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450

And authors think their reputation safe,
Which lives as long as fools are pleas’d to laugh.

Some valuing those of their own side 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 rose,
In various shapes of Parsons, Critics, Beaus;

455

COMMENTARY.

Ver. 452. Some valuing those of their own side or mind, &c.] 3. The third and last instance of partiality in the learned, is Party and Faction. Which is considered from ver. 451 to 474, where he shows how men of this turn deceive themselves, when they load a writer of their own side with commendation. They fancy they are paying tribute to merit, when they are only sacrificing to self-love. But this is not the worst. He further shows, that this party-spirit has often very ill effects on Science itself; while, in support of Faction, it labours to depress some rising genius, that was, perhaps, raised by Nature to enlighten his age and country. By which he would insinuate, that all the baser and viler passions seek refuge, and find support in party-madness.

NOTES.

46

Ver. 450. And authors think, 8c.] This is an admirable satire on those called Authors in fashion, the men who get the laugh on their side. He shows on how pitiful a basis their reputation stands, the changeling disposition of fools to laugh, who are always carried away with the last joke. Warburton.

Ver. 451. as long as fools] “ Mirabile est (says Tully De Oratore, lib. iii.) quum plurimum in faciendo inter doctum et rudem, quàm non multum differant in judicando.”

Horace and Milton declare against general approbation, and wish for ** fit audience though few.". And Tully relates, in his Brutus, the story of Antimachus, who, when his numerous auditors all gradually left him, except Plato, said, I still continue reading my work; Plato enim mihi unus instar est omnium. The noble confidence and strength of mind in Milton, is not in any circumstance more visible and more admirable, than his writing a poem in a style and manner that he was sure would not be relished or regarded by his corrupt contemporaries.

He was different in this respect from Bernardo Tasso, the father of his beloved Torquato, who, to satisfy the vulgar taste and current opinions of his country, new-modelled his epic poem Amadigi, to make it more wild and romantic, and less suited to the rules of Aristotle.—Warton.

Ver. 459. shapes of Parsons, Critics,] The Parson alluded to was Jeremy Collier ; the Critic was the Duke of Buckingham ; the first of whom very powerfully attacked the profligacy, and the latter the irregularity and bombast of some of Dryden's plays. These attacks were much more than merry jests.-Warton.

But sense surviv'd when merry jests were past;

460 For rising merit will buoy up at last. Might he return, and bless once more our eyes, New Blackmores and new Milbourns must arise : Nay, should great Homer lift his awful head, Zoilus again would start up from the dead. 465 Envy will merit, as its shade, pursue ; But like a shadow, proves the Substance true: For envy'd Wit, like Sol eclips'd, makes known Th’ opposing body's grossness, not its own. When first that sun too pow'rful beams displays, 470 It draws up vapours which obscure its rays; But ev'n those clouds at last adorn its way, Reflect new glories, and augment the day.

NOTES.

Ver. 463. Milbourns] The Rev. Mr. Luke Milbourn. Dennis served Mr. Pope in the same office. But these men are of all times, and rise up on all occasions. Sir Walter Raleigh had Alexander Ross ; Chillingworth had Cheynel ; Milton a first Edwards ; and Locke a second: neither of them related to the third Edwards of Lincoln's Inn. They were Divines of parts and learning: this a critic without one or the other. Yet (as Mr. Pope says of Luke Milbourn) the fairest of all critics ; for having written against the editor's remarks on Shakespear, he did him justice in printing, at the same time, some of his own.-Warburton.

But all impartial critics allow the remarks to have been decisive and judicious; and his Canons of Criticism remain unrefuted and unanswerable. Warton.

Ver. 465. Zoilus again] In the fifth book of Vitruvius is an account of Zoilus's coming to the court of Ptolemy at Alexandria, and presenting to him his virulent and brutal censures of Homer, and begging to be rewarded for his work ; instead of which, it is said, the king ordered him to be crucified, or, as some said, stoned alive. His person is minutely described in the 11th book of Ælian’s Various History.—Warton.

