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CHAP. XXXVI.

Of Three most excellent Men*

IF I should be asked who I should prefer, of all the Men that have come to my Knowledge, I should answer, « That I think three more excellent Homer prefer* 1 than all the rest:' One of them Homer; not red to the greatbut Aristotle and Varro, for Example, were *ft Ge"'"J"peradventure as learned as he; and possibly Virgil might compare with him, even in his own Art; I leave this to be determined by such as know them both; I, who, for my Part, understand but one of them, can only fay this, according to my poor Talent, * That I do not believe the * Muses themselves ever surpassed the Roman.

Tale facit carmen docld testudine, quale
Cyntbius imposttis temperat articulis \ .

it e.

His Lute and Verse with Harmony as sweet conspire.,
As when Apollo sings in Concert with his Lyre.

And yet in this Judgment we are not to forget, that it is" chiefly from Homer that Virgil derives his Excellence) that he is his Guide and Teacher; and that the Iliad only has supplied him with Body and Matter, out of which to compose his great and divine Æneis* I do not reckon upon that alone, but; take in several other Circumstances that render this Poet admirable to me, even as it were above human Condition: And, in Truth, I often wonder, that he who has erected, and by his Authority given so many Deities Reputation in the World, was not deified himself, being both blind and poor, and so well acquainted with the Sciences, before they were reduced into Rule and certain Observations, that all those who have since taken upon them to establish Governments, to carry on Wars, and to write either of Philosophy or Religion, of what Sect soever, or of the Arts, have made use of him, as of

O o 2 a most

r Propert. lib. ii. Eleg ult. v. 79, 80.

a most perfect Instructor, in the Knowledge of all Things; and of his Books as a Nursery of all Sorts of Learning:

Qui quid Jit pulchrum, quid iurpe, quid utiley quid non*
Plenius ac melitts Chryjippo ac Crantore dixit\

i. e.

Who hath what's brave, what's base, what's hurtful, andt

what's good, Clearer than Grantor or CIsryJippus fhew'd.

aud as this other fays,

. ■ a quo ceu fonte peretmi

Vatum Pieriis labra rigantur aquis

e.

At that clear Spring the Poets take their sw3I,
Which ever flows from the Pierian Hill.

and another,

Adde Heliconiadum Conrites, quorum units Homerui
Astra potitus \

i. e.

Of all the Poets, Homer is alone

Judg'd the most worthy of the Muses Throne^

and another,

. cujusque ex ore profuso

Omnis pojleritas latices in carmina duxit,
Amnemque in tenues au/a est deducere rivosy'
Wnius fcecunda bonis w. :~-:

r' i. e. ■""

From whose abundant Spring
Succeeding Poets draw the Songs they sing;
From him they take, from him adorn their Themes^
And into little Channels cut his Streams;
Rich in his Store

'Tis contrary to the Order of Nature that he has made the most excellent Production thar can possibly be j for

the

* Hor. lib. i. Epist. 2. v. 3. « Ovid. Amor. lib. iii. Eleg. 9. v. 2c. 11 JUicret. lib. iii. v. 1050. » Manil. Altren, lib. ii. v. 8, fcfr.

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the ordinary Birth of Things is imperfect -, they thrive and gather Strength by growing: Whereas he has rendered even the Infancy of Poesy, and of several other Sciences, mature, perfect, and complete. And for this Reason'He'-may be called the first and the last of the Poets, accosting to the fair Testimony Antiquity has left us of him, '* That, as there was none before him whom he

* could imitate, so there has been none since that could

* imitate him.' His Words, according to Aristotle1, are the only Words that have Motion and Action, and are the only substantial Words. Alexander the Great, having found a rich little Coffer amongst Darius's Spoils % gave Order it ' should be reserved for him to keep his Homer

* in;' saying, ' That he was the laest and most faithful

* Counsellor he had in his military Affairs \ For the fame Reason it was that Cleomenes, the Son of Anaxandridas, said, •' That he was the Lacedæmonian Poet, because he « was the best Master for the Discipline of War ". This singular and particular Commendation is also left of him in the Judgment of Plutarch, * That he is the only Au

* thor in the World that never glutted nor disgusted his

* Readers, presenting himself always in different Lights,

* and always flourishing in some new Grace0.' That merry Droll Alcibiades, having asked one who pretended to Learning d for a Book of Homer, gave him a Box on the Ear because he had none, which he thought as scandalous as we should for one of our Priests to be without a Breviary. Xenophanes complained one Day to Hiero, the Tyrant of Syracuse, * That he was so poor he had not wherewithal 'to maintain two Servants:' The Tyrant replied,' Homer, 'who was much poorer than you are % keeps above ten

