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Some few in that, but numbers err in this, 5
'Tis with our judgments, as our watches, none Go just alike, yet each believes his own. 10
But readers have been misled by the modesty of the Title, which only promises an Art of Criticism, to expect little, where they will find a great deal; a treatise, and that no incomplete one, of the Art both of Criticism and Poetry. This, and the not attending to the considerations offered above, was what, perhaps, misled a very candid writer, after having given the Essay on Criticism all the praises on the side of genius and poetry which his true taste could not refuse it, to say, that the observations follow one another like those in Horace's Art of Poetry, without that methodical regularity which would have been requisite in a prose writer. Spect. No. 235. I do not see how method can hurt any one grace of Poetry; or what prerogative there is in Verse to dispense with regularity. The remark is false in every part of it. Mr. Pope's Essay on Criticism, the Reader will soon see, is a regular piece: And a very learned Critic has lately shewn, that Horace had the same attention to method in his Art of Poetry. See Mr. Hurd's Comment on the Epistle to the Pisos.
Ver. 1. 'Tis hard to say, &c.] The Poem opens [from ver. 1 to 9.] with shewing the use and seasonableness of the subject. Its use, from the greater mischief in wrong Criticism than in ill Poetry; this only tiring, that misleading the reader : Its seasonableness, from the growing number of bad Critics, which now vastly exceeds that of bad poets.
Ver. 9. 'Tis with our judgments, &c.] The author having shewn us the expediency of his subject, the Art of Criticism, inquires next [from ver. 8 to 15.) into the proper Qualities of a true Critic : and observes first, that JUDGMENT alone, is not sufficient to constitute this character, because Judgment, like the artificial measures of Time, goes different, and yet each man relies upon his own. The reasoning is conclusive; and the similitude extremely just. For Judgment, when it is alone, is generally regulated, or at least much
In Poets as true Genius is but rare,
influenced by custom, fashion, and habit; and never certain and constant but when founded upon and accompanied by TASTE : which is in the Critic, what in the Poet, we call Genius: both are derived from Heaven, and like the Sun, the natural measure of Time, always constant and equable.
Judgment alone, it is allowed, will not make a Poet ; where is the wonder then, that it will not make a Critic in poetry? for on examination we shall find, that Genius and Taste are but one and the same faculty, differently exerting itself under different names, in the two professions of Poetry and Criticism. The Art of Poetry consists in selecting, out of all those images which present themselves to the fancy, such of them as are truly beautiful: and the Art of Criticism in discerning, and fully relishing what it finds so selected. The main difference is, that in the Poet, this faculty is eminently joined to a bright imagination, and ertensive comprehension, which provide stores for the selection, and can form that selection, by proportioned parts, into a regular whole: in the Critic, it is joined to a solid judgment and accurate discernment, which can penetrate into the causes of an excellence, and display that excellence in all its variety of lights. Longinus had taste in an
Ver. 11. In Poets as true Genius is but rare,] It is indeed so extremely rare, that no country, in the succession of many ages, has produced above three or four persons that deserve the title. The "man of rhymes" may be easily found; but the genuine poet, of a lively plastic imagination, the true Maker or Creator, is so uncommon a prodigy, that one is almost tempted to subscribe to the opinion of Sir William Temple, where he says, “ That for one man that is born capable of making a great poet, there may be a thousand born capable of making as great generals, or ministers of state, as the most renowned in story.”
Warton. Ver. 12. True Taste us seldom] The first piece of criticism in our language, worthy our attention, for little can be gathered from Webbe and Puttenham, was Sir Philip Sydney's Defence of Poesie.
Both must alike from Heav'n derive their light,
eminent degree; therefore, this quality, which all true Critics have in common, our Author makes his distinguishing character;
“ Thee, bold Longinus ! all the Nine inspire,
And bless their Critic with a Poet's fire.” i. e. with taste or genius.
Ver. 15. Let such teach others, &c.] But it is not enough that the Critic hath these natural endowments of judgment and taste, to entitle him to exercise his Art; he should, as our author shews us [from ver. 14 to 19.) in order to give a further test of his qualification, have put them successfully into use.
And this on two accounts: 1. Because the office of a Critic is an exercise of authority. 2. Because he being naturally as partial to his Judgment as the
Spenser is said to have written a critical discourse, called The Poet; the loss of which, considering the exquisite taste and extensive learning of Spenser, is much to be regretted. Next came Daniel's Apology; then Ben Jonson's Discoveries, the Preface to Gondibert, and Hobbes's Letter to D'Avenant, the Preface and Notes of Cowley (whose prose style, by the way, is admirable), Temple's Essays, Dryden's Essay on Dramatic Poetry, and his various Prefaces and Prologues, Rhymer's Preface to Rapin, and Letter on Tragedy, and Dennis's Reformation of Poetry, and the Essays of Roscommon and Buckingham. These were the critical pieces that preceded our Author's Essay, which was published without his name, May 1711, about the same time with Fenton's Epistle to Southerne ; and did not, as Lewis the bookseller told me, sell at first, till our Author sent copies, as presents, to several eminent persons.
