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So much they scorn the croud, that if the throng By chance go right, they purposely go wrong: So Schifmatics the plain believers quit,
And are but damn'd for having too much wit.
Now as this is a plaufible pretence for their inconftancy, and our author himself has afterwards laid down the thought, in a precept for a remedy against obstinacy and pride, where he fays,
570. But you with pleasure own your errors paft,
And make each day a critic on the laft,
he has been careful, by the turn of the expreffion in this place, to fhew the difference. For Time, confidered only as duration, vitiates as frequently as it improves. Therefore to expect wisdom as the neceffary attendant of length of years unrelated to long experience, is vain and delufive. This he illuftrates by a remarkable example; in which, we, inftead of becoming wifer, fee Time deftroying good letters, to fubftitute fchool divinity in their place. The genius of this kind of learning; the character of its profeffors; and the fate, which, fooner or later, always attends whatsoever is wrong or false, the poet fums up in thofe four lines;
Faith, Gofpel, all feem'd made to be disputed, &c.
And in conclufion, he obferves, that perhaps this mifchief, from love of novelty, might not be fo great, did it not, with the Critic, infect Authors likewife; who,
Some praise at morning what they blame at night;
But always think the laft opinion right.
A Mufe by these is like a miftrefs us'd,
This hour fhe's idoliz'd, the next abus'd;
when they find their readers difpofed to take ready Wit on the fandard of current Folly, never trouble themselves to make better payment.
444. Scotifts and Thomifts] Thefe were two parties amongst the schoolmen, headed by Duns Scotus and Thomas Aquinas, of different
opinions, and from that dif ference denominated Realift: and Nominalists; they were perpetually difputing on the fubject of the immaculate
If Faith itself has different dreffes worn,
What wonder modes in Wit should take their turn?
Oft', leaving what is natural and fit,
The current folly proves the ready wit;
VER. 452. Some valuing those of their own fide ar mind, & 3. The third and laft inftance of partiality in the learned, is Party and Faction. Which is confidered from 451 to 474. where he fhews how men of this turn deceive themselves when they load a writer of their own fide with commendation. They fancy they are only paying tribute to merit, when they are all the while facrificing to Self-love. But this is not the worst. He further fhews, that this party spirit has often very ill effects on fcience itself; while, in fupport of Fation, it labours to deprefs fome rifing genius that was, perhaps, kindled by Nature, for the enlightening of his age and country. An obfervation finely infinuating, that all the base and viler paffions feek refuge and find fupport in party madnefs.
conception; the firft holding, the latter denying it.
4.45. Duck-lane] A
place where old and fecondhand books were fold formerly, near Smithfield.
Fondly we think we honour merit then,
Might he return, and bless once more our eyes,
470. For envy'd Wit, like Sol eclips'd, &c.] This fimilitude implies a very remarkable fact; which (as the lines were almoft prophetic) we need not feek abroad for an example of. It is, that frequently thofe very writers, who have at firft done all they could to
obfcure and deprefs a rifing genius, have been at length reduced, in order to keep themfelves in fome little credit, to borrow from him, imitate his manner, and reflect what they could of his fplendor. Nor has the poet been lefs artful, to infinuate alfo what is fometimes the
When first that fun too powerful beams displays, 47
His praife is loft, who stays 'till all commend. 475
VER. 474. Be thou the firft, &c.] The poet having now gone thro' the laft caufe of wrong Judgment, and root of all the reft, namely, Partiality; and ended it with the highest instances of it, in party-rage and envy ; this affords him an opportunity of clofing his fecond divifion in the most graceful manner, by concluding from the premiffes, and calling upon the TRUE CRITIC to be careful of his charge, which is the protection and jupport of Wit. For, the defence of it from malevolent cenfure is its true protection; and the illuftration of its beauties, its true fupport.
caufe. A youthful genius, like the Sun rifing towards the Meridian, dilplays too powerful beams for inferior writers, which occafions their gathering, condenfing, and blackening. But as he
defcends from the Meridian (the time when the Sun gives its gilding to the furrounding clouds) his beams grow milder, his heat more benign, and then
ev'n thofe Clouds at laft adorn its way, Reflect new glories, and augment the day.