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credulity of the country wherein he lives, or of which he writes, so as to give an air of probability to events which are most contrary to the common course of nature. Whatever machinery he employs, he must take care not to overload us with it; not to withdraw human actions and manners too much from view, nor to obscure them under a cloud of incredible fictions. He must always remember, that his chief business is to relate to men, the actions and the exploits of men ; that it is by these principally he is to interest us, and to touch our hearts; and that if probability be altogether banished from his work, it can never make a deep or a lasting impression. Indeed, I know nothing more difficult in epic poetry, than to adjust properly the mixture of the marvellous with the probable; so as to gratify and amuse us with the one, without sacrificing the other. I need hardly observe, that these observations affect not the conduct of Milton's work; whose plan being altogether theological, his supernatural beings form not the machinery, but are the principal actors in the poem.
With regard to allegorical personages, fame, discord, love, and the like, it may be safely pri nounced, that they form the worst machinery of any. In description they are sometimes allowable, and may serve for embellishment; but they should never be permitted to bear any share in the action of the poem. For being plain and declared fictions, mere names of general ideas, to which even fancy cannot attribute any existence as persons, if they are introduced as mingling with human actors, an intolerable confusion of shadows and realities arises, and all consistency of action is utterly destroyed.
In the narration of the poet, which is the last head that remains to be considered, it is not material, whether he relate the whole story in his own character, or introduce some of his personages to relate any part of the action that had passed before the poem opens. Homer follows the one method in his Iliad, and the other in his Odyssey. Virgil has, in this respect, imitated the conduct of the Odyssey; Tasso, that of the Iliad. The chief advantage which arises from any of the actors being employed to relate part of the story, is, that it allows the poet, if he chooses it, to open with some interesting situation of affairs, informing us afterwards of what had passed before that period; and gives him the greater liberty of spreading out such parts of the subject as he is inclined to dwell upon in person, and of comprehending the rest within a short recital. Where the subject is of great extent, and comprehends the transactions of several years, as in the Odyssey and the Æneid, this method therefore seems preferable. When the subject is of smaller compass, and shorter duration, as in the Iliad and the Jerusalem, the poet may, without disadvantage, relate the whole in his own person.
In the proposition of the subject, the invocation of the muse, and other ceremonies of the introduction, poets may vary at their pleasure. It is perfectly trifling to make these little formalities the object of precise rule, any farther, than that the subject of the work should always be clearly proposed, and without affected or unsuitable pomp.
For, according to Horace's noted rule, no introduction should ever set out too high, or promise too much, lest the author should not fulfil the expectations he has raised.
What is of most importance in the tenour of the narration is, that it be perspicuous, animated, and enriched with all the beauties of poetry. No sort of composition requires more strength, dignity, and fire, than the epic poem. It is the region within which we look for every thing that is sublime in description, tender in sentiment, and bold and lively in expression; and, therefore, though an author's plan should be faultless, and his story ever so well conducted, yet, if he be feeble, or flat in style, destitute of affecting scenes, and deficient in poetical colouring, he can have no success. The ornaments which epic poetry admits, must all be of the grave and chaste kind. Nothing that is loose, ludicrous, or affected, finds any place there. All the objects which it presents ought to be either great, or tender, or pleasing. Descriptions of disgusting or shocking objects, should, as much as possible, be avoided; and, therefore, the fable of the Harpies, in the third book of the Æneid, and the allegory of Sin and Death, in the second book of Paradise Lost, had been better omitted in these celebrated poems.
