Quotations from Pope’s Essay on Criticism

I heartily recommend reading Pope’s entire essay. In the meantime, here are a few choice lines to spark your interest:

‘Tis hard to say, if greater want of skill
Appear in writing or in judging ill;
But, of the two, less dangerous is the offence
To tire our patience, than mislead our sense.

‘Tis with our judgments as our watches, none
Go each alike, yet each believes his own.

Let such teach others who themselves excel,
And censure freely who have written well.

Authors are partial to their wit, ‘tis true,
But are not critics to their judgments too?

Be sure yourself 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 dullness meet.

Music resembles poetry, in each
Are nameless graces which no methods teach,
And which a master-hand alone can reach.
If, where the rules not far enough extend,
(Since rules were made but to promote their end)
Some lucky license answer to the full
The intent proposed, that license is a rule.

Moderns, beware! or if you must offend
Against the precept, ne’er transgress its end.

Trust not to yourself; but your defects to know,
Make use of every friend—and every foe.

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.

A perfect judge will read each work of wit
With the same spirit that its author writ.

‘Tis not a lip, or eye, we beauty call,
But the joint force and full result of all.

Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see,
Thinks what ne’er was, nor is, nor e’er shall be.

True wit is Nature, to advantage dress’d;
What oft was thought, but ne’er so well expressed.

Fear not the anger of the wise to raise;
Those best can bear reproof who merit praise.

‘Tis best sometimes your censure to restrain,
And charitably let the dull be vain:
Your silence there is better than your spite,
For who can rail so long as they can write?

Some valuing those of their own side or mind,
Still make themselves the measure of mankind:
Fondly we think we honor merit then,
When we but praise ourselves in other men.

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