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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 ille,
As half-form’d insects on the banks of Nile; 41
Unfinish'd things, one knows not what to call,
Their generation's so equivocal:

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COMMENTARY. 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 taste are innumerable; and These are his proper concern: He therefore, from x 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 tolly, 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.

Note s. Ver. 43. Their generation's so equivocal :] It is sufficient that a principle of philofophy has been generally received, whether it be true or false, to justify a poet's use of it to let off 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 tarnith the truth he would recommend. Bisnes the analogy between natural and moral truth makes the principles of true Philosophy the fittest for his use. Our Poet has been careful in obferving this rule.

Vol. I.

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.

MMENTARY.

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 Ý 47 to 68. is, that he who sets up for a Critic should previously examine his own strength, and see how far he is qualified for the exercise of his profesion. 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

MEET. 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 sense 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.

Notes. Ver. 51. And mark that point where fense and dulness meet.] Befides the peculiar sense explained above in the comment, the words have ftill a more general meaning, and caution us against going on, when our Ideas begin to grow obscure: as we are Notes. apt to do, tho' that obfcurity 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 foul while memory prevails, :

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; 55 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. One science only will one genius fit; 60 So vast is art, so narrow human wit:

precept, iudience. Thene genius 2

che premises lequence hexcell in

COMMENTARY. 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.

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 strong and tenacious memory, seems to be a want of the proper exercise and activity of that power; the understanding being rather passive while the memory is cultivating. As to the other ap

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In search of wit these lose their common sense,
And then turn Critics in their own defence:
Each burns alike, who can, or cannot write, 30
Or with a Rival's, or an Eunuch's spite.
All fools have still an itching to deride,
And fain would be upon the laughing fide.
If Mævius scribble in Apollo's spight,
There are, who judge still worse than he can write.

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

xature fr

i those

Abe true

Notes. VER. 28. In search of wit these lose their common sense,] This observation is extremely just. Search of wit is not only the oco 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 sentiment 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. ..

vil ten

tu Phi

careful in COMMENTARY. 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 amongit 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 taste are innumerable; and These are his proper concern: He therefore, from 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 Witiings, 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.

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 ille,
As half-form'd insects on the banks of Nile; 41
Unfinish'd things, one knows not what to call,
Their generation's so equivocal:

NOTE S. Ver. 43. Their generation's so equivocal :] It is sufficient that a principle of philofophy has been generally received, whether it be true or false, to justify a poet's use of it to let off 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. Botides the analogy between natural and moral truth makes the principles of true Philosophy the fitteft for his use. Our Poet has been careful in observing this rule.

VOL. I.

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