Abbildungen der Seite

Some neither can for Wits nor Critics pass,
As heavy mules are neither horse nor ass.
Those half-learn'd witlings, num'rous in our ifle,
As half-form'd insects on the banks of Nile; 41
Unfiniih'd things, one knows not what to call,
Their generation's so equivocal:


them into two general Classes; as the first fort, namely the men spoiled by false learning, are but few in comparison of the other, and likewise come less within his main view (which is poetical Criticism) but keep groveling at the bottom amongst words and letters, he thought it here sufficient just to have mentioned them, proposing to do them right hereafter. But the men spoiled by false tajle are innumerable; and These are his proper concern: He therefore, from jr 35 to 46. sub-divides them again into the two classes of the volatile and heavy: He describes in few words the quick progress of the One thro' Criticism, from false wit to plain folly, where they end; and the fixed station of the Other 'between the confines of both; who under the name of Witlings, have neither end nor measure. A kind of half formed creature from the equivocal generation of vivacity and dulness, like those on the banks of Nile, from heat and mud.

Not E S.

Ver. 43. Their generation's so equivocal:] It is sufficient that a principle of philosophy has been generally received, whether . it be true or false, to justify a poet's use of it to set oft his wit. But to recommend his argument he should be cautious how he uses any but the true. For falsehood, when it is set too near, will tarnish the truth he would recommend. Bdiiies the analogy between natural and moral truth makes the principles of true Philosophy the fittest for his use. Our Poet has been careful in observing this rule,

Vol. I. K

To tell 'em, would a hundred tongues require,
Or one vain wit's, that might a hundred tire. 45

But you who seek to give and merit fame,
And justly bear a Critic's noble name,
Be sure yourself and your own reach to know,
How far your genius, taste, and learning go;
Launch not beyond your depth, but be discreet, 50
And mark that point where sense and dulness meet.


Ver. 46. But you who seek; etc.] Our Author having thus far, by way of Introduction, explained the nature, use, and abuse of Criticism, in a figurative description of the qualities and characters of Critics, proceeds now to deliver the precepts of the Art. The first of which, from } 47 to 68. is, that he who sets up for a Critic should previously examine his own strength, and fee how far he is qualified for the exercise of his profession. He puts him in a way to make this discovery, in that admirable direction given y 51.

And Mark That Point Where Sense And Dulness


He had shewn above, that Judgment, without Taste or Genius, is equally incapable of making a Critic or a Poet: In whatsoever subject then the Critic's Taste no longer accompanies his "Judgment, there he may be assured he is going out of his depth. This our Author finely calls,

that point where fense and dulness meet. And immediately adds the Reason of his precept; the Author of Nature having so constituted the mental faculties, that one of them can never excel but at the expence of another.


Ver. 51. And mark that point where fense and dulness meet.} Resides the peculiar fense explained above in the comment, the words have still a more general meaning, and caution us against going on, when our Ideas begin to grow obscure: as we are

Nature to all things fix'd the limits fit, And wisely curb'd proud man's pretending wit. As on the land while here the ocean gains, In other parts it leaves wide sandy plains; 5 5 Thus in the foul while memory prevails, The solid pow'r of understanding fails; Where beams of warm imagination play, The memory's soft figures melt away. One science only will one genius fit; 60

So vast is art, so narrow human wit:

Com Men Tar y. From this state and ordination of the mental faculties, and the influence and effects they have one on another, our Poet draws this Consequence, that no one genius can excell in more than one Art or Science. The consequence shews the necessity of the precept, just as the premises, from which the consequence is drawn, shew the reasonableness of it.

Notes. apt to do, tho' that obscurity is a monition that We should leave off; for it arises either thro' our small acquaintance with the subject, or the incomprehensibility of its nature. In which circumstances a genius will always write as heavily as a dunce. An observation well worth the attention of all profound writers. Ver. 56. Thus in the soul while memory prevails, The solid pow'r of understanding fails: Where beams of warm imagination play, The memory's soft figures melt away.] These observations are collected from an intimate knowledge of human nature. The cause of that languor and heaviness in the understanding, which is almost inseparable from a very stro lg and tenacious memory, seems to be a want of the proper exercise and activity of that power; the understanding being rather paflive while the memory is cultivating. As to the other apCommentary.

Not only bounded to peculiar arts,

But oft' in those confin'd to single parts.

Like Kings we lose the conquests gain'd before,

By vain ambition still to make them more: 65

Each might his sev'ral province well command,

Would all but stoop to what they understand.

First follow Nature, and your judgment frame By her just standard, which is still the same:

Ver. 68. Firfl follow Nature, etc.] The Critic observing the directions here given, and finding himself qualified for his office, is (hewn next how to exercise it. And as he was to attend to Nature for a Call, so he is first and principally to follow her when called. And here again in this, as in the foregoing precept, the poet [from t 67 to 88.] shews both the fitness and the necessity of it. It's fitness, 1. Because Nature is the source of poetic Art; that Art being only a representation of Nature, who is its great exemplar and original, a. Because Nature is the end of Art; the design of poetry being to convey the knowledge of

No T E s.

pearance, the decay of memory by the vigorous exercise of Fancy, the poet himself seems to have intimated the cause of it in the epithet he has given to the Imagination. For if, according to the Atomic Philosophy, the memory of things be preserved in a chain of ideas, produced by the animal spirits moving in continued trains; the force and rapidity of the Imagination perpetually -breaking and dissipating the links of this chain by forming new associations, must necessarily weaken and disorder the recollective faculty.

Ver. 67. Would all butJloop towhat they under/land.] The expression is delicate, and implies what is very true, that most men think it a degradation of their genius to employ it in cultivating what lies level to their comprehension, but had rather exercise their talents in the ambition of subduing what is placed above it.

'Unerring Nature, still divinely bright, 70

One clear, unchang'd, and universal light,
Life, force, and beauty, must to all impart,

At once the source, and end, and test of Art.

Art from that fund each just supply provides;

Works without show, and without pomp presides:


Nature in the most agreeable manner. 3. Because Nature is the test of Art, as she is unerring, constant, and still the fame. Hence the poet observes, that as Nature is thesource, she conveys life to Art: As she is the end, {he conveys force to it, for the force of any thing arises from its being directed to its end: And, as she is the test, she conveys beauty to it, for every thing acquires beauty by its being reduced to its true standard. Such is the fense of those two important lines,

Life, force, and beauty must to all impart,
At once the source, and end, and test of Art.

We come next to the necessity of the Precept. The two great constituent qualities of a Composition, as such, are Art and Wit: But neither of these attains perfection, 'till the first he hid, and the other judiciously retrained; this only happens when Nature'?* exactly followed ; for then Art never makes a parade, ncr can Wit commit an extravagance. Art, while it adheres to Nature, and has so large nfund in the resources which Nature supplies, disposes every thing with so much ease and simplicity, that we fee nothing but those natural images it' works with, while itself stands unobserv'd behind: But when Art leaves Nature, milled either by the bold sallies of Fancy, or the quaint odnesses of Fashion, she is then obliged at every step to come forward, in a painful or pompous ostentation, in order to cover, to soften, or to regulate the shocking disproportion of unnatural images. In the first case, the poet compares Art to the Soul within, informing a beauteous Body; but, in the last, it is rather like an outward habit, fitted onjy to hide the defects of a mis-shapen one. — As to Wit, it might perhaps be iina

« ZurückWeiter »