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Some neither can for Wits nor Critics pass,
As heavy mules are neither horse nor ass.
Those half-learn'd witlings, numerous in our ille, 40
As half-form'd infects on the banks of Nile;
Unfinish'd things, one knows not what to call,
Their generation is fo equivocal :
To tell them, would a hundred tongucs require,
Or one vain wit's, that might a hundred tire. 45
But you, who seek to give and merit fame,
And justly bear a Critic's noble name,
Be sure yourself and your own reach to know,
How far your genius, taste, and learning, go ;
Launch not beyond your depth, but be discreet,
50 And mark that point where sense and didness meet.
Nature to all things fix'd the limits fit,
And wisely 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 soul while memory prevails,
The solid power of understanding fails ;
Where beams of warm imagination play,
The memory's soft figures melt away.
One science only will one genius fit;
60 So vast is art, so narrow human wit : Not only bounded to peculiar arts, But oft' in those confin’d to single parts. Like Kings, we lose the conquests gain'd before, By vain ambition still to make them more :
Each VARIATION. Ver. 63. Ed. 1. But ev'n in those, &c.
Each might his several province well command,
Would all but stoop to what they understand.
First follow Nature, and your judgment frame
By her just standard, which is still the fame :
Unerring Nature, still divinely bright,
70 One clear, unchang’d, and universal light, Life, force, and beauty, must to all impart, At once the source, and end, and test of Art. Art from that fund each just supply provides ; Works without show, and without pomp presides : 75 In some fair body thus th' informing soul With spirits feeds, with vigour fills the whole, Each motion guides, and every nerve sustains; Itself unseen, but in th' effects remains. Some, to whom Heaven in wit has been profuse, 80 Want as much more, to turn it to its use; For wit and judgment often are at Atrife, Though meant each other's aid, like man and wife. 'Tis more to guide, than spur the Muse's steed; Restrain his fury, than provoke his speed : The winged courser, like a generous horse, Shows most true mettle when you check his course.
Thofe Rules of old discover'd, not devis'd, Are Nature ftill, but Nature methodis'd :
That art is best, which most resembles her;
Which still presides, yet never does appear. Ver. 76.
- the secret soul. Ver. 8o.
There are whom Heaven has bleft with store of wit, Yet want as much again to manage it.
Nature, like Liberty, is but restrain'd
By the same laws which first herself ordain'd.
Hear how learn'd Greece her useful rules indites,
When to repress, and when indulge our flights ;
High on Parnassus' top her sons the show'd,
And pointed out those arduous paths they trod:
Held from afar, aloft, th' immortal prize,
And urg'd the rest by equal steps to rise.
Just precepts thus from great examples given,
She drew from them what they deriv*d from Heaven.
The generous Critic fann'd the Poet's fire,
And taught the world with reason to admire.
Then Criticism the Muse's handmaid proy'd,
To dress 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 ; 105
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,
Prescribe, apply, and call their masters fools.
Some on the leaves of ancient authors prey,
Nor time nor inoths e’er spoil'd so much as they:
Ver. 90. Ed. 1. Nature, like Monarchy, &c.
Ver. 92. First learned Greece just precepts did indite,
When to repress and when indulge our flight.
Ver. 97. From great examples useful rules were given.
After ver. 104. this line is omitted,
Set up themselves, and drove a separate trade.
Some drily plain, without invention's aid,
Write dull receipts how poems may be made. 115
These leave the sense, their learning to display,
And those explain the meaning quite away.
You then whose judgment the right course would steer,
Know well each ANCIENT's proper character :
His Fable, Subject, scope in every page ;
Religion, Country, genius of his Age :
Without all these at once before your eyes,
Cavil you may, but never criticize.
Be Homer's works your study and delight,
Read them by day, and meditate by night; 125
Thence form your judgment, thence your maxims bring,
And trace the Mufes upward to their spring.
Still with itself compar’d, his text peruse;
And let your comment be the Mantuan Muse.
When VARIATIONS. Ver. 116. Ed. 1. These lost, &c. Ver. 117. And these explain'd, &c. Ver. 123. Ed. 1. You may confound, but, &c.
Ver. 123. Cavil you may, but never criticize.] The Author after this verse originally inserted the following,, which he has however omitted in all the editions:
Zoilus, had these been known, without a Name
Had dy'd, and Perault ne'er been damn’d to fame;
The sense of sound antiquity had reign’d,
And sacred Homer yet been unprophan'd.
None e'er had thought his comprehensive mind
To modern customs, modern rules confin'd;
Who for all ages writ, and all mankind.
Ver. 126. Thence form your judgment, thence your no-
When first young Maro, in his boundless mind 130
A work t' outlast immortal Rome design'd,
Perhaps he seem'd above the Critic's law,
And but from Nature's fountains scorn'd to draw :
But when t'examine every part he came,
Nature and Homer were, he found, the same.
Convinc'd, amaz’d, he checks the bold design;
And rules as strict his labour'd work confine,
As if the Stagirite o'erlook'd each line.
Learn hence for ancient rules a juft esteem ;
To 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)
Some lucky License answer to the full
Th' intent propos’d, that License is a rule.
Thus Pegasus, a nearer way to take,
150 May boldly deviate from the common track ;
When first young Maro sung of Kings and Wars
Ere warning Phoebus touch'd his trembling ears.
Ver. 130. Ed. 1. When first great Maro, &c.
Convinc'd, amaz’d, he check'd the bold design;
And did his work to rules as strict confine.
Ver. 145. Ed. I. And which a master's hand, &c.