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themselves will be a perpetual source of confusion and meanness, until, by generalizing his ideas, the painter has acquired the only true criterion of judgement : then, with a Master's care,
Judge of his art, thro' beauty's realms he flies,
It is better that he should come to diversify on particulars from the large and broad idea of things, than vainly attempt to ascend from particulars to this great general idea: for to generalise from the endless and vicious variety of actual forms, requires a mind of wonderful capacity; it is perhaps more than any one mind can accomplish: but when the other, and, I think, better course is pursued, the Artist may avail himself of the united powers of all his predecessors. He sets out with an ample inheritance, and avails himself of the selection of
NOTE V. VERSE 63.
The sententious and Horatian line, (says a later French editor,) which in the original,
is placed to the score of the Ancients, to give
NOTE VI. VERSE 65.
When first the orient beams of beauty move
The original here is very obscure ; when I had translated the passage in the clearest manner I was able, but necessarily with some periphrasis, I consulted a learned friend upon it, who was pleased to approve the version, and to elucidate the text in the following manner: “ Cognita,” (the things known,) in line 45, refers to “ Nosse quid in natura pulchrius,” (the thing to be learned,) in line 38; the main thing is to know what forms are most beautiful, and to know what forms have been chiefly reputed such by the Ancients. In these when once known, i. e. attended to and considered, the mind of course takes a pleasure, and thus the conscious soul becomes enamoured with the object, &c. as in the Paraphrase. M.
NOTE VII. VERSE 78.
And clasps each Venus as she glides along.
power of expressing these transitory beauties is perhaps the greatest effort of our art, and which cannot be attained till the Student has acquired a facility of drawing nature correctly in its inanimate state.
NOTE VIII. VERSE 78.
Where purblind practice only points the way. Practice is justly called purblind; for practice, that is tolerable in its way, is not totally blind: an imperceptible theory, which grows out of, accompanies, and directs it, is never wholly wanting to a sedulous practice; but this goes but a little way with the Painter himself, and is utterly inexplicable to others.
To become a great proficient, an artist ought to see clearly enough to enable him to point out to others the principle on which he works ; otherwise he will be confined, and what is worse, he will be uncertain. A degree of mechanical practice, odd as it may seem, must precede theory. The reason is, that if we wait till we are partly able to comprehend the theory of art, too much of life will be passed to permit us to acquire facility and power: something therefore must be done on trust, by mere imitation of given patterns before the theory of art can be felt. Thus we shall become acquainted with the necessities of the art, and the very great want of Theory, the sense of which want can alone lead us to take pains to acquire it: for what better means can we have of knowing to a certainty, and of imprinting strongly on our mind our own deficiencies, than unsuccessful attempts? This Theory will be best understood by, and in, practice. If Practice advances too far before Theory, her guide, she is likely to lose her way; and if she keeps too far behind, to be discouraged,
NOTE IX. VERSE 89.
'Ttvas not by words Apelles charni'd mankind.
As Fresnoy háś condesceded to give advice of a prudential kind, let me be permitted here to recommend to the Artist to talk as little as possible of his own works, much less to praise them; and this not so much for the sake of avoiding the character of vanity, as for keeping clear of a real detriment; of a real productive cause which prevents his progress in his art, and dulls the edge of enterprize.
He who has the habit of insinuating his own excellence to the little circle of his friends, with whom he comes into contact, will
grow languid in his exertions to fill a larger sphere of reputation: He will fall into the habit of acquiescing in the partial opinions of a few; he will grow restive in his own; by admiring himself, he will come to repeat himself, and then there is an end of improvement. In a Painter it is particularly dangerous to be too good a speaker; it Jessens the necessary endeavours to make