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Nature, like Liberty, is but reftrain'd
left this fhould be thought to draw the Critic from the foundation where he had before fixed him, he previoufly 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 seem 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,
These 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 propofed requires. But having, in the previous obfervation, fufficiently explained the nature of ancient Criticism, he enters on the fubject [treated of from 91 to 118] with a fublime defcription of its End; which was to
VER. 88. Thofe Rules of old, etc.] Cicero has, beft 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, "et ratione quadam conftringeret." De Orat. l. i. c. 41, 2.
High on Parnaffus' top her fons fhe show'd,
And urg'd the reft by equal steps to rise.
illuftrate the beauties of the best Writers, in order to excite others to an emulation of their excellence. From the rapture which these Ideas infpire, the poet is naturally brought back to reflect on the degeneracy of modern Criticifm: And as the reftoring the Art to its original integrity and fplendor is the great purpose of his poem, he firft takes notice of thofe, who seem not to understand that Nature is exhaustless, that new models of good writing may be produced in every age, and confequently new rules may be formed from these models in the fame manner as the old Critics formed theirs, from the writings of the ancient Poets: but men wanting art and ability to form these new rules, were content to receive, and file up for use, the old ones of Ariftotle, Quintilian, Longinus, Horace, etc. with the fame vanity and boldnefs that Apothecaries practife with their Doctors bills: And then rafhly applying them to new Originals (cafes which they did not hit) it was no more in their power than their inclination to imitate the candid practice of the Ancients, when
The gen'rous Critic fann'd the Poet's fire,
VER. 98. Just precepts] "Nec enim artibus editis factum "eft ut argumenta inveniremus, fed dicta funt omnia antequami præciperentur; mox ea fcriptores obfervata et collecta edi"derunt. Quintil. P.
Then Criticism the Mufes handmaid prov'd, To drefs her charms, and make her more belov'd: But following wits from that intention ftray'd, Who could not win the mistress, woo'd the maid 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 Doctor's bills to play the Doctor's part,
For, as Ignorance, when joined with Humility produces ftupid admiration, on which account it is fo commonly observed to be the mother of Devotion and blind homage; fo when joined with Vanity (as it always is in bad Critics) it gives birth to every iniquity of impudent abuse and flander. See an example (for want of a better) in a late worthlefs and now forgotten thing, called the Life of Socrates. Where the head of the Author (as a man of wit obferved, on reading the book) has just made a fhift to do the office of a Camera obfcura, and reprefent things in an inverted order; himself above, and Sprat, Rollin, Voltaire, and every other of reputation, below.
VER. 112. Some on the leaves-Some drily plain.] The first, the Apes of thofe Italian Critics, who at the reftoration of letters
These leave the fenfe, their learning to display, And thofe explain the meaning quite away.
You then whofe judgment the right courfe would fteer,
Know well each ANCIENT's proper character;
VER. 118. You then whofe judgment, etc.] He comes next to the ancient Poets, the other and more intimate commentators of Nature. And fhews [from 117 to 141.] that the study of These must indifpenfably follow that of the ancient Critics, as they furnish us with what the Critics, who only give us general rules, cannot fupply: while the ftudy of a great original Poet in
His Fable, Subject, fcope in ev'ry page;
will help us to those particular rules, which only can conduct us
having found the claffic writers miferably mangled by the hands of monkish Librarians, very commendably employed their pains and talents in reftoring them to their native purity. The fecond, the plagiaries from the French, who had made fome admirable Commentaries on the ancient critics. But that acumen and tafte, which separately conftitute the diftinct value of thofe two fpecies of foreign Criticism, make no part of the character of these paltry mimics at home, defcribed by our Poet in the following lines,
These leave the sense, their learning to display,
Which species is the least hurtful, the Poet has enabled us to determine in the lines with which he opens his poem,
But of the two lefs dang'rous is th' offence
From whence we conclude, that the reverend Mr. Upton was much more innocently employed, when he quibbled upon Epictetus, than when he commented upon Shakespear.
His Fable, Subject, fcope in ev'ry page; 120
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
fafely through every confiderable work we undertake to examine; and, without which, we may cavil indeed, as the poet truly obferves, but can never criticize. We might as well fuppofe that Vitruvius's book alone would make a perfect Judge of Architecture, without the knowledge of fome great master-piece of science, fuch as the Rotonda at Rome, or the Temple of Minerva at Athens; as that Ariftotle's fhould make a perfect Judge of wit, without the ftudy of Homer and Virgil. These therefore he principally recommends to complete the Critic in his Art. But as the latter of thefe Poets has, by fuperficial judges, been confidered rather as a copyer of Homer, than an original, our Author obviates that common error, and fhews it to have arifen (as often error does) from a truth, viz. that Homer and Nature were the fame; and how that the ambitious young Poet, though he fcorned to stoop at any thing short of Nature, when he came to understand this great truth, had the prudence to contemplate Nature in the place where fhe was feen to moft advantage, collected in all her charms in the clear mirror of Ho