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They talk of principles, but notions prize, 265 And all to one lov'd Folly sacrifice.
Once on a time, La Mancha's Knight, they say, A certain Bard encount'ring on the way,
“to one lov'd Folly sacrifice." This general misconduct much recommends that maxim in good Poetry and Politics, to give a principal attention to the whole: a maxim which our author has elsewhere shewn to be equally true likewise in Morals and Religion; as being founded in the order of things : For if we examine we shall find the misconduct here complained of, to arise from this imbecillity of our nature, that the mind must always have something to rest upon, to which the passions and affections may be interestingly directed. Nature prompts us to seek it in the most worthy object; and Reason points out to a Whole, or System: But the false lights which the passions hold out, confound and dazzle us ; we stop short; and, before we get to a Whole, take up with some Part; which thenceforth becomes our favourite.
Ver. 267. Once on a time, La Mancha's Knight they say,] By this short tale Pope has shewed us, how much he could have excelled in telling a story of humour. The incident is taken from the Second Part of Don Quixote, first written by Don Alonzo Fernandez de Avellanada, and afterwards translated, or rather imitated and new-modelled, by no less an Author than the celebrated Le Sage. The Book is not so contemptible as some authors insinuate; it was well received in France, and abounds in many strokes of humour and character worthy of Cervantes himself. The brevity to which Pope's narration was confined, would not permit him to insert the following humorous dialogue at length, “ I am satisfied you'll compass your design (said the scholar), provided you omit the combat in the lists. Let him have a care of that, said Don Quixote, interrupting him, that is the best part of the plot. But, Sir, quoth the Bachelor, if you would have me adhere to Aristotle's rules, I must omit the combat. Aristotle, replied the Knight, I grant was a man of some parts; but his capacity was not unbounded ; and, give me leave to tell you, his
Discours'd in terms as just, with looks as sage,
authority does not extend over combats in the list, which are far above his narrow rules. Would you suffer the chaste Bohemia to perish? For how can you clear her innocence? Believe me, combat is the most honourable method you can pursue; and besides, it will add such grace to your play, that all the rules in the universe must not stand in competition with it. Well Sir Knight, replied the Bachelor, for your sake, and for the honour of chivalry, I will not leave out the combat ; and that it may appear the more glorious, all the court of Bohemia shall be present at it, from the Princes of the blood to the very footmen. But still one difficulty remains, which is, that our common theatres are not large enough for it. There must be one erected on purpose, answered the Knight; and in a word, rather than leave out the combat, the play had better be acted in a field or plain."
It may be observed, that there is but one Tale in this essay, nor in Boileau's art, nor Roscommon's essay, and this is superior to the other two.
Warton. Ver. 276. Unities; what not ?] The two unities of time and place have been so powerfully and irresistibly combated by Dr. Johnson (in his Preface to Shakespear), that I do not think a critic will be found hardy enough to undertake a defence of them :
Non quisquam ex agmine tanto
Audet adire virum! That these unities have, in fact, never been observed by the three Greek writers of tragedy, is demonstrated, at large, in the fifth
All which, exact to rule, were brought about, Were but a Combat in the lists left out. “ What! leave the Combat out?" exclaims the
Knight; Yes, or we must renounce the Stagirite. 280 “ Not so, by Heav'n !” (he answers in a rage) Knights, squires, and steeds, must enter on the
stage.” So vast a throng the stage can ne'er contain, “ Then build a new, or act it in a plain.”
