« AnteriorContinuar »
Still green with bays each ancient Altar ftands
VER. 181. Still green with bays, &c.] But now fired with the name of Homer, and transported with the contemplation of those beauties which a cold Critic can neither fee nor conceive, the Poet breaks into a rapturous exclamation on the felicity of the Ancients in rifing fuperior over time and accidents: And, as it were disdaining any longer to reafon with his Critics, offers this to them as the fureft confutation of their cenfures. Then with the bumility of a fupplicant at the fhrine of Immortals, and the Sublimity of a Poet participating of their fire, he turns again to these ancient worthies, and apoftrophifes
Hail, Bards triumphant, & 3 maalt
183. Secure from flames, from envy's fiercer rage, Destructive war, and all-in
volving age.] The four great causes of the ravage amongst ancient writings are here alluded to: The deftruction of the Alexandrine and Palatine libraries
by fire; the fiercer rage of Zoilus and Mævius and their followers against Wit the irruption of the Barbarians into the Roman Empire; and the long reign of Ignorance and Superftition in the Cloifters.
See, from each clime the learned their incense bring!
Hail, Bards triumphant! born in happier days;
VER. 200. T'admire fuperior fenfe, and doubt their awn.] Here our author concludes the first divifion of his difcourfe, where the last line not only tells us the Jubjet of that and the following, and fhews the connection they have to one another, but ferves likewife to introduce the fecond part. The effect of studying the Ancients, as hitherto recommended, would be the admiration of their fuperior fenfe; which, if it will not of itself difpofe Moderns to a diffidence of their own (one of the great ufes, as well as natural fruits of that Audy) the
Or all the Caufes which conspire to blind Man's erring judgment, and mifguide the mind, What the weak head with ftrongest biafs rules, Is Pride, the never-failing vice of fools.
poet helps forward their modefty, in his fecond part ; by fhewing them, in a regular deduction of the causes and effects of wrong Judgment, their own image and turn of
VER. 201. Of all the causes, &c.] Having, in the first part, delivered Rules for perfecting the Art of Critiifm, the fecond is employ'd in explaining the Impediments to it. The order of the two Parts is judicious. For the caufes of wrong judgment being Pride, fuperficial Learning, narrow Thinking, and Partiality; thofe to whom this part is principally addreffed, would not readily be brought either to see the malignity of the causes, or te own themselves concerned in the effect, had not the author previously both enlightned and convicted them, by the foregoing obfervations, on the vastness of Art, and narrowness of Wit; the extenfive study of buman Nature and Antiquity and the Characters of ancient Poetry and Criticism; the natural remedies to the four epidemic diforders he is now endeavouring to redress.
VER. 203. What the weak head, &c.] The firft caufe of wrong Judgment is PRIDE. He very properly begins with this, as on other accounts, fo on this, that it is the very thing which gives modern Criticifm its character; whofe complexion is abuse and cenfure. He calls it the vice of Fools; by whom are not meant those to whom Nature has given no Judgment (for he is here fpeaking of what mif
Whatever Nature has in worth deny'd,
leads the Judgment) but thofe in whom education and ftudy has made no improvement; as appears from the happy fimilitude of an ill-nourished body; where the fame words which exprefs the cause, express likewise the nature of pride:
For as in bodies, thus in fouls we find,
What wants in blood and spirits, swell'd with wind. But the mischief is, that the rays of reason, diverted by felf-love, fometimes gild this cloud, instead of diffipating it. So that the Judgment, by falfe lights reflected back upon itself, is ftill apt to be a little dazzled, and to mitake its object. He therefore advises to call in ftill more helps:
VER. 213. Truft not yourfelf; but your defects to know, Make use of ev'ry Friend- and ev'ry Foe. Both the beginning and conclufion of this precept are reC
A little learning is a dang❜rous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, And drinking largely fobers us again.
markable. The queftion is of the means to fubdue Pride. He directs the Critic to begin with a distrust of bimfelf; and this is Modesty, the first mortification of Pride: And then to feek the affiftance of others, which concludes with making ufe even of an Enemy; and this is Humility, the laft mortification of Pride: For when a man can once bring himself to fubmit to profit by an enemy, he has either already quite fubdued it, or is in a fair way of fo doing.
VER. 215. A little learning, &c.] We must here remark the Poet's skill in his difpofition of the causes obftructing true Judgment. Each general caufe which is laid down firft, has its own particular caufe in that which follows. Thus, the fecond caufe of wrong Judg ment, SUPERFICIAL LEARNING, is what gives birth to that critical Pride, which he mentioned first.
VER. 217. There fhallow draughts intoxicate the brain, & Nature and Learning are the pole ftars of all true Criticism: But Pride hinders the fight of Nature; and a fmattering of letters takes away all fense of the want of learning. The natural confequence is what he here advises, either to drink deep, or not to tafte at all; for the leaft fip is enough to make a bad Critic, while even a moderate draught can never make a good one. And yet the labours and difficulties of drinking deep are fo great, that a young author, "Fir'd with ideas of fair