Literary Criticism of Alexander Pope

By Bertrand A. Goldgar | Go to book overview
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Peri Bathous:
Of the Art of Sinking in Poetry (1728)


It hath been long (my dear countrymen 1.) the subject of my concern and surprise that whereas numberless poets, critics, and orators have compiled and digested the art of ancient poesy, there hath not arisen among us one person so public spirited as to perform the like for the modern, although it is universally known that our every-way-industrious Moderns, both in the weight of their writings and in the velocity of their judgments, do so infinitely excel the said Ancients.

Nevertheless, too true it is that while a plain and direct road is paved to their ὕψος or sublime, no track has been yet chalked out to arrive at our βάθος or profund. The Latins, as they came between the Greeks and us, make use of the word altitudo, which implies equally height and depth. Wherefore, considering with no small grief how many promising geniuses of this age are wandering (as I may say) in the dark without a guide, I have undertaken this arduous but necessary task to lead them as it were by the hand, and step by step, the gentle downhill way to the Bathos, the bottom, the end, the central point, the non plus ultra of true modern poesy!

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 honors should be bestowed upon the exceeding few meager inhabitants of the top of the mountain;

Martinus Scriblerus, though of German extraction, was born in England. Vid. his Life and Memoirs, which will speedily be published [Pope].


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