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Come, sister, come! (it said, or seem'd to say)
Thy place is here, sad sister, come away;
Once, like thyself, I trembled, wept, and pray'd,
Love's victim then, though now a sainted maid :
But all is calm in this eternal sleep;
Here grief forgets to groan, and love to weep;
Ev'n superstition loses every fear:
For God, not man, absolves our frailties here.'
I come, I come! prepare your roseate bowers,
Celestial palms, and ever-blooming flowers.
Thither, where sinners may have rest, I go,
Where flames refin'd in breasts seraphic glow:
Thou, Abelard! the last sad office pay,
And smoothe my passage to the realms of day:
See my lips tremble, and my eye-balls roll,
Suck my last breath, and catch my flying soul!
Ah, no-in sacred vestments may'st thou stand,
The hallow'd taper trembling in thy hand,
Present the cross before my lifted eye,
Teach me at once, and learn of me to die.
Ah then, thy once-lov'd Eloïsa see!
It will be then no crime to gaze on me;
See from my cheek the transient roses fly!
See the last sparkle languish in my eye!
Till every motion, pulse, and breath be o'er;
And ev'n my Abelard be loy'd no more.
O Death, all-eloquent ! you only prove
What dust we dote on, when 'tis man we love.
Then too, when fate shall thy fair frame destroy
(That cause of all my guilt, and all my joy,)
In trance ecstatic may thy pangs be drown'd,
Bright clouds descend, and angels watch thee round;
From opening skies may streaming glories shine,
And saints embrace thee with a love like mine.
May one kind grave unite each hapless name,
And graft my love immortal on thy fame!
Then, ages hence, when all my woes are o'er,
When this rebellious heart shall beat no more;
If ever chance two wandering lovers brings
To Paraclete's white walls and silver springs,
D'er the pale marble shall they join their heads,
And drink the falling tears each other sheds;
Then sadly say, with mutual pity mov'd,
O may we never love as these have lov'd!'
From the full choir when loud hosannas rise,
And swell the pomp of dreadful sacrifice,
Amid that scene if some relenting eye
Glance on the stone where our cold relics lie,
Devotion's self shall steal a thought from heav'n,
One human tear shall drop, and be forgiv'n.
And sure if fate some future bard shall join
In sad similitude of griefs to mine,
Condemn'd whole years in absence to deplore,
And image charms he must behold no more;
Such if there be, who loves so long, so well,
Let him our sad, our tender story tell ;
The well-sung woes will soothe my pensive ghost;
He best can paint 'em who shall feel 'em most.
PART I. Introduction. That it is as great a fault to judge ill as to write ill, and a more dangerous one to the public. That a true taste is as rare to be found as a true genius.-- That most men are born with some taste, but spoiled by false education.-The multitude of critics, and causes of them, -That we are to study our own taste, and know the limits of it.-Nature the best guide of judgment.-Improved by art and rules, which are but methodized Na. ture.-Rules derived from the practice of the ancient poets.—That therefore the ancients are necessary to be studied by a critic, particularly Homer and Virgil.-of licences, and the use of them by the ancients.--Revereuce due to the ancients, and praise of them.
IS hard to say if greater want of skill
Appear in writing or in judging ill;
But of the two less dangerous is the offence
To tire our patience than mislead our sense :
Some few in that, but numbers err in this,
Ten censure wrong for one who writes amiss ;
A fool might once himself alone expose,
Now one in verse makes many more in prose.
"Tis with our judgments as our watches, none
Go just alike, yet each believes his own.
In poets as true genius is but rare,
True taste as seldom is the critic's share ;
Both must alike from Heav'n derive their light,
These born to judge, as well as those to write.
Let such teach others who themselves excel,
And censure freely who have written well.
Authors are partial to their wit, 'tis true,
But are not critics to their judgment too?
