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Though wit and art conspire to move your mind;
When love was all an easy monarch's care ;
engage, Here point your thunder, and exhaust your rage! Yet shun their fault, who, scandalously nice, Will needs mistake an author into vice: All seems infected that th' infected spy, As all looks yellow to the jaundic'd eye.
AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM.
Rules for the conduct and manners in a critic. Candour.
Modesty. Good-breeding. Sincerity and freedom of advice. When one's counsel is to be restrained. Character of an incorrigible poet. And of an impertinent critic. Character of a good critic. The history of Criticism, and characters of the best critics ; Aristotle. Horace. Dionysius. Petronius. Quintilian. Longinus. Of the decay of Criticism, and its revival. Erasmus. Vida. Boileau, Lord Roscommon, &c. Conclusion.
LEARN then what morals critics ought to show,
doubt your sense,
'Tis not enough your counsel still be true; Blunt truths more mischief than nice falsehoods do;
Men must be taught as if you taught them not, And things unknown propos’d as things forgot. Without good-breeding truth is disapprov'd ; That only makes superior sense belov’d.
Be niggards of advice on no pretence, For the worst avarice is that of sense. With mean complacence ne'er betray your trust, Nor be so civil as to prove unjust. Fear not the anger
of the wise to raise; Those best can bear reproof who merit praise.
"Twere well might critics still this freedom take, But Appius 1 reddens at each word you speak, And stares tremendous, with a threatening eye, Like some fierce tyrant in old tapestry. Fear most to tax an honourable fool, Whose right it is, uncensur'd, to be dull : Such, without wit, are poets when they please, As without learning they can take degrees. Leave dangerous truths to unsuccessful satires, And flattery to fulsome dedicators; Whom, when they praise, the world believes no more Than when they promise to give scribbling o'er. 'Tis best sometimes your censure to restrain, And charitably let the dull be vain ; Your silence there is better than your spite, For who can rail so long as they can write ? Still humming on their drowsy course they keep, And lash'd so long, like tops, are lash'd asleep.
" John Dennis : he wrote a play called Appius and Virginia.
but help them to renew the race,
Such shameless bards we have; and yet ’tis true
But where's the man who counsel can bestow, Still pleas'd to teach, and yet not proud to know? Unbiass'd or by favour or by spite, Not dully prepossess'd nor blindly right; Though learn'd, well bred, and though well bred,
sincere : Modestly bold, and humanly severe ; Who to a friend his faults can freely show, And gladly praise the merit of a foe? Bless'd with a taste exact, yet unconfin’d, A knowledge both of books and human kind; Generous converse; a soul exempt from pride; And love to praise, with reason on his side ?
Such once were critics; such the happy few Athens and Rome in better ages
knew. The mighty Stagyrite first left the shore, Spread all his sails, and durst the deeps explore; He steer'd securely, and discover'd far, Led by the light of the Mæcnian star. Poets, a race long unconfin'd and free, Still fond and proud of savage liberty, Receiv'd his laws, and stood convinc'd 'twas fit Who conquer'd nature should preside o'er wit.
Horace still charms with graceful negligence, And without method talks us into sense; Will, like a friend, familiarly convey The truest notions in the easiest way. He who, supreme in judgment as in wit, Might boldly censure as he boldly writ, Yet judg'd with coolness, though he sung with fire; His precepts teach but what his works inspire.