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One science only will one genius fit;
Ver. 60. One science only will one genius fit ;] When Tully attempted poetry, he became as ridiculous as Bolingbroke when he attempted philosophy and divinity.
When Fontaine, whose Tales indicated a truly comic genius, brought a comedy on the stage, it was received with a contempt equally unexpected and deserved. Terence has left us no tragedy; and the Mourning Bride of Congreve, notwithstanding the praises bestowed on it by Pope, in the Dunciad, is certainly a despicable performance; the plot is unnaturally intricate, and overcharged with incidents, the sentiments trite, and the language turgid and bombast. The Biter of Rowe is wretched. Heemskirk and Teniers could not succeed in a serious and sublime subject of history painting. The latter, it is well known, designed cartoons for tapestry, representing the history of the Turriani of Lombardy. Both the composition and the expression are extremely indifferent ; and certain nicer virtuosi have remarked, that in the serious pieces of Titian himself, even in one of his Last Suppers, a circumstance of the ridiculous and the familiar is introduced, which suits not with the dignity of his subject. Hogarth's Sigismonda disgraced
The modesty and good sense of the ancients is, in this particular, as in others, remarkable. The same writer never presumed to undertake more than one kind of dramatic poetry, if we except the Cyclops of Euripides. A poet never presumed to plead in public, or to write history, or indeed any considerable work in prose. The same actors never recited tragedy and comedy: this was observed long ago, by Plato, in the third book of his Republic. They seem to have held that diversity, nay universality, of excellence, at which the moderns frequently aim, to be a gift unattainable by man.
We therefore, of Great Britain, have, perhaps, more reason to congratulate ourselves, on two great phenomena ; I mean Shakspeare's being able to pourtray characters so very different as Falstaff and Macbeth ; and Garrick's being able to personate so inimitably a Lear, or an Abel Drugger. Warton.
Neither the authority of the poet nor the efforts of the annotator
Not only bounded to peculiar arts,
can establish the authority of these and the six following lines, which seem to be the result of that tendency to depreciate the powers of the human mind, which is observable in some other parts of the writings of Pope. So far is it from being true, that “one science only will one genius fit,” that it may safely be asserted that no man ever made a great proficiency in any one department of science, or art, without a considerable acquaintance with many collateral branches, which were necessary to enable him to prosecute his studies to any great or useful extent. But of all subjects, that to which this maxim is the most inapplicable, is the science of Criticism, which requires not only the most various endowments of the human intellect, but the most extensive acquaintance with all the works of nature and of art. Instead of asserting that the human mind loses, on the one hand, what it acquires on the other, “ Like kings who lose the conquests gain'd before,” it might be with more truth asserted, that every new acquisition strengthens those we already possess, and that the mind is invigorated by exercise as well as the body. Cicero, it is true, was no poet, but in how many departments of knowledge did he excel? What were the diversity and extent of those acquisitions that filled up the mind of a Bacon? Can SHAKSPEARE's talents be said to have been confined to one science? or are we, like Dr. Warton, to consider him merely as a phenomenon peculiar to our own country? Turn to, MichelAGNOLO, " the sculptor, painter, poet, architect; to L1oNARDO DA VINCI, to RAFFAELLE, to Salvator Rosa,-men who have devoted themselves to different branches of science and of art, and who have excelled in whatever they have attempted; whose examples alone, if no others could be produced, are sufficient to refute the assertion that “ One science only will one genius fit."
