« EdellinenJatka »
Now length of Fame (our second life) is lost, 480
XOTES. they come to be omitted or misapplied in conversation, and afterwards in writing. Besides, the spirit of commerce, manufacture, and naval enterprize, so honourable to modern Europe, and to Great Britain in particular, and the free circulation of arts, sciences, and opinions, owing, in part, to the use of printing, and to our improvements in navigation, must render the modern tongues, and especially the English, more variable than the Greek or Latin."~Beattie.
Warton. Ver. 482. failing language] “ In England (says an ingenious Italian) the Translation of the Bible is the standard of their language; in Italy the standard is, the Decamerone of Boccacio.”
Warton. 484. So when, &c.] This similitude from painting, in which our author discovers (as he always does on that subject) real science, has still a more peculiar beauty, as at the same time that it confesses the just superiority of ancient writings, it insinuates one advantage the modern have above them; which is this, that in these latter, our more intimate acquaintance with the occasion of writing, and with the manners described, lets us into those living and striking graces which may be well compared to that perfection of imitation given only by the pencil. While the ravages of time, arnongst the monuments of former ages, have left us but the gross substance of ancient wit; so much only of the form and fashion of bodies as may be expressed in brass or marble. Warburton.
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 excell, 510 And such were prais'd who but endeavour'd well :
Ver. 508. If Wil so much from Ign’rance undergo,] Boileau going one day to receive his pension, and the treasurer reading these words in his order, “ the pension we have granted to Boileau, on account of the satisfaction his works have given us," asked him of what kind were his works; “ Of masonry (replied the Poet), I am a builder !” Racine used to relate, that an old magistrate, who had never been at a play, was carried, one day, to his Andromaque. This magistrate was very attentive to the tragedy, to which was added the Plaideurs; and going out of the theatre, he said to the author, “ I am extremely pleased, Sir, with your Andromaque: I am only amazed that it ends so gaily; j'avois d'abord eu quelque envie de pleurer, mais la vue des petits chiens m'a fait rire.”
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;
COMMENTARY. 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 disduin 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;
darts engage, Here point your thunder, and exhaust your rage !
Ver. 545. Did all the dregs, &c.] 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 fut 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.