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Regard not then if wit be old or new,
But blame the falfe, and value ftill the true.
Some ne'er advance a judgment of their own,
But ca ch the fpreading notion of the town;
They reafon and conclude by precedent,
And own ftale nonsense which they ne'er invent.
Some judge of authors names, not works, and then
Nor praise nor blame the writings, but the men.
Of all this fervile herd, the worst is he
That in proud dulnefs joins with quality.
A conftant Critic at the great man's board,
To fetch and carry nonfenfe for my Lord.
What woful stuff this madrigal would be,
In fome flarv'd hackney-fonneteer, or me?
But let a Lord once own the happy lines,
How the wit brightens! how the style refines!
Before his facred name flies ev'ry fault,
And each exalted stanza teems with thought!
The vulgar thus thro' imitation err;
As oft the Learn'd by being fingular;
So much they scorn the crowd, that if the throng
By chance go right, they purpofely go wrong:
So Schifmatics the plain believers quit, .
And are but damn'd for having too much wit.
Some praise at morning what they blame at night; 430
But always think the last opinion right.
A Mufe by thee is like a miftrefs us'd,
This hour she's idoliz'd, the next abus'd;
While their weak heads like towns unfortify'd,
'Twixt fenfe and nonfenfe daily change their fide. 435
Afk them the caufe; they're wifer ftill, they fay;
And still to-morrow's wifer than to-day.
We think our father's fools; fo wife we grow ;
Our wifer fons, no doubt, will think us fo.
Once School-divines this zealous ifle o'erfpread; 440
Who knew moft fentences was deepest read:
Faith, gospel, all, feem'd made to be difputed,
And none had fenfe enough to be confuted:
Scotifts and Thomifts, now in peace remain,
Amidst their kindred cobwebs in Duck-lane.
If Faith itself has diff'rent dresses worn,
What wonder modes in Wit should take their turn?
Oft', leaving what is natural and fit,
The current folly proves the ready wit;
And authors think their reputation fafe,
Which lives as long as fools are pleas'd to laugh.
Some valuing thofe of their own fide or mind,
Still make themselves the measure of mankind :
Fondly we think we honour merit then,
When we but praise ourselves in other men.
Parties in Wit attend on those of State,
And public faction doubles private hate.
Pride, Malice, Folly, against Dryden rofe,
In various shapes of Parfons, Critics, Beaus;
But fenfe furviv'd, when merry jefts were paft; 460 For rifing merit will buoy up at last.
VER. 445. Duck-lane] A place where old and fecond-hand books were fold formerly, near Smithfield.
VER. 447. Between this and ver. 448.
The rhyming Clowns that gladed Shakespear's age,
No more with crambo entertain the stage.
Who now in Anagrams their Patron praise,
Or fing their Mistress in Acroftic lays;
Ev'n pulpits pleas'd with merry puns of yore
Now all are banish'd to th' Hibernian fhore !
Thus leaving what was natural and fit,
The current folly prov'd their ready wit;
And authors thought their reputation fafe,
Which liv'd as long as fools were pleas'd to laugh.
Might he return, and bless once more our eyes,
New Blackmores and new Milbourns must arife:
Nay fhould great Homer lift his awful head,
Zoilus again would fart up from the dead.
Envy will merit, as its fhade, purfue;
But like a fhadow, proves the fubftance true :
For envy'd Wit, like Sol eclips'd, makes known
Th' oppofing body's groffness, not its own.
When first that fun too pow'rful beams difplays, 470
It draws up vapours which obfcure its rays;
But ev'n thofe clouds at laft adorn its way,
Reflect new glories and augment the day.
Be thou the first true merit to befriend;
His praife is loft, who flays 'till all commend.
Short is the date, alas, of modern rhymes,
And 'tis but just to let them live betimes.
No longer now that golden age appears,
When Patriarch-wits furviv'd a thousand years:
Now length of Fame (our fecond life) is loft,
And bare threefcore is all ev'n that can boat;
Our fons their fathers' failing language fee,
And fuch as Chaucer is, fhall Dryden be.
