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Our critics take a contrary extreme,
They judge with fury, but they write with phlegm:
Thee, bold Longinus! all the Nine inspire,
Thus long succeeding critics justly reign'd, License repress'd, and useful laws ordain'd: Learning and Rome alike in empire grew, And arts still follow'd where her eagles flew; From the same foes at last both felt their doom, And the same age saw learning fall and Rome. With tyranny then superstition join'd, As that the body, this enslav'd the mind; Much was believ'd, but little understood, And to be dull was construed to be good:
A second deluge learning thus o'errun:
At length Erasmus, that great injur'd name, (The glory of the priesthood and the shame!) Stemm'd the wild torrent of a barbarous age, And drove those holy Vandals off the stage.
But see! each Muse in Leo's golden days Starts from her trance, and trims her wither'd bays: Rome's ancient genius, o'er its ruins spread, Shakes off the dust, and rears his reverend head. Then sculpture and her sister arts revive; Stones leap'd to form, and rocks began to live; With sweeter notes each rising temple rung ; A Raphael painted, and a Vida sung: Immortal Vida! on whose honour'd brow The poet's bays and critic's ivy grow: Cremona now shall ever boast thy name, As next in place to Mantua, next in fame!
But soon by impious arms from Latium chas'd, Their ancient bounds the banish'd Muses pass'd; Thence arts o'er all the northern world advance, But critic learning flourish'd most in France; The rules a nation born to serve obeys, And Boileau still in right of Horace sways. But we, brave Britons, foreign laws despis'd, And kept unconquer'd and unciviliz'd; Fierce for the liberties of wit, and bold, We still defied the Romans, as of old. Yet some there were, among the sounder few Of those who less presum'd and better knew,
THE POEMS OF POPE.
Who durst assert the juster ancient cause,
Such late was Walsh1-the Muse's judge and
Who justly knew to blame or to commend;
Not free from faults, nor yet too vain to mend.
Pope's early patron: see Meoir prefixed to these volumes, p. xix.