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When first that sun too powerful beams dis

It draws up vapors which obscure its rays;
But ev’n those clouds at last adorn its way,
Reflect new glories, and augment the day.

Be thou the first true merit to befriend;
His praise is lost, who stays till all commend. 475
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 survived a thousand years :
Now length of fame, our second life, is lost, 480
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.

482 Our sons their fathers' failing language see. This is one of the fantastic sorrows of poetry : the language of Dryden is still as fresh as it was on the day when it flowed from his powerful pen. What portion of the dialect of Sbakspeare have we lost ? unless a change in the spelling is to be held equivalent to a change in the language. Yet in this instance the trial was the more severe; as within the two hundred years since, England has made unexampled advances in dominion, commerce, science, and the arts, the chief sources of change in a national language. Still, the wit, the eloquence, the pathos, and even the exquisite poetic cadence, of Shakspeare are as vividly preserved and as keenly felt, as in the palaces of Elizabeth. The cause is permanent, and such will be the consequence. The great changes of all languages occur in their earlier periods. While no great writer has arisen to establish the national style, or while the nation continue illiterate, the usage of the populace moulds the language ; but that usage varying from year to year, the language must fluctuate. Where the great writer has arisen at last, and where the nation read, his authority becomes a ground of reference; the usage of the vulgar loses its authority; the educated ranks continually adhere to the standard of the national taste; and the reign of vulgarity and of change are alike at an end.


So when the faithful pencil has design'd
Some bright idea of the master's mind,
Where a new world leaps out at his command,
And ready nature waits upon his hand ;
When the ripe colors soften and unite,
And sweetly melt into just shade and light; 489
When mellowing years their full perfection give,
And each bold figure just begins to live ;-
The treacherous colors 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-lived vanity is lost;
Like some fair flower the early spring supplies,
That gaily blooms, but ev'n in blooming dies.
What is this wit, which must our cares employ?
The owner's wife, that other men enjoy ; 501
Then most our trouble still when most admired,
And still the more we give the more required;
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 ignorance undergo, Ah, let not learning too commence its foe!

508 If wit so much from ignorance undergo. Warton refers to the amusing anecdote of Boileau's presenting the order for his pension to the French treasurer. The order was expressed, ' in satisfaction for his works :' the treasurer, who may be supposed to have been buried from his infancy in the dust of his office, asked what kind of works ?’ – Masonry,' replied the contemptuous bard; “I am a builder.'

A still more curious example of this species of ignorance lately occurred even in our own stirring country. An opulent banker in the west of England was requested to receive subscriptions for the testimonial to the memory of Sir Walter Scott: the banker gravely replied, “ that he had no objection to receive the subscriptions, except his never having heard the name before; and he wished previously to know to what firm it belonged.'

Of old, those met rewards who could excel, 510
And such were praised who but endeavor'd well :
Though triumphs were to generals only due,
Crowns were reserved to grace the soldiers too.
Now, they who reach Parnassus' lofty crown,
Employ their pains to spurn some others down;
And while self-love each jealous writer rules, 516
Contending wits become the sport of fools;
But still the worst with most regret commend;
For each ill author is as bad a friend.
To what base ends, and by what abject ways, 520
Are mortals urged through sacred lust of praise !
Ah, ne'er so dire a thirst of glory boast;
Nor in the critic let the man be lost.
Good nature and good sense must ever join;
To err is human, to forgive, divine.

But if in noble minds some dregs remain,
Not yet purged off, of spleen and sour disdain;
Discharge that rage on more provoking crimes,
Nor fear a dearth in these flagitious times.
No pardon vile obscenity should find, 530
Though wit and art conspire to move your mind;
But dulness with obscenity must prove
As shameful sure as impotence in love.
In the fat age of pleasure, wealth, and ease,
Sprung the rank weed, and thrived with large


When love was all an easy monarch's care;
Seldom at council, never in a war:
Jilts ruled the state, and statesmen farces writ;
Nay, wits had pensions, and young lords had wit:
The fair sate panting at a courtier's play, 540
And not a mask went unimproved away:
The modest fan was lifted up no more,
And virgins smiled at what they blush'd before.
The following license of a foreign reign
Did all the dregs of bold Socinus drain: 545
Then unbelieving priests reform’d the nation,
And taught more pleasant methods of salvation;
Where Heaven's free subjects might their rights

Lest God himself should seem too absolute :
Pulpits their sacred satire learn’d to spare, 550
And Vice admired to find a flatterer there !
Encouraged thus, wit's Titans braved the skies,
And the press groan'd with licensed blasphemies.
These monsters, critics! with your darts engage,
Here point your thunder, and exhaust your

Yet shun their fault, who, scandalously nice,
Will needs mistake an author into vice.
All seems infected that the infected spy,
As all looks yellow to the jaundiced eye.



Learn then what morals critics ought to show; For 'tis but half a judge's task, to know. 561

541 And not a mask, &c. Alluding to the custom in that age of ladies going in masks to the play.

544 Foreign reign. The reign of William III.

'Tis not enough, taste, judgment, learning join;
In all you speak, let truth and candor shine :
That not alone what to your sense is due
All may allow; but seek your friendship too. 565

Be silent always, when you doubt your sense;
And speak, though sure, with seeming diffidence:
Some positive, persisting fops we know,
Who, if once wrong, will needs be always so ;
But you with pleasure own your errors past, 570
And make each day a critique on the last.

'Tis not enough your counsel still be true; Blunt truths more mischief than nice falsehoods

do: Men must be taught as if you taught them not, And things unknown proposed as things forgot. Without good-breeding truth is disapproved ; 576 That only makes superior sense beloved.

Be niggards of advice on no pretence; For the worst avarice is that of sense : With mean complacence ne'er betray your trust, Nor be so civil as to prove unjust:

581 Fear not the anger of the wise to raise; Those best can bear reproof, who merit praise.

"Twere well might critics still this freedom take; But Appius reddens at each word you speak, 585 And stares, tremendous, with a threatening eye, Like some fierce tyrant in old tapestry. Fear most to tax an honorable fool, Whose right it is, uncensured, to be dull : Such, without wit, are poets when they please, 590 As without learning they can take degrees. Leave dangerous truths to unsuccessful satires, And flattery to some fulsome dedicators,

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