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Uf, leaving what is natural and fit,
450 Which lives as long as fools are pleased to laugh.
Some, valuing those of their own side or mind,
Be thou the first true merit to befriend;
Where a new world leaps out at his command,
Unhappy wit, like most mistaken things,
If wit so much from ignorance undergo, Ah, let not learning too commence its foe! Of old, those met rewards who could excel, 510 And such were praised who but endeavour'd well; Though triumphs were to generals only due, Crowns were reserved to grace the soldiers too. Now they who reach Parnassus' lofty crown, Employ their pains to spurn some others down; And while self-love each jealous writer rules, Contending wits become the sport of fools : But still the worst with most regret commend, For each ill author is as bad a friend. To what base ends, and by what abject ways, 520 Are mortals urged through sacred lust of praise ! Ah, ne'er so dire a thirst of glory boast, Nor in the critic let the man be lost
Good nature and good sense must ever join;
But if in noble minds some dregs remain,
PART III. 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. Quin. tilian, 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
Be silent always, when you doubt your sense,
once wrong, will needs be always so: But you, with pleasure, own your errors past, 570 And make each day a critique on the last.
"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 As without learning they can take degrees. Leave dangerous truths to unsuccessful satires, And flattery to fulsome dedicators, Whom, when they praise, the world believes no more Than when they promise to give scribbling o'er. 'Tis best sometimes your censure to restrain, 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 ? Still humming on, their drowsy course they keep, 600 And lash'd so long, like tops, are lash'd asleep. False steps but help them to renew the race, As, after stumbling, jades will mend their pace. What crowds of these, impenitently bold, In sounds and jingling syllables grown old, Still run on poets, in a raging vein, E'en to the dregs, and squeezings of the brain; Strain out the last dull droppings of their sense, 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, And always listening to himself appears. All books he reads, and all he reads assails, From Dryden's Fables down to Durfey's Tales : With him most authors steal their works, or buy; Garth did not write his own Dispensary. Name a new play, and he's the poet's friend, 620 Nay, show'd his faults—but when would poets mend?