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Th' eternal snows appear already past,
A perfect Judge will read each work of Wit
Ver. 233. A perfect Judge, 8c.] The third cause of wrong Judgment is a NARROW CAPACITY; the natural cause of the foregoing defect, acquiescence in superficial learning. This bounded capacity our Author shews (from 232 to 384.) betrays itself two ways; in its judgment both of the matter, and the manner of the work criticised: Of the matter, in judging by parts, or in having one favourite part to a neglect of all the rest. Of the manner, in
Ver. 233. A perfect Judge, &c.] “ Diligenter legendum est ac pæne ad scribendi sollicitudinem : Nec per partes modo scrutanda sunt omnia, sed perlectus liber utique ex integro resumendus." Quint.
P. It is observable that our Author makes it almost the necessary consequence of judging by parts, to find fault: And this not without much discernment: For the several parts of a complete Whole, when seen only singly, and known only independently, must always have the appearance of irregularity; often of deformity : because the Poet's design being to create a resultive beauty from the artful assemblage of several various parts into one natural whole; those parts must be fashioned with regard to their mutual relations in the stations they occupy in that whole, from whence the beauty required is to arise: but that regard will occasion so unreducible a form in each part, when considered singly, as to present a very mis-shapen form.
The Traveller beholds with cheerful eyes
The less’ning vales, and seems to tread the skies. VOL. III.
Survey the WHOLE, nor seek slight faults to find 235 Where nature moves, and rapture warms the mind;
confining men's regard only to conceit, or language, or numbers. This is our Poet's order : and we shall follow him as it leads us ; only just observing one general beauty which runs through this part of the poem; it is, that under each of these heads of wrong Judgment, he has intermixed excellent precepts for the right. We shall take notice of them as they occur.
He exposes the folly of judging by parts very artfully, not by a direct description of that sort of Critic, but of his opposite, a perfect judge, &c. It is observable that our Author makes it almost the necessary consequence of judging by parts, to FIND FAULT: and this not without much discernment: for the several parts of a complete Whole, when seen only singly, and known only independently, must always have the appearance of irregularity; often of deformity: because the Poet's design being to create a resultive beauty from the artful assemblage of several various parts into one natural whole; those parts must be fashioned with regard to their mutual relations in the stations they occupy in that whole, from whence, the beauty required is to arise: but that regard will occasion so unreducible a form in each part, when considered singły, as to present a very mis-shapen form.
Ver. 235. Survey the WHOLE, nor seek slight faults to find
Where nature modes, and rapture warms the mind ;] The second line, in apologizing for those faults which the first says should be overlooked, gives the reason of the precept.
For when a great writer's attention is fixed on a general view of Nature, and his imagination becomes warmed with the contemplation of great ideas, it can hardly be, but that there must be small irregularities in the disposition both of matter and style, because the avoiding these requires a coolness of recollection, which a writer so qualified and so busied is not master of. Warburton.
According to a most just and judicious observation in the first book of Strabo, “ Καθαπερ γε εν τοις κολοσσικους εργους, και το καθ' όλα έκαςον ακριβες ζηταμεν, αλλά τους καθ' όλη προσεχομεν μαλλον ειείη καλως το όλον' έτως κ' αν τελους ποιείσθαι δει την κρισιν.” As in great co
Nor lose for that malignant dull delight,
240 That shunning faults, one quiet tenour keep; We cannot blame indeed—but we may sleep. In Wit, as Nature, what affects our hearts Is not th' exactness of peculiar parts ; 'Tis not a lip, or eye, we beauty call,
245 But the joint force and full result of all. Thus when we view some well-proportion'd dome, (The world's just wonder, and ev'n thine, O Rome!)
lossal works, we do not seek for exactness and accuracy in every part, but rather attend to the general effect, and beauty of the whole; so ought we to judge of compositions. And, as Quintilian says, Ungues polire, et capillum reponere, is an useless and ill-placed care.
Warton. Ver. 247. Thus when we view.] This is justly and elegantly expressed. Akenside has nobly succeeded, in speaking of the same subject :
Mark, how the dread Pantheon stands,
Warton. Ver. 248. The world's just wonder, and ev’n thine, O Rome !) The Pantheon, I would suppose ; perhaps St. Peter's ; no matter which ; the observation is true of both. There is something very Gothic in the taste and judgment of a learned man, who despises this master-piece of Art, the Pantheon, for those very qualities which deserve our admiration.-“ Nous esmerveillons comme l'on fait si grande cas de ce Pantheon, veu que son édifice n'est de si grande industrie comme l'on crie: car chaque petit Masson peut bien concevoir la maniere de sa façon tout en un instant: car esG 2
No single parts unequally surprize,
250 No monstrous height, or breadth, or length, ap
pear; The Whole at once is bold, and regular.
Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see, Thinks what ne'er was, nor is, nor e'er shall be.
Ver. 253. Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see,] He shews next [from ver. 252 to 263.] that to fix our censure on single parts, though they happen to want an exactness consistent enough with their relation to the rest, is even then very unjust : and for these reasons, 1. Because it implies an expectation of a fuultless piece, which is a vain fancy. 2. Because no more is to be expected of any work than that it fairly attains its end: but the end may
be attained, and yet these trivial faults committed : therefore, in spite of such faults, the work will merit that praise that is due to every thing which attains its end. 3. Because sometimes a great beauty is not to be procured, nor a notorious blemish to be avoided,
tant la base si massive, et les murailles si espaisses, ne nous a semblé difficile d'y adjouster la voute à claire voye.” Pierre Belon's Observations, &c. The nature of the Gothic structures apparently led him into this mistake of the Architectonic art in general; that the excellency of it consists in raising the greatest weight on the least assignable support, so that the edifice should have strength without the appearance of it, in order to excite admiration. But to a judicious eye such a building would have a contrary effect, the Appearance (as our poet expresses it) of a monstrous height, or breadth, or length. Indeed did the just proportions in regular Architecture take off from the grandeur of a building, by all the single parts coming united to the eye, as this learned traveller seems to insinuate, it would be a reasonable objection to those rules on which this Master-piece of Art was constructed. But it is not so. The Poet tells us truly,
“ The Whole at once is bold and regular.” Warburton.
In ev'ry work regard the writer's End, 255
COMMENTARY. but by suffering one of these minute and trivial errors. 4. And lastly, because the general neglect of them is a praise; as it is the indication of a Genius, attentive to greater matters.
Ver. 263. Most Critics fond of some subservient art, &c.] II. The second way in which a narrow capacity, as it relates to the matter, shews itself, is judging by a favourite part. The author has placed this [from ver. 262 to 285.) after the other of judging by parts, with great propriety, it being indeed a natural consequence of it. For when men have once left the whole to turn their attention to the separate parts, that regard and reverence due only to a whole is fondly transferred to one or other of its parts. And thus we see, that heroes themselves, as well as hero-makers, even kings, as well as Poets and Critics, when they chance never to have had, or long to have lost the idea of that which is the only legitimate object of their office, the care and conservation of the whole, are wont to devote themselves to the service of some favourite part, whether it be love of money, military glory, despotic power, &c. And all, as our Author says on this occasion,
Ver. 258. in spite of trivial] As if one was to condemn the divine Paradise Lost, on account of some low puns there introduced ; or some passages in Ariosto, on account of vulgar and familiar images and expressions, that have crept into that enchanting and original Poem.