Page images

Poets, a race long unconfin’d, and free, 656
Still fond and proud of savage liberty,
Receiv'd his laws; and stood convinc'd 'twas fit,
Who conquer'd Nature; should preside o'er Wit.

Horace still charms with graceful negligence,
And without method talks uś into sense, 655
Will, like a friend, familiarly convey
The truest notions in the easiest way:
He, who supreme in judgment, as in wit,
Might boldly censure, as he boldly writ, 659
Yet judg’d with coolness, tho' he sung with fire;
His Precepts teach but what his work (pire. for
Our Critics take a contrary extreme,' :
They judge with fury, but they write with flegmos

No es. Ver. 653. Who conquer'd Nature, jould preside öer Within By this is not meant physical Nature, but moral. The force of the observation consists in our understanding it in this sense. For our the Poet not only uses the word Nature for human naturel'.. throughout this poem; but also, where, in the beginning of it, he him lays down the principles of the arts he treats of, he makes the knowledge of human nature the foundation of all Criticism and lor Poetry. Nor is the observation less true than apposite. For, leren Arisotle's natural enquiries were superficial, and ill made, tho' extensive : But his logical and moral works are incomparable. In these he has unfolded the human mind, and laid open all the la tecesses of the heart and understanding; and by his Categodsbichino fies, not only conquered Nature, but kept her in tenfold chains and to Not as Dulness kept the Muses, in the Dunciad, to filence in them; but as Aristaus held Protels in Virgil, to deliver Ora cles.

[ocr errors]

* Nor suffers Horace more in wrong Translations By Wits, than Critics in as wrong Quotations. 665

See Dionysius Homer's thoughts refine,
And call new beauties forth from ev'ry line!

Fancy and art in gay Petronius pleases
The scholar's learning, with the courtier's ease;
- In grave Quintilian's copious work, we find 670
The justest rules, and clearest method join'd:
Thus useful arms in magazines we place,
All rang’d in order, and dispos’d with grace,
But less to please the eye, than arm the hand,
Still fit for use, and ready at command.. 675

Thee, bold Longinus! all the Nine inspire,
And bless their Critic with a Poet's fire.
An ardent Judge, who zealous in his trust,
With warmth gives sentence, yet is always just;
Whose own example strengthens all his laws ; 680
And is himself that great Sublime he draws.

Thus long succeeding Critics justly reign’d,
Licence repress’d, and useful laws ordain'd.

COMMENTARY. Ver. 682. Thus long succeeding Critics, etc.] The next pe riod in which the true Critic (he tells us) appear'd, was at the revival and restoration of letters in the Welt. This occasions his giving a short history [from * 683 to 710.) of the decline

VER. 666. See Dionyfius] Of Halicarnaffus. P.


. Learning and Rome alike in empire grew; 684 And Arts still follow'd where her Eagles flew ; From the fame foes, at laft, both felt their doom, And the same age faw Learning fall, and Rome. With Tyranny, then Superstition join’d, As that the body, this enllav'd the mind; Much was believ'd, but little understood, 690 And to be dull was constru'd to be good; A second deluge Learning thus o'er-run, And the Monks finish'd what the Goths begun.

Between Ý 691. and 692. the author omitted these two,

Vain Wits and Critics were no more allow'd,
When none but Saints had licence to be proud. P.

COMMENTARY. and re-establishment of arts and fciences in Italy. He shews that they both fell under the fame enemy, despotic power; and that when both had made some little efforts to restore theniselves, they were soon again overwhelmed by a second deluge of another kind, Superfiition; and a calm of Dulness finish'd upon Rome and Letters what the rage of Barbarifin had begun :

A second deluge learning thus c'er-run,

And the Monk finish'd what the Goth begun. When things had been long in this condition, and all recovery now appear'd desperate, it was a Critic, our Author thews us for the honour of the Ait he here teaches, who at length broke the charm of Dulness, dissipated the inchantment, and, like another Hercules, drove those cowi'd and hooded serpents from the Hefperian tree of knowledge, which they had fu long guarded from human approach.

At length Erasmus, that great injur'd name,
(The glory of the Priesthood, and the shame!)
Stem'd the wild torrent of a barb’rous age, 696
And drove those holy Vandals off the stage.

But see! each Muse, in Leo's golden days,
Starts from her trance, and trims her wither’d bays,

COMMENTARY: VER: 698. But see, each Mufe in Leo's golden days!) This prea fents us with the second period in which the true Critic appear'd; of whom he has given us a perfect idea in the single example of Marcus Hieronymus Vida : For his subject being poetical Criticism, for the use principally of a critical Poet ; his example is an eminent poetical Critic, who had written of that Art in verse.

[ocr errors]

NOT ÉS Ver: 694. Ät length Erasmus, etc.] Nothing can be more artful than the application of this example; or more happy than the turn of compliment to this admirable man. To throw glory quite round his illustrious character, he makes it to be (as in fact it really was)) by his affiftance chiefly, that Lco was enabled to restore letters and the fine arts in his Pontificate.

VER: 695. The glory of the Priesthood and the same ! ] Our Author elsewhere lets us know what he esteems to be the glory of the Priesthood as well as of a Christian in general, where, comparing himself to Erafmus, he says,

In Moderation placing all my glory, and consequently, what he esteems to be the name of it. The whole of this character belong's most eminently and almost folely to Erasmus : For the other Reformers, such as Luther, Calvin, and their followers, understood so little in what true Christian Liberty consisted, that they carried with them, into the reformed Churches, that very spirit of perfecution, which had driven them from the church of Rome.

Vol. I.

[ocr errors]

Rome's ancient Genius, o'er its ruins fpread, 700
Shakes off the dust, and rears his rev'rend head.
Then sculpture and her fister-arts revive;
Stones leap'd to form, and rocks began to live;
With sweeter notes each rising Temple rung;.
A Raphael painted, and a Vida fung. 705
Immortal Vida: on whose honour'd brow
The Poet's bays and Critic's ivy grow:
Cremona now shall ever boast thy name,
As next in place to Mantua, next in fame! 709

But foon by impious arms from Latium chas'd, Their ancient bounds the banish'd Muses pass’d;'

[ocr errors]

COMMENTARY. VEŘ.910. But soon by impious arms, etc.] This brings us to the third period, after learning had travelled ftill farther Weft; when the arms of the Emperor, in the lack of Rome by the duke of Bourbon, had driven it out of Italy, and forced it to pass the Mountains-The Examples he gives in this period, are of Boileau in France, and of the Lord Roscommon and the duke of Buckingham in England: And these were all Poets, as well as Critics in verse. It is true, the last instance is of one who was no eminent poet, the late Mr. Walh. This small deviation might be well over-looked, was it only for its being a pious office to the memory of his friend : But it may be farther justified as it was an homage paid in particular to the Morals of the Critic, nothing being more amiable than the character here drawn of this excellent person. He being our Author's Judge and Censor, as

VER. yog. As next in place to Mantua,] Alluding to

Mantua væ miseræ nimium vicina Cremonz.


« PreviousContinue »