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In poets as true genius is but rare,
True taste as seldom is the critick's fhare;
Both must alike from heav'n derive their light,
These born to judge, as well as those to write.
Let * such teach others who themselves excells,
And censure freely who have written well..
Authors are partial to their wit, 'tis true,
But are not critics to their judgment too?
Yet if we look more closely, we shall find
Moft t have the seeds of judgment in their mind:
Nature affords at least a glimm'ring light;
The lines, tho'touch'd but faintly, are drawn right..
But as the lightest sketch, if justly trac'd,
Is by ill colouring but the more disgrac'd,
So by false learning is good sense defac'd:
Some are bewilder'd in the maze of schools,
And some made coxcombs nature meant but fools.
In search of wit these lose their common sense,
And then turn critics in their own defence :
* Qui fcribit artificiose', ab aliis commodè fcripta facilè intelligere poterit. Cic. ad Herenn. lib.
| Omnes tacita quodam sensu, fine ullâ arte, aut ratione, qua fine * in artibus ac rationibus recta ac prava dijudicant. Cic. de Orat.
Those hate as rivals all that write; and others:
But envy wits, as eunuchs envy lovers.
All such have still an itching to deride,
And fain would be upon the laughing side:-
If Mavius feribble in Apollo's spight,
There are, who judge still worse than he can write.
Some have at first for wits, then poets paft,
Turn'd critics next, and prov'd plain fools at laft:
Some neither can for wits nor critics pass,
As heavy mules are neither horse nor ass.
Those half-learn'd witlings, num'rous in our isle,
As half-form'd infects on the banks of Nile';
Unfinish'd things, one knows not what to call;
Their generation's so equivocal:
To tell'em; would a hundred tongues require,
Or one vaiñ wit’s, that might a hundred tire.
But you who seek to give and merit fame, And justly bear a critic's noble name, Be sure your self 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 fingle parts.
Like Kings we lose the conquest gain'd before,
By vain ambition still to make them more.
Each might his sev'ral 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, muft 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 secret soul
With spirits feeds, with vigour fills the whole.
Each motion guides, and ev'ry nerve sustains ;
Itself unseen, but in the effects, remains.
There are whom heav'n has bleft with store of wit,
Yet want as much again to manage it;
For wit and judgment ever are at strife,
Tho' 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 gen'rous horse,
Shows most true mettle when you check his course.
Those rules of old discover'd, not devis'd,
Are nature still, but nature methodiz'd;
Nature, like Monarchy, is but restrain'd
By the same laws which first herself ordain’d.
Hear how learn'd Greece her useful rules indites,
When to repress, and when indulge our flights !
High on Parnasus' top her sons she show'd,
- And pointed out those arduous paths they trod,
Held from afar, aloft, th' immortal prize,
And urg'd the rest by equal steps to rife.
Just * precepts thus from great examples giv'n,
She drew from them what they deriv'd from heav'n.
* Nec enim artibus editis factum eft ut argumenta inveniremus, sed di&a funt omnia antequam praciperentur, mox ea fcriptores obfervala do colletta ediderunt. Quintil.
The gen'rous critic fann'd the poet's fire,
And taught the world, with reason to admire. .
Then criticism the muse's handmaid prov'd,
To dress her charms, and make her more beloy'd;
But following wits from that intention stray'd;
Who could not, win the mistress, woo'd the maid,
Set up themselves, and drove a sep'rate trade.; .
Against the poets their own arms they turn'd,
Sure to hate most the men from whom they learn'd..
So modern 'pothecaries, taught the art
By doctor's bills to play the doctor's part,
Bold 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 spoil'd so much as they.
Some dryly plain, without invention's aid,
Write dull receipts how poems may be made; .
Thefe lost the sense, their learning to display,
And those explain’d the meaning quite awaya .
You then whose judgment the right .course would
Know well each ancient's proper character ;
[fteer; His fable, subject, scope in ev'ry page; Religion, country, genius of his age: