« PreviousContinue »
(That, on weak wings, from far pursues your
Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see, flights ;
197 | Thinks what ne'er was, nor is, nor e'er shall be Glows while he reads, but trembles as he writes) | In every work regard the writer's end, To teach vain wits a science little known,
Since none can compass more than they intend ; T" admire superior sense, and doubt their own! And if the means be just, the conduct true,
Of all the causes which conspire to blind Applause, in spite of trivial faults, is due. Man's erring judgment, and misguide the mind, As men of breeding, sometiines men of wit, 259 What the weak head with strongest bias rules, T'avoid great errours must the less commit; Is Pride, the never-failing vice of fools.
Neglect the rules tach verbal critic lays, Whatever Nature has in worth deny'd,
For not to know some trities, is a praise. She gives in large recruits of needfui Pride! Most critics, fond of some subservient art, For as in bodies, thus in souls, we find
Still make the whole depend upon a part: What wants in blood and spirits, swell’d with wind: They talk of principles, but notions prize, 265 Pride where Wit fails, steps in to our defence, And all to one lov'd folly sacrifice. And fills up all the mighty void of sense.
Once on a time, La Mancha's knight, they say, If once right Reason drives that cloud away,
A certain bard encountering on the way, Truth breaks upon us with resistless day.
Discours'd in terms as just, with looks as sage, Trust not yourself; but, your defects to know, As e'er could Dennis, of the Grecian stage; 270 Make use of every friend-and every foe.
Concluding all were desperate sots and fools, A little learning is a dangerous thing!
Who durst depart from Aristotle's rules. Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring; Our author, happy in a judge so nice, There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, Produc'd his play, and begg'd the knight's advice s And drinking largely sobers us again.
Made him observe the subject, and the plot, Fir'd at first sight with what the Mase imparts, 219 The manners, passions, unities; what not? In fearless youth we tempt the heights of Arts, All which, exact to rule, were brought about, While, from the bounded level of our mind, Were but a combat in the lists left out. Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind; “ What! leave the combat out ?” exclaims the But more advancd, behold with strange surprise Yes, or we must renounce the Stagirite. (Knights New distant scenes of endless science rise !
“ Not so by Heaven !” (he answers in a rage) So pleas'd at first the towering Alps we try, 225 Knights, squires, and steeds must enter on the Mount o'er the vales, and seem to tread the sky;
stage." Th' eternal snows appiar already past,
So vast a throng the stage can ne'er contain: And the first clouds and mountains seem the last: “ Then build a new, or act it in a plain.” But, those attain'd, we tremble to survey
Thus critics, of less judgment than caprice, The growing labours of the lengthen'd way;
Curious not knowing, not exact but nice, Th’increasing prospect tires our wandering eyes,
Porin short ideas; and offend in arts Hills peep o'er hills, and Alps on Alps arise! (As most in manners) by a love to parts. A perfect judge will read each work of wit
Some to conceit alone their taste confine, With the same spirit that its author writ :
And glittering thoughts struck out at every line; Survey the whole, nor seek slight faults to find Pleas'd with a work where pothing's just or fit; Where nature moves, and rapture warms the mind; One glaring chaos and wild heap of wit. Nor lose, for that malignant dull delight,
Poets like painters, thus unskill'd to trace The generous pleasure to be charm'd with wit. The naked nature, and the living grace, But, in such lays as neither ebb nor flow,
With gold and jewels cover every part, Correctly cold, and regularly low,
And hide with ornaments their want of art. That, shunning faults, one quiet tenour keep;
True wit is Nature to advantage dress'd, We cannot blame indeed--but we may sleep.
What oft was thought, but ne'er so well. exIn wit, as Nature, what affects our hearts
298 Is not th’ exactness of peculiar parts;
Something, whose truth convinc'd at sight we find, 'Tis not a lip, or eye we beauty call,
That gives us back the image of our mind. But the joint force and full result of all.
As shades more sweetly recommend the light, Thus when we view some well-proportion'd dome, So modest plainness sets offsprightly wit; (The world's just wonder, and ev'n thine, O Rome !) For works may have more wit than does them good, No single parts unequally surprise,
As bodies perish through excess of blood. All comes united to th' admiring eyes ;
Others for language all their care express, No monstrous height, or breadth, or length appear; | Their praise is still,--the style is excellent:
And value books, as women men, for dress :
The sense, they humbly take upon content.
Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found.
False eloquence, like the prismatic glass, Ver. 219.
Its gaudy colours spreads on every place; Fird with the charms fair Science does impart,
VARIATIONS. In fearless youth we tempt the heights of Art. Ver. 259. As men of breeding, oft the men of wit. Ver. 223. Ed. 1. But more advanc'd, survey, &c. Ver 265. They talk of principles, but parts they Ver. 225.
prize. So pleas'd at first the towering Alps to try, Ver. 270. As e'er could Dennis of the laws o'th' Fill'd with ideas of fair Italy,
Ver. 272. Ed. 1. That durst, &c. (stage. The traveller beholds with chearful eyes
Ver. 298. Ed. 1. The lessening vales, and seems to tread the skies. What oft was thought, but ne'er before express'de
The face of Nature we no more survey,
Not so when swift Camilla scours the plain, All glares alike, without distinction gay:
Flies o’er th' unbending corn, and skins along the But true expression, like th' unchanging Sun,
main. Clears and improves whate'er it shines upon; Hear how Timotheus' vary'd lays surprise, It gilds all objects, but it alters none.
And bid alternate passions fall and rise!
Now burns with glory, and then melts with love;
Now sighs steal out, and tears begin to fluw:
Avoid extremes; and shun the fault of such,
At every trifle scorn to take offence, These sparks with awkward vanity display
That always shows great pride, or little sense; What the fine gentleman wore yesterday,
Those heads, as stomachs, are not sure the best, And but so mimic ancient wits at best,
Which nauseate all, and nothing can digest. As apes our grandsires in their doublets diest. Yet let not each gay turn thy rapture move; In words, as fashions, the same rule will hold; For Fools admire, but men of sense approve: Alike fantastic, if too new or old:
As things seem large which we through mists descry, Be not the first by whom the new are try'd, Dulness is ever apt to magnify.
[394 Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.
Some foreign writers, some our own despise;
Meanly they seek the blessing to confine,
Which from the first has shone on ages past, These, equal syllables alone require,
Enlights the present, and shall warm the last; Though oft the ear the open vowels tire;
Though cach may feel increases and decays,
And see now clearer and now darker days.
Some ne'er advance a judgment of their own,
Some judge of anthors names, not works, and then
Of all this servile herd, the worst is he
And each exalted stanza teems with thought! 'Tis not enough no harshness gives offence,
The vulgar thus through imitation err; The sound must seern an echo to the sense :
As oft the learn’d by being singular; Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows,
So much they scorn the crowd, that if the throng And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows; By <hance go right, they purposely go wrong: But when loud surges lash the sounding shore, 368
So schismatics the plain believers quit,
423 The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent roar.
And are but damn'd for having too much wit. When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to
Some praise at morning what they blame at night, throw,
But always think the last opinion right.
A Muse by these is like a mistress us'd,
While their weak heads, like towns unfortify'd,
'Twixt sense and nonsense daily change their side.
Ver. 428. So schismatics the dull, &c.
Ask them the cause; they're wiser still, they say; , When mellowing years their full perfection give, And still tomorrow's wiser than to day.
And each bold figure just begins to live;
[499 We think our fathers fools, so wise we grow; The treacherous colours the fair art betray, Our wiser sons, no doubt, will think us so.
And all the bright creation fades away! Once school-divines this zealous isle o'erspread; Unhappy wit, like most mistaken things, Who knew most sentences was deepest read: Atones not for that envy which it brings; 493 Faith, gospel, all, seem'd made to be disputed, In youth alone its empty praise we boast, And none had sense enough to be confuted :
But soon the shortliv'd vanity is lost; Scotists and Thomists, now in peace remain,
Like some fair flower the early spring supplies, Amidst their kindred cobwebs in Duck-lane. That gayly blooins, but ev'n in blooming dies. If Faith itself has different dresses worn,
What is this Wit, which must our cares employ? What wonder modes in Wit should take their turn? The owner's wife, that other inen enjoy ; [500 Oft, leaving what is natural and fit, [447 | The most our trouble still when most admir'd, The current folly proves the ready wit;
And still the more we give, the more requir'd: And authors think their reputation safe,
Whose faine with pains we guard, but lose with ease, Which lives as long as fools are pleas'd to laugh. Sure some to vex, but never all to please;
Some, valuing those of their own side or mind, "Tis what the vicious fear, the virtuous shun; Still make themselves the measure of mankind : By fools 'tis hated, and by knaves undone! Fondly we think we honour merit then,
If Wit so much from Ignorance undergo, 509 When we but praise ourselves in other men. Ah, let not Learning too commence its foe! Parties in wit attend on those of state,
Of old, those met rewards, who could excxl, And public faction doubles private hate.
