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Oft, leaving what is natural and fit,
The current folly proves the ready wit;
VER. 447. Between this and ver. 452.
The rhyming clowns that gladded Shakespear's age,
The current folly prov'd their ready wit;
And authors thought their reputation safe,
Which liv'd as long as fools were pleas'd to laugh.
Aquinas did not understand Greek; what he knew of Aristotle he got from Averroes, an Arabian, whom the Spanish Jews firft tranflated into Hebrew, and from Hebrew into Latin. WARTON,
VER. 445. Amidft their kindred cobwebs] Were common fenfe difpofed to credit any of the Monkifh miracles of the dark and blind ages of the Church, it would certainly be one of the feventh century recorded by honeft Bale. "In the fixth general council (fays he) holden at Conftantinople, Anno Dom. 680, contra Monothelitas, where the Latin Mass was first approved, and the Latin minifters deprived of their lawful wives, spiders' webbs, in wonderfull copye were feen falling down from above, upon the heads of the people, to the marvelous astonishment of many."The jufteft emblem and prototype of School Metaphysics, the divinity of Scotifts and Thomifts, which afterwards fell, in wonderfull copye on the heads of the people, in fupport of Tranfubftantiation, to the marvelous astonishment of many, as it continues to do to this day. WARBURTON.
VER. 445. Duck-lane.] A place where old and fecond-hand books were fold formerly, near Smithfield.
VER. 448. Oft, leaving what is natural] Ita comparatum eft humanum ingenium, ut optimarum rerum fatietate defatigetur.
And authors think their reputation fafe,
VER. 452. Some valuing thofe, &c.] III. The third and laft inftance of partiality in the learned, is party and faction, which is confidered from verse 451 to verse 474
Unde fit, artes, neceffitatis vi quâdam crefcere, aut decrefcere femper, & ad fummum faftigium evectas, ibi non diu poffe confiftere. Thus mufic, deferting fimple and pathetic expreffion, is taken up with tricks of execution, and a fort of flight of hand. Thus Borromini, to be new and original, has, as Mr. Walpole expreffes it, twisted and curled architecture, by inverting the volutes of the Ionic order. L'ennui du Beau, amene le gout du Singu lier. This will happen in every country, every art, and every age. WARTON.
VER. 451. as long as fools] "Mirabile eft (fays Tully) De Oratore, lib. iii. quum plurimum in faciendo inter doctum & rudem, quàm non multum differant in judicando."
Horace and Milton declare against general approbation, and wifh for "fit audience though few." And Tully relates, in his Brutus, the story of Antimachus, who, when his numerous auditors all gradually left him, except Plato, faid, I ftill continue reading my work; Plato, enim mihi unus inftar eft omnium. The noble confidence and ftrength of mind in Milton, is not in any circumstance more vifible and more admirable, than his writing a poem in a ftyle and manner that he was fure would not be relished or regarded by his corrupt contemporaries.
He was different in this refpect from Bernardo Taffo, the father of his beloved Torquato, who, to fatisfy the vulgar taste and current opinions of his country, new-modelled his epic poem Amadigi, to make it more wild and romantic, and less fuited to the rules of Ariftotle, WARTON.
VER. 452. fide or mind,] Are two vulgar words, unworthy of our author.
Fondly we think we honour merit then,
But fenfe furviv'd when merry jefts were paft; 460
Might he return, and bless once more our eyes,
VER. 458. Pride, Malice, &c.] Neither has philofophy escaped a fimilar fate; witness the perfecution of Galileo.
VER. 459. Shapes of Parfons, Critics,] The Parfon alluded to was Jeremy Collier; the Critic was the Duke of Buckingham; the first of whom very powerfully attacked the profligacy, and the latter the irregularity and bombast of some of Dryden's plays. These attacks were much more than merry jefts. WARTON.
