« VorigeDoorgaan »
Short is the date, alas, of modern rhymes,
COMMENTARY. He first shews the Critic ought to do this service without delay : And on these motives. 1. Out of regard to bimself: For there is some merit in giving the world notice of an excellence; but none at all in pointing out to that which has been long the admiration of men. 2. Out of regard to the Poem: For the short duration of modern works requires they should begin to enjoy their existence early. He
compares the life of modern Wit, and ancient which survives in an universal language, to the difference between the Patriarchal age and our own: And observes, that while the ancient writings live for ever, as it were in brass and marble, the modern are but like Paintings, which, of how masterly a hand foever, have no sooner gained their requisite perfection by the ripening of their softened and incorporated colouring, which they do in a very few years, but they begin presently to fade and dye away. 3. Lastly our author hews that the Critic ought to do this service out of regard to the Poet : when he considers the slender dowry the Muse brings along with her. In youth 'tis only a short lived vanity ; and in maturer years an access of care and labour, in proportion to the weight of Reputation to be fustained, and the increase of Envy to be opposed : And concludes his reasoning therefore on this head, with that pathetic and insinuating address to the Critic, from x 508 to 524.
Ab! let not learning, &c.
Now length of Fame (our second life) is loft, 480
NOTES V 484 So when the and the manners deferibed, faithful pencil, &c.} This let us into all those living fimilitude in which the poet and striking graces which discovers (as he always does may be well compared to on this jubject) real science that perfection of imitation in the thing spoken of, has which only colouring can still a more peculiar beauty, give: While the ravage of as at the same time that it Time amongst the nionuconfesses the juft fuperiority ments of former ages, hath of ancient writings, it infi- left us but the gross substance nuaies one advantage the of ancient wit, so much of modern have above them; the form and matter of body which is this, that in these, only as may be exprefled in our intimate acquaintance brass or marble. with the occasion of curiting,
The treach'rous colours the fair art betray,
Unhappy Wit, like most mistaken things,
If Wit so much from Ign'rance undergo, Ah let not Learning too commence its foe! Of old, those met rewards who could excel, 510 And such were prais'd who but endeavour'd well: Tho' triumphs were to gen'rals only due, Crowns were reserv'd to grace the soldiers too. Now, they who reach Parnassus' lofty crown, Employ their pains to spurn some others down; 515
And while self-love each jealous writer rules,
525 But if in noble minds some dregs remain Not yet purg'd off, of spleen and four disdain;
COMMENTARY. -VER. 526. But if in noble mirds fome dregs remain, &c.] So far, as to what ought to be the true Critic's principal concern and employment. But if the sour critical humour must needs have a vent, he points to its right object, and thews how it may be usefully and innocently diverted, This is very observable ; for our author makes pride and Spleen the characteristics of the false Critic, and yet hcre
supposes them inherent in the true. But it is done with judgment, and a knowledge of nature. For Spleen and disdain, in the critical mind, are the same as bitterness and acerbity in unripe fruits; the foundation and capacity of ihat high spirit, race, and flavour which we find in the beit of them, when perfectly concocted by the heat and influence of the Sun ; and which, without thole qualities, would often gain no more by that influence than only a meilow injapidity. In like manner, natural acerbity in ihe
Discharge that rage on more provoking crimes,
COMMENTARY. true Critic, improved by long ftudy and experience, ria pens into an exactness of Judgment and an elegance of Taile: But, lying remote from the influence of good letters, continues, in the false Critic, in all its first offensive harshness and aftringency. The Poet therefore shews how, after the exaltation of these qualities into the state of perfe&t Criticism, the very Dregs, which poflibly may remain even in a' noble mind, may be usefully employed, namely in branding OBSCENITY and Impiety. Of hele he explains the rise and pr gress, in a beautiful picture of the different genius's of the reigns of Charles II. and William III. the former of which gave course to the most profligate luxury; the latter to a’licencious impiety. There are the criminals the poet afsigns over to the caustic hand of the Critic, but concludes however with this neceflary admonition, to take care not to be mised into unjust cen