Warton. Ver. 15. Let such teach others] “Qui scribit artificiose, ab aliis commode scripta facile intelligere poterit." Cic. ad Herenn. lib. iv. “ De pictore, sculptore, fictore, nisi artifex, judicare non potest." Pliny.
Authors are partial to their wit, 'tis true,
Poet is to his Wit, his partiality would have nothing to correct it, as that of the person judged hath by the very terms. Therefore some test is necessary; and the best, and most unexceptionable, is his having written well himself; an approved remedy against Critical partiality; and the surest means of so maturing the Judgment as to reap with glory what Longinus calls “ the last and most perfect fruits of much study and experience.” Η ΓΑΡ ΤΩΝ ΛΟΓΩΝ ΚΡΙΣΙΣ ΠΟΛΛΗΣ ΕΣΤΙ ΠΕΙΡΑΣ ΤΕΛΕΥΤΑΙΟΝ ΕΠΙΓΕΝΝΗΜΑ.
It is remarked by Dryden, I think, that none but a poet is qualified to judge of a poet. The maxim is however contradicted by experience. But although such as have actually performed nothing in the art itself, may not, on that account, be totally disqualified to judge with accuracy of any piece of workmanship, yet, perhaps, a judgment will come with more authority and force from an artist himself. Hence the connoisseurs highly prize the treatise of Rubens concerning the Imitation of Antique Statues, the Art of Painting by Lionardo da Vinci, and the Lives of the Painters by Vasari. As, for the same reasons, Rameau's Dissertation on The Thorough Bass; and The Introduction to a Good Taste in Music, by the excellent, but neglected, Geminiani, demand a particular regard. The prefaces of Dryden would be equally valuable, if he did not so frequently contradict himself, and advance opinions diametrically opposite to each other. Some of Corneille's discourses on his own tragedies are admirably just. And one of the best pieces of modern criticism, The Academy's Observations on the Cid, was, we know, the work of persons who had themselves written well. And our Author's own excellent preface to his translation of the Iliad, one of the best pieces of prose in the English language, is an example how well poets are qualified to be crities.
Warton. To these may be added Burney's History, and Criticisms, on Music; and Sir Joshua Reynolds's excellent Discourses on Painting.
Bowles. The maxim recommended in the text, and inforced in the notes,
Yet if we look more closely, we shall find Most have the seeds of judgment in their mind : 20
Ver. 19. Yet if we look, &c.] But the Author having been thus free with the fundamental quality of Criticism, Judgment, so as to charge it with inconstancy and partiality, and to be often warped by custom and affection; that he may not be misunderstood, he next explains [from ver. 18 to 36.] the nature of Judgment, and the accidents occasioning those miscarriages before objected to it. He owns, that the seeds of Judgment are indeed sown in the minds of most men, but by ill culture, as it springs up, it generally runs wild: either on the one hand, by FALSE LEARNING, which pedants call Philology; and by FALSE REASONING, which Philosophers call School-learning : or, on the other, by false wit, which is not regulated by sense; and by FALSE POLITEness, which is solely regulated by the fashion. Both these sorts, who have their Judgment thus doubly depraved, the poet observes, are naturally turned to censure and abuse; only with this difference, that the learned Dunce always affects to be on the reasoning, and the unlearned Fool on the laughing side.—And thus, at the same time, our author proves the truth of his introductory observation, that the number of bad Critics is vastly superior to that of bad Poets.
is but of questionable authority. Poets and Painters must appeal to the world at large, and the world has a right to decide on their productions. Wretched indeed would be their fate, if their merits were to be decided only by their rivals. It is on the general opinion of persons of taste and judgment that their individual estimation must ultimately rest, and if the public were excluded from judging, poets might write and painters paint for each other. Every painter and every writer has a style or manner of his own, by which his productions are characterized, and which he conceives to be preferable to all the rest. This he naturally and unavoidably applies to judge of the productions of others, which he approves or condemns according as they approach to, or recede from, his own standard. Rubens must judge like Rubens, Lionardo like Lionardo, and Vasari like Vasari. Pope has been aware of, and has endeavoured to obviate this remark in the following lines :