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CHA P. III.
The Neceflity of the Bathos physically considered.
FArthermore, it were great cruelty and injustice, 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 fecretion from the Brain. As I would not suddenly stop a cold in the head, or dry up my neighbours Issue, I would as little hinder him from neceflary 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 Poetæ, Therefore is the Desire of Writing properly termed Pruritus, the - Titillation of the generative fa“ culty 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 chearful, 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 fuppreffion of the very worst Poetry is of dangerous conse. quence to the State. We find by experience, that the fame 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 þe the most innocent composition of a minifter himself.
It is therefore manifeft 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 Mean, and quintessence of all Virtues, be deemed fo offensive in this Art? or Coolness or Mediocrity be so amiable a quality in a Man, and so 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 pefanteur, or (as an English Author calls it) an “ Ala“crity of sinking;" and who by strength of Nature alone can excel. All I mean is to evince the Neceffity of Rules to these lefser Geniuses, as well as the Usefulness of them to the greater.
CH A P. IV.
That there is an Art of the Bathos, or Profound.
W E come now to prove, that there is an Art of Sink
ing in Poetry. Is there not an Architecture of Vaults and Cellars, as well as of lofty Domes and Pyramids ? Is there not as much skill and labourin making Dikes, as in raising Mounts? Is there notan Artof Diving as well as of Flying? And will any fober practitioner affirm, that a diving Engine is not of fingular use in making him long winded, affifting his fight, and furnishing him with other 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 Profound, as in the true Sublime. And the very 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;
the Rules of Art must be allowed so far useful, as to add weight, or, as I may fay, hang on lead, to facili. tate, and enforce our descent, to guide us to the most ad. vantageous 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 amongst the loweft 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 affiftance. 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 bounce ing.
The Sublime of Nature is the Sky, the Sun, Moon, Stars, etc. The Profound 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 Criticks and Authors.
Of the true Genius for the Profound, 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, deteft, and turn his head from all the ideas, ways, and workings of
that peftilent Foe to Wit, and Destroyer of fine Figures, which is known by the name of Common Sense. His businefs must be to contract the true Gout de travers; and to acquire a most happy, uncommon, unaccountable Way of Thinking.
He is to consider himself as a Grotesque painter, whofe 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, hiftory, portraits, , animals, and connect them with a great deal of flourishing, by heads or tails, 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
Serpentes avibus geminenter, tigribus agni. HOR. His design ought to be like a labyrinth, out of which nobody 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 Surprizing; our author shall produce the Credible, by painting nature in her lowest fimplicity; and the Surprizing, by contradi&ting common opinion. In the very Manners 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 moft noble collection of this kind, and, at the same time, form a complete body of modern Ethicks and Morality.
Nothing seemed more plain to our great authors, than that the world had long been weary of natural things. How much the contrary are formed to please, is evident from the universal applause daily given to the ad. mirable entertainments of Harlequins and Magicians on our stage. When an 'audience behold a coach turned into a wheel-barrow, a conjurer inta
' , 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 lutestring, or a child's mantle.
* “ The skies, whose spreading volumes scarce haveroom,
" Spun thin, and wove in nature's finest loom,
If he looks upon a Tempeft, he shall have an image of a tumbled bed, and describe a succeeding calm in this manner :
+ “ The Ocean joy'd to see the tempeft fled,
" New lays his waves, and smooths his ruffled bed.”
The Triumphs and Acclamations of the Angels, at the Creation of the Universe, present to his imagination « the Rejoicings of the Lord Mayor's Day;" and he beholds those glorious beings celebrating the Creator, by huzzaing, making illuminations, and flinging squibs, crackers, and sky-rockets.
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. VOL. III.