Yet if we look more closely, we shall find Most have the seeds of judgment in their mind : Nature affords at least a glimmering light; The lines, though touch'd but faintly, are drawn
right: But as the slightest sketch, if justly trac'd, Is by ill-colouring but the more disgrac'd, So by false learning is good sense defac'd. Some are bewilder'd in the maze of schools, And some made coxcombs Nature meant but fools: In search of wit these lose their common sense, And then turn critics in their own defence : Each burns alike, who can or cannot write, Or with a rival's or an eunuch's spite. All fools have still an itching to deride, And fain would be upon the laughing side. If Mævius scribble in Apollo's spite, There are who judge still worse than he can write.
Some have at first for wits, then poets, past; Turn'd critics next, and prov'd plain fools at last. Some neither can for wits nor critics pass, As heavy mules are neither horse nor ass. Those half-learn'd witlings, numerous in our isle, As half-form'd insects on the banks of Nile; Unfinish'd things, one knows not what to call, Their generation's so equivocal;
To tell 'em would a hundred tongues require,
Or one vain wit's, that might a hundred tire.;
But you who seek to give and merit fame,
And justly bear a critic's noble name,
Be sure yourself and your own reach to know,
How far your genius, taste, and learning, go;
Launch not beyond your depth, but be discreet,
And mark that point where sense and dulness meet.
Nature to all things fix'd the limits fit, And wisely curb'd proud man's pretending wit. As on the land while here the ocean gains, In other parts it leaves wide sandy plains; Thus in the soul while memory prevails, The solid pow'r of understanding fails; Where beams of warm imagination play, The memory's soft figures melt away. One science only will one genius fit; So vast is art, so narrow human wit: Not only bounded to peculiar arts, But oft in those confin'd to single parts. Like kings we lose the conquests gain'd before, By vain ambition still to make them more: Each might his several province well command, Would all but stoop to what they understand.
First follow Nature, and your judgment frame By her just standard, which is still the same: Unerring Nature, still divinely bright, One clear, unchang’d, and universal light, Life, force, and beauty, must to all impart, At once the source, and end, and test of art. Art from that fund each just supply provides, Works without show, and without pomp presides : In some fair body thus the informing soul With spirits feeds, with vigour fills, the whole; Each motion guides, and every nerve sustains, Itself unseen, but in the effects remains. Some, to whom Heav'n in wit has been profuse, Want as much more to turn it to its use; For wit and judgment otten are at strife, Though meant each other's aid, like man and wife.
'Tis more to guide than spur the Muses' steed,
Restrain his fury than provoke his speed:
The winged courser, like a generous horse,
Shows most true mettle when you check his course.
Those rules of old, discover'd not devis'd,
Are nature still, but nature methodiz'd :
Nature, like liberty, is but restrain'd
By the same laws which first herself ordain'd.
Hear how learn'd Greece her useful' rules endites,
When to repress and when indulge our flights:
High on Parnassus' top her sons she show'd,
And pointed out those arduous paths they trod;
Held from afar, aloft, the' immortal prize,
And urg'd the rest by equal steps to rise.
Just precepts thus from great examples giv'n,
She drew from them what they deriv'd from Heav'n.
The generous critic fann'd the poet's fire,
And taught the world with reason to admire.
Then Criticism the Muse's handmaid prov'd,
To dress her charms, and make her more belov'd:
But following wits from that intention stray'd ;
Who could not win the mistress woo'd the maid;
Against the poets their own arms they turn'd,
Sure to hate most the men from whom they learn'd.
So modern 'pothecaries taught the art
By doctors' bills to play the doctor's part,
Bold in the practice of mistaken rules,
Prescribe, apply, and call their masters fools.
Some on the leaves of ancient authors prey;
Nor time, nor moths e'er spoil'd so much as they :
Some drily plain, without invention's aid,
Write dull receipts how poems may be made ;
These leave the sense their learning to display,
And those explain the meaning quite away.
You then whose judgment the right course would
Know well each ancient's proper character;
His fable, subject, scope in every page;
Religion, country, genius of his age: