The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 17/Martinus Scriblerus, or the Art of Sinking In Poetry
OF THE ART OF
SINKING IN POETRY.
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR 1727.
When I consider (my dear countrymen) the extent, fertility, and populousness of our lowlands of Parnassus, the flourishing state of our trade, and the plenty of our manufacture; there are two reflections, which administer great occasion of surprise; the one, that all dignities and honours should be bestowed upon the exceeding few meagre 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 side, 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 relished, 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 geniuses 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 expect more success than has attended even those great critics; since their laws, though they might be good, have ever been slackly 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. These men, while they enjoy the crystal stream of helicon, envy us our common water, which, (thank our stars) though 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 cartloads 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 toward 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 errour, as will be amply proved in the following 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 differed toto cœlo from us.
That the bathos, or profund, is the natural taste of man, and in particular of the present age.
THE taste of the bathos is implanted by nature itself in the soul of man; till perverted 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 instructs the greatest number, is to be preferred. Let us look round among the admirers of poetry; we shall find those, who have a taste of the sublime, to be very few; but the profund strikes universally, and is adapted to every capacity. It is a fruitless undertaking to write for men of a nice and foppish gusto, whom after all it is almost impossible to please; and it is still more chimerical to write for posterity, of whose taste we cannot make any judgment, and whose applause we can never enjoy. It must be confessed, our wise authors have a present end,
Et prodesse volunt, et delectare poëtæ.
Their true design is profit or gain; in order to acquire which, it is necessary to procure applause by administering pleasure to the reader: from whence it follows demonstrably, that their productions must be suited to the present state. And 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 from me to exclude any great geniuses of rank or fortune from diverting themselves this way. They ought to be praised 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.
The necessity 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 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 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 most 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 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 poet?
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.
WE 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 pyramids? 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 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, 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 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.
The skies, whose spreading volumes scarce have room,
Spun thin, and wove in nature's finest loom,
The new-born world in their soft lap embrac'd,
And all around their starry mantle cast.
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,
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 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
By all the stars and planets of the sky,
In just degrees, and shining order placed,
Spectators charm'd, and the blest dwellings graced.
Through all the enlighten'd air swift fire-works flew,
Which with repeated shouts glad cherubs threw.
Comets ascended with their sweeping train,
Then fell in starry showers and glittering rain.
In air ten thousand meteors blazing hung,
Which from th' eternal battlements were flung.
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 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,
Shed on this land thy kinder influence,
And guide us through the mists of providence,
In which we stray. ——
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
A phœnix couch'd upon her funeral nest.
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
Spreads forth his clouds, his sable canvass, where
His pencil, dipt in heavenly colour bright,
Paints his fair rainbow, charming to the sight.
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.
Now he is a Wrestler.
Me in his griping arms th' eternal took,
And with such mighty force my body shook,
That the strong grasp my members sorely bruis'd,
Broke all my bones, and all my sinews loos'd.
Now a Recruiting Officer.
For clouds the sunbeams levy fresh supplies,
And raise recruits of vapours, which arise
Drawn from the seas, to muster in the skies.
Now a peaceable Guarantee.
In leagues of peace the neighbours did agree,
And to maintain them God was guarantee.
Then he is an Attorney.
In the following lines he is a Goldbeater.
Who the rich metal beats, and then with care
Unfolds the golden leaves to gild the fields of air.
Then a Fuller.
——— th' exhaling reeks, that secret rise,
Born on rebounding sunbeams through the skies,
Are thicken'd, wrought, and whiten'd, till they grow
A heavenly fleece ———
A Mercer, or Packer.
He measures all the drops with wondrous skill,
Which the black clouds, his floating bottles, fill.
And a Baker.
God in the wilderness his table spread,
And in his airy ovens bak'd their bread.
Of the several kinds of geniuses in the profund, and the marks, and characters of each.
I DOUBT not, but the reader, by this cloud of examples, begins to be convinced of the truth of our assertion, that the bathos is an art, and that the genius of no mortal whatever, following the mere ideas of nature, and unassisted with an habitual, nay laborious peculiarity of thinking, could arrive at images so wonderfully low and unaccountable. The great author, from whose treasury we have drawn all these instances (the father of the bathos, and indeed the Homer of it) has, like that immortal Greek, confined his labours to the greater poetry, and thereby left room for others to acquire a due share of praise in inferiour kinds. Many painters, who could never hit a nose or an eye, have with felicity copied a smallpox, or been admirable at a toad or a redherring: and seldom are we without geniuses for still-life, which they can work up and stiffen with incredible accuracy.
A universal genius rises not in an age; but when he rises, armies rise in him! he pours forth five or six epic poems with greater facility, than five or six pages can be produced by an elaborate and servile copier after nature or the ancients. It is affirmed by Quintilian, that the same genius, which made Germanicus so great a general, would, with equal application, have made him an excellent heroic poet. In like manner, reasoning from the affinity there appears between arts and sciences, I doubt not, but an active catcher of butterflies, a careful and fanciful pattern-drawer, an industrious collector of shells, a laborious and tuneful bag-piper, or a diligent breeder of tame rabbits, might severally excel in their respective parts of the bathos.
I shall range these confined and less copious geniuses under proper classes, and (the better to give their pictures to the reader) under the names of animals of some sort or other; whereby he will be enabled, at the first sight of such as shall daily come forth, to know to what kind to refer, and with what authors to compare them.
1. The flying fishes: these are writers, who now and then rise upon their fins, and fly out of the profund; but their wings are soon dry, and they drop down to the bottom. G. S. A. H. C. G.
2. The swallows are authors, that are eternally skimming and fluttering up and down, but all their agility is employed to catch flies. L. T. W. P. Lord H.
3. The ostriches are such, wliose heaviness rarely permits them to raise themselves from the ground; their wings are of no use to lift them up, and their motion is between flying and walking; but then they run very fast. D. F. L. E. the hon. E. H.
4. The parrots are they, that repeat another's words in such a hoarse odd voice, as makes them seem their own. W. B. W. S. C. C. the reverend D. D.
5. The didappers are authors, that keep themselves long out of sight, under water, and come up now and then, where you least expected them. L. W. G. D. Esq. The hon. Sir W. Y.
6. The porpoises are unwieldy and big; they put all their numbers into a great turmoil and tempest, but whenever they appear in plain light (which is seldom) they are only shapeless and ugly monsters. I. D. C. G. I. O.
7. The frogs are such, as can neither walk nor fly, but can leap and bound to admiration; they live generally in the bottom of a ditch, and make a great noise, whenever they thrust their heads above water. E. W. I. M. Esq. T. D. gent.
8. The eels are obscure authors, that wrap themselves up in their own mud, but are mighty nimble and pert. L. W. L. T. P. M. general C.
9. The tortoises are slow and chill, and like pastoral writers, delight much in gardens: they have for the most part a fine embroidered shell, and underneath it a heavy lump. A. P. W. B. L. E. The right hon. E. of S.
These are the chief characteristics of the bathos, and in each of these kinds we have the comfort to be blessed with sundry and manifold choice spirits in this our island.
