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In poets as true genius is but rare,
Yet if we look more closely, we shall find
right : But as the slightest sketch, if jastly trac'd, Is by ill-colouring but the more disgrac'd, So by false learning is good sense defac'd: Some are bewilderd in the maze of schools, And some made coxcombs Nature meant but fools; In search of wit these lose their common sense, And then turn critics in their own defence : Each burns alike, who cap or cannot write, Or with rival's or an eunuch's spite. All fools have still an itching to deride, And fain would be upon the laughing side. If Mavius scribble in Apollo's spite, There are who judge still worse than he can write.
Some have at first for wits, then poets, past; Turn'd critics next, and prov'd plain fools at last. Some neither can for wits nor critics pass, As heavy mules are neither horse nor ass. Those half-learn'd witlings, numerous in our isle, As half-form'd insects on the banks of Nile ; Upfinish'd things, one knows not what to call, Their generation's so equivocal;
To tell 'em would a hundred tongues regnire,
But you who seek to give and merit fame,
Nature to all things fix'd the limits fit,
First follow Nature, and your judgment frame
Each motion guides, and every nerve sustains,
Those rules of old, discover'd not devis'd,
endites, When to repress and when indulge our flights: High on Parnassus' top her sons she show'd, And pointed out those arduous paths they trod : Held from afar, aloft, the immortal prize, And urg'd the rest by equal steps to rise. Just precepts thus from great examples giv'n, She drew from them what they deriv'd from
Heay'n. The generous critic fap'd the poet's fire, And taught the world with reason to admire. Then Criticism the Muse's handmaid provid, To dress her charms, and make her more belov'd: But following wits from that intention stray'd; Who could not win the mistress, wood the maid; Against the poets their own arms they turn’d, Sure to hate most 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,
You then whose judgment the right course would
When first young Maro in his boundless mind
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. If, where the rules not far enough extend, (Since rules were made but to promote their end) Some lucky licence answer to the full The’ intent propos'd, that licence is a rule. Thus Pegasus, a nearer way to take, May boldly deviate from the common track. From vulgar bounds with brave disorder part, And snatch a grace beyond the reach of art, Which, without passing through the jndgment, gains The heart, and all its end at once attains. In prospects thus some objects please our eyes, Which out of nature's common order rise, The shapeless rock, or hanging precipice. Great wits sometimes may gloriously offend, And rise 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 yon must offend Against the precept, ne'er transgress its end ; Let it be seldom, and compellid by need; And have at least the precedent to plead : The critic else proceeds without remorse, Seizes your fanie, and puts his laws in force.
I know there are, to whose presumptuous thoughts Those freer beauties, ev'n in them, seem faults. Some figures monstrous and mis-shap'd appear, Consider d singly, 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 Flis powers in equal ranks and fair array,