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Where beams of warm imagination play,
er; the understanding being rather paffive while the memory is cultivating. As to the other appearance, the decay of memory by the vigorous exercife of Fancy, the poet himself feems to haye intimated the cause in the epithet he has given to the Imagination. For, if according to the Atomic Philofophy, the memory of things be preserved in a concatenation of ideas, produced by the animal fpirits moving in continued trains; the force and rapidity of the Imagination
breaking and diffipating those trains, by constantly making new affociations, muft neceffarily weaken and diforder the recollective faculty.
67. Would all but stoop to what they underftand] The expreffion is de licate, and implies what is very true, that most men think it a degradation of their genius to employ it in what lies under their com prehenfion, but had rather exercise their ambition in fubduing what is placed above it.
First follow Nature, and your judgment frame By her juft ftandard, which is ftill the fame:
VER. 68. First follow Nature, &c.] The Critic obferving the directions here given, and finding himself qua lified for his office, is fhewn next bow to exercise it. And as he was to attend to Nature for a Call, fo he is firft and principally to follow her when called. And here again in this, as in the foregoing precept, the poet [from 67 to 84] fhews both the reasonableness, and the neceffity of it. The reafon is, 1. Because Nature is the fource of poetic Art; as that art is only a representation of Nature; fhe being its great exemplar and original. 2. Because she is. the end of Art; the defign of poetry being to convey the knowledge of Nature in the moft agreable manner. 3. Because the is the teft of Art, as fhe is unerring, conftant, and ftill the fame. Hence he obferves that, as he is the fource, fhe conveys life to Art: As the end, the conveys force to it, for the force of any thing arifes from its being directed to its end; and, as the teft, the convey's beauty to it, for every thing acquires beauty by its being reduced to its true ftandard. Such is the important fense of those two lines,
Life, force, and beauty must to all impart,
We now cone to the neceffity of the Precept. The two great conftituent qualities of a compofition as fuch, are Art and Wit: But neither of these attains its perfection, ill the firft be bid, and the other judiciously refrained; which is only then when Nature is exactly followed, for
Unerring NATURE, ftill divinely bright,
then Art can never make a parade or Wit commit an extravagance. Art, while it adheres to Nature, and has fo large a fund in the refources which the fupplies, difpofes every thing with fo much eafe and fimplicity, that we fee nothing but thofe natural images it works with, while itfelf ftands behind and unobserved: But when Art leaves Nature, deluded either by the bold extravagance of Fancy or the quaint grotefques of Fafhion, the is then obliged at every step to come forward in a painful or pompous oftentation, to cover, or foften, or regulate the fhocking difproportion of unnatural images. In the first cafe, the poet compares Art to the Soul within, informing a beauteous Body: But we generally find it, in the last cafe, only like the Habit without, bolstering up by the skill of the Taylor, the defects of a mishapen one. Again, as to Wit, it might perhaps be imagined that this needed only Judgment to govern it: But as he well obferves
-Wit and Judgment often are at ftrife,
Tho' meant each others aid, like Man and Wife,
They want therefore fome friendly Mediator or Reconciler, which is Nature: And in attending to her, the Judgment will learn where to comply with the charms of Wit, and the Wit how to obey the directions of Judge
Art from that fund each juft fupply provides,
Tho' meant each other's aid, like man and wife.
VER. 88. Thofe Rules of old, &c.] Having thus, in his first precept, to follow Nature, fettled Criticifm on its true bottom; he proceeds to fhew what affiftance may be had from Art. But left this fhould be thought to draw the Critic from the foundation where he had before fixed him, he previously obferves [from 87 to 92] that thofe Rules of Art, which he is now about to recommend to his ftudy, were not invented in the Imagination, but difcovered in the book of Nature: And that, therefore, tho they may feem to restrain Nature by Laws
Nature, like Liberty, is but reftrain'd
yet, as they are laws of her own making, the Critic is till properly in the very liberty of Nature. Thofe Rules the ancient Critics, borrowed from the Poets, who received them immediately from Nature,
Just Precepts thus from great Examples giv'n,
and are both therefore to be well studied.
VER. 92. Hear bow learn'd Greece, &c.] He speaks of the Critics first, and with great judgment, as the previous knowledge of them is neceflary for reading the Poets, with that fruit which the intent here propofed requires. But having, in the previous obfervation, fufficiently explained the Nature of ancient Criticifm, he enters on the fubject [treated of from 91 to 118] with a fublime defcription of its End; which was to ilJultrate the beauties of the best Writers, in order to excite others to an emulation of their excellence. From the ange tranfports which thefe Ideas raife in him, the poet is naturally brought back to reflect on the degeneracy of mo as ancient the Integrity and fplendor is the great purpose of his poem, he first takes notice of thofe, who feem not to understand that Nature is exhaustless, and that new models of good writing may be produced in every age, and confequently B 2