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IN Poetry, as in Achitecture, not only the Whole, but the principal Members, and every Part of them, should be Great. I will not presume to say, that the Book of Games in the Æneid, or that in the Iliad, are not of this Nature, nor to reprehend Virgil's Simile of the Top, and many other of the same kind in the Iliad as liable to any Censure in this particular ; but I think we may fay, without derogating from those wonderful Performances, that there is an unquestionable Magnificence in every Part of Paradise Loft, and indeed a much greater than could have been formed upon any Pagan System.
BUT Aristotle, by the Greatness of the Action, does not only mean that it should be great in its Nature, but also in its Duration, or in other words, that it should have a due Length in it, as well as what we properly call Greatness. The juft Measure of this kind of Magnitude, he explains by the following Similitude. An Animal, 'no bigger than a Mite, cannot appear perfect to the Eye, because the sight takes it in at once, and has only a confused Idea of the Whole, and not a distinct Idea of all its Parts; if on the contrary you should suppose an Ani
mal of ten thousand Furlongs in length, the Eye would be so filled with a single part of it, that it could not give the Mind an Idea of the Whole. What these Animals are to the Eye, a very short or a very long Adion would be to the Memory. The first would be, as it were, loft and swallowed up by it, and the other difficụlt to be contained in it. Homer and Virgil have shewn their principal Art in this Particular ; the A&tion of the Iliad, and that of the
Æneid, were in themselves exceeding short, but are so beautifully extended and diversified by the Invention of Episodes, and the Machinery of Gods, with the like poetical Ornaments, that they make up an agreeable Story, fufficient to employ the Memory without overcharging it. Milton's AĞtion is enriched with such a Variety of Circumstances, that I have taken as much Pleasure in reading the Contents of his Books, as in the best invented Story I ever met with. It is possible, that the Traditions on which the Iliad and Æneid were built, had more Çircumstances in them than the History of The Fall of Man, as it is related in Scripture. Besides, it was easier for Homer and Virgil to dalh the Truth with Fiction, as they
- were were in no Danger of offending the Religion of their Country by it. But as for Milton, he had not only a very few Circumstances upon which to raise his Poem, but was also obliged to proceed with the greatest Caution in every Thing that he added out of his own Invention.And, indeed, notwithstanding all the Restraints he was under, he has filled his Story with so many surprizing Incidents, which bear so close an Analogy with what is delivered in holy Writ, that it is capable of pleasing the most delicate Reader, without giving Offence to the most scrupulous. - THE modern Criticks have collected from several Hints in the Iliad and Aineid the Space of time, which is taken up by the Action of each of those Poems; but as a great part of Milton's Story was transacted in Regions that lie out of the Reach of the Sun and the Sphere of Day, it is impofsible to gratify the Reader with such a Calculation, which indeed would be more curious than instructive; none of the Criticks, either Ancient or Modern, having laid down Rules to circumscribe the Action of an Epic Poem with any determin's Number of Years, Days or Hours.
This Piece of Criticismon Milton's Paradise Loft shall be carried on in the following Saturdays Papers.
No 268. Monday, January 7.
i Minus aptus acutis
TT is not that I think I have been more witty than I
ought of late, that at present I wholly forbear any At
tempt towards it: I am of Opinion that I ought sometimes to lay before the World the plain Letters of my Correspondents in the Artless Dress in which they hastily send them, that the Reader may see I am not Accuser and Judge my self, but that the Indictment is properly and fairly laid, before I proceed against the Criminal..
A S you are Spectator General, I apply my self to you
Fl in the following Case, viz. I do not wear a • Sword, but I often divert my self at the Theatre, where
I frequently see a Set of Fellows pull plain People, by 6 way of Humour and Frolick, by the Nose, upon frivo• lous or no Occasions. A Friend of mine the other Night s applauding what a graceful Exit Mr. Wilks made, one + of these Nofe-wringers over-hearing him, pinched him < by the Nose. I was in the Pit the other Night, (when « it was very much crowded) a Gentleman leaning upon 6 me, and very heavily, I very civilly requested him to re€ move his Hand; for which he pulled me by the Nose;' • I would not resent it in so publick a Place, because I
was unwilling to create a Disturbance; but have since 4 reflected upon it as a Thing that is unmanly and difinge* nuous, renders the Nose-puller odious, and makes the • Person pulled by the Nose look little and contemptible, 6 This Grievance I humbly request you would endeavour to redress.
I am jorr Admirer, &c.