* thousand now he ie dead.' What did Panatius leave unsaid f when he called Plato the Homer of Philosophers? Besides, what Glory can be comp.red to his? Nothing is {0 frequent in Men's Mou\hs as his Name and Works;

Oo 3 nothing

* Velleii Paterculi Hist. Kb. i. c. 5. * Arist. de Politica, c. 24,

* Plin. Nat. Hist. lib. vii. c. 29. 'Plutarch, in the Life of Alexander, c. 2. b In the Notable Sayings of the Lacedæmonians. « Plutarch, jn his Treatise of Loquacity, c. 5. d Idem, in the Life of Alcibiade;, c. 3. e Idem, in the Notable Sayings of the ancient Kings, &c. at the Word Hitrti [ Qk. Tjjfc. Qiiæll. lib. i. c. 32.

nothing so known and received as Troy, Helen, and th© War about her, when perhaps there was never any such Thing- Our Children are still called by Names that he feigned above three thousand Years ago. Who is ignorant pf the Story of HeRor and Achilles? Not only some' par-* ticular Families, but most Nations seek their Original in his Inventions. Mahomet, the second of that Name, Emperor of the Turks, writing to our Pope Pius the Second 5 t I am astonished, says he, that the Italians should appear

* against me, considering that we have our common De

* scent from the Trojans; and that it concerns me, as well

* as it does them, to revenge the Blood of Heftor upon » the Greeks, whom they Countenance against me.' Is it not a noble Farce wherein Kings, Republics, and Emperors have so many Ages played their Parts, and to which all this vastUniverJe serves for a Theatre? Seven Grecian CU ties contended for his Birth, so much Honour did he de? rive even from his Obscurity.

Smyrna, Rhodus, Colophon, Salamis, Chios, Argos, Athens B. . The second of my Three Personages is Alexander the Alexander the Grea\\ For who ever will consider the Age Great, the fe- at which he began his Enterprises ; the small cond of these Means, by which he effected so glorious a Deexulknt Per- sign; the Authority he obtained, at so slen

7TMages. jes an wjth' greateft. an(J jjjoft ex_

perienced Captains of the World, by whom he was followed; and the extraordinary Favour wherewith Fortune embraced him, and favoured so many hazardous, I had 'almost said rash Designs of his!

impellens quicquid Jibi fumtna petenti,

Objtaret, gpudenfque viam fecijfe ruina \

e.

Whose high Designs no hostile Force could stay, * And who by Ruin lov'd to clear his Way.

That Grandeur, to have, at the Age of thirty-three Years, passed victorious through the whole habitable Earth, and in half a Life to have attained to the utmost Essort

of

f Aul. Gell. lib. iii. c. f 1. * Lucart. lib. i. v. 149, 150,

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of human Nature; so that you cannot imagine its Duration just, nor the Continuance of his Increase in Virtue and Fortune, even to a due Maturity of Age, but that you must withal imagine something more than Man; To nave made so many Royal Branches to spring from his Soldiers; leaving the World, at his Death, divided amongst four Successors, who were no better than Captains of his Army, whose Posterity have so long continued, and maintained that vast Possession; so many excellent Virtues as he was possessed of, Justice, Temperance, Liberality, Truth in his Word, Love towards his own People, and Humanity towards those he overcame •, for his Manners, in the general, seem, in truth, incapable of any just Reproach, tho' some particular and extraordinary Action of his may, peradventure, fall under Censure: But it is impossible to carry on so great Things, as he did, with the strict Rules of Justice; such as he are willing to be judged in gross, by the governing Motive of their Actions. The Ruin of Thebes •, the Murder of Menandir ' j and of Epbeftion's Physician k; the Massacre of so many Persian Prisoners at once; of a Troop of Indian Soldiers ', not without Prejudice to his Word; and of the Cojfeyans n, so much as to the very Children; are Sallies that are not well to be excused: For, as to Cfyius, the Fault was more than recompensed in his Repentance, and that very Action, as much as any other whatever, manifests the Gentleness" of his Nature, a Nature excellently formed to Goodness; and it was ingeniously said of him, * That he

* had his Virtues from Nature, and his Vices from For

* tune V As to his being a little given to Boasting, and a little too impatient of hearing himself ill spoken of; and as to those Mangers, Arms, and Bits he caused to be strewed in the Indies; all those little Vankies, methinks, may very well be allowed to his Youth, and the prodigious Prosperity of his Fortune: And who wilbconiider, withal, his many Military Virtues, his Diligence, Foresight, Patience, Discipline, Subtlety, Magnanimity, Re

O p 4 solution,

1 Plutarch in the Life of AkxandeA, c. 18. £ Idejn, ibid. c. 22,

Q^Curtius, lib. ii. sect. 4. 'Plularcb, c, J 8, ■ Ideii}, ib. C 22,

f Q^Cltftius, lib, x. .sect, 5,

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