« AnteriorContinuar »
Poets, a race long unconfin'd, and free,
Our Critics take a contrary extreme,
They judge with fury, but they write with flegna
VER. 653. Who conquer'd Nature, fhould prefide o'er With By this is not meant phyfical Nature, but moral. The force of the obfervation confifts in our understanding it in this fenfe. For the Poet not only uses the word Nature for human nature, throughout this poem; but also, where, in the beginning of it, he lays down he principles of the arts he treats of, he makes the knowledge of human nature the foundation of all Criticifm and Poetry. Nor is the obfervation lefs true than appofite. For, Ariftotle's natural enquiries were fuperficial, and ill made, tho' extenfive But his logical and moral works are incomparable. In thefe he has unfolded the human mind, and laid open all the receffes of the heart and understanding; and by his Catego ries, not only conquered Nature, but kept her in tenfold chains: Not as Dulness kept the Mufes, in the Dunciad, to filence. them; but as Ariftaus held Proteus in Virgil, to deliver Ora
Nor fuffers Horace more in wrong Tranflations
Thus long fucceeding Critics justly reign'd, Licence reprefs'd, and ufeful laws ordain'd.
VER. 682. Thus long fucceeding Critics, etc.] The next period in which the true Critic (he tells us) appear'd, was at the revival and restoration of letters in the Wett. This occafions his giving a fhort hiftory [from 683 to 710.] of the decline NOTES.
Learning and Rome alike in empire grew; 684
Between 691 and 692. the author omitted these two,
and re-establishment of arts and fciences in Italy. He fhews that they both fell under the fame enemy, defpotic power; and that when both had made fome little efforts to restore themfelves, they were foon again overwhelmed by a fecond deluge of another kind, Superftition; and a calm of Dulnefs finish'd upon Rome and Letters what the rage of Barbarifm had begun :
A fecond deluge learning thus o'er-run, And the Monk finifh'd what the Goth begun. When things had been long in this condition, and all recovery now appear'd defperate, it was a CRITIC, our Author fhews us for the honour of the At he here teaches, who at length broke the charm of Dulnefs, diffipated the inchantment, and, like another Hercules, drove thofe cowl'd and hooded ferpents from the Hefperiantree of knowledge, which they had fo long guarded from human approach.
At length Erafmus, that great injur'd name,'
But fee! each Mufe, in LEO's golden days,'
VER. 698. But fee, each Mufe in Leo's golden days!] This prefents us with the fecond period in which the true Gritic appear'd; of whom he has given us a perfect idea in the fingle example of Marcus Hieronymus Vida: For his fubject being poetical Criticifm, for the ufe principally of a critical Poet; his example is an eminent poetical Critic, who had written of that Art in verfe.
VER: 694. At length Erafmus, etc.] Nothing can be more artful than the application of this example; or more happy than the turn of compliment to this admirable man. To throw glory quite round his illuftrious character, he makes it to be (as in fact it really was) by his affistance chiefly, that Leo was enabled to restore letters and the fine arts in his Pontificate.
VER. 695. The glory of the Priesthood and the shame!] Our author elsewhere lets us know what he esteems to be the glory of the Priesthood as well as of a Christian in general, where, comparing himself to Erafmus, he says,
In MODERATION placing all my glory,
and confequently, what he esteems to be the fhame of it. The whole of this character belong'd moft eminently and almost folely to Erafmus: For the other Reformers, fuch as Luther, Calvin, and their followers, understood fo little in what true Christian Liberty confifted, that they carried with them, into the reformed Churches, that very fpirit of perfecution, which had driven them from the church of Rome.
Rome's ancient Genius, o'er its ruins fpread, 700
But foon by impious arms from Latium chas'd, Their ancient bounds the banish'd Mufes pafs'd;
VER. 10. But foon by impious arms, etc.] This brings us to the third period, after learning had travelled still farther Weft; when the arms of the Emperor, in the fack of Rome by the duke of Bourbon, had driven it out of Italy, and forced it to pafs the Mountains-The Examples he gives in this period, are of Boileau in France, and of the Lord Rofcommon and the duke of Buckingham in England: And these were all Poets, as well as Critics in verfe. It is true, the last inftance is of one who was no eminent poet, the late Mr. Walsh. This fmall deviation might be well over-looked, was it only for its being a pious office to the memory of his friend: But it may be farther juftified as it was an homage paid in particular to the MOR ALS of the Critic, nothing being more amiable than the character here drawn of this excellent perfon. He being our Author's Judge and Cenfor, as
VER. 109. As next in place to Mantua,] Alluding to