1704
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Chapter V. Recapitulation; and that Religion is the Basis and Foundation of the greater Poetry.

The Grounds of Criticism in Poetry, contain'd in some new Discoveries never made before, requisite for the Writing and Judging of Poems surely. Being a Preliminary to a larger Work design'd to be publish'd in Folio, and entituled, a Criticism upon our most celebrated English Poets deceas'd. By Mr. Dennis.

John Dennis


The concluding chapter of the treatise makes an appeal for returning religion as the basis of poetical sublimity, a demand frequently made in the first, reforming, decade of the eighteenth century. John Dennis never completed this work, or published his proposed analysis of The Faerie Queene: "When by doing this we have laid down the Rules, we come briefly to examine, Whether those Rules are always to be kept inviolable; and if they are not, in what parts, and by whom, they may be alter'd. Then we shew how Spencer, by not following those Rules, fell so very far short of the Ancients" sig. A6.

Giles Jacob: "He is of Opinion, that one of the principal Reasons that has made the modern Poetry so contemptible, is, that by divesting it self of Religion, it is fallen from its Dignity, and its original Nature and Excellence; and from the greatest Production of the Mind of Man, is dwindled to an extravagant and vain Amusement. These Reflections are very much for the Reputation of the Author" in Historical Account of the Lives and Writings of our most considerable English Poets (1720) 258.

Samuel Johnson: "He [Johnson] said, he wished to see John Dennis's Critical Works, collected. Davies said they would not sell. Dr. Johnson seemed to think otherwise" 1776; in Life of Johnson, ed. G. B. Hill (1891) 3:46.

Thomas Noon Talfourd: "No one now regards the merits of an Epic poem, as decided by the subservience of the fable and the action to the moral — by the presence or the absence of an allegory — by the fortunate or unfortunate fate of the hero — or by any other rules of artificial decorum, which the critics of former times thought fit to inculcate. We learn from their essays, whether the works which they examine are constructed, in externals, according to certain fantastic rules; but, whether they are frigid or impassioned, harmonious or prosaic, filled with glorious imaginations, or replete with low common-places: whether, in short, they are works of genius or of mere toil — are questions entirely beneath their concern" "John Dennis's Works" Retrospective Review 1 (1820) in Talfourd's Miscellaneous Writings (1869) 97.

William Minto: "Spenser has been accused of bad taste in mixing up heathen mythology with the narratives of the Bible. In Book ii. Canto 7, he represents Tantalus and Pontius Pilate as suffering in the same place of punishment. The answer that wicked men of all ages and creeds may reasonably be supposed to suffer together, is complete" Characteristics of English Poets (1874) 236.




But now let us Recapitulate: We have shewn in the foregoing part of this Discourse, that Passion is the Characteristical Mark of Poetry, and that all Poetry is pathetick; and then we divided it into two kinds, the greater and the less; and shew'd that the greater Poetry comprehends Epick, Tragick, and the greater Lyrick, and that our Design was in the first place to treat of it. Then we proceeded to shew, that as Passion is the Characteristical Mark of Poetry, great Passion must be the Characteristical Mark of the greater Poetry, and consequently that this last must have every where great Passion; but that since what we commonly call Passion cannot be ev'ry where, there must be something distinct from ordinary Passion, and that must be Enthusiasm. Then we endeavour'd to discover what Enthusiasm is, and how many several sorts there are of it; and that Admiration and Terror make the principal Greatness of Poetry, and are the chief of the Enthusiastick Passions; that those two Passions are to bear proportion with the Ideas from which they are deriv'd, and that consequently the greatest must flow from religious Ideas. We shall shew too in the Sequel of this Discourse, that not only the remaining Enthusiastick Passions, Horror, Sadness, Joy, and Desire; but that ev'n the ordinary Passions, which contribute most to the Greatness of Poetry, as Admiration, Terror, and Pitty, are chiefly to be deriv'd from Religion; but that the Passions of both sorts must, for the most part, flow greater from Revelation than from Natural Religion; because all Reveal'd Religion, whether true or pretended, speaks to the Senses, brings the Wonders of another World more home to us, and so makes the Passions which it raises the greater.

