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Be filent always, when you doubt your fenfe ;
'Tis not enough your counsel still be true; Blunt truths more mischief than nice falfhoods do; Men must be taught as if you taught them not, And things unknown propos'd as things forgot. Without good breeding, truth is disapprov'd; That only makes fuperior fenfe belov❜d.
Be niggards of advice on no pretence: For the worst avarice is that of sense. With mean complaifance ne'er betray your trust, Nor be fo civil as to prove unjust. Fear not the anger of the wife to raife; Those best can bear reproof, who merit praife. 'Tis beft fometimes your cenfure to reftrain, And charitably let the dull be vain : Your filence there is better than your spite; For who can rail fo long as they can write? Still humming on, their drowsy course they keep, And lafh'd fo long, like tops, are lash'd a-fleep. Falfe fteps but help them to renew the race, As, after stumbling, jades will mend their pace. What crouds of thefe, impertinently bold, In founds and jingling fyllables grown old, Still run on poets, in a raging vein, Even to the dregs and fqueezings of the brain, Strain out the last dull droppings of their sense, And rhyme with all the rage of impotence.
Such fhameless bards we have; and yet 'tis true, There are as mad, abandon'd critics too. The bookful blockhead, ignorantly read, With loads of learned lumber in his head, With his own tongue ftill edifies his ears, And always lift'ning to himself appears. All books he reads, and all he reads affails, From Dryden's fables down to Durfey's tales.
But where's the man, who counsel can beftow, Still pleas'd to teach, and yet not proud to know
Unbiafs'd, or by favour, or by fpite;
Here the poet introduces a concife history of criticism, with the characters of the beft critics, viz. Ariftotle, Horace, Dionyfius, Petronius, Quintilian, and Longinus. He then speaks of the decay of criticism and of its revival; gives us fhort characters of Erafmus, Vida, Boileau, the duke of Buckingham, lord Rofcommon, and concludes with an elogium on his late friend and preceptor Mr. Walsh.
Thus have we given the reader the whole fcope and defign of Mr. Pope's effay, with an abstract of his precepts, and fome of thofe ornamental parts which he has artfully and judiciously thrown in to enrich and adorn his rules, and render them the more permanent and pleasing. Had we introduced all the beauties, we must have transcribed the whole poem, which, notwithstanding the fubject runs fo much into common place, is indeed fo full of them, that what the author fays of Longinus, may with propriety be applied to himfelf.
Him all the nine infpire,
And bless their critic with a poet's fire.
We shall conclude this article on criticifm with an ob fervation of Dr. Garth's, which may help to excite candour in the profeffors of this art; an ingredient very neceffary, yet much wanted by our modern critics.
"Tis to be lamented, fays he, that gentlemen ftill continue to behave thus unfairly, and treat one another
every day with most injurious libels. The Mufes should be ladies of chafte and fair behaviour; when they are otherwise, they are Furies. 'Tis certain, that Parnaus is at beft but a barren mountain, and its inhabitants contrive to make it more fo by their unneighbourly deportment. The authors are the only corporation that endeavour at the ruin of their own fociety; yet every day may convince them how much a rich fool is respected above a poor wit. The only talents in esteem at present are those of Exchange Alley; one tally is worth a grove of bays; and 'tis of more confequence to be well red in the tables of interest, and the rife and fall of stocks, than in the revolution of empires. This reflection was occafioned by the treatment Mr. Dryden met with, who (fays the Doctor) was libelled in his life-time by the very men who had no other excellencies, but as they were his imitators. Where he was allowed to have fentiments fuperior to all others, they charged him with theft: But how did he fteal? No otherwife, than like those who fteal beggars children, only to cloath them the better. As his earlier works wanted no maturity, fo his latter wanted no force or fpirit; and the falling off of his hair had no other consequence than to make his laurels be seen the more."
Poets who write in the preceptive manner fhould take care to chuse such subjects as are worthy of their muse, and of confequence to all mankind; for to beftow both parts and pains to teach people trifles that are unworthy of their attention, is to the laft degree ridiculous.
Among poems of the useful and interefting kind, Dr. Armstrong's Art of preferving health deferves, I think, particular notice, as well in confideration of the subject, as of the elegant and masterly manner in which he has treated it; for he has made those things, which are in their own nature dry and unentertaining, perfectly agreeable and pleafing, by adhering to the rules obferved by Virgil and others in the conduct of these poems.
The author has divided this poem into four books, and confidered how our health is promoted or impair'd by air, diet, exercife, and the posions. It opens with an invocation to Hygeia the goddefs of health, whofe aid, he obferves, the difficulty of the subject has render'd neceffary.
Without thy chearful active energy
He then pays a compliment to Dr. Mead, and entering on the subject air, inveighs against that which we breathe in London, and fays,
-It is not air
That from a thousand lungs reeks back to thine,
It is not air, but floats a nauseous mafs
The reflection he has made on the benefit we receive from burning of pit-coal is truly philofophical, and drawn from experience; for, it has been obferved, that no plague or peftilential diforder (properly fo called) has appear'd in London fince the introduction, and general use of this kind of fuel.
The directions he then gives for the choice of air,, and of a country fituation, are delivered in a manner very poetical and pleafing,
While yet you breathe, away; the rural wilds
A kindly fky! whofe foft'ring pow'r regales
Find then fome woodland fcene where nature smiles
We have already taken notice of the allufions to ancient fables in Virgil and others, and of the frequent use made of the figure called Profopopeia, by which the properties of life are given, not only to inanimate Beings, but to Virtues, Vices, Difeafes, &c. Some of these beauties will be seen in the first paragraph of the following paffage.
Green rife the Kentish hills in chearful air ;