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Tho' each may feel encreases and decays,
Some ne'er advance a judgment of their own,
Lord. What woful stuff this madrigal would be, In some starv'd hackney sonneteer, or me? But let a Lord once own the happy lines, 420 How the wit brightens! how the stile refines ! Before his sacred name flies ev'ry fault, And each exalted stanza teems with thought!
NOTES. VER.408. Some ne'er] There is very little poetical expression from this line to ver. 450. It is only mere prose, fringed with rhyme. Good sense in a very prosaic style. Reasoning, not poetry.
VER. 420, Let a Lord] “ You ought not to write verses, (faid George the Second, who had little taste, to Lord Hervey,) 'tis beneath your rank; leave such work to little Mr. Pope ; it is his trade.” But this Lord Hervey wrote fome that were above the level of those described here by our author.
The Vulgar thus through Imitation err; As oft the Learn’d by being singular;
425 So much they scorn the croud, that if the throng By chance go right, they purposely go wrong: Só Schismatics the plain believers quit, And are but damn'd for having too much wit. Some praise at morning what they blame at night; But always think the last opinion right. 431 A Muse by these is like a mistress us’d, This hour she's idoliz'd, the next abus'd; While their weak heads, like towns unfortify'd, 'Twixt sense and nonsense daily change their side. Ask them the cause; they're wiser still they say; 436 And still to-morrow's wiser than to-day. We think our fathers fools, so wise we grow; Our wiser sons, no doubt, will think us fo. 439 Once School-divines this zealous isle o'er-spread; Who knew moft Sentences, was deepest read; Faith, Gospel, all, seem'd made to be disputed, And none had sense enough to be confuted : Scotists and Thomists, now, in peace remain, Amidst their kindred cobwebs in Duck-lane.
If NOTES, VER. 425. By being fingular ;] Of which truth there cannot be a stronger example than the learned commentator on our author ; • Who (to use his own excellent words on the character of Bayle) ftruck into the province of paradox, as an exercise for the restless vigour of his mind."
Ver. 444. Scotifts] So denominated from Johannes Duns Scotus, Erasmus tells us, an eminent Scotist assured him, that it was impoffible to understand one fingle proposition of this famous
If Faith itself has diff'rent dresses worn,
Oft' NOTES. Duns, unless you had his whole metaphysics by heart. This hero of incomprehensible fame suffered a miserable reverse at Oxford in the time of Henry VIII. That grave antiquary, Mr. Antony Wood, (in the Vindication of himself and his writings from the reproaches of the Bishop of Salisbury), sadly laments the deformation, as he calls it, of that University by the King's Commissioners; and even records the blasphemous speeches of one of them, in his own words—“ We have set Duns in Boccardo, with all his blind glossers, fast nailed up upon posts in all common houses of easement.” Upon which our venerable antiquary thus exclaims : “ If fo be, the commissioners had such disrespect for that moft famous author J. Duns, who was so much admired by our predeceffors, and so difficult to be understood, that the Doctors of those times, namely, Dr. William Roper, Dr. John Keynton, Dr. William Mowse, &c. professed, that, ir twenty-eight years ftudy, they could not understand him rightly, what then had they for others of inferior note?"-What indeed! But they, If so be, that most famous J. Duns was so difficult to be understood, (for that this is a moft theologic proof of his great worth, is paft all doubt), I should conceive our good old Antiquary to be a little mistaken. And that the nailing up his · Proteus of the Schools was done by the commissioners in honour of the most famous Duns: There being no other way of catching the fense of so slippery and dodging an author, who had eluded the pursuit of three of their most renowned doctors in full cry after him, for eight and twenty years together. And this boccardo in which he was confined, seemed very fit for the purpose ; it being observed, that men are never more serious and thoughtful than in that place of retirement.
Scribl. VER.444. Thomists] From Thomas Aquinas, a truly great genius, -who, in those blind ages, was the same in theology, that our Friar Bacon was in natural philosophy ; less happy than our countryman in this, that he soon became surrounded with a number of dark gloffers, who never left him till they had extinguished the radiance of that light, which had pierced through the thickest night of Monkery, the thirteenth century, when the Waldenses were Lupprefled, and Wickliffe not yet rifen.
Oft, leaving what is natural and fit,
The rhyming clowns that gladded Shakespear's age,
NOTES. VER. 444. Thomists] The Summa summæ, &c. of Thomas Aquinas, is a treatise well deserving a most attentive perusal, and contains an admirable view of Aristotle's Ethics.
Aquinas did not understand Greek; what he knew of Aristotle he got from Averroes, an Arabian, whom the Spanish Jews first translated into Hebrew, and from Hebrew into Latin.
VER. 445. Amidst their kindred cobwebs] Were common sense disposed to credit any of the Monkish miracles of the dark and blind
ages of the church, it would certainly be one of the seventh century recorded by honest Bale. “ In the fixth general council (says he) holden at Constantinople, Anno Dom. 680, contra Monothelitas, where the Latin Mass was first approved, and the Latin ministers deprived of their lawfull wives, spiders webbs, in wonderfull copye were seen falling down from above, upon the heads of the people, to the marvelous astonishment of many." The justest emblem and prototype of School Metaphysics, the divinity of Scotifts and Thomists, which afterwards fell, in wonderfull copye on the heads of the people, in support of Transubftantiation, to the marvellous astonishment of many, as it continues to do to this day.
W, This is very forced and far-fetched.
VER. 445. Duck-lane. ] A place where old and second-hand books were sold formerly, near Smithfield.
P. Vær. 448. Oft, leaving what is natural] Ita comparatum est bumanum ingenium, ut optimarum reruin fatietate defatigetur.
And authors think their reputation safe,
450 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 :
NOTES. Unde fit, artes, necessitatis vi quâdam crescere, aut decrescere semper, & ad fummum faftigium evectas, ibi non diu poffe confiftere. Thus music, deserting simple and pathetic expression, is taken up with tricks of execution, and a sort of sight of hand. Thus Borromini, to be new and original, has, as Mr. Walpole expresses it, twisted and curled architecture, by inverting the volutes of the Ionic order. L'ennui du Beau, amene le gout du Singulier. This will happen in every country, every art, and every age. Ver. 450. And authors think their reputation safe,
Which lives as long as fools are pleus'd to laugh.] This is an admirable satire on those called Authors in fashion; the men who get the laugh on their fide. He shews, on how pitiful a basis their reputation stands, the changling disposition of fools to laugh, who are always carried away with the last joke. W. '
Another forced interpretation !
VER. 451. As long as fools] “ Mirabile est (says Tully) De Oratore, lib. iii. quum plurimum in faciendo inter doctum & 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 inftar eft 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.
VER.452. Side or mind, ] Are two vulgar words, unworthy of our author.