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We cannot blame indeed-but we may sleep.
In wit, as Nature, what affects our hearts
Is not th' exactness of peculiar parts;

'T is not a lip or eye we beauty call,

But the joint force and full result of all.
Thus when we view some well-proportioned dome
(The world's just wonder, and ev'n thine, O Rome!),
No single parts unequally surprise;

All comes united to th' admiring eyes;
No monstrous height or breadth or length appear;
The whole at once is bold and regular.

Some to conceit alone their taste confine,
And glitt'ring thoughts struck out at ev'ry line;
Pleased with a work where nothing's just or fit,
One glaring chaos and wild heap of wit.
Poets, like painters, thus unskilled to trace
The naked Nature and the living Grace,
With gold and jewels cover ev'ry part,
And hide with ornaments their want of art.
True wit is Nature to advantage dressed:
What oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed;
Something, whose truth convinced at sight we find,
That gives us back the image of our mind.
As shades more sweetly recommend the light,
So modest plainness sets off sprightly wit;
For works may have more wit than does 'em good,
As bodies perish through excess of blood.

Others for language all their care express,
And value books, as women men, for dress:
Their praise is still, “The style is excellent";
The sense they humbly take upon content.
Words are like leaves; and where they most abound,
Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found.
False eloquence, like the prismatic glass,
Its gaudy colours spreads on ev'ry place;
The face of Nature we no more survey—
All glares alike, without distinction gay:
But true expression, like th' unchanging sun,
Clears and improves whate'er it shines upon;
It gilds all objects, but it alters none.

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Expression is the dress of thought, and still
Appears more decent as more suitable:
A vile conceit in pompous words expressed
Is like a clown in regal purple dressed;
For diff'rent styles with diff'rent subjects sort,
As sev'ral garbs with country, town, and court.
Some by old words to fame have made pretence,
Ancients in phrase, mere moderns in their sense;
Such laboured nothings, in so strange a style,
Amazed th' unlearn'd, and make the learnèd smile:
Unlucky, as Fungoso in the play,

These sparks with awkward vanity display
What the fine gentleman wore yesterday,
And but so mimic ancient wits, at best,
As apes our grandsires, in their doublets dressed.
In words, as fashions, the same rule will hold:
Alike fantastic if too new or old;

Be not the first by whom the new are tried,
Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.

But most by numbers judge a poet's song,
And smooth or rough, with them, is right or wrong.

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In the bright Muse though thousand charms conspire, 190
Her voice is all these tuneful fools admire;
Who haunt Parnassus but to please their ear,
Not mend their minds, as some to church repair,
Not for the doctrine, but the music there.
These equal syllables alone require,
Though oft the ear the open vowels tire;
While expletives their feeble aid do join;
And ten low words oft creep in one dull line;
While they ring round the same unvaried chimes,
With sure returns of still expected rhymes:
Where'er you find "the cooling western breeze,"
In the next line it "whispers through the trees";
If crystal streams "with pleasing murmurs creep,"
The reader's threatened (not in vain) with "sleep":
Then, at the last and only couplet fraught

With some unmeaning thing they call a thought,
A needless Alexandrine ends the song,

That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along.
Leave such to tune their own dull rhymes; and know

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What's roundly smooth or languishingly slow,

And praise the easy vigour of a line
Where Denham's strength and Waller's sweetness join.
True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learned to dance.
'Tis not enough no harshness gives offence;
The sound must seem an echo to the sense:
Soft is the strain when zephyr gently blows,
And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows;
But when loud surges lash the sounding shore,
The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent roar;
When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw,
The line, too, labours, and the words move slow;
Not so when swift Camilla scours the plain,

Flies o'er th' unbending corn, and skims along the main.
Hear how Timotheus' varied lays surprise,

And bid alternate passions fall and rise,

While, at each change, the son of Libyan Jove
Now burns with glory, and then melts with love;
Now his fierce eyes with sparkling fury glow,
Now sighs steal out and tears begin to flow:
Persians and Greeks like turns of nature found,
And the world's victor stood subdued by sound!
The pow'r of music all our hearts allow,
And what Timotheus was is Dryden now.

