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Nature affords at least a glimm'ring light;
VARIATIONS. Between x 25 and 26 were these lines, since omitted by the author :
Many are spoild by that pedantic throng,
COMMENTARY. occasioning those miscarriages before objected to it. Heowns, that the feeds of Judgment are indeed sown in the minds of most men, but by ill culture, as it springs up, it generally runs wild: either on the one hand, by false knowledge, which pedants call Philology; or by false reasoning, which Philosophers call School-learning: Or on the other, by false wit, which is not regulated by sense; or by false politeness, which is solely regulated by the fapion. Both these forts, who have their Judgments thus doubly depraved, the poet observes, are naturally turned to censure and reprehenfion; only with this difference, that the Dunce always affects to be on the reasoning, and the Fool on the laughing side.
NOTES. Ver. 25. So by false learning] “ Plus finc doctrina prudentia, , “ quam fine prudentia valet doctrina. Quint. P.
In search of wit these lose their common sense,
Some have at first for Wits, then Poets past, 36 Turn’d Critics next, and prov'd plain fools at last.
COMMENTARY. --And thus, at the same time, our author proves the truth of his introductory obfervation, that the number of bad Critics is vaftly superior to that of bad Poets.
Ver. 36. Some have at first for Wits, etc.] The poet having enumerated, in this account of the nature of Judgment and its various depravations, the several sorts of bad Critics, and ranked
NOTES. VER. 28. In search of wit these lose their common sense,] This observation is extremely just. Search of wit is not only the occasion, but the efficient cause of loss of common sense. For wit conlisting in chusing out, and setting together, such ideas from whose likenesses pleasant pictures may be made in the fancy ; the Judgment, thro' an habitual search of Wit, loses by degrees its faculty of seeing the true relations of things; in which confifts the exercise of common sense.
Ver. 32. All fools have still an itching to deride, And fain would be upon the laughing side.] The sentiment is just. And if Hobbes's account of Laughter be true, that it arises from pride, we see the reason of it. The expreffion too is fine, it alludes to the condition of Idiots and natural-fools, who are always on the grin.
Some neither can for Wits nor Critics pass,
them into two general Classes; as the first fort, namely the men spoiled by false learning, are but few in comparison of the other, and likewise come less within his main view (which is poetical Criticism) but keep groveling at the bottom amongit words and letters, he thought it here sufficient just to have mentioned them, proposing to do them right hereafter. But the men spoiled by false taste are innumerable; and These are his proper concern: He therefore, from y 35 to 46. fub-divides them again into the two classes of the volatile and heavy: He describes in few words the quick progress of the One thro' Criticism, from false wit to plain tolly, where they end ; and the fixed station of the Other between the confines of both ; who under the name of Witlings, have neither end nor measure. A kind of half formed creature from the equivocal generation of vivacity and dulness, like those on the banks of Nile, from heat and mud.
NOTE s. Ver. 43. Their generation's so equivocal :] It is sufficient that a principle of philosophy has been generally received, whether it be true or false, to justify a poet's use of it to set of his wit. . But to recommend his argument he should be cautious how he uses any but the true. For falsehood, when it is set too near, will tarnish the truth he would recommend. Besides the analogy between natural and moral truth makes the principles of true Philosophy the fittest for his use. Our Poet has been careful in observing this rule.
To tell 'em, would a hundred tongues require,
But you who seek to give and merit fame,
COMMENTARY. Ver. 46. But you who seek, etc.] Our Author having thus far, by way of INTRODUCTION, explained the nature, use, and abuse of Criticism, in a figurative description of the qualities and characters of Critics, proceeds now to deliver the precepts of the Art. The first of which, from 47 to 68. is, that he who sets up for a Critic should previously examine his own strength, and see how far he is qualified for the exercise of his profeflion. He puts him in a way to make this discovery, in that admirable direction given y 51. AND MARK THAT POINT WHERE SENSE AND DULNESS
MEET. He had shewn above, that Judgment, without Taste or Genius, is equally incapable of making a Critic or a Poet : In whatsoever subject then the Critic's Taste no longer accompanies his Judgment, there he may be assured he is going out of his depth. This our Author finely calls,
that point where sense and dulness meet. And immediately adds the REASON of his precept; the Author of Nature having so constituted the mental faculties, that one of them can never excel but at the expence of another.
NOTES. Ver. 51. And mark that point where sense and dulness meet.] Bcfides the peculiar sense explained above in the comment, the words have ftill a more general meaning, and caution us against going on, when our Ideas begin to grow obscure: as we are
Nature to all things fix'd the limits fit, And wisely curb’d proud man's pretending wit. As on the land while here the ocean gains, In other parts it leaves wide fandy plains ; 55 Thus in the soul while memory prevails, The solid pow'r of understanding fails; Where beams of warm imagination play, The memory's soft figures melt away. One science only will one genius fit;
60 So vast is art, so narrow human wit:
COMMENTARY. From this ftate and ordination of the mental faculties, and the influence and effects they have one on another, our Poet draws this CONSEQUENCE, that no one genius can excell in more than one Art or Science. The consequence shews the necessity of the precept, just as the premises, from which the consequence is drawn, shew the reasonableness of it.
NOTES. apt to do, tho' that obscurity is a monition that we should leave off; for it arises either thro' our small acquaintance with the subject, or the incomprehensibility of its nature. In which circumstances a genius will always write as heavily as a dunce. An observation well worth the attention of all profound writers. VER. 56. Thus in the foul while memory prevails,
The solid pow'r of understanding fails :
The memory's soft figures melt away.] These observations are collected from an intimate knowledge of human nature. The cause of that languor and heaviness in the understanding, which is almost inseparable from a very strong and tenacious memory, seems to be a want of the proper exercile and activity of that power; the understanding being rather paslive while the memory is cultivating. As to the other ap