VER. 463. Milbourn] The Rev. Mr. Luke Milbourn. Dennis ferved Mr. Pope in the fame office. But these men are of all times, and rise up on all occafions. Sir Walter Raleigh had Alexander Rofs; Chillingworth had Cheynel; Milton a first Edwards; and Locke a fecond; neither of them related to the third Edwards of Lincoln's Inn. They were Divines of parts and learning: this a Critic without one or the other. Yet (as Mr. Pope fays of Luke Milbourn) the fairest of all critics; for having written against the Editor's remarks on Shakespear, he did him juftice in printing, at the fame time, fome of his own. WARBURTON.
But all impartial critics allow these marks to have been decifive and judicious, and his Canons of Criticism remain unrefuted and unanswerable. WARTON.
Envy will merit, as its fhade, pursue;
But like a fhadow, proves the Substance true:
VER. 474. Be thou the first, &c.] The Poet having now gone through the last cause of wrong Judgment, and the root of all the rest, PARTIALITY; and ended his remarks upon it with a detection of the two rankeft kinds, those which arife out of PARTYRAGE and ENVY; takes the occafion, which this affords him, of clofing his fecond divifion in the most graceful manner, [from ver. 473 to 560.] by concluding from the premifes, and calling upon the TRUE CRITIC to be careful of his charge, which is the protection and fupport of Wit. For, the defence of it from malevolent cenfure is its true protection; and the illuftration of its beauties, is its true fupport. WARBURTON.
VER. 465. Zoilus again] In the fifth book of Vitruvius is an account of Zoilus's coming to the court of Ptolemy at Alexandria,` and presenting to him his virulent and brutal cenfures of Homer, and begging to be rewarded for his work; inftead of which, it is faid, the king ordered him to be crucified, or, as fome faid, stoned alive. His perfon is minutely defcribed in the 11th book of Elian's various Hiftory. WARTON,
VER. 472, But ev'n thofe clouds, c.] A beautiful and poetical illuftration. Pope has the art of enlivening his fubject con-tinually by images and illustrations drawn from nature, which by contralt have a particularly pleafing effect, and which are indeed abfolutely neceffary in a didactic poem.
Short is the date, alas, of modern rhymes,
And 'tis but just to let them live betimes.
VER. 474. Be thou the first true merit to befriend;
His praife is loft, who ftays till all commend.]
When Thomfon publifhed his Winter, 1726, it lay a long time neglected, till Mr. Spence made honourable mention of it in his Effay on the Odyffey; which becoming a popular book, made the poem univerfally known. Thomfon always acknowledged the ufe of this recommendation; and from this circumftance an intimacy commenced between the critic and the poet, which lafted till the lamented death of the latter, who was of a most amiable and benevolent temper. I have before me a letter of Mr. Spence to Pitt, earneftly begging him to fubscribe to the quarto edition of Thomfon's Seasons, and mentioning a defign which Thomfon had formed of writing a descriptive poem on Blenheim; a fubject that would have fhone in his hands. It was fome time after publication, before the Odes of Gray were relished and admired. They were even burlefqued by two men of wit and genius, who, however, once owned to me, that they repented of the attempt. The Hecyra of Terence, the Misanthrope of Moliere, the Phædra of Racine, the Way of the World of Congreve, the Silent Woman of Ben Jonson, were ill received on their first exhibitions. Out of an hundred comedies written by Menander, eight only obtained the prize; and only five of Euripides out the feventy tragedies he wrote. Our author feems to be eminently fortunate, who never, from his early youth, published a piece that did not meet with immediate approbation, except, perhaps, the firft Epiftle of the Effay on Man. WARTON.
VER 476. Short is the date,]" All living languages are liable to change. The Greek and Latin, though compofed of more durable materials than ours, were fubject to perpetual viciffitude, till they ceafed to be fpoken. The former is, with reafon, believed to have been more ftationary than any other; and indeed a very particular attention was paid to the preservation of it; yet between Spenfer and Pope, Hooker and Sherlock, Raleigh and Smollet, a difference of dialect is not more perceptible, than between Homer and Apollonius, Xenophon and Plutarch, Arif