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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. . ..
Some to conceit alone their taste confine,
And glittering thoughts struck out at every line;
Pleased with a work where nothing's just or fit,
One glaring chaos and wild heap of wit.
Poets, like painters, thus unskilled to trace
The naked nature and the living grace,
With gold and jewels cover every part,
And hide with ornaments their want of art.
True wit is nature to advantage dressed, -
What oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed ;
Something whose truth convinced at sight we find,
That gives us back the image of our mind.
As shades more sweetly recommend the light,
So modest plainness sets off sprightly wit;
For works may have more wit than does them good,
As bodies perish through 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. False eloquence, like the prismatic glass, Its gaudy colors spread 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. Expression is the dress of thought, and still Appears more decent as more suitable. A vile conceit in pompous words expressed Is like a clown in regal purple dressed : For different styles with different subjects sort, As several garbs with country, town, and court. ...
But most by numbers judge a poet's song, And smooth or rough with them is right or wrong: In the bright Muse, though thousand charms conspire, Her voice is all these tuneful fools admire, 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 syllables alone require,
Though oft the ear the open vowels tire;
While expletives their feeble aid do join,
And ten low words oft creep in one dull line;
While they ring round the same unvaried chimes,
With sure returns of still expected rhymes :
Where'er you find “the cooling western breeze,”
In the next line it “whispers through the trees; ".
If crystal streams “with pleasing murmurs creep,”
The reader's threatened (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 slow length along.
True ease in writing comes from art, not chance, As those move easiest who have learned to dance. 'T is not enough no harshness gives offence: The sound must seem an echo to the sense. Soft is the strain when zephyr gently blows, And the smooth stream in smoother nunbers flows; But when loud surges lash the sounding shore, The hoarse rough verse should like the torrent roar. When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw, The line too labors, and the words move slow; Net so when swift Camilla scours the plain, Flies o'er th' unbending corn, and skims along the main.
Some ne'er advance a judgment of their own,
But catch the spreading notion of the town;
They reason and conclude by precedent,
And own stale nonsense which they ne'er invent.
Some judge of author's names, not works, and then
Nor praise nor blame the writings, but the men. ...
The vulgar thus through imitation err,
As oft the learned by being singular :
So much they scorn the crowd, that if the throng
By chance go right, they purposely go wrong.
So schismatics the plain believers quit,
And are but damned for having too much wit.
Some praise at morning what they blame at night,
But always think the last opinion right.
A Muse by these is like a mistress used, -
This hour she's idolized, the next abused;
While their weak heads, like towns unfortified,
'Twixt sense and nonsense daily change their side. ... VOL. XVII. - 5
Unhappy wit, like most mistaken things,
Atones not for that envy which it brings :
In youth alone its empty praise we boast,
But soon the short-lived vanity is lost;
Like some fair flower the early spring supplies,
That gayly blooms, but e'en in blooming dies.
What is this wit, which must our cares employ?
The owner's wife that other men enjoy:
Then most our trouble still when most admired,
And still the more we give, the more required;
Whose fame with pains we guard, but lose with ease,
Sure some to vex, but never all to please :
'Tis what the vicious fear, the virtuous shun;
By fools 't is hated, and by knaves undone !
If wit so much from ignorance undergo,
Ah, let not learning, too, commence its foe!
Of old those met rewards who could excel,
And such were praised who but endeavored well :
Though triumphs were to generals only due,
Crowns were reserved to grace the soldiers too.
Now they who reach Parnassus's lofty crown
Employ their pains to spurn some others down;
And while self-love each jealous writer rules,
Contending wits become the sport of fools :
But still the worst with most regret cominend,
For each ill author is as bad a friend.
To what base ends, and by what abject ways,
Are mortals urged through sacred lust of praise!
Ah, ne'er so dire a thirst of glory boast,
Nor in the critic let the man be lost!
Good-nature and good-sense must ever join;
To err is human, to forgive — divine. ...
'Tis not enough your counsel still be true:
Blunt truths more mischief than nice falsehoods do:
Men must be taught as if you taught them not,
And things unknown proposed as things forgot.