And such were prais'd who but endeavour'd well; Pride, Malice, Folly, against Dryden rose, Though triumphs were to generals only dne, In various shapes of parsons, critics, beaux: Crowns were reserved to grace the soldiers too. But sense survivid, when merry jests were past;
Now they who reach Parnassus' lofty crowa, 514 For rising merit will buoy up at lasta
Employ their pains to spurn some others down; Might he return, and bless once more our eyes,
And while self-love each jealous writer rules, New Blackınores and new Milbourns must arise: Contending wits become the sport of fools: Nay, should great Homer lift his awful head, But still the worst with most regret commend, Zoilus agaiu would start up from the dead.
For each ill author is as bad a friend.
310 Envy will Merit, as its shade, pursue;
To what base ends, and by what abject ways, But, like a shadow, proves the substance true: Are mortals uirg'd through sacred lust of praise ! For envy'd Wit, like Sol eclips'd, makes known Ah, ne'er so dire a thirst of glory boast, Th' opposing body's grossness, not its own.
Nor in the critic let the man be lost.
Good-nature and good sense must ever join;
But if in noble minds soine dregs remain,
Not yet purg'd off, of spleen and sour disdains Be thou the first, true merit to befriend; Discharge that rage on more provoking crimes, His praise is lost, who stays till all commend. Nor fear a dearth in these flagitivus tines. Short is the date, alas, of moderu rhymes,
No pardon vile obscenity should find, And 'tis but just to let them live betimes.
Though wit and art conspire to move your mind No longer now that golden age appears,
But dulness with obscenity must prove When patriarch-wits surviv'd a thousand years: As shameful sure as impotence in love. Now length of fame (our second life) is lost,
In the fat age of pleasure, wealth, and ease, And bare threescore is all ev'n that can boast; Sprang the rank weed, and thriv'd with large inOur sons their fathers' failing language see,
When love was all an easy monarch's care; (creases And such as Chancer is, shall Dryden be.
Seldom at council, never in a war: Go when the faithful pencil has design'd
Jilts rul'd the state, and statesman forces writ;
And not a mask went uninprov'd away:
Ver. 492. The treacherous colours in few years de.
Ver. 495. Repays not half that envy, &c. (cay Ver. 447. Between this and ver. 448.
Ver. 498. The rhyming clowns that gladded Shakespeare's Like soine fair flower that in the spring does rise. age,
Ver. 500. What is this wit that does our cares em. No more with crambo entertain the stage.
[ploy? Who now in anagrams their patron praise,
The more his trouble as the more admir'd; Or sing their mistress in acrostic lays ?
Where wanted, scorn'd: and envy'd where ac. Ev'n pulpits pleas'd with merry puns of yore;
quir'd; Now all are banish'd to th' Hibernian shore ! Maintain'd with pains, but forfeited with case, Thus leaving what was natural and fit,
& Co The current folly prov'd their ready wit; Ver. 508. Ed. 1. Too much does Wit, &c. And anthors thought their reputation safe, Ver. 514. Now those that reach, &c.
Which liv'd as long as fools were plcas'd to laugh. Ver. 519, And each, &c. Ver. 495. Ed. l. Some fait Wea, besten
Ver. 521. Are moctals urg'd by sacred, &c.
The modest fan was lifted up no more,
Fear most to tax an honourable fool,
Such, without wit, are pocts when they please, Did all the dregs of bold Socinus drain;
As without learning they can take degrees. Then unbelieving priests reform'd the nation, (547 Leave dangerous truths to unsuccessful satires, And taught more pleasant methods of salvation; And Nattery to some fulsome dedicators, Where Heaven's free subjects might their rights dis- Whom, when they praise, the world believes op Lest God himself should seem too absolute: (pute, Pulpits their sacred satire learn'd to spare, Than when they promise to gtve scribbling o'er. And Vice admir'd to find a flatterer there!