QUESTIONS. Of what does it now remain to treat? epic poem? Of this definition, what is With which does our author begin? observed; and what does it compreOn what shall this lecture be employ- hend? But what is the pedantry of cried ? After which, what shall be done? ticism? With minerals, plants, and aniOf the epic poem, what is allowed ? mals, what can we do; and why? But What is, unquestionably, the highest with regard to works of taste and imaeffort of poetical genius? Hence, what gination, what is observed ? When emfollows? On this subject, what have ployed in such attempts, into what critics displayed ? By tedious disquisi-does criticism degenerate? To class tions, what have they done? By Bos-what poems, therefore, with the Iliad su's definition, what is it? Of this defi- and the Æneid, does our author not scrunition, what is observed ? What does ple? They are, undoubtedly, all of he say is the first thing which either a what character? What cannot our auwriter of fables, or of heroic poems, thor allow ; yet, what is certain ? Of does ? Next, what does he do? And its effect in promoting virtue, what is lastly, what? Of this idea, what is ob- observed ; and what remark follows? served ? Repeat the whole account of From what does its effect arise? What the origin of the Iliad, according to is the end which it proposes? How, Bossu. What is said of him who can only, can this be accomplished ; and believe Homer to have proceeded in why? What objects, in the course of this manner; and what may one, with such compositions, are presented to our great certainty, pronounce ? Of what minds, under the most honourable cocan no person of taste entertain a lours; and consequently, how are we doubt? How is this illustrated ? Be- affected? What is, indeed, no small sides the instruction which Bossu as-testimony in honour of virtue? Of the signs to the Iliad, what other may as weight of this testimony, what is obnaturally be considered the moral of served ? What sufficiently mark its disthat poem? What is the subject of the tinction from other kinds of poetry? poem? How does Jupiter avenge How is this remark illustrated ? By Achilles; and what is the effect of what is it sufficiently distinguished from Achilles' continued obstinacy ? What history; and from tragedy? What is the plain account of the nature of an does it require ? How does it compare
with dramatic poetry? But, in order to property required in the epic poem ? give a more particular and critical Why is it not sufficient for this purpose view of it, under what three heads that it be great ? On what will much shall we consider it? What three pro-depend; and what examples are menperties must the action, or subject of tioned ? Of most of the great epic pothe epic poem, have? To remark what, ems, what, in this respect, is observed ? has our author liad frequent occasion? But what is the chief circumstance With the highest reason, on what does which renders an epic poem interestAristotle insist; and why? In a regu- ing? How is this fully illustrated ? lar epic, how will the effect be rendered What epic poets are the most happy more perfect; and for this reason, what in this respect? On what, also, does has Aristotle observed ? How is the re- much depend, for rendering the poem inark fully illustrated, that in all the interesting? What effect must they great epic poems, unity of action is produce ? What do these dangers, or sufficiently apparent? What does not obstacles, form; and in the judicious the unity of the epic exclude? What conduct of them, consists what? In is it necessary here to observe? To what manner must he conduct it? what was the term originally applied ; What is manifest? What question has and whence transferred? What did been moved ? To what opinion are Aristotle understand by episodes, in most critics inclined? Why do they an epic poem? What has been the appear to have reason on their side ? effect of the obscurity of his meaning? What illustration of this remark folBut, dismissing so fruitless a controver-lows? To this general practice, what sy, what do we now understand by two exceptions have we; and how do them? Of this nature, what examples they conclude? With regard to the duare given? Of such episodes as these, ration of the epic action, what is obwhat is observed? What is the first served? Why is a considerable extent rule given, regarding them? What always allowed to it? What is the duepisode is faulty, by transgressing this ration of the action of the Iliad, of the rule; and of it, what is remarked ? In Odyssey, and of the Æneid ? How may proportion to what, should episodes al- the duration of two of these poems be ways be the shorter ? What carrot, brought into a much smaller compass? with propriety, be called episodes; and Within what compass are they thus what are they? In the next place, brought? Having treated of the epic what ought cpisodes to present to us; action, to what does our author next and why? In so long a work, what is proceed? As it is the business of the their effect? What illustrations of this epic poet to copy after nature, and to remark follow? What is the last direc- form a probable and interesting tale, tion regarding the episode ; and what what must he study to do? What does instances are mentioned ? What does Aristotle call this? What is, by no the unity of the epic action necessarily means, necessary ? Though vicious suppose? By this, what is meant ? characters may find a proper place,
What is the second property of the yet, what does the nature of epic poeepic action? Of this, what is observed ? try seem to require ? But whatever What contributes to the grandeur of the character of his actors be, about the epic subject? Who, in the choice what must he take care ; and for what of their subjects, have transgressed this reason? Into what two kinds may rule; and what is the consequence ? | poetic characters be divided? What To what is antiquity favourable; and are general characters; what are parwhy? When is this liberty abridged; ticular characters; and what do they and what must he, consequently, do; exhibit? In drawing such particular or, if he goes beyond it, what disadvan-characters, what is chiefly exerted ? tage follows? Why cannot these ob- What remark follows? What is it at servations be applied to dramatic wri- present sufficient to do? What has ting? Of such passions, what is ob- been the practice of all epic poets? As served? What may, therefore, furnish this is considered essential to epic comvery proper materials for tragedy ? position, with what advantages is it But, for epic poetry, what is the safest attended? What question has been region; and why? What is the third / asked; how answered ; and what re
mark follows ? Besides human actors, is the former? In the invocation of the what other personages, usually, occupy muse, what is observed? What is per. no small place in epic poetry ? To fectly trilling; and why? What is of what does this bring us ? On this sub-most importance in the tenour of the ject, what has been the opinion of narration; and what remark follows? French critics; and of this decision, It is the region within which we look what is observed ? What did these for what; and, therefore, what folpoets do ; but what does not thence fol- lows? Of what kind must the ornalow ? How is this illustrated from Lu- ments of epic poetry be; and why? can, and from the author of Leonidas?| But though our author cannot admit | Epic poetry
ANALYSIS that machinery is essential to the epic 1. Bossu's definition. plan, with what opinion can he not A. Illustrated. agree; and why? What advantages B. Criticised. does it afford ? At the same time, how
2. The author's definition.
A. Its design. must this machinery be used; and 3. The character of the epic poem. what must the poet always remem-| A. The action. ber? What remarks follow ? With re a. Unity. kard to allegorical personages, what is
(a.) Illustrated. observed? Where are they sometimes
(6.) Episodes not excluded.
