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If Mævius fcribble in Apollo's fpight,
There are who judge ftill worse than he can write. 35
Some have at firft for Wits, then Poets past,
Turn'd Critics next, and prov'd plain fools at laft.
Some neither can for Wits nor Critics pafs,
As heavy mules are neither horfe nor afs.
Those half-learn'd witlings, num'rous in our ifle, 40
As half-form'd infects on the banks of Nile;
Unfinish'd things, one knows not what to call,
Their generation's fo 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 fure yourself and your own reach to know,
How far your genius, tafte, and learning go;
Launch not beyond your depth, but be discreet,
And mark that point where fense and dulness meet.
Nature to all things fix'd the limits fit,
And wifely curb'd proud man's pretending wit,
As on the land while here the ocean gains,
In other parts it leaves wide fandy plains;
Thus in the foul while memory prevails,
The folid pow'r of understanding fails;
Where beams of warm imagination play,
The memory's foft figures melt away.
One fcience only will one genius fit;
So vaft is art, fo narrow human wit :
Not only bounded to peculiar arts,
But oft' in those confin'd to fingle parts.
Like Kings we lofe the conquetts gain'd before,
By vain ambition ftill to make them more:
Each might his fervile province well command,
Would all but stoop to what they understand.
Firft follow Nature, and your judgment frame
By her just fandard, which is fill the fame :
Unerring NATURE, ftill divinely bright,
One clear, unchang'd, and univerfal light,
Life, force, and beauty, muft to all impart,
At once the fource, and end, and test of Art.
Art from that fund each just fupply provides ;-
Works without fhow, and without pomp prefides: 75
In fome fair body thus th' informing foul
With spirits feeds, with vigour fills the whole,
Each motion guides, and ev'ry nerve fuftains;
Itfelf unfeen, but in th' effects remains.
Some, to whom Heav'n in wit has been profufe, 8
Want as much more, to turn it to its ufe ;
For wit and judgment often are at firife,
Tho' meant each other's aid, like man and wife.
'Tis more to guide, than fpur the Mufe's fteed;
Refrain his fury, than provoke his speed:
The winged courfer, like a gen'tous horfe,
Shows mofl true mettle when you check his courfe.
Thofe RULES of old difcover'd, not devis'd,
Are Nature fill, but Nature methodiz'd:
VER. 88. Those rules of old, etc.] Cicero has, beft of any one I know, explained what that is which reduces the wild and fcattered parts of human knowledge into art. "Nihil eft quod ad
artem redigi poffit, nifi ille prius, qui illa tenet, quorum << artem inftituere vult, habeat illam fcientiam, ut ex iis rebus, quarum ars nondum fit, aitem efficere poffit.-Omnia fere, quæ "funt conclufa nunc artibus, difperfa et diffipata quondam fuerunt, "ut in Maficis, etc. Adhibita eft igitur ars quædam extrinfecusTM"ex alio genere quodam, quod fibi totum PHILOSOPHI affumunt, "quæ rem diffolutam divulfamque conglutinaret, et ratione qua"dam conftringeret." De Orat. l. i. c. 41, 2.
There are whom Heav'n has bleft with ftore of wit,
Yet want as much again to manage it,
Nature, like Liberty, is but refrain'd
By the fame laws which first herself ordain'd.
Hear how learn'd Greece her ufeful rules indites,
When to reprefs, and when indulge our flights;
High on Parnaffus' top her fons she show'd,
And pointed out thofe arduous paths they trod : 95 Held from afar, aloft, th' immortal prize,
And urg'd the reft by equal fleps to rife.
Just precepts thus from great examples giv'n,
She drew from them what they deriv'd from Heav'n.
The gen'rous Critic fann'd the Poet's fire,
And taught the world with reafon to admire.
Then Criticism the Mufe's handmaid prov'd,
To drefs her charms, and make her more belov'd:
But following wits from that intention firav'd,
Who could not win the mistress, woo'd the maid; 105
Against the poets their own arms they turn'd,
Sure to hate most the men from whom they learn'd..
