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Which, but proportion'd to their light, or place,
Due distance reconciles to form and grace.
A prudent chief not always must display
His pow'rs in equal ranks, and fair array,
But with th'occasion and the place comply,
Conceal his force, nay seem fometimes to fly.
Those oft are stratagems which errors seem,
Nor is it Homer nods, but we that dream.
After this he speaks of the reverence and praise due to the ancients, observes that pride and imperfect learning hinder us from forming a true judgment, and illustrates his subject with a most beautiful fimile.
Of all the causes which conspire to blind
Man's erring judgment, and misguide the mind,
What the weak head with trongest byafe rules,
Es PRIDE, the never failing vice of fools,
Whatever nature has in worth deny'd,
She gives in large recruits of needful pride :
For as in bodies, thus in fouls, we find
Whai 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.
If once right reason drives that cloud away,
Truth breaks upon us with resisless day;
Trust not yourfelf; but your defects to know,
Make use of ev'ry friend and ev'ry foe.
A little learning is a dang'rous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring :
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely fobers us again.
Fir'd at first sight with what the muse imparts,
In fearless youth we tempt the heights of arts,
While from the bounded level of our mind,
Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind ;
But more advanc'd, behold with strange surprize
New. distant scenes of endless science rile!
So pleas'd at first the tow'ring Alps we try,
Mount o'er the vales, and seem to tread the sky,
Th' eternal snows appear already paft,
And the first clouds and mountains seem the last :
But, those attain'd, we tremble to survey
The growing labours of the lengthen'd way,
Th' increasing profpe& tires our wand'ring eyes,
peep o'er hills, and Alps on Alps arise ! He then condemns those who judge by a part and not the whole of a performance, as well as thofe who are critics only in Wit, Language, or Werfification, and ridicules others who are too hard to please, or too apt to admire.
A perfect judge will read each work of wit,
With the same spirit that its author writ:
Survey the WHOLE, nor seek flight faults to find
Where nature moves, and rapture warms the mind ;
Nor lose, for that malignant dull delight,
The gen'rous pleasure to be charm'd with wit.
But in such lays as neither ebb nor flow,
Correctly cold and regularly low,
That shunning faults, one quiet tenor keep :
We cannot blame indeed—but we may fleep.
la wit, as nature, what affects our hearts,
Is not ch'exactress of peculiar parts ;
'Tis not a lip, or eye, we beauty call,
But the joint force and full result of all.
Some to conceit alone their taste confine,
And glitt'ring thoughts ftrack out at ev'ry line,
Pleas'd with a work where nothing's juft or fit ;
One glaring chaos and wild beap of wit.
Poets, like painters, thus unskills to trace
The naked nature and the living grace,
With gold and jewels cover ev'ry part,
And hide with ornaments their want of art.
For works may have more wit than does them good,
As bodies perish through excess of blood.
Others for Language all their care express
And value books, as women men, for drefs :
Their praise is still, the ftyle is excellent :
The sense, they humbly take upon content.
Words are like leaves ; and where they most abound,
Much fruit of fenfe beneath is rarely found.
False eloquence, like the prifmatic glass,
Its gaudy colours spreads on er'ry place
The face of nature we no more furvey,
All glares alike, without distinction gay :
But true expression, like th' unchangiag sun,
Clears, and improves whate'er it shines upon,
It gilds all objects, but it alters none.
But most by numbers judge a poet's fong;
And smooth or rough, with them, is right or wrong:
In the bright muse tho' thousand charms confpire,
Her voice is all these tuneful fools admire;
Who haunt Parnafas but to please their ear,
Not mend their minds; as fome to church repair,
Not for the doctrine but the music there.
These equal fyllables alone require,
Tho' oft the ear the open vowels tire :
While expletives their feeble aid do join ;
And ten low words oft creep in one dull line :
While they ring round the fame unvary'd chimes,
With sure returns of ftill expected rhymes ;
Where'er you find the cooling western breeze,"
In the next line, it, “ whispers thro' the trees :"
If crystal streams “ with pleasing murmurs creep,
The reader's threaten'd (no: in vain) with “ sleep :”
Then, at the last and only couplet fraught
With some unmeaning thing they call a thought,
A needless Alexandrine ends the song,
That, like a wounded snake, drags its flow length along.
True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.
'Tis not enough no harshness gives offence,
The sound must seem an eccho to the sense.
Avoid extremes ; and fhun the fault of such,
Who still are pleas'd too little or too much.
At ev'ry trifle scorn to take offence,
That always shews great pride or little sense ;
T'hose heads, as ftomachs, are not sure the best,
Which nauseate all, and nothing can digeft.
Yet let not each gay turn thy rapture move ;
For fools admire, but men of senfe approve :
As things seem large which we thro' mifts descry,
Dulness is ever apt to magnify.
The poet next complains of the partiality of critics to fome particular sect, party, nation, or age : He observes
that some give all applause to the ancients, some admire only the moderns; that some affect to be fingular whether right or wrong, while others borrow their opinions from the town, and change them, as they change their company.
Some ne'er advance a judgment of their own,
But catch the spreading notion of the town ;
They reason and conclude by precedent,
And own ftale nonsense which they ne'er invent.
Some judge of author's names, not works, and then
Nor praise nor blame the writings, but the men.
Some praise at morning what they blame at night ;
But always think the lak opinion right.
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.
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.
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' oppofing body's grossness, not his own
When first that fun too pow'rful beams displays,
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.
Be thou the first true merit to befriend ;
His praise is loft, who stays 'till all commend.
Short is the date alas, of modern rhymes,
And 'tis but just to let them live betimes.
He then laments the fate of wit, which is ever pursued by envy, and advises the critic to temper his mind with good nature.
Unhappy wit, like most mistaken things,
Atones not for that envy which it brings.
In youth alone its empty praise we boast,
But soon the short-liv'd vanity is lost :
Like some fair flow's the early spring supplies,
That gaily blooms, but ev'n in blooming dies.
Now, they who reach Parnasus' lofty crown,
Employ their pains to fpurn some others down ;
And while self-love each jealous writer rules,
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,
Are mortals urg'd thro' sacred luft of praise !
Ah ne'er so dire a thicft of glory boast,
Nor in the critic lei the man be loft:
Good nature and good sense must ever join;
To err is human, to forgive, divine.
He observes, and very justly, that severity ought to be pointed at those pieces of immorality, obscenity, and blasphemy, that tend to corrupt the minds of mankind, but withal adds this necessary caution.
Yet thun their fault, who, fcandaloully nice,
Will needs mistake an author into vice;
All seems infected that th' infected spy,
As all looks yellow to the jaundic'd eye.
After this the poet gives rules for the conduct and manners in a critic, and recommends candour, modesty, good-breeding, fincerity, and freedom of advice; yet points out some cases where our counsel is to be restrained, and where advice would be ineffectual. He then draws the characters of an incorrigible poet, an impertinent critic, and a good one.
Learn then what Morals critics ought to show,
For 'tis but half a judge's task, to know.
'Tis not enough, tafte, judgment, learning, join ;
In all you speak, let truth and candour Mine :
That not alone what to your fense is due
All may allow; but seek your friendship too.