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Whose right it is uncensur'd to be dull:
Such, without wit, are poets when they please,
As without learning they can take degrees.
Leave dangerous truths to unsuccessful satires,
And flattery to fulsome dedicators;
Whom, when they praise, the world believes no
Than when they promise to give scribbling o'er.
'Tis best sometimes your censure to restrain,
And charitably let the dull be vain ;
Your silence there is better than your spite.
For who can rail so long as they can write?
Still humming on their drowsy course they keep,
And lash'd so long, like tops are lash'd asleep.
False steps but help them to renew the race,
As after stumbling jades will mend their pace.
What crowds of these, impenitently bold,
In sounds of jingling syllables grown old,
Still run on poets, in a raging vein,
Ev'n the dregs and squeezings of the brain,
Strain out the last dull droppings of their sense,
And rhyme with all the rage of impotence!
Such shameless bards we have; and yet 'tis true,
There are as mad abandon'd critics too.
The bookful blockhead, ignorantly read,
With loads of learned lumber in his head,
With his own tongue still edifies his ears,
And always listening to himself appears.
All books he reads, and all he reads assails,
From Dryden's fables down to Durfey's tales.
With him most authors steal their works, or buy ;
Garth did not write his own dispensary.
Name a new play, and he's the poet's friend;
Nay, show'd his faults-but when would poets mend?
No place so sacred from such fops is barr'd,
Nor is Paul's church more safe than Paul's churchyard:
Nay, fly to altars; there they'll talk you dead :
For fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
Distrustful sense with modest caution speaks
It still looks home, and short excursions makes;
But rattling nonsense in full vollies breaks.
And never shock'd, and never turn'd aside,
Bursts out, resistless, with a thundering tide.
But where's the man who counsel can bestow, Still pleas'd to teach, and yet not proud to know; Unbiass'd or by favour or by spite,
Not dully prepossess'd nor blindly right.
Tho' learn'd, well-bred, and tho' well-bred, sincere,
Modestly bold, and humanely severe;
Who to a friend his faults can freely show,
And gladly praise the merit of a foe?
Bless'd with a taste exact, yet unconfin'd,
A knowledge both of books and human kind?
A gen'rous converse; soul exempt from pride;
And love to praise with reason on his side?
Such once were critics; such the happy few
Athens and Rome in better ages knew.
The mighty Stagirite first left the shore,
Spread all his sails, and durst the deeps explore;
He steer'd securely, and discover'd far,
Led by the light of the Mæonian star.
Poets, a race long unconfin'd and free,
Still fond and proud of savage liberty,
Receiv'd his laws, and stood convinc'd 'twas fit
Who conquer'd nature should preside o'er wit.
Horace still charms with graceful negligence,
And without method talks us into sense;
Will, like a friend, familiarly convey
The truest notions in the easiest way.
He who, supreme in judgment as in wit,
Might boldly censure as he boldly writ,
Yet judg'd with coolness, though he sung with fire;
His precepts teach but what his works inspire.
Our critics take a contrary extreme,
They judge with fury, but they write with phlegm:
Nor suffers Horace more in wrong translations
By wits, than critics in as wrong quotations.
See Dyonisius Homer's thoughts refine,
And call new beauties forth from every line!
Fancy and art in gay Petronius please,
The scholar's learning with the courtier's case.
In grave Quintilian's copious works we find
The justest rules and clearest method join'd.
Thus useful arms in magazines we place,
All rang'd in order, and dispos'd with grace;
But less to please the eye than arm the hand,
Still fit for use, and ready at command.
Thee, bold Longinus! all the nine inspire,
And bless their critic with a poet's fire:
An ardent judge, who, zealous in his trust,
With warmth gives sentence, yet is always just;
Whose own example strengthens all his laws,
And is himself that great sublime he draws.
Thus long succeeding critics justly reign'd,
License repress'd, and useful laws ordain'd:
Learning and Rome alike in empire grew,
And arts still follow'd where her eagles flew;
From the same foes at last both met their doom,
And the same age saw learning fall and Rome.