The Fundamental Rule then that we pretend to lay down, for the Succeeding or Excelling in the greater Poetry, is that the Constitution of the Poem be religious, that it may be throughout Pathetick.

And we pretend to prove undeniably, that not only the Gentlemen, whose Works we design to examine, have succeeded and excell'd no further than their Poems have been so constituted; but that never any Poets of any Nation or any Age, ever did or can excel without it. I have already prov'd in the Advancement of modern Poetry, beyond all manner of doubt, to those who have Capacity enough to comprehend the Arguments, that the antient Poets excell'd the Moderns in the greatness of Poetry, for no other reason, but because their Subjects were religious in their constitution: And therefore all that I shall say of it here, is, that Poetry is the Natural Language of Religion, and that Religion at first produc'd it, as a Cause produces its Effect. In the first Ages of writing among the Graecians, there was nothing writ but Verse, because they wrote of nothing but Religion which was necessary for the Cementing the Societies which in those times were but just united; and Nature had taught them, that Poetry was the only Language in which they could worthily treat of the most Important Parts of Religion, or worthily perform its most Important Duties. But as soon as Religion was sufficiently imprinted in the Minds of Men, and they had leisure to Treat of Human things in their writings they invented Prose, and invented it in Imitation of Verse, as Strabo tells us in the first Book of his Geography; but after that Prose was invented by them; never any of them treated of their Gods or their Religious matters in Prose, before the Age of Socrates, because they found that that way of writing was by no means proper for it. For the wonders of Religion naturally threw them upon great Passions, and great passions naturally threw them upon Harmony, and Figurative Language, as they must of necessity do any Poet, as long as he continues Master of them. Which is known by Experience to all who are Poets; for never any one, while he was rapt with Enthusiasm, or with Ordinary Passion, wanted either Words or Harmony, and therefore Poetry is more harmonious than Prose, because it is more pathetick. Even in Prose your Orators and all who pretend to move the Passions, have more harmonious Periods than they who barely speak to the Reason. And in Poetry they who write with a great deal of Passion are Generally very Harmonious, whereas those who write with but little are not so Musical. Horace is an Illustrious Example of this. No Man who has read his Odes can doubt of the Fineness and the Delicacy of his Ear; and therefore his Satyrs are often Harsh and Rugged because the Spirit in them is mean and little. No Man can believe that Juvenal had a finer Ear, than Horace, but yet his Satyrs are more Musical because they have a greater Spirit in them. At the same time tis a little odd to consider, that Passion which disturbs the Soul, should occasion it to produce Harmony, which seems to imply the Order and Composure of it. Whether this proceeds from the secret Effort that the Soul makes to Compose it self or whatever the cause is, the Effect is certain. But as Passion, which is the Disorder of the Soul; produces Harmony which is Agreement; so Harmony, which is Concord Augments and propagates Passion which is Discord. All who are acquainted with Poetry or Musick must be as sensible of this, as Mr. Waller was fully convinc'd of it.

Well sounding Verses are the Charm we use,
Heroick Thoughts and Virtue to infuse;
Things of deep Sense we may in Prose unfold,
But they move more in lofty Numbers told;
By the loud Trumpet which our Courage aids,
We learn that Sound as well as Sense persuades.

Thus we may see by Mr. Waller that Numbers are proper to move Passion, and for that Reason are inseparable from Poetry which has no other Design. But we shall have occasion to treat of Harmony more at large, when we come to the particular sorts of Poems, in the mean time let us Return to the business from which we may seem to have digress'd.

As we have formerly undeniably prov'd in the Advancement of Modern Poetry, that the Ancient Poets deriv'd that Advantage which they have over the Moderns to the constituting their Subjects after a Religious manner; so I shall make it appear in the sequel of this Discourse, that it was owing to the same thing that the ancient Poets very often excell'd themselves.

