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But all this, being divine and surprizing, may quite ruin all probability; therefore the poet should take a particular care as to that point, fince his chief aim is to instruct, and without probability any action is less likely to persuade.

Lastly, since precepts ought to be concise, to be the more easily conceived, and less oppress the memory ; and since nothing can be more effectual to this end than proposing one single idea, and collecting all things so well together, as to be present to our minds all at once ; therefore the poets have reduced all to one single action, under one and the same design, and in a body whose members and parts should be homogeneous.

What we have observed of the nature of the Epick Poem, gives us a just idea of it, and we may define it

thus :

“ The Epick Poem is a discourse invented by art, 6 to form the manners, by such instructions as are

disguised under the allegories of some one important 6 action, which is related in verse, after a probable, “ diverting, and surprizing manner.”

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S E C T I.


N every design which a man deliberately under-

takes, the end he proposes is the first thing in his mind, and that by which he governs the whole work, and all its parts : thus, since the end of the Epick


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Poem is to regulate the manners, it is with this first view the poet ought to begin.

But there is a great difference between the philofophical and the poetical doctrine of Manners. The schoolmen content themselves with treating of virtues, and vices in general; the instructions they give are proper for all states of people, and for all ages. But the poet has a nearer regard to his own country, and the necessities of his own nation. With this design he makes choice of some piece of morality, the most proper and just he can imagine; and in order to press this home, he makes less use of the force of reasoning, than of the power of infinuation; accommodating himself to the particular customs and inclinations of those who are to be the subject, or the readers, of his work.

Let us now see how Homer has acquitted himself in these refpeéts.

He saw the Grecians, for whom he designed his Poem, were divided into as many states as they had capital cities. Each was a body politick apart, and had its form of government independent from all the rest. And yet these distinct states were very often obliged to unite together in one body against their common enemies. These were two very different sorts of government, such as could not be comprehended in one maxim of morality, and in one single poem.

The poet, therefore, has made two diftinct fables of them. The one is for Greece in general, united into one body, but composed of parts independent on


each other; and the other for each particular state, considered as they were in time of peace, without the former circumstances and the necessity of being united.

As for the first sort of government, in the union or rather in the confederacy of many independent states ; experience has always made it appear,

" That nothing « so much causes success as a due subordination, and “ a right understanding among the chief commanders “ And on the other hand, the inevitable ruin of such “ confederacies proceeds from the heats, jealousies, " and ambition of the different leaders, and the dif

contents of submitting to a single general.” All forts of states, and in particular the Grecians, had dearly experienced this truth. So that the most useful and necessary instruction that could be given them, was, to lay before their eyes the loss which both the people and the princes must of necessity suffer, by the ambition, discord, and obstinacy of the latter,

Homer then has taken for the foundation of his fable this great truth ; That a misunderstanding between princes is the ruin of their own states. “ (says he) the anger of Achilles, so pernicious to « the Grecians, and the cause of so

many « deaths, occasioned by the discord and separation so of Agamemnon and that prince.”

But that this truth may be completely and fully known, there is need of a second to support it. It is necessary in such a design, not only to represent the confederate stateo at firit disagreeing among themselves,


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and from thence unfortunate ; but to show the fame states afterwards reconciled and united, and of confequence victorious.

Let us now see how he has joined all these in one general action.

“ Several princes independent on one another were “ united against a common enemy. The person whom “ they had elected their general, offers an affront to “ the most valiant of all the confederates. This “ offended prince is so far provoked, as to relinquish “ the union, and obstinately refuse to fight for the

common cause. This mifunderfanding gives the enemy such an advantage, that the allies are very

near quitting their design with dishonour. He him“ self who made the separation, is not exempt from “ sharing the misfortune which he brought upon his

party. For having permitted his intimate friend to “ succour them in a great necessity, this friend is kil“ led by the enemy's general. Thus the contending

princes, being both made wiser at their own coft, are “ reconciled, and unite again : then this valiant prince “ not only obtains the victory in the public cause, but revenges

his private wrongs, by killing with his own " hands the author of the death of his friend."

This is the first platform of the Poem, and the fi&tion which reduces into one important and universal action all the particulars upon which it turns.

In the next place it must be rendered probable by the circumstances of times, places, and perfons : some perfons must be found out, already known by history or


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otherwise, whom we may with probability make the actors and personages of this fable. Homer has made choice of the siege of Troy, and feigned that this action happened there. To a phantom of his brain, whom he would paint valiant and cholerick, he has given the nanie of Achilles ; that of Agamemnon to his general; that of Hector to the enemy's commander, and so to the rest.

Besides, he was obliged to accommodate himself to the manners, customs, and genius of the Greeks his auditors, the better to make them attend to the instruction of his Poem: and to gain their approbation by praising them ; so that they might the better forgive him the representation of their own faults in some of his chief personages. He admirably discharges all these duties, by making these brave princes and those victorious people all Grecians, and the fathers of those he had a mind to commend.

But not being content, in a work of such a length, to propose only the principal point of the moral, and to fill up the rest with useless ornaments and foreign incidents, he extends this moral by all its necessary consequences. As for instance, in the subject before us, it is not enough to know that a good understanding ought alwavs to be maintained among confederates : it is likewise of equal importance that, if there happens any division, care must be taken to keep it fecret from the enemy, that their ignorance of this advantage may prevent their making use of it. And in the second place, when their concord is but counterfeit and only in ap


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