!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Alexander Pope on Criticism

Monday, March 15, 2010

Alexander Pope on Criticism

You will probably recognize line 625 in the excerpt below from Alexander Pope's "Essay on Criticism." The excerpt comprises lines 610 to 642.

      Such shameless bards we have, and yet, 'tis true,
There are as mad abandoned 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 poets friend
Nay, showed his faults — but when would poets mend?
No place so sacred from such fops is barred,
Nor is Paul's Church more safe than Paul's Churchyard:
Nay, fly to altars; there they'll talk you dead,
For fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
Distrustful sense with modest caution speaks,
It still looks home, and short excursions makes;
But rattling nonsense in full volleys breaks,
And, never shocked, and never turned aside,
Bursts out, resistless, with a thundering tide.

      But where's the man who counsel can bestow,
Still pleased to teach, and yet not proud to know?
Unbiased, or by favor, or in spite,
Not dully prepossessed, nor blindly right;
Though learned, well-bred, and though well-bred, sincere,
Modestly bold, and humanly severe,
Who to a friend his faults can freely show,
And gladly praise the merit of a foe?
Blessed with a taste exact, yet unconfined;
A knowledge both of books and human kind;
Generous converse, a soul exempt from pride;
And love to praise, with reason on his side?

Note: The Wikipedia entry for John Dryden's Fables, Ancient and Modern is here. You can read about Thomas Durfey here. The Wikipedia entry for Sir Samuel Garth is here.


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