So when the faithful pencil has defign'd
Some bright idea of the master's mind,
Where a new word leaps out at his command,
And ready Nature waits upon his hand;
When the ripe colours foften and unite,
And fweetly melt into juft fhade and light;
When mellowing years their full perfection give, 490
And each bold figure juft begins to live,
The treach'rous colours the fair art betray,
And all the bright creation fades away!
Unhappy wit, like moft mistaken things,
Atones not for that envy which it brings,
In youth alone its empty praife we boaft,
But foon the fhort-liv'd vanity is loft:
Like fome fair flow'r the early fpring fupplies,
That gayly blooms, but ev'n in blooming dies.
What is this Wit, which muft our cares employ? 500
The owner's wife, that other men enjoy;
Then most our trouble ftill when most admir'd;
And ftill the more we give, the more requir'd;
Whofe fame with pains we guard, but lofe with ease,
Sure fome to vex, but never all to please;
'Tis what the vicious fear, the virtuous fhun,
By fools 'tis hated, and by knaves undone!
If Wit fo much from ign'rance undergo,
Ah let not learning too commence its foe!
Of old, thofe met rewards, who could excell,
And fuch were prais'd who but endeavour'd well :
Tho' triumphs were to gen'rals only due,
Crowns were referv'd to grace the foldiers too.
Now, they who reach Parnaffus' lofty crown,
Employ their pains to fpurn fome others down ;
And while felf love each jealous writer rules,
Contending wits become the fport of fools:
But still the worst with most regret commend,
For each ill author is as bad a friend.
To what bafe ends, and by what abject ways,
Are mortals urg'd thro' facred luft of praise!
Ah ne'er fo dire a thirft of glory boast,
Nor in the Critic let the man be loft.
Good-nature and good-fenfe muft ever join;
To err is human, to forgive, divine.
But if in noble minds fome dregs remain
Not yet purg'd off, of fpleen and four difdain;
VER. 526. But if in noble minds fome dregs remain, etc.] But if the four critical humour muft needs have vent, he points to its right objects, and fhews how it may be usefully and innocently di
Discharge that rage on more provoking crimes
Nor fear a dearth in these flagitious times.
No pardon vile obfcenity should find,
Tho' wit and art confpire to move your mind;
But dulnefs with obscenity must prove
As fhameful fure as impotence in love.
In the fat age of pleafure, wealth, and eafe,
Sprung the rank weed, and thriv'd with large increase: When love was all an easy Monarch's care;
Seldom at council, never in a war:
Jilts rul'd the ftate, and statesmen farces writ;
Nay wits had penfions, and young lords had wit:
The Fair fat panting at a Courtier's play,
And not a mask went unimprov'd away :
The modeft fan was lifted up no more,
And Virgins fmil'd at what they blufh'd before.
The following license of a foreign reign
Did all the dregs of bold Socinus drain;
Then unbelieving Priefts reform'd the nation,
And taught more pleafant methods of falvation;
Where Heav'n's free fubjects might their rights difpute,
Left God himself should seem too abfolute :
verted. This is very obfervable; for our author makes spleen and difdain the characteristic of the falje Critic, and yet here fuppofes them inherent in the true. But it is done with judgment, and a knowledge of Nature. For as bitternefs and acerbity in unripe fruits of the best kind are the foundation and capacity of that high fpirit, race, and flavour which we find in them, when perfectly concocted by the warmth and influence of the Sun, and which, without thofe qualities, would often gain no more by that influence than only a mellow infipidity: fo fpleen and difdain in the true Critic, improved by long ftudy and experience, ripen into an exactnefs of Judgment, and an elegance of Tafte: But, lying in the falfe Critic remote from the influence of good letters, continue in all their first offenfive harshness and aftringency.
VER. 547. The Author has omitted two lines which stood here, a6 containing a National Reflection, which in his ftri&ter judgment he could not but difapprove on any People whatever.