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I revere the memory of POPE, I respect and honour his abilities; but I do not think him at the head of his profesfion. In other words, in that species of poetry wherein POPE excelled, he is fuperior to all mankind: and I only fay, that this fpecies of poetry is not the most excellent one of the art.
We do not, it fhould feem fufficiently attend to the difference there is, betwixt a MAN OF WIT, a MAN OF SENSE, and a TRUE POET. Donne and Swift were undoubtedly men of wit, and men of fense: but what traces have they left of PURE POETRY? It is remarkable, that Dryden fays of Donne; He was the greatest wit, tho' not the greateft poet of this nation. Fontenelle and La Motte are entitled to the former character; but what can they urge to gain
the latter? Which of these characters is the most valuable and useful, is entirely out of the question: all I plead for, is, to have their several provinces kept diftinct from each other; and to imprefs on the reader, that a clear head, and acute understanding are not fufficient, alone, to make a POET; that the most folid obfervations on human life, expreffed with the utmost elegance and brevity, are MORALITY, and not POETRY; that the EPISTLES of Boileau in RHYME, are no more poetical, than the CHAR ACTERS of La Bruyere in PROSE; and that it is a creative and glowing IMAGINATION, "acer fpiritus ac vis," and that alone, that can stamp a writer with this exalted and very uncommon character, which fo few poffefs, and of which fo few can properly judge.
FOR One person who can adequately relish, and enjoy a work of imagination, twenty are to be found who can taste and judge of, obfervations on familiar life, and the manners of the age. The fatires of Ariofto are more read than the Orlando Furiofo, or even Dante. Are there so many cordial admirers of Spenfer and Milton, as of Hudibras; if we strike out of the number of these supposed admirers, those who appear fuch out of fashion, and not of feeling?
SWIFT's rhapfody on poetry is far more popular than Akenfide's noble ode to lord Huntingdon. The EPISTLES on the Characters of men and women, and your sprightly fatires, my good friend, are more frequently perufed, and quoted, than L'Allegro and Il Penfe
Penferofo of Milton. Had you written only these fatires, you would indeed have gained the title of a man of wit, and a man of sense; but, I am confident, would not infift on being denominated a POET, MERELY on their ac
NON SATIS EST PURIS VERSUM PERSCRIBERE VERBIS.
It is amazing this matter fhould ever have been mistaken, when Horace has taken particular and repeated pains, to fettle and adjust the opinion in queftion. He has more than once difclaimed all right and title to the name of POET, on the score of his ethic and fatiric pieces.
-NEQUE ENIM CONCLUDERE VERSUM
are lines, often repeated, but whose meaning is not extended and weighed
as it ought to be. Nothing can be more judicious
judicious than the method he prefcribes, of trying whether any compofition be effentially poetical or not; which is, to drop entirely the measures and numbers, and tranfpofe and invert the order of the words: and in this unadorned manner to perufe the paffage. If there be really in it a true poetical fpirit, all your inverfions and tranfpofitions will not disguise and extinguish it; but it will retain its luftre, like a diamond, unfet, and thrown back into the rubbish of the mine. Let us make a little experiment on the following well-known lines; "Yes, you defpife "the man that is confined to books, "who rails at 'human kind from his Study; tho' what he learns, he fpeaks; " and may perhaps advance fome gene"ral maxims, or may be right by "chance.