And I have Reason to believe that one of the Principal Reasons, that has made the Modern Poetry so contemptible, is, That by divesting it self of Religion, it is fallen from its dignity, and its original Nature and Excellence, and from the greatest production of the Mind of Man, is dwindled to an extravagant and a vain Amusement. For the Modern Poetry being for the most part Profane, has either very little Spirit, or if it has a great one, that Spirit is out of Nature, because it bears no manner of Proportion to the Ideas from which it is forcibly deriv'd, nor the Ideas very often to the Objects from which they are taken; for as Mr. Waller says,

In boundless Verse the Fancy soars too high
For any Object but the Deity.
What Mortal can with Heav'n pretend to share
In the Superlatives of Wise and Fair?
A meaner Object when with these we grace,
A Giant Habit on a Dwarf we place.

But that the Modern Poetry as miserably as it is fallen from the Dignity of its original Nature, might gloriously arise and lift up its Head, surpassing ev'n that of the Ancients, if the Poets would but constitute their Subjects Religious, I have formerly clearly shewn in the Second Part of the Advancement of Modern Poetry; by strewing that the Design of the Christian Religion is the very same, with that of Poetry, which can be said of no other Religion, that the business of both is to delight and reform mankind, by exciting the Passions in such a manner as to reconcile them to Reason, and restore the Harmony of the humane Faculties. And therefore that I may repeat nothing at present that I have formerly said there; I shall only add, that if 'tis Religion that gives the warmth and the Passion to Poetry, it follows that the less mixture that Religion has of any thing Profane and Humane in it, the greater warmth and Passion it must give to Poetry; for that which moves us in effect in a false Religion, must be the Imagination of that which is true. As for example, in the above-mention'd passage of the Wrath of Neptune, the Anger of Neptune is Fiction, and so is the Stroke of his Trident; but that which moves us at the bottom of this Fiction is true, which is, that the Anger of a Deity and the Effects of it are very terrible. The Reason why Religion moves the Soul so extreamly, is because the Soul was Created by God, to find its Happiness in Him, and all Happiness consists in Pleasure, and all Pleasure in Passion. Now the less mixture Religion has of any thing of Human Invention in it, the more Divine it is and the nearer it brings us to God.

But that this may still appear the more clearly, we shall Endeavour to prove it by two very Signal Examples, and shall produce two passages from Scripture; the one from the Psalms, and the other from Habbakuk; which we shall set against the Two foremention'd Passages which Longinus has cited from Homer; the one of the Wrath and the other of the Power of Neptune; and his awful March through his own Element; and in setting these Passages against one another we make no doubt to shew, that not only the Subjects are exactly the same, but that the Advantage is clearly ours.

Let us begin with that Passage concerning the Might of Neptune, and his driving his Chariot thro the Sea.

As from the shaggy Mountain He descends
The Mountain Trembles and the Forest bends.

And anon.

His golden Chariot Neptune now Ascends,
And as He drives along the Watry Plain,
Huge Whales, and all the Monsters of the Main
Tempest the Ocean to Salute their King,
Ocean rejoycing yawns before his March
And lets him thro' a dreadful Chasm—

Now to this Passage let us oppose that of the Prophet Habbakuk exactly upon the same occasion, only the Prophet says of the True God, what Homer says of Neptune.

When the Almighty from Mount Paran came,
The brightness of his Glory, with its blaze
Expanding fill'd the vast Abyss of Heaven
And the whole Earth Resounded with his praise;
The Burning Pestilence before him march'd,
And from his Feet a Fiery Whirlwind flew,
He stood and Measur'd the Extended Earth,
Scattering the trembling Nations with a Look,
At which the everlasting Mountains fled,
And shaking the perpetual Hills did bow,
Against the Floods was thy fierce Anger then?
Against the Sea the burning of thy Wrath!
That thou didst thro' it with thy Flaming Steeds
And with thy Chariots of Salvation drive?
The Rocks their Sommits beetled o'er their base
To view the Terrours of thy wondrous March;
Then Shivering shrunk from the amazing Sight.
The Floods dividing shew'd a fearful Chasm,
And as thy sounding Horses all on Fire,
Tro' Heaps of Congregated Waters flew,
The Deep his roaring Voice at all his Mouths
Utter'd, and lifted all his Arms on High.