'Tis best sometimes your censure to restrain, Encourag'd thus, Wit's Titans brav'd the skies, And charitably let the dull be vain:
597 And the press groan'd with licens'd blasphernies. Your silence there is better than your spite, These monsters, critics! with your darts engage, For who can rail so long as they can write ? Here point your thunder, and exhaust your rage! Still humming on, their drowzy course they keep, Yet shun their fault, who, scandalously nice, And lash'd so long, like tops, are lash'd asleep. Will needs mistake an author into vice;
False steps but help them to renew the race, All seems infected that th' infected spy,
As, after stumbling, jades will mend their pace. As all looks yellow to thc jaundic'd eye.
What crowds of these, impenitently bold, Learn then what morals critics ought to show: In sounds and jingling syllables grown old, For 'tis but half a judge's task, to know. [562 Still run on poets, in a raging vein, 'Tis not enough, taste, judgment, learning, join; Ev'n to the dregs and squeezings of the brain, In all you speak, let truth and candour shine; Strain out the last dull dropping of their scuse, That not alone what to your sense is duo
And rhyme with all the rage of impotence ! All may allow, but seek your friendship too.
Such shameless bards we have : and yet 'tis true, Be silent always, when you doubt your sense: There are as mad, abandon'd critics too. And speak, though sure, with seeming diffidence: The bookful blockhead, ignorantly read, Some positive, persisting fops we know,
With loads of learned lumber in his head, Who, if once wrong, will needs be always so; 569 | With his own tongue still edifies his ears, But you, with pleasure, own your errours past,
And always listening to himself appears. And make each day a critique on the last.
All books he reads, and all he reads assails, "Tis not enough your counsel still be true; From Dryden's Fables down to Durfey's Tales : Blunt truths more mischief than nice falschoods do: With him most authors steal their works, or buy ; Men must be taught as if you taught them not,
Garth did not write his own Dispensary.
619 And things unknown propos'd as things forgot. 575 Name a new play, and he's the poet's friend, Without good-breeding truth is disapprov'd; Nay show'd his faults--but when would poets That only makes superior sense belov'd.
No place so sacred from such fops is barr'd. (mend? Be niggards of advice on no pretence;
Nor is Paul's church more safe than Paul's churchFor the worst avarice is that of sense.
yard : With mean coinplacence, ne'er betray your trust, Nay, fly to altars; there they'll talk you dead, 624 Nor be so civil as to prove unjust.
For fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Fear not the anger of the wise to raise;
Distrustful sense with modest caution speaks, Those best can bear reproof, who merit praise. It still looks home, and short excursions makes :
"Twere well might critics still this freedom take: But rattling nonsense in full vollies breaks,
But where's the man, who counsel can bestow,
Unbiass'd, or by favour, or by spite;
634 Ver. 547. The Author las here omitted the two Though learn'd, well-bred ; and though well-bred,
Not dully prepossess'd, nor blindly right; following lines, as containing a national reflection, Modestly bold and humanly severe : (sincere; which in his stricter judgment he could not but disapprove on any people whatever :
Then first the Belgians' morals were extollid;
We their religion had, and they our gold. Ver. 597. And charitably let dull fools be vain. Ver. 562. 'Tis not enough, wit, art, and learning Ver. 600. join.
Still humming on, their old dull course they keeg. Ver. 564. That not alone what to your judgment's Ver. 569. That if once wrong, &c. (due. Ver. 619. Garth did not write, &c.] A common Ver. 575. And things ne'er know, &c. (prov'd slander at that time in prejudice of that deserving Ver. 576. Without good-breeding truth is not ap- author. Our poet did him this justice, when thąt
slander most prevailed; and it is now (perhaps the Ver. 586. And stares tremendous, &c.] This pic-sooner for this very verse) dead and forgotten. ture was taken to himself by John Dennis, a furious Ver. 623. Between this and ver. 624. old critic by profession, who, upon nu other provo In vain you shrug and sweat, and strive to fly; cation, wrote against this Essay, and its author, in These know no manners but of poetry : a manner perfectly lunatic: for, as to the mention They 'll stop a hungry chaplain in his grace, made of hiin in ver. 270, he took it as a compli
To treat of anities of tiine and place. ment, and said it was treacherously meant to cause
Ver. 624. Nay run to altars, &c. bim to overlook this abuse of his person.
Ver. 634. Not dully prepossesi’d, or blindly rigtit
Who to a friend his faults can freely show,
Thus long succeeding critics justly reignid, And gladly praise the merit of a foe?