James Easy Mr. SPECTATOR, ! V OUR Discourse of the 29th of December on Love
1 and Marriage is of so useful a Kind, that I can* not forbear adding my Thoughts to yours on that Sub<ject. Methinks it is a Misfortune, that the Marriage
State, which in its own Nature is adapted to give us the ' compleatest Happiness this Life is capable of, should be « so uncomfortable a one to so many as it daily proves. . But the Mischief generally proceeds from the unwise • Choice People make for themselves, and an Expectation • of Happiness from Things not capable of giving it. No
thing but the good Qualities of the Person beloved, can • be a Foundation for a Love of Judgment and Discreti. on; and whoever expect Happiness from any Thing « but Virtue, Wisdom, Good-humour, and a Similitude of • Manners, will find themselves widely mistaken. But how few are there who seek after these Things, and do not rather make Riches their chief if not their only • Aim? How rare is it for a Man, when he engages him• self in the Thoughts of Marriage, to place his hopes of 6 having in such a Woman a constant, agreeable Campanion? One who will divide his Cares and double his
Joys? Who will manage that Share of his Eftate he in. I trusts to her Conduct with Prudence and Frugality, go6 vern his House with Oeconomy and Discretion, and be
an Ornament to himself and Family? Where shall we • find the Man who looks out for one who places her ( chief Happiness in the Practice of Virtue, and makes her • Duty her continual Pleasure? No: Men rather seek for : Money as the Complement of all their Desires; and re• gardless of what kind of Wives they take, they think • Riches will be a Minister to all kind of Pleasures, and • enable them to keep Mistrefies, Horses, Hounds, to drink,
feast, and game with their Companions, pay their Debts ! contracted by former Extravagancies, or some such vile ' and unworthy End; and indulge themselves in Pleasures ? which are a Shame and Scandal to human Nature. Now • as for the Women ; how few of them are there who • place the Happiness of their Marriage in the having a • wise and virtuous Friend? One who will be faithful and • just to all, and constant and loving to them? Who with • Care and Diligence will look after and improve the E' state, and without grudging allow whatever is prudent ' and convenient ? Rather, how few are there who do ' not place their Happiness in out-shining others in Pomp • and Show ? and that do not think within themselves ' when they have married such a rich Person, that none ' of their Acquaintance shall appear so fine in their Equi'page, so adorned in their Persons, or so magnificent in • their Furniture as themselves ? Thus their Heads are • filled with vain Ideas ; and I heartily wish I could say ' that Equipage and Show were not the Chief Good of
so many Women as I fear it is.
"AFTER this manner do both Sexes deceive them• selves, and bring Reflexions and Disgrace upon the • most happy and most honourable State of Life ; whereas • if they would but correct their depraved Taste, mode' rate their Ambition, and place their Happiness upon
• proper Objects, we should not find Felicity in the Mar• riage State such a Wonder in the World as it now is.'
ŠIR, if you think these Thoughts worth inferting • among your own, be pleased to give them a better • Dress, and let them pass abroad; and you will oblige
A. B. Mr. SPECTATOR,
AS I was this Day walking in the Street, there hapSh pened to pass by on the other side of the Way
a Beauty, whose Charms were fo' attracting that it s drew my Eyes wholly on that Side, insomuch that I • neglected my own Way, and chanced to run my Nose
directly against a Post; which the Lady no sooner per- , «ceived, but fell out into a Fit of Laughter, though at
the same time she was sensible that herself was the • Cause of my Misfortune, which in my Opinion was " the greater Aggravation of her Crime. I being busy o wiping off the Blood which trickled down my Face, • had not Time to acquaint her with her Barbarity as al• fo with my Resolution, viz. never to look out of my
Way for one of her Sex more: Therefore, that your • humble Servant may be revenged, he desires you to • insert this in one of your next Papers, which he hopes • will be a Warning to all the rest of the Women Gazers, • as well as to poor
Mr. SPECTATOR, • Desire to know in your next, if the merry Game of
the Parfon has lost his Cloak, is not mightily in • Vogue amongst the fine Ladies this Christmas; because
• I see they wear Hoods of all Colours, which I fuppose -is for that Purpose; If it is, and you think it proper, I
will carry some of those Hocds with me to our Ladies • in Yorkshire; because they injoined me to bring them • fomething from London that was very New. If you • can tell any Thing in which I can obey their Com• mands more agreeably, be pleased to inform me, and * you will extremely oblige.
. Your humble Servant. VOL. IV.