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Both must alike from Heaven derive their light,
Yet, if we look more closely, we shall find
right. But as the slightest sketch, if justly traced, Is by ill-colouring but the more disgraced, So by false learning is good sense defaced : Some are bewilder'd in the maze of schools, And some made coxcombs nature meant but fools: In search of wit these lose their common sense, And then turn critics in their own defence : Each burns alike, who can, or cannot write, 30 Or with a rival's or an eunuch's spite. All fools have still an itching to deride, And fain would be upon the laughing side If Mævius scribble in Apollo's spite, There are who judge still worse than he can write.
Some have at first for wits, then poets pass'd;
But you, who seek to give and merit fame,
Launch not beyond your depth, but be discreet,
50 And mark that point where sense and dulness meet
Nature to all things fix'd the limits fit,
First follow nature, and your judgment frame By her just standard, which is still the same : Unerring nature, still divinely bright,
70 One clear, unchanged, and universal light, Life, force, and beauty, must to all impart, At once the source, and end, and test of art ; Art from that fund each just supply provides ; Works without show, and without pomp presides : In some fair body thus the informing soul With spirits feeds, with vigour fills the whole, Each motion guides, and every nerve sustains ; Itself unseen, but in the effects remains. Some, to whom Heaven in wit has been profuse, 80 Want as much more, to turn it to its use ; For wit and judgment often are at strife, Though meant each other's aid, like man and wife "Tis more to guide, than spur the muse's steed; Restrain his fury, than provoke his speed: The winged courser, like a generous horse, Shows most true mettle when you check his course
Those rules of old discover'd, not devised, Are nature still, but nature methodized : Nature, like liberty, is but restrain'd
90 By the same laws which first herself ordain'd.
Hear how learn'd Greece her useful rules indites, When to repress, and when indulge our flights : High on Parnassus' top her sons she show'd, And pointed out those arduous paths they trod; Held from afar, aloft, the immortal prize, And urged the rest by equal steps to rise. Just precepts thus from great examples given, She drew from them what they derived from Hea
The generous critic fann'd the poet's fire, 100
steer, Know well each ancient's proper character : His fable, subject, scope in every page: 120 Religion, country, genius of his age : Without all these at once before your eyes, Cavil you may, but never criticise.
Be Homer's works your study and delight,
When first young Maro, in his boundless mind 136
140 Some beauties yet no precepts can declare, For there's a happiness as well as care. Music resembles poetry; in each Are nameless graces which no methods teach, And which a master-hand alone can reach. If, where the rules not far enough extend (Since rules were made but to promote their end,) Some lucky license answer to the full The intent proposed, that license is a rule. Thus Pegasus, a nearer way to take,
150 May boldly deviate from the common track; From vulgar bounds with brave disorder part, And snatch a grace beyond the reach of art, Which, without passing through the judgnient, gains The heart, and all its ends at once attains. In prospects thus, some objects please our eyes, Which out of nature's common order rise, The shapeless rock, or hanging precipice. Great wits sometimes may gloriously offend, And rise to faults true critics dare not mend. 160
Bat though the ancients thus their rules invade
I know there are, to whose presumptuous thoughts
Still green with bays each ancient altar stands, Above the reach of sacrilegious hands; Secure from flames, from envy's fiercer rage, Destructive war, and all-involving age. See from each clime the learn'd their incense bring ! Hear, in all tongues consenting Pæans ring! In praise so just let every voice be join'd, And fill the general chorus of mankind. Hail! bards triumphant! born in happier days ; Immortal heirs of universal praise !
190 Whose honours with increase of ages grow, As streams roll down, enlarging as they flow; Nations unborn your mighty names shall sound, And worlds applaud that must not yet be found ! O may some spark of your celestial fire, The last, the meanest of your sons inspire, (That, on weak wings, from far pursues your flights Glows while he reads, but trembles as he writes,)