But now let us come to the wrath of Neptune, and the effects of it, in the Battel of the Twentieth of the Iliads, in which the Gods were engag'd.

Jove flung his dreadful Thunder from on high,
Mean while Majestick Neptune from below,
The reeling Globe with his huge Trident strook,
Shook its vast Plains and made its Mountains smoak,
Mount Ida trembled from his Hoary Top,
And from his Nethermost Foundations Shook,
Troubling a Thousand Springs that from Him flow.
Pluto, from Lowest Hell, both Heard and Felt,
And shivering Started from his burning Throne;
Then Striking his Infernal Breast Cry'd out,
Least wrathful Neptune, with another Stroke
Of his Dread Trident, shou'd the Globe Divide,
Should to the Gaping Center, let in Light,
To Mortals, and Immortals should Display,
The Dreadful Secrets of his dire Domain,
At the bare thought of which Ev'n Gods are wont to shake,

As the necessity of the Subject has oblig'd us to repeat these Verses, so we have the same Excuse for Repeating the Reflection of Longinus. Behold here says Longinus, the Earth laid open to the very Center, and Hell about to be Expos'd to view, and all the vast Machine of the World demolish'd and overturn'd; to shew that in that Important Conflict, both Heaven and Hell, both Mortal and Immortal things, every thing in Nature Engag'd with the Gods and nothing was free from Danger. Now let us see the Psalmist Introducing the true God, actually Demolishing and overturning the Machine of the World only with a Word and with a Look.

In my Distress I call'd upon the Lord,
And to my God I cry'd; He from his Height
Above all Heights, strait heard my Mournful Voice,
And to my loud Complaint inclin'd his Ear.
Strait the Earth trembled and her Entrails shook
As Conscious of her great Creators Wrath.
The Mountains from their fix'd Foundations ran,
And Frighted from their inmost Caverns Roar'd.
From out his Nostrils a tempestuous Cloud
Of pitchy smoak in spicy Volumes flew,
And from his Mouth there run a Raging Flood
Of Torrent fire Devouring as it ran.
And then He Bow'd the very Heaven of Heavens,
And arm'd with fearful Majesty came down.
Under his feet He plac'd Substantial Night
Which aw'd the Nations with its dreadful Gloom
Upon the Flaming Cherubim He Rode,
And on the Wings of all the Winds He flew,
Still Darkness usher'd his Mysterious way,
And a Black Night of Congregated Clouds
Became the Dark Pavilion of his Throne.
The Clouds his Brightness could no longer bear,
But vanishing Rever'd the Sacred sourse of Light,
And as the Congregated Clouds Dispers'd
A Storm of Monstrous Hail came pouring down,
Down the Red Lightning wing'd its Slanting way,
But when his wrathful Voice was heard on High
Strait both the Poles Rebellow'd to the Sound,
In thicker sheets the Ratling Hail came down,
Down came the Lightning with repeated Flames
And Thunder bellowing thro' the boundless Space,
Astonish'd Nature with Redoubled Roars,
Earth could no longer bear the mortal fright
But shook it self from its perpetual Hinge
At thy Rebuke O Lord and at the Blast,
The Dreadful Blast of thy Revenging Breath,
Then upwards from the gaping Center cleav'd
With a prodigious wound;
The fix'd Foundations of the World display'd,
Display'd the Ghastful Caverns of the Deep.
A sight that blasted ev'n the World's Great Eye,
And made the Starting Sun recoil
From his eternal Way.

But here it will be necessary to answer an Objection, for it may be urg'd perhaps that Common Experience will Destroy these new Speculations. For several of the Moderns have attempted Divine Poetry, and yet some of them have been Contemptible to the last Degree, and not one of them has excell'd the Ancients.

