"First Follow Nature"
Context: Alexander Pope, in his poetic Essay on Criticism, warns that to be a bad critic is far worse than to be a bad poet. He notes that few men are born with true taste, and that of these most are led astray by poor education. Two cardinal rules exist for the critic: first, follow nature; second, study the classics. In suggesting nature as a guide for judgment, the poet says:
First follow nature, and your judgment frameBy her just standard, which is still the same:Unerring nature, still divinely bright,One clear, unchanged, and universal light,Life, force, and beauty, must to all impart,At once the source, and end, and test of art;Art from that fund each just supply provides;Works without show, and without pomp presides:In some fair body thus th' informing soulWith spirits feeds, with vigour fills the whole,Each motion guides, and every nerve sustains;Itself unseen, but in th' effects remains.Some, to whom Heaven in wit has been profuse,Want as much more, to turn it to its use;For wit and judgment often are at strife,Though meant each other's aid, like man and wife.'Tis more to guide, than spur the muse's steed;Restrain his fury, than provoke his speed:The winged courser, like a generous horse,Shows most true mettle when you check his course.