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When first young Maro, in his boundless mind 130 A work toutlast immortal Rome design'd, Perhaps he seem'd above the critic's law, And but from nature's fountain scorn'd to draw: But when t' 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 Stagyrite o'erlook'd cach line. Learn hence for ancient rules a just esteem; To copy nature, is to copy them.
140 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 licence answer to the full Th'intent proposed, that licence is a rule. Thus Pegasus, a nearer way to take,
I know there are, to whose presumptuous thoughts Those freer beauties, e'en in them, seem faults. 170
Some figures monstrous and mis-shaped appear,
190 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, (That, on 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 admire superior sense, and doubt their own! 200
Causes hindering a true judgment. 1. Pride, ver. 201. 2. Inperfect learning, ver. 215. 3. Judging by parts, and not by the whole, ver, 233 to 288. Critics in wit, language, versification, only, 288. 305. 339, &c. 4. Being too hard to please, or too apt to admire, ver. 384. 5. Partiality,-too much love to a sect-o the ancients or moderns, ver. 394. 6. Prejudice or prevention, ver. 408, 7. Singularity, ver. 424. 8. Inconstancy, ver. 430. 9. Party spirit, ver. 452, &c. 10. Envy, ver. 466. Against envy, and in praise of good-nature, ver. 508, &c. When severity is chiefly to be used by the critics, ver. 526, &c. Op 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, swell'd with wind: Pride, where wit fails, steps in to our defence, And fills up all the mighty void of sense.
210 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, 220 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 ! Th' eternal snows appear already pass’d, 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: 230 Th’increasing prospect tires our wandering eyes, Hills peep o'er hills, and Alps on Alps arise!
A perfect judge will read each work of wit With the same spirit that its author writ: Survey the whole, nor seek slight faults to find When nature moves, and rapture warms the mind; Nor lose, for that malignant, dull delight, The gen'rous pleasure to be charm'd with wit. But, in such lays as neither ebb nor flow, Correctly cold, and regularly low,
240 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 th' 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
250 No monstrous height, or breadth, or length 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; And if the means be just, the conduct true, Applause, in spite of trivial faults, is due. As men of breeding, sometimes men of wit, To avoid great errors, must the less commit; 260 Neglect the rules each verbal critic lays, For not to know some trifles, is a praise. Most critics, fond of some subservient art, Still make the whole depend upon a part: They talk of principles, but notions prize, And all to one loved folly sacrifice.
Once on a time, La Mancha's knight, they say, A certain bard encountering on the way, Discoursed in terms as just, with looks as sage, As e'er could Dennis, of the Grecian stage ; 270 Concluding all were desperate sots and fools, Who durst depart from Aristotle's rules. Our author, happy in a judge so nice, Produced his play, and begg'd the knight's advice;
Made him observe the subject, and the plot,
Thus critics, of less judgment than caprice,
Some to conceit alone their taste confine, 289
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 glass, Its gaudy colours spreads on every 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.