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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 pow'r of understanding fails; Where beams of warm imagination play, The memory's foft figures melt away. One science only will one genius fit; So vaft is art, fo narrow human wit:

COMMENTARY.

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From this ftate and ordination of the mental faculties, and the influence and effects they have one on another, our Poet draws this CONSEQUENCE, that no one genius can excell in more than one Art or Science. The confequence fhews the neceffity of the precept, juft as the premifes, from which the confequence is drawn, fhew the reasonableness of it.

NOTES.

apt to do, tho' that obfcurity is a monition that we should leave off; for it arifes either thro' our fmall acquaintance with the subject, or the incomprehenfibility of its nature. In which circumstances a genius will always write as heavily as a dunce. An observation well worth the attention of all profound writers. VER. 56. Thus in the foul while memory prevails,

The folid pow'r of understanding fails:

Where beams of warm imagination play,

The memory's foft figures melt away.]

These obfervations are collected from an intimate knowledge of human nature. The caufe of that languor and heaviness in the understanding, which is almoft infeparable from a very strong and tenacious memory, feems to be a want of the proper exercife and activity of that power; the understanding being rather paffive while the memory is cultivating. As to the other ap

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: Each might his fev'ral province well command, Would all but stoop to what they understand.

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First follow Nature, and your judgment frame By her just standard, which is ftill the fame:

COMMENTARY.

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VER. 68. Fir follow Nature, etc.] The Critic obferving the directions here given, and finding himself qualified for his office, is fhewn next how to exercise it. And as he was to attend to Nature for a Call, fo he is firft and principally to follow her when called. And here again in this, as in the foregoing precept, the poet [from 67 to 88.] fhews both the fitness and the neceffity of it. It's fitnefs, 1. Becaufe Nature is the fource of poetic Art; that Art being only a reprefentation of Nature, who is its great exemplar and original. 2. Becaufe Nature is the end of Art; the design of poetry being to convey the knowledge of

NOTES.

pearance, the decay of memory by the vigorous exercise of Fancy, the poet himself feems to have intimated the cause of it in the epithet he has given to the Imagination. For if, according to the Atomic Philofophy, the memory of things be preserved in a chain of ideas, produced by the animal fpirits moving in continued trains; the force and rapidity of the Imagination perpetually breaking and diffipating the links of this chain by forming new affociations, muft neceffarily weaken and disorder the recollective faculty.

VER. 67. Would all but stoop to what they understand.] The expreffion is delicate, and implies what is very true, that moft men think it a degradation of their genius to employ it in cultivating what lies level to their comprehenfion, but had rather exercife their talents in the ambition of fubduing what is placed above it.

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Unerring NATURE, ftill divinely bright,
One clear, unchang'd, and universal light,
Life, force, and beauty, muft to all impart,
At once the fource, and end, and teft of Art.
Art from that fund each juft fupply provides;
Works without fhow, and without pomp prefides:

COMMENTARY.

Nature in the most agreeable manner. 3. Because Nature is the test of Art, as fhe is unerring, conftant, and ftill the fame. Hence the poet obferves, that as Nature is the fource, fhe conveys life to Art: As fhe is the end, the conveys force to it, for the force of any thing arifes from its being directed to its end: And, as fhe is the teft, fhe conveys beauty to it, for every thing acquires beauty by its being reduced to its true ftandard. Such is the fenfe of thofe two important lines,

Life, force, and beauty must to all impart,

At once the fource, and end, and test of Art.

We come next to the neceffity of the Precept. The two great constituent qualities of a Compofition, as fuch, are Art and Wit: But neither of thefe attains perfection, 'till the first be hid, and the other judicioufly restrained; this only happens when Nature is exactly followed; for then Art never makes a parade, nor can Wit commit an extravagance. Art, while it adheres to Nature, and has fo large a fund in the resources which Nature supplies, disposes every thing with fo much ease and fimplicity, that we fee nothing but thofe natural images it works with, while itself stands unobserv'd behind: But when Art leaves Nature, misfled either by the bold fallies of Fancy, or the quaint odneffes of Fashion, the is then obliged at every ftep to come forward, in a painful or pompous oftentation, in order to cover, to soften, or to regulate the fhocking difproportion of unnatural images. In the first cafe, the poet compares Art to the Soul within, informing a beauteous Body; but, in the last, it is rather like an outward habit, fitted only to hide the defects of a mis-fhapen one. As to Wit, it might perhaps be ima

In fome fair body thus th' informing foul
With fpirits feeds, with vigour fills the whole,
Each motion guides, and ev'ry nerve fuftains;
Itself unseen, but in th' effects remains.

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Want as much more, to turn it to its ufe;

Some, to whom Heav'n in wit has been profufe,

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For wit and judgment often are at ftrife,

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Tho' meant each other's aid, like man and wife,
'Tis more to guide, than fpur the Mufe's steed;
Restrain his fury, than provoke his speed;
The winged courfer, like a gen'rous horse,
Shows most true mettle when you check his course.
Thofe RULES of old difcover'd, not devis'd,

Are Nature ftill, but Nature methodiz'd;

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There are whom Heav'n has bleft with ftore of wit,
Yet want as much again to manage it.

COMMENTARY.

gined that this needed only Judgment to govern it: But, as he well obferves,

Wit and Judgment often are at strife,

Tho' meant each other's aid, like Man and Wife. They want therefore fome friendly Mediator or Reconciler, which is Nature: And in attending to her, Judgment will learn where to comply with the charms of Wit, and Wit how to obey the fage directions of Judgment.

VER. 88. Thofe Rules of old, etc.] Having thus, in his firft precept, to follow Nature, fettled Criticifm on its true bottom; he proceeds to fhew what affiftance may be had from Art. But

Nature, like Liberty, is but restrain'd

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By the fame Laws which first herself ordain'd. Hear how learn'd Greece her ufeful rules indites, When to repress, and when indulge our flights:

COMMENTARY,

left this should be thought to draw the Critic from the foundation where he had before fixed him, he previously obferves [from

87 to 92] that these Rules of Art, which he is now about to recommend to his study, were not invented by the mind, but discovered in the book of Nature; and that, therefore, tho' they may feem to reftrain Nature by Laws, yet, as they are laws of her own making, the Critic is ftill properly in the very liberty of Nature. Thefe Rules the antient Critics borrowed from the Poets, who received them immediately from Nature, Juft Precepts thus from great Examples giv❜n,

Thefe drew from them what they deriv'd from Heav'n; and are both therefore to be well studied.

VER. 92, Hear how learn'd Greece, etc.] He fpeaks of the ancient Critics first, and with great judgment, as the previous knowledge of them is neceffary for reading the Poets, with that fruit which the intent here proposed requires. But having, in the previous obfervation, fufficiently explained the nature of ancient Criticifm, he enters on the fubject [treated of from 91 to 118] with a fublime description of its End; which was to

NOTES.

VER. 88. Those Rules of old, etc.] Cicero has, best of any one I know, explained what that is which reduces the wild and scattered parts of human knowledge into arts." Nihil eft quod " ad artem redigi poffit, nifi ille prius, qui illa tenet, quorum "artem inftituere vult, habeat illam fcientiam, ut ex iis rebus, • quarum ars nondum fit, artem efficere poffit.-Omnia fere, quæ funt conclufa nunc artibus, difperfa et diffipata quondam "fuerunt, ut in Muficis, etc. Adhibita eft igitur ars quædam "extrinfecus ex alio genere quodam, quod fibi totum PHILOSO"PHI affumunt, quæ rem diffolutam divulfamque conglutinaret,

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et ratione quadam conftringeret." De Orat. l. i. c. 41, 2.

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