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From vulgar bounds with brave disorder part, And snatch a grace beyond the reach of art, 155 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. 160 But tho' the Ancients thus their rules invade, (As Kings dispense with laws themselves have
made, Moderns, beware! or if you must offend Against the precept, ne'er transgress its end; Let it be seldom, and compell’d by need; 165 And have, at least, their precedent to plead.
COMMENTARY. conduct in this respect, are these ; 1. That though he transgress the letter of some one particular Precept, yet that he be still careful to adhere to the end or spirit of them all; which end is the creation of one uniform perfect Whole. And 2. That he have, in each instance, the authority of the dispensing power of the Ancients to plead for him. These rules observed, this licence will be seldom used, and only when he is compelled by need : which will disarm the Critic, and screen the offender from his laws.
lies beyond the reach of a common adventurer : and afterwards, the effect of that grace upon the true Critic: whom it penetrates, with equal rapidity; going the nearest way to his heart, without passing through his judgment. By which it is not meant that it could not stand the test of judgment, but that as it was a beauty uncommon and above rule, and the judgment habituated to determine only by rule, it makes its direct appeal to the heart; which when once gained, soon brings over the judgment, whose concurrence (it being now enlarged and set above forms) is easily procured.
The Critic else proceeds without remorse,
COMMENTARY. Ver. 169. I know there are, &c.] But as some modern Critics have pretended to say, that this last reason is only justifying one fault by another, our author goes on [from ver. 168 to 181.] to vindicate the Ancients; and to shew that this presumptuous thought, as he calls it, proceeds from mere Ignorance : As where their partiality will not let them see that this licence is sometimes necessary for the symmetry and proportion of a perfect whole, in the light, and from the point, wherein it must be viewed: or where their haste will not give them time to observe, that a deviation from rule is for the sake of attaining some great and admirable purpose.—These observations are further useful, as they tend to give modern Critics an humbler opinion of their own abilities, and a higher of the Authors they undertake to criticise. On which account he concludes with a fine reproof of their use of that common proverb perpetually in the mouths of the critics, quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus; misunderstanding the sense of Horace, and taking quandoque for aliquando :
“ Those oft are stratagems which errors seem,
Nor is it Homer nods, but we that dream."
NOTES. Ver. 175. A prudent chief, &c.] Ofór tu použov år ogóropos spalaaátau xalà sàs rážous tūv sealevyátwy.--Dion. Hal. De Struct. Orat.
But with th' occasion and the place comply,
Still green with bays each ancient Altar stands,
COMMENTARY. Ver. 181. Still green with bays, &c.) But now fired with the name of Homer, and transported with the contemplation of those beauties which a cold Critic can neither see nor conceive, the Poet
[from NOTES. Ver. 178. Conceal, &c.]
- “Far the greatest part
Roscommon. Ver. 180. Nor is it Homer nods, but we that dream.] “ Modeste, et circumspecto judicio de tantis viris pronunciandum est, ne (quod plerisque accidit) damnent quod non intelligunt. Ac si necesse est in alteram errare partem, omnia eorum legentibus placere, quam multa displicere maluerim.”—Quint.
P. Ver. 183. Secure from flames, &c.] The poet here alludes to the four principal causes of the ravage amongst ancient writings. The destruction of the Alexandrine and Palatine libraries by fire, the fiercer rage of Zoilus, Mæðius, and their followers, against wit; the irruption of the Barbarians into the Empire; and the long reign of ignorance and superstition in the cloisters. Warburton.
Ver. 184. all-involving Age.] In his epistle to Addison, Pope has " all-devouring Age,” but the epithet here is more original and striking, and admirably suited to the subject. This shews a nice discrimination. “ All-involving" would be as improper in the Essay on Medals, as “ all-devouring" would be in this place. Bowles.
See, from each clime the learn'd their incense bring;
[from ver. 180 to 201.] breaks out into a rapturous salutation of the rare felicity of those few Ancients who have risen superior over time and accidents : And disdaining, as it were, any longer to reason with his Critics, offers this as the surest confutation of their censures. Then with the humility of a Suppliant at the shrine of Immortals, and the sublimity of a Poet participating of their fire, he turns again to these ancient worthies, and apostrophises their Manes :
“ Hail, Bards triumphant!" &c. Ver. 200. T" admire superior sense, and doubt their own!] This line concludes the first division of the Poem; in which we see the subject of the first and second part, and likewise the .connexion they have with one another. It serves likewise to introduce the second. The effect of studying the Ancients, as here recommended, would be the admiration of their superior sense; which, if it will not of itself dispose Moderns to a diffidence of their own (one of the great uses, as well as natural fruits of that study) our author, to help forward their modesty, in his second part shews them (in a
regular deduction of the causes and effects of wrong Judgment) their own bright image and amiable turn of mind.
Ver. 201. Of all the causes &c.] Having, in the first part, delivered Rules for perfecting the Art of Criticism, the second is employed in explaining the Impediments to it. The order of the two parts was well adjusted. For the causes of wrong Judgment being Pride, superficial Learning, a bounded Capacity, and Partiality; they to whom this part is principally addressed, would not readily be brought either to see the malignity of the causes, or to own themselves concerned in the effects, had not the author previously both enlightened and convinced them, by the foregoing observations, on the vastness of Art, and narrowness of Wit: the extensive study of human Nature and Antiquity; and the Characters of ancient Poetry and Criticism; the natural remedies to the four epidemic disorders he is now endeavouring to redress.
Ibid. Of all the causes, &c.] The first cause of wrong Judgment is PRIDE. He judiciously begins with this, [from ver. 200 to 215.] as on other accounts, so on this, that it is the very thing which gives modern Criticism its character ; whose complexion is abuse and censure.
He calls it the vice of fools, by which term not meant, those to whom Nature has given no Judgment (for he is here speaking of what misleads the Judgment) but those to whom learning and study have given more erudition than taste; as appears from the happy similitude of an ill-nourished body; where the same words which express the cause, express likewise the nature of PRIDE :
“ For as in bodies, thus in souls, we find
What wants in blood and spirits, swell’d with wind.” 'Tis the business of Reason, he tells us, to dispel the cloud in which pride involves the mind: but the mischief is, that the rays of reason, diverted by self-love, sometimes gild this cloud, instead of dispelling it. So that the Judgment, by false lights reflected back upon itself, is still apt to be a little dazzled, and to mistake its object. He therefore advises to call in still more helps :