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Oft, leaving what is natural and fit,

The current folly proves the ready wit;
And authors think their reputation safe,
Which lives as long as fools are pleased to laugh.
Some, valuing those of their own side or mind,
Still make themselves the measure of mankind:
Fondly we think we honour merit then,
When we but praise ourselves in other men.
Parties in wit attend on those of state,
And public faction doubles private hate.
Pride, malice, folly, against Dryden rose,

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;
Nay, should great Homer lift his awful head,
Zoilus again would start up from the dead.
Envy will merit, as its shade, pursue;

But, like a shadow, proves the substance true:
For envied wit, like Sol eclipsed, makes known
The opposing body's grossness, not its own.

When first that sun too powerful beams displays, 470
It draws up vapours which obscure its rays;
But e'en those clouds at last adorn its way,
Reflect new glories, and augment the day.

Be thou the first true merit to befriend;
His praise is lost who stays till all commend.
Short is the date, alas! of modern rhymes,
And 'tis but just to let them live betimes.
No longer now that golden age appears,

When patriarch-wits survived a thousand years:
Now length of fame (our second life) is lost,
And bare threescore is all e'en that can boast
Our sons their fathers' failing language see.
And such as Chaucer is, shall Dryden be.
So when the faithful pencil has design'd
Some bright idea of the master's mind,


Where a new world leaps out at his command,
And ready nature waits upon his hand;
When the ripe colours soften and unite,
And sweetly melt into just shade and light;

When mellowing years their full perfection give, 490
And each bold figure just begins to live;
The treacherous colours the fair art betray
And all the bright creation fades away!

Unhappy wit, like most mistaken things,
Atones not for that envy which it brings;
In youth alone its empty praise we boast,
But soon the short-lived vanity is lost;

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;
By fools 'tis hated, and by knaves undone !
If wit so much from ignorance undergo,
Ah, let not learning too commence its foe!
Of old, those met rewards who could excel,
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,


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;
To err, is human; to forgive, divine.

But if in noble minds some dregs remain,
Not yet purged off, of spleen and sour disdain;
Discharge that rage on more provoking crimes,
Nor fear a dearth in these flagitious times.
No pardon vile obscenity should find,

Though wit and art conspire to move your mind:
But dulness with obscenity must prove

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.
The following licence of a foreign reign,

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;
Pulpits their sacred satire learn'd to spare,
And vice admired to find a flatterer there!
Encouraged thus, wit's Titans braved the skies,
And the press groan'd with licensed blasphemies.
These monsters, critics! with your darts engage,
Here point your thunder, and exhaust your rage!
Yet shun their fault, who scandalously nice
Will needs mistake an author into vice;
All seems infected, that the infected spy,
As all looks yellow to the jaundiced eye.



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,
And speak, though sure, with seeming diffidence:
Some positive, persisting fops we know,
Who, if once wrong, will needs be always so:
But you, with pleasure, own your errors past,
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,
Nay, show'd his faults-but when would poets mend?


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