First follow Nature, and your judgment frame By her just standard, which is still the same :
COMMENTARY. Ver. 68. First follow Nature, &c.] The Critic observing the directions before given, and now finding himself qualified for his office, is shewn next, how to exercise it. And as he was to attend to Nature for a call, so he is first and principally to follow Nature when called. And here again in this, as in the foregoing precept, our Poet (from ver. 67 to 88.] shews both the fitness and necessity of it. I. Its fitness, 1. Because Nature is the source of Poetic art; this art being only a representation of Nature, who is its great exemplar and original. 2. Because Nature is the end of Art; the design of poetry being to convey the knowledge of Nature in the most agreeable manner. 3. Because Nature is the test of Art, as she is unerring, constant, and still the same. Hence the poet observes, that as Nature is the source, she conveys life to art: As she is the end, she conveys force to it, for the force of any thing arises from its being directed to its end: and as she is the test, she conveys beauty to it, for every thing acquires beauty by its being reduced to its true standard. Such is the sense of these two important lines,
Life, force, and beauty must to all impart,
At once the source, and end, and test of Art. II. The necessity of the precept is seen from hence. The two constituent qualities of a Composition, as such, are Art and Wit: but neither of these attains perfection, 'till the first be hid, and the other judiciously restrained; this only happens when Naturc is exactly followed; for then Art never makes a parade; nor can Wit commit an extravagance. Art, while it adheres to Nature, and has so large a fund in the resources which Nature supplies, disposes every thing with so much ease and simplicity, that we see nothing but those natural images it works with, while itself stands unobserved behind: but when Art leaves Nature, misled either by the bold sallies of Fancy, or the quaint oddnesses of Fashion, she is then obliged at every step to come forward, in a painful or pompous ostentation, in order to cover, to soften, or to regulate the shocking disproportion of unnatural images. In the first case, our Poet compares Art to the Soul within, in forming a beauteous body;
Unerring Nature, still divinely bright, 70
but in the last, we are bid to consider it but as a mere outward garb, fitted only to hide the defects of a mis-shapen one. -As to Wit, it might perhaps be imagined that this needed only Judgment to govern it; but, as he well observes
“ Wit and Judgment often are at strife,
Tho' meant each other's aid, like man and wife.” They want therefore some friendly Mediator; and this Mediator is Nature: and in attending to Nature, Judgment will learn where he should comply with the charms of Wit; and Wit how she ought to obey the sage directions of Judgment.
Ver. 80. Some, to whom Heav'n, &c.] Here the Poet (in a sense he was not, ai first, aware of) has given an example of the truth of his observation, in the observation itself. The two lines stood originally thus :
“ There are whom Heav'n has blest with store of Wit,
Yet want as much again to manage it.” In the first line, wit is used, in the modern sense, for the effort of Fancy; in the second line it is used, in the ancient sense, for the result of Judgment. This trick, play'd the Reader, he endeavoured to keep out of sight, by altering the lines as they now stand,
Some, to whom Heav'n in Wit has been profuse,
For wit and judgment often are at strife,
85 The winged courser, like a gen'rous horse, Shews most true mettle when you check his course.
Those Rules of old discover’d, not devis'd, Are Nature still, but Nature methodiz'd;
Ver. 88. Those Rules of old, &c.] Having thus, in his first precept, to follow Nature, settled Criticism on its true foundation; he proceeds to shew, what assistance may be had from Art. But least this should be thought to draw the Critic from the ground where our Poet had before fixed him, he previously observes [from ver. 87 to 92.] that these Rules of Art, which he is now about to recommend to the Critic's observance, were not indented by abstract speculation ; but discovered in the book of Nature; and that therefore, tho' they may seem to restrain Nature by Laws, yet as they are laws of her own making, the Critic is still properly in the very liberty of Nature. These Rules the ancient Critics borrowed from the Poets, who received them immediately from Nature. “ Just Precepts thus from great Examples giv'n,
These drew from them what they deriv'd from Heav'n.” so that both are to be well studied.
For the words, to manage it, as the lines were at first, too plainly discovered the change put upon the Reader, in the use of the word, wit. This is now a little covered by the latter expression of-turn it to its use. But then the alteration, in the preceding line, from-store of wit, to profuse, was an unlucky change. For though he who has store of wil may want more, yet he to whom it was given in profusion could hardly be said to want more. The truth is, the Poet had said a lively thing, and would, at all hazards, preserve the reputation of it, though the very topic he is upon obliged him to detect the imposition, in the very next lines, which