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Some few in that, but numbers err in this,
'Tis with our judgments as our watches, none Go just alike, yet each believes his own.
COMMENTARY. whole poem. 2. As the rules of the antient Critics were taken from Poets who copied nature, this is another reason why every Poet should be a Critic: Therefore, as the subject is poetical Criticism, it is frequently addressed to the critical Poet. And 3dly, the Art of Criticism is as necessarily, and much more usefully exercised in writing than in judging.
But readers have been misled by the modesty of the Title: which only promises an Art of Criticism, în a treatise, and that no incompleat one, of the Art both of Criticism and Poetry. This and not attending to the confiderations offered above, was what, perhaps, milled a very candid writer, after having given this Piece all the praises on the side of genius and poetry which his true taste could not refuse it, to say, that the observations follow one another like those in Horace's Art of Poetry, without that methodical regularity which would have been requifite in a profe writer. Spec. N° 235. I do not see how method can hurt any one grace of Poetry; or what prerogative there is in verse to dispense with regularity. The remark is false in every part of it. Mr. Pope's Effay on Criticism, the Reader will soon see, is a regular piece: And a very learned Critic has lately shewn, that Horace had the same attention to method in his Art of Poetry,
VER. I. 'Tis hard to say, etc.] The Poem opens [from Ý I to 9.) with shewing the use and seasonableness of the subject. Its ufé, from the greater mischief in wrong Criticism than in ill Poetry, this only tiring, that misleading the reader : Its fialonableness, from the growing number of false Critics, which now vastly exceeds that of bad Poets.
VER. 9. 'Tis with our judgments, etc.] The author having
In Poets as true genius is but rare,
COMMENTARY. shewn us the expediency of his subject, the Art of Criticismo next inquires [from ø 8 to 15] into the proper Qualities of a true Critic: and observes first, that JUDGMENT, fimply and alone, is not sufficient to constitute this character, because Judgment, like the artificial measures of Tine, goes different, and yet each relies upon his own. The reason is conclusive; and the similitude extremely just. For Judgment, when alone, is always regulated, or at least much influenced by custom, fashion, and habit; and never certain and constant but when founded upon TASTE: which is the same in the Critic, as Genius in the Poet : both are derived from Heaven, and like the Sun (the natural measure of Time) always constant and equal.
Nor need we wonder that Judgment alone will not make a Critic in poetry, when we see that it will not make a Poet. And on examination we shall find, that Genius and Taste are but one and the same faculty, differently exerting itself under different names, in the two professions of Poet and Critic. For the Art of Poetry consists in selecting, out of all those images which present themselves to the fancy, such of them as are truly poetical: And the Art of Criticism in discerning, and fully relishing what it finds so selected. 'Tis the same operation of the mind in both cafes, and exerted by the same faculty. All the difference is, that in the Poet this faculty is eminently joined with a bright imagination, and extensive comprehension, which provide stores for the selection, and can form that selection, by proportioned parts, into a regular whole : In the Critic, with a solid judgment and accurate discernment; which penetrate into the causes of an excellence, and can shew that excellence in all its variety of lights. Longinus had taste in an eminent degree; so this, which is indeed common to all true Critics, our Author makes his distinguishing character,
Thee, bold Longinus! all the Nine infoire,
eminence in alie males of an el curat de whole. 1. than Criticsnt degree; to ariety of liehellence, andrement;
Let such teach others who themselves excel, 15
Yet if we look more closely, we shall find Most have the seeds of judgment in their mind : 20
COMMENTARY. Ver. 15. Let such teach others, etc.) But it is not enough that the Critic hath these natural endowments to entitle him to exercise his Art, he ought, as our author Thews us (from ø 14 to 19] to give a further test of his qualification, by some acquired talents : And this on two accounts: 1. Because the office of a Critic is an exercise of Authority. 2. Because he being naturally as partial to his Judgment as the Poet is to his Wit, his partiality would have nothing to correct it, as that of the perfon judged hath. Therefore some test is reasonable; and the best and most unexceptionable is his having written well himself, an approved remedy against Critical partiality; and the surest means of so maturing the Judgment, as to reap with glory what Longinus calls “ the last and most perfect fruits of much « study and experience.” H TAP TSN AO SN KPIEIE TOAΛΗΣ ΕΣΤΙ ΠΕΙΡΑΣ ΤΕΛΕΥΤΑΙΟΝ ΕΠΙΓΕΝΝΗΜΑ.
Ver. 19. Yet if we look, etc.) But having been so free with this fundamental quality of Criticism, Judgment, as to charge it with inconftancy and partiality, and to be often warped by custom and affection; that this may not be mistaken, he next explains [from y 18 to 36.] the nature of Judgment, and the accidents
Notes. VER. 15. Let such teach others] « Qui fcribit artificiose, ab aliis commode scripta facile intelligere poterit.” Cic.ad Herenn. lib. iv. “ De pictore, sculptore, fictore, nisi artifex, judicare “ non potest.” Pliny. P.
VER.20. Most have the feeds ] “ Omnes tacito quodam sensu, “ fine ulla arte, aut ratione, quæ fint in artibus ac rationibus “ recta et prava dijudicant.” Cic. de Orat, lib. iii. P.
Nature affords at least a glimm’ring light;
VARIATIONS. Between x 25 and 26 were these lines, since omitted by the author :
Many are spoild by that pedantic throng,
COMMENTARY. occasioning those miscarriages before objected to it. Heowns, that the seeds of Judgment are indeed sown in the minds of most men, but by ill culture, as it springs up, it generally runs wild: either on the one hand, by false knowledge, which pedants call Philology; or by false reasoning, which Philosophers call School-learning: Or on the other, by false wit, which is not regulated by sense; or by false politeness, which is solely regulated by the fapion. Both these sorts, who have their Judgments thus doubly depraved, the poet observes, are naturally turned to censure and reprehenfion; only with this difference, that the Dunce always affects to be on the reasoning, and the Fool on the laughing side.
Jenife; or on the othering, which is
NOTES. Ver. 25. So by fulfe learning] “ Plus sinc doctrina prudentia, “ quam fine prudentia valet doctrina. Quint. P.
In search of wit these lose their common sense,
Some have at first for Wits, then Poets past, 36 Turn’d Critics next, and prov'd plain fools at last.
. COMMENTARY. --And thus, at the same time, our author proves the truth of his introductory obfervation, that the number of bad Critics is vastly superior to that of bad Poets.
Ver. 36. Some have at first for Wits, etc.] The poet having enumerated, in this account of the nature of Judgment and its various depravations, the several sorts of bad Critics, and ranked
NOTES. VER. 28. In search of wit these lose their common sense,] This observation is extremely just. Search of wit is not only the oce casion, but the efficient cause of loss of common sense. For wit confisting in chusing out, and setting together, such ideas from whose likenesses pleasant pictures may be made in the fancy ; the Judgment, thro’ an habitual search of Wit, loses by degrees its faculty of seeing the true relations of things; in which confifts the exercise of common sense.
Ver. 32. All fools have still an itching to deride, And fain would be upon the laughing side.] The fentiment is just. And if Hobbes's account of Laughter be true, that it arises from pride, we see the reason of it. The expression too is fine, it alludes to the condition of Idiots and natural-fools, who are always on the grin.