Such once were critics; such the happy few, Athens and Rome in better ages knew.
There is an exclamation mark at the end of this extract, possibly to conclude with a promising tone of the future endeavours of academics in chasing knowledge. From the beginning of the extract Pope begins warning us. Unbias'd, or by favour or by spite; Not dully prepossess'd, nor blindly right; Though learn'd, well-bred; and though well-bred, sincere; Modestly bold, and humanly severe?
In poets as true genius is but rare, True taste as seldom is the critic's share; Both must alike from Heav'n derive their light, These born to judge, as well as those to write.
These monsters, critics! Some beauties yet, no precepts can declare, For there's a happiness as well as care. He suggests that age can bring a degree of cynicism and rigidity in thinking, which can prevent the bright lights of innovation and change from emerging and challenging our ideas of beauty or brilliance.
Some have at first for wits, then poets pass'd, Turn'd critics next, and prov'd plain fools at last; Some neither can for wits nor critics pass, As heavy mules are neither horse nor ass.
The critics on the other hand are bound by the rules and thus constricted from recognising innovative brilliance and achievement. Pope encourages critics to avoid the temptation to become self-satisfied with their Classical knowledge and poetic comprehension.
John Arbuthnot, and John Gay.
These equal syllables alone require, Tho' oft the ear the open vowels tire, While expletives their feeble aid do join, And ten low words oft creep in one dull line, While they ring round the same unvaried chimes, With sure returns of still expected rhymes.
But if in noble minds some dregs remain, Not yet purg'd off, of spleen and sour disdain, Discharge that rage on more provoking crimes, Nor fear a dearth in these flagitious times.