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the most incredible size and strength, hippogryphs and dragons, animals whose breath was fire and whose scales were iron: he was beleaguered with every species of enchantment and magical delusion; rocks were to be scaled, walls to be penetrated, and lakes to be swum; and at the same time these rocks, walls, and lakes, were the mere production of necromacy, brought forth on the pressure of the instant by the art of some mighty wizard. Adventures of this sort were interwoven with miraculous feats of Christian warriors contending with their impious Saracen adversaries, who were also magicians.”* Such was the form and structure of the chivalrous Romances of the middle ages; which were the delight of our forefathers, but are now generally superseded by Novels, that is, Adventures of imaginary persons, in which supernatural beings are not admitted to share. Whenever a power is introduced superior to that of mortals, the Novel is properly a Romance : Moore's Epicurean is one of the latest examples of the kind.

Whatever system of superstition the poet chuses to employ, that system is termed the Machinery of his Poem. It is that by which he works, so as to bring about events that mere human agency could not accomplish. The choice of this machinery, provided it be well understood, is immaterial. All systems of superstition appear equally absurd when calmly contemplated by the philosopher; and all are equally probable in the eyes of the poetical enthusiast. They form fantastic day-dreams in which the mind is willingly led captive. The imagination, when once launched

* Godwin's Life of Chaucer.


the boundless ocean of an invisible world, finds no landmark to direct its erratic course.

It is surrounded with mists and covered with clouds, that are easily moulded into any spectred forms, which the magic power of the poet shall command them to assume.

We wander amid the enchanted scenes of the “ Thousand and one Tales” as we do in the visions of the night, without the wish to awake or even the suspicion that we are asleep.

An Epic Poem is a poetical Romantic Tale, embracing many personages and many incidents. The first model is the Iliad of Homer, to which the learned have decided that every future Epic must bear a resemblance. One general and important design must be apparent in its construction; to which every separate actor and action must be subservient. The accounts of these subordinate actions are termed Episodes, which

. ought never to be extended to such a length as to make us lose sight of the main subject. The Machinery should be well chosen, and conformable to what we conceive as consistent with the creed of the sublunary actors; for which purpose it ought to be a local Mythology, unmixed with the superstition of any other people than those among whom the scene is laid. In addition to all this, every scene should be embellished by the fairy pencil of the poet, until the whole, unlike the sober abode of history, shall become a palace of enchantment.

In an elementary work like the present, it is impracticable to enter into a minute examination of any particular poem of this nature and extent. Extracts are calculated only to exhibit passages of individual beauty; but an Epic must be viewed as a whole, before an opinion can be formed of its excellence. Besides, we are, unfortunately, unassisted by that best of means for directing the judgment,-comparison; for scarcely any nation possesses more than one Epic Poem, and many

have not even one. Homer suffices for the ancient Greeks, and Virgil and Lucan for the Latins. The Portuguese have Camöens; the Italians Tasso; and, more recently, but with doubtful merit, the Germans have boasted of Klopstock. The French, with the earliest polished

language of Europe, waited, to receive their Epic, from the genius of Voltaire.

Under these circumstances, then, those who are not intimately acquainted with more than one language, have no means of estimating the comparative value of different Epic poems, except by the assistance of translations: and these pass through a medium which is seldom transparent, and frequently distorts the objects that are transmitted to our view. The famous English Iliad and Odyssey are beautiful poems; and preserve the undivided attention of the reader, notwithstanding their great length. They have, however, been truly, as well as emphatically, termed Pope's Homer. “I suppose,” says Johnson, “ that many readers of the English Iliad,' when they have been touched with some unexpected beauty of the lighter kind, have tried to enjoy it in the original, where, alas! it was not to be found. Homer doubtless owes to his translator many Ovidian graces not exactly suitable to his character; but to have added can be no great crime, if nothing be taken away. Elegance is surely to be desired, if it be not gained at the expence of dignity. A hero would wish to be loved, as well as to be reverenced. To a thousand cavils one answer is sufficient; the purpose of a writer is to be read, and the criticism which would destroy

the power of pleasing must be blown aside. Pope wrote for his own age and his own nation; he knew that it was necessary to colour the images and point the sentiments of his author; he therefore made him graceful, but lost him some of his sublimity.

It has been strangely asserted that the antients intended their Epics to accomplish one great moral object, and that their machinery contained a sublime allegory. With respect to the morality of the Iliad, it is no where to be found. Homer's principal heroes are either cruel, vindictive, or treacherous; and his divinities are described as exhibiting such weaknesses, passions, and crimes as would be disgraceful in buman nature. Homer ought to be considered solely as a poet, and not as a writer of homilies.

“ It is, says an anonymous writer, the reproach of the ancient Epic poems, that the gods are generally introduced where their agency is superfluous, and where human agency is fully sufficient: but perhaps this reproach is no better founded than if we were to accuse the moderns of ascribing to the superintendence of Providence, those events which appear to be accomplished by ordinary means." The Rev. Mr. Walker has thus compared the poems of Homer and Milton, with respect to their display of preternatural

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