Monday, April 13, 2009

The happy medium?

From David Hume, "Of Simplicity and Refinement in Writing":
That though excesses of both kinds are to be avoided, and though a proper medium ought to be studied in all productions; yet this medium lies not in a point, but admits of a considerable latitude. Consider the wide distance, in this respect, between Mr. POPE and LUCRETIUS. These seem to lie in the two greatest extremes of refinement and simplicity, in which a poet can indulge himself, without being guilty of any blameable excess. All this interval may be filled with poets, who may differ from each other, but may be equally admirable, each in his peculiar stile and manner. CORNEILLE and CONGREVE, who carry their wit and refinement somewhat farther than Mr. POPE (if poets of so different a kind can be compared together), and SOPHOCLES and TERENCE, who are more simple than LUCRETIUS, seem to have gone out of that medium, in which the most perfect productions are found, and to be guilty of some excess in these opposite characters. Of all the great poets, VIRGIL and RACINE, in my opinion, lie nearest the center, and are the farthest removed from both the extremities.

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