Of the profund, when it consists in the thought.
WE have already laid down the principles, upon which our author is to proceed, and the manner of forming his thought by familiarizing his mind to the lowest objects; to which, it may be added, that vulgar conversation will greatly contribute. There is no question, but the garret or the printer's boy may often be discerned in the compositions made in such scenes and company; and much of Mr. Curl himself has been insensibly infused into the works of his learned writers.
The physician, by the study and inspection of urine and ordure, approves himself in the science; and in like sort, should our author accustom and exercise his imagination upon the dregs of nature.
This will render his thoughts truly and fundamentally low, and carry him many fathoms beyond mediocrity. For, certain it is (though some lukewarm heads imagine they may be safe by temporizing between the extremes) that where there is not a triticalness or mediocrity in the thought, it can never be sunk into the genuine and perfect bathos by the most elaborate low expression: it can, at most, be only carefully obscured, or metaphorically debased. But, it is the thought alone that strikes, and gives the whole that spirit, which we admire and stare at. For instance, in that ingenious piece on a lady's drinking the Bathwaters:
She drinks! she drinks! behold the matchless dame!
To her 'tis water, but to us 'tis flame:
Thus fire is water, water fire by turns,
And the same stream at once both cools and burns.
What can be more easy and unaffected, than the diction of these verses; it is the turn of thought alone, and the variety of imagination, that charm and surprise us. And when the same lady goes into the bath, the thought (as in justice it ought) goes still deeper;
How much out of the way of common sense is this reflection of Venus, not knowing herself from the lady?
Of the same nature is that noble mistake of a frighted stag in a full chace, who, saith the poet —
Hears his own feet, and thinks they sound like more;
And fears the hind-feet will o'ertake the fore.
So astonishing as these are, they yield to the following, which is profundity itself.
None but himself can be his parallel.
Unless it may seem borrowed from the thought of that master of a show in Smithfield, who writ in large letters over the picture of his elephant,
This is the greatest elephant in the world, except himself.
However, our next instance is certainly an original. Speaking of a beautiful infant,
So fair thou art, that if great Cupid be
A child, as poets say, sure thou art he.
Fair Venus would mistake thee for her own,
Did not thy eyes proclaim thee not her son.
There all the lightnings of thy mother's shine,
And with a fatal brightness kill in thine.
Another author describing a poet, that shines forth amid a circle of criticks,
Thus Phoebus through the zodiack takes his way,
And amid monsters rises into day.
What a peculiarity is here of invention! the author's pencil, like the wand of Circe, turns all into monsters at a stroke. A great genius takes things in the lump, without stopping at minute considerations: in vain might the ram, the bull, the goat, the lion, the crab, the scorpion, the fishes, all stand in its way, as mere natural animals: much more might it be pleaded, that a pair of scales, an old man, and two innocent children, were no monsters: there were only the centaur and the maid, that could be esteemed out of nature. But what of that? with a boldness peculiar to these daring geniuses, what he found not monsters, he made so.
Of the profund, consisting in the circumstances: and of amplification and periphrase in general.
WHAT in a great measure distinguishes other writers from ours, is their choosing and separating such circumstances in a description, as ennoble or elevate the subject.
The circumstances, which are most natural, are obvious, therefore not astonishing or peculiar: but those, that are far-fetched or unexpected, or hardly compatible, will surprise prodigiously. These therefore we must principally hunt out; but above all preserve a laudable prolixity: presendng the whole and every side at once of the image to view. For, choice and distinction are not only a curb to the spirit, and limit the descriptive faculty, but also lessen the book; which is frequently the worst consequence of all to our author.
Job says in short, he washed his feet in butter; a circumstance some poets would have softened, or passed over: now hear how this butter is spread out by the great genius.
With teats distended with their milky store,
Such numerous lowing herds before my door,
Their painful burden to unload did meet,
That we with butter might have wash'd our feet.
How cautious and particular! "he had (says our author) so many herds, which herds thrived so well, and thriving so well gave so much milk, and that milk produced so much butter, that, if he did not, he might have washed his feet in it."
The ensuing description of Hellis no less remarkable in the circumstances.
In flaming heaps the raging ocean rolls, Whose livid waves involve despairing souls; The liquid burnings dreadful colours shew, Some deeply red and others faintly blue.
Could the most minute Dutch painter have been more exact? How inimitably circumstantial is this also of a war-horse!
His eyeballs burn, he wounds the smoking plain, And knots of scarlet riband deck his mane.
Of certain Cudgel-players.
They brandish high in air their threat'ning staves, Their hands a woven guard of osier saves, In which they fix their hazel weapon's end.
Who would not think the poet had past his whole life at wakes in such laudable diversions? since he teaches us how to hold, nay how to make a cudgel!
Periphrase is another great aid to prolixity; being a diffused circumlocutory manner of expressing a known idea, which should be so mysteriously couched, as to give the reader the pleasure of guessing what it is, that the author can possibly mean; and a strange surprise, when he finds it.
The poet I last mentioned is incomparable in this figure.
A waving sea of heads was round me spread,
And still fresh streams the gazing deluge fed.
Here is a waving sea of heads, which by a fresh stream of heads grows to be a gazing deluge of heads. You come at last to find, it means a great crowd.
How pretty and how genteel is the following!
What is this but a bee gathering honey?
Who would think, this was only a poor gentlewoman, that sung finely?
We may define amplification to be making the most of a thought: it is the spinning-wheel of the bathos, which draws out and spreads it into the finest thread. There are amplifiers, who can extend half a dozen thin thoughts over a whole folio; but for which, the tale of many a vast romance, and the substance of many a fair volume, might be reduced to the size of a primer.
In the book of Job are these words, "Hast thou commanded the morning, and caused the day-spring to know his place?" How is this extended by the most celebrated amplifier of our age?
Canst thou set forth th' ethereal mines on high,
Which the refulgent ore of light supply?
Is the celestial furnace to thee known,
In which I melt the golden metal down?
Treasures, from whence I deal out light as fast,
As all my stars and lavish suns can waste.
The same author has amplified a passage in the civth psalm; "he looks on the earth, and it trembles. He touches the hills, and they smoke."
The hills forget they're fix'd, and in their fright
Cast off their weight, and ease themselves for flight:
The woods with terrour wing'd outfly the wind,
And leave the heavy, panting hills behind.
You here see the hills not trembling, but shaking off woods from their backs, to run the faster: after this you are presented with a foot-race of mountains and woods, where the woods distance the mountains, that, like corpulent pursy fellows, come puffing and panting a vast way behind them.
Of imitation, and the manner of imitating.
THAT the true authors of the profund are to imitate diligently the examples in their own way, is not to be questioned, and that divers have by this means attained to a depth, whereunto their own weight could never have carried them, is evident by sundry instances. Who sees not that De Foe was the poetical son of Withers, Tate of Ogilby, E. Ward of John Taylor, and Eusden of Blackmore? Therefore when we sit down to write, let us bring some great author to our mind, and ask ourselves this question; how would Sir Richard have said this? do I express myself as simply as Ambrose Philips? or flow my numbers with the quiet thoughtlessness of Mr. Welsted?
