« AnteriorContinuar »
Short is the date, alas, of modern rhymes,
He firft fhews the Critic ought to do this fervice without delay: And on these motives. 1. Out of regard to himself: For there is fome merit in giving the world notice of an excellence; but none at all in pointing out to that which has been long the admiration of men. 2. Out of regard to the Poem: For the fhort duration of modern works requires they fhould begin to enjoy their existence early. He compares the life of modern Wit, and ancient which furvives in an univerfal language, to the difference between the Patriarchal age and our own: And obferves, that while the ancient writings live for ever, as it were in brass and marble, the modern are but like Paintings, which, of how masterly a hand foever, have no fooner gained their requifite perfection by the ripening of their foftened and incorporated colouring, which they do in a very few years, but they begin presently to fade and dye away. 3. Laftly our author fhews that the Critic ought to do this fervice out of regard to the Poet: when he confiders the flender dowry the Mufe brings along with her. In youth 'tis only a fhort lived vanity; and in maturer years an accefs of care and labour, in proportion to the weight of Reputation to be fuftained, and the increase of Envy to be opposed: And concludes his reasoning therefore on this head, with that pathetic and infinuating address to the Critic, from 508 to 524.
Ab! let not learning, c.
Now length of Fame (our fecond life) is loft, 480
484 So when the faithful pencil, & This fimilitude in which the poet discovers (as he always does on this jubject) real fcience in the thing spoken of, has ftill a more peculiar beauty, as at the fame time that it confeffes the juft fuperiority of ancient writings, it infinuates one advantage the modern have above them; which is this, that in thefe, our intimate acquaintance with the occafion of writing,
and the manners deferibed, let us into all thofe living and ftriking graces which may be well compared to that perfection of imitation which only colouring can give: While the ravage of Time amongst the monuments of former ages, hath left us but the grofs fubftance of ancient wit, fo much of the form and matter of body only as may be expressed in brass or marble.
The treach'rous colours the fair art betray,
Unhappy Wit, like most mistaken things,
If Wit fo much from Ign'rance undergo,
And while felf-love each jealous writer rules,
To what bafe ends, and by what abject ways, 520
But if in noble minds fome dregs remain.
VER. 526. But if in noble minds fome dregs remain, c.] So far, as to what ought to be the true Critic's principal concern and employment. But if the four critical humour muft needs have a vent, he points to its right object; and fhews how it may be usefully and innocently diverted. This is very obfervable; for our author makes pride and Spleen the characteristics of the falfe Critic, and yet here fuppofes them inherent in the true. But it is done with judgment, and a knowledge of nature. For spleen and difdain, in the critical mind, are the fame as bitterness and acerbity in unripe fruits; the foundation and capacity of that high fpirit, race, and flavour which we find in the belt of them, when perfectly concocted by the heat and influence of the Sun; and which, without thofe qualities, would often gain no more by that influence than only a mellow infipidity. In like manner, natural acerbity in the
Discharge that rage on more provoking crimes,
As fhameful fure as Impotence in love.
When love was all an eafy Monarch's care;
true Critic, improved by long ftudy and experience, ripens into an exactnefs of Judgment and an elegance of Tafe: But, lying remote from the influence of good letters, continues, in the falfe Critic, in all its firft offenfive harshness and aftringency. The Poet therefore fhews how, after the exaltation of thefe qualities into the ftate of perfect Criticism, the very Dregs, which poffibly may remain even in a noble mind, may be ufefully employed, namely in branding OBSCENITY and IMPIETY. Of thele he explains the rife and progrefs, in a beautiful picture of the different genius's of the reigns of Charles II. and William III. the former of which gave courie to the most profligate luxury; the latter to a licencious impiety. Thefe are the criminals the poet affigns over to the cauftic hand of the Critic, but concludes however with this neceffary admonition, to take care not to be mifled into unjust cen