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ESSAY ON CRITICISM.
Nature, like Liberty, is but restrain'd
By the fame laws which first herfelf 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 fhe show'd,
And pointed out thofe 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 mistress, 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,
Prescribe, 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.
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 display,
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, fcope 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 peruse;
And let your comment be the Mantuan Mufe.
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 verse 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 cuftoms, modern rules confin'd;
Who for all ages writ, and all mankind.
Ver. 126. Thence form your judgment, thence your notions bring..
When firft young Maro, in his boundless mind 139 A work t' outlast immortal Rome design'd,
Perhaps he seem'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 just 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 Pegasus, a nearer way to take,
May boldly deviate from the common track;
When first young Maro sung of Kings and Wars
Ere warning Phoebus touch'd his trembling ears.
Ver. 130. Ed. 1. When first 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.
From vulgar bounds with brave disorder part,
And snatch a grace beyond the reach of art,
Which, without paffing through the judgment, gains
The heart, and all its end at once attains.
In profpects thus, fome objects please our eyes,
Which out of nature's common order rise,
The shapeless rock, or hanging precipice.
Great Wits fometimes may gloriously offend,
And rife to faults true Critics dare not mend.
But though the Ancients thus their rules invade
(As Kings dispense with laws themselves have made);
Moderns, beware! or, if you must offend
Against the precept, ne'er tranfgrefs its end;
Let it be feldom, and compell'd by need:
And have, at leaft, their precedent to plead.
The Critic elfe proceeds without remorse,
Seizes your fame, and puts his laws in force.
I know there are, to whose prefumptuous thoughts
Thofe freer beauties, ev'n in them, feem faults.
Some figures monstrous and mis-shap'd appear,
Confider'd fingly, or beheld too near,
Which, but proportion'd to their light, or place,
Due distance reconciles to form and grace.
A prudent chief not always must display
powers in equal ranks, and fair array,
After ver. 158. the first edition reads,
But care in poetry muft ftill be had,
It afks difcretion ev'n in running mad;
And though the ancients, &c.
what are now ver. 159, 160, followed ver. 151.
But with th' occafion and the place comply,
Conceal his force, nay sometimes feem to fly.
Those oft are stratagems which errors seem,
Nor is it Homer nods, but we that dream.
Still green with bays each ancient Altar stands,
Above the reach of facrilegious hands;
Secure from Flames, from Envy's fiercer rage,
Destructive War, and all-involving Age.
See from each clime the learn'd their incenfe bring!
Hear, in all tongues confenting Pæans ring!
In praise so just let every voice be join'd,
And fill the general chorus of mankind.
Hail, Bards triumphant! born in happier days;
Immortal heirs of univerfal praise !
Whofe honours with increase of ages grow,
As ftreams roll down, enlarging as they flow;
Nations unborn your mighty names fhall found,
And worlds applaud that must not yet be found!
O may some spark of your celestial fire,
The laft, the meanest of your fons infpire,
(That, on weak wings, from far pursues your flights;
Glows while he reads, but trembles as he writes)
To teach vain wits a fcience little known,
T'admire fuperior fenfe, and doubt their own:
Oft hide his force, nay feem fometimes to fly.
Ver. 184, Ed. 1. Destructive war, and all-devouring Age.
Ver. 186. Ed. 1.
Hear, in all tongues applauding Pæans ring!
Ver. 197. Ed. 1. That with weak wings, &c.