But it may seem somewhat strange to assert, that our proficient should also read the works of those famous poets, who have excelled in the sublime: yet is not this a paradox. As Virgil is said to have read Ennius, out of his dunghill to draw gold so may our author read Shakspeare, Milton, and Dryden, for the contrary end, to bury their gold in his own dunghill. A true genius, when he finds any thing lofty or shining in them, will have the skill to bring it down, take off the gloss, or quite discharge the colour, by some ingenious circumstance or periphrase, some addition or diminution, or by some of those figures, the use of which we shall show in our next chapter.
The book of Job is acknowledged to be infinitely sublime, and yet has not the father of the bathos reduced it in every page? Is there a passage in all Virgil more painted up and laboured than the description of Etna in the third Æneid?
—— Horrificis juxta tonat Ætna ruinis,
Interdumque atram prorumpit ad æthera nubem,
Turbine fumanteni piceo, et candente favilla,
Attollitque globos flammarum, et sidera lambit:
Interdum scopulos avulsaque viscera montis
Erigit eructans, liquefactaque saxa sub auras
Cum gemitu glomerat, fundoque exæstuat imo.
(I beg pardon of the gentle English reader, and such of our writers as understand not Latin.) Lo! how this is taken down by our British poet, by the single happy thought of throwing the mountain into a fit of the colic.
Etna, and all the burning mountains, find
Their kindled stores with inbred storms of wind
Blown up to rage; and roaring out complain,
As torn with inward gripes, and tort'ring pain:
Laboring, they cast their dreadful vomit round,
And with their melted bowels spread the ground.
Horace, in search of the sublime, struck his head against the stars; but Empedocles, to fathom the profund, threw himself into Ætna. And who but would imagine our excellent modern had also been there, from this description?
Imitation is of two sorts; the first is, when we force to our own purposes the thought of others; the second, consists in copying the imperfections or blemishes of celebrated authors. I have seen a play professedly writ in the style of Shakspeare, wherein the resemblance lay in one single line,
And so good morrow t' ye, good master lieutenant.
And sundry poems in imitation of Milton, where, with the utmost exactness, and not so much as one exception, nevertheless was constantly nathless, embroidered was broidered, hermits were eremites, disdained 'sdeigned, shady umbrageous, enterprise emprize, pagan paynim, pinions pennons, sweet dulcet, orchards orchats, bridge-work pontifical; nay her was hir, and their was thir through the whole poems. And in very deed, there is no other way, by which the true modern poet could read to any purpose the works of such men, as Milton and Shakspeare.
It may be expected, that like other criticks I should next speak of the passions: but as the main end and principal effect of the bathos is to produce tranquillity of mind (and sure it is a better design to promote sleep than madness) we have little to say on this subject. Nor will the short bounds of this discourse allow us to treat at large of the emollients and opiates of poesy; of the cool, and the manner of producing it; or of the methods used by our authors in managing the passions. I shall but transiently remark, that nothing contributes so much to the cool, as the use of wit in expressing passion: the true genius rarely fails of points, conceits, and proper similes on such occasions: this we may term the pathetic epigrammatical, in which even puns are made use of with good success. Hereby our best authors have avoided throwing themselves or their readers into any indecent transports.
But, as it is sometimes needful to excite the passions of our antagonist in the polemick way, the true students in the law have constantly taken their methods from low life, where they observed, that to move anger, use is made of scolding and railing; to move love, of bawdry; to beget favour and friendship, of gross flattery; and to produce fear, of calumniating an adversary with crimes obnoxious to the state. As for shame, it is a silly passion, of which as our authors are incapable themselves, so they would not produce it in others.
Of tropes and figures: and first of the variegating, confounding, and reversing figures.
BUT we proceed to the figures. We cannot too earnestly recommend to our authors the study of the abuse of speech. They ought to lay it down as a principle, to say nothing in the usual way, but (if possible) in the direct contrary. Therefore the figures must be so turned, as to manifest that intricate and wonderful cast of head, which distinguishes all writers of this kind: or (as I may say) to refer exactly the mould, in which they were formed, in all its inequalities, cavities, obliquities, odd crannies, and distortions.
It would be endless, nay impossible to enumerate all such figures; but we shall content ourselves to range the principal, which most powerfully contribute to the bathos, under three classes.
I. The variegating, confounding, or reversing tropes and figures.
II. The magnifying, and
III. The diminishing.
We cannot avoid giving to these the Greek or Roman names; but in tenderness to our countrymen and fellow writers, many of whom, however exquisite, are wholly ignorant of those languages, we have also explained them in our mother tongue.
A master of this will say,
Mow the beard,
Shave the grass,
Pin the plank,
Nail my sleeve.
From whence results the same kind of pleasure to the mind, as to the eye, when we behold Harlequin trimming himself with a hatchet, hewing down a tree with a rasor, making his tea in a cauldron, and brewing his ale in a tea-pot, to the incredible satisfaction of the British spectator. Another source of the bathos is,
the inversion of causes for effects, of inventors for inventions, &c.
|Lac'd in her Cosins new appeared the bride,|
|A Bubble-boy and Tompion at her side,|
|And with an air divine her Colmar ply'd.|
which consists in the use of a part for the whole. You may call a young woman sometimes pretty-face and pigs-eyes, and sometimes snotty-nose and draggletail. Or, of accidents, for persons; as a lawyer, is called split-cause, a tailor, prick-louse, &c. Or of things belonging to a man, for the man himself; as a sword-man, a gown-man, a t-m-t-d-man; a whitestaff, a turn-key, &c.
an excellent figure for the ignorant, as "what shall I say?" when one has nothing to say: or "I can no more," when one really can no more. Expressions which the gentle reader is so good as never to take in earnest.
The first rule is to draw it from the lowest things, which is a certain way to sink the highest; as when you speak of the thunder of Heaven, say,
The lords above are angry and talk big.
Or if you would describe a rich man refunding his treasures, express it thus,
Tho' he (as said) may riches gorge, the spoil
Painful in massy vomit shall recoil:
Soon shell he perish with a swift decay,
Like his own ordure, cast with scorn away.
The second, that whenever you start a metaphor, you must be sure to run it down, and pursue it as far as it can go. If you get the scent of a state negotiation, follow it in this manner:
The stones and all the elements with thee
Shall ratify a strict confederacy;
Wild beasts their savage temper shall forget,
And for a firm alliance with thee treat;
The finny tyrant of the spacious seas
Shall send a scaly embassy for peace;
His plighted faith the crocodile shall keep,
And seeing thee, for joy sincerely weep.
Or if you represent the Creator denouncing war against the wicked, be sure not to omit one circumstance usual in proclaiming and levying war.
Envoys and agents, who by my command
Reside in Palestina's land,
To whom commissions I have given
To manage there the interests of Heaven.
Ye holy heralds, who proclaim
Or war or peace, in mine your master's name, ——
Ye pioneers of Heaven, prepare a road,
Make it plain, direct and broad; ——
For I in person will my people head;
——— For the divine deliverer
Will on his march in majesty appear,
And needs the aid of no confed'rate pow'r.
