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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 ;
In some fair body thus the informing soul
With spirits feeds, with vigour fills, the whole ;
Each motion guides, and every nerve sustains ;
Itself unseen, but in the effects remains.
Some, to whom Heaven in wit has been profuse,
Want as much more to turn it to its use;
For wit and judgment often are at strife,
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.
Those rules of old, discovered, not devised,
Are Nature still, but Nature methodized :
Nature, like liberty, is but restrained
By the same laws which first herself ordained.
Hear how learn'd Greece her useful rules indites,
When to repress, and when indulge, our flights.
High on Parnassus'l top her sons she showed,
And pointed out those arduous paths they trod;
Held from afar, aloft the immortal prize,
And urged the rest by equal steps to rise.
Just precepts thus from great examples given,
She drew from them what they derived from Heaven.
The generous critic fanned the poet's fire,
And taught the world with reason to admire.
Then criticism the muse's handmaid proved,
To dress her charms, and make her more beloved
But following wits from that intention strayed;
Who could not win the mistress, wooed the maid;
Against the poets their own arms they turned,
Sure to hate most the men from whom they learned.
So modern 'pothecaries, taught the art
By doctors' bills to play the doctor's part,
Both in the practice of mistaken rules,
Prescribe, apply, and call their masters fools.
Some on the leaves of ancient authors prey,
Nor time nor moths e'er spoiled so much as they ;
Some dryly plain, without invention's aid
Write dull receipts how poems may be made.
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 criticise.
Be Homer's works your study and delight,
Read them by day, and meditate by night;
Thence form your judgment, thence your maxims bring,
And trace the Muses upward to their spring:
Still with itself compared, his text peruse;
And let your comment be the MantuanMuse.
When first young Maro?, in his boundless mind,
A work to outlast immortal Rome designed,
Perhaps he seemed above the critic's law,
And but from Nature's fountain scorned to draw :
But when to examine every part he came,
Nature and Homer were, he found, the same.
Convinced, amazed, he checks the bold design,
And rules as strict his laboured work confine,
As if the Stagyrite 3 o'er looked each line.
Learn hence for ancient rules a just 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.
If, where the rules not far enough extend,
(Since rules were made but to promote their end,)
Some lucky license answer to the full
The intent proposed, that license 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 judgment, 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 may sometimes 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,) 160
Moderns, beware! or, if you must offend
Against the precept, ne'er transgress its end :
Let it be seldom, and compelled by need ;
And have, at least, their precedent to plead.
The critic else proceeds without remorse,
Seizes your fame, and puts his laws in force.
I know there are?, to whose presumptuous thoughts
Those freër beauties, e'en in them, seem faults.
Some figures monstrous and mis-shaped appear,
Considered singly, or beheld too near,
Which, but proportioned to their light or place,
Due distance reconciles to form and grace.
A prudent chief not always must display
His powers in equal ranks, and fair array,
But with the occasion and the place comply,
Conceal his force, nay, seem sometimes to fly:
Those oft are stratagems which errors seem,
Nor is it Homer nods, but we that dream.
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 3 ring !
In praise so just let every voice be joined,
And fill the general chorus of mankind.
1 Properly, the winged horse of the 3 Hymns of joy, originally sung in
Muses ; here used for a flight or honour of Apollo.
soaring of the poet's imagination.
Hail, bards triumphant! born in happier days;
Immortal heirs of universal praise !
Whose honours with increase of ages grow,
As streams roll down, enlarging as they flow;
Nations unborn your mighty names shall sound,
And worlds applaud that must not yet be found !
O, may some spark of your celestial fire
The last, the meanest of your sons inspire,
(That, on weak wings, from far pursues your flights ; 195
Glows while he reads, but trembles as he writes)
To teach vain wits a science little known,
To admire superior sense, and doubt their own!
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 denied,
She gives in large recruits of needful pride!
For, as in bodies, thus in souls, we find
What wants in blood and spirits, swelled with wind :
Pride, where wit fails, steps in to our defence,
And fills up all the mighty void of sense.
If once right reason drives that cloud away,
Truth breaks upon us with resistless sway.
Trust not yourself; but, your defects to know,
Make use of every friend, and every foe.
A little learning is a dangerous thing !
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring ;
There, shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Fired at first sight with what the muse imparts,
In fearless youth, we tempt the heights of arts,
While from the bounded level of our mind,
Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind :
But, more advanced, behold, with strange surprise,
New distant scenes of endless science rise!
1 The Muses were sometimes called pus, where they were first worshipped Pierides, a surname which they de- by the Thracians. rived from Pieria, near Mount Olym
So, pleased at first, the towering Alps we try,
Mount o'er the vales, and seem to tread the sky!
The eternal snows appear already passed,
And the first clouds and mountains seem the last;
But, those attained, we tremble to survey
The growing labours of the lengthened way:
The increasing prospect tires our wondering eyes,
Hills peep o'er hills, and Alps on Alps arise !
The perfect judge will read each work of wit
With the same spirit that its author writ:
Survey the whole, nor seek slight faults to find,
When nature moves, and rapture warms, the mind;
Nor lose, for that malignant, dull delight,
The generous pleasure to be charmed with wit.
But, in such lays as neither ebb nor flow,
Correctly cold, and regularly low,
That, shunning faults, one quiet tenor keep ;
We cannot blame indeed, — but we may sleep.
In wit, as nature, what affects our hearts
Is not the exactness of peculiar parts;
'Tis 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 e'en thine, O Rome !)
No single parts unequally surprise,
All comes united to the admiring eyes ;
No monstrous height, or breadth, or length appear;
The whole at once is bold and regular.
Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see,
Thinks what ne'er was, nor is, nor e'er shall be,
In every work regard the writer's end,
Since none can compass more than they intend ;
And if the means be just; the conduct true,
Applause, in spite of trivial faults, is due.
As men of breeding, sometimes men of wit,
To avoid great errors, must the less commit;
Neglect the rules each verbal critic lays,
For not to know some trifles is a praise.
Most critics, fond of some subservient art,
Still make the whole depend upon a part:
They talk of principles, but notions prize,
And all to one loved folly sacrifice.