License repress'd, and useful laws ordain'd. Blest with a taste exact, yet unconfind;
Learning and Rome alike in empire grew, A knowledge both of books and human kind; And Arts still follow'd where her eagles flew; Genitous converse ; a soul exempt from pride; From the same foes, at last, both felt their doom, And love to praise, with reason on his side? And the same age saw Learning fall, and Rome,
Such once were critics; such the happy few With Tyranny, then Superstitiou join'd, Athens and Rome in better ages knew :
As that the body, this enslav'J the mind; The mighty Stagyrite first left the sbore, (646 Much was believed, but little understood, 689 Spread a!l bis sails, and durst the deeps explore : And to be doll was construed to be good : He steer'd securely, and discover'd far,
A second delage Learning thus o'er-ran, Led by the light of the Maonjan star.
And the Monks finish'd what the Goths began. Poets, a race long unconfin'd and free,
At length Erasmus, that great injur'd name, Still fond and proud of savage liberty,
(The glory of the priesthood, and the shame!) Receiv'd his laws; and stood convinc'd 'twas fit, Stem'd the wild torrent of a barbarous age, Who conquer'd Nature, should preside o'er Wit. And drove those holy Vandals off the stage.
Horace still charms with graceful negligence, But see! each Mase, in Leo's golden days, And without method talks us into sense,
Starts from her trance, and trims her wither'd. Will like a friend, faniliarly convey
bays; The truest notions in the easiest way. 656 Rome's ancient Genius, o'er its ruins spread, He who supreme in judgment, as in wit,
Shakes off the dust, and rears his reverend head Might boldly censure, as he boldly writ,
Then Sculpture and her sister-arts revire;
A Raphael painted, and a Vida sung.
As next in place to Mantua, next in fame!
But soon, by impious arms froin Latium chas'a, Fancy and art in gay Petronius please, (668 Their ancient bounds the banishid Muses pass’d : The scholar's learning, with the courtier's ease. Tience arts o'er all the northern world advance,
In grave Quintilian's copious work, we find But critic-learning flourish'd most in France : The justest rules and clearest method join'd : The rules a nation, bom to serve, obeys; Thus useful arms in magazines we place,
And Boileau still in right of Ilorace sways.
But we, brave Britons, foreign laws despis'do
Fierce for the liberties of Wit, and bold,
We still defy'd the Romans, as of old. And bless their critic with a poet's tire.
Yet some there were among the sounder few An ardent judge, who, zealous in his trust, Of those who less presum'd, and better knew, th'ith warmth gives sentence, yet is always just;
W'ho durst assert the juster ancient cause, Whose own example strengthens all his laws;
And here restor'd Wit's fundamental laws. [723 And is himself that great Sublime he draws. Such was the Muse, whose rules and practice tell,
“ Nature's chief master-piece is writing well.”
Such was Roscommon, not more learn'd than good, VARIATIONS. Between ver. 646 and 649, I found the following to him the wit of Greece and Rome was known,
With manners generous as his noble blood; lines, since suppressed by the author :
And every author's merit but his own. That bold Columbus of the realms of wit, Such late was Walsh--the Muse's judge and friend, Whose first discovery's not exceeded yet, Who justly knew to blame or to commend; Led by the light of the Mæonian star,
To failings mild, but zealous for desert; He steer'd securely and discover'd far.
The clearest head, and the sincerest heart. He, when all Nature was subdued before,
This humble praise, lamented shade! receive, Like his great pupil, sigh'd, and long'd for more : This praise at least a grateful Muse may give: Fancy's wild regions yet unranquish'd lay, The Musc, whose early voice you taught to sing, A boundless empire, and that own'd no sway. Prescrib'd her heights, and prun'd her tender wing, Poets, &c.
(Her guide now lost) no more attempts to rise, After ver. 648. the first edition reads,
But in low numbers short excursions tries: (view, Not only Nature did his laws obey,
Content, if hence th’ unlearn'd their wants may
(ease. Ver. 689. Al was believed, but nothing under Nor this alone the curious eye to please,
stood. But to be found, when need requires, with ease. Between ver. 690 and 691, the author omitted these The Muses sure Longinus did inspire,
Vain wits and critics were no more allow'd, (two: And bless'd their critic with a poet's fire.
When none but saints had license to be proudy Au-ardent judge, that zealous, &c.
Ver. 723, 724. These lines are not in Ed. l.