In poets as true genius is but rare, True taste as seldom is the critic's share; Both must alike from Heav'n derive their light, These born to judge, as well as those to write.
Let such teach others who themselves excel, And censure freely who have written well.
Then criticism the Muse's handmaid prov'd, To dress her charms, and make her more belov'd; But following wits from that intention stray'd; Who could not win the mistress, woo'd the maid; Against the poets their own arms they turn'd, Sure to hate most the men from whom they learn'd.
So modern 'pothecaries, taught the art By doctor's bills to play the doctor's part, Bold in the practice of mistaken rules, Prescribe, apply, and call their masters fools.
But you who seek to give and merit fame, And justly bear a critic's noble name, Be sure your self and your own reach to know, How far your genius, taste, and learning go; Launch not beyond your depth, but be discreet, And mark that point where sense and dulness meet.
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 sandy plains; 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.Pope grew up on his father’s property at Binfield in Windsor Forest, where he read avidly and gained an appreciation for the natural world.Though he remained in ill health throughout his life, he was able to support himself as a translator and writer. Arbuthnot” and the mock epic “The Rape of the Lock.” To read his work is to be exposed to the order and wit of the 18th century poetry that preceded the Romantic poets.As a Catholic at that time in Britain, he was ineligible for patronage, public office, or a position at a university. Pope primarily used the heroic couplet, and his lines are immensely quotable; from “An Essay on Criticism” come famous phrases such as “To err is human; to forgive, divine,” “A little learning is a dang’rous thing,” and “For fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” After 1718 Pope lived on his five-acre property at Twickenham by the Thames.A sharp-penned satirist of public figures and their behavior, Pope had his supporters and detractors. He cultivated a much-visited garden that contained a grotto, and featured the formal characteristics of a French garden and the newer more natural “English” landscape style.Authors are partial to their wit, 'tis true, But are not critics to their judgment too?Yet if we look more closely we shall find Most have the seeds of judgment in their mind; Nature affords at least a glimm'ring light; The lines, tho' touch'd but faintly, are drawn right.But as the slightest sketch, if justly trac'd, Is by ill colouring but the more disgrac'd, So by false learning is good sense defac'd; Some are bewilder'd in the maze of schools, And some made coxcombs Nature meant but fools.In search of wit these lose their common sense, And then turn critics in their own defence: Each burns alike, who can, or cannot write, Or with a rival's, or an eunuch's spite.Some on the leaves of ancient authors prey, Nor time nor moths e'er spoil'd so much as they: Some drily plain, without invention's aid, Write dull receipts how poems may be made: These leave the sense, their learning to display, And those explain the meaning quite away.You then whose judgment the right course would steer, Know well each ANCIENT'S proper character; His fable, subject, scope in ev'ry page; Religion, country, genius of his age: Without all these at once before your eyes, Cavil you may, but never criticise.