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Their ancient bounds the banished muses passed.
Thence arts o'er all the northern world advance,
But critic-learning flourished most in France;
The rules a nation born to serve, obeys;
And Boileau still in right of Horace sways.
But we, brave Britons, foreign laws despised,
And kept unconquered and uncivilized;
Fierce for the liberties of wit, and bold,
We still defied the Romans, as of old.
Yet some there were, among the sounder few
Of those who less presumed and better knew,
Who durst assert the juster ancient cause,
And here restored wit's fundamental laws.
Such was the muse, whose rule and practice tell
"Nature's chief masterpiece is writing well."
Such was Roscommon, not more learned than good,
With manners generous as his noble blood;

To him the wit of Greece and Rome was known,
And every author's merit, but his own.

Such late was Walsh the muse's judge and friend,
Who justly knew to blame or to commend;
To failings mild, but zealous for desert;
The clearest head, and the sincerest heart.
This humble praise, lamented shade! receive,
This praise at least a grateful muse may give:
The muse, whose early voice you taught to sing,
Prescribed her heights, and pruned her tender wing,
(Her guide now lost) no more attempts to rise,
But in low numbers short excursions tries;
Content, if hence the unlearned their wants may view,
The learned reflect on what before they knew:
Careless of censure, nor too fond of fame;

Still pleased to praise, yet not afraid to blame;
Averse alike to flatter, or offend;

Not free from faults, nor yet too vain to mend.






(The numbers refer to lines.)

4. Sense = understanding, judgment.

15. Who has such for its antecedent. The meaning is, Let those who excel teach others.

17. Wit genius. As we shall see, wit is used in a variety of mean

ings in the poem.

20. Most qualifies persons understood. The full form of expression would be, "We shall find (that) most (persons) have," etc.

26. Schools: different systems of philosophy, science, and theology. 34. Mævius = an insignificant poet of the Augustan age, who attacked the writings of Virgil and Horace. He owes the preservation of his name to the fact that these two great poets made him a subject of ridicule. — Apollo was the president and protector of the Muses.

"There are (those)

35. Who has those understood as its antecedent. who judge," etc.



36. Wits

=men of learning or genius.

43. Their generation, etc. their formation is so doubtful, uncertain.

A reference to the belief that insects were generated by the mud of the Nile.


52. Fit suitable, proper.

53. Wit intellect, mind. 66. Several


separate, particular.

72. Life, force, and beauty are in the objective case after must impart.

73. This line is in apposition with nature.



76. Informing = imbuing and actuating with vitality.

80. Wit genius; but as implied in the next line, judgment.

84. 'Tis more to guide it is more important to guide.

86. Winged courser = Pegasus, a winged horse of the Muses.

92. Indites composes, produces.

94. Parnassus = a mountain in Greece, celebrated in mythology as

sacred to Apollo and the Muses.


97. Equal steps = like or corresponding steps.
109. Bills prescriptions.
120. Fable plot.



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124. Homer the author of the "Iliad," and the greatest epic poet of antiquity. Seven Grecian cities contended for the honor of having given him birth.

129. Mantuan Muse≈ Virgil, who was born near Mantua, 70 B.C. After Homer, the greatest poet of antiquity. His full name was Publius Virgilius Maro, the latter part of which appears in the next line. It is said that before writing the "Æneid," he contemplated a poem on Alban and Roman affairs, but found the subject beyond his powers.


133. But

138. Stagirite Aristotle. He was born at Stagira, a town in Macedonia; hence the name Stagirite.

142. Happiness fortuitous elegance or felicity of expression.

158. Prospects


183. Secure from flames, etc. "The poet here alludes to the four principal causes of the ravage among ancient writings. The destruction of the Alexandrine and Palatine libraries by fire, the fiercer rage of Zoilus, Mævius, and their followers, against wit; the irruption of the Barbarians into the empire; and the long reign of ignorance and superstition in the cloisters." -WARTON.

186. Paans = a song of rejoicing, among the ancients, in honor of Apollo.

216. Pierian:

From Mount Pierus, in Thes

saly, sacred to the Muses.

218. Drinking largely is the subject of sobers.

237. That maligant dull delight, that is, of seeking to find slight faults. 248. Even thine, O Rome! the dome of St. Peter's, designed by

pertaining to the Muses.

Michael Angelo.

265. Notions == judgments, opinions.

267. La Mancha's Knight = Don Quixote, the hero of a work written

by Cervantes, a Spanish author, in 1605.

270. Dennis

a mediocre author, born in 1657. For an account of his literary quarrels, see the sketch of Pope.

286. Curious

difficult to please. - Nice over-scrupulous, hard to


289. Conceit odd, fanciful notion, affected conception.
308. Content
acquiescence without examination.

322. Sort suit, fit.

328. Fungoso = a character in one of Ben Jonson's plays, who assumed

the dress and tried to pass himself off for another.

gay, showy men.

329. Sparks 337. Most = 344. These

most persons or critics.
these persons.

356. Alexandrine = a verse consisting of twelve syllables; so called from a French poem on the life of Alexander written in that measure. The next line is an Alexandrine.

361. Sir John Denham was born at Dublin in 1615, and died in 1668. His poems contain here and there an expression of considerable force. Edmund Waller was born in 1606 and died in 1687. See reference to Waller in preceding pages.

366. Zephyr strictly the west wind; but poetically, any soft, gentle




370. Ajax = a hero of the Trojan war, represented by Homer as, next to Achilles, the bravest and handsomest of the Greeks.

372. Camilla Queen of the Volscians, an army of whom she led to battle against Æneas. She was so remarkable for her swiftness that she is described by the poets as flying over the corn without bending the stalks, and skimming over the surface of the water without wetting her feet.

374. Timotheus = a celebrated musician of Thebes in Boeotia. Invited to attend the nuptials of Alexander the Great, he is said to have animated that monarch in so powerful a degree that he started up and seized his arms. Dryden made use of the incident in his celebrated ode, "Alexander's Feast."

376. Son of Libyan Jove = a title assumed by Alexander. 394. Some is the subject of despise understood. foreign writers.”


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400. Sublimes exalts.

404. Each qualifies age understood.

415. Quality high rank, superior birth or station.

418. Madrigal = a short lyrical poem, adapted to the quaint and terse

expression of some pleasant thought, generally on the subject of love.

the common people.

424. The vulgar 440. School-divines school-men; that is, philosophers and divines of the Middle Ages, who adopted the principles of Aristotle, and spent much time on points of abstract speculation, sometimes ridiculous in character.

441. Sentences = passages from recognized authorities in the church. 444. Scotists followers of Duns Scotus, one of the most famous schoolmen of the fourteenth century. He taught at Oxford and Paris. He was distinguished for the zeal and ability with which he defended the immaculate conception of the Virgin —a doctrine that was, in 1854, declared by papal authority to be a necessary article of the Roman Catholic faith. At the Renaissance the Scotists opposed the new learning, and added the word dunce, that is, a Dunsman, to our language. Thomists followers of Thomas Aquinas, one of the ablest school-men of the thirteenth century. He taught at Paris, Rome, Bologna, and Pisa. He denied the immaculate conception.

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"Some (despise)

The works of these authors abounded, not in useful knowledge, but in finespun theories and argumentation.

445. Duck Lane = a place in London where old books were sold.

447. "What wonder [is it that] modes in wit," etc.

449. Ready = keen, prompt. Understand to be after proves.

459. Parsons, critics, beaux. — Referring to Jeremy Collier, and the Duke of Buckingham.

463. Blackmores Sir Richard Blackmore, one of the court physicians in the reigns of William III. and Anne, and characterized" as the most volu minous and heavy poetaster of his own or any other age.” — Millbourn = Rev. Luke Millbourn, who criticised Dryden with much justice.

465. Zoilus = a grammarian and sophist of Amphipolis, who rendered himself known by his severe criticisms on the poems of Homer, for which he received the nickname, "Chastiser of Homer." See note on line 183.

479. Patriarch-wits == the antediluvians.

495. Brings causes.

496. Its refers to wit or genius.

509. Commence begin or appear to be.
536. Easy monarch = Charles II.

545. Socinus. - Faustus and Lælius Socinus were Italian theologians of the sixteenth century, who denied the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the personality of the devil, the native and total depravity of man, the vicarious atonement, and the eternity of future punishment.

552. Titans = fabled giants of ancient mythology, who made war against the gods.

564. Sense judgment. The same also in line 566.

585. Appius = Dennis. See sketch of Pope for an account of the literary quarrel of the two poets.

599. So long to such an extent.


606. "Run on [as] poets," etc.

617. Durfey Thomas D'Urfey, a writer of plays and poems in the reign of Charles II., with whom he was a favorite for his wit, liveliness, and songs. He is best remembered for his collection of songs, entitled “Pills to Purge Melancholy," the tales here referred to by Pope.

619. Garth Sir Samuel Garth, an eminent physician and poet of some reputation, born in 1660. His professional skill was associated with great conversational powers. His best-known work is "The Dispensary," a poetical satire on the apothecaries and those physicians who sided with them in opposing the project of giving medicine gratuitously to the sick poor.

623. Paul's Churchyard = headquarters of the London booksellers before the great fire. 645. Stagirite.

See note on line 138.



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