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ESSAY ON CRITICISM.
'Tis hard to say, if greater want of skill Those half-learn'd witlings, numerous in our isle, Appear in writing or in judging ill;
As half-form'd insects on the banks of Nile; 41 But of the two, less dangerous is ch' offence Unfinish'd things, one knows not what to call, To tire our patience, than mislead our sense. Their generation 's so equivocal: Some few in that, but numbers err in this, To tell them would a hundred tongues require, Ten censure wrong for one who writes amiss; Or one vain wit's, that might a hundred tire. A fool might once himself alone expose,
But you, who seek to give and merit fame, Now one in verse makes many more in prose. And jailly bear a critic's noble name,
'Tis with our judgments as our watches; none Be sure yourself and your own reach to know, Go jus alike, yet each believes his own. 10 How far your genius, taste, and learning, go; In poets as true genius is but rare,
Launch not beyond your depth, but he discreet, 50 Troe taste as seldom is the critic's share;
And mark that point where sense and dulness meet.
Yet, if we look more closely, we shall find Where beams of warm imagination play,
Unerring NATURE, Nill divinely bright, 7 All fools have still an itching to deride,
One clear, unchang'd, and universal light, And fain would be upon the laughing lide. Life, force, and beauty, mult to all in part, If Marius fcribble in Apollo's fpite,
At once the source, and end, and test of art, There are who judge still worse than he can write. Art from that fund each just supply provides :
Some have at firit for wits, then poets past; Works without thew, and without pomp presides, Turn'd critics next, and prov'd plain fools at last. In some fair body thus th' informing soul Some neither can for wits nor critics pals, With spirits feeds, with vigour fills the wholc, As heavy mules are neither horse nor afs. Each motion guides, and every nerve fùftains;
Itself unseen, but in th' effects remains.
Some, to whom Heaven in wic has been profuse, VARIATIONS.
Want as much more, to turn it to its ure; 81 Between ver. 25 and 26 were these lines, since For wit and judginent often are at strise, omitted by the Author :
Though meant each others aid, lıke man and Many are spoil'd by that pedantic throng,
Ver. 63. Ed. I. But ev'n in those, &c.
Ver. 30, 31. In the first edition thus : Which still presides, yet never does appeara
Ver. 76,--the secret foul. Best envy wits, as eunuchs envy lovers.
Ver. 80. Va. 32. “ All fools,” in the first edition : “ All There are whom Heaven has bleft with store of wit,
" tuch," in edition, 1717; lince refored. Yet want as much again to manage it. VOL. VIII.
'Tis more to guide, than fpur the muse's steed; Thence form your judgment, thence your maxims Refrain his fury, than provoke his speed :
bring, 'The winged courser, like a generous horse, And trace the niuses upward to their spring ; Shows molt erue mettle when you check his course. Stiil with itself compar’d, his text peruse ;
Those rules of old discover'd, not devis'd, And let yonr coniment be the Mantuan musc. Are nature still, but nature methodis'd:
When first young Maro, in his boundless Nature, like liberty, is but refrain'd
mind By the same laws which first herself ordain'd. A work t'outlast immortal Rome design'd, 135
Hear how learn'd Greece her useful rules endites, Perhaps he seemi'd above the critic's law, When to repress, and when indulge our flights: And but from nature's fountains (corn'd to draw High on Parnassus' top her sons the show'd, But when t' examine every part he came, And pointed out those arduous paths they trod : Nature and Homer were, he found, the same. Held from afar, aloft, th' immortal prize, Convinc'd, amaz’d, he checks the bold design; And urg'd the rest by equal Ateps to rise.
And rules as ftria his labour'd work confine, Just precepts thus from great example given, As if the Stagyrite o'erlook'd cach line. She drew from them what they deriv'd from heaven. Learu hence for ancient rules a just eftecm; The generous critic fann'd the poet's fire, To copy nature, is to copy them.
