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No single parts unequally surprize,
Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see,
Once on a time, La Mancha's Knight, they say, A certain Bard encount'ring on the way, Discours’d in terms as just, with looks as sage, As c'er could Dennis, of the Grecian stage; 270 Concluding all were desp'rate fots and fools, Who durst depart from Aristotle's rules. Our Author, happy in a judge so nice, Produc'd his Play, and begg’d the Knight's advice; Made him observe the subject, and the plot, 275 The manners, passions, unities, what not?
Ver. 261. verbal Critic] Is not here used in its common fignification, of one who retails the sense of single words; but of one who deals in large cargo's of them without
sense at all.
All which, exact to rule, were brought about, Were but a Combať in the lifts left out. « What! leave the Combat out?” exclaims the
Knight; Yes, or we must renounce the Stagirite. 28 “ Not so, by Heav'n” (he answers in a rage) “ Knights, squires, and steeds, must enter on the
stage." So vast a throng the stage can ne'er contain. 66 Then build a new, or act it on a plain.”
Thus Critics, of less judgment than caprice, 285 Curious not knowing, not exact but nice, Form short Ideas; and offend in arts (As most in manners) by a love to parts.
Some to Conceit alone their taste confine, And glitt'ring thoughts struck out at ev'ry line; 290 Pleas’d with a work where nothing's just or fit; One glaring Chaos and wild heap of wit.
Ver. 285. Thus Critics of less judgment than caprice,
Curious not knowing, not exact but nice.] In these two lines the poet finely describes the way in which bad writers are wont to imitate the qualities of good ones. As true Judgment generally draws men out of popular opinions, so he who cannot get from the croud by the aisistance of this guide, willingly follows Caprice, which will be sure to lead him into fingularities. Again, true Knowledge is the art of treasuring up only that which, from its use in life, is worthy of being lodged in the memory. But Curiosity consists in a vain attention to every thing o'it of the way, and which, for its uselesness, the world least regards. Lastly, Exaftness is the just proportion of parts to one another, and their harmony in a whole : But he who has not extent of capacity for the exercise of this quality, contents himself with Nicety, which is a busying one's self about points and syllables.
Poets, like painters, thus, unskill'd to trace
Ver. 297. True Wit is Nature to advantage dress?d, etc.] This definition is very exact. Mr. Locke had defined Wit to confift in the assemblage of ideas, and putting those together, with quickness and variety, wherein can be found any resemblance or congruity, whereby to make up pleasant pictures and agreeable visions in the fancy. But that great Philosopher, in separating Wit from Judgment, as he does in this place, has given us (and he could therefore give us no other) only an account of Wit in general : In which false Wit, tho' not every species of it, is included. A friking Image therefore of Nature is, as Mr. Locke observes, certainly Wit: But this image may Atrike on several other accounts, as well as for its truth and amiableness; and the Philofopher has explain'd the manner how. But it never becomes that Wit which is the ornament of true Poesy, whose end is to represent Nature, but when it dresses that Nature to advantage, and presents her to us in the clearest and most amiable light. And to know when the Fancy has done its office truly, the poet subjoins this admirable Test, viz. When we perceive that it gives us back the image of our mind. When it does that, we may be sure it plays no tricks with us: For this image is the creature of the Judgment ; and whenever Wit corresponds with Judgment, we may fafely fronounce it to be true.
Natúram intueamur, hanc fequamur: id facillime accia posit animi quod agnofcunt. Quintil. lib. viü. c. 3.
For works may have more wit than does 'em good, As bodies perish thro' excess of blood.
Others for Language all their care express, 305 And value books, as women men, for Dress: Their praise is still,- the Style is excellent; The Sense, they humbly take upon content. Words are like leaves; and where they most abound, Much frụit of sense beneath is rarely found. 310 False Eloquence, like the prismatic glafs, Its gaudy colours spreads on ev'ry place; The face of Nature we no more survey, All glares alike, without distinction gay : But true Expression, like th' unchanging Sun, Clears, and improves whate'er it shines
upon, It gilds all objects, but it alters none. Expression is the dress of thought, and still Appears more decent, as more suitable; A vile conceit in pompous words express'd, 320 Is like a clown in regal purple dress’d: For diff'rent styles with diff'rent subjects fort, As several garbs with country, town, and court.
Ver. 311. False eloquence, like the prismatic glass, etc.] This simile is beautiful. For the false colouring, given to objects by the prismatic glass, is owing to its untwisting, by its obliquities, those threads cf light, which Nature had put together in order to spread over its works an ingenuous and simple candor, that should not hide, but only heighten the native complexion of the objects. And false Eloquence is nothing else but the straining and divaricating the parts of true expresion ; and then daubing them over with what the Rhetoricians very properly term, COLOURS ; in lieu of that candid light, now loft, which was reflected from them in tiieir natural state while sincere and entire.
Some by old words to fame have made pretence,
or old: Be not the first by whom the new are try'd, 335 Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.
But most by Numbers judge a Poet's fong; And smooth or rough, with them, is right or wrong: In the bright Muse tho' thousand charms confpire, Her Voice is all these tuncful fools admire; *340
Ver. 324. Some by old words, etc.] Ablita et abro. gata retinere, infolentie cujufdam efl, et frivola in parvis jnetan'in.. Quin:il. lib. i. c. 6. P.
Opus eft ut verba à vetuftate repetita neque crebra fint, neque manifefta, quia nil eft odiofius affe&tatione, nec utique ab ultimis repetita temporibus. Oratio cujus fumma virtus eft perfpicuitas, quam fit vitiofa, si egeat interprete? Erge at novorum optima erunt maxime vetera, ita veterum maxime nova. Idem. P.
Ver. 328.--unlucky as Fungoso, etc.) See Ben Johnson's Every Man in his Humour. P. Ver. 337. But most by Numbers, etc.)
Quis populi ferono ist? quis enim ? nisi carmina molli
Perf. Sat, i, P.