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Then Criticism the Muse's handmaid prov'd,
110 Prescribe, apply, and call their masters fools. Some on the leaves of ancient authors prey; Nor time nor moths e'er spoild so much as they: Some dryly 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, subjects, scope in ev'ry page;
120 Religion, country, genius of his age: Without all these at once before your eyes, Cavil you may, but never criticise; 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 Muses upward to their spring.
Still with itself compar'd his text peruse;
When first young Maro in his boundless mind 130
140 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,) Such lucky license answer to the full Th’ intent propos'd, that license is a rule. Thus Pegassus, a nearer way to take,
150 May boldly deviate from the common track. Great wits sometimes may gloriously offend, And rise to faults true critics dare not mend;
From vulgar bounds with brave disorder part,
I know there are, to whose presumptuous thoughts
Still green with bays each ancient altar stands Above the reach of sacrilegious hands, Secure from flames, from envy's fiercer rage, Destructive war, and all-involving age. See from each clime the learn’d their incense bring! Hear in all tongues consenting pæans ring!
186 In praise so just let ev'ry voice be join'd, And fill the gen'ral chorus of mankind., Hail, bards triumphant! born in happier days, Immortal heirs of universal praise !
190 Whose honours with increase of ages grow, As streams roll down, enlarging as they flow; Nations unborn your mighty name shall sound, And worlds applaud that must not yet be found ! O may some spark of your celestial fire 195 The last, the meanest of your sons inspire, (That on weak wings, from far, pursues your flights, Glows while he reads, but trembles as he writes,) To teach vain wits a science little known, T: admire superior sense, and doubt their own! 200
OF all the causes which conspire to blind Man's erring judgment, and misguide the mind, What the weak head with strongest bias rules, Is pride, the never-failing vice of fools. Whatever Nature has in worth deny'd,
205 She gives in large recruits of needful pride: For as in bodies thus in souls we find, What wants in blood and spirits swelld with wind: Pride, where wit fails, steps in to our defence, And fills up all the mighty void of sense : 210 If once right reason drives that cloud away, Truth breaks upon us with resistless day. Trust not yourself; but, your defects to know, Make use of ev'ry friend....and ev'ry foe. A little learning is a dang'rous thing;
215 Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring : There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, And drinking largely sobers us again. Fir'd at first sight with what the Muse imparts, In fearless youth we tempt the heights of arts, 220 While from the bounded level of our mind Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind; But more advanc'd, behold with strange surprise, New distant scenes of endless science rise !