Under the Article of the confounding we rank,
1. The Mixture of Figures,
which raises so many images, as to give you no image at all. But its principal beauty is, when it gives an idea just opposite to what it seemed meant to describe. Thus an ingenious artist, painting the spring, talks of a snow of blossoms, and thereby raises an unexpected picture of winter. Of this sort is the following:
The gaping clouds pour lakes of sulphur down,
Whose livid flashes sickning sunbeams drown.
What a noble confusion! clouds, lakes, brimstone, flames, sun-beams, gaping, pouring, sickning, drowning! all in two lines.
2. The Jargon.
Thy head shall rise, tho' buried in the dust,
And 'midst the clouds his glittering turrets thrust.
Quære, What are the glittering turrets of a man's head?
Upon the shore; as frequent as the sand,
To meet the prince, the glad Dimetians stand.
Quære, Where these Dimetians stood? and of what size they were? add also to the jargon such as the following:
But for variegation, nothing is more useful than
where a word, like the tongue of a jack-daw, speaks twice as much by being split: as this of Mr. Dennis.
or this excellent one of Mr. Welsted,
———— Behold the virgin lye
Naked, and only cover'd by the sky.
To which thou may'st add,
To see her beauties no man needs to stoop,
She has the whole horizon for her hoop.
4. The Antithesis, or See-saw,
whereby contraries and oppositions are balanced in such a way, as to cause a reader to remain suspended between them, to his exceeding delight and recreation. Such are these on a lady, who made herself appear out of size, by hiding a young princess under her clothes.
While the kind nymph, changing her faultless shape,
Becomes unhandsome, handsomely to scape.
On the maids of honour in mourning.
Sadly they charm, and dismally they please.
—— His eyes so bright
Let in the object and let out the light.
The Gods look pale to see us look so red.
————— The Fairies and their queen,
In mantles blue came tripping o'er the green.
All nature felt a reverential shock,
The sea stood still to see the mountains rock.
The figures continued: of the magnifying and diminishing figures.
A GENUINE writer of the profund, will take care never to magnify any object without clouding it at the same time; his thought will appear in a true mist, and very unlike what is in nature. It must always be remembered, that darkness is an essential quality of the profund, or if there chance to be a glimmering, it must be, as Milton expresses it,
No light, but rather darkness visible.
The chief figure of this sort is,
The Hyperbole, or impossible.
For instance, of a Lion.
He roar'd so loud, and look'd so wond'rous grim,
His very shadow durst not follow him.
Of a Lady at Dinner.
The silver whiteness that adorns thy neck,
Sullies the plate and makes the napkin black.
Of the same.
—— The obscureness of her birth
Cannot eclipse the lustre of her eyes,
Which make her all one light.
Of a Bull-baiting.
Up to the stars the sprawling mastives fly,
And add new monsters to the frighted sky.
Of a Scene of Misery.
Behold a scene of misery and woe!
Here Argus soon might weep himself quite blind,
Ev'n tho' he had Briareus' hundred hands
To wipe his hundred eyes ——
And that modest request of two absent lovers:
Ye gods! annihilate but space and time,
And make two lovers happy.
To the same class of the magnifying may be referred the following, which are so excellently modern, that we have yet no name for them. In describing a country prospect,
I'd call them mountains, but can't call them so,
For fear to wrong them with a name too low;
While the fair vales beneath so humbly lie,
That even humble seems a term too high.
III. The last class remains; of the diminishing. 1. the Anticlimax, and figures where the second line drops quite short of the first, than which nothing creates greater surprize.
On the Extent of the British Arms.
On a Warrior.
On the Valour of the English.
At other times this figure operates in a larger extent; and when the gentle reader is in expectation of some great image, he either finds it surprisingly imperfect, or is presented with something low, or quite ridiculous: a surprise resembling that of a curious person in a cabinet of antique statues, who beholds on the pedestal the names of Homer, or Cato; but looking up finds Homer without a head, and nothing to be seen of Cato but his privy member. Such are these lines of a leviathan at sea:
His motion works, and beats the oozy mud,
And with its slime incorporates the flood,
'Till all th' incumbered, thick, fermenting stream
Does like one pot of boiling ointment seem.
Wherever he swims, he leaves along the lake
Such frothy furrows, such a foamy track,
That all the waters of the deep appear
Hoary —— with age, or gray with sudden fear.
But perhaps even these are excelled by the ensuing.
|Now the resisted flames and fiery store,|
|By winds assaulted, in wide forges roar,|
|And raging seas flow down of melted ore.|
|Sometimes they hear long iron bars remov'd,|
And to and fro huge heaps of cinders shov'd.
2. The Vulgar
is also a species of the diminishing: by this a spear flying into the air is compared to a boy whistling as he goes on an errand.
The mighty Stuffa threw a massy spear,
Which, with its errand pleas'd, sung through the air.
A man raging with grief to a mastiff dog.
I cannot stifle this gigantic woe,
Nor on my raging grief a muzzle throw.
And clouds big with water to a woman in great necessity.
Distended with the waters in 'em pent,
The clouds hang deep in air, but hang unrent.
3. The Infantine.
This is, when a poet grows so very simple, as to think and talk like a child. I shall take my examples from the greatest master in this way: hear how he fondles like a mere stammerer.
Little charm of placid mien,
Miniature of beauty's queen,
Hither British muse of mine,
Hither, all ye Grecian nine,
With the lovely graces three,
And your pretty nurseling see.
When the meadows next are seen,
Sweet enamel, white and green,
When again the lambkins play,
Pretty sportlings full of May,
Then the neck so white and round,
(Little neck with brilliants bound)
And thy gentleness of mind,
(Gentle from a gentle kind) &c.
Happy thrice, and thrice again,
Happiest he of happy men, &c.
and the rest of those excellent lullabies of his composition.
How prettily he asks the sheep to teach him to bleat?
Teach me to grieve with bleating moan, my sheep.
Hear how a babe would reason on his nurse's death.
That ever she could die! Oh most unkind!
To die, and leave poor Colinet behind!
And yet, —— why blame I her?
With no less simplicity does he suppose, that shepherdesses tear their hair and beat their breasts at their own deaths:
Ye brighter maids, faint emblems of my fair,
With looks cast down, and with dishevell'd hair,
In bitter anguish beat your breasts, and moan
Her death untimely, as it were your own.
4. The Inanity, or Nothingness.
Of this the same author furnishes us with most beautiful instances.
Ah silly I, more silly than my sheep,
(Which on the flow'ry plain I once did keep.)
To the grave senate she could counsel give,
(Which with astonishment they did receive.)
He whom loud cannon could not terrify,
Falls from the grandeur of his majesty.
Happy, merry as a king,
Sipping dew —— you sip and sing.
Where you easily perceive the nothingness of every second verse.
The noise returning with returning light,
What did it?
5. The Expletive.
admirably exemplified in the epithets of many authors.
Th' umbrageous shadow, and the verdant green,
The running current, and odorous fragrance,
Cheer my lone solitude with joyous gladness.
