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But Heav'n forbid we should be so profane,
To grace the vulgar with that noble name.
Tis not a flash of fancy, which, sometimes,
Dazzling our minds, sets off the slightest rhimes;
Bright as a blaze, but in a moment done:
True wit is everlasting, like the sun,
Which, tho' sometimes behind a cloud retir'd,
Breaks out again, and is by all admir'd.
Number and rhime, and that harmonious sound,
Which not the nicest ear with harshness wound,
Are necessary, yet but vulgar arts;
And all in vain these superficial parts
Contribute to the structure of the whole,
Without a genius too: for that's the soul:
A spirit which inspires the work throughout,
As that of nature moves the world about;
A flame that glows amidst conceptions fit;
Ev'n something of divine, and more than wit;
Itself unseen, yet all things by it shown,
Describing all men, but describ'd by none.
Where dost thou dwell? What caverns of the brain
Can such a vast and mighty thing contain?
When I, at vacant hours, in vain thy absence mourn,
Oh! where dost thou retire? and why dost thou return,
Sometimes with pow'rful charms to hurry me away,
From pleasures of the night, and bus'ness of the day?
Ev'n now, too far transported, I am fain
To check thy course, and use the needful rein.
As all is dulness, when the fancy's bad,
So, without judgment, fancy is but mad;
And judgment has a boundless influence
Not only in the choice of words, or sense,
But on the world, on manners, and on men;
Fancy is but the feather of the pen;
Reason is that substantial, useful part,
Which gains the head, while t'other wins the heart.
Here I shall all the various sorts of verse,
And the whole art of poetry rehearse;
But who that task would after Horace do?
The best of masters, and examples too!
Echoes at best, all we can say is vain;
Dull the design, and fruitless were the pain.
'Tis true, the ancients we may rob with ease;
But who with that mean shift himself can please,
Without an actor's pride? A player's art
Is above his who writes a borrow'd part.
Yet modern laws are made for later faults,
And new absurdities inspire new thoughts;
What need has Satire, then, to live on theft,
When so much fresh occasion still is left?
- Fertile our soil, and full of rankest weeds,
And monsters worse than ever Nilus breeds.
But hold, the fools shall have no cause to fear;
'Tis wit and sense that is the subject here:
Defects of witty men deserve a cure,
And those who are so, will e'en this endure.
First, then, of Songs, which now so much abound;
Without his song no fop is to be found;
A most offensive weapon, which he draws
On all he meets, against Apollo's laws.
Tho' nothing seems more easy, yet no part
Of poetry requires a nicer art;
For as in rows of richest pearl there lies
Many a blemish that escapes our eyes,
The least of which defects is plainly shown
In one small ring, and brings the value down:
So Songs should be to just perfection brought:
Yet where can one be seen without a fault?
Exact propriety of words and thought;
Expression easy, and the fancy high;
Yet that not seem to creep, nor this to fly;
No words transpos'd, but in such order all,
As wrought with care, yet seem by chance to fall?
Here, as in all things else, is most unfit
Base ribaldry, that poor pretence to wit;
Such nauseous songs, by a late author made,
Call an unwilling censure on his shade.
Not that warm thoughts of the transporting joy
Can shock the chastest, or the nicest cloy;
But words obscene, too gross to move desire,
Like heaps of fuel, only choak the fire.
On other themes he well deserves our praise;
But palls that appetite he meant to raise.
Next, Elegy, of sweet, but solemn voice, And of a subject grave, exacts the choice; The praise of beauty, valour, wit contains; And there too oft despairing love complains
In vain, alas! for who by wit is mov'd?
That Phoenix-she deserves to be belov'd;
But noisy nonsense, and such fops as vex
Mankind, take most with that fantastic sex.
This to the praise of those who better knew;
The many raise the value of the few.
But here (as all our sex too oft have try'd)
Women have drawn my wand'ring thoughts aside.
Their greatest fault, who in this kind have writ,
Is not defect in words, or want of wit;
But should this muse harmonious numbers yield,
And ev'ry couplet be with fancy fill'd;
If yet a just coherence be not made
Between each thought, and the whole model laid
So right, that ev'ry line may higher rise,
Like goodly mountains, till they reach the skies:
Such trifles may, perhaps, of late, have pass'd,
And may be lik'd a while, but never last:
"Tis epigram, 'tis point, 'tis what you will,
But not an elegy, nor writ with skill,
No Panegyric, nor a Cooper's-Hill.
