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from the Grecian ranks to meet him. He is appalled at the tremendous figure of his antagonist, but, though disdaining to fly, and summoning to the encounter both the soul and the resistance of a hero, he sunk under the blow of an immense stone, hurled from the brawny arm of Ajax, and must have perished, but for the intervention of Apollo, who, in the form of a vulture (a sublime representation to be sure of such a god!) had been contemplating the combat. Homer, if he had pleased, could have rendered his hero victorious, by the more active and timely intervention of the same favouring deity. Hector is not disgraced, but he is conquered. Such is the combat of men, sustained only by the energies of man. But Hector is indeed disgraced, when in the combat with Patroclus he conquers; and his disgrace arises from the interposed assistance of a god, one of the puppets of this childish machinery. There is nothing in the preceding history of Patroclus, which entitled him to be exempted from the honour of

falling

falling under the unaided arm of Hector, as Homer had repeatedly exhibited him. To this unnecessary interposition of a god is added the further disgrace of Hector's un. manly triumph and insult over his prostrate and dying foe. Patroclus, in the agonies of death, justly replies ;

Vain boaster! cease! and know the powers divine, Jove's and Apollo's, is this deed, not thine. To Heav'n is ow'd whate'er your own you call, And Heay’n itself disarmı'd me ere my fall. Had twenty mortals, each thy match in might, Oppos'd me fairly, they had sunk in fight: By Fate and Phoebus was 1 first o'ert'irówn, Euphorbus next, the third mean part-thy own.

Homer has, however, rendered poetic justice to the hero, whom, in subservience to his celestial machinery, he had thus: disgraced in his combat with. Patroclus; for, without the aid of Minerva, the never-failing champion of the Grecian cause, even Achilles, that goddess-born and invulnerable hero, on whose forbearance alone the fate of Troy seemed to be suspended, was

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not enabled to conquer the very man, who was 30 unequal to the encounter with his friend. To effect a death in battle is not a nodus divino vindice dignus; the machinery is a poor and artless refuge; the poem sinks in dignity; and human heroism, its only proper subject, is debased. Virgil, too servilely copying his model, has, in the last conflict with Turnus, dishonoured Æneas, in whose person he intended to do honour to the Roman story. Æneas conquered, nog without a divine assistance: the king of the Latins knew from whose hand his death issued, he renders no homage to Æneas, his last words are,

I fear'd' no death from thee,
Jove and a fiend from Hell have conquer'd me.

What is there then, which, in an appeal to taste or judgment, can plead with a modern the cause of the heathen deities, as an auxiliary of the ancient epic poem? The mythology of Greece and Rome is the most contemptible creation of man. We observe

in it no whole, but a motley composition, formed out of discordant materials, loosely adhering, and altogether presenting neither dignity, nor elegance, nor even the playful luxuriance of a wild but captivating fancy. In its gross, ferocious, and brutal part, it most resembles the Icelandic Edda; what claim it has to elegance and taste, as in the fiction of Venus and Cupid, appears to be derived from the licentiousness of the Syrian goddess; or in the animation, which it gives to all nature, from a poetic imagination, common to man in every age; and with the whole are incorporated the irregular and desultory actions of mere men of some early and rude age; altogether forming a most incongruous mass.--Had it been permitted to Homer and Virgil to have, adapted this machinery at their discretion, and as a vehicle of dignified and elegant moral, it is to be presumed, that they would have moulded it to their

purpose

with more taste and judgment. But, obliged to receive it with all its absurdities and fooleries and

grossness,

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grossness, its character in the appeal to true taste appears to be, that it disgraces their poems, presents an immorality beyond the utmost licentiousness of

man,

debilitates the human story, and in the most interesting exhibitions of human character, which constitute the principal interest in the epopeia, takes the human agent out of the field of human sympathy, by placing him under the direction and control of a more powerful, but more capricious and immoral agency.

Homer, in all probability, entertained as little doubt of the theology of his day as any of his rude and unpolished countrymen, and therefore, without scruple, admitted into his poetic history of the wars of Troy all the crudities of the popular superstition, with which tradition had liberally intermingled it. The faith of the Greeks and Romans appears to have contemplated their supposed diviničies as having no nobler occupation, than to be busied with the interests, and passions, and prejudices of men; and, though the expedition against

Troy

VOL. II.

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