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Nay, fly to altars; there they'll talk you dead;
But where's the man, who counsel can bestow,
Qui soit contre sa muse un lieu du sûreté."
It is but justice to add, that the fourteen succeeding verses in the poem before us, containing the character of a true Critic, are superior to any thing in Boileau's Art of Poetry; from which, however, Pope has borrowed many observations. Warton.
Ver. 631. But where's the man, &c.] The Poet, by his manner of asking after this Character, and telling us, when he had de
In vain you shrug and sweat and strive to fly :
Unbiass'd, or by favour, or by spite;
635 Modestly bold, and humanly severe;
an exact and finished character of the true; which, at the same time, serves for an easy and proper introduction to this second division. For having asked [from ver. 630 to 643.] Where's the man, &c. he answers (from ver. 642 to 681.] That he was to be found in the happier ages of Greece and Rome; in the characters of Aristotle and Horuce, Dionysius and Petronius, Quintilian and Longinus; whose several excellencies he has not only well distinguished, but has contrasted them with a peculiar elegance: the profound science and logical method of Aristotle is opposed to the plain common sense of Horace, conveyed in a natural and familiar negligence: the study and refinement of Dionysius, to the gay and courtly ease of Petronius : and the gravity and minuteness of Quintilian, to the vivacity and general topics of Longinus. Nor has the Poet been less careful in these examples, to point out their eminence in the several critical Virtues he so carefully inculcated in his precepts. Thus in Horace he particularizes his Candour; in Petronius his Good-Breeding; in Quintilian his free and copious Instruction; and in Longinus his great and noble Spirit.
scribed it, that such once were Critics, does not encourage us to search for it amongst modern writers. And indeed the discovery of him, if it could be made, would be but an invidious affair. However, I will venture to name the piece of Criticism in which all these marks may be found. It is entitled, Q. Hor. Fl. Ars Poetica, et ejusd. Ep. ad Aug. with an English Commentary and Notes.
Warburton. This commentary is founded on the idea that Horace writes, in his Art of Poetry, with systematic order, and the strictest method. An idea to which several capable critics will not accede, and which
Who to a friend his faults can freely show,
Such once were Critics; such the happy few,
is directly contrary to Pope's own opinion. But it may be added, that Dr. Hurd was not the first who entertained this idea. A French writer, M. de Brueys, gave a paraphrase on this epistle of Horace, in 1683, totally grounded on this supposition. If my partiality to my lamented friend Mr. Colman does not mislead me, I should think his account of the matter the most judicious of any yet published. He conceives that the elder Piso had written or meditated a poetical work, probably a tragedy; and had communicated his piece, in confidence, to Horace; but Horace, either disapproving of the work, or doubting of the poetical faculties of the elder Piso, or both, wished to dissuade him from all thoughts of publication. With this view he wrote his epistle, addressing it with a courtliness and delicacy, perfectly agreeable to his acknowledged character, indifferently to the whole family, the father and his two sons. Epistle to the Pisos, with Notes by George Colman, 4to. 1783, p. 6.
Warton. Ver. 642. with reason on his side?] Not only on his side, but in actual employment. The Critic makes but a mean figure, who, when he has found out the beauties of his author, contents himself with shewing them to the world in only empty exclamations. His office is to explain their nature, shew from whence they arise, and what effects they produce; or in the better and fuller expression of the Poet, “ To teach the world with reason to admire."
Warburton. Ver. 645. The mighty Stagirite] A noble and just character of
He steer'd securely, and discover'd far,
the first and the best of critics! Whoever surveys the variety and perfection of his productions, all delivered in the chastest style, in the clearest order, and the most pregnant brevity, is amazed at the immensity of his genius. His logic, however at present neglected for those rudiments and verbose systems which took their rise from Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding, is a mighty effort of the mind; in which are discovered the principal sources of the art of reasoning, and the dependencies of one thought on another; and where, by the different combinations he hath made of all the forms the understanding can assume in reasoning, which he hath traced for it, he hath so closely confined it, that it cannot depart from them, without arguing inconsequentially. His Physics contain many useful observations, particularly his History of Animals, which Buffon highly praises ; to assist him in which, Alexander gave orders, that creatures of different climates and countries should, at a great expense, be brought to him, under his inspection. His Morals are, perhaps, the purest system of antiquity. His Politics are a most valuable monument of the civil wisdom of the ancients; as they preserve to us the description of several governments, and particularly of Crete and Carthage, that otherwise would have been unknown. But of all his compositions, his Rhetoric and Poetics are most excellent. No writer has shewn a greater penetration into the recesses of the human heart, than
Between ver. 646 and 649. I have found the following lines, since supprest by the author :
That bold Columbus of the realms of wit,
Warburton. VOL. III.
Poets, a race long unconfin'd, and free,
this philosopher, in the second book of his Rhetoric; where he treats of the different manners and passions that distinguish each: different age and condition of man; and from whence Horace plainly took his famous description in the Art of Poetry (ver. 157). La Bruyere, La Rochefoucault, and Montaigne himself, are not to be compared to him in this respect No succeeding writer on eloquence, not even Tully, has added any thing new or important on this subject. His Poetics, which, I suppose, are here by Pope chiefly referred to, seem to have been written for the use of that prince, with whose education Aristotle was honoured, to give him a just taste in reading Homer and the tragedians; to judge properly of which, was then thought no unnecessary accomplishment in the character of a prince. To attempt to understand poetry without having diligently digested this treatise, would be as absurd and impossible, as to pretend to a skill in geometry without having studied Euclid. The fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth chapters, wherein he has pointed out the properest methods of exciting terror and pity, convince us, that he was intimately acquainted with those objects which most forcibly affect the heart. The prime excellence of this precious treatise is the scholastic precision, and philosophical closeness, with which the subject is handled, without any address to the passions, or imagination. It is to be lamented, that the part of the Poetics in which he had given precepts for comedy, did not likewise descend to posterity.
Warton. Ver. 652. Who conquer'd nature, &c.] By this we must not understand physical nature, but moral. The force of the observation consists in giving it this sense. The Poet not only uses the word Nature, for human nature, throughout this poem; but also, where in the beginning of it, he lays down the principles of the arts he treats of, he makes the knowledge of human nature the foundation of all Criticism and Poetry. Nor is the observation less true than apposite. For Aristotle's natural inquiries were superficial and ill made, though extensive. But his logical and moral works are