Só modern 'Pothecaries, taught the art
By Doctors bills to play the Doctor's part,
Bold in the practice of mistaken rules,
Preferibe, apply, and call their mafters fools.
Some on the leaves of ancient authors prey,
Nor time nor moths e'er spoil d fo much as they:
Some drily plain, without invention's aid,
Write dull receipts how poems may be made.
These leave the fenfe, their learning to display,
And thofe explain the meaning quite away.
You then whofe judgment the right courfe would
Know well each ANCIENT'S proper character:
VER. 98. Just precepts] "Nec enim artibus editis factum eft "ut argumenta inveniremus, fed dicta funt omnia antequam præciperentur: mox ea fcriptores obfervata et collecta ediderunt,"
His Fable, Subject, scope in ev'ry page;
Religion, Country, genius of his Age:
Without all these at once before your eyes,
Cavil you may, but never criticize.
Be Homer's works your ftudy and delight,
Read them by day, and meditate by night;
Thence form your judgment, thence your maxims
And trace the Mufes upward to their spring.
Still with itself compar'd, his text perufe;
And let your comment be the Mantuan Mufe.
When first young Maro in his boundless mind 130 A work t'outlaft immortal Rome defign'd, Perhaps he feem'd above the Critic's law,
And but from Nature's fountains scorn'd to draw:
Zoilus, had thefe been known, without a Name
Had dy'd, and Perault ne'er been damn'd to fame;
The fenfe of found antiquity had reign'd,
And facred Homer yet been unprophan'd.
None e'er had thought his comprehenfive mind
To modern customs, modern rules confin'd;
Who for all ages writ, and all mankind.
VER. 123. Cavil you may, but never criticize.] The Author after this verfe originally inferted the following, which he has however omitted in all the editions:
When firft young Maro fung of Kings and Wars
Ere warning Phoebus touch'd his trembling ears.
VER. 130. When firft young Maro, etc.] Virg. Ecl. vi.
Cum canerem reges et prælia, Cynthius aurem
It is a tradition preferved by Servius, that Virgil began with writing a poem of the Alban and Roman affairs: which he found above his years, and defcended first to imitate Theocritus on rural subjects, and afterwards to copy Homer in Heroic poetry.
But when t'examine ev'ry part he came,
Nature and Homer were, he found, the fame.
Convinc'd, amaz'd, he checks the bold defign;
And rules as strict his labour'd work confine,
As if the Stagirite o'erlook'd each line.
Learn hence for ancient rules a juft esteem;
To copy nature is to copy them.
Some beauties yet no precepts can declare,
For there's a happiness as well as care,
Mufic resembles Poetry, in each
Are nameless graces which no methods teach,
And which a master-hand alone can reach.
If, where the rules not far enough extend,
(Since rules were made but to promote their end)
Some lucky License answer to the full
Th' intent propos'd, that Licenfe is a rule.
Thus Pegasus, a nearer way to take,
May boldly deviate from the common track.
VER. 146. If, where the rules, etc.] "Neque enim rogationibus plebifve fcitis fancta funt ifta præcepta, fed hoc, quicquid eft, "Utilitas excogitavit. Non negabo autem fic utile effe plerum"que; verum fi eadem illa nobis aliud fuadebit Utilitas, hanc, "relictis magiftrorum autoritatibus, fequemur." Quintil. lib. ii. cap. 13.
VER. 150. Thus Pegafus, etc.] He first defcribes the fublime fight of a Poet, foaring above all vulgar bounds, to fnatch a grace directly, which lies beyond the reach of a common adventurer. And afterwards, the effect of that grace upon the true Critic: whom it penetrates with an equal rapidity; going the neareft way to his beart, without paffing through his Judgment. By which is not meant that it could not ftand the teft of Judgment; but that, as it was a beauty uncommon, and above rule, and the Judgment habituated to determine only by rule, it makes its direct application to the heart; which once gained, foon opens and enlarges the Judgment, whofe concurrence (it being now fet above forms) is eafily procured. That this is the Poet's fublime conception appears from the concluding words:
1 and all its end at once attains. For Poetry doth not attain all its end, till it hath gained the Judg ment as well as Heart.