To which we answer that Milton has clearly the advantage of the Ancients in several points, as shall be shewn in its proper place; and if the rest of the Moderns who have attempted Sacred Poetry, have fall'n so very much short of them, it has been either for want of Genius or for want of Art to know how to make use of Religion. For Sacred Poetry apparently requires a greater Capacity than the Profane does, because the greater the Ideas are, the greater must the Capacity be that receives them. But Sacred Ideas are greater than the Profane, as hath been shewn above. And therefore if the Rule of Horace be true, that a Poet ought to proportion his Subject to his Strength, it follows, that a Man may Succeed pretty well in Human Poetry and yet be despicable in the Divine. Besides as Religion supplies us with greater Ideas than any thing Human can do; so it requires greater Enthusiasm and a greater Spirit to attend them, as has been shewn above too. So that Sacred Poetry requires not only a very great Capacity, but a very warm and Strong Imagination; which is a happy mixture that is to be met with in a very few, and ev'n of those few not one in a Thousand perhaps applies himself to sacred Poetry. And ev'n of those rare ones who have apply'd themselves hardly one of the Moderns has known the true use that ought to be made of Religion in Poetry. Milton, indeed happen'd upon it, in his Paradise lost, I say happen'd upon it, because He has err'd very widely from it in his Paradise Regain'd, as shall be shewn in its proper place. The Rules for Employing Religion in Poetry are principally these which follow.

1. The First is, That the Religion ought to be one, that the Poet may be mov'd by it, and that he may appear to be in earnest. And the not observing of this Rule, was one Reason why Spencer miscarry'd as we shall shew anon.

2. The second Rule, That the Religion which the Poet Employs ought to be the Reigning one, that both the Poet and the Readers may be mov'd the more by a Religion in which they were bred. And this Rule may acquaint us with one of the reasons why all who have translated Homer and Virgil, have succeeded so very indifferently.

3. The third is that it may run thro' and be incorporated with the Action of the Poem, and consequently that it may always be a part of Action and Productive of Action, for from the Neglect of this Third Rule, strange inequalities would follow in a Poem, as shall be shewn more at large, when we treat of Spencer and Cowley.

4. The Fourth Rule is, That the Religion may be manag'd so as to promote the violence of the Enthusiastick Passions and their change and variety; and the constituting his Subject contrary to this Rule, was one great Reason why Milton did not succeed in his Paradise Regain'd.

5. That it may not hinder the violence of the ordinary Passions, nor the Change and Variety of them; and the not constituting his Subject according to this Rule is the chief reason, why Homer in his Odysses fell so far short of his Iliads; and Milton of his Paradise Lost, in his Paradise Regain'd.

6. That the Religion be manag'd so as not to obstruct the violence of Action, which is always attended by the violence of ordinary Passion; and the not observing of this, was one great Reason of the miscarriage of Homer and Milton, in the foremention'd Poems.

7. That the Divine and Human Persons if there be any, may have Inclinations and Affections, which Tasso's Celestial Persons have not, nor as I Remember Cowley's.

8. That they be fairly distinguish'd from one another, by those Inclinations and Affections. And this is the great Advantage that the Grecian Machines, have for the most part over those in our Religion. Yet Milton has pretty well distinguish'd his Celestial Persons from one another, and his Infernal ones admirably.

9. That they be fairly distinguished from the Human Persons, by the same Inclinations and Affections. And here Milton in his Infernal Persons has undeniably the Advantage, both of Ancients and Moderns. The Passions and Inclinations of the Graecian Gods, are downright Human Inclinations and Affections. The Passions of Milton's Devils have enough of Humanity in them to make them delightful, but then they have a great deal more to make them admirable and may be said to be the true Passions of Devils; but the time to speak more largely of this will be when we come to the Epick Poets.