140 And taught the world with reason to admire. Somc beauties yet no preceprs can declare, Then criticism the muse's handmaid prov'd, For there's a happiness as well as care. To dress her charms, and make her more belov'd: Music resembles poetry; in each But following wits from thac intention stray'd, Are nameless graces which no methods teach, Who could not win the mistress woo'd the maid; And which a master-hand alone can reach. Against the poets their own arms they turn'd, If, where the roles not far enough extend, Sure to hate most the men from whom they lease d. (since rules were made but to promote their So modern ’pothecaries taught the art
end), By doctors bills to play the dodor's part, Some lucky license answer to the full Bold in the practice of mistaken rules,
Th' intent propos'd, that license is a rule. Prescribe, apply, and call their masters fools. Thus Pegalus, a nearer way to take,
150 Some on the leaves of ancient authors prey, May boldly deviate from the common track; Nor time nor moths e'er spoil'd so much as they : From vulgar bounds with brave disorder part, Soine drily plain, without invention's aid, And snatch a grace beyond the reach of art, Write dull receipts how poems may be made. Which, without palling through the judgment, These leave the sense, their learning to display,
gains And those explain the meaning quite away. (teer, The heart, and all its end at once attains.
You then whose judgment the rightcourse would In prospe&s thus, some objects please our eyes, Know well each Ancient's proper character :
Which out of nature's common order rile, His fable, subject, scope in every page;
The shapelets rock, or hanging precipice. Religion, country, genius of his age :
Great wits sometimes may glorioully offend, Without all these at once before your eyes, and rise to faults true critics Jare not mend. 16€ Cavil you may, but never criticise.
But though the ancients thus their rules invade Be Homer's works your Rudy and delight (as kings dispenfe with laws themselves have Read them by day, and meditate by night, i
Moderns, beware! or, if you must offend
Against the precept, ne'er tranfyrels its end :
And have, at least, their pricedent to plead.
Ver. 1 26.
bring. Ver. 117. And these explain'd, &c.
Ver. 130. Ver. 123. Ed. 1. You may confound, but, &c. When first young Maru lung of kings and wars, Ver. 123. Cavil you may, but never criticise. Ere warning Phæbus touch'd his trembling cars.
The Author after this verse originally inserted Ver. 130. Ed. 1. When firtt great Maro, &c. the following, which he has however omitted in
Ver. 136. all the editions :
Convinc'd, amaz'd, he check'd the bold desiga; Zoilus, had these been known, without a name And did his work to rules as strict confine. Had dy'd, and Perault ne'er been damn'd to fame: Ver. 145. Ed. 1. And which a master's hand, &c. The sense of found antiquity had reigu'd,
After ver. 198. the first edition reads, And sacred Homer yet been uuprofan'd. But care in poetry must fill be had, None e'er had thought his comprehenfive mind It alks discretion evin in running mad; To modern customs, modern rules coofin’d; And though the ancients, &c. Who for all ages writ, and all mankind. And what are now ver. 159, 160, followed ver. 155
i wiewithere are, to whole prefumptuousthoughts while, from the bounded level of our mind, Teck freer beauties, ev'n irrchem, seem faults. 170 Short vicws we take, nor see the lengths behind ; Suue figues mondrous and mis-thap'd appear, But more advanc'd, behold with strange surprise Cadder (mgly, or beh-ld too near,
New distant Icenes of endless science rife! ts": :2.1. but proportion'd to their light, or place, So pleas'd at first the towering Alps we try, Due diftauce reconcilcs to forn and grace.
Mount o'er the vales, and seem to tread the sky; A prudent hid not always must display
Th'eternal (nows appear already past, His powers in equal ranks, and fair àrrás And the first clouds and mountains seem the laft : But with ch' occafion and the place complý, But, those attain'd, we tremble to survey Conceal his force, nay fonetimes seem to fly: The growing labours of the lengthen'd way ; 230 Thors oít are ftratagems which error scem, Th' increasing prospect tires our wandering eyes, Ner is it Hamer nods, bat we that dream. 180 Hills peep o'er bills, and Alps on Alps arise !
