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Nature, like Liberty, is but restrain'd
90 By the same Laws which first herself ordain’d.
shew he meant two very different things, by the very same term, in the two preceding,
“ For wit and judgment often are at strife,
Warburton. Ver. 88. Those Rules of old, &c.] Cicero has, best of any one I know, explained what that thing is which reduces the wild and scattered parts of human knowledge into arts" Nihil est quod ad artem redigi possit, nisi ille prius, qui illa tenet, quorum artem instituere vult, habeat illam scientiam, ut ex iis rebus, quarum ars nondum sit, artem efficere possit.Omnia fere, quæ sunt conclusa nunc artibus, dispersa et dissipata quondam fuerunt, ut in Musicis, &c. Adhibita est igitur ars quædam extrinsecus ex alio genere quodam, quod sibi totum Philosophi assumunt, quæ rem dissolutam divulsamque conglutinaret, et ratione quadam constringeret.”—De Orat. 1. i. c. 41, 2.
Warburton. The precepts of the art of poetry were posterior to practice; the rules of the Epopea were all drawn from the Iliad, and the Odyssey; and of Tragedy, from the Oedipus of Sophocles. A petulant rejection, and an implicit veneration, of the rules of the ancient critics, are equally destructive of true taste.
“ It ought to be the first endeavour of a writer (says the Rambler, No. 156.) to distinguish nature from custom; or that which is established because it is right, from that which is right only because it is established ; that he may neither violate essential principles by a desire of novelty, nor debar himself from the attainment of any beauties within his view, by a needless fear of breaking rules, which no literary dictator had authority to prescribe.”
This liberal and manly censure of critical bigotry, extends not to those fundamental and indispensable rules, which nature and necessity dictate, and demand to be observed ; such, for instance, as in the higher kinds of poetry, that the action of the epopea, be one, great, and entire: that the hero be eminently distinguished, move our concern, and deeply interest us; that the episodes arise easily out of the main fable; and the action commence as near the catastrophe as possible; and, in the drama, that no more events be
Hear how learn'd Greece her useful rules indites, When to repress, and when indulge our flights:
Ver. 92. Hear how learn’d Greece, &c.] He speaks of the ancient Critics first, and with great judgment, as the previous knowledge of them is necessary for reading the Poets, with that fruit which the end here proposed, requires. But having, in the foregoing observation, sufficiently explained the nature of ancient Criticism, he enters on the subject (treated of from ver. 91 to 118.] with a sublime description of its end; which was to illustrate the beauties of the best writers, in order to excite others to an emu
lation NOTES. crowded together, than can be justly supposed to happen during the time of representation, or to be transacted on one individual spot, and the like. But the absurdity here animadverted on, is the scrupulous nicety of those who bind themselves to obey frivolous and unimportant laws; such as, that an epic poem should consist not of less than twelve books; that it should end fortunately; that in the first book there should be no simile; that the exordium should be very simple and unadorned ; that in a tragedy, only three personages should appear at once upon the stage ; and that every tragedy should consist of five acts ; by the rigid observation of which last unnecessary precept, the poet is deprived of using many a moving story, that would furnish matter enough for three perhaps, but not for five acts : with other rules of the like indifferent nature.
It has become a fashionable attempt of late, to censure and decry an obedience to the rules laid down by ancient critics; while one party loudly and frequently exclaim,
Vos exemplaria Græca
Warton. Ver. 92. Hear how learn's Greece, &c ] In the second part of Shaftesbury's Advice to an "Author, is a judicious and elegant account of the rise and progress of arts and sciences in ancient Greece. For å passage that relates to the origin of Criticism, v. Characteristics, vol. 1, 12mo. p. 163.
