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AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM For wit and judgment often are at strife,
Though meant each other's aid, like man From PART I
'Tis more to guide than spur the Muse's 'Tis hard to say, if greater want of skill steed;
84 Appear in writing or in judging ill; Restrain his fury, than provoke his speed; But, of the two, less dangerous is th' The winged courser, îike a generous horse, offence
Shows most true mettle when you check To tire our patience, than mislead our his course. sense.
Those rules of old, discovered, not deSome few in that, but numbers err in this; 5
vised, Ten censure wrong for one who writes Are Nature still, but Nature methodized; amiss;
Nature, like liberty, is but restrained 90 A fool might once himself alone expose; By the same laws which first herself orNow one in verse makes many more in dained.
prose. 'Tis with our judgments as our watches, none
You, then, whose judgment the right Go just alike, yet each believes his own. 10 course would steer, In poets as true genius is but rare, Know well each ancient's proper charTrue taste as seldom is the critic's share; acter; Both must alike from Heaven derive their His fable, subject, scope in every page; 120 light,
Religion, country, genius of his age: These born to judge, as well as those to Without all these at once before your eyes, write.
Cavil you may, but never criticise. Let such teach others who themselves Be Homer's works your study and delight, excel,
15 Read them by day, and meditate by night; And censure freely who have written well. Thence form your judgment, thence your Authors are partial to their wit, 'tis true, maxims bring, But are not critics to their judgment too? And trace the Muses upward to their * * * * * *
Still with itself compared, his text peruse; First follow Nature, and your judgment And let your comment be the Mantuan frame
Muse. By her just standard, which is still the When first young Maro in his boundless same;
130 Unerring Nature, still divinely bright, 70 A work toutlast immortal Rome deOne clear, unchanged, and universal light, signed, Life, force, and beauty, must to all impart, Perhaps he seemed above the critic's At once the source, and end, and test of law, Art.
And but from nature's fountains scorned Art from that fund each just supply pro to draw: vides,
But when t examine every part he came, Works without show, and without pomp Nature and Homer were, he found, the presides.
135 In some fair body thus th' informing soul Convinced, amazed, he checks the bold With spirits feeds, with vigor fills the I design; whole,
And rules as strict his labored work conEach motion guides, and every nerve sustains;
As if the Stagirite o'erlooked each line. Itself unseen, but in th' effects, remains. Learn hence for ancient rules a just esSome, to whom Heaven in wit has been teem; profuse,
80 To copy nature is to copy them. 140 Want as much more, to turn it to its use;
From PART II
For works may have more wit than does
'em good, A little learning is a dangerous thing; 15 | As bodies perish through excess of blood. Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Others for language all their care exspring:
105 There shallow draughts intoxicate the And value books, as women men, for brain,
dress: And drinking largely sobers us again. Their praise is still—the style is excellent; Fired at first sight with what the Muse The sense they humbly take upon conimparts,
tent. In fearless youth we tempt the heights of Words are like leaves; and where they arts,
20 most abound, While from the bounded level of our mind Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely Short views we take, nor see the lengths found.
False eloquence, like the prismatic glass, But, more advanced, behold with strange Its gaudy colors spreads on every place; surprise
The face of nature we no more survey, New distant scenes of endless science rise! All glares alike, without distinction gay: So pleased at first the towering Alps we But true expression, like th' unchanging try,
115 Mount o'er the vales, and seem to tread Clears and improves whate'er it shines the sky,
upon; Th' eternal snows appear already past, It gilds all objects, but it alters none. And the first clouds and mountains seem | Expression is the dress of thought, and the last;
still But, those attained, we tremble to survey Appears more decent, as more suitable; The growing labors of the lengthened way, A vile conceit in pompous words expressed, Th' increasing prospects tire our wander- | Is like a clown in regal purple dressed: 121 ing eyes,
31 For different styles with different subjects Hills peep o'er hills, and Alps on Alps sort, arise!
As several garbs with country, town, and
Some by old words to fame have made Some to conceit alone their taste con pretence, fine,
Ancients in phrase, mere moderns in their And glittering thoughts struck out at sense; every line;
90 | Such labored nothings, in so strange a Pleased with a work where nothing's just style, or fit;
Amaze th' unlearn'd, and make the One glaring chaos and wild heap of wit. I
and wild head of wit. I learned smile. Poets like painters, thus unskilled to trace Unlucky as Fungoso in the play, The naked nature and the living grace, These sparks with awkward vanity disWith gold and jewels cover every part, 95 play And hide with ornaments their want of What the fine gentleman wore yesterday; art.