Or in pretty drawling words like these,
All men his tomb, all men his sons adore,
And his sons sons, till there shall be no more.
The rising sun our grief did see,
The setting sun did see the same;
While wretched we remember'd thee,
O Sion, Sion, lovely name.
6. The Macrology and Pleonasm
are as generally coupled, as a lean rabbit with a fat one; nor is it a wonder, the superfluity of words, and vacuity of sense, being just the same thing. I am pleased to see one of our greatest adversaries employ this figure.
The growth of meadows, and the pride of fields,
The food of armies and support of wars,
Refuse of swords, and gleanings of a fight,
Lessen his numbers and contract his host,
Where'er his friends retire, or foes succeed,
Cover'd with tempests, and in oceans drown'd.
Of all which the perfection is
With ten thousand others equally musical, and plentifully flowing through most of our celebrated modern poems.
Of expression, and the several sorts of style of the present age.
THE expression is adequate, when it is proportionably low to the profundity of the thought. It must not be always grammatical, lest it appear pedantic and ungentlemanly; nor too clear, for fear it become vulgar; for obscurity bestows a cast of the wonderful, and throws an oracular dignity upon a piece which hath no meaning.
For example, sometimes use the wrong number; the sword and pestilence at once devours, instead of devour. Sometimes the wrong case; and who more fit to soothe the god than thee? instead of thou. And rather than say, Thetis saw Achilles weep, she heard him weep.
We must be exceeding careful in two things; first, in the choice of low words: secondly, in the sober and orderly way of ranging them. Many of our poets are naturally blessed with this talent, insomuch that they are in the circumstance of that honest citizen, who had made prose all his life without knowing it. Let verses run in this manner, just to be a vehicle to the words; I take them from my last cited author, who though otherwise by no means of our rank, seemed once in his life to have a mind to be simple.
From him, or him, or else perhaps from thee.
Two ages past, he lived the third to see.
The most despised of all the gods am I.
Though much more wise than I pretend to be.
Or these, of the same hand:
To them that practise them with more success.
Of greater truths I now prepare to tell,
And so at once, dear friend and muse, farewel.
Sometimes a single word will vulgarize a poetical idea; as where a ship set on fire owes all the spirit of the bathos to one choice word, that ends the line.
And in that description of a world in ruins:
He, unconcern'd, would hear the mighty crack.
So also in these,
Come from the fields and wild abodes — to drink.
Frequently two or three words will do it effectually,
He from the clouds does the sweet liquor squeeze,
That cheers the forest and the garden trees.
It is also useful to employ technical terms, which estrange your style from the great and general ideas of nature; and the higher your subject is, the lower should you search into mechanics for your expression. If you describe the garment of an angel, say that his linen was finely spun, and bleached on the happy plains. Call an army of angels, angelic cuirassiers; and if you have occasion to mention a number of misfortunes, style them
Fresh troops of pains, and regimented woes.
Style is divided by the rhetoricians into the proper and figured. Of the figured we have already treated, and the proper is what our authors have nothing to do with. Of styles we shall mention only the principal, which owe to the moderns either their chief improvement, or entire invention.
I. The Florid Style.
Than which none is more proper to the bathos, as flowers, which are the lowest of vegetables, are most gaudy, and do many times grow in great plenty at the bottom of ponds and ditches.
A fine writer of this kind presents you with the following posie;
And from their leaves drop aromatic showers;
Whose fragrant heads in mystic twines above,
Exchang'd their sweets, and mix'd with thousand kisses,
As if the willing branches strove,
To beautify and shade the grove.
which indeed most branches do. But this is still excelled by our laureate:
Branches in branches twined compose the grove,
And shoot and spread, and blossom into love.
The trembling palms their mutual vows repeat,
And bending poplars bending poplars meet.
The distant plantains seem to press more nigh,
And to the sighing alders, alders sigh.
Hear also our Homer.
His robe of state is form'd of light refin'd,
An endless train of lustre spreads behind.
His throne's of bright compacted glory made,
With pearls celestial, and with gems inlaid:
Whence floods of joy, and seas of splendour flow,
On all the angelic gazing throng below.
2. The Pert Style.
This does in as peculiar a manner become the low in wit, as a pert air does the low in stature. Mr. Thomas Brown, the author of the London Spy, and all the spies and trips in general, are herein to be diligently studied; inverse, Mr. Cibber's prologues.
But the beauty and energy of it is never so conspicuous, as when it is employed in modernizing, and adapting to the taste of the times, the works of the ancients. This we rightly phrase, doing them into English, and making them English; two expressions of great propriety; the one, denoting our neglect of the manner how; the other, the force and compulsion with which it is brought about. It is by virtue of this style, that Tacitus talks like a coffee-house politician, Josephus like the British gazetteer, Tully is as short and smart as Seneca or Mr. Asgill, Marcus Aurelius is excellent at snip-snap, and honest Thomas-a-Kempis as prim and polite as any preacher at court.
3. The Alamode Style,
which is fine by being new, and has this happiness attending it, that it is as durable and extensive as the poem itself. Take some examples of it, in the description of the sun in a mourning coach upon the death of Queen Mary.
Of Prince Arthur's soldiers drinking.
Of the Almighty encamping his regiments.
—— He sunk a vast capacious deep,
Where he his liquid regiments does keep.
Thither the waves file off, and make their way
To form the mighty body of the sea;
Where they encamp, and in their station stand,
Entrench'd in works of rock, and lines of sand.
Of two armies on the point of engaging.
Yon' armies are the cards which both must play;
At least come off a saver, if you may:
Throw boldly at the sum the gods have set;
These on your side will all their fortunes bet.
All perfectly agreeable to the present customs and best fashions of our metropolis.
But the principal branch of the alamode, is the Prurient; a style greatly advanced and honoured of late by the practice of persons of the first quality; and, by the encouragement of the ladies, not unsuccessfully introduced even into the drawing-room. Indeed its incredible progress and conquests may be compared to those of the great Sesostris, and are every where known by the same marks, the images of the genital parts of men or women. It consists wholly of metaphors drawn from two most fruitful sources or springs, the very bathos of the human body, that is to say * * * and * * * * * hiatus magnus lachrymabilis * * * * And selling of bargains, and double entendre, and Κιββέρισμος and Ὀλδφείλδισμος, all derived from the said sources.
4. The Finical Style,
which consists of the most curious, affected, mincing metaphors, and partakers of the alamode: as the following:
Of a brook dried by the sun.
|Won by the summer's importuning ray,|
|Th' eloping stream did from her channel stray,|
|And with enticing sun-beams stole away.|
Of an easy death.
When watchful death shall on his harvest look,
And see thee, ripe with age, invite the hook;
He'll gently cut thy bending stalk, and thee
Lay kindly in the grave, his granary.
Of trees in a storm.
Oaks, whose extended arms the winds defy,
The tempest sees their strength, and sighs, and passes by.
Of water simmering over the fire.
The sparkling flames raise water to a smile,
Yet the pleas'd liquor pines, and lessens all the while.
