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poems. But

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meanness,

and

grossness, and worthlessness of Homer's supernatural machinery, was my direct view in this comparison.

We have seen under what circumstances Homer first, and Virgil from his example, were led to adopt this machinery, and give to it so principal a part in their whatever circumstances submitted their geniusthereto, they imposenofetters on the more correct and chastened taste of a better day. True taste and judgment are unyielding and unalterable; the plea of the man cannot alter the character of his work, nor any

circumstances make that allegory, which is history; that moral, which is wicked; that dignified, which is puerile and contemptible ; those heroes, who are machines; or excite sympathy, where the field of sympathy is destroyed. To support this charge against the use of the gods of Greece and Rome, as the machinery of the ancient epic poem, has been the object of the whole essay, illustrated in a regular examination of the allegory, the moK4

ral,

ral, and the passions. The decision is left to your judgment. If

a supernatural machinery be requisite to an epic poem, it is certainly not to be sought for in the imagined inhabitants of the Christian Heaven. I think it would be found, if any' one of superior talent would attempt it, in the genii, evil and good, of the eastern religions. It is not owing to any inherent defect in the conception of this machinery, that it does not greatly interest us in the eastern romance; it is not managed by the writers of the East to its highest ad vantage; they are deficient in taste and judga ment, as must ever be the case, where man is not exhibited in that rich display of character, manners, and moral, which the pro gress of western Europe has brought forth to view.-The eastern mythology is fitted for a more grand and interesting production of the epic than Greece or Rome has yet furnished. The genii of the East, though the creatures of imagination, are not much

out

out of the field of probability ; they may be clothed with what magnificence and what 'consistency of character we please ; they comprehend all the machinery of Milton, his pandæmonium, and the agency of benevolent spirits, without that offence which the introduction of the sacred personages of the Christian Heaven excites; and to give a sublime and moral dignity to the whole, the control of a sovereign providence is, with the highest propriety, admissible.

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ESSAY XII.

ON THE MORAL INFLUENCE OF HISTORY.

Tue encomiums which history has received from writers of the first fame in every age, the high rank which it holds among

the

productions of human genius, and the general avidity with which it is read, are such arguments of intrinsic worth or interest, or both; that he must be hardy indeed, who should throw down his gauntlet as the adversary of history. If such were my intention, it would argue a boldness approaching to immodesty, and would be a severe condemnation of my own conduct through life. In no form of literature have I felt a deeper interest; from few, if any, derived greater improvement; to none devoted a greater portion of time. I should think it not extravagant to say, that I have with pleasure perused a million pages of his

tory

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