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Though triumphs were to gen’rals only due,
525 But if in noble minds some dregs remain Not yet purg'd off, of spleen and sour disdain;
Ver. 526. But if in noble minds some dregs remain, &c.] So far as to what ought to be the true Critic's principal study and employment. But if the sour critical humour abounds, and must therefore needs have vent, he directs to its proper object; and shews [from ver. 525 to 556.] how it may be innocently and usefully pointed. This is very observable; our author had made spleen and disdain the characteristic of the false Critic, and yet here
supposes them inherent in the true. But it is done with judgment, and a knowledge of nature. For as bitterness and astringency in unripe fruits of the best kind are the foundation and capacity of that high spirit, race, and flavour which we find in them when perfectly concocted by the warmth and influence of the sun, and which, without those qualities, would gain no more by that influence than only a mellow insipidity: so spleen and disdain in the true Critic, when improved by long study and experience, ripen into an exactness of judgment and an elegance of taste : although, in the false Critic, lying remote from the influ
Discharge that rage on more provoking crimes,
ence of good letters, they remain in all their first offensive harshness and acerbity. The Poet therefore shews how, after the exaltation of these qualities into their state of perfection, the very dregs (which, though precipitated, may possibly, on some occasions, rise and ferment even in a noble mind) may be usefully employed, that is to say, in branding OBSCENITY and IMPIETY. Of these, he explains the rise and progress, in a beautiful picture of the different geniuses of the two reigns of Charles II. and William III. The former of which gave course to the most profligate luxury; the latter to a licentious impiety. These are the crimes our author assigns over to the caustic hand of the Critic ; but concludes however [from ver. 555 to 560.] with this necessary admonition, to take care not to be misled into unjust censure ; either on the one hand, by a pharisaical niceness, or on the other by a self-consciousness of guilt. And thus the second division of his Essay ends: the judicious conduct of which is worthy our observation. The subjects of it are the causes of wrong judgment : These he derives upwards from cause to cause, till he brings them to their source, an immoral partiality : For as he had, in the first part,
“ trac'd the Muses upward to their spring," and shewn them to be derived from Heaven, and the offspring of virtue ; so hath he here pursued this enemy of the Muses, the BAD Critic, to his low original, in the arms of his nursing mother Immorality. This order naturally introduces, and at the same time shews the necessity of, the subject of the third and last division, which is, on the Morals of the Critic.
When love was all an easy Monarch's care;
550 And Vice admir'd to find a flatt'rer 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
Ver. 545. Did all the dregs, đc.] The seeds of this religious evil, as well as of the political good from whence it sprung (for good and evil are incessantly springing out of one another) were sown in the preceding fat age of pleasure. The mischiefs done during Cromwell's usurpation, by fanaticism, inflamed by erroneous and absurd notions of the doctrine of grace
and satisfaction, made the loyal Latitudinarian divines (as they were called) at the Restoration, go so far into the other extreme of resolving all Christianity into morality, so as to afford an easy introduction to Socinianism : which in that reign (founded on the principles of liberty) men had full opportunity of propagating. Warburton.
Yet shun their fault, who scandalously nice,
LEARN then what MORALS Critics ought to show,
560 For ’tis but half a judge's task, to know.
Ver. 560. Learn then, &c.] We enter now on the third part, the Morals of the Critic; included in CandoUR, MODESTY, and GOOD-BREEDING. This third and last part is in 'two divisions. In the first of which [from ver. 559 to 631.] our author inculcates these morals by precept : In the second, [from ver. 630 to the end] by example. His first precept (from ver. 561 to 566.] recommends CANDOUR, for its use to the Critic, and to the writer criticised.
2. The second [from ver. 565 to 572.) recommends MODESTY, which manifests itself in these four signs; 1. Silence where it doubts, Be silent always, when you
your sense ; 2. A seeming diffidence where it knows,
And speak, tho' sure, with seeming diffidence ; 3. A free confession of error where wrong,
you with pleasure own your errors past ; 4. And a constant review and scrutiny even of those opinions which it still thinks right,
And make each day a Critique on the last. 3. The third [from ver. 571 to 584.] recommends GoodBREEDING, which will not force truth dogmatically upon men, as ignorant of it, but gently insinuates it to them, as not sufficiently attentive to it. But as men of breeding are apt to fall into two extremes, he prudently cautions against them. The one is a backwardness in communicating their knowledge, out of a false delicacy, and for fear of being thought pedants : The other, and much
'Tis not enough, taste, judgment, learning, join;
Be silent always, when you doubt your sense ;
you with pleasure own your errors past, 570 And make each day a critique on the last.
'Tis not enough your counsel still be true; Blunt truths more mischief than nice falsehoods do; Men must be taught as if you taught them not, And things unknown propos'd as things forgot. 575 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 complacence ne'er betray your trust, Nor be so civil as to prove unjust.
COMMENTARY. more common extreme, is a mean complaisance, which those who are worthy of your advice do not need, to make it acceptable; for such can best bear reproof in particular points, who best deserve commendation in general.
Ver. 570. your errors past,] “ Et ipsa emendatio habet finem; sunt enim qui ad omnia scripta, tanquam vitiosa redeunt; et quasi nihil fas sit rectum esse quod primum est, melius existiment quidquid est aliud ; idque faciunt quoties librum in manus resumpserint; similes medicis, etiam integra secantibus. Accidit itaque ut cicatricosa sint, et exanguia, et curâ pejora. Sit aliquando quod placeat; aut certè quod sufficiat; ut plus poliat lima, non exterat."-Quintil. lib. 10.