Ver. 468. For envy'd Wit, &c.] This similitude implies a fact too often verified ; and of which we need not seek abroad for examples. It is this, that frequently those very authors, who have at first done all they could to obscure and depress a rising genius, have at length been reduced to borrow from him, imitate his manner, and reflect what they could of his splendour, merely to keep themselves in some little credit. Nor hath the poet been less artful, to insinuate what is sometimes the cause. A youthful genius, like the sun rising towards the meridian, displays too strong and powerful beams for the dirty temper of inferior writers, which occasions their gathering, condensing, and blackening. But as he descends from the meridian (the time when the sun gives its gilding to the surrounding clonds) his rays grow milder, his heat more benign, and then

** Ev'n those clouds at last adorn its way,

Reflect new glories and augment the day.” -Warburton.

Be thou the first true merit to befriend; His praise is lost, who stays till all commend.

475

COMMENTARY

Ver. 474. Be thou the first, fc.] The poet having now gone through the last cause of wrong Judgment, and the root of all the rest, PartialITY ; and ended his remarks upon it with a detection of the two rankest kinds, those which arise out of PARTY-RAGE and Envy; takes the occasion, which this affords him, of closing his second division in the most graceful manner, (from ver. 473 to 560,) by concluding from the premises, and calling upon the TRUE CRITIC to be careful of his charge, which is the protection and support of wit. For, the defence of it from malevolent censure is its true protection ; and the illustration of its beauties, is its true support.

He first shows, the Critic ought to do this service without loss of time : and on these motives. 1. Out of regard to himself: for there is some merit in giving the world notice of an excellence ; but little or none, in pointing, like an Index, to the beaten road of admiration. 2. Out of regard to the Poem : for the short duration of modern works requires, that they should begin to live betimes. He compares the life of modern Wit, (which, in a changeable dialect, must soon pass away,) and that of the ancient, (which survives in an universal language) to the difference between the patriarchal age and our own : and observes, that while the ancient writings live for ever, as it were, in brass and marble, the modern are but like Paintings, which, of how masterly a hand soever, have no sooner gained their requisite perfection by the softening and ripening of their tints, which they do in a very few years, but they begin to fade and die away. 3. Lastly, our Author shows, that the critic ought in justice to do this service out of regard to the Poet, when he considers the slender dowry the Muse brings along with her : in youth ’tis only a vain and short-lived pleasure ; and in maturer years, an accession of care and labour, in proportion to the weight of reputation to be sustained, and of the increase of envy to be opposed : and therefore, concludes his reasoning on this head with that pathetic and insinuating address to the Critic, from ver. 508 to 526.

“ Ah! let not learning," &c.

NOTES.

Ver. 474. Be thou the first true merit to befriend ;

His praise is lost, who stays till all commend.] When Thomson published his Winter, it lay a long time neglected, till Mr. Spence made honourable mention of it in his Essay on the Odyssey ; which becoming a popular book, made the poem universally known. Thomson always acknowledged the use of this recommendation ; and from this circumstance an intimacy commenced between the critic and the poet, which lasted till the lamented death of the latter, who was of a most amiable and benevolent temper. I have before me a letter of Mr. Spence to Pitt, earnestly begging him to subscribe to the quarto edition of Thomson's Seasons, and mentioning a design which Thomson had formed of writing a descriptive poem on Blenheim ; a subject that would have shone in his hands. It was some time after publication, before the Odes of Gray were relished and admired. They were even burlesqued by two men of wit and genius, who, however, once owned to me, that they repented of the attempt. The Hecyra of Terence, the Misanthrope of Molière, the Phædra of Racine, the Way of the World of Congreve, the Silent Woman of Ben Jonson, were ill received on their first exhibitions. Out of an hundred comedies written by Menander, eight only obtained the prize ; and only five of Euripides out of the seventy 480

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 surviv'd a thousand years :
Now length of Fame (our second life) is lost,
And bare threescore is all ev’n that can boast;
Our sons their fathers' failing language see,
And such as Chaucer is, shall Dryden be.
So when the faithful pencil has design’d
Some bright Idea of the master's mind,

485

NOTES.

tragedies he wrote. Our author seems to be eminently fortunate, who never, from his early youth, published a piece that did not meet with immediate approbation, except, perhaps, the first Epistle of the Essay on Man.- Warton.

