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Leave dangerous truths to unsuccessful satires,
Such shameless bards we have: and yet 'tis true, There are as mad, abandon'd critics too.
611 The bookful blockhead, ignorantly read, With loads of learned lumber in his head, With his own tongue still edifies his ears, And always listening to himself appears. All books he reads, and all he reads assails, From Dryden's Fables down to Durfey's Tales : With him most authors steal their works, or buy; Garth did not write his own Dispensary. Name a new play, and he's the poet's friend,
630 But where's the man who counsel can bestow, Still pleased to teach, and yet not proud to know?
Unbiass'd, or by favour, or by spite ;
Such once were critics; such the happy few
650 Received his laws, and stood convinced 'twas fit Who conquer'd nature, should preside o'er wit.
Horace still charms with graceful negligence, And without method talks us into sense; Will, like a friend, familiarly convey The truest notions in the easiest way. He who, supreme in judgment as in wit, Might boldly censure, as he boldly writ, Yet judged with coolness, though he sung with fire ; His precepts teach but what his works inspire. 660 Our critics take a contrary extreme, They judge with fury, but they write with phlegm : Nor suffers Horace more in wrong translations By wits, than critics in as wrong quotations.
See Dionysius Homer's thoughts refine,
Fancy and art in gay Petronius please,
In grave Quintilian's copious work, we find
Thee, bold Longinus ! all the Nine inspire,
Thus long succeeding critics justly reign'd,
690 A second deluge learning thus o'er-ran, And the monks finish'd what the Goths began.
At length Erasmus, that great injured name (The glory of the priesthood, and the shame!) Stemm'd the wild torrent of a barbarous age, And drove those holy Vandals off the stage.
But see! each muse, in Leo's golden days, Starts from her trance, and trims her wither'd bays ; Rome's ancient genius, o'er its ruins spread, Shakes off the dust, and rears his reverend head. 700 Then sculpture and her sister-arts revive; Stones leap'd to form, and rocks began to live : With sweeter notes each rising temple rung; A Raphael painted, and a Vida sung. Immortal Vida ! on whose honour'd brow The poet's bays and critic's ivy grow : Cremona now shall ever boast thy name, As next in place to Mantua, next in fame!
But soon, by impious arms from Latium chased, Their ancient bounds the banish'd muses pass'd: 710 Thence arts o'er all the northern world advance, But critic-learning flourish'd most in France ; The rules a nation born to serve obeys, And Boileau still in right of Horace sways. But we, brave Britons, foreign laws despised, And kept unconquer'd and uncivilized;
Fierce for the liberties of wit, and bold,
whose early voice you taught to sing,
THE RAPE OF THE LOCK,
AN HEROI-COMICAL POEM,
Written in the Year 1712.
TO MRS. ARABELLA FERMOR. MADAM, It will be in vain to deny that I have some regard for this piece, since I dedicate it to you ; yet you may bear me witness, it was intended only to divert a few young ladies, who have good sense and good humour enough to laugh not
only at their sex's little unguarded follies, but at their own, But as it was communicated with the air of a secret, it soon found its way into the world. An imperfect copy having been offered to a bookseller, you had the good-nature for my sake to consent to the publication of one more correct. This I was forced to, before I had executed half my design, for the machinery was entirely wanting to complete it.
The machinery, madam, is a term invented by the critics, to signify that part which the deities, angels, or demons, are made to act in a poem ; for the ancient poets are in one respect like many modern ladies : let an action be never so trivial in itself, they always make it appear of the utmost importance. These machines I determined to raise on a very new and odd foundation, the Rosicrusian doctrine of spirits.
I know how disagreeable it is to make use of hard words before a lady; but it is so much the concern of a poet to have his works understood, and particularly by your sex, that you must give me leave to explain two or three difficult terms.
The Rosicrusians are a people I must bring you acquainted with. The best account I know of them is in a French book called Le Compte de Gabalis, which, both in its title and size, is so like a novel, that many of the fair sex have read it for one by mistake. According to these gentlemen, the four elements are inhabited by spirits which they call Sylphs, Gnomes, Nymphs, and Salamanders. The Gnomes, or demons of earth, delight in mischief; but the Sylphs, whose habitation is in the air, are the best-conditioned creatures imaginable ; for they say, any mortal may enjoy the most intimate familiarities with these gentle spirits, upon a condition very easy to all true adeptsan inviolate preservation of chastity,
As to the following cantos, all the passages of them are as fabulous as the vision at the beginning, or the transformation at the end (except the loss of your hair, which I always mention with reverence). The human persons are as fictitious as the airy opes; and the character of Belinda, as it is now managed, resembles you in nothing but in beauty.
If this poem bad as many graces as there are in person or in your mind, yet I could never hope it should