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Learning and Rome alike in empire grew;
And arts still follow'd where her eagles flew;
From the same Foes, at last, both felt their doom,
And the same age saw Learning fall and Rome.
With Tyranny, then Superstition join'd,
As that the body, this enslav'd the mind;
Much was believ'd, but little understood,
And to be dull was constru'd to be good; 690
A second deluge Learning thus o'er-run,
And the Monks finish'd what the Goths begun.


remarked in Smith's Translation, that the Prince of Condé, when he heard a fine passage repeated from the seventh section of Longinus's Treatise on the Sublime, exclaimed, “ Voila le sublime ! voila son veritable caractère !"

Bowles. Ver. 686. saw learning fall] Literature and the arts which flourished to so great a degree about the time of Augustus, gradually felt a decline, from many concurrent causes ; from the vast extent of the Roman empire, and its consequent despotism, which crushed every noble effort of the mind; from the military government, which rendered life and property precarious, and therefore destroyed even the necessary arts of agriculture and manufactures; and by the irruption of the barbarous nations, which was occasioned and facilitated by this state of things. About the eleventh century the people of Christendom were sunk in the lowest ignorance and brutality, till the accidental finding Justinian's Pandects at Amalfi in Italy, about the year 1130, began to awaken and enlarge the minds of men, by laying before them an art that would give stability and security to all the other arts that support and embellish life. It is a mistake to think that the arts were destroyed by the irruptions of the northern nations. They had degenerated and decayed before that event.

Iarton. Ver. 691. A second deluge, &c.] In referring to the revival of

learning, VARIATIONS. Between ver. 690 and 691, the author omitted these two:

Vain Wits and Critics were no more allow'd,
When none but Saints had licence to be proud. P,

At length Erasmus, that great injur'd name, (The glory of the priesthood and the shame !)


learning, it ought not to escape our notice, that a great effort was made for its restoration by Charlemagne, who not only collected about him learned men from all parts, but submitted to become their disciple and pupil. His earliest instructor was Petrus Diaconus, but it is to the honour of our own country, that the person who initiated him into the higher departments of learning was an Englishman—the celebrated Alcuin, the disciple of Bede. The exertions of Alcuin in the cause of learning are commemorated by all its historians, and are evinced by several of his works which yet remain. By his directions and example, and under the imperial patronage, schools and universities began to be established; and those of Pisa, Padua, Cremona, Florence, Verona, and many other places, are referred to this early period. With the death of Charlemagne the cause of literature again declined, and it was not till nearly two centuries afterwards that the effort began to be made which has eventually proved successful. After this slow and gradual revival, which is not merely to be attributed to the discovery of the pandects of Justinian, but to various concurring causes, learning was over-run by no second deluge.

Its progress from that period to the beginning of the sixteenth century, may be traced in an almost unbroken series, through Pier Lombardo, Lanfranc Archbishop of Canterbury, Peter Abelard, Guido d'Arezzo, Guglielmo della Puglia, Arnoldo da Brescia, Borgondio Pisano, Ischamus, Gualtherus, both Latin poets, Folco, or Folchetto, Raymond Count of Toulouse, Johannes Accursius, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, Planudes, Leontius Pilatus, Dante, Petrarca, Boccaccio, Chaucer, Gower, Wickliffe, Gregorius Tiphernas, Ambrogio Traversari, Lionardo Bruni (d’Arezzo) Gemisthus Pletho, Thomas a Kempis, Filelfo, Poggio Bracciolini, Chrysoloras, Arguropylus, Theodore Gaza, Bessarion, Joh. Lascar, Nicholas V. Aeneas Sylvius (Pius II.) Marsilio Ficino, Angelo Politiano, Marcus Musurus, Gio. Pico of Mirandula, Matteo Bosso, Pontano, Sanazzaro, &c. By some of these eminent men almost all the works of the ancient authors were discovered, restored, and commented on, and many of them published before the end of the fifteenth century. It is true the cultivation of the modern languages, which had made some progress as well in


Stemm'd the wild torrent of a barb'rous age, 695
And drove those holy Vandals off the stage.


France and England, as in Italy, in the early part of the fourteenth century, was interrupted and declined, but this is perhaps to be attributed to the superior attention paid to classical literature, which continued in an uninterrupted progress till its final establishment in the sixteenth century. This passage in the Essay on Criticism gave rise to a short and friendly controversy between the author and a certain Abbé, which is referred to in the Life of Pope, and in which the critic appears to have had the advantage.

Ver. 693. At length Erasmus, &c.] Nothing can be more artful than the application of this example: or more happy than the turn of the compliment. To throw glory quite round the character of this admirable person, he makes it to be (as in fact it really was) by his assistance chiefly, that Leo was enabled to restore letters and the fine arts in his Pontificate.

Warburton. This is not exactly true; others had a share in this great and important work.