Still green with bays each ancient altar stands, A perfect judge will read each work of wit Above the reach of lacrilegious hands;
With the fame fpirit that its author wrie : Secare from Aames, from envy's fiércer rage, Survey the whole, nor seek flight faults to find Derudive war, and all-involving age.
Where nature moves, and rapture warms the See from each clime the learn'd their incense bring! Hear, in all tongues consenting Pæans ring: Nor lose, for that malignant dull delight, In praise so just let every voice be join'd,
The generous pleasure to be charoi’d with wit. And fill the general chorus of mankind.
But, in such lays as neither ebb nor flow, Hail, bards triumphant! born in happier days; Corredly cold, and regularly low,
240 Immortal heirs of universal praise : 190 That, frunning faults, one quiet tenour keep; Whofe honours with increase of ages grow, We cannot blame indeed--but we may fleep. ás dreams roll down, enlarging as they flow; In wit, as nature, what affects our hearts Kions unborn your mighty names thall found. to not th' exactness of peculiar parts ; And worlds applaud that must not yet be found: 'Tis not a lip, or eye, we beauty call, O may some spark of your celestial fire,
But the joint force and full result of all. The lat, the meanet of your sons inspire, Thu's when we view some well-proportion'd dome, (Thac, on weak wings, froin far pursues your flights, (The world's. just wonder, and ev'ni thine, o Glows while he reads, ba: trembles as he writes) Pomne!) To teach vain wits a science little known, Mo iingle parts unequally surprise, To admire fuperior fense, and doubt their own : All comes united to ch'admiring eyes';
250 Of all the causes which conspire to blind No mcnrous height, or breadth, or length apMan's erring judgment, and misguide the mind,
Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see,
Thinks what ne'er was, nor is, nor e'er shall be. the girs in large recruits or needful pride! In every work regard the writer's end, For as in bodies, thus in souls, we find
Since none can compass more than they intend; What wants in blood and spirits, swellid with wind: And is the means be just, the cotiduet true, Pr.de, where wit fails, steps in to our defence, Applause, in spite of trivial fanics, is due. And alls up all the nighig void of sense.
As men of breeding, sometimes men of wit, li asce right reason drives that cloud away, T'avoid great errors mult the less commit: 260 Truth breaks upon us with relaless day.
Negled the rules each verbal critic lays,
Still make the whole depend upon a part :
Once on a'time, La Mancha's knight, they say, Fu'd at first fight with what the mule imparts,
A certain bard encountering on the way, In scarless youth we tempt the heights of arts, 220 Discours'd in terms as juft, with looks as sage,
As e'er could Dennis, of the Grecian stage ; 270
Fili'd with ideas of fair Italy,
The traveller beholds with cheerful eyes
The lessening vales, and seems to tread the skics. Hear, in all tongues applauding Pæans ring!
Ver. 265. Fir'd with the charms fair science docs impart, They talk of principles, but parts they prize, la fearless youth we tempt the heights of art.
Ver. 270. Ver. 223. But more advanc'd, survey, &c. As e'er could Dennis of the laws o'ch' ftage.
Concluding all were desperate fods and fools, Such labour'd nothings, in fo (trange a Gyle,
Amaze th' unlearn'd, and make the learned (mile. Our, author, happy in a judge so nice,
Unlucky, as Fungosa in the play, Produc'd his play, and begg'd the knight's advice : These sparks with aukward vanity display Made him observe the subject, and the plot, What the fine gentleman wore yesterday; 330 The manners, passions, unities; what not? And but fo mimic ancient wits at best, All which, exact to rule, were brought about, As apes our grandfires in their doublets dreft. Were but a combat in the lifts left out.
In words, as fashions, the same rule will hold: " What ! leave the combat out?" exclaims the Alike fantastic, if too new or old : knight.