A higher flight, and of a happier force,
Are Odes; the Muses' most unruly horse,
That bounds so fierce, the rider has no rest,
Here foams at mouth, and moves like one possess'd.
The poet, here, must be, indeed, inspir'd,
With fury too, as well as fancy, fir'd.
Cowley might boast to have perform'd this part,
Had he with nature join'd the rules of art;
But, sometimes, diction mean, or verse ill-wrought,
Deadens, or clouds, his noble frame of thought.
Though all appear in heat and fury done,
The language still must soft and easy run.
These laws may sound a little too severe;
But judgment yields and fancy governs here,
Which though extravagant, this Muse allows,
And makes the work much easier than it shows.
Of all the ways that wisest men could find
To mend the age, and mortify mankind,
Satire well writ has most successful prov'd,
And cures, because the remedy is lov'd;
"Tis hard to write on such a subject more,
Without repeating things said oft before:
Some vulgar errors only we'll remove,
That stain a beauty which we so much love.
Of chosen words some take not care enough,
And think they should be, as the subject, rough;
This poem must be more exactly made,
And sharpest thoughts in smoothest words convey'd.
Some think, if sharp enough, they cannot fail,
As if their only bus'ness was to rail:
But human frailty nicely to unfold,
Distinguishes a satyr from a scold.
Rage you must hide, and prejudice lay down;
A satyr's smile is sharper than his frown;
So, while you seem to slight some rival youth,
Malice itself may pass sometimes for truth.
The Laureat, here, may justly claim our praise,
Crown'd by Mack-Flekno with immortal bays;
Yet once his Pegasus has borne dead weight,
Rid by some lumpish minister of state.
CHARACTER and DUTY of a true CRITIC.
(POPE'S ESSAY ON CRITICISM.)
'Tis hard to say, if greater want of skill
Appear in writing, or in judging ill;
But of the two, less dang'rous is th' offence
To tire our patience, than mislead our sense.
Some few in that, but numbers err in this,
Ten censure wrong for one who writes amiss;
A fool might once himself alone expose,
Now one in verse makes many more in prose.
'Tis with our judgments as our watches, none
Go just alike, yet each believes his own.
In Poets as true genius is but rare,
True taste as seldom is the Critic's share;
Both must alike from Heaven derive their light,
These born to judge, as well as those to write.
Let such teach others who themselves excel,
And censure freely who have written well.
Authors are partial to their wit, 'tis true;
But are not Critics to their judgment too?
Yet if we look more closely, we shall find
Most have the seeds of judgment in their mind.
Nature affords at least a glimm'ring light;
The lines, tho' touch'd but faintly, are drawn right.
But as the slightest sketch, if justly trac'd,
Is by ill-colouring but the more disgrac'd,
So by false learning is good sense defac'd:
Some are bewilder'd in the maze of schools,
And some made coxcombs Nature meant but fools.
In search of wit these lose their common sense,
And then turn Critics in their own defence:
Each burns alike, who can, or cannot write,
Or with a Rival's, or an Eunuch's spite.
All fools have still an itching to deride;
And fain would be upon the laughing side.
If Mævius scribble in Apollo's spite,
There are, who judge still worse than he can write.
Some have at first for Wits, then Poets past,
Turn'd Critics next, and prov'd plain Fools at last.
Some neither can for Wits nor Critics pass,
As heavy mules are neither horse nor ass.
Those half-learn'd witlings, num'rous in our isle,
As half-form'd insects on the banks of Nile;
Unfinish'd things, one knows not what to call,
Their generation's so equivocal:
To tell 'em, would a hundred tongues require,
Or one vain wit's, that might a hundred tire.
But you who seek to give and merit fame,
And justly bear a Critic's noble name,
Be sure yourself and your own reach to know,
How far your genius, taste, and learning go;
Launch not beyond your depth, but be discreet,
And mark that point where sense and dulness meet..
Nature to all things fix'd the limits fit,
And wisely curb'd proud man's pretending wit.
As on the land while here the ocean gains,
In other parts it leaves wide sandy plains;
Thus in the soul while memory prevails,
The solid pow'r of understanding fails;
Where beams of warm imagination play,.
The memory's soft figures melt away.
One science only will one genius fit;
So vast is art, so narrow human wit:
Not only bounded to peculiar arts,
But oft in those confin'd to single parts:
Like kings we lose the conquests gain'd before,
By vain ambition still to make them more:
Each might his sev'ral province well command,
Would all but stoop to what they understand.