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Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire ; Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire. Bless'd, who can unconcernedly find
Hours, days, and years, slide soft away, In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day. Sound sleep by night: study and ease,
Together mix'd; sweet recreation, And innocence, which most does please
Thus unlamented, let me die,
Tell where I lie.
Hark! they whisper : angels say,
Steals my senses, shuts my sight,
With sounds seraphic ring :
Lend, lend your wings ! I mount ! Ily.
Oh death! where is thy sting?
AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM.
Written in the Year 1709.
PART I. Introduction. That it is as great a fault to judge ill, as
to write ill, and a more dangerous one to the public, ver. 1. That a true taste is as rare to be found as a true genius, ver. 9 to 18. That most men are born with some taste, but spoiled by false education, ver. 19 to 25. The multitude of critics, and causes of them, ver. 26 to 45. That we are to study our own taste, and know the limits of it, ver. 46 to 67. Nature the best guide of judgment, ver. 68 to 87. Improved by art and rules, which are but methodized nature, ver. 88. Rules derived from the practice of ancient poets, ver. 88 to 110. That therefore the ancients are neces. sary to be studied by a critic, particularly Homer and Virgil, ver. 120 to 138. Of licenses, and the use of them by the ancients, ver. 140 to 180. Reverence due to the ancients, and praise of them, ver. 181, &c.
'Tis hard to say, if greater want of skill
"Tis with our judgments as our watches; none
Both must alike from Heaven derive their light,
Yet, if we look more closely, we shall find
right. But as the slightest sketch, if justly traced, Is by ill-colouring but the more disgraced, So by false learning is good sense defaced : Some are bewilder'd in the maze of schools, And some made coxcombs nature meant but fools: In search of wit these lose their common sense, And then turn critics in their own defence : Each burns alike, who can, or cannot write, 30 Or with a rival's or an eunuch's spite. All fools have still an itching to deride, And fain would be upon the laughing side If Mævius scribble in Apollo's spite, There are who judge still worse than he can writc.
Some have at first for wits, then poets pass'd;
But you, who seek to give and merit fame,
Launch not beyond your depth, but be discreet, 50
Nature to all things fix'd the limits fit,
First follow nature, and your judgment frame By her just standard, which is still the same: Unerring nature, still divinely bright,
70 One clear, unchanged, and universal light, Life, force, and beauty, must to all impart, At once the source, and end, and test of art; Art from that fund each just supply provides ; Works without show, and without pomp presides : In some fair body thus the informing soul With spirits feeds, with vigour fills the whole, Each motion guides, and every nerve sustains ; Itself unseen, but in the effects remains. Some, to whom Heaven in wit has been profusc, 80 Want as much more, to turn it to its use; For wit and judgment often are at strife, Though meant each other's aid, like man and wife, 'Tis more to guide, than spur the muse's steed; Restrain his fury, than provoke his speed: The winged courser, like a generous house, Shows most true mettle when you check his course
Those rules of old discover'd, not devised, Are nature still, but nature methodized : Nature, like liberty, is but restrain'd
90 By the same laws which first herself ordain'd.
Hear how learn'd Greece her useful rules indites, When to repress, and when indulge our flights: Iligh on Parnassus' top her sons she show'd, And pointed out those arduous paths they trod; Held from afar, aloft, the immortal prize, And urged the rest by equal steps to rise. Just precepts thus from great examples given, She drew from them what they derived from Hea
The generous critic fann'd the poet's fire, 100
steer, Know well each ancient's proper character : His fable, subject, scope in every page:
120 Religion, country, genius of his age: Without all these at once before your eyes, Cavil you may, but never criticise