Warton. If the restoration of learning consisted in recovering the works and reviving the spirit of the ancients, it had been in a great degree accomplished before the time of Erasmus.—This however cannot detract from the superlative merits of that eminent scholar, who may be considered in literature as the apostle of the Gentiles, who by his writings and his exertions diffused a spirit of sound learning through every part of Europe. Erasmus was good-sense personified, and his merits appear no less in restraining and opposing a too implicit subservience to the ancients, than in recommending and restoring their works. In this respect he resembled his predecessor Politian, who did not attempt to write precisely as the ancients wrote, but as they would have written had they lived in his own times.

Ver. 694. (The glory of the Priesthood and the shame !)] Our author elsewhere lets us know what he esteems to be the glory of the Priesthood as well as of a Christian in general, where, comparing himself to Erasmus, he says,

“ In Moderation placing all my glory." . and consequently what he regards as the shame of it. The whole of this character belonged eminently and almost solely to Eras

mus :


But see! each Muse, in Leo's golden days,
Starts from her trance, and trims her wither'd bays,

COMMENTARY. Ver. 697. But see each Muse in Leo's golden days,] This presents us with the second period in which the true Critic appeared ; of whom he has given us a complete idea in the single example of Marcus Hieronymus Vida: For his subject being poetical Criticism, for the use principally of a critical Poet, his example is an eminent poetical Critic, who had written of the Art of Poetry in




mus : For the other Reformers, such as Luther, Calvin, and their followers, understood so little in what true christian liberty consisted, that they carried with them, into the reformed churches, that very spirit of persecution, which had driven them from the church of Rome.

Warburton. Ver. 696. And drove those holy Vandals off the stage.] In this attack on the established ignorance of the times, Erasmus succeeded so well, as to bring good letters into fashion: to which he gave new splendour, by preparing for the press correct editions of many of the best ancient writers, both ecclesiastical and prophane. But having laughed and shamed his age out of one folly, he had the mortification of seeing it run headlong into another. The Virtuosi of Italy, in a superstitious dread of that monkish barbarity which he had so severely handled, would use no term, (for no almost every man was become a Latin writer,) not even when they treated of the highest mysteries of religion, which had not been consecrated in the Capitol, and dispensed unto them from the sacred hand of Cicero. ' Erasmus observed the growth of this classical folly with the greater concern, as he discovered under all their attention to the language of old Rome, a certain fondness for its religion, in a growing impiety which disposed them to think irreverently of the Christian Faith. And he no sooner discovered it than he set upon reforming it; which he did so effectually in the Dialogue, entitled Ciceronianus, that he brought the age back to that just temper, which he had been, all his life, endeavouring to mark out to it: Purity, but not pedantry, in Letters; and zeal, but not bigotry, in Religion, In a word, by employing his great talents of genius and literature on subjects of general im

portance; Rome's ancient Genius, o'er its ruins spread, Shakes off the dust, and rears his rev'rend head. 700


portance; and by opposing the extremes of all parties in their turns; he completed the real character of a true Critic and an honest Man.

Warburton. Ver. 697. But see ! each Muse in Leo's golden days,] History has recorded five ages of the world, in which the human mind has exerted itself in an extraordinary manner ; and in which its productions in literature and the fine arts have arrived at a perfection, not equalled in other periods.

The First is the age of Philip and Alexander ; about which time flourished Socrates, Plato, Demosthenes, Aristotle, Lysippus, Apelles, Phidias, Praxiteles, Thucydides, Xenophon, Æschylus, Euripides, Sophocles, Aristophanes, Menander, Philemon. The Second

age, which seems not to have been taken sufficient notice of, was that of Ptolomy Philadelphus, king of Egypt, in which appeared Lycophron, Aratus, Nicander, Apollonius Rhodius, Theocritus, Callimachus, Eratosthenes, Philichus, Erasistratus the physician, Timæus the historian, Cleanthes, Diogenes the painter, and Sostrates the architect. This prince, from his love of learning, commanded the Old Testament to be translated into Greek. The Third age is that of Julius Cæsar, and Augustus ; marked with the illustrious names of Laberius, Catullus, Lucretius, Cicero, Livy, Varro, Virgil, Horace, Propertius, Tibullus, Ovid, Phædrus, Vitruvius, Dioscorides. The Fourth age was that of Julius II, and Leo X, which produced Ariosto, Tasso, Fracastorius, Sannazarius, Vida, Bembo, Sadolet, Machiavel, Guiccardin, Michael Angelo, Raphael, Titian. The Fifth age is that of Louis XIV., in France, and of King William and Queen Anne, in England ; in which, or thereabouts, are to be found, Corneille, Moliere, Racine, Boileau, La Fontaine, Bossuet, La Rochefoucault, Paschal, Bourdaloue, Patru, Malbranche, De Retz, La Bruyere, St. Real, Fenelon, Lully, Le Sæur, Poussin, Le Brun, Puget, Theodon, Gerradon, Edelinck, Nanteuill, Perrault the architect, Dryden, Tillotson, Temple, Pope, Addison, Garth, Congreve, Rowe, Prior, Lee, Swift, Bolingbroke, Atterbury, Boyle, Locke, Newton, Clarke, Kneller, Thornhill, Jervas, Purcell, Mead, Friend.


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