Be not the first by whom the new are try'd, Yes, or we must renounce the stagirite. 280 Nor yet the last to lay the old aside. “ Not so, by heaven! (he answers in a rage) But most by numbers judge a poet's song ; “ Knighes, 'Squires, and steeds, must enter on the And smooth or rough, with them, is right or flage."
[fpire, So vast a throng the fage can ne'er contain. In the brighe muse though thousand charms con" Then build a new, or ad it in a plain."
Her voice is all these tuneful fools admire; 340 Thas critics, of less judgment than caprice, Who haunt Parnassus but to please their ear, Curious, not knowing, not exad but nice, Not mend their minds; as some to church repair, Form short ideas; and offend in arts
Not for the doctrine, but the music there, (As most in manncrs) by a love to parts.
These, equal fyllables alone require, Some to conceit alone their taste confine, 289 Though oft the ear the open vowels tire ; And glittering thoughts struck out at every line; While expletives their feeble aid do join, Pleas'd with a work whese nothing's jull or fit; And ten low words oft creep in one dull line : One glaring chaos and wild heap of wit.
While they ring round the same unvary'd chimes, Poets like painters, thus unskill'd to trace
With fure returns of still expected rhymes; 349 The naked nature, and the living grace,
Where'er you find the cooling western breeze, With gold and jewels cover every part,
In the next line it “whispers through the trces :" And hide with ornaments their want of art. If crystal streams “ with pleasing murmurs creep,” 'True wit is nature to advantage dress'd,
The reader's threaten'd (not in vain) with“ sleep:" Vhat oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd; Then at the last and only couplet fraught Suncthing, whose truth convinc'd at fight we find, | With some unmeaning thing they call a thought, That gives us back the image of our mind. 300 A needless Alexandrine ends the song, As thades more sweetly recommend the light, That, like a wounded snake, drags its flow length So modeft plainness sets off (prightly wit;
[know For works may have more wit than does them Leave such to tune their own dull rhymes, and good,
What's roundly smooth, or languishingły Now; As brdies perith through excess of blood. And praise the easy vigour of a line, 360
Others for language all their care express, Where Denham's strength and Waller's sweetness And value books, as women men, for dress :
join. Their praise is ill the style is excellent : True case in writing comes from art, not chance, The sense, they humbly take upon content. As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance. Words are like leaves; and where they most abound, 'Tis not enough no harshness gives offence, Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found. 310 The found must seem an echo to the sense : Falfe eloquence, like the prismatic glass,
Soft is the strain when zephyr gently blows, Its gaudy colours spreads on every place; And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows; The face of nature we no more lurvey,
But when loue surges lash the founding shore, All glares alike, without distinction gay :
The hoarse, rough verse should like thetorrent roar. But true expresion, like th' unchanging fun, When Ajax strives some rock’s vast weight to Clears and improves whate'er it shines upon ;
370 It gilds all objccts, but it alters none.
The line too labours, and the words move flow : Expression is the dress of thought, and Nill Not so when swift Camilla scours the plain, suppears more decent, as more suitable;
Flies o'er th' unbending corn, and skims along the A vile conceit in pompous words express'd, 320
main. is like a clown in regal purple dress’d:
Hear how Timotheus' vary'd lays surprise, For different styles with dificrent subjects fort, And bid alternate pallions fall and rise ! As several garbs, with country, town, and court. While, at cach change, the son of Libyan Jove Sume by old words to fame have made pretence, Now burns with glory, and then melts with love; Ancients in phrase, mere moderns in their sense; Now his fierce cyes with sparkling fury glow,
Now lighs iical out, and tcars begin to flow :
Vir. 272. EJ. 1. That durit,' &c.
Ver. 2., 8. LI. 1.
Vi. 32o Ed. I.
Ver 338. Ed. 1.
