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Thus Wit, like Faith, by each man is apply'd
Some ne'er advance a Judgment of their own, But catch the spreading notion of the Town j
Com M E N T A R Y.
Ver. 408. Some ne'er advance a Judgment es their own] A second instance of unlearned partiality, he shews [from } 407 to 424.] is mens going always along with the cry, as having no fixed or well grounded principle"* whereon to raise any judgment of their own. A third v, reverence for namn; of which fort, as he well observes, the worst and vilest arc the idolizers of names csquality j whom therefore he stigmatizes as they deserve. Our
No T H 8.
Ver. 402. Which from the fir/1, etc.] Genius is the fame in all ages} but its fruits arc various; and more or less excellent as they arc checked or matured by the influence of Government or Religion upon them. Hence in some parts of Literature the Ancients excel); in others, the Moderns j just as those accidents circumstances influenced them.
They reason and conclude by precedent, 410
And own stale nonsense which they ne'er invent.
Some judge of authors names, not works, and then
Nor praise nor blame the writings, but the men.
Of all this servile herd, the worst is he
That in proud dulness joins with Quality. 415
A constant Critic at the great man's board,
To fetch and carry nonsense for my Lord.
What woful stuff this madrigal would be,
In some starv'd hackney sonneteer, or me?
But let a Lord once own the happy lines, 420
How the wit brightens! how the style refines!
Before his sacred name flies ev'ry fault,
And each exalted stanza teems with thought!
The Vulgar thus through Imitation err; As oft the Learn'd by being singular; 425
author's temper as well as judgment is here very observable, in throwing this species of partiality amongst the unlearned Critics: His affection for letters would not suffer him to conceive, that any learned Critic could ever fall to so low a prostitution.
Ver. 424.— The Vulgar thus—As oft the Learn'd—'] II. He comes in the second place [from t 423 10452] to consider the Instances of partiality in the learned. 1. The first is Singularity. For as want of principles, in the unlearned, necessitates them to rest on the general judgment as always right: so adherence to false principles (that is, to notions of their own) misleads the learned into the other extreme, of supposing the general judgment always wrong. And as, before, the Poet compared those to Bigots, who made true faith to consist in believing after others; so he compares these to Schismatics, who make it to consist in believing as no one ever believed before. Which folly he marks with a lively stroke of humour in the turn of the thought:
So much they scorn the croud, that if the throng
So Schismatics the plain believers quit, And are but damn'd for having too much wit. 2. The second is Novelty. And as this proceeds sometimes from fondness, sometimes from vanity; he compares the one to the passion for a mijlress; and the other, to the pride of being in fashion: But the excuse common to both is, the daily improvement of their Judgment.
Ask them the cause, they're wiser still they say. Now as this is a plausible pretence for their inconstancy; and our author has himself afterwards laid down the like thought, in a precept for a remedy against obstinacy and pride, where he fays, J* 573.
But you with pleasure own your errors past, And make each day a Critique on the lajl, he ha's been careful, by the turn of the expression in this place, to mew the difference. YoxTin'e, considered only as duration, vitiates as frequently as it improves: Therefore to expect wisdom as the necessary attendant of length of years, unrelated to long experience, is vain and delusive. This he illustrates by a remarkable example; where we fee Time, instead of becoming wiser, destroying good letters, to substitute school divinity in their place —The genius of which kind of learning; the character 0! its professors; and' the fate, which, sooner or later, always at
Some praise at morning what they blame at night;
A Muse by these is like a mistress us'd,
tends whatsoever is wrong or false, the poet sums up in those four lines;
Faith, Gospel, all seem'd made to be disputed, etc. And in conclusion, he observes, that perhaps this mischief,from love of novelty, might not be so great, did it not, with the Critic, infect the Writer likewise; who, when he finds his readers disposed to take ready Wit on the standard of current Filly, never troubles himself to make better payment.
Ver. 444. Scotijls'] So denominated from Johannes Duns Scotus. He suffered a miserable reverse of fortune at Oxford