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Unhappy wit, like niost mistaken things, Atones not for that envy which it brings : In youth alone its empty praise we boast, But soon the short-liv'd vanity is lost; Like some fair flower the early spring supplies, That gaily blooms, but ev'n in blooming dies. What is this wit, which must our cares employ? The owner's wife that other men enjoy ; Then most our trouble still when most admir'd, And still the more we give, the more requir'd; Whose fame with pains we guard, but lose with ease, Sure some to vex, but never all to please ; 'Tis what the vicious fear, the virtuous shun; By fools 'tis hated, and by knaves undone!
If wit so much from ignorance undergo, Ah, let not learning too commence its foe! Of old those met rewards who could excel, And such were prais'd who but endeavour'd well: Though triumphs were to generals only due, Crowns were reserv'd to grace the soldiers too. Now they who reach Parnassus' lofty crown Employ their paips to spurn some others down; And while self-love each jealous writer rules, Contending wits become the sport of fools; But still the worst with most regret commend, For each ill author is as bad a friend. To what base ends, and by what abject ways, Are mortals urg'd through sacred lust of praise ! Ah! ne'er so dire a thirst of glory boast, Nor in the critic let the man be lost. Good-patare and good sense must ever join ; To err is human, to forgive divine.
But if in noble minds some dregs remain, Not yet purg'd off, of spleen and sour disdain,
Discharge that rage on more provoking crimes,
dispute, Lest God himself should seem too absolute : Pulpits their sacred satire learn'd to spare, And vice admir'd to find a flatterer there! Encourag'd thus, wit's Titans brav'd the skies, And the press groan'd with licens'd blasphemies. These monsters, critics! with your darts engage, Here point your thunder, and exhaust your rage! Yet shun their fault, who, scandalonsly nice, Will needs mistake an author into vice: All seems infected that the infected spy, As all looks yellow to the jaundic'd eye.
Rules for the conduct and manners in a critic.-Candour.
Modesty.-Goodbreeding.--Sincerity and freedom of advice. When one's counsel is to be restrained.-Character of an incorrigible poet.-Aud of an impertinent critic.--Character of a good critic.-The history of Criticism, and characters of the best critics : Aristotle.-Horace.- Dionysius-Petronius.- Quintilian.- Longinus. of the decay of criticism, and its revival.-Erasmus.Vida.--Boileau.-Lord Roscommon, &c.-Conclusion,
Learn then what morals critics ought to show,
Be silent always when you doubt your sense,
'Tis not enough your counsel still be true; Blunt truths more mischief than nice falsehoods do: Men must be taught as if yon taught them not, And things unknown propos'd as things forgot. Without good-breeding truth is disapprov'd ; That only makes superior sense belov’d.
Be niggards of advice on no pretence, For the worst avarice is that of sense. With mean consplacence ne'er betray your trust, Nor be so civil as to prove unjust.
Fear not the anger of the wise to raise;
'Twere well might critics still this freedom take,
Such shameless bards we have; and yet 'tis true There are as mad abandon'd critics too. The bookful blockhead, ignorantly read, With loads of learned lumber in his head, With his own tongue still edifies his ears, And always listening to himself appears.
All books he reads, and all he reads assails,
But where's the man who counsel can bestow, Still pleas'd to teach, and yet not proud to know? Unbiass'd or by favour or by spite, Not dully prepossess'd nor blindly right; Though learn'd, well-bred, and though well-bred, Modestly bold, and humanly severe; [sincere; Who to a friend his faults can freely show, And gladly praise the merit of a foe? Bless'd with a taste exact, yet unconfin'd, A knowledge both of books and human kind; Generous converse ; a soul exempt from pride ; And love to praise, with reason on his side?
Such once were critics; such the happy few Athens and Rome in better ages knew. The mighty Stagirite first left the shore, Spread all his sails, and durst the deeps explore; He steer'd securely, and discover'd far, Led by the light of the Mæonian star.