Períans and Greeks like turns of nature found, 380 Once school divines this zealous isle o'erspread; And the world's vi&or stood subdued by sound ! Who knew most sentences was deepest read : 441 The power of music all our hearts allow,
Faith, gospel, all, seem'd made to be disputed, And what Timotheus was, is Dryden now. And none had sense enough to be confuted :
Avoid extremes; and shun the fault of such, Scotists and Thomists, now in peace remain, Who still are pleas'd too little or too much. Amidst their kindred cobwebs in Duck-line. At every trifle scorn to take offence,
If faith itself has different drelles worn, That always shows great pride, or little sense ; What wonder modes in wic should take their Those beads, as stomachs, are not sure the best,
turn? Which nauseate all, and nothing can digeft. Oft, leaving what is natural and fit, Yet let not each gay turn thy rapture move; 390 The current folly proves the ready wit; For fools admire, but men of sense approve : And authors think their reputation safe, 450 As things seem large which we through mifts Which lives as long as fools are pleas'd to laugh. descry,
Some, valuing those of their own side or mind, Dulness is ever apt to magnify.
Still make themselves the measure of mankind :
When we but praise ourselves in other men.
Pride, malice, folly, against Dryden role,
Zoilus again would start up from the dead. Regard not then if wit be old or new,
Envy will merit, as its shade, pursue ; But blame the false, and value fill the true. But, like a shadow, proves the substance crue :
Some ne'er advance a judgment of their own, For envy'd wit, like Sol eclips'd, makes known But catch the spreading notion of the town; Th' opposing body's grossness, not its own. They reason and cooclude by precedent, 410 When first that sun too powerful beams difAnd own stale nonsense which they ne'er invent.
plays. Some judge of authors names, not works, and then It draws up vapours which obscure its rays;. 478 Nor praise nor blame the writings, but the men. But ev'n those clouds at last adorn its way, Of all this servile herd, the worst is he
Reflect new glories, and augment the day. That is proud dulness joins with quality;
Be thou the first, true merit to befriend; A conftant critic at the great man's board, His praise is lost, who Nays till all commend. To fetch and carry nonsense for my lord,
Short is the date, alas, of modern rhymes, What soful stuff this madrigal would be,
And 'tis but just to let them live betimes. ka fome starv'd hackney-sonneteer, or me! No longer now that golden age appears, But let a lord once own the happy lines,
When patriarch-wits surviv'd a thousand years; How the wit brightens! hew the style refines! Now length of fame (our second life) is lost, 484 Before his sacred name flies every fault,
And bare threescore is all ev'n that can boalt; And each exalted ftanza teems with thought! Our sons their fathers failing language fee,
The vulgar thus through imitation err; And such as Chaucer is, shall Dryden be. As oft the learn'd by being singular ;
So when the faithful pencil has deligu'd So much they scorn the crowd, that if the throng Some bright idea of the master's mind, By chance go right, they purposely go wrong:
Where a new world leaps out at his command, So Schismatics the plain believers quit,
And ready nature waits upon his hand;
Ver. 447. Between this and ver. 448.
The rhyming clowns that gladded Shakspear's age, Vhile their weak heads, like towns unfortify'd, No more with crambo entertain the Itage. 'I'wirt sense and nonsense daily change their lide. Who now in anagrams their patron praise, Ask them the cause ; they're wiser still, they lay; Or fing their mistress in acroitic lays? And fill to-morrow's wiser than to-day.
Ev'n pulpits pleas’d with merry pnns of yore; We think our fachers fools, so wisc we grow; Now all are banilh'd to th' Hibernian Thore! Our wifer fons, no doubt, will think us so, Thus leaving what was natural and fit,
The current folly prov'd their ready wit;
And authors thought their reputation safe, Ver. 394. Ed. 1. Some the French writers, &c. Which liv'd as long as fools were pleas'd to Ver. 413. Ed. 1. Nor praise nor Jamn, &c.
laugh. Ver. 428. So Scbifmatics the dull, &c.
Ver. 185. Ed. i. Some fair ide.?, &c