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Held from afar, aloft, the immortal prize, 96
107 Sure to hate most. It is amusing to see the picture of criticism, as sketched by Swift, himself the most unsparing of critics :— Momus, fearing the worst, and calling to mind an ancient prophecy, which bore no very good face to his children the moderns, bent his flight to the region of a malignant deity, called Criticism. She dwelt on the top of a snowy mountain in Nova Zembla : there Momus found her extended in her den, on the spoils of numberless volumes, half devoured. At her right hand sat Ignorance, her father and husband, blind with age ; at her left, Pride, her mother, dressing her up in the scraps of paper herself had torn. There was Opinion, her sister, light of foot, hoodwinked and headstrong, yet giddy, and perpetually turning. About her played her children, Noise and Impudence, Dulness and Vanity, Positiveness, Pedantry, and Ill Manners. The goddess herself had claws like a cat,' &c. &c.-Tale of a Tub.
110 Bold in the practice of mistaken rules. The abbé d'Aubignac, patronised by Richelieu, wrote a treatise on the Aristotelic rules of the drama ; but this did not prevent his writing a tragedy, which was hissed off the stage. The great Condé ob
Some on the leaves of ancient authors prey;
served, on this catastrophe of the critic's fame,- Je sçais bon gré à l'abbé d'Aubignac d'avoir suivi les règles d'Ari. stote, mais je ne pardonne pas aux règles d'Aristote d'avoir fait faire une si mauvaise tragédie à l'abbé d'Aubignac.'Warton.
123 Cavil you may, but never criticise. The author, after this verse, originally inserted the following, which he has however omitted in all the later editions :
Zoilus, had these been known, without a name
When first young Maro in his boundless mind A work to outlast immortal Rome design'd, 131 Perhaps he seem'd above the critic's law, And but from nature's fountain scorn'd to draw : But when to examine every part he came, Nature and Homer were, he found, the same. 135 Convinced, amazed, he checks the bold design: And rules as strict his labor'd work confine, As if the Stagyrite o’erlook'd each line. Learn hence for ancient rules a just esteem: To copy nature is to copy them.
Some beauties yet no precepts can declare,
gains The heart, and all its end at once attains. In prospects, thus, some objects please our eyes, Which out of nature's common order rise; The shapeless rock, or hanging precipice.
But though the ancients thus their rules invade, As kings dispense with laws themselves have
made, Moderns, beware! or if you must offend Against the precept, ne'er transgress its end; Let it be seldom, and compell’d by need; 165 And have, at least, their precedent to plead : The critic else proceeds without remorse, Seizes your fame, and puts his laws in force. I know there are, to whose presumptuous
thoughts Those freer beauties, ev'n in them, seem faults. 170 Some figures monstrous and mis-shaped appear, Consider'd singly, or beheld too near, Which, but proportion'd to their light or place, Due distance reconciles to form and grace. ' A prudent chief not always must display 175 His powers in equal ranks and fair array, But with the occasion and the place comply, Conceal his force, nay, seem sometimes to fly. Those oft are stratagems which errors seem; Nor is it Homer nods, but we that dream. 180
Still green with bays each ancient altar stands, Above the reach of sacrilegious hands; Secure from flames, from envy's fiercer rage, Destructive war, and all-involving age. See, from each clime the learn’d their incense
bring; Hear, in all tongues consenting pæans ring! In praise so just let every voice be join'd, And fill the general chorus of mankind. Hail, bards triumphant! born in happier days; Immortal heirs of universal praise !
Whose honors with increase of ages grow,
11. Of all the causes which conspire to blind Man's erring judgment, and misguide the mind, What the weak head with strongest bias rules, Is Pride, the never-failing vice of fools. Whatever nature has in worth denied, 205 She gives in large recruits of needful pride; For as in bodies, thus in souls, we find What wants in blood and spirits, swell’d with
wind : Pride, where wit fails, steps in to our defence, And fills up all the mighty void of sense. 210
204 Pride, the never-failing vice of fools. The evil of false confidence to the poet is, that it makes him contemptuous of advice: the evil of excessive correction is, that it substitutes exactness for vigor, and replaces the impulses of the imagination by the labors of the judginent. The chief hazard of correction in poetry arises from the tameness which use throws over the noblest idea; a portion of its original brilliancy is lost at every new contemplation; until at last the mind becomes completely disqualified for a true estimate of its value; the force of words supersedes the force of sentiment; the clear, free, and salient stream of thought runs dry; and all is first, smoothness, and next, stagnation.