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IT hath been long (my dear countrymen) 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 risen among us one person so publick-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 os, or sublime; no track has been yet chalked out to arrive at our Bétos, or profund. The Latins, as they came between the Greeks and us, make use of the word a titudo, which implies equally heighth 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 down hill way to the bathos; the bottom, the end, the central point, the non plus ultra, of true modern poesy! When
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,