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Syllaba longa brevi subjecta, vocatur Iambus,
Pes citus: unde etiam Trimetris adcrescere jussit
In scenam missus cum magno pondere versus, 260
iambic foot; reproving, at the same time, the indolence or ill-taste of the Roman writers in this respect, and sending them for instruction to the Grecian models.
Having introduced his critique on the stage-music, and satyric drama, with some account of the rise and progress of each, the poet very properly concludes this whole part [from v. 275 to 295] with a short, incidental
Scimus inurbanum lepido seponere dicto,
history of the principal improvements of the Greek tragedy and comedy; which was artfully contrived to insinuate the defective state of the Roman drama, and to admonish his countrymen, how far they had gone, and what yet remained to complete it. And hence with the advantage of the easiest transition he slides into the last part of the epistle; the design of which, as hath been observed, was to reprove an incorrectness and want of care in the Roman writers. For, having just observed their defect, he goes on, in the remaining part of the epistle, to sum up the several causes, which seem to have produced it. And this gives him the opportunity,
Quam lingua, Latium; si non offenderet unum-
Qui purgor bilem sub verni temporis horam?
under every head, of prescribing the proper remedy for each, and of inserting such further rules and precepts for good writing, as could not so properly come in before. The whole is managed with singular address, as will appear from looking over particulars,
A CARE AND DILIGENCE IN WRITING RECOMMENDED,
1. [from 1. 295 to 1. 383] THE poet ridicules that false notion, into which the Romans had fallen, that poetry and possession were nearly the same thing: that nothing moré was required in a poet, than some extravagant starts and sallies of thought; that coolness and reflexion were inconsistent with his character, and that poetry was not to be scanned by the rules of sober sense. This they carried so far, as to affect the outward port and air of
Nil tanti est. ergo fungar vice cotis, acutum
madness, and, upon the strength of that appearance, to set up for wits and poets. In opposition to this mistake, which was one great hindrance to critical correctness, he asserts wisdom and good sense to be the source and principle of good writing: for the attainment of which he prescribes, 1. [from v. 310 to 312] A careful study of the Socratic, that is, moral wisdom: and, 2. [from v. 312 to 318] A thorough acquaintance with human nature, that great exemplar of manners, as he finely calls it, or, in other words, a wide extensive view of real, practical life. The joint direction of these two, as means of acquiring moral knowledge, was perfectly necessary. For the former, when alone, is apt to grow abstracted and unaffecting the latter, uninstructing and superficial. The philosopher talks without experience, and
Interdum speciosa locis, morataque recte
the man of the world without principles. United they supply each other's defects; while the man of the world borrows so much of the philosopher, as to be able to adjust the several sentiments with precision and exactness; and the philosopher so much of the man of the world as to copy the manners of life (which we can only do by experience) with truth and spirit. Both together furnish a thorough and complete comprehension of human life; which manifesting itself in the just, and affecting, forms that exquisite degree of perfection in the character of the dramatic poet; the want of which no warmth of genius can atone for, or excuse. Nay such is the force of this nice adjustment of manners [from 1. 319 to 323] that, where it has remarkably prevailed, the success of a play hath sometimes been secured by it, without one single excellence or recommendation besides.
II. He shews [from 1. 323 to 333] another cause of their incorrectness and want of success, in any degree, answering to that of the Greek writers, to have been the