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In some fair body thus th' informing foul 7 6
For wit and judgment often are at strife,
The winged courser, like a gen'rous horse,
Those Rules of old discover'd, not devis'd, Arc Nature still, but Nature methodiz'd;
There are whom Heav'n has blest with store of wit,
gined that this needed only "judgment to govern it: But, as he
Wit and Judgment often are at strife,
Tho' meant each other's aid, like Man and Wife.
They want therefore some friendly Mediator or Reconciler,
which is Nature: And in attending to her, Judgment will
learn where to comply with the charms of Wit, and Wit how
to obey the sage directions of Judgment.
Ver. 88. Those Rules of old, etc.] Having thus, in his first
precept, to follow Nature, settled Criticism on its true bottom;
>e proceeds to shew what assistance may be had from Art, But
Nature, like Liberty, is but restrain'd 90
By the same Laws which first herself ordain'd.
Hear how learn'd Greece her useful rules indites, When to repress, and when indulge our flights:
lest this should be thought to draw the Critic from the foundation where he had before fixed him, he previously observes [from tf 87 to 92] that these Rules of Art, which he is now about to recommend to his study, were not invented by the mind, but discovered in the book of Nature; and. that, therefore, tho' they may seem to restrain Nature by Laws, yet, as they are laws of her own making, the Critic is still properly in the very liberty of Nature. These Rules the antient Critics borrowed from the Poets, who received them immediately from Nature, Just Precepts thus from great Examples giv'n, These drew from them what they deriv'd from Heav'n; and are both therefore to be well studied.
Ver. 92. Hear how learn'd Greece, etc.'] He speaks of the ancient Critics first, and with great judgment, as the previous knowledge of them is necessary for reading the Poets, with that fruit which the intent here proposed requires. But having, in the previous observation, sufficiently explained the nature of ancient Criticism, he enters on the subject [treated of from f 91 to 118 J with a sublime description of its End; which was to
Ver. 88. Those Rules of old, etc.] Cicero has, best of any one I know, explained what that is which reduces the wild and scattered parts of human knowledge into arts.—" Nihilestquod "ad artem redigi poslit, nisi ille prius, qui ilia tenet, quorum "artem instituere vult, habeat illam feientiam, ut ex iis rebus, "quarum ars nondum sit, artem efficere possit.—Omniafere, "quæ supt conclusa nunc artibus, disperse et diffipata quondam "fuerunt, ut in Musicis, etc. Adhibita est igitur ars quædam "extrinsecus ex aliogenere quodam, quod sibi totumPmLoso"Ph 1 assumunt, quæ rem dissolutam divulsamque conglutinaret, "etratione quadam constringeret." De Oral. I. i. c. 41, 2.
High on Parnassus' top her sons she show'd,
illustrate the beauties of the best Writers, in order to excite others to an emulation of their excellence. From the rapture which these Ideas inspire, the poet is naturally brought back to reflect on the degeneracy of modern Criticism: And as the restoring the Art to its original integrity and splendor is the great purpose of his poem, he first takes notice of those, who seem not to understand that Nature isexhaustless, that new models of good writing may be produced in every age, and consequently new rules may be formed from these models in the fame manner as the old Critics formed theirs, from the writings of the ancient Poets: but men wanting art and ability to form these new rules, were content to receive, and file up for use, the eld ones of Aristotle, Quintilian, Longinus, Horace, etc. with the same vanity and boldness that Apothecaries practise with their Doctors bills: And then rashly applying them to new Originals (cases which they did not hit) it was no more in their power than their inclination to imitate the candid practice of the An~ dents, when
7'hc'gen'rous Critic fann'd the Poet's sire,
Ver. g8, jfu/lprecepts] "Nee enim artibus editis factum est ut argumenta inveniremus,sed dicta sunt omnia antequam
"præciperentur; mox ea scriptores observata et collecta edi
"derum. gwntil. P.
Tlien Criticism the Muses handmaid prov'd,
Prescribe, apply, and call their masters fools.
For, as Ignorance, when joined with Humility produces stupid admiration, on which account it is so commonly observed to be the mother of Devotion and blind homage; so when joined with Vanity (as it always is in bad Critics) it gives birth to every iniquity of impudent abuse and slander. See an example (for want of a better) in a late worthless and now forgotten thing, called the Life of Socrates. Where the head of. the Author (as a man of wit observed, on reading the book) has just made a shift to do the office of a Camera obfcura, and represent things in an inverted order; himself above,znd. Sprat, Rollin, Voltaire4 and every other of reputation, below.
Notes. Ver. 112. Some on the leaves—Some drily plain.'] The first, the Apes of those Italian Critics, who at the restoration of letters Commentary.
Ver. Ii8. You then whose j udgment, etc.] He comes next to the ancient Poets, the other and more intimate commentators of Nature. And shews [from f 117 to 141.] that the study of These must indispensably follow that of the ancient Critics, as they furnish us with what the Critics, who only give us general rules, cannot supply: while the study of a great original Poet in
His Fable, Subject, scope in ev'ry page;
Religion, Country, genius of his Age; will help us to those particular rules, which only can conduct us
having found the clastic writers miserably mangled by the hands of monkilh Librarians, very commendably employed their pains and talents in restoring them to their native purity. The second, the plagiaries from the. French, who had made some admirable Commentaries on the ancient critics. But that acumen and tajle, which separately constitute the distinct value of those two species of foreign Criticism, make no part of the character of these paltry mimics at home, described by our Poet in the following lines,
These leave the fense, their learning to display, And those explain the meaning quite away. Which species is the least hurtful, the Poet has enabled us to determine in the lines with which he opens his poem, But of the two less dang'rous is th' offence To tire our patience than mislead our fense. From whence we conclude, that the reverend Mr. Upton was much more innocently employed,when he quibbled uponEpictctus, than when he commented upon Shakespear.