But now as we have shewn that the Religion Reveal'd in the Old and New Testament is proper, nay Necessary to give the last Force and Elevation to Poetry; we shall now Endeavour to Convince the Reader that Poetry is proper if not Necessary, to give force to that Religion. For indeed there are Duties in this Religion, which cannot be worthily perform'd without the assistance of Poetry. As the offering up Praise and Thanksgiving and several sorts of Pray'r to God; and the Celebrating the Wonders of his Might? Because if the Ideas which these Subjects afford; are exprest with Passion equal to their greatness, that which expresses them is Poetry, for that which makes Poetry to be what it is, is only because it has more Passion than any other way of writing.

It is Ridiculous to Imagine that there can be a more proper way to Express some parts and Duties of a Religion which we believe to be Divinely inspir'd, than the very way in which they were at first deliver'd. Now the most Important part of the Old Testament was deliver'd not only in a Poetical Style but in Poetical Numbers. The most important parts of the Old Testament to us are the Prophecies. Because without them we could never be satisfied that Jesus is the Messiah. For the Prophets were Poets by the Institution of their Order, and Poetry was one of the Prophetick Functions, which were chiefly Three. 1. Predicting or foretelling things to come. 2. Declaring the will of God to the People. And 3. Praising God with Songs of the Prophets composing, accompanied with the Harp and other Instrumental Musick. From whence it came to pass, that praising God upon such kind of Instruments, is often in the Scriptures call'd Prophesying, as Mr. Mede has observ'd in his Diatribae; and has prov'd it from several Passages of the Old Testament, and more particularly from the 3 first Verses of the 25th Ch. of the Chronicles, which are as follows.

Ver. 1. Moreover David and the Captains of the Host, separated to the Service of the Sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, such as should prophesie with Harps, with Psalteries, and with Cymbals, and the Number of the Workmen according to their Service was,

Ver. 2. Of the Sons of Asaph; Zaccar, and Joseph, and Nethaniah and Asarelah, the Sons of Asaph; under the hands of Asaph, which Prophesied according to the Order of the King.

Ver. 3. Of Jeduthun, the Sons of Jeduthun, Gedaliah, and Zeri, and Jeshaiah, Hashabiah, and Metithiah Six, under the Hands of their Father Jeduthun, who Prophesied with a Harp, to give thanks and to praise the Lord.

Nor was the Poetical Talent confin'd to their Praise and thanksgiving, but is to be seen in their Predictions too as we said before, and in their declaring the Will of God to the People.

As the Prophets were Poets by their Institution, so when the Son of God himself, came down from Heaven in order to reform the Earth, He who was a Prophet as well as a Priest and a King, did by consequence discharge the Three Prophetical Functions, of which the Poetical has been shewn to be one. And consequently tho' our Saviour did not make use of a Style, that was Figurative and Enthusiastick; because he Instructed the World as God, and as God he could not feel either Admiration or Terrour, or the rest of the Enthusiastick Passions; yet we find that He not only prais'd God with spiritual Songs, but that the Method of his Instruction was entirely Poetical, that is by Fables or Parables, contriv'd and plac'd and adapted to work very strongly upon Human Passions.

Thus the Prophets among the Jews were Poets, and the Divine Institutor of the Christian Religion being a Prophet, by a Poetical method instructed and reform'd the World. And even the Graecian Poets pretending to discharge the Three Prophetical Functions, were not only vulgarly reputed Prophets but were styl'd so by St. Paul Himself, who quoting a verse out of Epimenides in the Epistle which he wrote to Titus, calls that Cretensian Poet a Prophet. As one of their own Prophets has said.

