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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.

COMMENTARY.

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,

431

This hour fhe's idoliz'd, the next abus'd;
While their weak heads, like towns unfortify'd,
'Twixtfense and nonfenfe daily change their fide.435
Ask them the cause ; they're wiser still, they say;
And ftill to-morrow's wifer than to-day.
We think our fathers fools, fo wife we grow ;
Our wifer fons, no doubt, will think us fo.
Once School-divines this zealous ifle o'er-fpread; 440
Who knew moft Sentences, was deepest read;
Faith, Gofpel, all, feem'd made to be disputed,
And none had fense enough to be confuted:
Scotifts and Thomifts, now, in peace remain,
Amidst their kindred cobwebs in Duck-lane. 445

COMMENTARY.

when they find their readers difpofed to take ready Wit on the fandard of current Folly, never trouble themselves to make better payment.

NOTES.

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,

450

The current folly proves the ready wit;
And authors think their reputation fafe,
Which lives as long as fools are pleas'd to laugh.
Some valuing those of their own fide or mind,
Still make themselves the measure of mankind:

COMMENTARY.

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.

NOTES.

conception; the firft holding, the latter denying it.

4.45. Duck-lane] A

place where old and fecondhand books were fold formerly, near Smithfield.

455

Fondly we think we honour merit then,
When we but praise ourselves in other men.
Parties in Wit attend on those of State,
And public faction doubles private hate.
Pride, Malice, Folly, against Dryden rose,
In various fhapes of Parfons, Critics, Beaus;
But fenfe furviv'd, when merry jefts were paft; 460
For rifing merit will buoy up at laft.

Might he return, and bless once more our eyes,
New Blackmores and new Milbourns muft arife:
Nay fhould great Homer lift his awful head,
Zoilus again would ftart up from the dead. 465
Envy will merit, as its fhade, pursue;
But like a fhadow, proves the fubftance true;
For envy'd Wit, like Sol eclips'd, makes known
"Th' oppofing body's groffnefs, not its own.

NOTES.

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
It draws up vapours which obfcure its rays;
But ev'n thofe clouds at last adorn its way,
Reflect new glories, and augment the day.
Be thou the first true merit to befriend;

His praife is loft, who stays 'till all commend. 475

COMMENTARY.

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.

NOTES.

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.

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