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is every where vigorous, is not discover'd immediately at the beginning of his poem in its fulleft splendor : It grows in the progress both upon himself and others, and becomes on fire like a chariot-wheel, by its own rapidity. Exact difpofition, just thought, correct elor cution, polish'd 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 over-power criticism, and make us admire even while we disapprove. Nay, where this appears, tho' attended with absurdities, it brightens all the rubbish about it, 'till we see nothing but its own splendor. This Fire is discern'd in Virgil, but discern'd as through a glass, reflected from Homer, more thining 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 Shakespear, it strikes before we are aware, like an accidental fire from hea. ven: But in Homer, and in him only, it burns every where clearly, and every where irresistibly.
I shall here endeavour to fhew, how this vaft Invention 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 CharacteriNick which distinguishes him from all other authors.
This strong and ruling faculty was like a powerful Star, which in the violence of its course, drew all things within its vortex. It seem'd not enough to have taken in the whole circle of arts, and the whole compass of nature; all the inward passions and affections of mankind, to supply his characters; and all the outward forms and images of things for his descriptions; but wanting yet an ampler sphere to expatiate in, he open'd 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 breath'd into it by Homer. I Hall begin with confidering 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 marvellouss. 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 fuch 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 crouded with a greater number of councils, speeches, battles, and episodes of all kinds, than are to be found even in thofepoems whose schemes are of the utmost latitude and irregularity. The action is hurry'd 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 fubje&, as well as a greater length of time, and contracting the design of both Homer's poemsinto one, which is yet but a fourth part as large as his.
The other Epic Poets have us’d the fame practice, but generally carry'd it so far as to fuperinducea multiplicity of fables, destroy the unity of adion, and Tose 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 follow'd him in every episode and part of ftory. It 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 Patroclws, Virgil has the same for
Anchises, and Statius (rather than omit them) destroys the unity of his action for those of Archemoras. If Ulysses visit the shades, the Æneas of Virgil, and Scipio of Silins are sent after him. If he be detain'd from his return by the allurements of Calypso, fo 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 himself just as long, on the like account. If he gives his hero a suit of celeftial armour, Virgil and Taffo make the same present to theirs. Virgil has not only observ'd this close imitation of Homer, but where he had not led the way, supply'd the want from other Greek Authors. Thus the story of Simon and the taking of Troy was copied (says Macrobius) almoft word for word from Pifander, as the loves of Dido and Æneas are taken from those of Medea and Fafon in Apollonius, and several others in the same manner.
To proceed to the allegorical fable : If we reflect upon those innumerable knowledges, those secrets of nature and physical philofophy, which Homer is generally supposd to have wrapt up in his allegories, what a new and ample scene of wonder may this confideration afford us? How fertile will that imagination appear, which was able to cloath 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 shadow'd? This is a field in which no fucceeding Poets could dispute with Homer; and whatever commendations have been allow'd them on this head, , are by no means for their invention in having enlarg'd his circle, but for their judgment in having contracted it. For when the mode of learning chang'a in following ages, and science 'was deliver'd in a plainer manner; it then became as reafonable in the more modern Poets to lay it afide, as it was in Ha
mer 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 so great an invention, as might be capable of furnishing all those allegorical parts of a poem.
The marvellows fable includes whatever is supernatural, and especially the machines of the Gods. If Homer was not the first who introduc'd the deities (as Herodotus imagines) into the religion of Greece, he seems the first who brought them into a lyftem of Machinery for Poetry, and such an 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 undoubted inventor of them. But what ever cause there might be to blame his machines in a philosophical or religious view, they are so perfect in the poetick, that mankind have been ever since contented to follow them: None have been able to ene large the fphere of poetry beyond the limits he has set : Every attempt of this nature has prov'd 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 charakters of his persons, and here we shall find no author has ever drawn so many, with so visible and furprizing a variety, or given us fuch lively and affecting impressions of them. Every one has something fo fingularly his own, that no Painter could have distinguish'd them more by their features, than the Poet has by their manners. Nothing can be more exact than the distinctions he has observ'd in the different degrees of virtues and vices. The fingle quality of courage is wonderfully diverfify'd 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 com
mand : That of Ajax is heavy and self-confiding; of Hector, adive and vigilant : The courage of Agamemnon is inspirited by love of empire and ambition, that of Menelaus mix'd with softness and tendernels for his people : We find in Idomeneus a plain direct soldier, in Sarpedon a gallant and generous one. Nor is this judicious and attonishing diversity to be found only in the principal quality which constitutes the main of each chara&er, but even in the underparts of it, to which he takes care to give a tincture of that principal one.
For example, the main cha. racters of Ulysses and Nestor confitt in visdom; and they are distinct in this, that the wisdom of one is artificial and various, of the other natural, open, and regular. But they have, besides, characters of courage, and this quality also takes a different turn in each from the difference of his prudence: for one in the war depends ftill upon caution, the other upon experience. It would be endless to produce instances of these kinds. The characters of Virgil are far from striking us in this open manner; they lie in a great degree hidden and undistinguish'd, and where they are mark'd most evidently, affe&t us not in proportion to those of Homer. His characters of valour are much alike; even that of Turnus seems, no way peculiar but as it is in a fuperior degree; and we fee nothing that differences the courage of Mnestheus from that of Sergefthus, Cloanthus, or the rest. In like manner it may be remark'd of Statius's heroes, that an air of impetuosity runs thro' them all; the fame horrid and savage courage appears in his Capanews, Tydeus, Hippomedon, &c. They have a parity of character, which makes them seem brothers of one family. I believe, when the reader is led into this track of reflexion, if he will pursue it through the Epic and Tragic writers, he will be convinced how infinitely fuperior in this point the invention of Homer was to that of all others.