Ver. 476. Short is the date,] “ All living languages are liable to change. The Greek and Latin, though composed of more durable materials than ours, were subject to perpetual vicissitude, till they ceased to be spoken. The former is, with reason, believed to have been more stationary than any other ; and indeed a very particular attention was paid to the preservation of it; yet between Spenser and Pope, Hooker and Sherlock, Raleigh and Smollett, a difference of dialect is not inore perceptible, than between Homer and Apollonius, Xenophon and Plutarch, Aristotle and Antoninus. In the Roman authors, the change of language is still more remarkable. How different, in this respect, is Ennius from Virgil, Lucilius from Horace, Cato from Columella, and even Catullus from Ovid! The Laws of the Twelve Tables, though studied by every Roman of condition, were not perfectly understood, even by antiquarians, in the time of Cicero, when they were not quite four hundred years old. Cicero himself, as well as Lucretius, made several improvements in the Latin tongue ; Virgil introduced some new words ; and Horace asserts his right to the same privilege ; and from his remarks upon it, appears to have considered the immutability of living language as an impossible thing. It were vain then to flatter ourselves with the hope of permanency to any of the modern tongues of Europe ; which, being more ungrammatical than the Latin and Greek, are exposed to more dangerous, because less discernible, innovations. Our want of tenses and cases makes a multitude of auxiliary verbs necessary ; and to these the unlearned are not attentive, because they look upon them as the least important parts of language ; and hence they come to be omitted or misapplied in conversation, and afterwards in writing. Besides, the spirit of commerce, manufacture, and naval enterprize, so honourable to modern Europe, and to Great Britain in particular, and the free circulation of arts, sciences, and opinions, owing, in part, to the use of printing, and to our improvements in navigation, must render the modern tongues, and especially the English, more variable than the Greek or Latin.” Beattie.-Warton.

Ver. 482. failing language) “ In England (says an ingenious Italian) the Translation of the Bible is the standard of their language ; in Italy the standard is, the Decamerone of Boccaccio.”—Warton.

Ver. 484. So when, &c.] This similitude from painting, in which our author discovers (as he always does on that subject) real science, has still

Where a new world leaps out at his command,
And ready nature waits upon his hand:
When the ripe colours soften and unite,
And sweetly melt into just shade and light;
When mellowing years their full perfection give, 490
And each bold figure just begins to live,
The treach'rous colours the fair art betray,
And all the bright creation fades away!

Unhappy Wit, like most mistaken things,
Atones not for that envy which it brings.

495 In youth alone its empty praise we boast, But soon the short-liv’d vanity is lost : Like some fair flow'r the early spring supplies, That gaily blooms, but ev’n in blooming dies. What is this Wit, which must our cares employ? 500 The owner's wife, that other men enjoy ; Then most our trouble still when most admir'd, And still the more we give, the more requir'd; Whose fame with pains we guard, but lose with ease, Sure some to vex, but never all to please;

505 'Tis what the vicious fear, the virtuous shun, By fools 'tis hated, and by knaves undone !

If Wit so much from Ign’rance undergo, Ah let not learning too commence its foe!

NOTES.

a more peculiar beauty, as at the same time that it confesses the just superiority of ancient writings, it insinuates one advantage the modern have above them ; which is this, that in these latter, our more intimate acquaintance with the occasion of writing, and with the manners described, lets us into those living and striking graces which may be well compared to that perfection of imitation given only by the pencil. While the ravages of time, amongst the monuments of former ages, have left us but the gross substance of ancient wit ; so much only of the form and fashion of bodies as may be expressed in brass or marble.—Warburton.

Ver. 508. If Wit so much from Ign’rance undergo,] Boileau going one day to receive his pension, and the treasurer reading these words in his order, “the pension we have granted to Boileau, on account of the satisfaction his works have given us," asked him of what kind were his works?“ Of masonry (replied the Poet), I am a builder !” Racine used to relate, that an old magistrate, who had never been at a play, was carried, one day, to his Andromaque. This magistrate was very attentive to the tragedy, to

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