5. Lastly, I shall place the Cumbrous, which moves heavily under a load of metaphors, and draws after it a long train of words: and the Buskin, or stately, frequently and with great felicity mixed with the former. For, as the first is the proper engine to depress what is high, so is the second to raise what is base and low to a ridiculous visibility. When both these can be done at once, then is the bathos in perfection; as when a man is set with his head downward and his breech upright, his degradation is complete: one end of him is as high as ever, only that end is the wrong one. Will not every true lover of the profund, be delighted to behold the most vulgar and low actions of life, exalted in the following manner?
Who knocks at the door?
For whom thus rudely pleads my loud-tongu'd gate,
That he may enter?
See who is there?
Advance the fringed curtains of thy eyes,
And tell me who comes yonder.
Shut the door.
The wooden guardian of our privacy
Quick on its axle turn.
Bring my clothes.
Bring me what nature, tailor to the bear,
To man himself deny'd; she gave me cold,
But would not give me clothes.
Light the fire.
Snuff the candle.
Yon' luminary amputation needs,
Thus shall you save its half extinguish'd life.
Open the letter.
Wax! render up thy trust.
Uncork the bottle, and chip the bread.
A project for the advancement of the bathos.
THUS have I (my dear countrymen) with incredible pains and diligence discovered the hidden sources of the bathos, or, as I may say, broke open the abysses of this great deep. And having now established good and wholesome laws, what remains, but that all true moderns with their utmost might do proceed to put the same in execution? in order whereto, I think I shall, in the second place, highly deserve of my country, by proposing such a scheme, as may facilitate this great end.
As our number is confessedly far superiour to that of the enemy, there seems nothing wanting but unanimity among ourselves. It is therefore humbly offered, that all, and every individual of the bathos, do enter into a firm association, and incorporate into one regular body, whereof every member, even the meanest, will some way contribute to the support of the whole; in like manner, as the weakest reeds, when joined in one bundle, become infrangible. To which end, our art ought to be put upon the same foot with other arts of this age. The vast improvement of modern manufactures, ariseth from their being divided into several branches, and parcelled out to several trades: for instance, in clock-making one artist makes the balance, another the spring, another the crown-wheels, a fourth the case, and the principal workman puts all together; to this economy we owe the perfection of our modern watches, and doubtless we also might that of our modern poetry and rhetoric, were the several parts branched out in the like manner.
Nothing is more evident than that divers persons, no other way remarkable, have each a strong disposition to the formation of some particular trope or figure. Aristotle saith, that "the hyperbole is an "ornament fit for young men of quality;" accordingly we find in those gentlemen a wonderful propensity toward it, which is marvellously improved by travelling, Soldiers also and seamen are very happy in the same figure. The periphrasis, or circumlocution, is the peculiar talent of country farmers; the proverb and apologue, of old men at clubs; the ellipsis, or speech by half-words, of ministers and politicians; the aposiopesis of courtiers; the litotes, or diminution, of ladies, whisperers, and backbiters; and the anadiplosis of common criers and hawkers, who by redoubling the same words persuade people to buy their oysters, green hastings, or new ballads. Epithets may be found in great plenty at Billingsgate; sarcasm and irony learned upon the water; and the epiphonema, or exclamation, frequently from the bear-garden, and as frequently from the hear him of the house of commons.
Now each man applying his vhole time and genius upon his particular figure, would doubtless attain to perfection; and when each became incorporated and sworn into the society (as hath been proposed) a poet or orator would have no more to do, but to send to the particular traders in each kind; to the metaphorist, for his allegories; to the simile-maker, for his comparisons; to the ironist, for his sarcasms; to the apothegmatist, for his sentences, &c. whereby a dedication or speech would be composed in a moment, the superiour artist having nothing to do but to put together all the materials.
I therefore propose, that there be contrived with all convenient dispatch, at the public expense, a rhetorical chest of drawers consisting of three stories; the highest for the deliberative, the middle for the demonstrative, and the lowest for the judicial. These shall be divided into loci or places, being repositories for matter and argument in the several kinds of oration or writing; and every drawer shall again be subdivided into cells, resembling those of cabinets for rarities. The apartment for peace or war, and that of the liberty of the press, may in a very few days be filled with several arguments perfectly new, and the vituperative partition will as easily be replenished with a most choice collection, entirely of the growth and manufacture of the present age. Every composer will soon be taught the use of this cabinet, and how to manage all the registers of it, which will be drawn out much in the manner of those in an organ.
The keys of it must be kept in honest hands, by some reverend prelate, or valiant officer, of unquestioned loyalty and affection to every present establishment in church and state; which will sufficiehdy guard against any mischief, that might otherwise be apprehended from it.
And being lodged in such hands, it may be at discretion let out by the day to several great orators in both houses: from whence it is to be hoped much profit and gain will also accrue to our society.
NOW of what necessity the foregoing project may prove, will appear from this single consideration, that nothing is of equal consequence to the success of our works, as speed and dispatch. Great pity it is that solid brains are not like other solid bodies, constantly endowed with a velocity in sinking proportioned to their heaviness: for it is with the flowers of the bathos, as with those of nature, which if the careful gardener brings not hastily to market in the morning, must unprofitably perish and wither before night. And of all our productions none is so short-lived as the dedication and panegyrick, which are often but the praise of a day, and become by the next utterly useless, improper, indecent, and false. This is the more to be lamented, inasmuch as these two are the sorts, whereon in a manner depends that profit, which must still be remembered to be the main end of our writers and speakers.
We shall therefore employ this chapter in showing the quickest method of composing them; after which we will teach a short way to epic poetry. And these being confessedly the works of most importance and difficulty, it is presumed we may leave the rest to each author's own learning or practice.
First, of panegyrick. Every man is honourable, who is so by law, custom, or title. The publick are better judges of what is honourable than private men. The virtues of great men, like those of plants, are inherent in them whether they are exerted or not; and the more strongly inherent, the less they are exerted; as a man is the more rich, the less he spends. All great ministers, without either private or economical virtue, are virtuous by their posts; liberal and generous upon the publick money, provident upon the publick supplies, just by paying publick interest, courageous and magnanimous by the fleets and armies, magnificent upon the publick expenses, and prudent by publick success. They have by their office a right to of the publick stock of virtues; besides, they are by prescription immemorial invested in all the celebrated virtues of their predecessors in the same stations, especially those of their own ancestors.
As to what are commonly called the colours of honourable and dishonourable, they are various in different countries: in this they are blue, green, and red.
But, forasmuch as the duty we owe to the publick doth often require, that we should put some things in a strong light, and throw a shade over others, I shall explain the method of turning a vicious man into a hero.
The first and chief rule is the golden rule of transformation, which consists in converting vices into their bordering virtues. A man who is a spendthrift, and will not pay a just debt, may have his injustice transformed into liberallty; cowardice may be metamorphosed into prudence; intemperance into good nature and good fellowship; corruption into patriotism; and lewdness into tenderness and facility.
The second is the rule of contraries: it is certain, the less a man is indued with any virtue, the more need he has to have it plentifully bestowed: especially those good qualities, of which the world generally believes he hath none at all: for who will thank a man for giving him that which he has?
