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Troy had no higher end in view, than to recover a beautiful adulteress from the arms of her paramour, who had also violated the rights of hospitality, yet they deemed the cause of sufficient importance to interest the whole court of Heaven ; and thought the gods, to whom they ascribed the most partial and puerile affections, would enter into the quarrel, and agreeably to their several inclinations range themselves on the part of Greece or Troy, without any regard to right or wrong. Homer, therefore, without a sense of impropriety, might deem the celestial machinery to be an embellishment of
He was a
But it was not so with Virgil. In his day philosophy had made considerable progress, and therefore no light and
faith can well be ascribed to him. Stoic, and must have imbibed a thorough contempt for the fooleries of the popular creed. But this popular creed no Roman, however sceptical, ever publicly insulted; it was a powerful instrument of state policy,
and though philosophy had taught the politer Romans to despise the religion of their country, philosophy had not supplied them with
any purer and nobler faith. Virgil found a tradition, no matter whence derived, that the founders of Rome, and particularly the Julian family, were descended from Æneas, and that to the posterity of
Trojan was promised extended empire, while already the Romans had avenged on Greece the cause of ruined Troy. On this ground to flatter his country's pride gave birth to his admired poem, as this is interwoven with the whole structure of it. Whatever, therefore, for himself he might think, the design of his poem, which was, in fact, a sequel of the history of Troy, required that he should take the gods of his country, 'as he found them, which was also as Homer left them; and this being a state of admirable preparation for his purpose, he well knew, that, if he did but manage them so as ultimately to flatter the ambition of Rome, this would constitute the strongest
recommendation of his poem. To what degree his
poem must have gratified the Roman people, may be inferred from the applause and almost adoration, with which he was received, whenever he presented himself to the public view. That Virgil, however, was not overpleased with his celestial puppets, may be presumed from this cir: cumstance. Though following the steps of Homer, he follows him less in the use of his machinery, than in any other path. There is in the Æneid more of human character, displayed in more varied action, and withi less intervention and control of supernatural ågency than in the Iliad. The two poems have this characteristic distinction. Virgil's is the portrait of men, Homer's that of the gods.
It would be a not incurious subject to compare
poems of Homer and Milton. They are not unlike in several
respects. As Homer's has been observed to be the history of gods, Milton's may be said to be that of devils.The gods of the one and the
devils of the other are nearly of equal credit; the former altogether, and the latter for the greater part, being the creatures of a popular and fabulous superstition. Homer had his pantheon, Milton his paņdæmonium, each their courts and councils, and each a supreme regent. But wherein they differ, the difference is immense in the estimation of the two poems, with respect to their supernatural machinery. Willing or unwilling, man was subject to the caprice and violence of Homer's gods, and these gods usurped over the whole field of human action. While only by the consent of his own will could man be subjected to the influence of Milton's devils ; and, if suffering under this influence, had still his refuge in an almighty, wise, and beneficent Being. From the tyranny of Homer's gods man had no refuge whatever. In the court of Homer's Heaven all was discord and misrule ; god was opposed to god, and all the pretended power of Jove was impotent to
reconcile the contending deities, or by awe reduce them to submission. Milton's Satan was truly sovereign, and a union of sentiment and design pervaded the whole of his gloomy domain.
Milton's devils, though wicked beyond the style of Homer's gods, are uniformly grand; they exhibit that subļime of the terrific, which the epic aspires to. Homer's gods, though wicked enough, are as foolish and freakish as they are wicked; they are not superior to what we may conceive of the lowest rabble in Milton's Hell. I enter not into the Heaven of Milton, and, perhaps, it would have been as well, if he had not so familiarly unveiled that sacred region. But there Homer presents no parallel, and the comparison fails. The picture of man also in the two poems is greatly in favour of Milton, and shows the advantage, which is derived to the mind, that has received a purer and nobler faith. Indeed to illustrate this advantage, and by contrast excite a stronger impression of the