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Oft, leaving what is natural and fit,
450 Which lives as long as fools are pleas'd to laugh.
totle he got from Averroes, an Arabian, whom the Spanish Jews first translated into Hebrew, and from Hebrew into Latin.
Ver. 445. Amidst their kindred cobwebs] Were common sense disposed to credit any of the Monkish miracles of the dark and blind ages of the church, it would certainly be one of the seventh century recorded by honest Bale. “In the sixth general council (says he) holden at Constantinople, Anno Dom. 680, contra Monothelitas, where the Latin Mass was first approved, and the Latin ministers deprived of their lawfull wives, spiders' webbs, in wonderfull copye, were seen falling down from above, upon the heads of the people, to the marvelous astonishment of many.”—The justest emblem and prototype of School Metaphysics, the divinity of Scotists and Thomists, which afterward fell, in wonderfull copye on the heads of the people, in support of Transubstantiation, to the marvelous astonishment of many, as it continues to do to this day. W. This is
forced and far-fetched. Ver. 445. Duck-lane.] A place where old and second-hand books were sold formerly, near Smithfield. P.
Ver. 448. Oft, leaving what is natural] Ita comparatum est humanumn ingenium, ut optimarum rerum satietate defatigetur. Unde fit, artes, necessitatis vi quadam crescere, aut decrescere semper, et ad summum fastigium evectas, ibi
posse consistere. Thus music, deserting simple and pathetic expression, is taken
up with tricks of execution, and a sort of slight of hand. Thus Borromini, to be new and original, has, as Mr. Walpole expresses it, twisted and curled architecture, by inverting the volutes of the Ionic order. L'ennui du Beau,
le Singulier. This will happen in every country, every art, and every age. Ver. 450. And authors think their reputation safe,
Which lives as long as fools are pleas'd to laugh.] This is an admirable satire on those called Authors in fashion ; the men who get the laugh on their side. He shews, on how pi
Some valuing those of their own side or mind,
tiful a basis their reputation stands, the changeling disposition of fools to laugh, who are always carried away with the last joke. W.
Another forced interpretation !
Ver. 451. As long as fools) “Mirabile est (says Tully, De Oratore, lib. iii.) quum plurimum in faciendo inter ,doctum et rudem, quam non multum differant in judicando.”
Horace and Milton declare against general approbation, and wish for fit audience though few. And Tully relates, in his Brutus, the story of Antimachus, who, when his numerous auditors all gradually left him, except Plato, said, I still continue reading my work; Plato, enim mihi unus instar est omnium. The noble confidence and strength of mind in Milton, is not in any circumstance' more visible and more admirable, than his writing a poem in a style and manner that he was sure would not be relished or regarded by his corrupt contemporaries.
He was different in this respect from Bernardo Tasso, the father of his beloved Torquato, who, to satisfy the vulgar taste and current opinions of his country, new-modelled his epic poem Amadigi, to make it more wild and romantic, and less suited to the rules of Aristotle.
Ver. 452. side or mind,] Are two vulgar words, unworthy of our author.
Ver. 458. Pride, Malice,] “Many persons of high quality (says Voltaire) protected Pradon against Racine ; Duke Zoilus, Le Comte Bavius, Marquis Mævius." .:"11.16
Ver. 459. shapes of Pursons, Critics] The Parson alluded to was Jeremy Collier ; the Critic was the Duke of Buckingham; the first of whom very powerfully attacked the profligacy, and
But sense surviv'd when merry jests were past; 460,
the latter the irregularity and bombast, of some of Dryden's plays. The attacks were much more than merry jests.
Ver. 463. Milbourn] The Rev. Mr. Luke Milbourn. Dennis served Mr. Pope in the same office. But these men are of all times, and rise up on all occasions. Sir Walter Raleigh had Alexander Ross; Chillingworth had Cheynel; Milton a first Edwards; and Locke a second ; neither of them related to the third Edwards of Lincoln's-Inn. They were divines of parts and learning; this a critic without one or the other. Yet (as Mr. Pope says of Luke Milbourn) the fairest of all critics; for having written against the Editor's remarks on Shakspeare, he did him justice in printing, at the same time, some of his own. W.
But all impartial critics allow the remarks to have been decisive and judicious; and his Canons of Criticism remain unrefuted and unanswerable.
