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He describes the indignation of Achilles, as the consequence of Agamemnon's irreverent conduct; and the first calamity of the Greeks is the infliction of the offended god. If the probability of this, as a principal moral, be admitted, it will justify a further inference of moment in this essay, that Homer had no idea of mere allegorical personages in his deities, that he received them as objects of serious belief, and considered a reverence to them as of high importance to the public welfare.
It is an essential part of this chimerical theory, that these allegorical personages, the deities, are introduced into the to give a dignity to the moral, and therefore it is required, that their whole character and action be conformed to the moral. Now, if the evils, which spring out of discord, and the blessings, attendant upon union, be the great moral, on which the whole plan of the Iliad is constructed, it must be confessed, that the character, which Homer has assigned to his allegorical personages, is very
poem in order
ill adapted to this moral, and very little calculated to give efficacy and dignity to it. Inasmuch as they are designed to be exhibited as beings of a superior order, and objects at least of popular reverence, they ought to be clothed with some dignity of character, and appear to be exempt from the follies and passions, which originate the quarrels and dissensions of men. Every thing contrary to this is the character of Homer's celestial machinery. They appear with no dignity of character, with no abstraction from the lowest follies, from the wildest passions of men; their superadded agency presents no picture of union; inculcates no moral of union; they are partisans in the private and public quarrels of the Greeks; they are incendiaries, not appeasers ; and this not as a mode of inflicting a divine punishment on crime, which, if Homer had so exhibited them, would, indeed, have presented a dignified moral, and given a decent credibility to the reveries of his too passionate admirers; but without the intimation of their
acting from one moral motive, of their being the ministers, or even the instruments of justice, they range themselves on the part
of the Greeks or Trojans, or enlist under the leaders of the factions; inflame their animosities and aid their vengeance; and it is severe suffering, not any thing in the character and conduct of the gods, that teaches at all to the Greeks, or to the Trojans, one moral lesson. In fine, there is no adaptation in any view, and as the creation of the poet, of the celestial machinery to any one moral whatever, and least of all to che moral of union. The supernatural agents of the Iliad were assuredly neither in whole, nor in part; the creation of Homer; as he took his men, he took his gods, just as he found them in the page of history, or from the mouth of tradition; he does not appear to add to, or detract from, their historic character as he received it, nor is there any thing in the most dispassionate view of the Iliad, which will support the notion, that he had any controlling moral in the eye of his mind, accord
ing to which he constructed his poem, or that he fashioned and shaped his men and gods to fit them to this moral. On the subject of one leading moral of the Iliad, to which the whole poem is supposed to be conformed, I shall add this further observation, that beside piety to the gods, which I have already noticed, this other moral, whether designed by Homer or no, is
very strongly impressed on every feature of the
and for which I have no less authority than that of Horace, an authority of high respect in the court of criticism:
Quicquid delirant reges, plectuntur Achivi. Which may be familiarly translated,
When kings play the fool, the people pay the piper. It requires also no strain of ingenuity to deduce this further moral, as equally entering into the whole plan, that all human events are governed by the gods, as this moral is not presented by the action, but by the sentiments to this purpose, which lie scattered through the whole poem.
Upon the whole, I see no sufficient reason to conclude, that any one preconceived moral, as the ground-work of his poem, which was to be illustrated by the whole, and to which his allegorical creation was to conform, had possession of Homer's mind. The history, as Homer received it, must suggest many moral reflections to him, just as in the conduct of the poem the same moral reflections will present themselves to the mind of the reader; but I can see no unity of moral pervading the whole poem, and giving law to the whole conduct of it.
The case may be different with respect to Virgil. He followed Aristotle, longo quidem intervallo,' as Homer much preceded him.-Aristotle thought he saw a unity of moral in the plan of Homer's poem, and he considered it as one of the three necessary unities, which must enter into the composition of every heroic or epic poem. Virgil, therefore, had a supposed precedent and law presented to him, and, influenced thereby, he might design one leading moral as