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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, 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; Nay, show'd his faults-but when would poets mend? No place so sacred from such fops is barr’d, Nor is Paul's church more safe than Paul's church
yard : Nay, fly to altars; there they'll talk you dead; For fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Distrustful sense with modest caution speaks, It still looks home, and short excursions makes ; But rattling nonsense in full vollies breaks. And never shock'd, and never turn'd aside, Bursts out, resistless, with a thundering tide.
But where's the man who counsel can bestow, Still pleas'd to teach, and yet not proud to know? Unbiass'd or by favour or by spite, Not dully prepossess'd nor blindly right; Tho' learn'd well-bred, and tho' well-bred sincere ; Modestly bold, and humanly severe ; Who to a friend his faults can freely show, And gladly praise the merit of a foe? Bless'd with a taste exact, yet unconfin'd, A knowledge both of books and human kind; Generous converse ; a soul exempt from pride ; And love to praise, with reason on his side ?
Such once were critics; such the happy few Athens and Rome in better ages knew. The mighty Stagirite first left the shore, Spread all his sails, and durst the deeps explore ; He steer'd securely, and discover'd far, Led by the light of the Mæonian star,
Poets, a race long unconfia'd and free,
Horace still charms with graceful negligence,
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,
Much was believ'd, but little understood,
At length Erasmus, that great injur'd name,
But see! each Muse in Leo's golden days Starts from her trance, and trims her wither'a bays; Rome's ancient genius, o'er its ruins spread, Shakes off the dust, and rears his reverend head. 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 chac'd, Their ancient bounds the banish'd Muses pass'd; 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, foreigo laws despis’d, And kept unconquer'd and unciviliz'd ; Fierce for the liberties of wit, and bold, We still defied the Romans, as of old. Yet some there were, among the sounder few, Of those who less presum'd and better knew, Who durst assert the juster ancient cause, And here restor'd wit's fundamental laws. Such was the Muse, whose rules and practice tell “ Nature's chief masterpiece is writing well.” Such was Roscommon, not more learn'd than good, With manners generous as his noble blood; To him the wit of Greece and Rome was known, And every author's mcrit but his own,
Such late was Walsh–the Muse's judge and friend,
To Sir Richard Temple, Lord Cobham.
ARGUMENT, 1. That it is not sufficient for this knowledge to consider Man
in the abstract ; books will not serve the purpose, nor yet our own experience singly. General maxims, unless they be formed upon both, will be but notional. Some peculiarity in every man, characteristic to himself, yet varying from himself. Difficulties arising from our own passions, fancies, faculties, &c. The shortness of life to observe in, and the uncertainty of the principles of action in men to observe by. Our own principle of action often hid from ourselves. Some few characters plain, but in general confounded, dissembled, or inconsistent. The same man utterly different in different places and seasons. Unimaginable weaknesses in the greatest. Nothing constant and certain but God and Nature. No judging of the motives from the actions; the same actions proceeding from contrary motives, and the same motive influencing contrary actions.—II. Yet, to form characters, we can only take the strongest actions of a man's life, and try to make them agree; the utter uncertainty of this, from Nature itself, and from policy. Characters given accord. ing to the rank of men of the world : and some reason for it. Education alters the nature, or at least character, of many. Actions, passions, opinions, manners, humours, or principles, all subject to change. No judging by Nature. III. It only remains to find (if we can) his ruling passion : that will certainly influence all the rest, and can reconcile the seeming or real inconsistency of all his actions. Instanced in the extraordinary character of Clodio. A caution against mistaking second qualities for first, which will destroy all possibility of the knowledge of mankind. Examples of the strength of the raling passion, and its continuation to the last breath.
Who from his study rails at human kind;