Thus Critics of less judgment than caprice, 285 Curious not knowing, not exact but nice,
Ver. 285. Thus Critics of less judgment than caprice,
Curious not knowing, not exact but nice,
Form short ideas, &c.] 2. He concludes his observations on those two sorts of Judges by parts, with this general reflection. The curious not knowing are the first sort, who judge by parts, and with a microscopic sight (as he says elsewhere) examine bit by bit. The not eract but nice, are the second, who judge by a favourite part, and talk of a whole to cover their fondness for a part; as Philosophers do of principles, in order to obtrude notions and opinions in their stead. But the fate common to both is, to be governed by caprice and not by judgment; and consequently to form short ideas, or to have ideas
chapter of Metastasio's very judicious work, entitled, Estratto della Poetica D'Aristotile, from page 93 to 119, a work full of taste and judgment, and which comes with double weight from so long and able a practitioner in the dramatic art, many of whose plays are planned with the greatest skill, and who is, on the whole, one of the finest and truest poets Italy has produced. Whoever would thoroughly understand Aristotle, should, in my opinion, very attentively peruse his Estratto.
Warton. Ver. 285. Thus Critics, &c.] In these two lines the poet finely
Form short Ideas; and offend in arts,
Some to Conceit alone their taste confine, And glitt'ring thoughts struck out at ev'ry line;
COMMENTARY. short of truth: Though the latter sort, through a fondness to their favourite part, imagine that it comprehends the whole in epitome: As the famous hero of La Mancha, mentioned just before, used to maintain, that Knight Errantry comprised within itself the quintessence of all Science, civil, military, and religious.
Ver. 289. Some to Conceit alone, &c.] We come now to that second sort of bounded capacity, which betrays itself in its judgment on the manner of the work criticised. And this our Author prosecutes from ver. 288 to 384. These are again subdivided into divers classes. Ibid. Some to Conceit alone, &c.] The first [from ver. 288 to
describes the way in which bad writers are wont to imitate the qualities of good ones. As true judgment generally draws men out of popular opinions ; so he who cannot get from the croud by the assistance of this guide, willingly follows caprice, which will be sure to lead him into singularities. Again, true knowledge is the art of treasuring up only that which, from its use in life, is worthy of being lodged in the memory: and this makes the philosopher. But curiosity consists in a vain attention to every thing out of the way, and which for its inutility the world least regards: and this makes the antiquarian. Lastly, exactness is the just proportion of parts to one another, and their harmony in a whole. But he who has not extent of capacity for the exercise of this quality, contents himself with nicety, which is a busying oneself about points and syllables : and this makes the grammarian.
Warburton. Ver. 290. And glittering thoughts) A rage that infected Marino, Donne, and his disciple Cowley. See Dr. Johnson's excellent Dissertation on Cowley, and his fantastic style, in the first volume of Lives of the Poets. Little can be added to his discussion on false and unnatural thoughts. It is, beyond comparison, the best of all his criticisms.
Pleas'd with a work where nothing's just or fit;
305.) are those who confine their attention solely to Conceit or Wit. And here again the Critic by parts, offends doubly in the manner, just as he did in the matter : For he not only confines his attention to a part, when it should be extended to the whole ; but he likewise judges falsely of that part. And this, as the other, is unavoidable; the parts in the manner bearing the same close relation to the whole, that the parts in the matter do; to which whole, the ideas of this Critic have never yet extended. Hence it is, that our Author, speaking here of those who confine their attention solely to Conceit or Wit, describes the distinct species of true and false Wit: because they not only mistake a wrong disposition of true Wit for a right, but likewise false Wit for true: He describes false Wit first, [from ver. 288 to 297.]
“ Some to Conceit alone,” &c. Where the reader may observe our Author's address in representing, in a description of false Wit, the false disposition of the true ; as the Critic by parts is apt to fall into both these errors. He next describes true Wit, [from ver. 296 to 305.]
“ True Wit is Nature to advantage dress'd,” &c. And here again the reader may observe the same beauty; not only an explanation of true Wit, but likewise of the right disposition of it, which the poet illustrates, as he did the wrong, by ideas taken from the art of Painting; in the theory of which he was exquisitely skilled.
Ver. 297. True Wit is Nature to advantage dress'd, &c.] This definition is very exact. Mr. Locke had defined wit to consist