generally draws men out of popular opinions, so he who cannot get from the croud by the allistance of this guide, willingly follows Caprice, which will be sure to lead him into fingularities. Again, true Knowledge is the art of treasuring up only that which, from its use in life, is worthy of being lodged in the memory: But Curiosity consists in a vain attention to every thing out of the way, and which, for its useleffness, the world leait regards. Lastly, Exactness is the just proportion of parts to one another, and their harmony in a whole : But he who has not extent of capacity for the exercise of this quality, contents himself with Nicety, which is a burying one's self about points and syllables,

Poets, like painters, thus, unskills to trące
The naked nature and the living grace,
With gold and jewels cover ev'ry part, 295
And hide with oệnaments their want of art.
True Wit is Nature to advantage dressid,
What oft was thought, but ne'er so well express:d ;
Something, whose truth convinc'd at sight we find,
That gives us back the image of our mind. 300
As shades more sweetly recommend the light,
So modest plainness sets off sprightly wit.


[ocr errors]

VER. 297. True Wit is Nature to advantage dress’d, etc.] This definition is very exact. Mr. Locke had defined Wit to consist in the assemblage of ideas, and putting those together, with quickness and variety, wherein can be found any resemblance or congruity, whereby to make up pleasant pictures and agreeable visions in the fancy. But that great Philosopher, in separating 'Wit from Judge ment, as he does in this place, has given us (and he could therefore give us no other) only an account of Wit in general : In which false Wit, tho', not every species of it, is included. A striking Image therefore of Nature is, as Mr. Locke obferves, certainly Wit : But this image may Atrike on several other accounts, as well as for its truth and amiableness; and the Philosopher has explain'd the manner how.

But it never becomes that Wit which is the ornament of true Poesy, whose end is to represent Nature, but when it dresses that Nature to advantage, and presents her to us in the clearest and most amiable light. And to know when the Pancy has done its office truly, the poet subjoins this admirable Teft, viz. When we perceive that it gives us back the image of our mind. When it does that, we may be sure it plays no tricks with us: For this image is the creature of the Judgment ; and whenever Wit corresponds with Judgment, we may safely ironounce it to be true.

Naturam'intueamur, hanc fequamur: id facillime accipi .rit animi quod agnofeunt. Quincil. lib. viii. c. 3.

For works may have more wit than does 'em good,
As bodies perish thro' excess of blood.
Others for Language all their care express,

And value books, as women men, for Dress:
Their praise is still,—the Style is excellent:
The Sense, they humbly take upon content.
Words are like leaves; and where they most abound,
Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found. 310
False Eloquence, like the prismatic glafs,
Its gaudy colours spreads on ev'ry place;
The face of Nature we no more survey,
All glares alike, without distinction

gay : But true Expression, like th’ unchanging Sun, Clears, and improves whate'er it shines upon, It gilds all objects, but it alters none. Expression is the dress of thought, and still Appears more decent, as more suitable; A vile conceit in pompous words express'd, 320 Is like a clown in regal purple dress'd : For diff'rent styles with diff'rent subjects fort, As several garbs with country, town, and court.



Ver. 311. False eloquence, like the prismatic glass, etc.] This fimile is beautiful. For the false colouring, given to objects by the prismatic glass, is owing to its untwisting, by its obliquities, those threads cf light, which Nature had put together in order to spread over its works an ingenuous and simple candor, that should not hide, but only heighten the native complexion of the objects. And false Eloquence is nothing else but the straining and divaricating the parts of true expreffion; and then daubing them over with what the Rhetoricians very properly term, COLOURS; in lieu of that candid light, now loft, which was reflected from them in their natural state while sincere and entire,

Some by old words to fame have made pretence,
Ancients in phrase, meer moderns in their fense
Such labour'd nothings, in so strange a style, 326
Amaze th' unlearn'd, and make the learned finile.
Unlucky, as Fungoso in the Play,
These sparks with aukward vanity display
What the fine gentleman wore yesterday; 330
And but so mimic ancient wits at best,
As apes our grandfires, in their doublets dreft.
In words, as fashions, the same rule will hold;
Alike fantastic, if too new, or old :
Be not the first by whom the new are try'd, 335
Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.

But most by Numbers judge a Poet's song;
And smooth or rough, with them, is right or wrong:
In the bright Muse tho' thousand charms conspire,
Her Voice is all these tuneful fools admire; 340


VER. 324. Some by old words, etc.] Ab lit a et abro: gata retinere, insolentiæ cujusdam eff, et frivola in pare vis jactantia. Quintil. lib i. c. 6. P." : Opus efl ut verba à vetuftate repetita neque crebra sint, neque manifefta, quia nil eft odiofius affe Etatione, nec utique ab ultimis repetita temporibus. Oratio cujus fumma virtus eft perfpicuitas, quam fit vitiofa, s egeat interprete ? Ergo ut novorum oprima erunt maxime vetera, ita veterum maxime nova.

Idem. P.
VER. 328.-unlucky as Fungoro, etc.] See Ben John-
son's Every Man in his Humour. P.
Ver. 337. But mof hy Numbers, etc.]

Quis populi fermo eft? quis enim ? nisi carmina moll i
Nunc demum numero fluere, ut per læve severos
Effundat junétæra ungues : feit tendere verfum
Non fecus ac fi oculo rubricam dirigat uno.


Pers. Sat, i. P,

Who haunt Parnassus but to please their ear,
Not mend their minds; as some to Church repair,
Not for the doctrine, but the music there.
These equal fyllables alone require,
Tho' oft the ear the open vowels tire; 345
While expletives their feeble aid do join ;
And ten low words oft


in one dull line : While they ring round the fame unvary'd chimnes, With sure returns of still expected rhymes ; Where-e'er you find the cooling western breeze,” In the next line, it " whispers thro' the trees :" If crystal streams “ with pleasing murmurs creep," The reader's threatend (not in vain) with“ sleep:” Then, at the last and only couplet fraught With some unmeaning thing they call a thought, A needless Alexandrine ends the song, That, like a wounded snake, drags its flow length

along. Leave such to tune their own dull rhymes, and know What's roundly smooth, or languishingly slow; And praise the eafy vigour of a line,

360 Where Denham's strength, and Waller's sweetness join.

True VER. 345. The of the ear, etc.] Fugiemus crebras vocalium concurfiones, quæ vastam atque hiantem orationem reddunt. Cic. ad Heren. lib. iv. Vide etiam Quintil. lib. ix. C. 4.


VER. 346. While expletives their feeble aid do join,

And ten low words oft creep in one dull line.] From Dryden, “ He creeps along with ten little words in every line, and helps out his numbers with [for] [to] and

[unto] and all the pretty expletives he can find, while “ the sense is left half tired behind it.”. Elay on Dram. Poetry.


« PreviousContinue »