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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 constituted.
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, unconmon, 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, OUli” our author shall produce the credible, by painting 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-Soring, or a child's mantle.
The skies, whose spreading volumes scarce have room,
If he looks upon a tempest, he shall have an image of a tumbled bed, and describe a succeeding calm in this manner; -
The ocean, joyed to see the tempest fled,
The triumphs and acclamations of the angels at the creation of the universe present to his imagination “the rejoicings on the lord mayor's day;” and he beholds those glorious beings celebrating their creator, by huzzaing, making illuminations, and flinging Squibs, crackers, and sky-rockets.
Glorious illuminations, made on high
If a man, who is violently fond of wit, will sacrifice to that passion his friend or his God, would it not be a shame, if he who is smit with the love of
* Prince Arthur, p. 41, 42. + Page 14. f P. 50.
N. B. In order to do justice to these great poets, our citations are taken from the best, the last, and most correct editions of their works. That which we use of Prince Arthur, is in duodecimo, 1714, the fourth edition revised.
the bathos, should not sacrifice to it all other transitory regards? You shall hear a zealous protestant deacon invoke a saint, and modestly beseech her to do more for us than Providence.
Look down, blest saint, with pity then look down,
Neither will he, if a goodly simile come in his way, scruple to affirm himself an eye-witness of things never yet beheld by man, or never in existence; as thus,
Thus have I seen in Araby the blest
But to convince you that nothing is so great which a marvellous genius prompted by this laudable zeal is not able to lessen; hear how the most sublime of all beings is represented in the following images.
First he is a PAINTER.
Sometimes the lord of nature in the air
Now he is a CHEMIST.
Th’almighty chemist does his work prepare,
Pours down his waters on the thirsty plain,
Digests his lightening, and distils his rain ||.