And but so mimic ancient wits at best, 131 True wit is nature to advantage dressed, As apes our grandsires, in their doublets What oft was thought, but ne'er so well dressed. expressed;
In words, as fashions, the same rule will Something whose truth convinced at sight hold; we find,
Alike fantastic if too new or old: That gives us back the image of our mind. Be not the first by whom the new are As shades more sweetly recommend the tried, light,
101. Nor yet the last to lay the old aside. So modest plainness sets off sprightly wit. |
But most by numbers judge a poet's | But when loud surges lash the sounding song;
shore, And smooth or rough, with them, is right The hoarse, rough verse should like the or wrong.
torrent roar. In the bright Muse though thousand When Ajax strives some rock’s vast weight charms conspire,
170 Her voice is all these tuneful fools ad- The line, too, labors, and the words move mire;
slow. Who haunt Parnassus but to please their | Not so when swift Camilla scours the ear,
141 plain, Not mend their minds; as some to church Flies o'er' th' unbending corn, and skims repair,
along the main. Not for the doctrine, but the music there. Hear how Timotheus' varied lays surprise, These equal syllables alone require,
And bid alternate passions fall and rise! 175 Though oft the ear the open vowels While, at each change, the son of Libyan tire;
145 Jove While expletives their feeble aid do join, Now burns with glory, and then melts with And ten low words oft creep in one dull love; line:
Now his fierce eyes with sparkling fury While they ring round the same unvaried glow, chimes,
Now sighs steal out, and tears begin to With sure returns of still expected rhymes: flow: Where'er you find “the cooling western Persians and Greeks like turns of nature breeze,"
180 In the next line, it “whispers through the And the world's victor stood subdued by trees;
sound! If crystal streams "with pleasing mur- The power of music all our hearts allow, murs creep,”
And what Timotheus was, is Dryden now. The reader's threatened (not in vain) with Avoid extremes; and shun the fault of "sleep:
such Then, at the last and only couplet fraught | Who still are pleased too little or too much. With some unmeaning thing they call a At every trifle scorn to take offence; 186 thought,
155 | That always shows great pride, or little A needless Alexandrine ends the song,
sense; That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow Those heads, as stomachs, are not sure the length along.
best, Leave such to tune their own dull rhymes, Which nauseate all, and nothing can digest. and know
Yet let not each gay turn thy rapture What's roundly smooth or languishingly move;
For fools admire, but men of sense apAnd praise the easy vigor of a line, 160 prove: Where Denham's strength, and Waller's As things seem large which we through sweetness join.
mists descry, True ease in writing comes from art, not Dullness is ever apt to magnify.
chance, As those move easiest who have learned to THE RAPE OF THE LOCK
dance. 'Tis not enough no harshness gives offence:
AN HEROI-COMICAL POEM The sound must seem an echo to the
Canto I sense.
165 Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently What dire offence from amorous causes blows,
springs, And the smooth stream in smoother num- What mighty contests rise from trivial bers flows;
I sing.–This verse to Caryl, Muse! is due; Some secret truths, from learned pride conThis, e'en Belinda may vouchsafe to cealed, view.
To maids alone and children are revealed. Slight is the subject, but not so the praise, 5 What though no credit doubting wits may If she inspire, and he approve my lays. Say what strange motive, Goddess! The fair and innocent shall still believe. 40 could compel
Know, then, unnumbered spirits round A well-bred lord t' assault a gentle belle? thee fly, Oh say what stranger cause, yet unex- | The light militia of the lower sky. plored,
These, though unseen, are ever on the Could make a gentle belle reject a lord? 10 wing, In tasks so bold, can little men engage, Hang o'er the box, and hover round the And in soft bosoms dwells such mighty Ring. rage?
Think what an equipage thou hast in Sol through white curtains shot a air,
45 timorous ray,
And view with scorn two pages and a And oped those eyes that must eclipse the chair. day.