Without good breeding, truth is disapproved ;
That only makes superior sense beloved. ...
'Tis best sometimes your censure to restrain,
And charitably let the dull be vain;
Your silence there is better than your spite,
For who can rail so long as they can write ?
Still humming on their drowsy course they keep,
And lashed so long, like tops, are lashed asleep.
False steps but help them to renew the race,
As, after stumbling, jades will mend their pace,
What crowds of these, impenitently bold,
In sounds and jingling syllables grown old,
Still run on poets, in a raging vein,
E'en to the dregs and squeezings of the brain,
Strain out the last dull droppings of their sense,
And rhyme with all the rage of impotence!
Such shameless bards we have; and yet 't is true
There are as mad abandoned critics too.
The bookful blockhead ignorantly read,
With loads of learnèd lumber in his head,
With his own tongue still edifies his ears,
And always listening to himself appears.
All books he reads, and all he reads assails,
From Dryden's “ Fables” down to Durfey's “ Tales.”
With him most authors steal their works, or buy':
Garth did not write his own “ Dispensary.”
Name a new play and he's the poet's friend;
Nay, showed his faults, but when would poets mend ? :
No place so sacred from such fops is barred,
Nor is Paul's church more safe than Paul's church-yard :
Nay, fly to altars, there they 'll talk you dead;
For fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
THE GAME OF CARDS.
(From "The Rape of the Lock.”)
CLOSE by those meads, for ever crowned with flowers,
Where Thames with pride surveys his rising towers,
There stands a structure of majestic frame,
Which from the neighboring Hampton takes its name.
Here Britain's statesmen oft the fall foredoom
Of foreign tyrants and of nymphs at home;
Here thou, great Anna! whom three realms obey,
Dost sometimes counsel take - and sometimes tea.
Hither the heroes and the nyinphs resort,
To taste awhile the pleasures of a court:
In various talk th' instructive hours they past,
Who gave the ball or paid the visit last;
One speaks the glory of the British Queen,
And one describes a charming Indian screen;
A third interprets motions, looks, and eyes :
At every word a reputation dies.
Snuff, or the fan, supply each pause of chat,
With singing, laughing, ogling, and all that,
Meanwhile, declining from the noon of day,
The sun obliquely shoots his burning ray;
The hungry judges soon the sentence sign,
And wretches hang that jurymen may dine;
The merchant from th’ Exchange returns in peace,
And the long labors of the toilet cease.
Belinda now, whoin thirst of fame invites,
Burns to encounter two adventurous knights,
At Ombre singly to decide their doom;
And swells her breast with conquests yet to come.
Straight the three bands prepare in arms to join,
Each band the number of the sacred nine.
Soon as she spreads her hand, th' aerial guard
Descend, and sit on each important card :
First Ariel perched upon a Matadore,
Then each according to the rank they bore;
For sylphs, yet uindful of their ancient race,
Are, as when women, wondrous fond of place.
Behold, four Kings in majesty revered,
With hoary whiskers and a forky beard ;
And four fair Queens whose hands sustain a flower,
Th’expressive emblem of their softer power;
Four Knaves in garbs succinct, a trusty band,
Caps on their heads and halberts in their hand;
And particolored troops, a shining train,
Draw forth to combat on the velvet plain.
The skilful nymph reviews her force with care :
Let Spades be trumps ! she said, and trumps they were.
Now move to war her sable Matadores,
In show like leaders of the swarthy Moors.
Spadillio first, unconquerable lord !
Led off two captive trumps, and swept the board.
As many more Manillio forced to yield,
And marched a victor from the verdant field.
Him Basto followed, but his fate more hard
Gained but one trump and one plebeian card.
With his broad sabre next, a chief in years,
The hoary majesty of Spades appears :
Puts forth one manly leg, to sight revealed;
The rest his many-colored robe concealed.
The rebel Knave, who dares his prince engage,
Proves the just victim of his royal rage.
Ev'n mighty Pam, that Kings and Queens o'erthrew
And mowed down armies in the fights of Loo,
Sad chance of war! now destitute of aid,
Falls undistinguished by the victor Spade!