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Some neither can for Wits nor Critics pafs,
As heavy mules are neither horfe nor afs.
Thofe half-learn'd witlings, numerous in our ifle,
As half-form'd infects on the banks of Nile;
Unfinish'd things, one knows not what to call,
Their generation's fo equivocal:
To tell them, would a hundred tongues require,
Or one vain wit's, that might a hundred tire.
But you, who feck to give and merit fame,
And justly bear a Critic's noble name,
Be fure yourself and your own reach to know,
How far your genius, tafte, and learning, go;
Launch not beyond your depth, but be difcreet,
And mark that point where fenfe and dulness meet.
Nature to all things fix'd the limits fit,
And wifely curb'd proud man's pretending wit,
As on the land while here the ocean gains,
In other parts it leaves wide fandy plains;
Thus in the foul while memory prevails,
The folid power of understanding fails;
Where beams of warm imagination play,
The memory's foft figures melt away.
One fcience only will one genius fit;
So vaft is art, fo narrow human wit:
Not only bounded to peculiar arts,
But oft' in thofe confin'd to fingle parts.
Like Kings, we lofe the conquefts gain'd before,
By vain ambition still to make them more:
Ver. 63. Ed. 1. But ev'n in thofe, &c.
Each might his feveral province well command,
Would all but ftoop to what they understand.
Firft follow Nature, and your judgment frame
By her juft standard, which is ftill the fame :
Unerring NATURE, ftill divinely bright,
One clear, unchang'd, and univerfal light,
Life, force, and beauty, must to all impart,
At once the fource, and end, and test of Art.
Art from that fund each just supply provides;
Works without fhow, and without pomp prefides: 75
In fome fair body thus th' informing foul
With fpirits feeds, with vigour fills the whole,
Each motion guides, and every nerve sustains;
Itfelf unfeen, but in th' effects remains.
Some, to whom Heaven in wit has been profufe,
Want as much more, to turn it to its use;
For wit and judgment often are at strife,
Though meant each other's aid, like man and wife.
'Tis more to guide, than spur the Muse's steed;
Reftrain his fury, than provoke his speed:
The winged courfer, like a generous horse,
Shows most true mettle when you check his course.
Thofe RULES of old difcover'd, not devis'd,
Are Nature still, but Nature methodis'd:
That art is beft, which moft refembles her;
Which ftill prefides, yet never does appear.
There are whom Heaven has bleft with ftore of wit, Yet want as much again to manage it.
Nature, like Liberty, is but restrain'd
By the fame laws which first herself ordain'd.
Hear how learn'd Greece her useful rules indites,
When to reprefs, and when indulge our flights;
High on Parnaffus' top her fons she show'd,
And pointed out those arduous paths they trod :
Held from afar, aloft, th' immortal prize,
And urg'd the reft by equal steps to rife.
Juft precepts thus from great examples given,
She drew from them what they deriv'd from Heaven.
The generous Critic fann'd the Poet's fire,
And taught the world with reafon to admire.
Then Criticism the Mufe's handmaid prov'd,
To drefs her charms, and make her more belov'd':
But following wits from that intention stray'd,
Who could not win the miftrefs, woo'd the maid; 105
Against the poets their own arms they turn'd,
Sure to hate moft the men from whom they learn'd.
So modern 'Pothecaries, taught the art
By Doctors bills to play the Doctor's part,
Bold in the practice of mistaken rules,
Prefcribe, apply, and call their masters fools.
Some on the leaves of ancient authors prey,
Nor time nor moths e'er spoil'd fo much as they :
Ver. 90. Ed. 1. Nature, like Monarchy, &c.
Ver. 92. First learned Greece juft precepts did indite,
When to reprefs and when indulge our flight.
Ver. 97. From great examples useful rules were given.
After ver. 104. this line is omitted,
Set up themselves, and drove a feparate trade.
Some drily plain, without invention's aid,
Write dull receipts how poems may be made.
These leave the fenfe, their learning to difplay,
And thofe explain the meaning quite away.
You then whofe judgment the right course would steer, Know well each ANCIENT's proper character: His Fable, Subject, scope in every page; Religion, Country, genius of his Age: Without all these at once before your eyes, Cavil you may, but never criticize. Be Homer's works your study and delight, Read them by day, and meditate by night; Thence form your judgment, thence your maxims bring, And trace the Muses upward to their spring. Still with itself compar'd, his text perufe ;
And let your comment be the Mantuan Muse.
Ver. 116. Ed. 1. Thefe loft, &c.
Ver. 117. And these explain'd, &c.
Ver. 123. Ed. 1. You may confound, but, &c.
Ver. 123. Cavil you may, but never criticize.] The Author after this verfe originally inferted the following,, which he has however omitted in all the editions:
Zoilus, had these been known, without a Name
Had dy'd, and Perault ne'er been damn'd to fame;
The fenfe of found antiquity had reign'd,
And facred Homer yet been unprophan'd.
None e'er had thought his comprehenfive mind
To modern customs, modern rules confin'd;
Who for all ages writ, and all mankind.
Ver. 126. Thence form your judgment, thence your notions bring.
When first young Maro, in his boundless mind 130 A work t' outlast immortal Rome defign'd,
Perhaps he feem'd above the Critic's law,
And but from Nature's fountains fcorn'd to draw:
But when t'examine every part he came,
Nature and Homer were, he found, the fame.
Convinc'd, amaz'd, he checks the bold defign;
And rules as ftrict his labour'd work confine,
As if the Stagirite o'erlook'd each line.
Learn hence for ancient rules a juft esteem;
To copy nature, is to copy them.
Some beauties yet no precepts can declare,
For there's a happiness as well as care.
Mufic resembles Poetry, in each
Are nameless graces which no methods' teach,
And which a mafter-hand alone can reach.
If, where the rules not far enough extend,
(Since rules were made but to promote their end)
Some lucky License answer to the full
Th' intent propos'd, that Licenfe is a rule.
Thus Pegafus, a nearer way to take,
May boldly deviate from the common track;
When firft young Maro fung of Kings and Wars
Ere warning Phoebus touch'd his trembling ears.
Ver. 130. Ed. 1. When firft great Maro, &c.
Convinc'd, amaz'd, he check'd the bold defign;
And did his work to rules as ftrict confine.
Ver. 145. Ed. 1. And which a mafter's hand, &c.