The reverse of these precepts will serve for satire; wherein we are ever to remark, that whoso loses his place, or becomes out of favour with the government, hath forfeited his share in publick praise and honour. Therefore the truly publick spirited writer ought in duty to strip him, whom the government hath stripped; which is the real poetical justice of this age. For a full collection of topicks and epithets to be used in the praise and dispraise of ministerial and unministerial persons, I refer to our rhetorical cabinet; concluding with an earnest exhortation to all my brethren, to observe the precepts here laid down, the neglect of which hath cost some of them their ears in a pillory.
A receipt to make an epick poem.
AN epick poem, the criticks agree, is the greatest work human nature is capable of. They have already laid down many mechanical rules for compositions of this sort, but at the same time they cut off almost all undertakers from the possibility of ever performing them; for the first qualification they unanimously require in a poet, is a genius. I shall here endeavour (for the benefit of my countrymen) to make it manifest, that epick poems may be made without a genius, nay without learning or much reading. This must necessarily be of great use to all those who confess they never read, and of whom the world is convinced they never learn. Moliere observes of making a dinner, that any man can do it with money, and if a professed cook cannot do it without, he has his art for nothing: the same may be said of making a poem, it is easily brought about by him that has a genius, but the skill lies in doing it without one. In pursuance of this end, I shall present the reader with a plain and certain recipe, by which any author in the bathos may be qualified for this grand performance.
For the Fable.
Take out of any old poem, history-book, romance, or legend (for instance, Geoffrey of Monmouth or Don Belianis of Greece) those parts of the story which afford most scope for long descriptions: put these pieces together, and throw all the adventures you fancy into one tale. Then take a hero, whom you may choose for the sound of his name, and put him into the midst of these adventures: there let him work for twelve books; at the end of which you may take him out, ready prepared to conquer or to marry; it being necessary that the conclusion of an epick poem be fortunate.
To make an Episode.
Take any remaining adventure of your former collection, in which you could no way involve your hero: or any unfortunate accident, that was too good to be thrown away; and it will be of use, applied to any other person, who may be lost and evaporate in the course of the work, without the least damage to the composition.
These you may extract out of the fable afterward, at your leisure: be sure you strain them sufficiently.
For the Manners.
For those of the hero, take all the best qualities you can find in the most celebrated heroes of antiquity; if they will not be reduced to a consistency, lay them all on a heap upon him. But be sure they are qualities, which your patron would be thought to have; and to prevent any mistake, which the world may be subject to, select from the alphabet those capital letters that compose his name, and set them at the head of a dedication before your poem. However, do not absolutely observe the exact quantity of these virtues, it not being determined whether or not it be necessary for the hero of a poem to be an honest man. For the under characters, gather them from Homer and Virgil, and change the names as occasion serves.
For the Machines.
Take of deities, male and female, as many as you can use: separate them into two equal parts, and keep Jupiter in the middle; let Juno put him in a ferment, and Venus mollify him. Remember on all occasions to make use of volatile Mercury. If you have need of devils, draw them out of Milton's Paradise, and extract your spirits from Tasso. The use of these machines is evident; since no epick poem can possibly subsist without them, the wisest way is to reserve them for your greatest necessities: when you cannot extricate your hero by any human means, or yourself by your own wit, seek relief from Heaven, and the Gods will do your business very readily. This is according to the direct prescription of Horace in his Art of Poetry.
Nee deus intersit, nisi dignus vindice nodus
That is to say, a poet should never call upon the Gods for their assistance, but when he is in great perplexity.
For the Descriptions.
For a tempest. Take Eurus, Zephyr, Auster and Boreas, and cast them together in one verse: add to these of rain, lightning and thunder (the loudest you can) quantum sufficit. Mix your clouds and billows well together till they foam, and thicken your description here and there with a quicksand. Brew your tempest well in your head, before you set it a blowing.
For a battle. Pick a large quantity of images and descriptions from Homer's Iliad, with a spice or two of Virgil, and if there remain any overplus, you may lay them by for a skirmish. Season it well with similes, and it will make an excellent battle.
For a burning town. If such a description be necessary (because it is certain there is one in Virgil) old Troy is ready burnt to your hands. But if you fear that would be thought borrowed, a chapter or two of Burnet's Theory of the Conflagration, well circumstanced and done into verse, will be a good succedaneum.
As for similes and metaphors, they may be found all over the creation; the most ignorant may gather them, but the difficulty is in applying them. For this advise with your bookseller.
A project for the advancement of the stage.
IT may be thought that we should not wholly omit the drama, which makes so great and so lucrative a part of poetry. But this province is so well taken care of by the present managers of the theatre, that it is perfectly needless to suggest to them any other methods than they have already practiced for the advancement of the bathos.
Here therefore, in the name of all our brethren, let me return our sincere and humble thanks to the most august Mr. Barton Booth, the most serene Mr. Robert Wilks, and the most undaunted Mr. Colley Cibber; of whom let it be known, when the people of this age shall be ancestors, and to all the succession of our successors, that to this present day they continue to outdo even their own outdoings; and when the inevitable hand of sweeping time shall have brushed off all the works of to-day, may this testimony of a contemporary critick to their fame be extended as far as to-morrow.
Yet if to so wise an administration it be possible any thing can be added, it is that more ample and comprehensive scheme which Mr. Dennis and Mr. Gildon (the two greatest criticks and reformers then living) made publick in the year 1720, in a project signed with their names, and dated the second of February. I cannot better conclude than by presenting the reader with the substance of it.
1. It is proposed, that the two theatres be incorporated into one company; that the royal academy of musick be added to them as an orchestra; and that Mr. Figg with his prize-fighters, and Violante with the rope-dancers, be admitted in partnership.
2. That a spacious building be erected at the publick expense, capable of containing at least ten thousand spectators; which is become absolutely necessary by the great addition of children and nurses to the audience, since the new entertainments. That there be a stage as large as the Athenian, which was near ninety thousand geometrical paces square, and separate divisions for the two houses of parliament, my lords the judges, the honourable the directors of the academy, and the court of aldermen, who shall all have their places frank.
3. If Westminster-hall be not allotted to this service (which by reason of its proximity to the two chambers of parliament above mentioned seems not altogether improper) it is left to the wisdom of the nation whether Somerset-house may not be demolished, and a theatre built upon that site, which lies convenient to receive spectators from the county of Surry, who may be wafted thither by water-carriage, esteemed by all projectors the cheapest whatsoever. To this may be added, that the river Thames may in the readiest manner convey those eminent personages from courts beyond the seas, who may be drawn either by curiosity to behold some of our most celebrated pieces, or by affection to see their countrymen, the harlequins and eunuchs; of which convenient notice may be given, for two or three months before, in the publick prints.
4. That the theatre abovesaid be environed with a fair quadrangle of buildings, fitted for the accommodation of decayed criticks and poets; out of whom six of the most aged (their age to be computed from the year wherein their first work was published) shall be elected to manage the affairs of the society, provided nevertheless that the laureat for the time being may be always one. The head or president over all (to prevent disputes, but too frequent among the learned) shall be the most ancient poet and critick to be found in the whole island.
