« ZurückWeiter »
Be filent always, when you doubt your sense;
'Tis not enough your counsel still be true;
Be niggards of advice on no pretence: For the worst avarice is that of sense.
With mean complaifance ne'er betray your trust,
Fear not the anger of the wife to raife;
Even to the dregs and fqueezings of the brain,
Such fhameless bards we have; and yet 'tis true,
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;
Not dully prepoffefs'd, nor blindly right;
Tho' learn'd, well-bred; and tho' well-bred, fincere ;
Who to a friend his faults can freely. fhow,
Here the poet introduces a concife hiftory 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 himself.
-Him all the nine inspire,
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 moft injurious libels. The Muses should be ladies of chaste and fair behaviour; when they are otherwife, they are Furies. 'Tis certain, that Parnaffus 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 intereft, 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 confequence than to make his laurels be seen the more."
Poets who write in the preceptive manner fhould take care to chufe fuch fubjects as are worthy of their muse, and of confequence to all markind; 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 ufeful 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 thofe 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 poffions. It opens with an invocation to Hygeia the goddess of health, whose 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 fubject air, inveighs against that which we breathe in London, and says,
-It is not air
That from a thousand lungs reeks back to thine,
Sated with exhalations rank and fell,
The spoil of dunghills, and the putrid thaw
It is not air, but floats a naufeous mafs
The reflection he has made on the benefit we receive from burning of pit-coal is truly philosophical, 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 fmiles
We have already taken notice of the allufions to ancient fables in Virgil and others, and of the frequent ufe 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 thefe beauties will be seen in the first paragraph of the following paffage.
Green rife the Kentish hills in chearful air;
With baneful fogs her aching temples bound,