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« earth before it.” It is however remarkable that his fancy, which is every where vigorous, is not discovered immediately at the beginning of his poem in its fullest {plendor : it grows in the progress both upon himself and others, and becomes on fire, like a chariot-wheel, by it own rapidity. Exact disposition, just thought, correct elocution, polished numbers, may have been found in a thousand ; but this poetical fire, this “ vivida vis animi,” in a very few. Even in works where all those are imperfect or neglected, this can overpower criticism, and make us admire even while we disapprove. Nay, where this appears, though attended with absurdities, it brightens all the rubbish about it, till we see nothing but its own splendor. This fire is discerned in Virgil, but discerned as through a glass, reflected from Homer, more shining than fierce, but every

where equal and constant: in Lucan and Statius, it bursts out in sudden, short, and interrupted flashes : in Milton it glows like a furnace kept up to an uncommon ardor by the force of art : in Shakespeare, it strikes before we are aware, like an accidental fire from heaven : but in Homer, and in him only, it burns every where clearly, and every where irresistibly.

I shall here endeavour to shew, how this vast Inyention exerts itself in a manner superior to that of any poet, through all the main constituent parts of his work, as it is the great and peculiar characteristic which dif. tinguishes him from all other authors.

This strong and ruling faculty was like a powerful ftar, which, in the violence of its course, drew all things B 2


within its vortex. It seemed not enough to have taken in the whole circle of arts, and the whole compass of nature, to supply his maxims and reflections; all the inward passions and affections of mankind, to furnish his characters; and all the outward forms and images of things, for his descriptions; but, wanting yet an ampler sphere to expatiate in, he opened a new and boundless walk for his imagination, and created a world for himself in the invention of Fable. That which Aristotle calls the “ Soul of poetry," was first breathed into it by Homer. I shall begin with considering him in this part, as it is naturally the first; and I speak of it both as it means the design of a poem, and as it is taken for fiction.

Fable may be divided into the Probable, the Allegorical, and the Marvellous. The Probable Fable is the recital of such actions as though they did not happen, yet might, in the common course of nature : or of such as, though they did, become fables by the additional episodes and manner of telling them. Of this fort is the main story of an Epic poem, the return of Ulyfies, the settlement of the Trojans in Italy, or the like. That of the Iliad is the anger of Achilles, the most short and fingle subject that ever was chosen by any Poet. Yet this he has supplied with a vafter variety of incidents and events, and crowded with a greater num. ber of councils, speeches, battles, and episodes of all kinds, than are to be found even in those poems whose schemes are of the utmost latitude and irregularity. The action is hurried on with the most vehement Spirit, and its whole duration employs not so much as fifty days. Virgil, for want of so warm a genius, aided himself by taking in a more extensive subject, as well as a greater length of time, and contracting the design of both Homer's poems into one, which is yet but a fourth part as large as his. The other Epic poets have used the same practice, but generally carried it so far as to fuperinduce a multiplicity of fables, destroy the unity of action, and lose their readers in an unreasonable length of time. Nor is it only in the main design that they have been unable to add to his invention, but they have followed him in every episode and part of itory. If he has given a regular Catalogue of an Army, they all draw up their forces in the same order. If he has funeral

games for Patroclus, Virgil has the same for Anchifes; and Statius (rather than omit them) destroys the unity of his action for those of Archemoras. If Ulyfa ses visits the shades, the Eneas of Virgil, and Scipio of Silius, are sent after him. If he be detained from his return by the allurements of Calypso, so is Æneas by Dido, and Rinaldo by Armida. If Achilles be absent from the army on the score of a quarrel through half the poem, Rinaldo must absent himtelf just as long on the like account. If he gives his hero a suit of celeftial armour, Virgil and Tatlo make the fame present to theirs. Virgil bas not only observed this close imitation of Homer, but, where he had not led the way, supplied thë want from other Greek authors. Thus the story of Sinon and the taking of Troy was copied (fays Macrobius) almost word for word from Pisander, as the

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loves Joves of Dido and Æneas are taken from those of Me. dea and Jason in Apollonius, and several others in the fame manner.

To proceed to the Allegorical Fable: if we reflect upon those innumerable knowledges, those secrets of nature and physical philosophy, which Homer is generally supposed to have wrapped up in his Allegories, what a new and ample scene of wonder may this confi. deration afford us! how fertile will that imagination appear, which was able to clothe all the properties of elements, the qualifications of the mind, the virtues and vices, in forms and persons; and to introduce them into actions agreeable to the nature of the things they Thadowed! This is a field in which no succeeding poets could dispute with Homer; and whatever commendations have been allowed them on this head, are by no means for their invention in having enlarged his circle, but for their judgment in having contracted it. For when the mode of learning changed in following ages, and science was delivered in a plainer manner; it then became as reasonable in the more modern poets to lay it aside, as it was in Homer to make use of it. And perhaps it was no unhappy circumstance for Virgil, that there was not in his time that demand upon him of fo great an invention, as might be capable of furnishing all those allegorical parts of a poem.

The Marvellous Fable includes whatever is supernatural, and especially the machines of the Gods. He seems the first who brought them into a system of machinery for poetry, and such a one as makes its greatest importance and dignity. For we find those authors who have been offended at the literal notion of the Gods, constantly laying their accusation against Homer as the chief support of it. But whatever cause there might be to blame his machines in a philosophical or religious view, they are so perfect in the poetic, that mankind have been ever since contented to follow them : none have been able to enlarge the sphere of poetry beyond the limits he has set : every attempt of this nature has proved unsuccessful; and after all the various changes of times and religions, his Gods continue to this day the Gods of poetry,

We come now to the characters of his persons; and here we fall find no author has ever drawn so many, with so visible and surprizing a variety, or given us such lively and affecting impressions of them. Every one has something so fingularly his own, that no painter could have distinguished them more by their features, than the poet has by their manners. Nothing can be more exact than the distinctions he has observed in the different degrees of virtues and vices. The fina gle quality of courage is wonderfully diversified in the several characters of the Iliad. That of Achilles is furious and intractable; that of Diomede forward, yet listening to advice, and subject to command; that of Ajax is heavy, and self-confiding; of Hector, active and vigilant; the courage of Agamemnon is inspirited by love of empire and ambition ; that of Menelaus mixed with softness and tenderness for his people : we. find in Idomeneus a plain direct soldier, in Sarpedon

a gallant


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