With tyranny then superstition join'd,
As that the body, this enslav'd the mind;
Much was believ'd, but little understood,
And to be dull was construed to be good:
A second deluge learning thus o'er-ran,
And the monks finish'd what the Goths began.
At length Erasmus, that great injur'd name,
(The glory of the priesthood, and the shame!)
Stemm'd the wild torrent of a barb'rous age,
And drove those holy Vandals off the stage.
'But see! each Muse in Leo's golden days,
Starts from her trance; and trims her wither'd bays,
Rome's ancient genius, o'er its ruins spread,
Shakes off the dust, and rears his reverend head.
Then sculpture and her sister arts revive;
Stones leap'd to form, and rocks began to live;
With sweeter notes each rising temple rung;
A Raphael painted, and a Vida sung:
Immortal Vida! on whose honour'd brow
The poet's bays and critic's ivy grow!
Cremona now shall ever boast thy name,
As next in place to Mantua, next in fame!
But soon my impious arm from Latium chac'd
Their ancient bounds the banish'd Muses pass'd;
Thence arts o'er all the northern world advance,
But critic learning flourish'd most in France;
The rules a nation born to serve obeys,
And Boileau still in right of Horace sways,
But we, brave Britons, foreign laws despis'd,
And kept unconquer'd and unciviliz'd;
Fierce for the liberties of wit, and bold,
We still defied the Romans, as of old.
Yet some there were, among the sounder few,
Of those who less presum❜d and better knew,
Who durst assert the juster ancient cause,
And here restor'd wit's fundamental laws.
Such was the Muse, whose rules and practice tell
"Nature's chief masterpiece is writing well."
Such was Roscommon, not more learn'd than good,
With manners generous as his noble blood;
To him the wit of Greece and Rome was known,
And every author's merit but his own.
Such late was Walsh-the Muse's judge and friend,
Who justly knew to blame or to commend;
To failings mild, but zealous for desert,
The clearest head, and the sincerest heart.
This humble praise, lamented shade! receive;
This praise at least a grateful Muse may give;
The Muse whose early voice you taught to sing;
Prescrib'd her heights, and prun'd her tender wing,
(Her guide now lost) no more attempts to rise,
But in low numbers short excursions tries;
Content if hence th' unlearn'd their wants may
The learn'd reflect on what before they knew:
Careless of censure, nor too fond of fame;
Still pleas'd to praise, yet not afraid to blame;
Averse alike to flatter or offend;
Not free from faults, nor yet too vain to mend.
OF THE KNOWLEDGE AND
CHARACTERS OF MEN.
To Sir Richard Temple, Lord Cobham.
I. That it is not sufficient for this knowledge to consider man in the abstract; books will not serve the purpose, nor yet our own experience singly. General maxims, unless they be formed upon both, will be but notional. Some peculiarity in every man's characteristic to himself, yet varying from himself. Difficulties arising from our own passions, fancies, faculties, &c. The shortness of life to observe in and the uncertainty of the principles of action in men to observe by. Our own principles of action often hid from ourselves. Some few characters plain, but in general confounded, dissembled, or inconsis tent. The same man utterly different in different places and seasons. Unimaginable weaknesses in the greatest. Nothing constant but God and Nature. No judging of the motives from the action ; the same actions proceeding from contrary motives, and the same motive influencing contrary actions.-II. Yet to form characters, we can only take the strongest actions of a man's life, and try to make them agree; the utter uncertainty of this, from Nature itself, and from policy. Characters given according to the rank of men of the world: and some reason for it. Education alters the nature, or at least the character of many. Actions, passions, opinions, manners, humours, or principles, all subject to change. No judging by nature.---III. It only remains to find (if we can) his ruling passion: that will certainly influence all the rest, and can reconcile the seeming or real inconsistency of all his actions. Instanced in the extraordinary character of Clodio. A caution against mistaking second qualities for first, which will destroy all possibility of the