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No place so sacred from such fops is barr’d,
Such once were critics; such the happy few
650 Received his laws, and stood convinc'd 'twas fit, Who conquer'd nature, should preside o'er wit.
Horace still charms with graceful negligence,
Yet judged with coolness, though he sung with fire
See Dionysius Homer's thoughts refine,
Fancy and art in gay Petronius please,
In grave Quintilian's copious work we find
Thee, bold Longinus ! all the Nine inspire, And bless their critic with a poet's fire: An ardent judge, who, zealous in his trust, With warmth gives sentence, yet is always just, Whose own example strengthens all his laws, And is himself that great sublime he draws. 680
Thus long succeeding critics justly reign'd, Licence repress’d and useful laws ordain'd: Learning and Rome alike in empire grew, And arts still follow'd where her eagles flew; From the same foes, at last, both felt their doom, And the same age saw learning fall, and Rome. With tyranny then superstition join'd, As that the body, this enslaved the mind; Much was believed but little understood, And to be dull was construed to be good : 090 A second deluge learning thus o'erran, And r monks finish'd what the Goths began.
At length Erasmus, that great injured name, (The glory of the priesthood, and the shame!) Stemm'd the wild torrent of a barbarous agc, And drove those holy Vandals off the stage.
But see! each muse, in Leo's golden days, Starts from her trance, and trims her wither'd bays;Rome's ancient genius, o'er its ruins spread, Shakes off the dust, and rears his reverend head. 700 Then sculpture and her sister-arts revive; Stoncs leap'd to form, and rocks began to live; With sweeter notes each rising temple rung; A Raphael painted, and a Vida sung. Immortal Vida! on whose honour'd brow The poet's bays and critic's ivy grow: Cremona now shall ever boast thy name, As next in place to Mantua, next in fame!
But soon by impious arms from Latium chascd, Their ancient bounds the banish'd muses pass'd: 710 Thence arts o'er all the northern world advance, But critic-learning flourish'd most in France: The rules a nation born to serve obeys, And Boileau still in right of Horace sways. But we, brave Britons, foreign laws despis’d, And kept unconquer'd and unciviliz'd; Fierce for the liberties of wit, and bold, We still defied the Romans, as of old. Yet some there were among the sounder few Of those who less presum'd, and better knew, . 720 Who durst assert the juster ancient cause, And here restor'd wit's fundamental laws. Such was the muse, whose rule and practice tell, 'Nature's chief master-piece is writing well.' Such was Roscommon, not more learn'd than good, With manners generous as his noble blood, To him the wit of Greece and Rome was known, And every author's merit but his own. Such late was Walsh, the muse's judge and friend, Who justly knew to blame or to commend; 730 To failings mild, but zealous for desert; The clearest head, and the sincerest heart. This humble praise, lamented shade! receive, This praise at least a grateful muse may give:
The muse, whose early voice you taught to sing,
THE RAPE OF THE LOCK
A HEROI-COMICAL POEM.
Written in the Year 1712.
TO MRS. ARABELLA FERMOR. MADAM, It will be in vain to deny that I have some regard for this piece, since I dedicate it to you; yet you may bear me witness, it was intended only to divert a few young ladies, who have good sense and good humour enough to laugh not only at their sex's little unguard. ed follies, but at their own. But as it was commu nicated with the air of a secret, it soon found its way into the world. An imperfect copy having been of fered to a bookseller, you had the good nature for my sake to consent to the publication of one more correct. This I was forced to, before I had executed half my design; for the machinery was entirely wanting to complete it.
The machinery, madam, is a term invented by the critics, to signify that part which the deities, angels, or demons, are made to act in a poem: for the ancient poets are, in one respect, like many modern ladies : let an action be never so trivial in itself they always
make it appear of the utmost importance. These machines I determined to raise on a very new and odd foundation, the Rosicrucian doctrine of spirits.
I know how disagreeable it is to make use of hard words before a lady; but it is so much the concern of a poet to have his works understood, and particularly by your sex, that you must give me leave to explain two or three difficult terms.
The Rosicrucians are a people I must bring you acquainted with. The best account I know of them is in a French book called Le Compte de Gabalis, waich, both in its title and size, is so like a novel, that many of the fair sex have read it for one by mistake. According to these gentlemen, the four elements are inhabited by spirits, which they call Sylphs, Gnomes, Nymphs, and Salamanders. The Gnomes, or demons of earth, delight in mischief; but the Sylphs, whose habitation is in the air, are the best conditioned creatures imaginable; for they say, any mortal may enjoy the most intimate familiarities with these gentle spirits, upon a condition very easy to all true adepts—an inviolate preservation of chastity.
As to the following cantos, all the passages of them are as fabulous as the vision at the beginning, or the transformation at the end (except the loss of your hair, which I always mention with reverence.) The human persons are as fictitious as the airy ones ; and the character of Belinda, as it is now managed, resembles you in nothing but in beauty.
If this poem had as many graces as there are in your person or in your mind, yet I could never hope it should pass through the world half so uncensured as you have done. But let its fortune be what it wil], mine is happy enough to have given me this occasion of assuring you that I am, with the truest esteem,