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Oft, leaving what is natural and fit,
The current folly proves the ready wit;
In various shapes of parsons, critics, beaux:
But sense survived, when merry jests were past; 460 For rising merit will buoy up at last.
Might he return and bless once more our eyes,
New Blackmores and new Milbourns must arise;
But, like a shadow, proves the substance true :
When first that sun too powerful beams displays, 470
Be thou the first true merit to befriend;
When patriarch-wits survived a thousand years:
Where a new world leaps out at his command,
When the ripe colours soften and unite,
When mellowing years their full perfection give, 490
Unhappy wit, like most mistaken things,
Like some fair flower the early spring supplies,
That gaily blooms, but e'en in blooming dies.
What is this wit, which must our cares employ? 500
The owner's wife that other men enjoy;
Then most our trouble still when most admired,
And still the more we give, the more required.
Whose fame with pains we guard, but lose with ease, Sure some to vex, but never all to please;
'Tis what the vicious fear, the virtuous shun;
To what base ends, and by what abject ways,
Ah, ne'er so dire a thirst of glory boast,
Good nature and good sense must ever join;
But if in noble minds some dregs remain,
Though wit and art conspire to move your mind:
As shameful sure as impotence in love.
In the fat age of pleasure, wealth, and ease,
Sprang the rank weed, and thrived with large increase: When love was all an easy monarch's care;
Seldom at council, never in a war;
Jilts rul'd the state, and statesmen farces writ:
Nay, wits had pensions, and young lords had wit:
The fair sat panting at a courtier's play,
And not a mask went unimproved away;
The modest fan was lifted up no more,
And virgins smiled at what they blush'd before.
Did all the dregs of bold Socinus drain;
Then unbelieving priests reform'd the nation,
And taught more pleasant methods of salvation;
Where Heaven's free subjects might their rights dis
Lest God himself should seem too absolute;
Rules for the conduct of manners in a critic. 1. Can dour, ver. 563. Modesty, ver. 566. Good-breeding ver. 572. Sincerity and freedom of advice, ver. 578. 2. When one's counsel is to be restrained, ver. 584. Character of an incorrigible poet, ver. 600; and of an impertinent critic, ver. 610, &c. Character of a good critic, ver. 629. The history of criticism, and characters of the best critics: Aristotle, ver. 645. Horace, 653. Dionysius, ver. 665. Petronius, ver. 667. Quintilian, ver. 670. Longinus, ver. 675. Of the decay of criticism, and its revival: Erasmus, ver. 693. Vida ver. 705. Boileau, ver. 714. Lord Roscommon, &c. ver. 725. Conclusion.
LEARN then what moral critics ought to show, 560 For 'tis but half a judge's task to know.
'Tis not enough, taste, judgment, learning join ; In all you speak, let truth and candour shine; That not alone what to your sense is due
All may allow, but seek your friendship too.
Be silent always, when you doubt your sense,
"Tis not enough your counsel still be true: Blunt truths more mischief than nice falsehoods do; Men must be taught, as if you taught them not, And things unknown proposed as things forgot. Without good breeding truth is disapproved: That only makes superior sense beloved.
Be niggards of advice on no pretence;
For the worst avarice is that of sense.
With mean complacence, ne'er betray your trust, 580 Nor be so civil as to prove unjust.
Fear not the anger of the wise to raise ;
Those best can bear reproof, who merit praise
"Twere well might critics still this freedom take: But Appius reddens at each word you speak, And stares tremendous, with a threatening eye, Like some fierce tyrant in old tapestry.
Fear most to tax an honourable fool,
Whose right it is, uncensured, to be dull:
Such, without wit, are poets when they please, 590
Whom, when they praise, the world believes no more
And charitably let the dull be vain ;
Your silence there is better than your spite:
For who can rail so long as they can write?
E'en to the dregs, and squeezings of the brain;
And rhyme with all the rage of impotence!
Such shameless bards we have: and yet 'tis true, 610 There are as mad, abandon'd critics too.
The bookful blockhead, ignorantly read,
With loads of learned lumber in his head,
With his own tongue still edifies his ears,