Thus we have made it very plain, that not only the Predictions, but the Praise and Thanksgiving, in the Inspir'd Writers were written in Verse; as were likewise several of the Prayers, and the Instructions, and in short the Noblest and most Important part of the Old Testament: Now if they were written in Poetry, it could be for no other Reason, but because they who wrote them, Believ'd that the Figurative Passionate Style, and the Poetical Numbers did by Right of Nature belong to them, and Consequently were requisite to inforce them upon the Minds of Men. And here we cannot as it were help observing, that for the Scriptures to make all the Impression that they are Capable of making upon Men of very good parts, and perhaps too upon others, all those parts of them that were written in Verse ought to be translated in Verse; and by Persons who are the most qualify'd to do it with Force and Harmony. For if the Passion and Harmony were thought requisite by the Original Writers, who were Divinely inspir'd, to give Force to the Hebrew; why should not Spirit and Passion, and Numbers in a Translation, give a proportionable Force to that? For if Harmony of it self is of force to lift up our Thoughts to Heaven, as our Clergy seem to Emply by the use of it in our Churches; and may be gathered from what happen'd to Elisha in the Second of Kings, when they would have had him prophesie at a time when the Spirit of Prophesie Ch. 3. ver. 15. was not upon him. Where the Prophet says, Now bring me a Minstrel, and it came to pass as the Minstrel plaid that the Hand of the Lord came upon him.

If Harmony I say is of it self so efficacious, what must it not be, when Incorporated with a Religious Sense, and a Poetical Style. There can certainly be no better way to Reform the World than the reading of those Writings which we believe to be divinely inspir'd; But this is as certain, that the greater the pleasure is with which we Read them, we shall the more frequently discharge that Duty, but to make us read them with more pleasure than we do, they must have more of the agreeableness of their Originals, that is more Perspicuity, more Force and more Harmony. This would more particularly attract the Gentry, and particularly those of the most Extraordinary Parts among them, whose examples would influence the rest as the rest would influence the People. For they of extraordinary Parts for the most part being Extreamly delighted with Poetry, and finding the greatest and most exalted Poetry upon Religious Subjects, would by degrees become more us'd to be mov'd by Sacred Ideas than they would by profane; that is would by degrees become reform'd. That this is by no means a Chimera, Experience may serve to convince us. For I know several Gentlemen of very good Sense who are extreamly mov'd by Milton's Hymn in the fifth Book of Paradise lost, and hardly at all stirr'd with the Translation of the 148th Psalm from whence that Hymn is taken. But if Men of very good parts are more mov'd by the Hymn, it follows that they ought to be more mov'd by it; because Men of very good Sense are only mov'd to that Degree by things by which they ought to be mov'd. So that we may Conclude that the Passion or Enthusiasm in that Hymn is exactly in Nature, that is, that the Enthusiasm, or Passion, or Spirit call it what you will, flows from the Ideas, and bears a just Proportion to them.

But from hence at the same time it follows, that since those Persons who are so much mov'd by the Hymn, are not equally stirr'd by the Translated Psalm, the Passion or Spirit is less in the latter, and do's not come up to the Ideas; and therefore we may conclude that Milton by his Genius and Harmony has restor'd that Spirit in Composing the Hymn, which had been lost by the weakness of the Translation and the Want of Poetical Numbers. Which last as we have said before contribute very much to the raising of Passion.

What Milton has done in relation to the 148th Psalm, others may do in a less proportion to other parts of the Old Testament, till the Favour of the Prince and publick Encouragement causes another Milton to arise and apply himself to so necessary and so noble a work. For this is certain that there are not wanting great Genius's to every Age. But they do not equally appear in every Age, sometimes for want of knowing themselves; and sometimes for want of Encouragement and leisure to exert themselves. The business of the following Treatise is to shew them how they may try and know, and form themselves, which is all that I am capable of attempting towards the Restoring so useful and so noble an Art. If I were in a Condition to give them Encouragement too, they should not be long without it. If they who so much exceed me in Pow'r, did but equal me in Will, we should soon see Poetry raise up its dejected Head, and our own might come to emulate the Happiest of Graecian and Roman Ages.

And thus much may suffice to shew the Nature of Poetry, but chiefly of the greater Poetry, and the Importance of this Design. For since Poetry has been thought not only by Heathens, but by the Writers of the Old Testament, and consequently by God himself who inspir'd them, to be the fittest method for the inforcing Religion upon the Minds of Men; and since Religion is the only solid Foundation of all Civil Society, it follows, that whoever Endeavours to Re-establish Poetry, makes a generous attempt to restore an Art, that may be highly Advantageous to the Publick, and Beneficial to Mankind.


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