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In the fat age of pleasure, wealth, and ease,
dispute, Lest God himself should seem too absolute: Pulpits their sacred satire learn'd to spare, And vice admir'd to find a flatterer there ! Encourag'd thus, wit's Titans bray'd the skies, And the press groan'd with licens'd blasphemies. These monsters, critics ! with your darts engage, Here point your thunder, and exhaust your rage! Yet shun their fault, who, scandalously nice, Will needs mistake an author into vice; All seems infected that th' infected spy, As all looks yellow to the jaundic'd eye.
Rules for the conduct and manners in a critic.
1. Candour, ver. 563. Modesty, ver. 566. Good. breeding, ver. 572. Sincerity and freedom of advice, ver. 578. 2. When one's counsel is to be restrained, ver. 584. Character of an incorrigi. ble poet, ver. 600; and of an impertinent critic, ver. 610, &c. Character of a good critic, ver. 629. The history of criticism, and characters of the best critics : Aristotle, ver. 645. Horace, ver. 653. Dionysius, ver. 665. Petronius, ver. 667. Quintilian, ver. 670. Longinus, ver. 675. Of the decay of criticism, and its revival : Erasmus, ver. 693. Vida, ver. 705. Boileau, ver. 714. Lord Roscommon, &c. ver. 725. Conclusion.
T EARN then what morals critics ought to show; u 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 seuse belov’d.
Be niggards of advice on no pretence; For the worst avarice is that of sense. With mean complacence, ne'er betray your trust, Nor be so civil as to prove unjust. Fear not the anger of the wise to raise; Those best can bear reproof, who merit praise,
'Twere well might critics still this freedom take: But Appius reddens at each word you speak, And stares tremendous, with a threatening eye, Like some fierce tyrant in old tapestry. Fear most to tax an honourable fool, Whose right it is, uncensur'd, to be dull! Such, without wit, are poets when they please, . As without learning they can take degrees. Leave dangerous truths to unsuccessful satires, And flattery to fulsome dedicators, Whom, when they praise, the world believes 20
more Than when they promise to give scribbling o'er. Tis best sometimes your censure to restrain, And charitably let the dull be vain: Your silence there is better than your spite, For who can rail so long as they can write ? Still humming on, their drowsy course they keep, And lash'd so long, like tops, are lash'd asleep. False steps but help them to renew the race, As after stumbling jades will mend their pace. What crowds of these, impenitently bold, In sounds and jingling syllables grown old, Still run on poets, in a raging vein, Ev’n to the dregs and squeezings of the brain, Strain out the last dull droppings of their sense, And rhyme with all the rage of impotence !
Such shameless 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 still edifies his ears, And always listening to himself appears.
All books he reads, and all he reads assails,
But where's the man who counset can bestow,
Such once were critics; such the happy few
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 judgement as in wit, Might boldly censure, as he boldly writ, Yet judg'd with coolness, though he sung with fire; His precepts teach but what his works inspire, 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,