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Those rules of old discover'd, not devised,
Hear how learn'd Greece her useful rules indites,
ven. The generous critic fann'd the poet's fire, 100 And taught the world with reason to admire. Then criticism the muse's handmaid proved, To dress her charms, and make her more beloved : But following wits from that intention stray'd; Who could not win the mistress, woo'd the maid ; Against the poets their own arms they turn'd, Sure to hate most the men from whom they learn'd. So modern 'pothecaries, taught the art By doctor's bills to play the doctor's part, Bold in the practice of mistaken rules, Prescribe, apply, and call their masters fools. Some on the leaves of ancient authors prey, Nor time nor moths e'er spoil'd so much as they : Some drily plain, without invention's aid, Write dull receipts how poems may be made. These leave the sense, their learning to display, And those explain the meaning quite away. You then, whose judgment the right course would
steer, Know well each ancient's proper character : His fable, subject, scope in every page: 120 Religion, country, genius of his age : Without all these at once before your eyes, Cavil you may, but never criticise
Be Homer's works your study and delight,
When first young Maro, in his boundless mind 130
140 Some beauties yet no precepts can declare, For there's a happiness as well as care. Music resembles poetry; in each Are nameless graces which no methods teach, And which a master-hand alone can reach. If, where the rules not far enough extend (Since rules were made but to promote their end,) Some lucky license answer to the full The intent proposed, that license is a rule. Thus Pegasus, a nearer way to take,
150 May boldly deviate from the common track; From vulgar bounds with brave disorder part, And snatch a grace beyond the reach of art, Which, without passing through the judgnient, gains The heart, and all its ends at once attains. In prospects thus, some objects please our eyes, Which out of nature's common order rise, The shapeless rock, or hanging precipice. Great wits sometimes may gloriously offend, And rise to faults true critics dare not mend. 160
But though the ancients thus their rules invade
As kings dispense with laws themselves have made, Moderns, beware! or, if you must offend Against the precept, ne'er transgress its end: Let it be seldom, and compell’d by need; And have, at least, their precedent to plead. The critic else proceeds without remorse, Seizes your fame, and puts his laws in force.
I know there are, to whose presumptuous thoughts Those freer beauties, e'en in them, seem faults. 170 Some figures monstrous and mis-shaped appear, Consider'd singly, or beheld too near, Which, but proportion'd to their light or place, Due distance reconciles to form and grace. A prudent chief not always must display His powers in equal ranks, and fair array, But with the occasion, and the place comply, Conceal his force, nay seem sometimes to fly. Those oft are stratagems which errors seem, Nor is it Homer nods, but we that dream.
180 Still green with bays each ancient altar stands, Above the reach of sacrilegious hands; Secure from flames, from envy's fiercer rage, Destructive war, and all-involving age. See from each clime the learn'd their incense bring ! Hear, in all tongues consenting Pæans ring! In praise so just let every voice be join'd, And fill the general chorus of mankind. Hail! bards triumphant! born in happier days; Immortal heirs of universal praise!
190 Whose honours with increase of ages grow, As streams roll down, enlarging as they flow; Nations unborn your mighty names shall sound, And worlds applaud that must not yet be found! O may some spark of your celestial fire, The last, the meanest of your sons inspire, (That, on weak wings, from far pursues your flights Glows while he reads, but trembles as he writes,
To teach vain wits a science little known,
PART II. Causes hindering a true judgment. 1. Pride, ver. 201.
2. Imperfect learning, ver. 215. 3. Judging by parts, and not by the whole, ver. 233 to 288. Critics in wit, language, versification, only, 288, 305, 339, &c. 4. Being too hard to please, or too apt to admire, ver.384. 5. Partiality-too much love to a sect-to the ancients or moderns, ver. 394. 6. Prejudice or prevention, ver. 408. 7. Singularity, ver. 424. 8. Inconstancy ver 430. 9. Party spirit, ver. 452, &c. 10. Envy, ver. 466. Against envy, and in praise of good-nature, ver. 508, &c. When severity is chiefly to be used by the critics, ver. 526, &c.
Of all the causes which conspire to blind
But more advanced, behold with strange surprise
A perfect judge will read each work of wit
Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see,