1709.

THE RAPE OF THE LOCK

1711.

CANTO I

What dire offence from am'rous causes springs,
What mighty contests rise from trivial things,
I sing. This verse to Caryll, Muse, is due;
This ev'n Belinda may vouchsafe to view.
Slight is the subject; but not so the praise,
If she inspire and he approve my lays.

Say what strange motive, goddess, could compel
A well-bred lord t' assault a gentle belle?
O say what stranger cause, yet unexplored,
Could make a gentle belle reject a lord?
In tasks so bold can little men engage,

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And in soft bosoms dwells such mighty rage?

Sol through white curtains shot a tim'rous ray,
And oped those eyes that must eclipse the day;
Now lap-dogs give themselves the rousing shake,
And sleepless lovers, just at twelve, awake;
Thrice rung the bell, the slipper knocked the ground,
And the pressed watch returned a silver sound.
Belinda still her downy pillow pressed;

Her guardian sylph prolonged the balmy rest.
'T was he had summoned to her silent bed
The morning dream that hovered o'er her head:
A youth more glitt'ring than a birth-night beau
(That ev'n in slumber caused her cheek to glow)
Seemed to her ear his winning lips to lay,
And thus in whispers said, or seemed to say:

"Fairest of mortals, thou distinguished care
Of thousand bright inhabitants of air!
If e'er one vision touched thy infant thought,
Of all the nurse and all the priest have taught
Of airy elves by moonlight shadows seen,

The silver token, and the circled green,

Or virgins visited by angel-pow'rs

With golden crowns and wreaths of heav'nly flow'rs,-
Hear and believe! thy own importance know,

Nor bound thy narrow views to things below.
Some secret truths, from learned pride concealed,
To maids alone and children are revealed.
What though no credit doubting wits may give?
The fair and innocent shall still believe.
Know, then, unnumbered spirits round thee fly,
The light militia of the lower sky;

These, though unseen, are ever on the wing,
Hang o'er the box, and hover round the Ring.
Think what an equipage thou hast in air,
And view with scorn two pages and a chair.
As now your own, our beings were of old,
And once inclosed in woman's beauteous mould;
Thence, by a soft transition, we repair
From earthly vehicles to these of air.
Think not, when woman's transient breath is fled,
That all her vanities at once are dead:

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Succeeding vanities she still regards,

And, though she plays no more, o'erlooks the cards;
Her joy in gilded chariots, when alive,
And love of ombre, after death survive.
For when the fair in all their pride expire,
To their first elements their souls retire:
The sprites of fiery termagants in flame
Mount up, and take a salamander's name;
Soft, yielding minds to water glide away,
And sip, with nymphs, their elemental tea;
The graver prude sinks downward to a gnome,
In search of mischief still on earth to roam;
The light coquettes in sylphs aloft repair,
And sport and flutter in the fields of air.

"Know further yet: whoever fair and chaste
Rejects mankind, is by some sylph embraced;
For spirits, freed from mortal laws, with ease
Assume what sexes and what shapes they please.
What guards the purity of melting maids,
In courtly balls and midnight masquerades,
Safe from the treach'rous friend, the daring spark,
The glance by day, the whisper in the dark,
When kind occasion prompts their warm desires,
When music softens, and when dancing fires?
'Tis but their sylph, the wise celestials know,
Though honour is the word with men below.
Some nymphs there are, too conscious of their face,
For life predestined to the gnomes' embrace.
These swell their prospects and exalt their pride,
When offers are disdained and love denied;

Then gay ideas crowd the vacant brain,

While peers, and dukes, and all their sweeping train,
And garters, stars, and coronets appear,
And in soft sounds 'Your Grace' salutes their ear.
'Tis these that early taint the female soul,
Instruct the eyes of young coquettes to roll,
Teach infant-cheeks a bidden blush to know,
And little hearts to flutter at a beau.

Oft, when the world imagine women stray,
The sylphs through mystic mazes guide their way;
Through all the giddy circle they pursue,

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