Page images

But when t'examine ev'ry part he came,
Nature and Homer were, he found, the fame.
Convinc'd, amaz'd, he checks the bold design:
And rules as ftrict his labour'd work confine,
As if the Stagirite o'erlooked each line.
Learn hence for ancient rules a just esteem;
Το copy nature is to copy them.

Some beauties yet no Precepts can declare,
For there's a happiness as well as care.
Music resembles Poetry, in each


Are nameless graces which no methods teach,
And which a master-hand alone can reach. 145
If, where the rules not far enough extend,
(Since rules were made but to promote their end)


VER. 141. Some beauties yet no Precepts can declare, etc.] Our Author, in these two general precepts for ftudying Nature and her Commentators, having confidered Poetry as it is, or may be reduced to Rule; left this fhould be miftaken as fufficient to attain PERFECTION either in writing or judging, he proceeds [from 140 to 201.] to point up to thofe fublimer beauties which Rules will never reach, that is, enable us either to execute or tafte: and which rife fo high above all precept as not even to be defcribed by it; but being entirely the gift of Heaven, Art and Reason have no further share in their production than just to moderate their operations. Thefe Sublimities of Poetry, like the Mysteries of Religion (fome of which are above Reafon, and fome contrary to it) may be divided into two forts, fuch as are above Rules, and fuch as are contrary to them. : VER. 146. If where the rules, etc.] The first fort our author

[ocr errors]

Some lucky Licence answer to the full
Th'intent propos'd, that Licence is a rule.
Thus Pegasus, a nearer way to take,

May boldly deviate from the common track ;



describes [from 145 to 158.] and fhews, that where a great beauty is in the Poet's view which no ftated Rules will direct him how to reach, there, as the purpose of rules is only to promote an end like this, a lucky Licence will fupply the want of them: nor can the Critic fairly object to it, fince this Licence, for the reafon given above, has the proper force and authority of a Rule.


VER. 146. If, where the rules, etc.] " Neque enim rogationibus plebifve fcitis fancta funt ifta præcepta, fed hoc, quicquid "eft, Utilitas excogitavit. Non negabo autem fic utile effe ple<< rumque; verum fi eadem illa nobis aliud fuadebit Utilitas,hanc, "relictis magiftrorum autoritatibus, fequemur. Quintil. lib. ii. cap. 13. P.

VER. 150. Thus Pegafus, etc.] We have obferved how the precepts for writing and judging are interwoven throughout the whole work. He first describes the fublime flight of a Poet, foaring above all vulgar bounds, to fnatch a grace directly, which lies beyond the reach of a common adventurer. And afterwards, the effect of that grace upon the true Critic: whom it penetrates with an equal rapidity; going the nearest way to his heart, without paffing through his Judgment. By which is not meant that it could not ftand the test of Judgment; but that, as it was a beauty uncommon, and above rule, and the Judgment habituated to determine only by rule, it makes its direct application to the heart; which once gained, foon opens and enlarges the Judgment, whofe concurrence (it being now fet above forms) is eafily procured. That this is the poet's sublime conception appears from the concluding words:

and all its end at once attains. For Poetry doth not attain all its end, till it hath gained the Judgment as well as Heart.

[ocr errors]

From vulgar bounds with brave disorder part, And fnatch a grace beyond the reach of art, Which without paffing thro' the judgment, gains The heart, and all its end at once attains.


In profpects thus, some 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. 160
But tho' the Ancients thus their rules invade,
(AsKings difpenfe with laws themselves have made)
Moderns, beware! or if you must offend
Against the precept, ne'er tranfgrefs its End;
Let it be seldom, and compell'd by need;
And have, at least, their precedent to plead.



VER. 159. Great Wits fometimes may gloriously offend, etc.] He describes next the fecond fort, the beauties against rule. And even here, as he obferves [from 158 to 169] the offenfe is fo glorious, and the fault fo fublime, that the true Critic will not dare either to cenfure or reform them. Yet ftill the Poet is never to abandon himself to his Imagination: the rules our author lays down for his conduct in this refpect, are these : 1. That though he tranfgrefs the letter of fome one particular precept, yet that he still adhere to the end or spirit of them all; which end is the creation of one uniform perfect Whole. And 2. That he have, in each instance, the authority of the difpenf ing power of the Ancients to plead for him. Thefe rules obferved, this licence will be feldom used, and only when he is compelled by need: which will difarm the Critic, and screen the tranfgreffor from his laws.

The Critic elfe proceeds without remorse,
Seizes your fame, and puts his laws in force.

I know there are,to whose presumptuous thoughts
Those freer beauties, ev'n in them, feem faults. 170
Some figures monftrous and mis-fhap'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
His pow'rs in equal ranks, and fair array,



VER. 169. Iknow there are, etc.] But as fome modern Critics have had the presumption to say, that this laft rule is only juftifying one fault by another, our author goes on [from 168 to 181] to vindicate the Ancients; and to fhew that this cenfure proceeds from rank Ignorance. As where their partial Judgment cannot fee that this licence is fometimes neceffary for the fymmetry and proportion of a perfect whole, from the point, and in the light wherein it must be viewed: or, where their hafty Judgment will not give them time to obferve, that a deviation from rule is for the fake of attaining fome great and admirable purpose. These observations are further useful, as they tend to give modern Critics an humbler opinion of their own abilities, and an higher of the Authors they undertake to criticize. On which account he concludes with a fine reproof of that common proverb perpetually in the mouths of Critics, quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus; misunderstanding the fenfe of Horace, and taking quandoque for aliquando:

Thofe oft are ftratagems which errors feem,
Nor is it Homer nods, but we that dream.


VER. 175. A prudent chief, etc.] Olov To worσy of Ogáve

But with th' occafion and the place comply,
Conceal his force, nay seem sometimes to fly.
Those oft are ftratagems which errors feem,
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.


VER. 181. Still green with bays, etc.] But now fired with the name of Homer, and tranfported with the contemplation of those beauties which a cold Critic can neither fee nor conceive, the Poet [from 180 to 201.] breaks into a rapturous exclamation on the rare felicity of those few Ancients who have risen superior over time and accidents: And, as it were difdaining any longer to reafon with his Critics, offers this to them as the furest confutation of their cenfures. Then with the humility of a fupplicant at the shrine of Immortals, and the Sublimity of a Poet participating of their fire, he turns again to these ancient worthies, and apoftrophifes their Manes :

Hail, Bards triumphant! etc.


μοι ςραληλάται καὶ τὰς τάξεις τῶν seαλευμάτων Dion. Hal. De ftruct. orat.

VER. 180. Nor is it Homer nods, but we that dream.] "Mo"defte, et circumfpecto judicio de tantis viris pronunciandum "eft, ne (quod plerifque accidit) damnent quod non intelligunt. "Ac fi neceffe eft in alteram errare partem, omnia eorum le"gentibus placere, quam multa difplicere maluerim. Quint. P. VER. 18. Secure from flames, from envy's fiercer rage,

Destructive war, and all-involving age.] The Poet here alludes to the four great caufes of the ravage amongst ancient VOL. I. L

« PreviousContinue »