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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, And mark that point where sense and dulness 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 sandy plains; Thus in the soul while memory prevails, The solid pow'r of understanding fails ; Where beams of warm imagination play, The memory's soft figures melt away. One science only will one genius fit; 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 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 same : Unerring Nature, still divinely bright, 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 : 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' etfects remains. Some, to whom Heav'n 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 Muses' steed, Restraia his fury than provoke his speed :
The winged courser, like a generous horse,
Those rules of old, discover'd not devis'd,
Hear how learn'd Greece her useful rules endites,
Be Homer's works your study and delight,
When first young Maro in his boundless mind
Some beauties yet no precepts can declare, For there's a happiness as well as care. Music resembles poetry; in each Are pameless 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 licence answer to the full The' intent propos'd, that licence 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. Iu prospects thus some objects please our eyes, Which out of nature's common order rise, The shapeless rock, or hanging precipice. Great wits sometimes may gloriously offend, And rise to faults.true critics dare not mend; But though the ancients thus their rules invade, (As kings dispense with laws theniselves have made)
Moderns, beware! or if you must offend
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! In praise so just let every voice be join'd, And fill the general chorus of mankind. 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, 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!
Causes hindering a true judgment.-Pride.--Imperfect
learning.-Judging by parts, and not by the whole. Critics in wit, language, versification only.---Being too hard to please, or too apt to admire.--Partiality-too much love to a sect--to the ancients or moderns. ---Prejudice or prevention.---Singularity.---Inconstancy, Party spirito--Envy.---Against envy, and in praise of good-nature.--When severity is chiefly to be used by
critics. 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 swell’d 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 day. 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 drafts 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, 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 ! So pleas'd at first the tow'ring Alps we try, Mount o'er the vales, and seem to tread the sky !