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bour's issue, I would as little hinder him from necessary writing. It may be affirmed with great truth, that there is hardly any human creature past childhood, but at one time or other has had some poetical evacuation, and, no question, was much the better for it in his health ; so true is the saying, nascimur poëtæ. Therefore is the desire of writing properly termed pruritus, the “ titillation of the generative faculty of the brain,” and the person is said to conceive: now, such as conceive, must bring forth. I have known a man thoughtful, melancholy, and raving for divers days, who forthwith grew wonderfully easy, lightsome, and cheerful, upon a discharge of the peccant humour in exceeding purulent metre. Nor can I question, but abundance of untimely deaths are occasioned for want of this laudable vent of unruly passions : yea, perhaps, in poor wretches (which is very lamentable) for meer want of pen, ink, and paper! From hence it follows, that a suppression of the very worst poetry is of dangerous consequence to the state. We find by experience, that the same humours which vent themselves in summer in ballads and sonnets, are condensed by the winter's cold into pamphlets and speeches for and against the ministry: nay, I know not, but many times a piece of poetry may be the niost innocent composition of a minister himself.
It is therefore manifest, that mediocrity ought to be allowed, yea indulged, to the good subjects of England. Nor can I conceive how the world has swallowed the contrary as a maxim, upon the single authority of Horace * Why should the golden
--- Mediocribus esse poetis Non dii, lion lomines, &c.
mean, and quintessence of all virtues, be deemed so offensive in this art? or coolness or mediocrity be so amiable a quality in a man, and so detestable in a
However, far be it from me to compare these writers with those great spirits, who are born with a vivacité de pesanteur, or (as an English author calls it) an“ alacrity of sinking *;” and who by strength of nature alone can excel. All I mean, is, to evince the necessity of rules to these lesser geniuses, as well as the usefulness of them to the greater.
That there is an art of the bathos, or profund.
W E come now to prove, that there is an art of sinking in poetry. Is there not an architecture of vaults and cellars, as well as of lofty domes and pyra. mids ? Is there not as much skill and labour in making ditches, as in raising mounts ? Is there not an art of diving as well as of flying ? and will any sober practitioner affirm, that a diving engine is not of singular use in making him longwinded, assisting his descent, and furnishing him with more ingenious means of keeping under water ?
If we search the authors of antiquity, we shall find as few to have been distinguished in the true profund, as in the true sublime. And the very
• Spoken by Falstaff of himself in Shakspeare's Merry Wives of Windsor.
same thing (as it appears from Longinus) had been imagined of that, as now of this ; namely, that it was entirely the gift of nature. I grant, that to excel in the bathos a genius is requisite; yet the rules of art must be allowed so far useful, as to add weight, or as I may say, hang on lead to facilitate and enforce our descent, to guide us to the most advantageous declivities, and habituate our imagination to a depth of thinking. Many there are that can fall, but few can arrive at the felicity of falling gracefully; much more for a man, who is among the lowest of the creation, at the very bottom of the atmosphere ; to descend beneath himself, is not so easy a task unless he calls in art to his assistance. It is with the bathos as with small beer, which is indeed vapid and insipid, if left at large and let abroad; but being by our rules confined and well stopt, nothing grows so frothy, pert, and bouncing.
The sublime of nature is the sky, the sun, moon, stars, &c. The profund of nature is gold, pearls, precious stones, and the treasures of the deep, which are inestimable as unknown. But all that lies between these, as corn, flowers, fruits, animals, and things for the mere use of man, are of mean price, and so common as not to be greatly esteemed by the curious. It being certain that any thing, of which we know the true use, cannot be invaluable : which affords a solution, why common sense hath either been totally despised, or held in small repute, by the greatest modern critics and authors.
of the true genius for the profund, and by what it is
AND I will venture to lay it down as the first maxim, and corner-stone of this our art, that whoever would excel therein, must studiously avoid, detest, and turn his head from all the ideas, ways, and workings of that pestilent foe to wit, and destroyer of fine figures, which is known by the name of common sense. His business must be to contract the true goût de travers; and to acquire a most happy, uncommon, unaccountable way of thinking.
He is to consider himself as a grotesque painter, whose works would be spoiled by an imitation, of nature, or uniformity of design. He is to mingle bits of the most various, or discordant kinds, landscape, history, portraits, animals; and connect them with a great deal of flourishing, by head or tail, as it shall please his imagination, and contribute to his principal end; which is, to glare by strong oppositions of colours, and surprise by contrariety of images.
Serpentes avibus geminentur, tigribus agni. Hor.
His design ought to be like a labyrinth, out of which no body can get clear but himself. And since the great art of all poetry is to mix truth with fiction, in order to join the credible with the surprising,
our author shall produce the credible, by painting 6 nature in her lowest simplicity; and the surprising, by contradicting common opinion. In the very same manner he will affect the marvellous; he will draw Achilles with the patience of Job; a prince talking like a jack-pudding; a maid of honour selling bargains; a footman speaking like a philosopher; and a fine gentleman like a scholar. Whoever is conversant in modern plays, may make a most noble collection of this kind, and at the same time form a complete body of modern ethics and morality.
Nothing seemed more plain to our great authors, than that the world hath long been weary of natural things. How much the contrary are formed to please, is evident from the universal applause daily given to the admirable entertainments of harlequins and magicians on our stage. When an audience behold a coach turned into a wheelbarrow, a conjurer into an old woman, or a man's head where his heels should be; how are they struck with transport and delight! which can only be imputed to this cause, that each object is changed into that which hath been suggested to them by their own low ideas before.
He ought therefore to render himself master of this happy and anti-natural way of thinking, to such a degree, as to be able, on the appearance of any object, to furnish his imagination with ideas infinitely below it. And his eyes should be like unto the wrong end of a perspective glass, by which all the objects of nature are lessened.
For example ; when a true genius looks upon the sky, he immediately catches the idea of a piece of blue lute-string, or a child's mantle. .