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Our critics take a contrary extreme,
See Dionysius Homer's thoughts refine,
In grave Quintilian's copious work we find
Thee, bold Longinus ! all the Nine inspire,
Thus long succeeding critics justly reign'd, License repress'd, and useful laws ordain'd: Learning and Rome alike in empire grew, And arts still follow'd where her eagles flew; From the same foes at last both felt their doom, And the same age saw learning fall and Rome. With tyranny then superstition join'd, As that the body, this enslav'd the mind; Much was believ'd, but little understood, And to be dull was construed to be good :
A second deluge learning thus o'errun:
At length Erasmus, that great injur'd name, (The glory of the priesthood and the shame!) Stemm'd the wild torrent of a barbarous age, And drove those holy Vandals off the stage.
But see! each Muse in Leo's golden days Starts from her trance, and trims her wither'd bays; Rome's ancient genius, o'er its ruins spread, Shakes off the dust, and rears his reverend head. Then sculpture and her sister arts revive; Stones leap'd to form, and rocks began to live; With sweeter notes each rising temple rung ; A Raphael painted, and a Vida sung: Immortal Vida ! on whose honour'd brow The poet's bays and critic's ivy grow : Cremona now shall ever boast thy name, As next in place to Mantua, next in fame!
But soon by impious arms from Latium chas’d, Their ancient bounds the banish’d Muses pass’d; Thence arts o'er all the northern world advance, But critic learning flourish'd most in France ; The rules a nation born to serve obeys, And Boileau still in right of Horace sways. But we, brave Britons, foreign laws despis’d, And kept unconquer'd and unciviliz'd; Fierce for the liberties of wit, and bold, We still defied the Romans, as of old. Yet some there were, among the sounder few Of those who less presum’d and better knew,
THE POEMS OF POPE.
Who durst assert the juster ancient cause,
author's merit but his own.
friend, Who justly knew to blame or to commend ; To failings mild, but zealous for desert, The clearest head, and the sincerest heart. This humble praise, lamented shade! receive; This praise at least a grateful Muse may give : The Muse whose early voice you taught to sing, Prescrib'd her heights, and prun'd her tender wing, (Her guide now lost) no more attempts to rise, But in low numbers short excursions tries; Contentif hence th’unlearn'd their wants may view, The learn'd reflect on what before they knew : Careless of censure, nor too fond of fame ; Still pleas'd to praise, yet not afraid to blame; Averse alike to flatter or offend ; Not free from faults, nor yet too vain to mend.
1 Pope's early patron : see Mex oir prefixed to these volumnes, p. xix.