An Essay on Criticism "Whoever Thinks A Faultless Piece To See, Thinks What Never Was, Nor Is, Nor Ever Shall Be"
by Alexander Pope

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"Whoever Thinks A Faultless Piece To See, Thinks What Never Was, Nor Is, Nor Ever Shall Be"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

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Context: Pope admonishes the reader, "A perfect judge will read each work of wit/ With the same spirit that its author writ." He warns against seeing a work of art only as a collection of parts, recommending that we learn to look at a poem, any piece of literature, in its entirety, for little faults can always be found, he maintains. He points out that discrepancies will be found "Where Nature moves, and Rapture warms the mind" of the poet. In other words, Pope is telling us not to look at the details of language, versification, and thought alone, but rather to see these simply as parts of a complete work of art:

Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see,Thinks what ne'er was, nor is, nor e'er shall be.In every work regard the writer's end,Since none can compass more than they intend;And if the means be just, the conduct true,Applause, in spite of trivial faults, is due.As men of breeding, sometimes men of wit,T'avoid great errors must the less commit;Neglect the rules each verbal critic lays,For not to know some trifles is a praise.