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Poets, a race long unconfined and free,
Horace still charms with graceful negligence,
translations By wits, than critics in as wrong quotations.
See Dionysius Homer's thoughts refine, And call new beauties forth from every
In Quintilian's copious work we find
Thee, bold Longinus ! all the Nine inspire,
Thus long succeeding critics justly reign'd, License repress'd, and useful laws ordain'd:
Learning and Rome alike in empire grew,
At length Erasmus, that great injured name, (The glory of the priesthood, and the shame!) Stemm’d the wild torrent of a barbarous age, 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. Then Sculpture and her sister arts revive; Stones 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 impiouis arms from Latium chased, Their ancient bounds the banishid Muses pass'd; 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 despised, And kept unconquer'd and uncivilized;
Fierce for the liberties of wit, and bold,
Nature's chief masterpiece is writing well.?
author's merit, but his own. Such late was Walsh--the Muse's judge and friend, Who justly knew to blame or to commend; 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, Prescribed her heights, and pruned her tender wing, (Her guide now lost) no more attempts to rise, But in low numbers short excursions tries ; Content if hence the unlearn’d their wants may
view, The learn'd reflect on what before they knew; Careless of censure, nor too fond of fame; Still pleased to praise, yet not afraid to blame; Averse alike to flatter or offend; Not free from faults, nor yet too vain to mend.
ESSAY ON MAN.
In four Epistles to Lord Bolingbroke.
THE DESIGN. HAVING proposed to write some pieces on human life and manners, such as (to use my Lord Bacon's expression) come home to men's business and bosoms,' I thought it more satisfactory to begin with considering man in the abstract, his nature, and his state; since to prove any moral duty, to enforce any moral precept, or to examine the perfection or imperfection of any creature whatsoever, it is necessary first to know what condition and relation it is placed in, and what is the proper end and purpose of its being.
The science of human nature is, like all other sciences, reduced to a few clear points; there are not many certain truths in this world. It is therefore in the anatomy of the mind, as in that of the body; more good will accrue to mankind by attending to the large, open, and perceptible parts, than by studying too much such finer nerves and vessels, the conformations and uses of which will for ever escape our observation. The disputes are all upon
these last; and, I will venture to say, they have less sharpened the wits than the hearts of men against each other, and have diminished the practice more than advanced the theory of morality. If I could flatter myself that this Essay has any merit, it is in steering betwixt the extremes of doctrines seemingly opposite; in passing over terms utterly unintelligible; and in forming a temperate, yet not inconsistent, and a short, yet not imperfect, system of ethics.
This I might have done in prose; but I chose verse, and even rhyme, for two reasons. The one will appear obvious; that principles, maxims, or precepts, so written, both strike the reader more strongly at first, and are more easily retained by him afterwards: the other may seem odd, but it is true; I found I could express them more shortly this way than in prose
itself; and nothing is more certain, than that much of the force as well as grace of arguments or instructions depends on their conciseness. I was unable to treat this part of my subject more in detail, without becoming dry and tedious; or more poetically, without sacrificing perspicuity to ornament, without wandering from the precision, or breaking the chain of reasoning. If any man can unite all these without diminution of any of them, I freely confess he will compass a thing above my capacity.
What is now published is only to be considered as a general map of man, marking out no more than the greater parts, their extent, their limits, and their connexion, but leaving the particular to be more fully delineated in the charts which are to follow : consequently these epistles in their progress (if I have health and leisure to make any progress) will be less dry, and more susceptible of poetical ornament. I am here only opening the fountains, and clearing the passage: to deduce the rivers, to follow them in their course, and to observe their effects, may be a task more agreeable.