As now your own, our beings were of Now lap-dogs give themselves the rousing old, shake,
15 And once enclosed in woman's beauteous And sleepless lovers, just at twelve, awake. mould; Thrice rung the bell, the slipper knocked Thence, by a soft transition, we repair the ground,
From earthly vehicles to these of air, 50 And the pressed watch returned a silver Think not, when woman's transient sound.
breath is fled, . Belinda still her downy pillow pressed, That all her vanities at once are dead; Her guardian sylph prolonged the balmy Succeeding vanities she still regards,
And though she plays no more, o'erlooks 'Twas he had summoned to her silent bed the cards. The morning-dream that hovered o'er her Her joy in gilded chariots, when alive, 55 head:
And love of ombre, after death survive. A youth more glittering than a birth-night For when the fair in all their pride expire, beau,
To their first elements their souls retire: (That ev’n in slumber caused her cheek to The sprites of fiery termagants in flame glow)
Mount up, and take a salamander's name, Seemed to her ear his winning lips to lay, 25 Soft yielding minds to water glide away, 61 And thus in whispers said, or seemed to And sip, with nymphs, their elemental say:
tea. “Fairest of mortals, thou distinguished The graver prude sinks downward to a care
gnome, Of thousand bright inhabitants of air! In search of mischief still on earth to roam. If e'er one vision touched thy infant | The light coquettes in sylphs aloft repair, thought,
And sport and flutter in the fields of air. 66 Of all the nurse and all the priest have “Know further yet: whoever fair and taught
30 chaste Of airy elves by moonlight shadows seen, | Rejects mankind, is by some sylph emThe silver token, and the circled green, I braced; Or virgins visited by angel powers,
For spirits, freed from mortal laws, with With golden crowns and wreaths of heav ease enly flowers,
Assume what sexes and what shapes they Hear and believe! thy own importance please.
35 What guards the purity of melting maids, Nor bound thy narrow views to things be- In courtly balls, and midnight mas
Safe from the treacherous friend, the dar- “Of these am I, who thy protection ing spark,
105 The glance by day, the whisper in the A watchful sprite, and Ariel is my name. dark,
Late, as I ranged the crystal wilds of air, When kind occasion prompts their warm In the clear mirror of thy ruling star desires,
75 I saw, alas! some dread event impend, When music softens, and when dancing | Ere to the main' this morning sun descend, fires?
But Heaven reveals not what, or how, or 'Tis but their sylph, the wise celestials where.
Warned by the sylph, O pious maid, Though honor is the word with men below. beware! Some nymphs there are, too conscious of This to disclose is all thy guardian can: their face,
Beware of all, but most beware of man!" For life predestined to the gnomes' em He said; when Shock, who thought she brace.
slept too long, These swell their prospects and exalt their Leaped up, and waked his mistress with pride,
his tongue. When offers are disdained, and love 'Twas then, Belinda, if report say true, denied:
Thy eyes first opened on a billet-doux; Then gay ideas crowd the vacant brain, Wounds, charms, and ardors were no While peers, and dukes, and all their sooner read, sweeping train,
But all the vision vanished from thy head. And garters, stars, and coronets appear, 85 And now, unveiled, the toilet stands disAnd in soft sounds ‘Your Grace' salutes played,
121 their ear.
Each silver vase in mystic order laid. 'Tis these that early taint the female soul, First, robed in white, the nymph intent Instruct the eyes of young coquettes to adores, roll,
With head uncovered, the cosmetic powers. Teach infant cheeks a bidden blush to A heavenly image in the glass appears, 125 know,
To that she bends, to that her eyes she And little hearts to flutter at a beau. 90 I rears. “Oft when the world imagine women Th' inferior priestess, at her altar's side, stray,
Trembling begins the sacred rites of Pride. The sylphs through mystic mazes guide Unnumbered treasures ope at once, and their way;
here Through all the giddy circle they pursue, The various offerings of the world appear; And old impertinence expel by new. From each she nicely culls with curious What tender maid but must a victim toil,
And decks the goddess with the glittering To one man's treat, but for another's spoil. ball?
This casket India's glowing gems unlocks, When Florio speaks, what virgin could And all Arabia breathes from yonder box. withstand,
The tortoise here and elephant unite, 135 If gentle Damon did not squeeze her hand? Transformed to combs, the speckled, and With varying vanities, from every part, the white. They shift the moving toyshop of their Here files of pins extend their shining rows, heart,
100 Puffs, powders, patches, bibles, billetsWhere wigs with wigs, with sword-knots doux. sword-knots strive,
Now awful beauty puts on all its arms; Beaux banish beaux, and coaches coaches The fair each moment rises in her charms, drive.
Repairs her smiles, awakens every grace, This erring mortals levity may call; And calls forth all the wonders of her Oh, blind to truth! the sylphs contrive it face; all.
1 the sea.