Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

lands of Parnaffus, the fourishing state of our Trade, and the plenty of our Manufacture ; there are two reflections which administer great cccasion of surprize : The one, that all dignities and honours should be bestowed upon the exceeding few meager inhabitants of the Top of the mountain ; the other, that our own nation should have arrived to that pitch of greatness it now possesses, without any regular System of Laws. As to the first, it is with great pleasure I have observed of late the gradual decay of Delicacy and Refinement among mankind, who are become too reasonable to require that we should labour with infinite pains to come up to the taste of these Mountaineers, when they without any may condescend to ours. But as we have now an unquestionable Majority on our fide, I doubt not but we shall shortly be able to level the Highlanders, and procure a farther vent for our own product, which is already so much relifted, encouraged, and rewarded, by the Nobility and Gentry of Great Britain.

Therefore to supply our former defect, I purpose to collect the scattered Rules of our Art into regular Institutes, from the example and practice of the deep Genius's of our nation; imitating herein my predecessors the Master of Alexander, and the Secretary of the renowned Zenobia. And in this my undertaking I am the more animated, as I expeci more success than has attended even those great Critics; since their Laws (tho they might be good) have ever been lackly executed, and their Precepts (however strict) obeyed only by fits, and by a very small number.

At the same time I intend to do justice upon our neighbours, inhabitants of the upper Parnassus; who, taking advantage of the rising ground, are perpetually throwing down rubbish, dirt and stones upon us, never suffering us to live in peace.

There

2

[ocr errors]

A

[ocr errors]

These men, while they enjoy the crystal stream
of Helicon, envy us our common water, which
(thank our stars) tho' it is somewhat muddy, flows
in much greater abundance. Nor is this the
greatest injustice that we have to complain of; for
though it is evident that we never made the least
attempt or inrode into Their territories, but lived
contented in our native fens; they have often not
only committed Petty Larcenies upon our borders,
but driven the country, and carried off at once
whole Cart-loads of our manufacture; to reclaim
some of which stolen goods is part of the design of
this Treatise.

For we shall see in the course of this work, that
our greatest Adversaries have sometimes descended
towards us ; and doubtless might now and then
have arrived at the Bathos itself, had it not been
for that mistaken opinion they all entertained, that
the Rules of the Ancients were equally necessary to
the Moderns ; than which there cannot be a more
grievous Error, as will be amply proved in the fol-
lowing discourse.

And indeed when any of these have gone so far, as by the light of their own Genius to attempt new Models, it is wonderful to observe, how nearly they have approached us in those particular pieces ; though in their others they differ'd toto coelo

from us.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

CH A P. II.

That the Bathos, or Profund, is the na

tural Taste of Man, and in particular, of the present Age.

T

HE Taste of the Bathos is implanted by

Nature itself in the soul of man; till, pero verted by custom or example, he is taught, or rather compelled, to relish the Sublime. Accordingly, we see the unprejudiced minds of Children delight only in such productions, and in such images, as our true modern writers set before them. I have observed how fast the general Taste is returning to this first Simplicity and Innocence : and if the intent of all Poetry be to divert and instruct, certainly that kind which diverts and inftructs the greatest number, is to be preferred. Let us look round among the Admirers of Poetry, we shali find those who have a taste of the Sublime to be very few; but the Profund ftrikes universally, and is adapted to every capacity. 'Tis a fruitless undertaking to write for men of a nice and foppish Gusto, whom after all it is almost impoffible to please ; and 'tis still more chimerical to write for Posterity, of whofe Tafte we cannot make any judgment, and whose Applause we can never enjoy. It must be confeffed our wiser authors have a present end,

Et prodeffe volunt et delectare Poeta. Their true design is Profit or Gain; in order to acquire which, 'tis necessary to procure applause by administring pleasure to the reader : From whence it follows demonstrably, that their productions must be suited to the present Taste.

And

1

I cannot but congratulate our age on this peculiar felicity, that though we have made indeed great progress in all other branches of Luxury, we are not yet debauched with any high Relish in Poetry, but are in this one Taste less nice than our ancestors. If an Art is to be estimated by its success, I appeal to experience whether there have not been, in proportion to their number, as many starving good Poets, as bad ones.

Nevertheless, in making Gain the principal end of our Art, far be it froni me to exclude any great Genius's of Rank or Fortune from diverting themselves this way. They ought to be praifed no less than those Princes, who pass their vacant hours in some ingenious mechanical or manual Art. And to such as these, it would be ingratitude not to own, that our Art has been often infinitely indebted.

C H A P. III.

The Necessity of the Bathos, physically

considered.

F
Arthermore, it were great cruelty and injuf-

tice, if all such Authors as cannot write in the other way, were prohibited from writing at all. Against this I draw an argument from what seems to me an undoubted physical Maxim, That Poetry is a natural or morbid Secretion from the Brain. As I would not suddenly stop a cold in the head, or dry up my neighbour'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 fome Poetical Evacuation, and, no

question,

question, was much the better for it in his health ; so true is the saying, Nascimur Poetæ. Therefore is the Desire of Writing properly term’d Pruritus, the “Titillation of the Generative Faculty of the « Brain," and the Perfon 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, lightfome, 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 mere want of pen, ink, and paper! From hence it follows, that a suppression of the very worst Poetry is of dangerous confequence 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 most in. nocent 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 fwallowed the contrary as a Maxim, upon the single authority of that * Horace? Why should the golden Mean, and quintessence of all Virtues, be dcemed so offensive in this Art? or Coolness or Mediocrity be so amiable a quality in a Man, and fo deteftable in a Poet?

However, far be it from me to compare these Writers with those great Spirits, who are born with a Vivacité de tefariteur, or (as an English

* Mediocribus elle foetis N'on dii, non horities, etc.

Hor. P.

Author

« AnteriorContinuar »