Their requisites. allowable? In what should they never b. Greatness requisite. be permitted to bear any part; and c. It must be interesting. why? In the narration of the poet, 4. The characters to be introduced in what is not material; and why? What
epic poetry. is the chief advantage that arises from
1. General and particular.
B. The hero. the latter method ? When is this me-|
c. The machinery, thod, therefore, preferable; and when! 5. The narration.
HOMER'S ILIAD AND ODYSSEY.-VIRGIL'S ÆNEID.
As the epic poem is universally allowed to possess the highest rank among poetical works, it merits a particular discussion. Having treated of the nature of this composition, and the principal rules relating to it, I proceed to make some observations on the most distinguished epic poems, ancient and modern.
Homer claims, on every account, our first attention, as the father not only of epic poetry, but, in some measure, of poetry in general. Whoever sits down to read Homer, must consider that he is going to read the most ancient book in the world, next to the Bible. Without making this reflection, he cannot enter into the spirit, nor relish the composition of the author. He is not to look for the correctness and elegance of the Augustan age. He must divest himself of our modern ideas of dignity and refinement, and transport his imagination almost three thousand years back in the history of mankind. What he is to expect, is a picture of the ancient world. He must reckon upon finding characters and manners, that retain a considerable tincture of the savage state ; moral ideas, as yet imperfectly formed; and the appetites and passions of men brought under none of those restraints to which, in a more advanced state of society, they are accustomed; but bodily strength prized as one of the chief heroic endowments; the preparing of a meal, and the appeas
ing of hunger, described as very interesting objects; and the heroes boasting of themselves openly, scolding one another outrageously, and glorying, as we should now think very indecently, over their fallen enemies.
The opening of the Iliad possesses none of that sort of dignity, which a modern looks for in a great epic poem. It turns on no higher subject, than the quarrel of two chieftains about a female slave. The priest of Apollo beseeches Agamemnon to restore his daughter, who, in the plunder of a city, had fallen to Agamemnon's share of booty. He refuses. Apollo, at the prayer of his priest, sends a plague into the Grecian camp. The augur, when consulted, declares that there is no way of appeasing Apollo, but by restoring the daughter of his priest. Agamemnon is enraged at the augur; professes that he likes this slave better than his wife Clytemnestra; but since he must restore her, in order to save the army, insists to have another in her place; and pitches upon Briseis, the slave of Achilles. Achilles, as was to be expected, kindles into a rage at this demand; reproaches him for his rapacity and insolence, and after giving him many hard names, solemnly swears, that, if he is to be thus treated by the general, he will withdraw his troops, and assist the Grecians no more against the Trojans. He withdraws accordingly. His mother, the goddess Thetis, interests Jupiter in his cause; who, to revenge the wrong which Achilles had suffered, takes part against the Greeks, and suffers them to fall into great and long distress; until Achilles is pacified, and reconciliation brought about between him and Agamemnon.
Such is the basis of the whole action of the Iliad. Hence rise all those speciosa miracula,' as Horace terms them, which fill that extraordinary poem; and which have had the power of interesting almost all the nations of Europe, during every age, since the days of Homer. The general admiration commanded by a poetical plan, so very different from what any one would have formed in our times, ought not, upon reflection, to be matter of surprise. For, besides that a fertile genius can enrich and beautify any subject on which it is employed, it is to be observed, that ancient manners, how much soever they contradict our present notions of dignity and refinement, afford, nevertheless, materials for poetry, superior, in some respects, to those which are furnished by a more polished state of society. They discover human nature more open and undisguised, without any of those studied forms of behaviour which now conceal men from one another. They give free scope to the strongest and most impetuous emotions of the mind, which make a better figure in description than calm and temperate feelings. They show us our native prejudices, appetites, and desires, exerting themselves without control. From this state of manners, joined with the advantage of that strong and expressive style, which, as I formerly observed, commonly distinguishes the compositions of early ages, we have ground to look for more of the boldness, ease, and freedom of native genius, in compositions of such a period, than in those of more civilized times. “And, accordingly, the two great characters of the Homeric