"First Follow Nature"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

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 frame
By 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 soul
With 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.