Page images

So pleas'd at first the tow'ring Alps we try, 225
Mount o'er the vales, and seem to tread the sky!
Th' eternal snows appear already past,
And the first clouds and mountains seem the last:
But those attain'd, we tremble to survey
The growing labours of the lengthen'd way; 230
Th' increasing prospect tires our wand'ring eyes,
Hills peep o'er hills, and Alps on Alps arise !

A perfect judge will read each work of wit
With the same spirit that its author writ;
Survey the whole, nor seek slight faults to find 235
Where Nature moves, and rapture warms the mind;
Nor lose, for that malignant dull delight,
The gen'rous pleasure to be charm'd with wit.
But in such lays as neither ebb nor flow,
Correctly cold, and regularly low,

240 That shunning faults one quiet tenor keep, We cannot blame indeed..., but we may sleep.. In wit, as nature, what affects our hearts Is not the exactness of peculiar parts: 'Tis not a lip or eye we beauty call,

245 But the joint force and full result of all. Thus when we view some well-proportion'd dome, (The world's just wonder, even thine, O Rome!) No single parts unequally surprise, All comes united to th' admiring eyes;


No monstrous height, or breadth, or length, appear, The whole at once is bold and regular.

Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see, Thinks what ne'er was, nor is, nor e'er shall be. In ev'ry work regard the writer's end,

255 Since none can compass more than they intend; And if the means be just, the conduct true, Applause, in spite of trivial faults, is due. As men of breeding, sometimes men of wit, . T' avoid great errors, must the less commit; 260 Neglect the rules each verbal critic lays, For not to know some trifles is a praise. Most critics, fond of some subservient art, Still make the whole depend upon a part: They talk of principles, but notions prize, 265 And all to one lov'd folly sacrifice.

Once on a time, La Mancha's Knight, they say, A certain bard encountring on the way, Discours'd in terms as just, with looks as sage, As e'er could Dennis of the Grecian stage, 270 Concluding all were desp'rate sots and fools Who durst depart from Aristotle's rules. Our author, happy in a judge so nice, Produc'd his play, and begg'd the Knight's advice; Made him observe the subject and the plot, 275 The mamiers, passions, unities; what not?

All which exact to rule were brought about, Were but a combat in the lists left out. “What! leave the combat out?” exclaims the Knight. “Yes, or we must renounce the Stagirite." 280 “Not so, by heav'n! (he answers in a rage ;) “Knights, squires, and steeds, must enter on the

stage." “So vast a throng the stage can ne'er contain." " Then build a new, or act it on a plain.”

Thus critics of less judgment than caprice, 285 Curious, not knowing, not exact, but nice, Form short ideas, and offend in arts (As most in manners) by a love to parts.

Some to conceit alone their taste confine, And glitt'ring thoughts struck out at ev'ry line; 290 Pleas'd with a work where nothing's just or fit, One glaring chaos and wild heap of wit. Poets, like painters, thus unskill'd to trace The naked nature and the living grace, With gold and jewels cover ev'ry part,

295 And hide with ornaments their want of art. True wit is Nature to advantage dress’d, What oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd; Something whose truth convinc'd at sight we find, That gives us back the image of our mind. 300 As shades more sweetly recommend the light, So modest plainness sets off sprightly wit:

For works may have more wit than does them good,
As bodies perish thro' excess of blood.
Others for language all their care express,

And value books as women men, for dress:
Their praise is still....the style is excellent ;
The sense they humbly take upon content.
Words are like leaves, and where they most abound,
Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found. 310
False eloquence, like the prismatic glass,
Its gaudy colours spreads on ev'ry place;
The face of Nature we no more survey,
All glares alike, without distinction gay;
But true expression, like th’ unchanging sun, 315
Clears and improves whate'er it shines upon;
It gilds all objects, but it alters none.
Expression is the dress of thought, and still
Appears' more decent as more suitable.
A vile conceit in pompous words express'd, 320
Is like a clown in regal purple dress’d:
For diffrent styles with diff'rent subjects sort,
As several garbs with country, town, and court.
Some by old words to fame have made pretence,
Ancients in phrase, mere moderns in their sense:
Such labour'd nothings in so strange a style, 326
Amaze th' unlearn'd, and make the learned smile.

Unlucky as Fungoso in the play,
These sparks with awkward vanity display
What the fine gentleman wore yesterday;

And but so mimic ancient wits at best,
As apes our grandsires in their doublets drest.
In words as fashions the same rule will hold,
Alike fantastic if too new or old:
Be not the first by whom the new are try'd, 335
Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.

But most by numbers judge a poet's song, And smooth or rough with them is right or wrong: In the bright Muse tho' thousand charms conspire, Her voice is all these tuneful fools admire; 340 Who haunts Parnassus but to please their ear, Not mend their minds, as some to church repair, Not for the doctrine but the music there. These equal syllables alone require, Tho' oft the ear the open vowels tire,

345 While expletives their feeble aid do join, And ten low words oft creep in one dull line : While they ring round the same unvary'd chimes, With sure returns of still expected rhymes ; Where'er you find “ the cooling western breeze," In the next line, it " whispers thro’ the trees :" 351 If crystal streams “ with plea

urs creep," The reader's threatned (not in vain) with “sleep :"

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »