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Much was believ'd, but little understood,
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 chac'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, Who durst assert the juster ancient cause, And here restor'd wit's fundamental laws. Such was the Muse, whose rules and practice tell "Nature's chief masterpiece is writing well." Such was Roscommon, not more learn'd than good, With manners generous as his noble blood; To him the wit of Greece and Rome was known, And every author's merit but his own.
Such late was Walsh-the Muse's judge and friend,
Not free from faults, nor yet too vain to mend.
OF THE KNOWLEDGE AND CHARACTERS
To Sir Richard Temple, Lord Cobham.
1. That it is not sufficient for this knowledge to consider Man in the abstract; books will not serve the purpose, nor yet our own experience singly. General maxims, unless they be formed upon both, will be but notional. Some peculiarity in every man, characteristic to himself, yet varying from himself. Difficulties arising from our own passions, fancies, faculties, &c. The shortness of life to observe in, and the uncertainty of the principles of action in men to observe by. Our own principle of action often hid from ourselves. Some few characters plain, but in general confounded, dissembled, or inconsistent. The same man utterly different in different places and seasons. Unimaginable weaknesses in the greatest. Nothing constant and certain but God and Nature. No judging of the motives from the actions; the same actions proceeding from contrary motives, and the same motive influencing contrary actions.-II. Yet, to form characters, we can only take the strongest actions of a man's life, and try to make them agree; the utter uncertainty of this, from Nature itself, and from policy. Characters given accord. ing to the rank of men of the world: and some reason for it. Education alters the nature, or at least character, of many. Actions, passions, opinions, manners, humours, or principles, all subject to change. No judging by Nature. III. It only remains to find (if we can) his ruling passion that will certainly influence all the rest, and can reconcile the seeming or real inconsistency of all his actions. Instanced in the extraordinary character of Clodio. A caution against mistaking second qualities for first, which will destroy all possibility of the knowledge of mankind. Examples of the strength of the raling passion, and its continuation to the last breath.
YES, you despise the man to books confin'd,
Who from his study rails at human kind; Though what he learns he speaks, and may advance Some general maxims, or be right by chance.
The coxcomb bird, so talkative and grave,
That from his cage cries Cuckold, Whore and Knave,
Though many a passenger he rightly call,
And yet the fate of all extremes is such,
Maxims are drawn from notions, these from guess.
Our depths who fathoms, or who shallows finds,
Like following life through creatures you dissect, You lose it in the moment you detect.
Yet more; the difference is as great between
The optics seeing as the objects seen.
All manners take a tincture from our own,
Or come discolour'd through our passions shown; Or Fancy's beam enlarges, multiplies,
Contracts, inverts, and gives ten thousand dyes.*
Nor will life's stream for observation stay,
It hurries all too fast to mark their way :
In vain sedate reflections we would make,
When half our knowledge we must snatch, not take.
Our spring of action to ourselves is lost :
When sense subsides, and fancy sports in sleep,*
(Though past the recollection of the thought)
Becomes the stuff of which our dream is wrought:
Is thus, perhaps, the cause of most we do.
All see 'tis vice, and itch of vulgar praise.
Tho' strong the bent, yet quick the turns of mind:
See the same man in vigour, in the gout,
Thinks who endures a knave, is next a knave,
Who would not praise Patricio's high desert,