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Of all this servile herd, the worst is he
That in proud dulness joins with quality;
A constant critic at the great man's board,
To fetch and carry nonsense for my lord.
What woful stuff this madrigal would be,
In some starv'd hackney sounetteer, or me!
But let a lord once own the happy lines.
How the wit brightens! how the style refines!
Before his sacred name flies every fault,
And eacli exalted stanza teems with thought!
The vulgar thus through imitation err;
As oft the learned by being singular;
So much they scorn the crowd, that if the throng
By chance go right, they purposely go wrong:
So schismatics the plain believers quit,
And are but dnmn'd for having too much wit.
Some praise at morning what they blame at night,
But always think the last opinion right.
A muse by these is like a mistress us'd,
This hour she's idoliz'd, the nextabuVd;
While their weak heads, like towns unfortify'd,
'Twixt sense and nonsense daily change their side.
Ask them the cause; they're wiser still, they say;
And still to-morrow's wiser than to-day.
We think our fathers fools, so wise we grow;
Our wiser sons, no doubt, will think us so.
Once school-divines this zealous isle o'erspread;
Who knew most sentences was deepest read:
Faith, Gospel, all, seem'd made to be disputed,
And none had sense enough to be confuted:
Scotists and Thomists, now in peace remain.
Amidst their kindred cobwebs in Duck-lane.
If faith itself has different dresses worn,
What wonder modes in wit should take their turn?
Oft, leaving what is natural and tit,
The current folly proves the ready wit;
And authors think their reputation safe,
Which lives as long as fools are pleas'd to laugh.
Some, valuing those of their own side or mind. Still make themselves the measure of mankind;
Fondly we think we honour merit then, When wc but praise ourselves in other men. Parties in wit attend on those of state, .An,! public faction doubles private hate. Pride, malice, folly, against Dryden rose, In various shapes of parse us, critics, beanx: But sense surviv'd, when merry jests were past; For rising merit will bnoy up at last. Might he return, and bless once more our eyes. New Blackmores and new Milbourns must arise: Kay, should great Homer lift his awful head, Zoilus again would start up from the dead. Envy will merit, as its shade, pursue; But, like a shadow, proves the substance true: For envy'd wit, like Sol eclipVd, makes known Th' opposing body's grossnrss, not its own. When first that sun too powerful beams displays, It draws up vapours which obscure its rays; But ev'n those clonds at last adorn its way. Reflect new glories, and angment the day. Be thou the first true merit to befriend; His praise is lost who stays till all commend. Short is the date, alas! of modern rhymes, And 'tis but just to let them live betimes. No longer now that golden age appears, When patriarch-wits surviv'd a thousand years: Now length of fame (our second life) is lost, And bare threescore is all ev'n that can boast; Our sons their fathers' failing language see, And such as Chancer is, shall Dryden be. So when the faithful pencil has design'd Some bright idea of the master's mind, Where a new world leaps out at his command, And ready nature waits upon his hand; When the ripe colours soften and unite, Aud sweetly melt into just shade and light; When mellowing years their full perfection give, And each bold figure just begins to live; , The treacherous colours the fair art betray, Aud all the bright creation fades »way!
Unhappy wit, like most mistaken things. Atones not for that envy which it brings; In youth alone its emoty praise we boast, But soon the short-liv'd vanity is lost; Like some fair flower the early spring supplies, That gaily blooms, but ev'n in blooming dies. What is this wit, which must our cares employ? The owner's wife that other men enjoy; Then most our trouble still when most admir'd, And still the more we give, the more requir'd: Whose fame witli pains we guard, but lose with ease. Sure some to vex, but never all to please; 'Tis what the vicious fear, the virtnous shun; By fools 'tis hated, and by knaves undone!
If wit so much from ignorance undergo,
Ah, let not learning too commence its foe!
Of old, those met rewards, who could excel,
And such were prais'd who but endeavour'd well;
Though trinmphs were to generals only due,
Crowns were reserv'd to grace the soldiers too.
"Now they who reach Parnassus' lofty crown,
Employ their pains to spurn 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 through sacred lust of praise!
Ah, ne'er so dire a thirst of glory boast,
Nor in the critic let the man be lost.
Good-nature and good-sense must ever join;
To err, is human; to forgive, divine.
But if in noble minds some dregs remain,
Not yet purg'd off, of spleen and sour disdain;
Discharge that rage ou more provoking crimes,
If or fear a dearth in these flagitious times.
No pardon vile obscenity should find,
Though wit and art conspire to move your mind;
But dulness with obscenity must prove
As shameful sore as impotence in love.
In the fat age of pleasure, wealth, and ease,
Sprang the rank weed, and thriv'd with large in-
When love was all an easy monarch's care;
Seldom at council, never in a war:
Jilts rul'd the state, and statesmen farces writ;
Uaj wits had pensions, and young lords had wit:
The fair sat panting at a courtier's play,
And not a mask went unimprov'd away:
The modest fan was lifted up no more,
And virgins smil'd at what they blush'd before.
The following licence of a foreign reign
Did all the dregs of bold Socinus drain;
Then unbelieving priests reform'd the nation,
And tanght more pleasant methods of salvation;
Where Heaven's free subjects might their rights
Lest God himself should seem too absolute:
Fulpits their sacred satire learn'd to spare,
And vice admir'd to find a flatterer there!
Encourag'd thus, wit's Titans brav'd the skies.
And the press groan'd with licens'd blasphemies.
These monsters, critics! with your darts engage,
Here point your thunder, and exhanst your rage 1
Yet shun their fanlt, who, scandalously nice,
Will needs mistake an anthor into vice;
Al i seems infected that th' infected spy,
As all looks yellow to the janndie'd eye.
Rules for the conduct and manners in a critic. 1. Candour, ver. 56."1. Modesty, ver. 566. Goodbreeding, ver. 572. Sincerity and freedom of advice, ver. 578. 2. When one's counsel is to be restrained, ver. 584. Character of an incorrigible poet, ver. 600; aud of an impertinent critic, ver. 6l0, &c. Character of a good critic, ver. 629. The history of criticism, and characters of the best critics: Aristotle, ver. 645. Horace, ver. 653. Dionysins, ver. 665. Petronins, ver. 667. Quintilian, ver. 670. Longinus, ver. 675. Of the decay of criticism, and its revival: Erasmus, ver. 693. Vida, ver. 705. Boilean, ver. 714. Lord Roscommon, &c. ver. 725. Conclusion.
T EARN then what morals critics ought to show;
For 'tis but half a judge's task to know.'
Tis not enough, taste, judgement, learning, join;
In all you speak, let truth and candour shine;
That not alone what to your sense is due
All may allow, but seek your friendship too.
Be silent always, when you doubt your sense;
And speak, though sure, with seeming diffidence:
Some positive, persisting fops we know,
Who, if once wrong, will needs be always so;
But you, with pleasure, own your errors past,
And make each day a critique on the last.
Tis not enough your counsel still be true; Blunt truths more mischief than nice falsehoods 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 superior sense belov'd.