High on Parnassus' top her sons she show'd,
lation of their excellence. From the raptures which these ideas inspire, the poet is brought back, by the follies of modern Criticism, now before his eyes, to reflect on its base degeneracy. And as the restoring the Art to its original purity and splendour is the great purpose of this poem, he first takes notice of those, who scem not to understand that Nature is exhaustless; that new models of good writing may be produced in every age; and consequently, that new rules may be formed from these models, in the same manner as the old Critics formed theirs, which was, from the writings of the ancient Poets : but men wanting art and ability to form these new rules, were content to receive and file
for the old ones of Aristotle, Quintilian, Longinus, Horace, &c. with the same vanity and boldness that apothecaries practise, with their doctors' bills : and then rashly applying them to new Originals (cases which they did not hit) it was no more in their power than in their inclination to imitate the candid practice of the Ancients, when
“ The gen'rous Critic fann'd the Poet's fire,
And taught the world with Reason to admire ;" For, as Ignorance, when joined with Humility, produces stupid admiration, on which account it is commonly observed to be the mother of Devotion and blind homage: so when joined with Vanity (as it always is in bad. Critics) it gives birth to every iniquity of impudent abuse and slander. See an example (for want of a better) in a late ridiculous and now forgotten thing, called the
Ver. 98. Just precepts] “ Nec enim artibus editis factum est ut argumenta inveniremus, sed dicta sunt omnia antequam præciperentur ; mox ea scriptores observata et collecta ediderunt.” Quintil.
The gen'rous Critic fann'd the Poet's fire, 100
Life of Socrates; where the Head of the author (as a man of wit observed) has just made a shift to do the office of a camera obscura, and represent things in an inverted order ; himself above, and Spratt, Rollin, Voltaire, and every other writer of reputation, below.
Ver. 103. To dress her charms,] What a dreadful picture has Swift drawn of the evil demon of criticism.
"Momus fearing the worst, and calling to mind an ancient prophecy, which bore no very good face to his children the moderns, bent his flight to the region of a malignant deity, called Criticism. She dwelt on the top of a snowy mountain in Nova Zembla; there Momus found her extended in her den, upon the spoils of numberless volumes, half devoured. At her right hand sat Ignorance, her father and husband, blind with age; at her left, Pride, her mother, dressing her up
herself had torn. There, was Opinion, her sister, light of foot, hoodwinked, and headstrong, yet giddy, and perpetually turning. About her played her children, Noise and Impudence, Dulness and Vanity, Positiveness, Pedantry, and Ill-manners. The goddess, herself, had claws like a cat; her head, and ears, and voice, resembled those of an ass ; her teeth fallen out before ; her eyes turned inward, as if she looked only upon herself; her diet was the overflowing of her own gall: her spleen was so large, as to stand prominent like a dug of the first rate, nor wanted excrescences in form of teats, at which a crew of ugly monsters were greedily sucking; and what is wonderful to conceive, the bulk of spleen encreased faster than the sucking could diminish it.”—Tale of a Tub, p. 200.
So modern ’Pothecaries, taught the art
Ver. 112. Some on the leaves] The first are the apes of those learned Italian critics who, at the restoration of letters, having found the classic writers miserably deformed by the hands of monkish librarians, very commendably employed their pains and talents in restoring them to their native purity. The second, the plagiaries from those French critics, who had made some admirable commentaries on the ancient critics. But that acumen and taste, which separately constitute the distinct value of those two species of Italian and French criticism, make no part of these paltry mimics at home, described by our poet in the following lines,
“ These leave their sense, their learning to display,
And those explain the meaning quite away.” which species is the least hurtful, the poet has enabled us to determine in the lines with which he opens his
Warburton. He has too frequently expressed an idle contempt of the Heinsiuses, Burmans, Gronoviuses, Reiskius's, Marklands, and Gesners; and other searchers into various readings, who have done so much towards settling the texts of ancient authors.
Warton. Ver. 115. Write dull] Perhaps he glanced at Bossu's famous Treatise on Epic Poetry, which may have been too much praised. D'Aubignac, under the patronage of Richlieu, wrote a treatise on the drama ; and Mambrun on the epopée ; but the tragedy of the VOL. III.