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Which, but proportion'd to their light, or place,
Due diftance reconciles to form and grace.
A prudent chief not always muft difplay
His pow'rs in equal ranks, and fair array,
But with th' occafion and the place comply,
Conceal his force, nay feem fometimes to fly.
Thofe oft are ftratagems which errors feem,
Nor is it Homer nods, but we that dream.
After this he speaks of the reverence and praife due to the ancients, obferves that pride and imperfect learning hinder us from forming a true judgment, and illustrates his fubject with a moft beautiful fimile.
Of all the caufes which confpire to blind
Man's erring judgment, and mifguide the mind,
What the weak head with ftrongest byafs rules,
Is 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
What wants in blood and fpirits, fwell'd with wind';
Pride, where wit fails, fteps in to our defence,
And fills up all the mighty void of fenfe.
If once right reafon drives that cloud away,
Truth breaks upon us with refiftless day.
Truft not yourfelf; but your defects to know,
Make ufe of ev'ry friend-and ev'ry foe.
A little learning is a dang'rous thing;
Drink deep, or tafte not the Pierian spring :
There fhallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely fobers us again.
Fir'd at first fight with what the mufe imparts,
In fearless youth we tempt the heights of arts,
While from the bounded level of our mind,
Short views we take, nor fee the lengths behind;
But more advanc'd, behold with ftrange furprize
New diftant fcenes of endless science rife!
So pleas'd at firft the tow'ring Alps we try,
Mount o'er the vales, and feem to tread the sky,
Th' eternal fnows appear already paft,
And the firft clouds and mountains feem the laft:
But, thofe attain'd, we tremble to furvey
The growing labours of the lengthen'd way,
Th' increafing profpe&t tires our wand'ring eyes,
Hills 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 Verfification, 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 fame fpirit that its author writ:
Survey the WHOLE, nor feek flight faults to find
Where nature moves, and rapture warms the mind
Nor lofe, for that malignant dull delight,
The gen'rous pleasure to be charm'd with wit.
But in fuch lays as neither ebb nor flow,
Correctly cold and regularly low,
That fhunning faults, one quiet tenor keep :
We cannot blame indeed—but we may fleep.
In wit, as nature, what affects our hearts,
Is not th' exactness of peculiar parts;
'Tis not a lip, or eye, we beauty call,
But the joint force and full refult of all.
Some to conceit alone their tafte 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 heap of wit.
Poets, like painters, thus unskill'd 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 exprefs
And value books, as women men, for drefs:
Their praise is ftill,-the ftyle is excellent :
The fenfe, they humbly take upon content.
Words are like leaves; and where they moft abound,
Much fruit of fenfe beneath is rarely found.
False eloquence, like the prifmatic glass,
Its gaudy colours fpreads on ev'ry place
The face of nature we no more furvey,
All glares alike, without diftinction gay:
But true expreffion, like th' unchanging fun,
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 mufe tho' thousand charms confpire,
Her voice is all thefe tuneful fools admire;
Who haunt Parnaffus but to please their ear,
Not mend their minds; as fome to church repair,
Not for the doctrine but the mufic there.
Thefe 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 fure 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 pleafing murmurs creep,"
The reader's threaten'd (not in vain) with " fleep :"
Then, at the laft and only couplet fraught
With fome unmeaning thing they call a thought,
A needless Alexandrine ends the song,
That, like a wounded fnake, drags its flow length along.
True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move eafieft who have learn'd to dance.
'Tis not enough no harshness gives offence,
The found must seem an eccho to the fenfe.
Avoid extremes; and fhun the fault of fuch,
Who ftill are pleas'd too little or too much.
At ev'ry trifle fcorn to take offence,
That always fhews great pride or little sense;
Those heads, as stomachs, are not fure the best,
Which nauseate all, and nothing can digeft.
Yet let not each gay turn thy rapture move;
For fools admire, but men of fenfe approve :
As things feem large which we thro' mifts descry,
Dulness is ever apt to magnify.
The poet next complains of the partiality of critics to fome particular fect, party, nation, or age; He obferves
that fome give all applaufe to the ancients, fome admire only the moderns; that fome 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 praife at morning what they blame at night ;
But always think the last opinion right.
A mufe by thefe is like a mistress us'd,
This hour fhe's idoliz'd, the next abus'd;
While their weak heads like towns unfortify'd,
'Twixt fenfe and nonsense daily change their fide.
Some valuing those of their own fide 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 fhade, pursue ;
But like a fhadow, proves the fubftance true:
For envy'd wit, like fol eclips'd, makes known,
Th' oppofing body's groffness, not his own
When first that fun too pow'rful beams displays,.
It draws up vapours which obfcure its rays;
But ev'n those clouds at laft adorn its way,
Reflect new glories, and augment the day.
Be thou the first true merit to befriend;
His praife is loft, who ftays 'till all commend..
Short is the date alas, of modern rhymes,
And 'tis but juft 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 moft miftaken things,
Atones not for that envy which it brings.
In youth alone its empty praise we boaft,
But foon the short-liv'd vanity is loft:
Like fome fair flow'r the early fpring fupplies,
That gaily blooms, but ev'n in blooming dies.
Now, they who reach Parnaffus' lofty crown,
Employ their pains to fpurn fome others down ;
And while felf-love each jealous writer rules,
Contending wits become the fport of fools:
But ftill 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' facred luft of praise!
Ah ne'er fo dire a thirft of glory boast,
Nor in the critic let the man be loft:
Good nature and good sense must ever join;
To err is human, to forgive, divine.
He obferves, and very juftly, that feverity ought to be pointed at those pieces of immorality, obfcenity, and blafphemy, that tend to corrupt the minds of mankind, but withal adds this neceffary caution.
Yet fhun their fault, who, fcandalously nice,
Will needs miftake an author into vice;
All feems 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, modefty, good-breeding, fincerity, and freedom of advice; yet points out fome cafes where our counsel is to be reftrained, 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 tafk, to know.
'Tis not enough, tafte, judgment, learning, join;
In all you speak, let truth and candour shine:
That not alone what to your fense is due
All may allow; but feek your friendship too.