Nature and Homer
An extract from 'An Essay on Criticism' by Alexander Pope (1688 – 1744)
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.
Be Homer’s works your study and delight,
Read them by day, and meditate by night;
Thence form your judgment, thence your maxims bring,
And trace the Muses upward to their spring;
Still with itself compar’d, his text peruse;
And let your comment be the Mantuan Muse.
When first young Maro in his boundless mind
A work t’ outlast immortal Rome design’d,
Perhaps he seem’d above the critic’s law,
And but from Nature's fountains scorn’d to draw:
But when t’ examine ev’ry part he came,
Nature and Homer were, he found, the same.
Convinc’d, amaz’d, he checks the bold design,
And rules as strict his labour’d work confine,
As if the Stagirite† o’erlook’d each line.
Learn hence for ancient rules a just esteem;
To copy nature is to copy them.
Oil paint, silver leaf, adhesive, on printed paper
From the series 'The Dying Pythia'