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Of the Decay of Criticism, and its Revival.
IS hard to say, if greater want of skill
Appear in writing or in judging ill z But, of the two, less dang'rous is th' offence To tire our patience, than mislead our sense.
COMMENTARY. An Efay] The Poem is in one book, but divided into three principal parts or members. The first (to Ý 203.] gives rules for the Study of the Art of Criticiji; the lecond [from thence to # 562.) exposes the Causes of wrong Judgment : and the third [from thence to the end] prescribes the Morals of the Critic.
In order to a right understanding of this poem, it will be necessary to observe, that tho' it be intitled simply an Efay on Criticism, yet several of the precepts relate equally to the good writing as well as to the true judging
Some few in that, but numbers err in this, ..!
COMMENTARY. B. di of a poem. This is so far from violating the Unity of the Subject that it rounds and complcats it: Or from disordering the regularity of the Form, that it produces the highest beauty which can arise out of method, as will appear from the following confiderations : 1. It was impossible to give a full and exact idea of the Art of poetical Criticism, without considering, at the same time, the Art of Poetry; fo far as Poetry is an Art. These therefore being closely connected in nature, the Author has judiciously interwoven the precepts of both reciprocally thro' his whole poem
2. As all the rules of the ancient Critics were taken from Poets, who copied nature, there is a double reason why every Poet should be a Critic: Therefore, as the subject is poetical Criticifm, it is frequently addressed to the critical Poet. And thirdly, the Art of Criticism is as necessarily, and much more usefully exercised in writing than in judging.
But men have been misled by the modesty of the Title : which only promises an Art of Criticiji, in a
treatise, and that a compleat one, of the Art both of Criticism and Poetry. This, and the not attending to the considerations offered above, perhaps was what misled a very candid writer, after having given this Piece praises on the side of genius and poetry which his true taste could not refuse it, to say, that the observations follow one another like those in Horace's Art of Poetry, without that methodical regularity cabich would have been requisite in a profe writer. Spec. N° 235. Whereas nothing can be more unlike, in this respect, than these two po
A fool might once himself alone expofė,";}
'Tis with our Judgments as our watches, none Go just alike, yet each believes his own.
COMMENTARY. cms: The Ecuy on Criticism, having, as we shall hew, all the regularity that Method can demand, and the Art of Päetry all the looseness and inconnection that a familiar conversation would indulge. ' Neither (were it otherwise) would this excellent author's observation excule our poét; who, writing in the formal way of a discourse, was obliged to observe the method of such compositions; while Agrate in an easy cpistle neçded no apology for want of it. For 'tis the nature of the composition, that makes Method proper pr unnecessary.
Ver. 1. 'Tis bard to say, &c.] The Poem opens (fiom * ! 199.) with shewing the use and seasonableness of the subject. Its use, from the greater mischief in ivrống Criucílm than in bad Poetry, this only tiring, that misleading the reader : Its Jeasonableness, from the growing number of false Critics, which now vastly exceed that of ill Poets. » Ver: 9. 'Tis with our judgments, &c.] He observes first, that the JUDGMENTS of the multitude, like the artificial menfures of Time, go different, and yet each relies upon his own.' But Taile in the Critic, is as rare as Genius in the. Peet: both are derived from Heaven, and like the fun (the natural measure of Time) always constant and cqual.
Both muft alike from Heav'n derive their light,
These born to judge, as well as those to write.
COMMENTARY. Ver. 1;. Let fucb teach others, &c.) But it is not enough that the Critic hath natural endowments, he ought to give a further test of his qualifications by fome acquired talents : And this on two accounts: 1. Because the office of a Critic is an exercise of Authority, 2. Because he being naturally as partial to his Fudginent as the Poet is to his Wit, his partiality would have nothing to correct it, as that of the person judged hath. Therefore some teft is reasonable ; and the most unexceptionable is his having writ well himself, as this is an approved remedy against Critical partiality; and the fureft means of so maturing the Judgment, as to reap with glory what Longinus calls the last and most perfezi fruits of mucb. ftudy and experience. Η ΓΑΡ ΤΩΝ ΛΟΓΩΝ ΚΡΙΣΙΣ ΠΟΛΛΗΣ ΕΣΤΙ ΠΕΙΡΛΣ ΤΕΛΕΥΤΑΙΟΝ ΕΠΙΓΕΝΝΗΜΑ. .
NOTES. 15. Let such teach ad Herenn. lib. 4. De pictoothers] Qui scribit artifici- re, sculptore, fi&tore, nisi ole, ab aliis commode fcripta artifex judicare non poteft, facile intelligere poterit. Cic. Pliny.