Ver. 465. Zoilus again] In the fifth book of Vitruvius is an account of Zoilus's coming to the court of Ptolemy at Alexandria, and presenting to him his virulent and brutal censures of Homer, and begging to be rewarded for his work; instead of which, it is said, the king ordered him to be crucified, or, as some said, stoned alive. His person is minutely described in the 11th book of Elian's various History,
Ver. 468. For envied Wit, like Sol eclips’d, &c.] This similitude implies a fact too often verified; and of which we need not seek abroad for examples. It is this, that frequently, those very authors, who have at first done all they could to obscure and depress a rising genius, have at length been reduced to borrow
When first that sun too pow'rful beams displays,
Be thou the first true merit to befriend;
from him, imitate his manner, and reflect what they could of his splendour ; merely to keep themselves in some little credit. Nor hath the poet been less artful, to insinuate also what is sometimes the cause. A youthful genius, like the sun rising towards the meridian, displays too strong and powerful beams for the dirty temper of inferior writers, which occasions their gathering, condensing, and blackening. But as he descends from the meri. dian (the time when the sun gives its gilding to the surrounding clouds) hiş rays grow milder, his heat more benign, and then -ev'n those clouds at last adorn its
way, Reflect new glories, and augment the day.” All the latter part of this note is in the true manner of our Commentator's extorting meanings never meant, and allusions incongruous and unnatural. Ver. 474. Be thou the first true merit to befriend ;
His praise is lost, who stays till all commend.] When Thomson published his Winter, 1726, it lay a long time neglected, till Mr. Spence made honourable mention of it in his Essay on the Odyssey; which becoming a popular book, made the poem universally known. Thomson always acknowledged the use of this recommendation; and from this circumstance an intimacy commenced between the critic and the poet, which lasted till the lamented death of the latter, who was of a most amiable and benevolent temper. I have before me a letter of Mr. Spence to Pitt, earnestly begging him to subscribe to the quarto edition of Thomson's Seasons, and mentioning a design which Thomson had formed of writing a descriptive poem on Blenheim ; a subject that would have shone in his hands. It was some time after publication, before the Odes of Gray were relished and admired. They were even burlesqued by two men of wit and genius, who, however, once owned to me, that they repented of the attempt. The Hecyra of Terence, the Misanthrope of Moliere, the Phædra
Short is the date, alas ! of modern rhymes,
of Racine, the Way of the World of Congreve, the Silent Woman of Ben Jonson, were ill received on their first exhibitions. Out of a hundred comedies written by Menander, eight only obtained the prize; and only five of Euripides out of the seventy tragedies he wrote. Our author seems to be eminently fortunate, who never, from his early youth, published a piece that did not meet with immediate approbation, except, perhaps, the first Epistle of the Essay on Man, which Mallet, not knowing the author, told him he thought it a mean performance. The confusion and shame of Mallet may be easily imagined, when Pope informed him that he was the author.
Ver. 476. Short is the date,] Dr. Beattie has a good commentary on these words:
“ All living languages are liable to change. The Greek and Latin, though composed of more durable materials than ours, were subject to perpetual vicissitude, till they ceased to be spoken. The former is, with reason, believed to have been more stationary than any other; and indeed, a very particular attention was paid to the preservation of it; yet, between Spenser and Pope, Hooker and Sherlock, Raleigh and Smollet, a difference of dialect is not more perceptible, than between Homer and Apollonius, Xenophon and Plutarch, Aristotle and Antoninus. In the Roman authors, the change of language is still more remarkable. How different, in this respect, is Ennius from Virgil, Lucilius from Horace, Cato from Columella, and even Catullus from Ovid ! The Laws of the Twelve Tables, though studied by every Roman of condition, were not perfectly understood, even by antiquarians, in the time of Cicero, when they were not quite four hundred years old. Cicero himself, as well as Lucretius, made several improvements in the Latin tongue: Virgil introduced some new words; and Horace asserts his right to the same privilege; and, from his remarks upon it, appears to have considered the immutability of living language as an impossible thing. It were vain then to flatter ourselves with the hope of permanency
of the modern tongues of Europe ; which, being more ungrammatical than the Latin and Greek, are exposed to more dangerous, because less discernible, innovations. Our want of tenses and cases, makes a multitude of auxiliary verbs necessary; and to VOL. I.