5. The male-players are to be lodged in the garrets of the said quadrangle, and to attend the persons of the poets dwelling under them, by brushing their apparel, drawing on their shoes, and the like. The actresses are to make their beds and wash their linen.
6. A large room shall be set apart for a library, to consist of all the modern dramatic poems, and all the criticisms extant. In the midst of this room shall be a round table for the council of six to sit and deliberate on the merits of plays. The majority shall determine the dispute: and if it should happen, that three and three should be of each side, the president shall have a casting voice, unless where the contention may run so high as to require a decision by single combat.
7. It may be convenient to place the council of six in some conspicuous situation in the theatre, where, after the manner usually practiced by composers in musick, they may give signs (before settled and agreed upon) of dislike or approbation. In consequence of these signs the whole audience shall be required to clap or hiss, that the town may learn certainly, when and how far they ought to be pleased.
8. It is submitted, whether it would not be proper to distinguish the council of six by some particular habit or gown of an honourable shape and colour, to which may be added a square cap and a white wand.
9. That to prevent unmarried actresses making away with their infants, a competent provision be allowed for the nurture of them, who shall for that reason be deemed the children of the society; and that they may be educated according to the genius of their parents, the said actresses shall declare upon oath (as far as their memory will allow) the true names and qualities of their several fathers. A private gentleman's son shall at the publick expense be brought up a page to attend the council of six: a more ample provision shall be made for the son of a poet; and a greater still for the son of a critick.
10. If it be discovered, that any actress is got with child during the interludes of any play, wherein she hath a part, it shall be reckoned a neglect of her business, and she shall forfeit accordingly. If any actor for the future shall commit murder, except upon the stage, he shall be left to the laws of the land; the like is to be understood of robbery and theft. In all other cases, particularly in those for debt, it is proposed that this, like the other courts of Whitehall and St. James's, may be held a place of privilege. And whereas it has been found, that an obligation to satisfy paltry creditors has been a discouragement to men of letters, if any person of quality or others shall send for any poet or critick of this society to any remote quarter of the town, the said poet or critick shall freely pass and repass, without being liable to an arrest.
11. The forementioned scheme, in its several regulations, may be supported by profits arising from every third-night throughout the year. And as it would be hard to suppose, that so many persons could live without any food (though from the former course of their lives a very little will be deemed sufficient) the masters of calculation will, we believe, agree, that out of those profits the said persons might be subsisted in a sober and decent manner. We will venture to affirm farther, that not only the proper magazines of thunder and lightning, but paint, diet-drinks, spitting pots, and all other necessaries of life, may in like manner fairly be provided for.
12. If some of the articles may at first view seem liable to objections, particularly those that give so vast a power to the council of six (which is indeed larger than any entrusted to the great officers of state) this may be obviated by swearing those six persons of his majesty's privy council, and obliging them to pass every thing of moment previously at that most honourable board.
ART OF SINKING IN POETRY.
|Chap. I. INTRODUCTION||Page 3|
|II. That the bathos, or profund, is the natural taste of man, and in particular of the present age||6|
|III. The necessity of the bathos physically considered||7|
|IV. That there is an art of the bathos or profund||9|
|V . Of the true genius for the profund, and by what it is constituted||11|
|VI. Of the several kinds of genius in the profund, and the marks and characters of each||16|
|VII. Of the profund, when it consists in the thought||19|
|VIII. Of the profund, consisting in the circumstances; and of amplification and periphrase in general||22|
|IX. Of imitation, and the manner of imitating||25|
|X. Of tropes and figures: and first of the variegating, confounding, and reversing figures||29|
|XI. The figures continued: of the magnifying and diminishing figures||34|
|XII. Of expression, and the several sorts of style of the present age||41|
|XIII. A project for the advancement of the bathos||49|
|XIV. How to make dedications, panegyrics, or satires, and of the colours of honourable and dishonourable||52|
|XV. A receipt to make an epick poem||54|
|XVI. A project for the advancement of the stage||58|
- ——————— Mediocribus esse poetis
Non dii, non homines, &c.——Hor.
- Spoken by Falstaff of himself in Shakspeare's Merry Wives of Windsor.
- Prince Arthur, p. 41, 42.
- 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.
- Page 14.
- P. 50.
- A. Philips on the death of queen Mary.
- Blackm. opt. edit. duod. 1716. p. 172.
- Black. Ps. civ. p. 263.
- Black. Ps. p. 75.
- P. 170.
- P. 70.
- P. 61.
- P. 181.
- P. 18.
- Black. Psal. p. 174.
- P. 131.
- Black. Song of Moses, p. 218.
- Theobald, Double Falshood.
- Blackm. Job, p. 133.
- Pr. Arth. p. 89.
- Pr. Arthur, p. 197.
- Job, p. 78.
- A. Philips to Cuzzona.
- Job, p. 108.
- P. 267.
- Pr. Arthur, p. 75.
- Sublimi feriam sidera vertice.
- A sort of perriwig: all words in use at this present year 1727.
- Lee's Alex.
- Blackm. Job, p. 91, 93.
- Job, p. 22.
- Black. Isa, c. xl.
- Pr. Arthur, p. 37.
- Job, p. 107.
- Pr. Arthur, p. 157.
- Job, p. 89.
- T. Cook, poems.
- Poems 1693, p. 13.
- Welsted, poems, Acon & Lavin.
- Steel, on Queen Mary.
- Lee, Alex.
- Phil. Past.
- Blackm. Job, p. 176.
- Vet. Aut.
- Theob.Double Falshood.
- Blackm. p. 21.
- Denn. on Namur.
- Blackm. Job, p. 197.
- Pr. Arthur, p. 157.
- Pr. Arthur.
- Job, p. 41.
- Amb. Phillips on Miss Cuzzone.
- Philips's Pastorals.
- Philips's Pastorals.
- Phil. on Q Mary.
- T. Cook, on a grashopper.
- Autor Vet.
- T. Cook, Poems.
- Tons. Misc. 12mo. vol. iv. p. 291. 4th edit.
- Ibid. vol. vi. p. 121.
- Ti. Hem. II. i.
- Ti. Hom. II. i. p. 11.
- P. 17.
- P. 19.
- P. 34.
- P. 38.
- Tons. Misc. 12mo. vol. iv. p. 292. 4th edit.
- Ibid. vol. vi. p. 119.
- Job, p. 263.
- Prince Arthur, p. 151.
- Id. Job, p. 264.
- Pr. Arthur, p. 19.
- Ibid. p. 339.
- Job, p. 86.
- Behn's poems, p. 2.
- Guardian, 12mo, 127.
- Blackm. Ps. civ.
- Josephus, translated by Sir Roger L'Estrange.
- Amb. Philips.
- Prince Arthur, p. 16.
- Blackm. Ps. civ. p. 261.
- Lee, Sophon.
- Blackm. Job, p. 26.
- Blackm. Job, p. 23.
- Anon. Tons. Misc. Part 6. p. 224.
- Theob. Double Falshood.
- Pantomimes were then first exhibited in England.